It doesn’t take long for fledgling MTGO wizards to stumble upon bots, which are the automatic accounts that populate a large portion of the classifieds of Magic Online. Bots’ ads often promise to sell, trade, or buy cards from you for tickets. But how do those bots work? Who is operating them? What are the pitfalls of using bots? And finally, how does one go about opening a bot on Magic Online? In this tutorial article, I address all these questions in an attempt to provide assistance for players new to the Magic Online community. Reading should help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the number of options in the classifieds, and by how complicated it may seem at first to acquire cards from bots. Also, this article should also help you to avoid getting ripped off and frustrated by your purchases from, or sales to, bots on MTGO.
First, let’s dive into the basics.
What are bots?
Bots are automated storefronts within the MTGO client that allow you to buy, sell, or trade cards without the need to interact with a human, and without the need to make a purchase from a website. Because they are essentially just like any other Magic Online accounts that have automated communication and confirmation of text commands, they are quick to reach, easy to operate, and much faster to use than ordering cards from a web store or trading with a human player. Bots accept event tickets, or sometimes other cards, as payment for the product you want to purchase from them. Another important thing you need to know is that bots are NOT operated by Wizards of the Coast, the creator of MTGO, but rather are accounts programmed and maintained by other users within the client. This means that you should never blindly assume that every bot works the same way: Each bot is only as reliable and trustworthy as the user or company that stands behind it with its name! (In fact, the brand of the bot is so important that shady bot users often try to pretend they belong to someone else’s chain to increase visitors.) There are several different kinds of bots that will offer you different types of product or will allow you to sell cards you don’t need for event tickets. The main bot types are:
This is the most common bot type of bot you will encounter on Magic Online. You can usually recognize them because the word “Sell“ is contained within their names, and/or they advertise various products for different prices in the classifieds with the keyword “selling” in the ad. When you open a trade with such a bot, you will be guided through a process that usually works like this:
- As soon as the trade is opened and collections are loaded, you will see a welcome message that provides you with some basic information about the bot and the owner of the bot, and which gives you information about any credit you might have from previous trades with the bot.
- You can now flip through the collection of the account, and when you double click on a card, it will be put into the trade area, which functions as a shopping cart. Shortly after, the chat window will give you the name, quantity, and price of the card as well as the total number of tickets you need to have tradable in order to purchase that card. A double click on a card in the shopping cart (trade area) will return the card to the bot collection, and the chat window will update accordingly (much like putting an item from a shopping cart back on the store shelf).
- Usually there is a time limit set during which you can use to move cards you are interested in, in and out of the shopping cart, while the chat provides you with the individual and the total price for all cards you have chosen. You can cancel the trade at any time without obligations and worries. At the end of the time limit, the bot will cancel the trade automatically in order to allow other customers a chance to shop.
- When you have made your choice of cards, go to the chat window and type “done”. By doing so, you are declaring your intention to purchase the cards in the trade area for the corresponding number of event tickets (supplemented by any credit you have).
- The bot will then add event tickets from your account to the trade area on his side, and will then ask you to press the “confirm” button at the top of the screen. (If you change the contents of your cart after typing “done” but before hitting “confirm”, the bot will cancel the trade.)
- The view then switches to a second confirmation screen where you will see the cards you have chosen and the tickets the bot has taken. Here the chat again asks you for a final confirmation of the trade. If you confirm again, then the trade will be completed, and you will see the cards you purchased added to your collection and the event tickets removed from you account. If you cancel the trade at any point, no product, credit, or tickets will change hands.
- You are now the proud owner of new cards, boosters, or other special products.
This is a second very common type of bot that essentially does the reciprocal of the sellbot process described above. Buybots offer you event tickets or credit in exchange for some or all of your tradable cards and boosters. Players often use this type of bot to liquidate cards they don’t need, in order to acquire event tickets that they can then use to enter tournaments, or which they can exchange for other cards they do need at a sellbot. There are several slightly different ways that butbots handle this process, depending on which buybot you’re using, but usually the transaction works like this:
- As soon you open a trade and the collections are loaded, you will see a welcome message that provides you with some basic information about the buybot and its owner, as well as a message about how much credit you might have with the bot from previous sales or purchases. (Since many companies and individuals own both sellbots and buybots, the leftover credit you acquire from purchasing cards from a sellbot — including, as it were, the leftover “change” you have from such purchases — will often transfer to the buybots of the same owner, and vice versa.)
