Top Ten MTGO Beginner Mistakes

1. Buying booster packs and opening them to get cards

This is one of the most costly but also most easy-to-make mistakes for anyone who just started out and is looking to grow his card collection — cracking boosters is fun, and that’s what they are meant for after all, right? Wrong! To understand why this is a major blunder that will cost you a lot of money, we need to talk a little bit about so-called MTGO limited tournaments and how booster packs are used in those. In contrast to constructed tournaments, in which every player brings his or her own deck with 60 or more cards he has chosen in advance, limited tournaments are played with sealed boosters that are opened during the tournament and then either drafted or used to build a 40+ card deck (depending on the exact format played).

The fact that you need sealed product to participate in these online tournaments makes boosters inherently more valuable than they would be if you could only rip them open for cards. They are like entry tickets, in addition to the event tickets you need to participate. As soon as you open that booster pack, you lose this virtual value and rely on the singles within the booster to recoup the cost. In 95% of the cases, the singles in the booster pack are worth LESS than what you had to pay for it. Do not fall for fantastic stories from players about how they always open great stuff and that the difference is marginal; it is not. So what should you do if you need cards to grow your collection, then? You should sell the boosters for between 3 and 4 event tickets and use those tix to buy specific cards you need and like. You can buy up to 10 nice, playable rares (no tournament powerhouses, mind you) for a single event ticket or around 30 good commons/uncommons. Even if you are not chasing the most desired cards, this is much more than you will get from your booster pack. To inform yourself about what a booster is worth, feel free to check the classifieds section in game or go to Supernova’s booster prices list, which shows the dealer buy and sell prices for a booster. Settle in between when selling, and you should be fine.

MTGO Academy is also selling boosters from many sets for low prices in our store. Check them out here.

2. Entering tournaments without sufficient play skill or knowledge of the format

It is fun to compete and even more fun to win prizes, but most beginners underestimate the competition they are facing on MTGO. The worldwide access draws the best players in the world, and you can quickly find yourself paying entry fees and/or cracking packs for limited events without a realistic chance to make it to the prize ranks. MTGO has on average much better players than the casual paper Friday Night Magic event at your local store. The really good news about that is that it also makes you a much better player over time. Many of the best paper players would not be where they are today without MTGO and its strong player base. However, there are ways for you to enjoy the benefit without burning through your wallet in an attempt to improve your skill and win product.

Make extensive use of the New Player room; the room was created to allow beginners to get accustomed to the client interface and test the water with their initial cards. Don’t move to the regular playing area until you know how to use the interface and ideally also the most important keyboard shortcuts; you will benefit greatly if you understand how stops work and how to use the F-keys. For a great summary of the most important commands you can read “Cracking the Code.” Learn how to create, save, and load decklists for later use and always ask a member of the ORC (Online Response Crew) if you have questions; they are the moderators in the game and always happy to help you out.

Once you feel you are ready to move on, you should avoid the next error that is also very common and costs a lot of money, which is…

3. Buying, selling, and trading cards without knowledge of card prices

Trading is an important aspect of Magic: the Gathering, and it can either help you to save money or hinder you by costing you money. The choice is really completely up to you!

With right preparation, it is certainly going to benefit your collection and make it easier for you to get the cards you need for your decks. Ignore it, and others will exploit you to their benefit; chances are that you want to avoid this. First of all you need to gather a few resources, so you will be able to check card prices on a regular basis. Many MTGO cards are worth next to nothing, while others have a huge price tag. We personally would bookmark the following websites for this purpose:

  • – you can quickly use the search and the filters to get MTGO card prices.
  • – also a large dealer that has prices for all cards.
  • – a list of prices that is updated every 15 minutes but contains only rare cards. It is, however, a good source for comparison.
  • – a simple web tool that displays card prices while you are typing them into the search field. Prices are usually the same as the MTGOTraders list.


Attention! Using prices from other websites that sell paper cards for MTGO is a huge mistake, as the paper and digital prices can differ greatly in either direction, depending on the card, the card’s set, etc. Only use the above sources or other sources that are dedicated to MTGO cards for price checks.

Besides websites, there is another way to check prices within the game, namely by checking the classifieds section and searching for a particular card. Often you will find buy and sell offers from players that will give you an indicator as to what a card is worth. Be careful, though, since many players offer you far less or sell for far more than a card is actually worth, so take any given ad with a grain of salt.

You can also just open trade with an automated MTGO account, called a bot, and see for what it is selling the card in question. In the case of a buy bot, it will show you what the managers of the bot are paying for the card, booster, etc. All the information combined will give you a good idea on prices and ensure that you will not get ripped off by unscrupulous sharks that pray on clueless or careless beginners.

4. Growing you collection without clear direction and knowledge of MtG formats

There are literally tens of thousands of different Magic cards in the system by now, and what is possible is only growing. This can be very confusing to the fledgling planeswalker and might lead to the mistake of buying without a clear idea of where you want your focus to be and how to be smart about growing your spell arsenal. The frustration is big when players later realize that they have wasted money and time acquiring cards they do not really need. When you start out after making your account, you will get a lot of gold-bordered planeswalker cards that are great for getting accustomed to the game in the New Player room as outlined above. Those cards, however, cannot be traded or used outside of this designated area, and therefore you need a strategy to acquire cards for the later constructed decks that you will use in the Casual Room, Tournament Practice Room, or in tournaments of your choice. Before you make big purchases and begin the transition, you should familiarize yourself with the most important MtG formats. Formats, simply put, delimit what types of cards you may use when competing in them. Some allow only the newest sets, others all sets, and others only commons, etc. There is really no best or worst format; it is mostly a matter of taste, and to a large extent, also a matter of spendable money you have available. Vintage and Legacy, for example, allow you to use a huge card pool that contains many, many sets and is more expensive to play than, let’s say, Block Constructed, which only allows for the most recent three or fewer sets to be used. While the number of possible formats is huge (a feature that makes MTGO really awesome), you can often use your cards in more than one, so don’t despair! Read this article to understand how formats work, and then come back for the next important step. Done? Okay, now we can talk about our recommendations for a beginner and how to go from there. MTGO Academy recommends beginners to start with the Block Constructed format, which allows only the most recent sets to be used. The reason is that you focus on a smaller card pool and don’t have to buy many, many, cards to get going. Block is also a great springboard for the most popular constructed format, which is Standard. When a new block is released, all your cards will rotate out but can be comfortably used in Standard, which then ought to be, on our recommendation, your next goal.

As the set rotations continue, you might consider a slow transition into the so-called eternal formats, where card sets never rotate out (only in). The card pool for these formats constantly grow and allow you to play your cards as long as you wish in competitive events (aside from a few banned cards).

Tip: To make sure you are only buying cards from sets that you need, you can use the client format filter; you will then only see the cards allowed in the format of your choice when searching other players’ or bots’ collections. Check our tutorial page to learn more about this option and many others.

Attention: If you are playing casually against friends or strangers and not competing in tournaments, you are free to use whatever cards you like, of course, no matter the set. It is, therefore, not a big deal if you plan to stay in the casual rooms or mainly play with friends online. In fact, if you use the format Freeform when creating a game, you can even break the deckbuilding rules imposed by Wizards, normally in place to ensure a sound tournament experience. E.g., you can play with fewer than 40 cards in your deck or play all 10 of your copies of Lightning Bolt if you really wish.

5. Completely ignoring value-building actions

Magic is primarily a game, but if you don’t belong to the fortunate minority who can ignore financial aspects of the game (due to having massive assets in the bank), you should spend at least a small portion of your time thinking how you can use the tools, tips, and tricks shared here to sustain your hobby. Taking this effort will not only help you to finance some of the more expensive cards that exist, but also prevent you from getting ignorant and lazy about it and paying more money than you should. We highly recommend the Rags to Riches series on MTGO Academy; you can learn the most valuable trading techniques and tips in an entertaining run, where I, the owner and founder of this website, turn a pile of 15 nearly worthless cards into the most expensive card online by using simple tricks and a long series of trades.

Also stay on top of the finance game by reading a few economy-related articles from time to time, and listen to people with experience in that matter.

6. Not using freebots or the opportunity to buy bulk, bundles, or specials

Many beginners make the mistake of buying too many singles. They pick a few cards they need and repeat the process over and over until they have a deck together that they like. The problem with this approach, if you have very few cards, is that as soon as you are bored of the deck, or simply want to try something else, you are forced to buy singles again. This can be very costly and in most cases, you are far better off buying in bulk. What that means is that you should buy a lot of cards at once and get a huge discount on the price. Often you can get hundreds of cards for very little money and can use the cards to build many different decks over time. There are several ways to go about this; one of the most popular ones are the Beginner Specials on You will receive a huge amount of cards and pay as little as $4.99 for a huge boost to your collection. Because we are using excess inventory to make these packs, we can offer them for a low price to the benefit of the customer.

Get beginner bundles for amazing value and low prices!


