Feedback Appreciated- Undertaking a Comprehensive MTGO Guide

While some readers may be disheartened to see an article talking about beginners’ guides and FAQs leading the week, we implore you to read and leave your comments at the end of this piece. Only through community feedback will a project such as this reach the heights that it deserves! And don’t worry- regular content will resume tomorrow!

How often have you been in a game, reading an article or witnessing chat antics when something you’ve never seen before in the client pops up? How many times have you wondered simply how to play the game of Magic like you do around your kitchen table or in a local card store? How hard was it to get acclimated to the MTGO interface- trading, playing, deck building, or even chatting?

Whether you realize it or not, many players are in the dark when it comes to the full potential of Magic: the Gathering Online; even seasoned users, such as the MTGOAcademy staff, do not know all of the ins and outs of this massive program! If you scour the best centralized resource for MTGO, WotC’s new player forum (and associated search function), it can still be a massive undertaking to find the answer to your question. Sometimes, it’s hard to even find the words to describe your desired discovery! And because of this, we at The Academy hope to embark on a daunting journey to conglomerate information about the Magic Online software and the opportunities offered within.

The Purpose

MTGO represents one of the most accessible ways to play all sorts of Magic for many of its users and prospective users, but the sheer complexity of certain aspects of the program can be a deterrent. This information barrier should not bar anyone from gaming on the internet. If you can play Magic, you should be able to play in person or on your computer! What may seem basic to a veteran user can actually be quite difficult to randomly learn without guidance. An “Ultimate Guide” to MTGO (and the assorted tutorials and FAQs that accompany it) would aim to preemptively answer the vast majority of questions and educate all who read as to how to get the most from their MTGO experience.

Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Main features and benefits of Magic Online
  • Computer hardware and software requirements
  • How to obtain and run MTGO on a Windows computer
  • How to run MTGO on a Macintosh
  • Compiled info on the MTGO in development (fabled v4)
  • How to create a new account (with tips for and information about new accounts)
  • Magic‘s rules (and the MTGO rules engine and shuffler)
  • Graphic User Interface (GUI) navigation and key area descriptions
  • How to change your MTGO‘s skin
  • Communication in-client (symbols, linking cards, etc.)
  • Helpful links (WotC info, top deck lists, compensation/bug reporting form, etc.)
  • Where to find cards (WotC store, finding singles online)
  • Using the trading interface (wishlists, etc.)
  • Using the deck building interface (importing text decks, Boolean logic, etc.)
  • All you care to know about the game play interface
  • Information about tournament and non-tournament game play (and PREs!)
  • The various formats of Magic: the Gathering (huge, huge list!)
  • And much, much more!

Much of the above information is covered in various places on the internet, but this project aims to aggregate it and add videos where pertinent; sometimes only-text descriptions can be confusing! The focus is resource building and creation of a go-to guide for anyone unfamiliar with MTGO (and the communities that come with it), but the creation process would create and imperfect result alone.

The Community’s Role

Enter everyone that has read this (and anyone with insight that you all might point here)! Your experiences with Magic Online can help us immensely, but you must speak (actually, type in this case) to be heard.

For anyone that likes to be prompted, try responding to one of these questions:

  • What part of the interface is still confusing or do you find most confusing?
  • Which area(s) would you like to know more about?
  • Are there any pieces of advice that you feel like a player new to the game (or the program) should know before they plunge into MTGO?
  • Where do you go to answer any questions you have about Magic or Magic Online (and please feel free to link them with a brief explanation of what information they were helpful in providing you)?
  • What were the most shocking differences in MTGO when compared to paper Magic (if you played paper before playing online)?

Here is a sample anecdote (from ChrisKool’s beginner days… don’t laugh at his misfortune!):

“When I first started playing Magic Online, I did not understand how the marketplace/classifieds/auction room worked at all! I did, however, know a lot about the paper price market. After I had my fill of Limited (losing CHK Block Drafts, mostly), I decided to build a deck and headed to the open market. I had heard a lot about bots, so I entered trade with one that claimed to be selling all of its cards for 3 tickets each. Surely enough, the bot was stocked to the brim with cards and each one was only roughly 3 dollars! I snatched up some cards that were worth easily 5 dollars in paper, and before long, I had spent 21 tickets on what I perceived to be 35 dollars of cards. Well, it turned out that those cards were barely worth a single ticket a piece in the online economy! Once I figured out that MTGO prices do not directly follow paper prices (especially on lower value cards), I spent a lot of time researching costs at different bot chains and through classified advertisements before I made any purchase.”

Don’t feel the need to only use the above as guidance- anything that you think as helpful probably is!

In the end, we want a result similar to our current beginner’s guide (which is a good micro view of what we hope to achieve on a macro level). This can be done with the help of many- thanks in advance for all of your insight and commentary!

