What types of cards can you play on another players turn / i.e. sorcery or enchantments? Or can only instants/flash be played?

It seems foolish to us as new players that every card other then land can be sent straight to graveyard by an instant counter spell card but can you cast a sorcery based counter spell card during an opponents turn? this basically tells me that you can simply make a deck of counter spells and the opposing player can't play anything but land.....

  • 3
    Your question as written has definitely been answered, but it kind of sounds like there's something else that led you to ask it. Why did you think there would be counterspells that are sorceries? Why would you need to play a sorcery or enchantment on an opponent's turn to get around counterspells? There might be something else we can help clear up for you.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 17:51
  • 1
    @Jefroni, In case you missed it below, it might because he encountered [mtg:Mystic Denial], a counterspell which has "Sorcery" printed on the card (although it's actually an Instant).
    – ikegami
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 16:46

4 Answers 4


When can I cast a spell?


  • You can cast instants and flash spells — and activate abilities — whenever you have priority.

  • You can cast other spells during your main phase, when the stack is empty (i.e. there are no other spells or ability waiting to resolve) and you have priority (see the next section).

  • Some cards (e.g. Unexpected Results) will allow to cast spells at other times too.

From the Comprehensive Rules:

116.1a A player may cast an instant spell any time he or she has priority. A player may cast a noninstant spell during his or her main phase any time he or she has priority and the stack is empty.

702.8a Flash is a static ability that functions in any zone from which you could play the card it’s on. “Flash” means “You may play this card any time you could cast an instant.”

There's no such thing as a Sorcery-based counter. It wouldn't work with the rules: you can only counter something when it's on the stack, and you normally can't cast a Sorcery spell when something else is on the stack.

Priority (the short version)

Priority is Magic's system for sequencing plays so that each player has time to think about their actions, when they need it. The most important things you need to know are:

  • Each player must give the other the opportunity to respond.
  • The active player always gets the first opportunity to cast something during the phases of his or her own turn.
  • Once we've begun to resolve a spell or ability, we must follow all the instructions in order before we can do anything else. (For example, if you cast Duress on me, we must do these three things in sequence: I reveal my hand, you pick a card, I discard it. I can't interrupt the game to cast the Lightning Bolt you just picked.)

See page 30 in the Basic Rulebook or section 116 in the Comprehensive Rules for a more detailed definition of priority.

How do I fight a deck full of counterspells?

Counterspells really aren't all-powerful. They're an important part of the game and central to some of the best decks, but, on their own, they really can't carry the day.

  • Counterspells are reactive. I can't kill you with a counterspell. All I do is disrupt your plays. I need to do something else to actually capitalize on that.

  • You can only counter something when it's on the stack. If I draw my Cancel a turn after you cast your Ember Swallower, there's nothing I can do; whereas if I draw a Doom Blade at any time, I can use just kill the creature.

  • In order to counter something you play on your turn, I have to have mana available. That means not casting much stuff on my own turn. I can work around that by building a deck that has a lot of cards I can play at instant speed (like Doom Blade, Sphinx's Revelation, Restoration Angel), but there is an opportunity cost there.

  • Counterspells are one-for-one. You play a card, I counter it. We're both down a card. That only keeps us at parity. I'll need something else to pull ahead.

So, why do people play counterspells instead of just Doom Blades, then? Counterspells have several things going for them:

  • Many counterspells can answer a broad variety of cards. Putting a few counters in my deck gives me the flexible cards that can interact with creatures, enchantments, sorceries, planeswalkers, &c.

  • Countermagic cancel out death triggers and "enters the battlefield" abilities, and can beat cards with protective abilities like hexproof. Casting Doom Blade on a Thragtusk feels a lot like losing; countering one is much nicer.

Most of the competitive decks that play counterspells play them as part of a general suite. They rely on countermagic for flexibility against a lot of deck types (such as decks that win without using creatures), but also use cards like Supreme Verdict, Doom Blade, and Wear // Tear because of the greater efficiency and timing flexibility that they offer.

"Proactive" decks that really want to curve out efficiently are generally better off using discard spells (Duress, Thoughtseize) rather than counterspells. These allows you to you mess with an opponent's strategy — particularly a combo deck — on your own timetable rather than having to wait for them to cast their most important cards.

This answer discusses some specific tactics you can use if you're having trouble against a deck with significant counterspells.

"But my counterspell says it's a Sorcery!"

