Instant Discard & Death of a Thousand Tokens

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Couple things. 'round here we still try to rock it old school, even though a lot of times we end up being wrong wrong wrong. So, a few technical inquiries --

Back in the day, it was taken for granted that you could wait for your opponent's discard phase, at which point, you could play fast effects that your opponent could not respond to, because on his discard phase all he could do was discard, while, you know, other people could play fast effects. This, then, was the phase where everyone tapped their Tim to do a point of damage, or used their Rod of Ruin, or played their Unsummon or Lightning Bolt, or did the ol' Icy Manipulator/Royal Assassin combo (yes, I'm from that long gone era of the ancients, when every red deck had 4 Lightning Bolts in it, when every black deck had a Demonic Tutor and a Royal Assassin and 4 Dark Rituals, when Prodigal Sorcerer and Rod of Ruin were the only permanents that you could tap to do one point of damage to any target... good God, Magic was a simpler game back then).

So, lately, we're not sure if this is still the case, as, with The Stack, it would seem like there really is no point in anyone's turn where a fast effect could be played with impunity. Also, there is this one guy I play with who keeps trying to insist that "you can always back up one phase" -- in other words, if he draws a card and forgot to pay his echo cost, he can back up to his upkeep phase and do it. If you try to play a fast effect on his discard phase, he can always 'back up' to his main phase and play a response. Etc.

I don't think he's correct -- I'm pretty sure his idea that you 'can always back up one phase' comes from how a player is allowed to play a fast effect to tap or otherwise render inoperative a creature before the combat phase begins. This isn't actually 'backing up a phase', it is simply correcting a very frequent mistake players make when they simply tap creatures to attack, when instead, they should say "I am declaring an attack" and then wait for a response.

But, anyway -- can you still play fast effects on an opponent's discard phase, and, if you can, can your opponent respond to them? That's my first question.

Second, I recall that back in the day, token creatures were considered to go to the graveyard briefly, if only to trigger effects that had that sort of activation trigger. Is this still true? In other words, if I put Reins of the Vinesteed on a Citizen token, and my Citizen token gets whacked, do I get to return Reins of the Vinesteed to play on another critter, or does the Citizen token just kind of evaporate into the very ether and my Reins goes along with it?

Thanks to all and sundry for whatever help may be rendered to this foolish and unworthy one.

A
But, anyway -- can you still play fast effects on an opponent's discard phase, and, if you can, can your opponent respond to them? That's my first question.

No. First, there is no such thing as a discard phase; also "fast effects" is an obsolete term. There is an End of Turn step and a Clean-up Step. You discard in the Clean-up step. No one is normally allowed to play anything in the Clean-up step, your last chance is to play in the End of Turn step. Both players will be given an opportunity to respond to these spells and abilities.

Second, I recall that back in the day, token creatures were considered to go to the graveyard briefly, if only to trigger effects that had that sort of activation trigger. Is this still true? In other words, if I put Reins of the Vinesteed on a Citizen token, and my Citizen token gets whacked, do I get to return Reins of the Vinesteed to play on another critter, or does the Citizen token just kind of evaporate into the very ether and my Reins goes along with it?

Yes, tokens going to the graveyard do trigger any appropriate abilities prior to ceasing to exist.

Thanks to all and sundry for whatever help may be rendered to this foolish and unworthy one.

A

And the question about "backing up a phase", you are correct that that is not allowed. The Beginning of Combat thing is indeed because it was inappropriately skipped and you must allow your opponents to play things there. That is why it is backed up, because you didn't allow your opponents to play things and you cannot deny them that opportunity.
Ok, the rules have changed quite a bit from what you are describing, but i don't recall any time at which you could use an ability and have your opponent not be able to respond.
But, anyway -- can you still play fast effects on an opponent's discard phase, and, if you can, can your opponent respond to them? That's my first question.

A couple of things to clear up: The term "fast effect" is obsolete, and doesnt really have any meaning. Also, the Discard Phase does not exist.

The End Phase consists of two Steps: the End of Turn Step and the Cleanup step. 999 times out of 1000, if you want to play something at the end of someone's turn, you do it in the End of Turn Step.

