I've read this article published on blogs.magicjudges.org explaining the combat shortcut which is about (contrary to the normal proceeding) the Not Active Player (NAP) receiving priority prior to the Active Player (AP) in the Beginning of Combat step (BoC).

This is also stated in the Magic Tournament Rules:

If the active player passes priority with an empty stack during their first main phase, the non-activeplayer is assumed to be acting in beginning of combat unless they are affecting whether a beginning of combat ability triggers.Then, after those actions resolve or no actions took place, the active player receives priority at the beginning of combat. Beginning of combat triggered abilities (even ones that target) may be announced at this time.

At the end of the article the author mentions that normally this is not a problem since most of the time the AP does not want to act first anyway. However, one scenario in which the AP wants to be the first one to receive priorioty in the BoC step is mentioned:

AP Acting First in Combat

The new structure makes it look like the active player can’t be the first person to act in the beginning of combat step. That’s not true, but it does reflect the fact that the active player needing to act first is unlikely. The only scenario I’m aware of is holding a split second spell while your opponent is floating mana, which is not something that’s going to come up every day! In that situation, the protocol is the same as ever – you ask your opponent if they want to do something with that mana in the main phase. If they do, you’re still in main phase, since they used mana they couldn’t use in beginning of combat, nullifying the default.

Otherwise, there is a way to do it, but it does give the opponent some information. While in your main phase, simply say “I do this thing in Beginning of Combat”. Done! Of course, the non-active player has the ability to interrupt and do something in your main phase. That’s not really any different than it was under the previous shortcut.

However, I can't reconstruct an example for such a scenario from the information given in these two paragraphs. The following information is given as stated in the paragraphs:

  • NAP has mana floating in the first main phase
  • AP has a split second spell

Question: Can you give an example for this scenario in which in order to reach his or hear goal, AP needs to be the first one to to receive priority in BoC to then cast the split second spell?

To illustrate the difficulties I have with this, here is an example which doesn't work:

  • AP is in his main phase, controls a Grizzly Bears enchanted with a Rancor. He has a Sudden Spoiling in his hand and enough mana to cast it.
  • NAP has 2 life, controls an Endbringer and has one mana floating.
  • AP wants to have priority in BoC to then cast Sudden Spoiling. He does not want to cast Sudden Spoiling in the main phase because NAP has floating mana he or she can use to respond. If everything goes well, AP then can attack with his bear (4/2, trample) and win the game (NAP now has a 0/2 creature).

This example doesn't work because of several aspects:

  • Why does AP need to have priority in BoC to cast Sudden Spoiling before NAP receives priority? Why does AP not let NAP have priority first in BoC, NAP then passes priority, then AP uses his priority to cast Sudden Spoiling?
  • Why doesn't AP cast Sudden Spoiling in his main phase? Sure, NAP has mana floating, but he can't use it to activate Endbringer's cant-attack-ability in response anyway because Sudden Spoiling has split second.
  • The first of the two reasons you give for "the example doesn't work" isn't valid. If the NAP passes priority in BoC with an empty stack then it's the declare attackers step immediately with no chance for the AP to cast more spells first. It doesn't change much because there's not much reason Spoiling needs to be cast in BoC in the first place. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 3:48
  • To expand on Kamil's comment: where you write in the question "(contrary to the normal proceeding) the Not Active Player (NAP) receiving priority prior to the Active Player (AP)", that is not correct. The AP does receives priority first during the BoC step, it's just that, roughly speaking, they are assumed to be passing it unless they actively announce that they're using it for something and what that something is.
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 5:44
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    @DavidZ That's not exactly accurate. Part of what makes this shortcut so unusual is that if the NAP passes priority without acting, play goes back to the AP. This is different from every other priority cycle in the game, so it is not the same as just treating it as though AP passed their first priority at the beginning of combat.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 7:01
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    What I'm saying right now is that this does in fact work differently than what you are saying. It says so right in the shortcut definition quoted in the question: "Then, after those actions resolve or no actions took place, the active player receives priority at the beginning of combat." So, in this particular shortcut, the NAP is assumed to be acting first in the BOC step, then even if they take no action and the stack is empty, priority goes to the AP next in the same step.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 7:12
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    @murgatroid99 My understanding is different from what you're saying: when the active player says e.g. "combat" it's understood as them passing during their main phase and proposing a shortcut in which NAP passes in the main phase and AP passes in BoC, returning priority to NAP. If NAP plays something without further clarification, they accept the shortcut with the understanding that their play is made in BoC. If NAP just says "OK", that is interpreted as shortening the proposed shortcut to just NAP passing in their main phase, after which AP gains priority in BoC.
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 8:18

