During your Magic games, you’re going to be summoning creatures, sending them into battle, flinging spells back and forth—all while doing your best to thwart your opponent. The action will get intense from time to time, and that’s part of the fun! But knowing when you can cast something and when you can’t is important, and that’s where the parts of the turn come in.
Magic’s turn sequence breaks down each player’s turn into phases to add order to the chaos. The phases always follow the same sequence, so you’ll get used to them after only a few games.
The main phase is where you’ll do most of your dirty work, playing lands and casting spells. In fact, it’s such an important phase that you get two of them every turn. One happens before you attack with creatures, and the other happens right after combat.
HOW TO RESPOND
One of Magic’s strongest components, and a key to its high level of strategy, is that you always get a chance to respond to what your opponent is doing. Every spell they want to cast, every ability they want to use, you get the chance to jump in and mess with their plans. Of course, they can do the same to you, and you can even respond to their response!
So how is all this handled? That’s where the stack comes in.
The stack is Magic’s way of keeping track of what happens when. Even though your main phase is where you’ll do most of your spell-slinging, there are a ton of spells and abilities that can appear during either player’s turn, and the stack keeps it all in order.
Whenever you or your opponent does anything—like cast a creature spell—that card doesn’t go directly to the battlefield. Instead, it goes to the stack. Imagine the stack as a holding cell: the spell waits there until each player has had an opportunity to respond by casting instant spells or activating abilities. If it’s your turn, you have the first chance to respond to your own spells and abilities.
Once no one wants to add any more spells or abilities to the stack, the spells and abilities there start to resolve, starting with the most recent response. So say you cast a spell, then your opponent responds with an instant spell, and then you respond to that with an ability. Once no player wants to respond, your ability resolves first, then your opponent’s spell will resolve, and finally your original spell. The last spell or ability to go on the stack is the first one that will resolve. Magic is a game of threats, answers, and answers to those answers!
Magic Duels is hands-down the best way to learn about the stack. For now just keep in mind that whenever your opponent does something, you can say, “Hang on, I’ve got a response.”