End of turn step: Since it is not a main phase, no one can play Creatures, Artifacts, Lands, Enchantments, and Planeswalkers. Each player can play Instants, Activated abilities, and cards with Flash. Any time you play any spell or ability, each of your opponents gets a chance to respond with spells/abilities of their own (this is not unique to the end of turn step, it applies in all steps that you can play spells/abilities in)

Cleanup Step: Normally, no one gets a chance to play anything in this step. In the Cleanup Step, damage gets removed from creatures, things that last "until end of turn" end, and the active player discards down to his/her maximum hand size. If (and only if) something triggers during this step, then that triggered ability goes on the stack and each player gets a chance to respond to it.
Second, I recall that back in the day, token creatures were considered to go to the graveyard briefly, if only to trigger effects that had that sort of activation trigger. Is this still true?

Yes, that is still true. Token creatures, just like normal creatures, go to the graveyard. They then cease to exist shortly thereafter.
Also, there is this one guy I play with who keeps trying to insist that "you can always back up one phase" -- in other words, if he draws a card and forgot to pay his echo cost, he can back up to his upkeep phase and do it.

There is no way to "back up a phase". In casual play, you might let eachother retroactively pay for upkeep costs that slipped your mind, but this is a courtesy of playing with friends, not part of the rules of the game. In a tournament, it will not be allowed.
Thanks very much. One further question -- if I discard a Madness card on the Clean Up Step, can I play it if I pay its Madness cost?
The short answer is that almost everything in the game must wait for both players before continuing. If a spell is on the stack, all players must say, in succession, "I pass without doing anything else" before that spell resolves. The same thing applies to activated and triggered abilities resolving, as well as moving from one phase/step to the next. You can't start combat until all players, in the main phase, say "Ok, I have nothing I want to play now", and you can't start declaring attackers until all players decide they don't want to play any spells/abilities, and so on. If you get to the end-of-turn step, the turn will not end until each player passes, including the active player. If you decide you want to play a flurry of spells/abilities at the end of your opponent's turn, he/she is free to respond with a flurry of his/her own. And once that flurry resolves, you're back to the same situation, where every player must once again say, in succession, that they choose not to play anything else.

As you can imagine, games would take forever if everyone had to formally announce "I pass" at the end of every step, and so a lot of it is just shortcutted in an actual game (you play a spell, pause for a moment, then it's usually safe to assume there is no response). And so often a player will start to do something, and then get interrupted by another player yelling "COUNTERSPELL" or something similar, and you need to informally "back up" the game in order to make sure everything happens in the proper order. But you can't REALLY back up the game that way, thus allowing you to draw a card first and THEN pay your upkeep costs. It just doesn't work that way. In your informal games it's probably more fun for everyone if you forgive little mistakes like that and not punish players too much for forgetfulness. But in a serious game where rules must be followed to the letter, there's no room for error. If you forget to pay an Echo cost before drawing a card, then sorry, your creature just got sacrificed (or sorry, you just lost the game). You're free to play by house rules, like backing up the game for forgetfulness or because someone rushed ahead too fast, but just remember that no such rule exists in the rulebook, and if/when you get more serious with your games you'll get a bit more disciplined with those kinds of things.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
if I discard a Madness card on the Clean Up Step, can I play it if I pay its Madness cost?

Yes.
DCI Level 2 Judge Please use autocard when you ask a question about specific cards: [c]Serra Angel[/c] -> Serra Angel
Thanks very much. One further question -- if I discard a Madness card on the Clean Up Step, can I play it if I pay its Madness cost?

Yes you can. Madness is one of the more common ways to get something to trigger in your cleanup step.
Yes you can. Madness is one of the more common ways to get something to trigger in your cleanup step.

Okay. Thanks to everyone for their helpfulness, and for being pleasant, and for generally not being Feigel. ;)

Another question -- let's say I use Madness during my cleanup step to play a spell that destroys target non-black creature (I know there is such a spell, I just can't remember the name of it right now). Would I be correct in assuming that my opponent could not respond to that effect in any way? He couldn't Unsummon his creature, or counter my spell, or give his creature Protection from Black, or any of that stuff?