3 Answers 3


I think the two different pieces here are in some sense independent. The opponent's floating mana makes you want to act in the beginning of combat step instead of the main phase, and holding a split second spell makes you want to act first in the beginning of combat step instead of waiting for your opponent to act.

Holding up mana here isn't necessarily about responding to the split second spell; it's more generally about having more options for actions to take, perhaps after the spell resolves. If you force the mana to empty from their mana pool, you cut off those options.

So, here is a scenario in which it matters that you specifically act first during the beginning of combat step: The active player has some mana available and Extirpate in hand, and two attackers with at least two toughness each. The non-active player has one floating red mana, two islands, Electrolyze in hand, and Feeling of Dread in their graveyard. The non-active player is better off casting Feeling of Dread, but they don't want to cast it during their main phase because then the active player could follow up with another creature, possibly with haste.

If the active player plays Extirpate during their main phase, the non-active player can use their floating mana to cast Electrolyze. If the active player waits until the non-active player acts in the beginning of combat step, the Feeling of Dread is no longer in the graveyard for the Extirpate to target. They get the best result if they act first in the beginning of combat step.


It's contrived, but....

You have an Electrostatic Field on the battlefield. Maybe even you and your opponent both do, and you are both at one life.

You also have an Anointed Deacon on the battlefield (or any permanent with a "beginning of combat" triggered ability).

You and your opponent both have a Trickbind in hand. Whoever gets priority first can cast Trickbind, which will trigger Electrostatic Field's triggered ability. That will resolve before Trickbind, winning the game for the player who cast Trickbind.

Whichever player gets priority first in the beginning of combat step wins the game. No floating mana involved.

*You no one can cast Trickbind during the main phase because there is no ability on the stack to target.

  • 1
    Note that the last sentence of that shortcut definition (not quoted in the question) says "Beginning of combat triggered abilities (even ones that target) may be announced at this time." Since those triggers are announced at the end of this weird backwards shortcut, I think this may not entirely address the issue of who acts first in accordance with that shortcut.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 0:17
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    I agree with @murgatroid99 and edited the question to add the last sentence of the combat shortcut. Because of this last sentence the plan you described for the AP even works with the current shortcut (NAP receiving priority in BoC first): AP: "Combat". NAP: "Ok". AP: "Anointed Deacon trigger, Trickbind to counter that trigger". Apart from that nice try though! :) and sorry for not mentioning the the last sentence.
    – efie
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 8:04

An extremely contrived situation would justify "I need to cast this Split Second card in the Beginning of Combat step rather than the Main Phase as the Active Player, specifically because the opponent has mana floating.

Here is the board state: Your opponent has 2 life, controls 3 Island, Rampaging Ferocidon, and one facedown Morph card, and has no cards in hand and one mana floating (any color). You are at 1 life, control 2 untapped Mountain, Goblin Rabblemaster, and have Sudden Shock in hand.

In this situation, as the active player, the correct play is to pass priority in your Main Phase, then cast Sudden Shock in the Beginning of Combat step. The reason is that your opponent's facedown card could be Voidmage Apprentice, which could be turned faceup to counter your Sudden Shock because Morph is a special action which does not use the stack, and doesn't count as either a spell or ability as discussed here. In the Beginning of Combat step, Goblin Rabblemaster triggers to create a Goblin token, which would kill you because of Rampaging Ferocidon, so you can't wait to cast Sudden Shock any later and must cast it in the Beginning of Combat step to win the game, otherwise you lose.

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    This question was not just about acting in the beginning of combat, but specifically about the active player acting first in the beginning of combat. I don't see that represented here. In this case, you can wait for the NAP to pass priority before casting Sudden Shock without losing anything.
    – murgatroid99
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 7:07

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