-The MTGOAcademy staff

  1. First i want to say i think that this will be very helpful

    I am still confused on some of the keys. For example, i would like to know how to enlarge
    a card I see people that do draft videos do it all of the time. Another thing i would like to know is
    what the f keys do i know f6 passes priotie( sorry can’t spell) till the end of turn but im curious about the others and i don’t ever want to try them in a match, because i don’t know what they do.

    And Chris don’t feel so bad I did the same thing…. except i didn’t spend quite as much money…

    The biggest change from paper to computer magic for me was not being able to hold prioretie( didn’t get it right this time either) i know i have read about what key does this before and you guys used reverberate or twincast as an example. I don’t remember the key though.

    When i have questions about the game i try to people in the mtgo community about, so i go to auction and ask sometimes. I met chris there the other day and he has become my go to guy for questions sorry chris.

    A piece of advice i would like give to new players is to build and play a constructed deck. The reason i say this is i know that a lot of people play mtgo just for drafting. I used to be one of them but you burn through money quickly this way. I know constructed is pretty expensive to get started but once you start winning some 2 mans drafting gets cheaper.

    Anyways, I am done writing now and i am sorry its so long but i wanted to go in to detail about my experiances so i can see these articles because i know they will help. I actaully posted something about this on the forum last week.

    Well thank you guys, and once again i am sorry about my spelling.

  2. * Which area(s) would you like to know more about?
    - Is there any way to search for more than one word in classified / deckbuilding.

    * Are there any pieces of advice that you feel like a player new to the game (or the program) should know before they plunge into MTGO?
    - MTGO client is very poor on network protocol realization. If you do not have a perfect internet connection (which is usually not important for turn based games) you can have some troubles.

    * What were the most shocking differences in MTGO when compared to paper Magic (if you played paper before playing online)?
    - Trading system in MTGO is pretty same as in Paper. I expected it to be completly different. (That was real shock for me, i have not seen online games with such poor trading system, the idea to copy Paper was very bad in my opinion)

  3. -> What part of the interface is still confusing or do you find most confusing?

    Working with computers I am accustomed to weird and obscure interfaces so I don’t fint this one to be that terrible, what I find confusing is that some of its features are, let’s say, hidden.
    That brings us directly to the next question:

    -> Which area(s) would you like to know more about?

    I begun using MTGO during last summer and there are things that I would never have guessed they existed hadn’t I read about them on random MTGO sites, like the F keys to handle turn stops and priorities, the presence of an automated (isn’t it?) auction room etc.

    This can be very well partly my fault since I installed MTGO and started learning it “live” (so to speak) but those are things that you either know they exist or you will miss forever if you’re on your own.

    -> Are there any pieces of advice that you feel like a player new to the game (or the program)
    -> should know before they plunge into MTGO?

    Well, keep in mind that you are about to enter a global environment instead of your local store.
    There will be a lot more people there and that translates into various things, for example:

    - There will be a lot of tournaments going on at any time, hence a lot more cards will be opened. This leads to a totally different market than paper magic. There are no really hard to find cards if you use the classifields so their price is totally driven by the player’s need rather than rarity and it can be redically different from the price you know. Take your time browsing the classifields looking for card prices and rely on bots for that, human’s selling prices can be weird and should not be regarded as the absolute truth.

    - More people = more strong players and more competitive players around. If you can go to your local store with a decent deck and manage to win a few times and get a good placement at a tournament (if not a win), here will be a lot more difficult.

    Another useful piece of advice: even if you think you know the exact phase sequence, read it again and prepare yourself to be more strict about it. Be aware that you can cast instants and use activated abilities in the “Before Combat” phase, that the correct attack sequence is “Declare Attackers” -> “Instants and abilities” -> “Declare Blockers” -> “Instants and abilities”. Don’t be hasty when playing abilities, play them only when necessary, and even then, at the last possible moment.

    Also, when resolving effects that require your interaction (targeting, declarations etc. etc.) read CAREFULLY the messages because sometimes they are counterintuitive, like for example your starting hand, the message is “You want to mulligan?” and NOT “You want to keep?”, or, when casting Arc Trail, the first target will be dealt 2 and the second one 1, you don’t choose which one of the two targets will be dealt 2 and which one.

    -> What were the most shocking differences in MTGO when compared to paper Magic (if you
    -> played paper before playing online)?

    How easy it is to enter tournaments and play games you piad for. Resist the temptation to do one draft after another and keep an eye on your budget. You NEED a budget plan for MTGO.

  4. When I first started, I really didn’t know much about legality of play. I came from a casual background. We never played on any sort of tournament level. When amoung friends, we would make up rulings for unclear situations. For example a first turn Azorius Chancery would stay in play because we thought, “The return a land rule happend as Azorius Chancery was coming into play but not into play yet.” So during my first month (I bought a cheap ebay collection of cards to make my first few decks), I played a first turn Azorius Chancery and the other player said something like this….

