This guide will break down the steps and phases of a turn in Magic the Gathering Arena. Remember that the game will only go to the next step or phase when bother players have passed priority on an empty stack.

This is a simplified turn guide with tips and examples. If you wish for the complete rules, you can always check out Wizards comprehensive rules section (which I highly recommend once you become more familiar with the game!).

Tip: Your Mana Pool Empties between Phases and Steps
If you tap an extra mana at Main Phase I, you will lose that mana going into Combat Phase. There are special creatures that help circumvent this rule, such as Grand Warlord Radha.
The Beginning Phase highlighted, to the left.

Beginning Phase

This phase has three steps: untap step, upkeep step and draw step.

Untap Step

  • A player will untap all his permanents, such as land and creatures. Effects that prevent doing so will take precedence. So if you have a creature enchanted with Capture Sphere, they will not untap.
  • Players will not have priority and can not cast instants or use abilities.

Upkeep Step

  • Any triggered abilities that triggered during the untap phase or at the beginning of the upkeep step goes on the stack. Then the active player will have priority.
Tip: Do it at the End Not Upkeep
If you wish to stop an opponent from drawing a card from an effect like him having an Ascended Kumena’s Awakening by bouncing it with a spell like Blink of an Eye, you need to do it at the previous end step and not during your opponent’s upkeep since the trigger will already be on the stack.

Draw Step

  • Active player draws a card.
  • Any abilities that trigger at the beginning of the draw step go on the stack and then the active player will priority.
Main Phase I, also known as the pre-combat phase, highlighted.

Main Phase I (Pre Combat Main Phase)

This is the phase where non instants such as sorceries can be played.

  • Abilities that trigger at the beginning of the main phase go onto the stack. Then the active player will have priority.
Tip: Playing One Land Per Turn
You can only play a land when the stack is empty. You can play a land in Main Phase I or II. Playing a land does not use the stack and is considered a special action.
Combat Phase highlighted, on the portrait in the center.

Combat Phase

This phase has the most steps and it is where you need to pay extra attention to.

Beginning of Combat Step

  • Any abilities that trigger at the beginning of the combat step go on the stack and then the active player gets priority.
Tip: Tapping Attackers
If you wish to tap down creatures so they can not be used in an attack (using a spell like Capture Sphere, this is the time to do it. You will not be able to tap or stop a creature being declared as an attacker in the Declare Attackers step.

Declare Attackers

The active player will decide which creatures are attacking and who they are attacking (defender player or a planeswalker they control). They will pay any costs that may be required in order to attack (if the defender player has Baird, Steward of Argive) or make sure the attacks are valid (Wojek Bodyguard can not attack alone).

Now the creatures are considered attacking and any abilities that trigger on attackers being declared will trigger and go on the stack (Skyline Scout). The active player now has priority.

Tip: Flashing in Blockers
If you wish to flash in blockers like Merfolk Trickster, this would be the time to do it. If you move to the Declare Blockers step, it would be too late.

Declare Blockers

The defending player will declare blockers. Ensure that each condition is met and the blocks are legal, similar to the declare attackers step.

The creatures are now considered blocking and any abilities that trigger on blocking or blockers being declared will trigger and go on the stack. The active player now has priority.

The active player will now assign damage for each blocked creature. When assigning damage, the primary blocker creature must be assigned lethal damage before the active player can assign any left over damage to the secondary blocker (and so on and so forth).

The defending player will now assign damage for each blocking creature, following the same rules above.

The active player now has priority.

Tip: Once it's Blocked, it's Blocked
As soon as the blockers are declared for an attacking creature, it is considered blocked. Even if the active player kills the blocking creature, the attacking creature will not be able to assign combat damage to the player or planeswalker. The only exceptions are if the attacking creature has trample like Siege Wurm or creatures with special ability like Thorn Elemental

Combat Damage Step

Because there was an opportunity to cast instants and use abilities previously, at the start of this step, the active player will assign combat damage to the blocking creatures again. The defending player will do the same after.

Now here is where it gets tricky. There will be no priority between assigning damage and the combat damage being dealt. If there is are creatures with first strike or double strike involved in the combat, those creatures will deal their combat damage first. After the first strike and double strike combat damage has been inflicted, any abilities that trigger on damage will go on the stack and the active player gets priority. Once both players pass priority on an empty stack, the double strike creatures and creatures that did not have first strike or double strike will deal their combat damage. Any abilities that trigger on damage will go on the stack and the active player gets priority.

Tip: First Strike Stack
I attack with a Fresh-Faced Recruit. My opponent blocks with a Hitchclaw Recluse. After the first strike combat damage has been dealth, I will have priority and can use Righteous Blow to kill the Reclude before it can deal its combat damage to my Recruit.

If there are no creatures with first strike or double strike involved in the combat, the combat damage will all be dealt simultaneously. Any abilities that trigger on damage will go on the stack and the active player gets priority.

End of Combat Step

  • Any abilities that trigger on end of combat will go on the stack and the active player gets priority.
  • Once both players pass priority on an empty stack, all creatures and planewalkers are removed from combat and any effects that lasts ‘until end of combat’ expires.
Main Phase II, also known as the Post Combat Phase, highlighted.

Main Phase II (Post Combat Main Phase)

  • This is exactly like Main Phase I.
  • Non instants such as sorceries can be played.
  • Abilities that trigger at the beginning of the second main phase go onto the stack. Then the active player will have priority.
The Ending Phase, highlighted to the right.

Ending Phase

This phases consists of two steps: the end step and the cleanup step.

End Step

  • Abilities that trigger at the beginning of the end step go onto the stack. Then the active player will have priority.
Tip: Time It Right
Any ‘at the beginning of next end step’ abilities will not trigger if you cast it in this phase. You must cast it in a phase before it. So if you exile your In Bolas’s Clutches with Sentinel of the Pearl Trident during your opponent’s end phase, your Clutches will not come back until the beginning of your own end step.

Cleanup Step

  • If the active player has more than seven cards, they must discard cards until they are at seven cards. This does not use the stack.
  • All damage are removed creatures, all ‘until end of turn’ effect ends. This does not use the stack.
  • Abilities that trigger at the beginning of the cleanup step go onto the stack. Then the active player will have priority. Once both players passed priority on an empty stack, a new cleanup step will take place. This repeats until there are no more triggered abilities.

And that is what a turn is made of in Magic the Gathering Arena. Phew. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below!