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The Stack: Use and Abuse
By John Fu
Recent posts from a fellow member on the Casual Players Alliance have led me to restudy and remaster the interactions of the stack. The stack is what basically seperates men from the boys(women from girls). If you don't know how to use the stack you might as well be playing portal. With wizards decision to inhibit counterspells the stack is being abused less and less by the casual player. This is a basic refresher course for those who never have understood or those who have forgotten.

To get started, simple refresher. Magic is based on the LIFO principle. LIFO means Last In First Out. It is like a dog pile the last one to go on the dog pile is the first one off. Simple. Easy. Understandable. Right? Should be. However, greed tend to cloud many players judgements. Many beginners will ask about effects that should be on the stack and why one effect doesn't effect the other. Here is an example, player A uses at pyroblast at a blue permenant. In response, player B changes the color of the permenant to say green. Player A in response changes it to blue. Let's look at the stack. Top to bottom-Last to first.

Change permenant to blue
Change permenant to green
Pyroblast

Player A had ants in his pants and didn't stack the spell properly. In the end it becomes green and his spell gets shrugged off like a 6th grader against Tony Saragusa. You can interrupt the stack at anypoint to interject and put new effects back on the stack. (Editor's note: This is a tad misleading. You don't "interrupt" the stack, you wait until the current effect has resolved before getting the opportunity to add new effects to the stack. Kinda mentioned in the following statement - Spidey) Player A should have waited for Player B's effect to resolve and then stacked his one altering effect.

Many players tend to want to blend effects and this just doesn't work. For example, player A targets player B with a Cephalid Broker. The full effect is to draw two cards and then discard 2 cards. If player B has an empty hand then he would haveMany rookies have the desire to try to play some of the cards in between the two effects. Going back to the football analogy, it would be like have a person in the middle of the dog pile getting up while phasing through several burlymen. It just doesn't work.

These two rules are the basics of the stack and spell casting. The next part is something I consider obvious but very difficult for many beginners to keep track of, triggered effects. I remember when Magic first introduced these things and I remember adamantly argueing that triggered effects on creatures were part of the resolution of the spell. However, I am glad to see I am wrong and that they behave the way they do. Triggered effects are the same as any other effects and should not be too daunting. The hard part for those who don't know occur when multiple triggers from the same source happen. Here is how it works, whoever's turn it happens to be, puts all his triggers in any order on the stack first. Things do not happen simultaneously in magic. Remember that point. Things happen one after another. Then the other player goes. In the case of multiplayer, have a predetermined order like go left or go right to avoid people from abusing triggered effects. I am going to use a type 2 example to illustrate this effect. Player A and B both have Blasting Station(s). Player A activates a Myr Incubator for an obscenly large number, say 20. Player A would then stack 20 untap effects onto the stack for his Blasting station. Player B would then get to stack 20 untap effects for his station. Why is it that they don't alternate? Because of the second rule. Effects don't blend or plartial happen. It isn't one myr token comes into play. It is all 20 at once. This example also demonstrates the importance of learning the stack. Player A just messed him self up because he had done this while it was his turn thus allowing his opponent to reap the rewards of abusing of said stack.

The last most common area that errors on the stack are made is when dealing with the effects of cards. Generally, most spells deal with things based about the situation upon RESOLUTION. There are a few that deal with being played. The easiest example is Storm. Storm mechanic makes copies on the number of spells played at the time of play. It has nothing to do with the number of resolved spells or does it trigger upon resolution of said spell.

Hopefully this simple and brief introduction to the stack can help out with some basic questions about the stack.

Read More Articles by John Fu!

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