I was on one health and had two creatures in play. One of those was useless due to a card my opponent played to stop it doing anything. The other had an inspired ability that might have helped me catch back up. He had a buffed up creature and on 19 health (it was a 1v1v1 just us 2 left). Now I decided to play a card I had already said I was playing, but hadn't decided whether to bestow or not. I decided after a minute or so to play as creature so I had one to block. I then said shortly after probably 3-5 seconds "I will attack with my inspired creature".

Now as I understand it, when I move on to attacking phase he can't then play an instant to counter me casting my creature spell as that phase has passed (correct me if I am wrong). He then decided to do this but did admit that the phase had passed so technically he couldn't counter it but that I hadn't waited long enough for him to decide whether to counter my creature spell. So my creature spell was cancelled and I then attacked. He did allow me to take my attack back though.

How long do I have to wait before I can move phases, at which point the creature counterspell would have been impossible to play?

  • 1
    I'd recommend reading the rules based on how the stack and priority work. The question at hand is not actually about phases. Mar 21, 2014 at 16:41

2 Answers 2


How long you wait doesn't matter[1].

I decided after a minute or so to play as creature so i had one to block. I then said shortly after probably 3-5 seconds i will attack with my inspired creature.

Let's assume you retained priority after casting your creature[2].

At this point, you're still in your main phase -- the stack isn't even empty -- but you can still say "I attack with my inspired creature" as you did.

What you are doing is proposing a shortcut consist of: Both remaining players passing priority until the Declare Attackers Step, then declaring your inspired creature as an attacker.

He can accept your shortcut in whole, or he can interrupt it at any point. In this case, he let you pass priority, then he cast a Counter spell. What he did is perfectly legitimate.

Now as i understand when i move on to attacking phase he can't then play an instant to counter me casting my creature spell as that phase has passed (correct me if i am wrong).

Once the creature spell resolved, it's too late to counter it. But nothing in what you said indicates this has happened. You can ask "Resolve?" to make this happen[3].

  1. Exception: Playing unduly slow can result in penalties.

  2. By the rules, you regain priority after casting a spell if you cast it when you had priority. However, in tournaments, this rule is modified. You are assumed to have passed priority after casting a spell unless you have explicitly retained it.

    If you hadn't retained priority, you wouldn't be able to do anything, including proposing a shortcut. Your statement that you were attacking would have been completely meaningless.

  3. If you are in a tournament and you didn't explicitly retain priority, he has priority and he must do something. Usually, saying "pass" or "ok". This moves the game forward, allowing the spell to resolve. Asking "resolve?" would remind him of this.

    If you are outside of a tournament or if you explicitly retained priority, saying "Resolve?" proposes the following shortcut: All players pass priority until the spell resolves.

  • Point three, where they say "okay", is very important. A lot of experienced players will say "okay" to everything you do. I've noticed, over time, the more experienced the player, the more condescending the "okay" is, as though they graciously allow you to play. This has made it into a pet peeve of some people who feel like their game is being controlled by their opponent. (And in some respects, it is; they do have priority after all...)
    – corsiKa
    Mar 21, 2014 at 17:48
  • Another point to make about point 3 is the shortcuts involved. It's much more likely that someone will counter or respond to your spell than it is you'll actually retain priority. That's why the onus on them is usually to say whether they will respond or not.
    – corsiKa
    Mar 21, 2014 at 17:49
  • @corsiKa, Not at all. When the onus is on them, it's because they have priority. (The reason they have priority is because you are assumed to pass priority because it makes things go more quickly and smoothly because it's very rarely useful or advantageous to respond to your own spells. For that same reason "I active its ability X times" is a tournament shortcut for activating and letting resolve X times rather than stacking X instances.)
    – ikegami
    Mar 21, 2014 at 18:23

Magic is not a game about reflexes. All timing is decided by priority, which one player has at all times and is passed around the table in turn order many many times in a single turn.

In order to cast your spell:

  1. You gain priority.
  2. You place your spell on the stack, make decisions, pay costs, etc.
  3. You may optionally hold priority and do something else, such as cast another spell or activate an ability (you must somehow declare that you are holding priority if you do this). Repeat steps 2-3 as desired.
  4. You pass priority to the next player in the turn order. They may cast a spell or activate an ability. If they do, they pass priority back to you afterwards. If they don't, they pass priority to the next player in the turn order.
  5. Once each player has passed priority without doing anything, the object on the top of the stack (spell or ability) resolves. If there isn't an object present on the stack, instead the turn moves to the next step or phase of the turn.

The process is slightly different if it's not your turn at step 1, but not much. Most of this whole priority-passing is glossed over in most of the turns of most games (particularly since the vast majority of the time, everybody is passing priority without doing anything; you can't move from your Upkeep to your Draw step without a round of priority passing, for example, nor from your End step to your Cleanup step).

As to the question of "how long" you need to wait to consider priority passed back to you, well... that's a matter of communication. If you have any reason to believe your opponent might respond to your spell, it's polite to explicitly ask whether they have a response before continuing with your turn. If you don't give your opponent an opportunity to respond, they're well within their rights to back you up to the point where they should have been given priority when you blaze forward.

In a casual game between friends, it's up to the group to decide whether you've already given sufficient opportunity, or whether you should roll back anyway and allow the counter. It's just a game, and it's unlikely anything is riding on the outcome. In a tournament setting, the answer to miscommunication is always -- always -- to call a judge. Mediating this kind of situation is exactly the sort of reason tournaments have judges in the first place.

When you call a judge, explain the situation. Give facts, and try to be as accurate and complete as you can. Your opponent(s) should do the same if there's a dispute. The judge will make a call, possibly fixing the board state (this depends on the tournament level and the exact error that occurred, and is defined in the JAR and IPG documents judges use) and/or handing out warnings/etc. at higher levels of play (again, depending on the exact error that occurred).

If you disagree with the judge's ruling for some reason, you may appeal to the tournament's head judge. If the tournament has no WotC registered judges, the tournament organizer is the head judge. The head judge's ruling is final, even if it directly contradicts the game rules (we hope it doesn't, though!)

  • 1
    I disagree with one sentence you wrote here: If the stack is empty, the turn moves to the next step of phase of the turn The phase is not over when the stack is empty, you have priority again. The phase/step is over when everyone has passed priority.
    – Pow-Ian
    Mar 21, 2014 at 16:48
  • @Pow-Ian, that sentence is logically connected to the preceding one. When everyone passes priority, the top object resolves. If there isn't an object present to resolve, the turn moves forward. I'll try editing for clarity.
    – Brian S
    Mar 21, 2014 at 17:42
  • That is more clear, but not as clear as it could be. Also you have a of instead of or
    – Pow-Ian
    Mar 21, 2014 at 17:52

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