In early Magic—in the early nineties—the rules had a rule that made damage occur on the stack. I'd like to know how a certain situation (described below) would work in the rules at that time:

  • I have a vanilla 2/2.
  • Having priority, I cast Giant Growth on it.
  • My opponent, in response to Giant Growth, responds with Lightning Bolt targeting the vanilla.

What happened under those rules?

  • Thanks to Giant Growth, Vanilla managed to survive, due to the fact that damage went on the stack, and therefore even if vanilla suffered three damage, it could immediately take advantage of the +3 increase in toughness since Giant Growth is still on the stack.

  • Or, did the fact that lightning was thrown in response to the Giant Growth automatically lead to the vanilla being sent to the graveyard? (just like the current game)

Even if it may seem trivial, I know for sure that lots of people have actually interpreted the early rules such that the vanilla survives the lightning. I want to verify this is the authentic way it plays, and not a completely mistaken interpretation.

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    The obsolete rule that concerns "damage on the stack" only relates to combat damage. I still intuitively and subconsciously plan combats as though that rule is in effect, and have great issues correctly calculating, say, sacrificing attackers or blockers to activate abilities. (A creature of mine can't both deal its combat damage, be destined to die by the damage it's going to receive, and also be sacrificed to feed something like Arms Dealer. But it could back in my more active days, and I'm not used to that.)
    – Arthur
    Aug 7, 2021 at 21:25
  • Ooh ... @Doppelgreener again! Please let users and old players have a little more fun with this great site, and, above all ... let ME have some more fun, too !! Wasn't it funny to refer to Giant Growth as The Big Mice, thus recalling the first historical illustration of this card? Stack Exchange in my opinion is not, and should not be, an encyclopedia, As you think, doppelgreener. Encyclopedias are boring, while SE should be able to provide information but still having some fun doing it, just like the games it deals with. Aug 11, 2021 at 9:39
  • Anyway, thank you very much...I have to admit that the editing is pretty good. Although I would prefer that users were left free to write their questions without them being continuously edited by more accredited users. Isn't it a right of users to refuse editing done by others? Aug 11, 2021 at 9:39
  • @ManoFromBerlin Clear communication is important here. We can have fun, but we shouldn't be having fun at a cost of clarity. We may not be an encyclopedia, but we're supplying a function similar to one: we're building up a knowledge base of future reference for others to read and we owe those users a good and clear reading experience. Aug 11, 2021 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


This depends on what era of the game you reference:

  • Pre-Sixth Edition (1993-1999), which used the batch.
  • Sixth Edition (1999) and onwards, which introduced the stack.

Your question referenced the early nineties, but also references the stack. The stack didn't exist in the early nineties, and without it neither did the damage-on-the-stack rule. It's not clear which era you're interested in so I'm going to address both of them.

Pre-Sixth Edition and the Batch (1993–1999)

The vanilla survives.

The MTG Wiki gives us a summary of the batch from the Fourth Edition rules booklet:

Batch (Obsolete)

A series of non-interrupt fast effects that build on one another as players respond to each other's spells. Batches are resolved by first-in, last-out for all effects. Any damage done to creatures or players isn't applied until the end of the batch, but creatures that are destroyed through means other than damage are sent to the graveyard immediately and regeneration and/or death effects are checked when this occurs.

From the The Pocket Players' Guide for Magic: The Gathering - Fourth Edition (1995)

In Alpha, both Giant Growth and Lightning Bolt were instant spells and therefore used the batch. (As opposed to interrupts, which would play out differently.)

Essentially, the nature of the batch would be that we resolve the entire thing in one go, most recent first... but apply damage only at the end! That gives us the following outcome:

  1. We begin resolving the batch. Lightning Bolt resolves first, because it was cast last. Its damage is not applied yet.
  2. Giant Growth resolves, and the vanilla gets +3/+3.
  3. The batch ends. The damage from Lightning Bolt is applied only now. The vanilla is now a 5/5 and survives the 3 damage.

This means your first bullet point, while referencing the stack, sounds unintuitive and incorrect—because you're actually describing what happens with the batch instead.

Side note: What would change if one of these spells was an interrupt?

The behaviour of an interrupt was to resolve immediately, instead of waiting until we start resolving the batch. If Lightning Bolt was an interrupt, it would actually be able to apply its damage before Giant Growth applied its effect, which would kill the vanilla. (If Giant Growth were an interrupt, there'd be no overall difference in outcome.)

Sixth Edition and the Stack (1999 onwards)

The vanilla dies.

The concept of the stack was introduced with Sixth Edition on 21 April 1999. Thanks to the Wayback Machine and Venser's Journal we have an archived copy of the 23 April 1999 Comprehensive Rules. Reviewing it, we can see that damage is only put on the stack as part of the combat damage step. Spells just deal their damage immediately as part of resolution:

408.2. Actions That Don't Use the Stack

408.2a Effects don't go on the stack. When a spell or ability resolves, its instructions are executed immediately.

This means we get this outcome:

  1. Lightning Bolt resolves first, because it was cast last. It deals 3 damage to the vanilla.
  2. We check state-based actions (rule 420) and the vanilla is destroyed & sent to the graveyard for having lethal damage (rule 420.5c).
  3. We try to resolve Giant Growth, but it has no valid target remaining and is countered (413.3).

That's what we'd expect today, with the exception that Giant Growth would simply fail to resolve instead of being countered (because of Dominaria's rules changes in 2018).

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    And even if damage from spells also went on the stack like combat damage used to; it wouldn’t matter in this case. Lighting Bolt would resolve, and its damage would go on the stack on top of Giant Growth. Then the damage would resolve, killing the vanilla.
    – GendoIkari
    Aug 7, 2021 at 22:45
  • Under the stack rules, Giant Growth would have been countered as you say in 6th edition, but that’s not what would happen today; under current rules Giant Growth fails to resolve but is not countered.
    – GendoIkari
    Aug 7, 2021 at 22:46
  • Apart from the timing of damage effects, was there some other difference between the olden batch and the current stack? The answer says "we resolve the entire thing in one go", so is the difference that it wasn't possible to add new spells to the batch after part of it had resolved? (And I've actually played it in 4th ed. times, but not nearly at the level where this would have come up.)
    – ilkkachu
    Aug 7, 2021 at 22:59
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    @ilkkachu Yes, from what I remember, once a batch started to "resolve", i.e. its spells actually take effect, you couldn't add any more spells to it. (I too was a new player in those days and didn't fully understand it at the time.) FWIW here's a transcription of the early Magic rules which seems to back that up, see e.g. the section on page 19 about Instants.
    – David Z
    Aug 8, 2021 at 2:20
  • @DavidZ, the text there is actually even weirder. Just under the page number 31, it talks about responding to direct damage with Unsummon: "You may choose whether the Unsummon comes before or after the damage spell, since you cast your spell last. Naturally, you choose to have it come first [to make the critter safe]." and also no mention of damage coming last as a rule: "If your rival had responded to your Unsummon with another damage-dealing spell, your rival could have opted to have that last spell take effect before your Unsummon, giving your creature the deep-six."
    – ilkkachu
    Aug 8, 2021 at 11:13

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