Suppose I attack with a creature with infect, and then my opponent tells me he won't block.

My intent is to use Giant Growth on my infect creature regardless of whether or not my opponent blocks.

HOWEVER, my opponent forgets that I have priority and goes straight for the Lightning Bolt.

Now it seems as though my opponent has just made a game-play error by casting that bolt when he didn't have priority. Is it legal for me to take advantage of that, and play Giant Growth in response, thus benefiting from the error?

  • You can always play instants in response to your opponent casting spells. (unless the spell they cast has split second)
    – Matt
    Jan 10, 2013 at 17:30
  • @Matt not what I was asking. I was asking whether it is legal to take advantage of my opponent's gameplay mistake when he skipped my priority Jan 10, 2013 at 17:33
  • Related: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/9213/…
    – ghoppe
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:04

4 Answers 4


Your opponent attempting to cast Lightning Bolt when they don't have priority is a legal shortcut as outlined in the comprehensive rules:

716.1. When playing a game, players typically make use of mutually understood shortcuts rather than explicitly identifying each game choice (either taking an action or passing priority) a player makes.

and also:

716.1a The rules for taking shortcuts are largely unformalized. As long as each player in the game understands the intent of each other player, any shortcut system they use is acceptable.

Clearly your opponent's intent was to cast Lightning Bolt assuming you just planned to pass priority. Therefore, after your opponent has tried to cast Lightning Bolt, you have the option of either:

  1. Telling your opponent that he doesn't have priority and forcing him to undo the casting of Lightning Bolt
  2. Allow the shortcut to happen at which point you can still cast Giant Growth as you should now have priority

Yes, it is legal for you to cast Giant Growth in response to your opponent ignoring your priority.


Some people claim that only the player with priority can propose a shortcut. While the rules do state this, they also state that any shortcut method that is understood and unambiguous is acceptable. Since players in every magic game I have ever seen (including MTG pro tour and similar high level play) ignore their opponent's priority when moving from their upkeep to their draw phase it seems to me that this behavior should be acceptable during other phases as well. Players may also go into the declare attackers phase by just tapping some of their creatures effectively skipping their opponent's priority. This is fairly common and took me no more than about one minute to find this example and this example. Skipping your opponent's priority in this manner is exactly the same as skipping it after they declared attackers so you can cast Lightning Bolt.

What is not okay is saying you are going to do something and then not actually doing it after your opponent decides to not respond to it. (I'm not really sure how this situation came up as it isn't in the original question, but some answers have addressed it)

  • Also, none of the conventional shortcut examples in section 4.2 of the Tournament rules includes a situation where a spell is cast without requesting priority first. Especially during the Combat step, the shortcuts I'm familiar with are: "declare attackers" "Blockers?" "Assign Damage", etc. I'm not a Judge, so I don't know whether casting spells without requesting priority is simply unwise or an infraction, but I don't think CR section 716 justifies it.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:59
  • @ghoppe, Matt is correct. Consider the shortcut "Go." It means: "I propose we both pass priority until it is no longer my turn." Similarly, "I cast Lightning Bolt" is a shortcut for "I propose that you pass priority and I cast Lightning Bolt." Shortcuts can definitely include choices made by other players, such as the choice to pass priority.
    – ikegami
    Jan 10, 2013 at 19:12
  • 1
    Umm, okay... I guess you could argue that, but since I can find no other way to interpret someone casting a spell when they don't have priority than them proposing that I pass priority and then they cast their spell, I can't see how there could be any confusion about the shortcut.
    – Matt
    Jan 10, 2013 at 19:25
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    If you don't interpret someone trying to cast a spell when they don't have priority as them suggesting that you first pass priority then they cast the spell, then what do you interpret it as? Can you provide some of those examples?
    – Matt
    Jan 10, 2013 at 20:06
  • 2
    Hello commenters! I'm deleting much of the back and forth above. Please upvote which ever answer you feel is useful. Submit your own answer if you can't get behind one of the answers already here. Thanks.
    – Pat Ludwig
    Jan 10, 2013 at 22:30

While I initially believed Matt was correct, it was pointed out (by LJ2?) that one cannot create a shortcut if one doesn't have priority.

716.2a At any point in the game, the player with priority may suggest a shortcut [...]

As such, your opponent is merely requesting priority, leaving you the following two options:

  1. Tell your opponent that he doesn't have priority, preventing him from actually casting the Lightning Bolt at this time. (Any action he already took would be rolled back.)

