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My opponent has all these zero cost equipments and laid them all down at once and played some of his creatures spells without passing priority to me to see if I had a response. At the end of his whole thing I played a counter spell to counter all of it since he laid it all down at once. So was it all countered or not?

18

No, it doesn't work like that, not unless you're doing something very unusual (which I'm not even sure is actually possible).

For starters, your opponent can't actually cast multiple spells at once. When they put all their cards down on the table as you described, they're proposing a shortcut where they cast all the spells, one by one, and you decline to respond to any of them (i.e. you decline to counter them or whatever). You do not have to accept this shortcut. In other words, your opponent cannot deny you the opportunity to respond to their spells.1 If you do want to respond, you can tell your opponent something like "wait, back up, I have responses" and then they have to take the cards back into their hand and cast the spells one at a time, passing priority to you after each one1, and you tell them when they cast each of those spells whether or not you want to play something in response.

The other issue is that, even if your opponent did have multiple spells on the stack at once (as in the situation described in the footnote2), Counterspell and similar cards only counter a single spell. Just because there are a whole bunch of spells to choose from doesn't mean that you can actually apply Counterspell's effect to all of them at once. There are a few cards that can counter multiple spells, like Counterflux (when overloaded) or Summary Dismissal (which technically exiles rather than countering), but they can only do this because they say so on the card. Note the difference in wording compared to a standard Counterspell.


1 Except when split second is involved, but that's very exotic these days.

2 If you were asking about instants or cards with flash, then things would be a little but more complicated. Your opponent could cast a spell, then immediately cast an instant or flash card without passing priority, and then could cast another instant or flash card without passing priority, and so on for as many as they want to cast. But that only applies to instants and cards with flash, not to typical artifacts and creatures (which don't have flash), as it seems you're asking about here. And even in this case, none of these spells could resolve without you having a chance to respond to them first. Your opponent can never take that away from you.1

  • 1
    For accuracy, you can still respond to a Split Second spell, just not by casting spells or activating abilities. You could, however, unmorph a creature. Another point could be made that Split Second isn't any more exotic than it has been, seeing as there are only 15 cards with that keyword, and about a third of those are going very strong in Commander games. – TheThirdMan Jun 9 '17 at 10:03
  • Flusterstorm is another which can counter multiple spells at once. – Stewart Jun 11 '17 at 9:48
  • In addition to unmorphing, you can activate mana abilities while split second is on the stack. This is usually pointless, but can be useful if the mana abilities cause some additional effect (such as sacrificing a creature). – Antimony Jun 25 '17 at 5:14
  • Also Mindbreak Trap – MAA Jun 30 '17 at 3:46
14

What you're describing is (more or less) possible to happen, but it's more likely that your opponent intended to just cast everything one after another. In any case, keep in mind that you can ask your opponent to wait at any time if you need to consider your options, or clarify the game state.

Your opponent is actually casting multiple spells before passing priority

When a player casts a spell or an ability, that player gets priority next. This is known as holding priority (you may also want to read What are the uses of holding priority?)

116.3c If a player has priority when he or she casts a spell, activates an ability, or takes a special action, that player receives priority afterward.

This means that if your opponent casts a spell, they will have the opportunity to cast or do something in response to their own spell, before you're allowed to respond. Note that casting multiple Equipment spells this way requires them to be able to cast them at Instant speed, because they normally require the stack to be empty in order to be able to cast them.

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.

Eventually, they will pass priority, with all of their spells on the stack. If you cast a Counterspell (which targets a single spell) now, just like choosing targets works on the battlefield, you may choose as many targets as the spell allows, except the targets here are spells on the stack. Each equipment will still be a single spell on the stack, meaning you can't counter more than one unless you have a card that's specifically made for this purpose (such as an overloaded Counterflux).

Your opponent is ignoring the rules of priority (in casual play)

This other scenario means that your opponent is simply not aware of all of the above, or actually not caring about being in a massive disadvantage with you being able to counter each of their spells. However, the nature of execution is relevant here, so let me cover some situations.

Your opponent is literally putting all cards into play at once
If they slam everything on the table at once, you need to find a way to sync up with the game rules again. You should ask them to determine a stack order for what they just did. Then you effectively can interrupt that order at a specific point, let's say countering the third spell they cast out of five. This means that you intend to let spell one and two resolve, counter spell three, with spell four and five not yet on the stack and your opponent not required to cast them afterwards.
Note that this is a very subjective interpretation of how a situation like this should be handled, which is based on the assumption that the end result should be as close as possible to legit ways of playing. You could always ask them to re-do everything they just did, going through the motions more thoroughly.

Your opponent is casting spells one after another
If your opponent is casting spells one by one, it's up to you to interrupt them and announce that you would like to counter their spell. Because of the way that holding priority works, the latest possible time you could do that is at the time you know that they wouldn't be able to cast an Equipment without Flash in response to another Equipment (which means you definitely know that they don't intend to hold priority).

Tournament Scenarios

In a tournament, players have to explicitly announce that they intend to hold priority; otherwise, it's assumed that they play spells and activate abilities one after another. This means that if your opponent does this in a tournament scenario, stop them right after the first card to either counter it, or get a moment to read the card and consider it. If you simply let the game progress, wait for your opponent to go through their motions, then say "well, I would have liked to do something way back" - that would be too late.

Of course, if there are any problems of this kind during a tournament match, don't attempt to solve this on your own, but immediately call a judge.

