Max's stack is not imho better because.. well, it is a stack
. Maya works under the hood differently. You can connect the nodes almost any way you like. Even between totally different objects. The only limitation is the datatype compatibility when connecting attributes together (of course you can put your custom mel nodes to handle some exotic datatype conversions). This all may seem confusing but trust me, it is way more flexible and efficient than a stack of modifiers.
When you, say model, Maya builds a network of nodes which affect what the final mesh looks like. When you delete history you keep the final result and get rid of the constructing nodes...
- Create a default polyCube
- Apply Polygon -> Smooth to it
- Open up the hypergraph and choose Graph -> Input Connections
You should see four nodes:
- pCube1 is the transform node which holds translation, rotation, scale and that kind of information
- polyCube1 takes care of building the cube
- polySmoothFace1 node was created when you smoothed the cube
- pCubeShape1 is the final shape of the model
Now with the hypergraph still open select Edit > Delete By Type > History. The polyCube1 and polySmoothFace1 nodes are gone and you end up with the final mesh only and it's transform node.