This makes some Madness cards VERY effective, if true.

Thanks!
Nope. Players will get priority like normal, so your opponent will be able to respond like normal.

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Questions don't have to make sense, but answers do.

Would I be correct in assuming that my opponent could not respond to that effect in any way? He couldn't Unsummon his creature, or counter my spell, or give his creature Protection from Black, or any of that stuff?

You would be incorrect. In order for your spell to resolve, every player must "pass priority". Every player (including you) gets a chance to add more things to the stack, and only once no one wants to add anything more does the top spell or ability resolve.
Okay. Thanks to everyone for their helpfulness, and for being pleasant, and for generally not being Feigel. ;)

Another question -- let's say I use Madness during my cleanup step to play a spell that destroys target non-black creature (I know there is such a spell, I just can't remember the name of it right now). Would I be correct in assuming that my opponent could not respond to that effect in any way? He couldn't Unsummon his creature, or counter my spell, or give his creature Protection from Black, or any of that stuff?

This makes some Madness cards VERY effective, if true.

Thanks!

Not true, unfortunately. As I mentioned earlier, almost nothing in the game takes effect without all players getting a chance to play something else in response. Any time you play a spell or ability, or an ability gets triggered, or you decide to move to the next step in your turn, each other player gets a chance to either play a spell or ability of their own OR pass priority. If they choose to play something, then that gets added to the stack as well and the process begins again; each player can either respond or pass. The ONLY way anything will ever resolve is if both players pass in a row. At that point the top object on the stack resolves, and both players must pass again in order to get the next thing to resolve. In short, there are many many opportunities for all players to pitch in with a spell or ability before you can resolve a spell or ability of your own. There is never a point in the game, short of introducing rules-warping cards like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, where you can play something without another player being able to interfere.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
There is never a point in the game, short of introducing rules-warping cards like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, where you can play something without another player being able to interfere.

Well, unless someone plays a spell with the Split Second ability, right?
Even with a split second spell, your opponent does get a chance to respond. They cannot play spells or abilities in response, but they do get priority, and can do things which are not playing spells or abilities (such as turning a morph creature face up)
Even with a split second spell, your opponent does get a chance to respond. They cannot play spells or abilities in response, but they do get priority, and can do things which are not playing spells or abilities (such as turning a morph creature face up)

Wait. Morph isn't an ability?
Morph is an ability that allows you to play your creatures face down. Choosing to turn a face-down creature face up is not an activated ability, it is a "special action".
Turning a face down creature face up is a special action. It doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to.

408.1i Special actions don't use the stack. The special actions are playing a land (see rule 408.2d), turning a face-down creature face up (see rule 408.2h), ending continuous effects or stopping delayed triggered abilities (see rule 408.2i), ignoring continuous effects (see rule 408.2j), and removing a card with suspend in your hand from the game (see rule 408.2k).

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Questions don't have to make sense, but answers do.

Turning a face down creature face up is a special action. It doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to.

408.1i Special actions don't use the stack. The special actions are playing a land (see rule 408.2d), turning a face-down creature face up (see rule 408.2h), ending continuous effects or stopping delayed triggered abilities (see rule 408.2i), ignoring continuous effects (see rule 408.2j), and removing a card with suspend in your hand from the game (see rule 408.2k).

So... there is never (well, hardly ever) a time when you can play a spell or take an action or do anything at all in this game without another player having a chance to respond to it, except, of course, for... a whole bunch of times when you can... except when you can't...

I take it all back. Magic hasn't changed a bit since I used to play it. It still makes your head hurt.

I appreciate everyone's help, I really do. However, just so you know... I keep hearing from contemporary Magic 'experts' that Magic is much, much simpler and easier to comprehend now, mostly because 'The Stack' is SO much easier and more logical and sensible than, you know, Instants and Interrupts and fast effects and discard phases and all that nonsense used to be.

Well, this one time old school Magic 'expert' remains completely unconvinced that this is true. Y'all have just traded in one arcane, unbelievably complex system for a different arcane, unbelievably complex system... that has about six thousand more cards to deal with.
I take it all back. Magic hasn't changed a bit since I used to play it. It still makes your head hurt.

Lol, there's truth to that.

However, the old system had just as many exceptions to the normal flow of things as the new* system does (or more perhaps). Frankly, the old rules probably could not accomodate all of the additions to the game that have come about in the past 12 or so years.

If you knew all the ins and outs of the old system, then yes, the new* rules will seem to rip apart everything you have grown accustomed to, but believe it or not, the new* rules did simplify many things.

Feel free to ask if you have more questions, we are always happy to help

*by new, i mean 9 years old. 9 years of post-6th edition rules, compared with about 6 years of pre-6th edition rules.
A player can always respond to something, with 8 exceptions (actualy, most arn't exceptions but normal rules):

Morph (note that the ability that says what happens after turning it face-up, called a triggered ability, CAN be responded to)

Suspend. Note that you can respond to the spell losing it's last counter, the ability that makes it so you can play the spell AND the spell being played. Removing a spell from the game using it's supend ability can not be responed to. (in the case of Wheel of fate, you can't play it without suspending it anyway. Spells without a mana cost can't be payed for, and a spell you can't pay for can't be played.)

Game-related effects, such as drawing a card in the draw step, discarding a card in the cleanup step or creatures being assinged as attackers or blockers. You CAN respond to combat damage being assinged. Just realise that once the damage is assinged, it isn't conected to the creature anymore and removing the creature will not remove the damage.

Anouncing a spell or ability: You can't respond to a spell being announced. You have to wait untill the spell is fully played, which means untill all choices and targets have been made and the spell has been payed for. So a Twitch can't be used to prevent an oponent from playing an announced spell, because by the time the spell is anounced, you can't tap the lands. A comon mistake against this rule is killing a Mogg Fanatic to prevent it's ability from being played. The sacrifice is part of the cost, and can therefor not be reacted to.

Resolution of a spell or ability: You can't do anything during the resolution of a spell. So in a game with 3 or more players you can't wait till Lightning Helix has killed one opponent and then play Flames of the Blood Hand to kill the player that played the Lightning Helix. You either have to kill the one that played the helix (which would cause the helix to disapear from the game), or wait till the helix resolves, which means it's caster is safe from Flames of the blood hand.

Mana producing abilities (usualy refered to as mana abilities): You can't Stiffle the ability of your opponents Birds of paradise. It resolves imediatly. This kind of ability can be played while paying costs for a spell or ability (unlike any other ability). This does not include spells that produce mana, like Rite of flame. They act as normal spells.

Playing lands: You can't stop your opponent from playing a land. This may seem trivial, but lands like Boseiju, Who Shelters All or Treetop Village can be a pain...

"To ignore this effect"-abilities: Damping Engine allows you to sacrifice a permanent to ignore it's abiity. Nobody can react to you sacrificing a permanent this way. The same is true for Glass Asp's ability.

I think that's all.
So... there is never (well, hardly ever) a time when you can play a spell or take an action or do anything at all in this game without another player having a chance to respond to it, except, of course, for... a whole bunch of times when you can... except when you can't...

I take it all back. Magic hasn't changed a bit since I used to play it. It still makes your head hurt.

I appreciate everyone's help, I really do. However, just so you know... I keep hearing from contemporary Magic 'experts' that Magic is much, much simpler and easier to comprehend now, mostly because 'The Stack' is SO much easier and more logical and sensible than, you know, Instants and Interrupts and fast effects and discard phases and all that nonsense used to be.

Well, this one time old school Magic 'expert' remains completely unconvinced that this is true. Y'all have just traded in one arcane, unbelievably complex system for a different arcane, unbelievably complex system... that has about six thousand more cards to deal with.

Don't worry, Morph doesn't work like other abilities for one simple reason - so that players don't get a chance to Shock your 2/2 when they see the amount of mana you pay to turn the creature around.