- The bot will message you that it will take a few seconds to scan your collection for items, and then it will automatically add all cards it is interested in purchasing from you to the trade area, while simultaneously explaining in the chat box how many event tickets it will offer for each card as well as for the total trade..
- You can now decide if you want to sell the cards in the trade area for the price offered. If so, add the corresponding number of event tickets from the buybot’s inventory to the trade area and type “done” into the chat. Be sure to only take event tickets to the full amount; any fractional offer will be left on the bot as credit. (For example, if the total offer is for 4.74 event tickets, you should only take 4 tickets leaving 0.74 tickets on your account as credits with that bot).
- If you do not want to sell the cards in the trade area for the offered price, as long as you have not yet typed “done”, most advanced buybots will allow you to remove specific cards you don’t want to sell from the trade by typing into the chat window the number corresponding to the card in question. (The buybot will reveal which numbers correspond with each card or other cart item in the chat box.) The bot will then remove the specified cards from the trade area and adjust its offer accordingly. This allows you to change your mind about certain items you have tradable if the prices are not high enough, or if you decide at the last minute you don’t want to sell some of those items to the buybot after all.
- As with sellbots, once you type “done”, the buybot will ask you to confirm the trade by clicking the ‘confirm’ button near the top of the MTGO window, and the view will then switch to a second confirmation screen, where you will see the cards you are selling and the tickets you will receive in return. Here the bot will ask you for a final confirmation of the trade. If you confirm again, then the trade will be completed, and you will see the event tickets added to your collection and the cards removed from your account. If you cancel the trade at this point, no product, credit, or tickets will change hands.
- You are now the proud owner of more event tickets, which you can spend on other cards, on drafting, or on entering constructed events!
Fractional Tickets: An Interlude
You may have noticed that event tickets come in only one domination. What do I mean by this? Consider this analogy: Event tickets are the currency used within the MTGO client, much like how gold pieces are used in World of Warcraft, or even how — even though they are an official currency, unlike event tickets — United States dollars are used for purchases in the United States. However, while there are silver and copper pieces in World of Warcraft that are worth less than gold pieces, and while there are cents (¢) in the United States economy that are worth less than dollars ($), there is no smaller form of currency than the event ticket in the Magic Online economy (that is, there is no smaller denomination).
The implication is that a whole number of event tickets must be exchanged in every trade on Magic Online, and never a fraction of an event ticket. But what happens if the cards I purchase from a sellbot cost 1.85 event tickets, for example? This is a very common scenario! This is how bots handle the issue: they always round up to the next whole number and take the difference between that number and the price of items in the transaction. This remaining quantity is the credit you keep from the trade. In our example with items priced at a total of 1.85 event tickets, the sellbot would take 2 event tickets and save 0.15 event tickets credit for the account you used for trading. If at any point in time you decide to purchase from that bot again (or another bot that is part of the same chain of bots), you would get a 0.15 event ticket discount on that purchase, much like having a gift certificate at a store.
Here it is also important to remember that no one can force bots to save credit for you! You might argue that this is one of the main reasons why trading with bots from reputable dealers is a safer choice, since (1) these bots will usually make sure that each customer is treated fairly in this process, and (2) you will likely use those bots again to reclaim your credit. You can imagine a situation in which you purchase a card for 0.03 event tickets at a bot, but then never shop at the bot again! In that case, you would essentially be spending 1.00 event ticket on a 0.03 event ticket card, losing 0.97 event tickets in the process. We will touch upon related matters in the safety and security section below with greater detail.
Then there are various bots that deviate a bit from the processes described above. Either they only sell specific products, such as booster packs or foil cards, or they sometimes also accept cards instead of event tickets when completing trades for cards. The process basically is the same as those of the aforementioned types of bot, though.
It is noteworthy that there are a small number of bots, hosted by websites such as www.mtgoacademy.com and www.mtgotraders.com, that offer a selection of cards for free. If you have just started out on Magic Online, this is a nice way to get a few extra cards for your collection without any cost, though admittedly, the cards that such free bots offer are not usually very rare or valuable in terms of event tickets.
