From the rules I gather that Delayed Triggered Abilities are objects on the stack,

112.1b. An ability can be an activated or triggered ability on the stack. This kind of ability is an object. (See section 6, “Spells, Abilities, and Effects.”)

but because these delayed triggered abilities need not trigger until their trigger condition is met, it stands to reason that they remain on the stack until they can resolve. However, this seems to be in conflict with the continuation of the game after a player receives priority, which happens as soon as all players pass on priority and the stack is empty:

116.4. If all players pass in succession (that is, if all players pass without taking any actions in between passing), the spell or ability on top of the stack resolves or, if the stack is empty, the phase or step ends.


500.2. A phase or step in which players receive priority ends when the stack is empty and all players pass in succession.

So then, my question is: where do Delayed Triggered Abilities live, and if the answer is indeed 'on the stack', what is the resolution to the apparent conflict with continuing the game?

  • 2
    I think the interpretation here depends on how you read 112.1b. It says that "an ability can be an activated or triggered ability on the stack", but it doesn't say that an ability has to be that. And when it further says "this kind of ability is an object", you could interpret this as saying that other kinds of abilities may not be objects.
    – murgatroid99
    May 20, 2016 at 4:30
  • I have spent 2 hours of my life trying to work this question out. It's safe to say they don't exist on the stack before they are triggered, but I have not been able to prove to my own satisfaction how or where DTAs stick around until they trigger.
    – Hackworth
    May 20, 2016 at 9:04
  • @Hackworth Thanks for your time. I also spent quite some time reading the rules (also/mostly for other things) but couldn't quite work out by myself the answer to this question.
    – MicroVirus
    May 20, 2016 at 10:56
  • You said "delayed triggered abilities need not resolve until their trigger is met", but I think you meant "delayed triggered abilities need not trigger until their trigger [condition] is met".
    – Rainbolt
    May 20, 2016 at 13:02
  • @Rainbolt Yes, that is the proper way to state it. I'll correct it in my question.
    – MicroVirus
    May 20, 2016 at 13:04

2 Answers 2


Delayed triggered abilities (DTAs) simply exist on their own, they do not depend on the existence of another object.

A spell or ability creates one-shot effects and/or continuous effects. Creation of a DTA is a certain kind of one-shot effect:

610.2. Some one-shot effects create a delayed triggered ability, which instructs a player to do something later in the game (usually at a specific time) rather than as the spell or ability that’s creating the one-shot effect resolves. See rule 603.7.

Their source in the rules sense is always the spell or ability that created them, which in any case already ceased to exist before the DTA can trigger; a DTA's controller is the player who controlled the source of the DTA when it resolved (603.7d-f). If a situation cares about properties of the source of a triggered DTA, the last known information about the source is used. (112.7a)

The confusion stems from the fact that "triggered ability" refers both to abilities as they are printed on cards, and to the objects on the stack that they create. You already quoted the rule for the latter case, but you left out the former:

112.1. An ability can be one of two things:

112.1a An ability is a characteristic an object has that lets it affect the game. An object’s abilities are defined by its rules text or by the effect that created it. Abilities can also be granted to objects by rules or effects. (Effects that do so use the words “has,” “have,” “gains,” or “gain.”) Abilities generate effects. (See rule 609, “Effects.”)

112.1b An ability can be an activated or triggered ability on the stack. This kind of ability is an object. (See section 6, “Spells, Abilities, and Effects.”)

For example, take any permanent with a triggered ability, such as Abattoir Ghoul or Abyssal Horror. The text that is written on them respresents triggered abilities. When their trigger condition is met, they create an object on the stack. These objects are also called "triggered ability", and, as you correctly noted, they have to leave the stack (usually by resolving) before the game can continue.

A delayed triggered ability (DTA) follows the same rules. A DTA is a triggered ability that creates instances of itself on the stack that are also called "triggered abilities". However, matters are complicated a little further because a DTA is never printed on a card, they are always created by a spell or other ability:

603.7a Delayed triggered abilities come from spells or other abilities that create them on resolution, or are created as the result of a replacement effect being applied.

However, at that point a DTA is not an object on the stack, just like the ability printed on Abyssal Horror is not on the stack, and therefore does not block the progression of the game. An instance of a DTA goes on the stack when its trigger condition is met, just like a regular triggered ability.

603.7b A delayed triggered ability will trigger only once—the next time its trigger event occurs—unless it has a stated duration, such as “this turn.”

Example: Death Frenzy, Balduvian Rage

DTAs are also always temporary, they either last until the end of turn, or they do something at the beginning of the next turn. That temporary nature is not a fundamental limitation based on the rules. It's a design decision, because it's simply too difficult for human players to keep track of more and more dynamically created abilities across multiple turns, or even the whole game.

  • Is it correct to say that DTA's that are not an object (so in the 'wait' state) exist independently of their source and will not be removed when the source is removed (other than when the controller leaves the game)?
    – MicroVirus
    May 20, 2016 at 10:58
  • Yes, it has to be that way. DTAs cannot trigger before they are created, and as soon as they are created, the spell or ability that created them ceases to exist, unless it's a static ability of course.
    – Hackworth
    May 20, 2016 at 11:01
  • I think your last paragraph really hits the nail on the head as to why I was unsure about the answer. All abilities are either part of another object or exist on the stack as an object, that's what 112.1 says. But, that doesn't seem to be correct, as DTAs can exist independently from an object and only become an object themselves as they are triggered and put on the stack. In effect, the rules don't seem to mention the nature of DTAs, but we can reasonably infer that they are abilities that are a characteristic of 'the game' itself (this rule should probably be an extension of 112.1a).
    – MicroVirus
    May 20, 2016 at 11:37
  • Cont'd: To keep things from getting too confusing, then, the DTAs are practically always supplied with a timer that destroys them within a reasonable amount of game-time.
    – MicroVirus
    May 20, 2016 at 11:38

I think the intended interpretation is that a delayed triggered ability lives the same place as continuous effects like "Your creatures have +1/+1 until end of turn" live: nowhere in particular. They aren't objects on the stack (at least not until the delayed trigger is met) because you're right, that would prevent players from getting on with the game. Looks to me that rule 112.1 was slightly sloppy in its wording.

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