Imagine you have a morphed Exalted Angel. All your opponent sees is a 2/2. If you happen to tap for 2WW to turn the angel face-up, you don't have to "announce" that you will (as you do with other spells now) because it would defeat the purpose morph. You just flip it.
A player can always respond to something, with 8 exceptions (actualy, most arn't exceptions but normal rules):

Actually, the rulebook includes a list of things that don't use the stack:

408.2. Actions That Don’t Use the Stack

408.2a Effects don’t go on the stack; they’re the result of spells and abilities resolving. Effects may create delayed triggered abilities, however, and these may go on the stack when they trigger (see rule 404.4).

408.2b Static abilities continuously generate effects and don’t go on the stack.

408.2c State-based effects (see rule 420) resolve whenever a player would receive priority as long as the required game condition is true.

408.2d Playing a land is a special action consisting of putting that land into play. (See rule 212.6, "Lands.") A player can choose to perform this special action only during a main phase of his or her turn, when he or she has priority and the stack is empty. If a player had priority before playing a land, that player gets priority after this special action.

408.2e Mana abilities resolve immediately. If a mana ability produces both mana and another effect, both the mana and the other effect happen immediately. If a player had priority before a mana ability was played, that player gets priority after it resolves. (See rule 406, "Mana Abilities.")

408.2f Characteristic-defining abilities, such as "[This object] is red," are simply read and followed as applicable. (See also rule 405.2.)

408.2g Game actions don’t use the stack. The game actions are phasing in and out at the start of the untap step (see rule 302.1), untapping at the start of the untap step (see rule 302.2), drawing a card at the start of the draw step (see rule 304.1), declaring attackers at the start of the declare attackers step (see rule 308.1), declaring blockers at the start of the declare blockers step (see rule 309.1), the active player discarding down to his or her maximum hand size at the start of the cleanup step (see rule 314.1), removing damage from permanents and ending "until end of turn effects during the cleanup step (see rule 314.2), and mana burn as each phase ends (see rule 300.3).

408.2h The controller of a face-down permanent may turn it face up. This is a special action. (See rule 504, "Face-Down Spells and Permanents.") A player can turn a face-down permanent face up only when he or she has priority. That player gets priority after this special action.

408.2i Some effects allow a player to take an action at a later time, usually to end a continuous effect or to stop a delayed triggered ability. This is a special action. A player can end a continuous effect or stop a delayed triggered ability only if the effect or ability allows it and only when he or she has priority. The player who took the action gets priority after this special action.

408.2j Some effects from static abilities allow a player to take an action to ignore the effect from that ability for a duration. This is a special action. A player can take an action to ignore an effect only when he or she has priority. The player who took the action gets priority after this special action.

408.2k A player who has a card with suspend in his or her hand may remove that card from the game. This is a special action. (See rule 502.59, "Suspend.") A player can remove a card with suspend in his or her hand from the game only when he or she has priority. That player gets priority after this special action.

The ones in green were pretty much the same way before Sixth Edition. Note that none of these have special timing rules associated with them; they simply "happen" or "are true".

Now, here are some things before Sixth Edition that didn't allow for normal responses. The ones in red had their own timing rules (including restrictions and bubbles):

damage prevention

regeneration

triggered abilities

interrupts (generally countering a spell or ability)

Back in 2001, there was some discussion about the motivation behind the change: "The desire to not have to pull out a 10-page flowchart to figure out if someone could Counterspell a Healing Salve that had been played during the damage prevention bubble created when a painland was tapped for mana during the interrupt window of a Kaervek's Torch or the like, and how much stuff resolved once both players passed, probably had a good deal to do with it."

No, I am not a judge. That's why I like to quote sources such as the rules that trump judges.

Back in 2001, there was some discussion about the motivation behind the change: "The desire to not have to pull out a 10-page flowchart to figure out if someone could Counterspell a Healing Salve that had been played during the damage prevention bubble created when a painland was tapped for mana during the interrupt window of a Kaervek's Torch or the like, and how much stuff resolved once both players passed, probably had a good deal to do with it."

Thank you for reminding me why I hated the old rules so much, and why I love the new ones. Also, I haven't laughed like that in a long time.
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