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This really isn't a problem in a tournament setting, because players are expected to know the rules, and will usually ask their opponent if they wish to take any actions before allowing a spell to resolve. In a casual setting though, and especially in Multiplayer, where players may not be paying that much attention to what might be happening on the other side of the board, how do you handle a player who casts a string of non-instant spells without giving anyone the time/chance to counter each spell in the string?

Time is usually at a premium in MP, so I doubt that most players ask each player in turn if they have a response. (with the possible exception of the resolution of cards like Browbeat, where it is optimal to see if any player will bite the bullet and take the damage). In your multiplayer magic games, do you only ask if an opponent is playing Blue with 2-3 Mana available? Do you pause for a short time time after each spell? Do you allow opponents to backup and counter the first spell?

What is the best way to handle counterspells in multiplayer to minimize time, and not make counters too powerful?

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3 Answers

By the rules, you allow opponents to backup and counter the first spell.


MTG is not a real-time game, it's a turn-based game. In other words, it's not a game of chicken.

MTG would be extremely tedious if you had to explicitly pass priority every time. That why people use shortcuts. If you say "I cast Foo and Bar", you are actually proposing the following a shortcut:

  1. I cast Foo
  2. I pass
  3. You pass
  4. I cast Bar
  5. I pass
  6. You pass

The other player(s) may accept the shortcut entirely, or they may accept the shortcut only until a point of their choosing. Accepting part of the shortcut could be done, for example, by saying "In response to Foo, I cast Baz."

If the shortcut is accepted, the person who proposed it must abide by it. (He must cast Foo and Bar.)

If the shortcut is accepted to a point, the person who proposed it must abide by it up to that point. (He must cast Foo.) He can deviate as he wishes past that point. (He need not cast Bar, though he obviously can if he wants to do so.)

So the answer, by the rules, is the last option you presented: You allow opponents to backup and counter the first spell.

If you want to be sure Foo isn't going to be countered before announcing you're casting Bar, you have to make sure noone wants to do anything in response to Foo.

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This is the proper way to handle Counterspells, but does give Counters more power than they would normally have if you waited for each person in turn to decide if they have any responses in APNAP turn order. That does drag the game a bit though. Counterspells aren't the only drag either, a Platinum Angel being enchanted with Diplomatic Immunity on a turn it could attack would require pausing at least until the combat phase, to see who wanted to play chicken with their Artifact control cards. If you don't pause do allow backing up after seeing which player is attacked, that might cause issues. –  user1873 Nov 9 '12 at 12:19
    
Actually counters get less powerful if you wait for each spell. If you just laid out all your spells, your opponent has a choice of any of them to counter. If you do one at a time, he might 'waste' his counter early in your chain, wishing he saved it for a later spell. Since you can always respond anyway, it's always a better strategy to pass priority and respond after unless for some reason you require it to stay on the stack (maybe it changes the color of your creature, but your second spell can't target that color or something...) –  corsiKa Nov 9 '12 at 16:59
    
@corsiKa, He said the same thing you did. (More powerful when allowing people to interject == Less powerful when forcing spells to resolving) –  ikegami Nov 9 '12 at 17:54
    
@ikegami You're right. User's wording in his opening sentance was a bit confusing. –  corsiKa Nov 9 '12 at 18:16
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If someone did this in a tournament setting, they would be in violation of a Game Rule Violation (specifically, 307.1. A player who has priority may cast a sorcery card from his or her hand during a main phase of his or her turn when the stack is empty, and technically stack is not empty until all players have passed priority.) , and the remedy is to simply back up the game to the point where the infraction occured:

If the error was discovered within a time frame in which a player could reasonably be expected to notice the error and the situation is simple enough to safely back up without too much disruption to the course of the game, the judge may get permission from the Head Judge to back up the game to the point of the error. Each action taken is undone until the game reaches the point immediately prior to the error. Cards incorrectly placed in hand are returned to the location in the zone from which they were moved (if the identity of the incorrectly drawn card is not known to all players, a random card is returned instead). Once the game is backed up, it continues from that point.