  2. Acquiesce his request and give up priority. Since no shortcut was proposed, he's not required to follow up with Lightning Bolt or he could change his choice of target, but he must follow up with an action (other than passing) according to the Tournament Rules. (If he doesn't, the game rolls back to when you had priority.)

So, you have the option of casting your spell before his Lightning Bolt, in response to it, or even after it resolves.

  • 1
    As an aside, your opponent should have waited for you to pass priority which you could have done explicitly or implicitly by assigning damage.
    – ikegami
    Jan 11, 2013 at 5:57
  • 1
    You can't say you are going to cast something and then not cast it (unless you cannot cast it due to not being able to pay the cost, or any other reason that would prevent you from legally casting the spell)
    – Matt
    Jan 11, 2013 at 17:41
  • @Matt, Why not? (Rule #?) To my knowledge, there's nothing that says you can't. The only time someone is bound to do something they said they were going to do is if they proposed a shortcut and the other players accepted that part of the shortcut. The Lightning Bolt caster could not have proposed a shortcut since he did not have priority, and he's not bound by a shortcut someone else proposed.
    – ikegami
    Jan 11, 2013 at 19:15
  • 2
    From a judging perspective, we basically have to either treat this as understood player communication where B is proposing he cast LB next time it's his priority and is bound to it if A does not want to take an action, or else we start handing out infractions to B for a game rules violation every time this happens. That is absurdly impractical to consider it a rules violation every time someone tosses down an instant before their opponent explicitly passes priority. If both players understand the intent it's fine.
    – Affe
    Jan 11, 2013 at 20:17
  • If we allow the 'take back' we also get constantly bogged down into cheating investigations to determine if B is "faking" spells to fish for information about A's hand.
    – Affe
    Jan 11, 2013 at 20:18

In a friendly game with someone just learning the game, I would let him take the Lightning Bolt back.

But if it's a tournament situation, and he did not wait for you to say "done" "go" "no fast effects" "moving to damage" or something similar, you're well within your rights to respond to the Lightning Bolt with a Giant Growth. (I took a look at section 4.2 Tournament Shortcuts of the MtG Tournament Rules, and I didn't find anything specifically saying taking advantage of information due to skipping of priority was illegal.)

  • Actually, saying "wait, I had priority" and doing nothing should not be done in a tournament. You can't request priority and then do nothing: tournament rules 4.2: A player may not request priority and take no action with it. If a player decides he or she does not wish to do anything, the request is nullified and priority is returned to the player that originally had it.
    – Pablo
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:18
  • @Pablo I think you're right and I'll strike that part of the answer. There's no need to go through the ceremony.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 10, 2013 at 19:02

You should reverse actions until the game is in a legal state. He should not be able to play the spell until you pass priority. I have not been able to find anything regarding you using the information gleaned from his misplay. It is probably not stated anywhere, but is an ethical decision based on your setting.

In a tournament setting, your opponent might even receive punishment. See section 2.5 Gamplay Error - Game rule violation http://www.wizards.com/ContentResources/Wizards/WPN/Main/Documents/Magic_The_Gathering_Infraction_Procedure_Guide_PDF1.pdf

If the error was discovered within a time frame in which a player could reasonably be expected to notice the error and the situation is simple enough to safely back up without too much disruption to the course of the game, the judge may get permission from the Head Judge to back up the game to the point of the error. Each action taken is undone until the game reaches the point immediately prior to the error. Cards incorrectly placed in hand are returned to the location in the zone from which they were moved (if the identity of the incorrectly drawn card is not known to all players, a random card is returned instead). Once the game is backed up, it continues from that point.

However is it not a good idea to try and rely on this as a meta strategy. Doing so can be considered fraud. http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/article.asp?ID=10794

  • 1
    If players had to pass priority explicity always, the games would be boring and too long. There is no gamepley error here, this is just a shortcut.
    – Pablo
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:15
  • the question is worded in a way to make it sound as if it is not a shortcut: my opponent forgets that I have priority...
    – Colin D
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:16
  • Rules knowledge (knowing if your opponent has priority in that situation) doesn't make an action a infraction or not. Under that premise, the same situation would be an infraction for an inexperienced player, but not for a veteran player.
    – Pablo
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:28
  • @Colin I don't think you can know if your opponent forget you have priority or if your opponent is suggesting a shortcut where you pass priority.
    – Matt
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:32

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