Today, we’ll be looking the shortcut policy in the tournament rules, which lets you do things that aren’t technically correct but still understandable by both players. Sit tight, because we’ve got a lot to cover.
One of the little-known rules concerning the stack is that when a player casts a spell or activates an ability, that same player gets priority next. Most of the time this isn’t going to actually matter. For example, when I cast my Gateway Shade and my hand is all creatures, I have no reason to play something in response to it, so the shortcut rules assume I’ll automatically pass to my opponent unless I specifically say otherwise. However, it can make a difference if I tap multiple Gates at once to pump my Gateway Shade; am I doing them one at a time (making the Shade 3/3, then 5/5, etc.), or am I doing them all in response to each other (leaving the Shade a 1/1 at the first instance my opponent has priority to respond)? The answer the shortcut policy gives is that I’m doing what most players would consider logical, which is putting one activation on the stack at a time, unless they explicitly indicate they intend to retain priority (usually by saying something like “in response” or “holding priority”). This allows players to save time without getting “gotcha’d” into doing something they really didn’t mean to do; consider that if this shortcut wasn’t in place, I’d have to activate the Shade once, pass priority, wait for my opponent to pass, then move on to the next activation in order to make my intent clear. If my opponent doesn’t want to let everything I did resolve at once, there’s a policy for that too; she should state at which point she wishes to interrupt me and respond, then the game state is backed up to that point.
Now let’s look at some examples in actual gameplay:
- Ava attacks her opponent Nolan with two Restoration Angels. Nolan pulls two Azorius Charms out of his hand, casting them targeting Ava’s Angels. Ava casts an overloaded Counterflux. However, because Nolan didn’t explicitly retain priority, it’s assumed that he cast and resolved the Charms one at a time. The first Azorius Charm will resolve and put a Restoration Angel on top of Ava’s library, and the second one will be countered. If Ava wasn’t clear on what the game state was when she cast Counterflux, we can consider backing up and letting her specify when she’d like to cast it (or if she’d still like to cast it at all).
- Stan controls a 2/2 Knight token and a 1/1 Bird token. Raul controls Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, three Islands, and three Mountains. Raul taps all his lands, announcing “Kill your Knight, kill your Bird.” Stan replies “Wait. In response to the second activation, Rootborn Defenses.” The third instance of Niv-Mizzet’s ability is removed from the stack, and Raul untaps an Island and a Mountain. The game state is now a Knight with 1 damage on it, one instance of Niv-Mizzet’s ability targeting the Knight on the stack, and Rootborn Defenses on the stack on top of it. Raul has priority. He can deal an additional 1 damage to Stan’s Knight, deal 1 damage to Stan’s Bird, or do nothing and allow Rootborn Defenses to resolve.
- Lily controls Gravecrawler and Falkenrath Aristocrat. Mike controls four creatures. Lily taps three lands to cast Blasphemous Act, then announces “Hold priority, sacrifice Gravecrawler to Aristocrat.” Because Lily specifically deviated from the shortcut to retain priority, Mike can’t interrupt this process. If Lily instead waited for Mike to respond after casting the Act, and he had no responses, the Act would resolve instantly and Lily wouldn’t be able to make the Aristocrat indestructible.
Today’s Tournament Tip written by Jen Wong