Ending phase

The ending phase is divided into two steps:

  • End step
  • Cleanup step

End step

The end step is quite simple: there is no turn-based action scheduled to happen here, and players receive priority as normal. Akin to the upkeep step, it's strategically relevant because it's the last time any player can act in a given turn - control decks will usually cast draw spells in their opponents' end step, for example. In general, when a player says he wants to cast something "at end of turn" or "before my turn", he's acting in the end step.

The end step is also a moment when many triggered abilities go off. These abilities used to be written as "At end of turn, [do something]", but to make it more clear that they actually trigger in this step, they're now worded as "At the beginning of the end step, [do something]". Very often, these are delayed triggered abilities meant to clean up after some effect. In case the end step has already begun when these delayed triggered are created, they'll wait for the next turn's end step to trigger.

Example. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker creates a temporary clone of a creature, and does so by putting a token onto the battlefield, and then disposing of it with a delayed triggered ability that goes off at the end of turn. However, if I activate my Kiki-Jiki in my opponent's end step, the triggered will not go off this turn (as the end step has already begun), so I can untap, activate Kiki-Jiki again and attack with both tokens, which will die at the end of my turn.

Cleanup step

During a regular cleanup step, players don't receive priority and so can't play anything. The only thing that happens in the cleanup step are a number of turn-based actions:

  1. First, the active player discards to to his maximum hand size (normally seven).
  2. Second, all damage marked on creatures is removed, and at the same time all effects that last "until end of turn" and "this turn" end.
  3. Last, we check if any state-based actions must be performed or any triggered abilities are waiting to be put onto the stack.

If there are neither state-based actions nor triggered abilities to handle, the turn ends and no player receives priority in the cleanup step. However, if we need to do these things, players do receive priority and can play during this step. If this happens, a new cleanup step begins after this one. We go on until we have an cleanup step with no state-based action nor triggered ability, after which the turn can finally end.

Example. I control Planar Void and have eight cards in hand when my turn ends, so I discard a card. I do so as the cleanup step begins. Now, since this action triggered Planar Void's ability, we put it onto the stack and I receive priority. Both me and my opponent can play something in response to Planar Void's ability or after it has resolved. Once the ability has resolved and all players have passed priority with an empty stack, a new cleanup step will begin: I discard again to seven cards, damage is removed from creatures and "this turn" effects end. Hopefully nothing else happens this time and a new turn actually begins.