  • OP Sounds like a pretty new player - while what you're saying is right to the letter of the law it probably also doesn't mean much to them. In simple terms the opponent is playing a Cheerios deck so each equipment is going to be cast as normal, meaning each one needs to finish resolving before he can cast the next. Sadly for the OP he can only counter one at a time since the stack would never be larger than one equipment spell. – LuckySevens Jun 8 '17 at 14:28
  • @LuckySevens: I see your point, but I would like you to consider the usefulness of the answer in its own right, not just to a presumably new player. I believe it's favorable to answer questions as exhaustive as necessary, and with this being a situation with a lot of outs, I went in quite some detail to cover all bases I could think of. I believe this to be helpful not just for the questioner, but also for everyone else interested in the question. I also think that they aren't as new as others seem to think, as they apparently have a good idea of what priority is, just not how to enforce it. – TheThirdMan Jun 8 '17 at 14:54
  • If the spells are equipment and creatures as the OP describes, they are (barring other cards) all being cast at sorcery speed, meaning they are necessarily being cast one after the other since putting them on the stack at once is not an option. – Zags Jun 8 '17 at 21:47
  • @Zags: Correct, and I also noted in my answer. Despite that, the question will still be found when searching for other cases, which is why I thought I'd cover all cases. It seems more beneficial to explain the concept behind it rather than the specific situation. The question is asked in a way that suggests that they are interested in a general explanation rather than "can you cast Equipment spells in response to each other" - I believe that "can I counter all spells on the stack with a single counter spell [and if not, how does it work]?" is the real question. – TheThirdMan Jun 8 '17 at 22:27
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You and I, my friend, need to have a talk about the stack.

The stack is Magic's abstraction of time. At its core, it is what keeps everything from happening at once, while offering each player to react to each-other's actions.

To cite some rules

405.1. When a spell is cast, the physical card is put on the stack (see rule 601.2a). When an ability is activated or triggers, it goes on top of the stack without any card associated with it (see rules 602.2a and 603.3).

405.2. The stack keeps track of the order that spells and/or abilities were added to it. Each time an object is put on the stack, it’s put on top of all objects already there.

So we see that spells and abilities (triggered or activated) can be added to the stack. Now, to get them off of there again:

405.5. When all players pass in succession, the top (last-added) spell or ability on the stack resolves. [...]

Note that most spell-types have restrictions on when they can be played. For instance, sorceries:

307.1. A player who has priority may cast a sorcery card from his or her hand during a main phase of his or her turn when the stack is empty. [...]

And the same (with some variations) goes for lands, artifacts and equipment, enchantments, and creatures. The 'exceptions', those objects that can be added to the stack while it is not empty, are instants and abilities (triggered or activated) of permanents on the battlefield.


Now that the rulebook has been read, let's look at your game.

My opponent has all these zero cost equipments and laid them all down at once [...]

Technically, he cannot do this. Every one of those equipments needs to follow this pattern:

  • Stack is empty
  • He casts an equipment (announces the spell, pays the cost, places the card on the stack)
  • Note that at this time he cannot cast another equipment, as the stack is not empty anymore!

Now either one of these scenario's can happen:

  • he passes priority
  • you pass priority
  • The top of the stack resolves, an equipment enters the battlefield

Or:

  • he passes priority
  • you cast Counterspell
  • you pass priority
  • he passes priority and the top of the stack (your Conterspell) resolves
  • Counterspell removes the equipment from the stack and places it in your opponents graveyard. Counterspell itself is removed from the stack and placed in your graveyard.

Or, even more complex:

  • he passes priority
  • you cast Counterspell
  • you pass priority
  • he counters Counterspell with Manaleak
  • you both pass priority
  • mana Leak removes Counterspell
  • Now you both get to pass priority again before the new top-of-the-stack (the original equipment) resolves
  • you both pass priority
  • The top of the stack resolves, an equipment enters the battlefield

And whenever the last item is removed from the stack, leaving it empty, someone can add a spell to it again and start building a new stack.


Note that there are a lot more complexities when looking at the stack - half the fun in Magic is putting stuff on the stack in the right order - , but this should give you a working understanding to get started with.

  • "The stack is Magic's abstraction of time." - I would argue that this isn't the best choice of words, for once because it introduces that MtG has a concept of time (which I don't believe it has), second because there are other elements that could be interpreted as abstractions of time, such as the turn/phase/step model, and finally because there are other things in the game (such as timestamp order) that care about "time", but not the stack. The stack is first and foremost simply a game zone. – TheThirdMan Jun 8 '17 at 13:51
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    @TheThirdMan "Time is what prevents everything from happening at once." - John Archibald Wheeler. I choose this wording specifically to show that the stack helps to visualise in what order (ie when in time) things happen. – steenbergh Jun 8 '17 at 13:55
  • The stack is in no way meant to help you visualize in what order things happen in a game of Magic in general, and even if you'd consider the stack on its own (which I guess is what you mean, but never state), sequence is different enough from the concept of time in our physical world that the phrasing allows for more false conclusions than it helps understanding (especially if you consider that things always resolve in opposite order). I further think that looking at time and any arbitrary sequence as being the same difference isn't something a lot of physicists would sign. – TheThirdMan Jun 9 '17 at 10:46
-1

I'd say you're both in the wrong. Counterspell counters 1 spell as it's being cast, so you can't just counter everything in one go like that. On the other hand, if you're playing properly then he should have cast one spell, given you the chance to counter it, then let it resolve and cast the next one and repeat. Otherwise, you can just work out which of the spells it's most important for you to counter, and say that you're countering that one - and passing priority properly would mean you don't get that opportunity.

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