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Specific example: Attacking player sends a 3/2. Defending player plays Shock to deal 2 damage to the creature. Attacking player then attempts to cast another Instant which would lend the attacking creature additional +/+.

I was under the impression the Shock would resolve first, and the attacking player can’t then buff a 3/0 creature since it would be dead.

  • There's an example of exactly this situation in the online rules ("Example of Spells on the Stack") – ilkkachu Aug 12 at 10:40
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The creature survives.

Some time ago Magic followed a system where instants that did damage resolved last. That's since been changed to a simpler LIFO (last in first out) system. So what happens is:

  1. The defending player casts Shock.
  2. With Shock "on the stack" (i.e. before it resolves), the attacking player casts a pump spell (say, Giant Growth).
  3. Neither player does anything else.
  4. Giant Growth is the "last in" spell (the most recent one cast), so it resolves first. The 3/2 becomes a 6/5.
  5. And then Shock does damage. The 6/5 becomes a 6/5 with 2 damage marked on it, and lives.

For this scenario to happen, the attacking player needs to do nothing ("pass priority") until the defending player casts Shock. In other words, he needs to be willing to do only three damage that combat step. The attacking player also needs to cast Giant Growth in response to the defending player casting Shock. If the attacking player lets Shock resolve, then he wouldn't be able to cast Giant Growth at all (since the creature is dead and Giant Growth needs a target). With this order, the Giant Growth never fizzles.

An alternative way things could happen is:

  1. The attacking player casts Giant Growth before damage (presumably to do 3 more damage to opponent).
  2. Defending player casts Shock in response.
  3. Now, per the same LIFO system, Shock resolves first. The 3/2 dies, and Giant Growth fizzles.

For this scenario to happen, the defending player needs to do nothing ("pass priority") until the attacking player casts Giant Growth (which the attacking player must do prior to damage assignment if he wants to use the pump spell).

  • Regarding your last paragraph: Not at all. After blockers have been declared, it is the attacking player who has, a priori, their last opportunity to do anything before combat damage happens. If they want to play Giant Growth, then they have to do so before "testing the waters" to see whether a shock is coming their way. Otherwise they will risk losing their opportunity to play Giant Growth. It is in the first scenario that the attacking player needs to do nothing. – Arthur Aug 11 at 6:47
  • @Arthur indeed, wonder what I was thinking when I wrote that. – Allure Aug 11 at 12:06
  • @ilkkachu yes, but the defender has to pass until the next step of the combat phase is "damage is inflicted". In other words the defender cannot act at beginning of combat, declare attackers, declare blockers, etc. – Allure Aug 12 at 20:43
  • @Allure, yes, exactly. Re-reading your text, "pass until Growth is cast" seems right. I'm not sure what I was thinking. – ilkkachu Aug 13 at 7:17

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