Another option includes the so called bulk bots, which sell a specific amount of cards for a fixed price (for example, 100 common cards for 1 event ticket). You will see a number of these bots in the classifieds. Such bots won’t likely give you the best prices or selection, but they may be a quick and easy way to expand your collection without having to store credit at the bot.
Why use bots?
Bots from larger dealers often have a great selection of cards from all Magic sets, many of which are no longer in stock at Wizards’ official Magic Online store. Therefore, bots allow players quickly to find and purchase cards or boosters they need for their deck, collection, or for drafting. Then, if you need more event tickets, you can quickly sell some cards to a buybot without spending time finding a human who needs the cards you have on offer. In addition, the fact that many bots are up and running 24/7 makes them available to you whenever you are online!
What are the Best MTGO Bots?
This is a difficult question to answer. Instead of merely naming reliable bot brands, let me describe the attributes I believe a bot should have in order to make it worth shopping at:
- The bot should run reliably 24/7 and should keep your credit saved for as long as you wish.
- The owner of the bots should provide a secure and easy way to contact them if any technical issues arise in the transaction. This can either happen in the classified section, the chat interface, or ideally through a website that provides an email address, or even a telephone number.
- The bot should have a long history of reliable service.
- The bot should have a huge inventory that is refreshed regularly.
- The bot should have fair and regularly updated prices for buying and selling that orient themselves to the market price.
- The bot should be fast and easy to use without too many crashes or other issues.
While this is not an exhaustive list for what makes a reliable bot, it contains the attributes that really matter. In most cases, only large dealers with websites and sufficient manpower will be able to ensure all of these criteria. While I can see how a single user can try to outperform on prices, his or her bot will almost certainly have issues with the other points. It is common to hear stories of users who have tried to save a few cents here and there by using smaller bot chains, only to find later that their credit has vanished when the bot chain went out of business or when its owner/operator failed to maintain it or its inventory. Be aware that running a bot is very hard work and requires a dedicated team and expensive hardware to do properly. Half-baked solutions will often lead to frustration for you as a customer.
One way to recognize reliable and longstanding bots is that they often contain names of reputable MTGO websites and appear as a chain of bots with ascending numbers, such as, in our case, Academy_Sellbot, Academy_Sellbot2, Academy_Sellbot3, etc. But beware of tricksters who try to pretend to belong to a reputable chain by including parts of their name in their own ads (even though they have nothing to do with the chain). This intentionally misleading practice is common but can often be recognized when opening trade due to bot lacking inventory, featuring unfamiliar menus, or showing an incorrect amount of credit on display. Most websites will list the exact names of their bots to prevent misunderstanding and confusion.
How can I make my own bots?
While the short answer to this question may be disappointing, in most cases it is very hard to create a bot on your own. You will need extensive programming experience and/or a team of people and a lot of time to make something that runs smoothly and reliably on the MTGO client. Do not expect to finish something like this in a few weeks while merely working in the evenings.
The only other option you will have is to use software made by others for this purpose and to install that software on your computer. While this is a process that works much faster, it also has some major disadvantages compared to a program you would create yourself:
- You will have to run software on your computer from someone you don’t know, who theoretically can access all of your MTGO cards and event tickets.
- Possible malware within the program can do harm to your computer.
- You may have to pay a part of your revenue to the bot software developer, which diminishes your return on sales.
- You may be dependent on someone else for support, updates, bug fixing, even pricing, etc.
The verdict is basically that if you are not a very capable programer with a lot of time on your hands, your only option is to use software for rent. I want neither to condemn nor endorse renting MTGO bot software, but you ought to consider seriously the implications of running such a program that has some kind of access to your system or MTGO accounts. There have been incidents in the past that reveal the danger.
But even if you manage to handle the programing yourself, or if you are willing to risk running third-party software on your computer, the most time-consuming part of having a bot is maintaining the buy and sell prices for cards. MTGO has thousands of different cards, and prices can change many times a day (especially during events like prereleases). Making sure that your prices are up to date can be an exhausting endeavor. Missing updates will ultimately lead to you losing on card sales or annoying customers with uncompetitive prices.
