Let's Talk About Stops, Pt. II
A Discussion Of Steps
After I posted the first article on setting stops, there was some commentary on the message boards about times you'll want to set stops in different steps. So, I figured I'd follow up with some talk about the specific steps of the turn.
Your Default Stops When you first log on to Magic Online, you'll have stops set for both your main phases, your declare blockers step, your opponent's declare blockers step, and your opponent's end of turn step. This covers most of what you'll need to play games and, if you modify your stops at some point, you can reset your stops by clicking the Default button on the Game Play Settings window.
Upkeep Step There are very few times you'll be doing anything during this step that will require a stop. I say this because usually anything that requires action on your part will be due to an ability that triggers during this step.
Some exceptions to this are cards like Undead Gladiator, which have activated abilities you can only use during your upkeep. In Magic Online, these work a little differently than abilities that are triggered during your upkeep. Cards that read: "At the beginning of your upkeep..." always give you an opportunity to play the ability during your upkeep step. Cards like Undead Gladiator (which reads: "Use this ability only during your upkeep.") won't pause the game for you during your upkeep step.
The Words cycle of cards may also be cause to put a stop during your upkeep. If you want to use their abilities instead of getting your normal card draw, you'll need to activate them before your draw step.
As for your opponent's upkeep step, you don't often have a reason to put a stop here. If you have instants or abilities you want to play before your opponent draws, you'll want a to add a stop.
Draw Step There is almost no reason to ever put a stop on either your or your opponent's draw step. Even if your opponent's Words of War ability goes on the stack, you'll have a chance to react without a stop. Putting a stop here is only wasting seconds on your game clock.
Main Phases Plain and simple: You need stops set for your main phases (precombat and postcombat) if you want to play spells or abilities. If you don't have stops in these phases, the game just cruises on through and you don't get a chance to play anything unless your opponent does (and then it would only be an instant or ability).
You'll need to have stops set for your opponent's main phases if you have spells or abilities you want to play during these phases and he or she doesn't play anything. If you only want to react to your opponent's plays, you don't need the stops--the game will give you an opportunity to play spells and abilities.
Beginning Of Combat Step It's not critical for you to have a stop set for your own beginning of combat step, as there are few cards that you'll want to play before declaring your attackers. Most spells and abilities you'll want to play during the combat phase can be played during the declare attackers, declare blockers, or combat damage steps.
Your opponent's beginning of combat step is the best time to tap potential attacking creatures or change them into walls so they can't attack. If you do it during the first main phase, your opponent has a chance to play spells he or she might not've been able to during the combat phase. If you don't have a stop set here, though, your opponent gets to declare attackers before you have a chance to play spells or abilities.
Declare Attackers Step This is where you want a stop on your turn if you have cards like Whipcorder that allow you to tap potential blockers. The declare attackers step is also the last chance activate evasion abilities--like Patagia Golem's flying ability--before blockers are declared. A stop on this step gives you a chance to play instants and abilities after you declare attackers, but before your opponent declares blockers.
Having a stop set for your opponent's declare attackers step allows you to play spells and abilities that might affect your blocking. For example, if you want to use your Seeker of Skybreak to untap your Spitting Gourna so it can block, this is your last chance to do it.
Declare Blockers Step This may be one step you'll always want a stop set for--on both your and your opponent's turns. The declare blockers step is the last chance you'll have to play spells like Giant Growth and have the extra damage go on the stack. It's also the last chance you have to destroy a creature before its damage goes on the stack.
Combat Damage Step Having a stop on your and your opponent's combat damage steps may also be an option you'll take fairly often. This is when you'll have your last opportunity to pump up a creature's toughness, use a regeneration ability, or return a creature to your hand to save it. You can also use this step to drop Fog at the last moment and really annoy your opponent.
There are several creatures in the Onslaught™ set that have abilities that trigger when they deal combat damage to your opponent--and most of them have the morph ability. If you're planning on turning over a facedown creature, like Skirk Commando, and using its triggered ability, this is the last step you can do it in.
End Of Combat Step I have yet to find a compelling reason to put a stop in either my or my opponent's end of combat step. If you have an instant or ability you want to play after combat damage resolves, but before the next main phase, then you'd need a stop here. What that instant or ability might be is beyond me, however.
End Of Turn Step While there aren't many reasons to put a stop on your own end of turn step, you'll almost always want one on your opponent's. There are two reasons for this: instants and instant-speed abilities.
Playing an instant on your opponent's end of turn step means you can usually tap all your available mana without worrying, as you're about to untap anyway. It also means your opponent won't have a chance to play any sorceries, enchantments, or creatures until his or her next turn comes around. The same holds for using abilities: you're about to untap everything, so tapping to use an ability or using your available mana doesn't have as much impact as at other times.
Cleanup Step As with the draw step, it's rare to need a stop during this step and I haven't found a reason to do so yet.
Conclusion These are some general guidelines to look at when setting stops and, as with all Magic rules, there are exceptions. Make sure you understand how the cards you're using work and think about times you'll want to use them. In the end, experience will be your best teacher.