More often than not it doesn't matter, you cast a spell and it either lands in its designated spot on the field, or it resolves and heads into the graveyard.

What I always wondered is, whenever there is a complicated situation playing out in the stack, is there a specific place you are supposed to put your cards?

For Example:

1) I play Storm Crow
2) My opponent casts Dissipate targeting Storm Crow
3) I play Negate targeting Dissipate 
4) My opponent plays Cancel targeting Negate
5) I play Counterflux targeting Cancel

While all this is happening, is it 'acceptable' to simply lay the cards down on the play-space or for official, tournament-level play do I need to immediately place my cards in the graveyard and simply remember they are on the stack in their particular order?

  • By acceptable, do you mean legal? Otherwise, this question's a bit opinion based. In addition, spells don't go to the graveyard until after the spell has either resolved or been countered.
    – Waterseas
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:16
  • Yes I mean legal. Like if I lay Storm Crows on the table anywhere near my other creatures or something like that before it truly 'resolves' am I going to get smacked with a rules infraction? Jan 26, 2016 at 16:54
  • loadingreadyrun.com/videos/view/2279/…
    – Jonny
    Jan 27, 2016 at 11:08

4 Answers 4


What is legal?

Cards go on the stack when you cast them. They remain there until they resolve or are otherwise removed from the stack.

According the the Tournament Rules, the current zone of any object is free information. The stack is a zone. Therefore, the presence of an object on the stack is free information.

It does not matter where the card physically goes, so long as it is clear that it is on the stack. You are not allowed to obscure or otherwise misrepresent the presence of an object in a zone, because it is free information.

What is considered good etiquette?

There is no official etiquette about where in the table you should play your spells and how exactly a complex stack should be built.

I play in a lot of tournaments, and most players put the card somewhere on the table where everyone can see it. Some players (incorrectly) put the card straight into their graveyards. Some players like to play the card behind their lands, perhaps to gain some kind of advantage by making it slightly more difficult for me to read.

When we build a complex stack, very rarely do we build an actual physical stack. To do that requires the cooperation of both players, and it also requires that all of the spells be tangible cards (i.e., not a trigger or an activated ability). Perhaps the most common situation in which I see a stack built with cards is during a counterspell war, such as the example you gave in the question.

  • 2
    +1. I usually hover the card in the air above the table while waiting for a response, and people understand what's going on. If there's an actual stack of responses building up, we'll usually stack them in the middle of the table, between our two play spaces.
    – DCShannon
    Jan 26, 2016 at 22:52

There is no rule that specifically governs the physical location of cards on the stack, so you should put them wherever makes the game state clearest. That usually means that you should put them in an actual stack in the play area.

Since Instants and Sorceries go to the graveyard when they resolve, if you put them in the graveyard immediately, you are obscuring which ones have already resolved. This makes it more difficult for your opponent (and for you) to tell what the stack actually is.


Not only is it "acceptable" to lay the cards down on the play space, but it is required.

CR 608.2k As the final part of an instant or sorcery spell’s resolution, the spell is put into its owner’s graveyard. As the final part of an ability’s resolution, the ability is removed from the stack and ceases to exist.

Instants and sorcery cards don't go into the graveyard until they resolve. This is actually quite important for certain abilities. Using your example, if you don't have a Counterflux, you won't be able to use Snapcaster Mage to give the Negate you cast in step 3 flashback in step 5.

  • The question was about where to put cards while they are on the stack, but the rule you quoted was about when cards go to the graveyard.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:27
  • 6
    I don't see the recommendation to use the play space while on the stack. With only the information given by your cited section, it could as well be valid to glue them to your forehead until they resolve.
    – npst
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:27
  • 2
    @npst The comprehensive rules don't define where exactly cards in a zone are physically located, it only defines what the zone contains. The Stack is a zone where cards are in last-in first-out order. If the players remember the order the cards entered the zone and agree to glue them to their foreheads, that's perfectly fine, I believe.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:33
  • Downvoting. Don't think I need an explanation, as ghoppe pretty clearly explained what's wrong with his own answer.
    – DCShannon
    Jan 26, 2016 at 22:50

While a card is on the stack, it is not in the graveyard. If you wanted the cards to enter the graveyard (say you wanted to play a Delve counterspell), you let part of the stack resolve. As the stack resolves, cards enter the graveyard.

While the card is on the stack, it doesn't really matter where it is, as long as it is visible and clear that the card is being played and is on the stack. So, you could play your Crow in the middle, then each counterspell on top/next to the crow as you play them.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .