The combat shortcut: What it means when you say, “Declare attackers?”

Many players are unsure about how the combat shortcut works; when they tried to tap an attacker before their opponent swung, the opponent said, “You can’t tap it, I already attacked.” Whether that’s true or not depends on what was said before that.

There is a default tournament shortcut that says, “A statement such as “I’m ready for combat” or “Declare attackers?” offers to keep passing priority until an opponent has priority in the beginning of combat step. Opponents are assumed to be acting then unless they specify otherwise.” This shortcut is a default in the Tournament Rules, and it’s assumed even if neither player is aware of the shortcut. In other words, the opponent can’t trick you into accidentally tapping a creature during the precombat main phase, so they can move an equipment over before actually declaring attackers.

You can’t just jump ahead with steps. To move from the current step/phase to the next one, all players have to pass priority on an empty stack without doing anything. If your opponent just starts tapping creatures to attack with, you have the right to back them up and say, “Wait a second, before attackers, I tap that creature.”

If your opponent says something like, “Declare attacks?”, “Move to combat?”, “Attacks?”, or anything similar that indicates an intent to move to combat, it will invoke the shortcut. Your opponent is saying, “I propose a shortcut where we both pass priority without adding anything to the stack, repeatedly, until we end up with you having priority in the Beginning of Combat Step.” This is your chance to tap a creature. On the other hand, if they use the shortcut and you say, “Ok,” you’re passing priority in the beginning of combat step, and the opponent can now declare attackers safely, since NOW it’s too late to tap them before they attack.

Today’s Tournament Tip written by
Trevor Nunez, Level 1 judge from Roswell, NM

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