So I had the following situation in a very casual MtG match:

I argued that it was not possible, since at that moment Chandra was not a valid target (because the spell hasn't yet resolved). So far so good.

Then my opponent argued, "Well OK, then I'll cast Boros Charm right after she's summoned".

From what I've learned playing a bit of Arena, I explained that it is also not possible -- since I have priority on my turn, and I have not done any effect yet (or moved to the next turn phase) to warrant a response, I still could (for example) use her +1 loyalty ability even before Boros Charm could be cast. The ability would bring her to +5 loyalty and effectively survive 4 points of direct damage. I still would have the priority during my turn.

He argued however that an "instant can be played anytime", such that he could cast Boros Charm before I could use her +1 loyalty ability (and since it's a slow effect, that effect would not enter the stack, and she would not survive).

Who is right? More technically, is it the case that a player can initiate a new stack by using any instant-like ability or spell, which is not a mana ability, anytime outside his turn?

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    Keep in mind that if you do anything else that uses the stack, your opponent will be able to target Chandra with the Boros Charm, and you could lose the opportunity to use the loyalty ability - even if that action has nothing to do with Chandra. In situations where there are strategic reasons not to use the loyalty ability immediately, this risk must sometimes be weighed carefully. Commented Apr 21 at 0:42
  • @KarlKnechtel Yes, absolutely, that's pretty much clear for me right now.
    – alecov
    Commented Apr 22 at 21:10
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    Does this answer your question? Can I kill Lurrus directly after it enters the battlefield, before it's controller gets priority to cast a permanent from their graveyard? You want to cast Boros Charm before Chandra activates her ability. They want to kill Lurrus before Lurrus activates her ability.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Apr 24 at 12:44
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    Does this answer your question? Destroying a Planewalker before its ability is used (Better duplicate than proposed above)
    – ryanyuyu
    Commented Apr 24 at 21:59
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    @ryanyuyu +Rainbolt Both do, though I think the way I framed my question is better for the purpose of clarifying priority rules. The planeswalker situation was merely an example where this rule affects materially the outcome.
    – alecov
    Commented Apr 27 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


You are right and your opponent was wrong. A player can only use abilities (including mana abilities1) or cast spells only when that player has priority. In your specific case, because the active player (AP, you) gets priority first every time a spell or ability resolves, there is (almost2) never a time where Chandra has resolved where the non-active player(s) (NAP, your opponent) can cast a spell or activate an ability before the AP can activate one of those abilities. Priority is covered in the Comprehensive Rules under section 117. The rules for what you can do when you have priority are covered by 117.1 (emphasis mine):

117.1 Unless a spell or ability is instructing a player to take an action, which player can take actions at any given time is determined by a system of priority. The player with priority may cast spells, activate abilities, and take special actions.

117.1a A player may cast an instant spell any time they have priority. A player may cast a noninstant spell during their main phase any time they have priority and the stack is empty.

117.1b A player may activate an activated ability any time they have priority.

117.1c A player may take some special actions any time they have priority. A player may take other special actions during their main phase any time they have priority and the stack is empty. See rule 116, “Special Actions.”

117.1d A player may activate a mana ability whenever they have priority, whenever they are casting a spell or activating an ability that requires a mana payment, or whenever a rule or effect asks for a mana payment (even in the middle of casting or resolving a spell or activating or resolving an ability).

And 117.3 covers when players will have priority (emphasis mine):

117.3 Which player has priority is determined by the following rules:

117.3a The active player receives priority at the beginning of most steps and phases, after any turn-based actions (such as drawing a card during the draw step; see rule 703) have been dealt with and abilities that trigger at the beginning of that phase or step have been put on the stack. No player receives priority during the untap step. Players usually don’t get priority during the cleanup step (see rule 514.3).

117.3b The active player receives priority after a spell or ability (other than a mana ability) resolves.

117.3c If a player has priority when they cast a spell, activate an ability, or take a special action, that player receives priority afterward.

117.3d If a player has priority and chooses not to take any actions, that player passes. If any mana is in that player’s mana pool, they announce what mana is there. Then the next player in turn order receives priority.

  1. See 117.1d - while many people think mana abilities can be activated any time, they do have restrictions, these restrictions are just looser than they are for casting spells and activating non-mana abilities.
  2. Because activating a planeswalker ability is sorcery speed, if the planeswalker entering the battlefield causes an ability to trigger, that trigger will go on the stack before AP can use the planeswalker's ability.
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    Thanks for your detailed answer; in particular the footnote 2 is very interesting in that it could backfire against me if I had such effect available.
    – alecov
    Commented Apr 19 at 18:45
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    @alecov At the moment, there aren't that many Planeswalkers with built-in ETB effects (I found [mtg: Jace, Mirror Mage], [mtg: Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes], [mtg: Niko Aris], and [mtg: Teyo, Geometric Tactician]). Other cards that trigger when a planewalker ETBs are not common either, and they typically care only about your planeswalkers ([mtg: Cloudstone Curio], [mtg: Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful], [mtg: Kodama of the East Tree], for example). So if you are playing any of these cards, this rule is especially important.
    – BradC
    Commented Apr 19 at 21:19
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    And of course the [basic rules] don't do such a good job at explaining this, the text says "After a spell or ability resolves, both players again get the chance to respond." but it's not really explicit about the active player getting to go first. A bit before that it says "When you have finished putting spells and abilities on the stack, priority then passes to the next player in turn order", hinting at it, but still not being too clear about it, sigh.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Apr 20 at 9:32
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    One think I think trips a lot of people up is thinking about “fast effects” vs “slow effects”. This is a really bad way of thinking. Instants are not faster than sorceries or creatures. They simply have more allowed windows of time when they can be used.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Apr 20 at 14:49
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    BTW, this only works because adjusting a planeswalker's loyalty is actually a cost of activating their loyalty ability, even it it's increasing its loyalty. If increasing the PW loyalty were part of the effect, then the opponent could cast a spell dealing damage to the PW, and the spell would resolve before the ability does. Commented Apr 22 at 2:07

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