In a more casual setting, while there is no official rule (it is, of course, casual) this is usually the best course of action to take. The first sorcery the player played is the one you keep, the rest go back to his hand, any cards that changed zones as a result of the errant cards go back to where they came from, etcetera.

On the other hand, if players aren't paying attention, then too bad so sad. What I typically do in this scenario is I give 2 or 3 seconds to see if anyone responds. That's long enough for it to sink in. If someone is legitimately distracted (hey, I get texts from the wife a lot while I'm at magic, too!) -and- there's a high likelihood they're going to want to respond to it (I'm Doom Blading their fatty or something) I usually take a small effort to point it out to them. If it happened over, and over, and over again, I wouldn't continue to give that extra effort. I would simply give the standard couple seconds, look for a couple nods, and continue on.

For what it's worth, I've played hundreds of multiplayer games, and I've never had a player who chained their sorceries more than once. I (or another experienced player) just tells then 'When you play a spell, check for a response'. (Even though they don't have to check for a response for chaining instants, as they continue to have priority, it is good to pass priority between them to limit your opponents' options to counter you.)

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It's not a violation. If so, turns would got as seen here, and MTG would be the most annoying game ever. (Keep in mind that example is not even half a turn!) –  ikegami Nov 9 '12 at 17:58
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He did follow the procedure. He said "I'm casting A and casting B". People can partially accept "In response to A, ..." or fully accept by doing something after he cast A and B. Again, see the example to which I linked. See also my answer for full details. –  ikegami Nov 9 '12 at 18:40
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@corsiKa 716.1a The rules for taking shortcuts are largely unformalized. As long as each player in the game understands the intent of each other player, any shortcut system they use is acceptable. Trying to cast a second sorcery with one on the stack is obviously illegal. Therefore, playing two in rapid succession should be considered nothing other than suggesting a shortcut as outlined in this rule. If players accept your shortcut they are saying they pass priority between each sorcery. If they don't, you back up until they are okay with your shortcut. –  Matt Nov 9 '12 at 18:41
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It means exactly the opposite. Because it proposes to make choices for an opponent (passing priority), it's a shortcut. It can't be a game error because it hasn't happened yet because the opponent hasn't agreed to the shortcut. –  ikegami Nov 9 '12 at 21:35
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If he were to draw a card before getting an ok, that would be an error. –  ikegami Nov 9 '12 at 21:40
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I say "No, you don't.".

Whether he realizes it or not, any time a player says he is doing two things in succession without giving me a chance to respond, he is proposing a shortcut per rule 716, which must be unanimous per 716.2. This applies when he says he casts two Sorceries, when he says "I attack with the Angel." without first saying "I'm going to attack.", or when he assumes that an ability resolves. In fact, it happens constantly, and so long as everyone understands that their proposed shortcuts are subject to review, it works out fine.

So the thing you're supposed to do according to the rules is to back up to the point at which people disagree about what should happen next. If he announces two Sorceries and you want to counter the first one, he takes the second back to his hand and untaps any mana he tapped for it (because it is reasonable to assume he tapped between spells rather than all at once), and the stack is rewound to the point where it had only his first spell on it and it is the interrupting player's priority.[1] Note that the player casting the Sorceries does not get the stack rewound to a point where he had priority. By proposing that he cast two Sorceries in succession, he ceded priority after casting the first one. He does not get to change that decision.

It is slightly disadvantageous to announce "I attack with the Angel.", because one's opponent is justified in responding with "Actually, before you declare your attackers I twiddle your Angel.", possibly using the information revealed in the proposed shortcut. If he wants to keep his intentions private, a player needs to specify a shortcut that allows this. If he instead says "I'm going to declare attackers." and gives his opponent a chance to respond before following up with "I'm attacking with the Angel.", he denies his opponent this slight advantage.

[1]: Technically, what the interrupting player is saying is "I agree with your proposed shortcut, except that I want to change what happens after you pass priority after you cast that first spell." Because this new shortcut is the shortest sequence of events proposed, it is what happens. Crucially, no one gets to change their proposed shortcut, though they are not held to their announced intentions once the sequence executes.

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