Mystic Denial

There was an old Magic set called Portal. It was an attempt to create an easier-to-use introductory product for the game. This set didn't include Instants and really didn't talk about the stack. So instead they'd do stuff like print a Sorcery with special timing rules and bend over backwards to avoid using core game terminology like "counter," "target," and "spell."

I don't recommend using Portal to learn Magic. I very, very much don't recommend it. The terminology is all messed up, the cards are terribly wordy and unclear, and you really won't learn most of what you need to learn to play actual Magic. It's easiest to learn basic Magic using recent sets and the Basic Rulebook (PDF), or playing one of the Duels of the Planeswalkers video game.

Portal cards are playable in regular Magic, but you sort of have to read between the lines and figure out how the card is "really" supposed to be worded. (In general, when you see a card that's just like, "What the heck!?" you should look it up on Gatherer. Oftentimes you can find updated wording that's clearer than the original card text, as well as rulings that help explain common questions people have about the card.)


You can only cast instants and cards with flash on opponent's turn.

The answer to this question has a chart showing when you can play various card types through the parts of the turn cycle:

turn diagram

Note flash means the card follows the timing rules for instants:

702.8a Flash is a static ability that functions in any zone from which you could play the card it’s on. "Flash" means "You may play this card any time you could cast an instant."

If you are facing control heavy decks, try either lands that have other abilities such as Mutavault or uncounterable cards, such as Dragonlord Dromoka or Great Sable Stag

  • @doppelgreener One of the reasons I made this diagram was because new players asked me this type of question frequently.
    – Zags
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:20
  • @doppelgreener I am well aware of that. However, the question wasn't asking about the conditions under which sorceries can be cast; it was only asking about what cards you could cast on another player's turn. I took this into consideration before contributing this as an answer.
    – Zags
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:29
  • That's true, I got distracted away from what the question is about. I still do not think "here, poke about in this diagram" is a sufficient answer, and I believe this should actually, separately, just directly tell them what they can cast when. Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:32
  • @doppelgreener A reasonable suggestion. I included a leading sentence with a direct answer. Anything else you think it needs?
    – Zags
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:38

To your rules question: As others have already said, instants, cards with Flash, and activated abilities of permanents that are already on the table; other cards can generally only be played on your main phase.

To your strategic question: It's a common belief among new players that you can build a deck that "just counters everything," but it doesn't work in practice. There are two main reasons it may appear to work:

  1. Often new players have decks with a lot of low-impact cards, meaning the savvy counterspell player can only counter cards that "matter" and let everything else through.

  2. Often new players have very inefficient decks. It's not possible to counter everything in general, but it is very possible to counter everything from a deck that takes too long to get going and never has time to cast all its cards.

The solution to both of these problems is a question of deckbuilding that mostly boils down to "build tighter decks." When it comes to counterstrategies in actual play, this and its followup is the best thing I've ever read on the topic. A summary:

  1. Your opponent almost certainly has to tap down eventually. Try to save your absolute best spells for that moment if you can.
  2. The rest of the time, try to cast spells that "matter" but aren't your absolute best spells. Either villain has to spend counters on it, or you get a relevant permanent that threatens to win.
  3. Avoid getting stuff countered if you can, but sometimes the best way to avoid counters is to just throw your spells out there and hope he didn't draw it yet. He won't always have it.

Finally, you could go the route of specifically running cards to beat counters. In the extreme, you could play anti-counter cards like Cavern of Souls or Vexing Shusher. You can run discard; it's often hard for your opponent to counter Thoughtseize or Duress as well as a "real" spell in the same turn. You can run spells with flashback like Call of the Herd so they have to be countered twice. You can run cheap cards with strong continuous effects; if you throw down a Pack Rat before your opponent can counter, you can win without ever casting another spell unless your opponent can stop it, and they can't wait for your next turn or you'll get to make a copy. You can use lands that can kill your opponent without ever being countered like Mutavault.


The only spells you're normally given permission to cast on an opponent's turn are instants and spells that can be cast any time you can cast an instant (such as cards with Flash).

You are correct that one could make a deck that consists mostly or completely of counterspells. It would be in the category of "control" decks. It could mostly stop an opponent, but it would have several weaknesses that would not make it a viable deck. For example, it can only counter every spell an opponent plays if the counterspell player always has as many counterspells in their hand as the opponent has spells. Remember that counterspells don't affect permanents, so if the opponent gets a single creature on the battlefield, they will slowly grind the control player to zero life with no opposition.


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