Pitfalls to avoid when dealing with bots
While the general trading mechanic is more or less straightforward, there are still a few things you should be aware of when you are trading with bots. Intentional or not, a bot may sometimes leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth by doing any of the following:
The bot advertises buy or sell prices in the classifieds that do not match what it offers during the actual trade. This can happen either because the bot owner is changing prices for his bot without taking the time to modify the prices for the cards in the classified ad he uses, or because the bot owner intentionally advertises prices that are lower then the real prices to lure you into opening a trade. Here we can only recommend carefully checking if the actual price matches the ad, and if it does not, you should close the trade and check back at a later point to see if the adjustments where made. Professional bot owners will try to keep both in sync if they advertise in the classifieds with prices (not all do).
The bot advertises cards in a classified ad that it does not have in stock. This is an occurrence that happens quite often with understocked bots, but even well-stocked bots run out of a certain card for a period of time, especially if the card is currently a hot item on the market. Usually the best way to handle it is to open trade with another bot from the chain or to check other bot chains to see if they have the card in stock.
The bot cancels the trade. There are various reasons for a bot doing this. Often the bot you are trying to trade with is already trading with another customer, and you will get a “busy” message. Many bots indicate in their classified ads if they are currently idle or busy, so you know which bot to trade and when. However, because the classified ads don’t refresh instantaneously, you may expect to reach an open bot that has actually already begun a trade with someone else.
If the bot cancels a trade during the time you are checking its inventory, it is possible that you have reached the trading time limit many bots have. The time limit is often about 10 minutes and is reset if you close and reopen the trade with the bot.
If the bot software recognizes manipulation on the user’s side which indicates a deviation from the standard protocol, it also often closes the trade as a failsafe. If you, for example, try to add an item to your cart when trading with a sellbot after you have confirmed the trade by typing “done” (shame on you…), then the software will recognize the change in the cart contents and cancel the trade. In the case that you have not made your event tickets or cards tradable and try to purchase or to sell product to a bot, the bot may also cancel the trade, with or without warning. Make sure you set your event tickets or cards to tradable and then reopen the trade so that the bot can see them!
Finally, there are many glitches and small bugs in the client that can cause the trade to fail or cancel; these bugs are often not the fault of the bot but rather other temporary issues with Magic Online. In these cases, you will never lose product due to a canceled trade!
The bot takes more cards or tickets than it indicates in the chat. I have not encountered this myself so far, but it is a theoretical possibility. Whenever trading with an unfamiliar bot, it is recommended to check the cart and chat box while trading to see if the numbers line up.
The bot suddenly “forgets” your credit. We have touched upon this above; any fractional event tickets you have will usually be saved on the bot or bot chain (if the user has several) for later use as credit. However, don’t forget that this is entirely at the discretion of the bot operator and not enforced by anyone on Magic Online. While it is deemed to be a very bad business practice, it happens that small shop users will delete customers’ credit, or the entire bot or bot chain may simply disappear, leaving your credit in the dust. This would be equivalent to having a gift certificate for a chain of stores that go out of business without you knowing! Our recommendation is not to leave more then 1 event ticket worth of credit on bots you don’t know very well.
The above short list is not exhaustive but covers some of the pitfalls that do or could emerge when dealing with bots. And in the case of a mistake, or if something goes wrong with your bot transaction, the aforementioned advice about using only bots from reputable dealers comes in. Reputable dealers will provide you with an easy way to contact them, and most of them will go a long way to make sure any issue is resolved solved. With whom would you rather want to engage in a business deal, a bot that belongs to a well-known website with thousands of members and contact data or a bot named “72xx&7_bot” that has no information about its owners whatsoever? Sure, you might safe a few pennies here and there, but with one incident, all your “savings” could be history.
This is worth repetition: Wizards of the Coast does not maintain, sell, rent, or endorse any bots on Magic Online. This also means if you have any problems with bots, you will most likely NOT get help from Wizards! Buying from or selling to a bot is purely a user-to-user exchange, which makes it even more important to find a bot (or chain of bots) you can trust in the long run.
MTGO Academy is running a chain of buybots and sellbots that you can find in the classifieds section of the Magic Online client. Our bot names can all be found at http://www.mtgoacademy.com/bots/, and only those accounts are official MTGO Academy bots. The only exception is our unique Academy_Quizbot that will allow you to answer Magic trivia questions and will reward you with free cards. Give it a try! If you encounter any issues or if you have questions, feel free to contact us via our contact page on our website. We will try to help you out!