    OH MY GOD!






    Then he conceded.

    Lucky for me, I’m in my thirties and I am not really hurt by childish behavior. So I think two sections would be nice

    Legality of cards (maybe a list that can expand over time as we think of more situations like the one above). I remember being confused by Mogg Fanatic even after I had played a while (till they fixed the loop hole).

    A guide for to dealing with other players… a fairly complex subject…. but I think nessessary since Magic Online is a social game, even if you are like me and don’t really chat much in play…. socialization happens. (Even if it’s for example, “the feeling of being picked on” when you are the mightest player in a commander game).

  5. Oh Heath- updates will not be easy :) but they will be manageable! In any case, the unusable parts of the guide will be suspended while they are reworked.

  6. I would emphasize that MtgO is a Fun-TOOL thing:
    - 24/7+relaxing couse one dont need to look for others faults/cheats – (is actually the best i see in MtgO)
    - competition is (alot) higher than FNM, couse MtgOers are money-strong users who gets a lot of repetion and experience with every new format.
    - collection purposes are “weak”, maybe unless looking into redemption, which is easier for americans? idk -resell stuff quickly, aint much use in building large coll for competetive decks before having played MtgO for quite along time.
    - point them to MtgOtraders and the supernova-bots web-list which is very good. But ofc also say that other dealers might have even better prizes, which they often enough have.
    - TOOL(esp 3 and 4 round drafts/daylies) becasue for longer tournaments one cant really rely on connection in general + lagstuff/wrong-clicks etc
    - point out the good use of SAVING Limited decks to files (esp sealed pools) for future use/rebuilds—> can use Sealed deck pools free with friends etc.
    - MtgO is nothing for low-performing computers, unless playing free games ofc.

  7. MtgO is plenty good and I wouldnt play Paper-Magic if it wasnt for MtgO, but PaperMagic will quickly become “da thing”, even for new users =)

  8. I think the best way to go about it would be to set up a wiki-like page, where anyone can contribute and edit. Set up some basic pages and take it from there.

    What part of the interface is still confusing or do you find most confusing?
    None of it – I’ve been playing for a year and I pick up stuff as I go along. Mostly from friends or gameplay videos.

    Are there any pieces of advice that you feel like a player new to the game (or the program) should know before they plunge into MTGO?
    I think the only thing you REALLY need to know is to set your stops when playing for the first time on a fresh install and that you lose if you run out of time, no matter if you are up a game.

    Where do you go to answer any questions you have about Magic or Magic Online (and please feel free to link them with a brief explanation of what information they were helpful in providing you)?
    Mostly friends.

    What were the most shocking differences in MTGO when compared to paper Magic (if you played paper before playing online)?
    Prices I guess? And losing to the clock.

  9. Important differences (Make have already been covered, but I am going to try my best to include everything, even if it was already in this article)

    1) You will make mistakes when using MTGO for the 1st time. It’s actually one of the major problems about MTGO as compared to paper magic is that mis-clicks are responsible for so many losses. In paper magic, communication errors are done by going backwards and fixing the situation. In MTGO, you can’t go backwards for any reason.

    2) Informing people about event tickets and booster packs. Whenever a bot says they are selling something for X, they mean event tickets. To enter drafts, you usually need to own the 3 booster packs and usually 2 event tickets, etc. You can buy some items from the wizards of the coast store in the game but everything else must be acquired through trades.

    3) Function key functions :P. I don’t really know what they do, but they are very useful if you do. I only use F6. Also, the fact that holding control the entire time you are clicking the card and tapping the mana or whatever is the way to maintain priority for cards such as reveberate. Also, in draft, if you are indecisive about a pick, you can hold control, and click once on a card. This will set the card as the default decision if you time out, so you at least get one of the cards you were considering if you just can’t make the decision on which card you want. Clicking with both the left and right mouse button at the same time is one of the ways to enlarge cards, I don’t know the other. (When I do that, I usually hold the right mouse button then press the left one, so I don’t accidentally pick the card)

    4) Just to be aware about CONSTANT price fluctuation of cards on MTGO and to double check the prices, because some can vary between real life and MTGO. If you are a paper player and you see something like a Karakas for 10 tickets, you would snatch that up instantly, but it’s a poor deal.

    5) If people are eternal players, it’s important to note that not every card is out on MTGO and some of the missing cards can be really important such as Rishadan Port from Masques.

    6) If you are going to compete in constructed formats, MTGO is NOT cheap.

    7) Be warned that if you play in the casual room sometimes people will play tier 1 decks and crush you. Just deal with it and move on.