MTR 4.2 states:

Whenever a player adds an object to the stack, he or she is assumed to be passing priority unless he or she explicitly announces that he or she intends to retain it. If he or she adds a group of objects to the stack without explicitly retaining priority and a player wishes to take an action at a point in the middle, the actions should be reversed up to that point.

So, for a more recent example, if a player has Electrostatic Pummeler and 15 energy, and the opponent has Grasp of Darkness, can the opponent let the 5 activations of Pummeler go on the stack, then kill the Pummeler under it? Or do the activations trigger and resolve independently and the opponent has to say "wait, only 2 activations have succeeded, one's on the stack and I want to play Grasp"?

3 Answers 3


The accepted application of MTR 4.2 is that "I pump Pummeler 5 times" is a proposed shortcut to activate the ability and let it resolve 5 individual times. So you would not be able to eliminate the creature with grasp of darkness (assuming the other player wants to pay more energy to keep it alive.) Yes this is different from playing the game by a strict reading of the comprehensive rules without applying the MTR.

The reality is that 5 individual activations is the 'correct' line of play in almost every scenario that would come up in real games. It's pedantic to make people sit there and say.

"I activate my pummeler once, do you respond?"

"I activate my pummeler once, do you respond?"

"I activate my pummeler once, do you respond?"

"I activate my pummeler once, do you respond?"

"I activate my pummeler once, do you respond?"

In order to perform the obvious line of play people intend in >99% of scenarios. Around 2005 or so DCI started shifting judging policy away from meticulous enforcement of every comma and toward facilitating people playing the game naturally. In the early days of tournament magic you were in fact expected to say it 5 times.

I didn't find a canonical reference for this from a wizards netrep, but here is confirmation from two high quality sources known to be written by people who are actually judges:



  • The MTR lists several predefined shortcuts, and "activate an ability, then allow it to resolve multiple times" is not among them. If you have rulings from judges that say that this is a valid shortcut, it would really help to refer to them directly. While doing it that way is the correct line of play, a player should not be obligated to assume that the opponent is taking the correct line of play. And it's really not that much work to say "Pump pummeler" "OK" "Pump it again" "OK" 5 times.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 25, 2016 at 18:28
  • 1
    Every judge I have ever worked with has applied 4.2 in that way. It's one of those things that is frequently asked about by people new to the tournament rules but tmk that interpretation is default at all levels of play. Links added.
    – Affe
    Oct 25, 2016 at 18:52
  • Where by '4.2' I mean the section of 4.2 quoted in the original question of course ;)
    – Affe
    Oct 25, 2016 at 18:59
  • My vague memory is that when that section was added it was specifically called out in the update bulletin as being a change to the philosophy of judging this particular scenario. Around 10 years ago DCI made a shift away from 'pedantic rules as written' toward 'game as actually played' and this definitely did change. Prior a judge would indeed expect you to say it 5 times separately. I don't have time to go googling to try to find any more stuff that old though, sorry :)
    – Affe
    Oct 25, 2016 at 19:04
  • OK, the rulings you linked (particularly the second one) make it a lot clearer than the rule itself how exactly this works.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 25, 2016 at 19:08

It is up to the player activating the ability. The active player always gets priority when something resolves off the stack, but a player can hold priority after they activate an ability or cast a spell.

It is notable that you rarely would want to hold priority in a situation like this because of the scenario you describe; it is far safer to activate, pass priority, and then activate again once the ability resolves. If you activate an ability many times, then you've made your decisions with little information (the information being whether or not pummeler will be alive when the ability resolves). It is better to make each decision with as much information as possible (that is, the previous activation resolving). The only exception that immediately comes to mind is Split-second effects, where once you give your opponent priority they can cast a spell that you are not allowed to respond to. Actual applications of these spells are rare, and have no bearing Standard anyway.


It depends entirely on how the player with Electrostatic Pummeler declares that they are activating the ability. If they say "I activate Electrostatic Pummeler" and then stop, they are passing priority with one copy of the ability on the stack. If they do this repeatedly, then at any point, the opponent only ever has the chance to respond to one ability. On the other hand, if they say "I put 5 copies of Electrostatic Pummeler's ability on the stack" or "I activate Electrostatic Pummeler and hold priority (and repeat 5 times)", then all 5 abilities are on the stack, and the opponent can respond to any number of them.

  • By the second sentence of 4.2, does that mean the ambiguous version defaults to the non-holding priority version?
    – JonTheMon
    Oct 24, 2016 at 15:52
  • I would actually say that it would default to the holding priority version, because the wording is so similar.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 24, 2016 at 16:06
  • I don't see how it's ambiguous. As you yourself said, they didn't explicitly retaining priority after each activation, so they are assumed to have passed it.
    – ikegami
    Oct 24, 2016 at 18:52
  • The reason I said that that particular option is ambiguous is because it could either be taking a unilateral action (activating the ability repeatedly while holding priority) or proposing a shortcut (activating the ability then letting it resolve repeatedly). I see each of those as a reasonable interpretation of that statement. But since it's clearly more controversial than I expected, and not a real tournament shortcut, I'm just going to remove that section to avoid confusing anyone with potentially misleading information.
    – murgatroid99
    Oct 24, 2016 at 20:04

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