There are also ways to use bulk bot accounts within the client to buy a certain amount of cards for one Event Ticket. You can recognize those due to their classified ad that often reads “Selling x uncommons for y”; it can be a great way to fill a few holes in your deck or expand your deckbuilding capabilities.

Lastly there are automated accounts that give cards away for free — yes, it is legit and no scam, and you should make sure you use them. To find the accounts simply go to the classifieds, type “free” into the search box, and open trade with the account if the ad indicates to do so; then you’ll get free cards. Be aware that a lot of shady players use the term free in their ad just to draw traffic to their accounts without actually offering anything for free. Chances are they are just trying to rip you off. MTGO Academy is the only account that has a special tool running in client called Academy_Quizbot. If you open trade with it and answer a Magic trivia question correctly, you can pick up to four free cards. This is allowed once a week. Just make sure you don’t time out; more than 5 minutes, and you are out!

Another great opportunity to get quality cards for a bargain price are our “deals of the day”
that you can find on the front page. There you will find a new discounted product every day.

7. Falling for scammers that promise much but only take your goods or money

No different from any other communal online environment, MTGO has its bad apples who thrive within a small space and try to steal or exploit beginners, who are usually their most welcome victims because their lack of experience makes scammers’ jobs much easier. There are several schemes that try to part you from what is yours to benefit them, but nearly all of them use outside transactions that circumvent the built-in trading features of MTGO. The simple recommendation we can make is to engage in outside transactions only with reputable dealers who have business for many years and have earned the trust you have to put in for them. It is true that you can sometimes save a bit of money trading, buying, or selling with players you don’t know at all, but it is rarely worth the risk with large transactions. MTGO Academy is in the business for years and offers an encrypted e-commerce platform and great customer support. If you want to support our free articles and videos please visit our MTGO store, where we have a great selection of products for low prices.

8. Practice without Theory or Theory without Practice

Magic is a very skill-intensive game. It takes a long time until you can swim with the sharks, and it can easily happen that you get frustrated if you don’t follow a path that increases your play performance regularly. The trap you need to avoid is starting to play constantly, maybe even in tournaments (and you shouldn’t if you have read point 2 above…) and wonder why you always lose. To be a winner at this game, you have combine rigorous play and review with reading good strategy articles, watching game videos, and most importantly, asking a lot of questions and learning the rules! Rule knowledge, the technical aspect of the game, is a pivotal factor to understand why and how strong players make decisions on the board and how you can move the game forward to your advantage. Long story short: Play a lot against competitive opponents, but combine frequent play with reading, asking, and learning. Good resources are websites that offer free articles and videos such as, ,,, and many more you can find on the web. Use them!

9. Not utilizing the in-game support crew (ORCs)

While MTGO can be quite confusing due to the rather creative user-interface design and the complex game mechanics, it does have a very good support crew referred to as ORCs (Online Response Crew). Those support members are there to help you out if you have problems or questions, and usually respond very quickly. You should make yourself familiar with the rooms where you can reach them and utilize their help whenever you are not sure about how to use something, have technical problems, or just want to find out more about the game. The easiest way to contact them is to open the main menu at the bottom left of the home screen and then click on ‘help/chat with support’ or enter one of the tournament rooms, where you will usually find at least one ORC answering questions or linking to useful resources that help you with your issue. Try it out!

10. Reading this list and ignoring the points made

It is possible that you don’t really understand the impact of the decisions you make in game completely when you are new. You might think it is okay to ignore a few of these points or, despite thinking you trust the above, make exceptions for ourself — it will come back to bite you in one way or another! We recommend you reread the list, print it, put it on your desktop, and come back to it often. All recommendations given here are a result of many years of MTGO experience as a user, dealer, and provider of strategic and economic advice for the game. You will certainly benefit and save a lot of money listening to what we’ve said. We wish you a lot of fun and exciting moments, and: Welcome to MTGO! If you want to jump right in click on the button below to get to our webstore!

Buy MTGO Cards for low prices NOW! All cards in stock.

  1. Lol I read most of it and got to like not using free bots (which i abuse to the fullest); didn’t read anything but the captions after that then saw #10 and went back and read them.

  2. Very good article. I use some of the resources listed off in this article multiple times even though I’ve been playing MTGO for years. Perfect guide for new players.

  3. great idea and execution for an article. wish I had read this a year ago when I first started on MtGO. one issue… you recommend using MTGO Academy’s online store for price comparisons, but the most recent cards listed in the store are from NPH! any plans to update with M12 and ISD-block cards soon?

  4. @beardo: We are going to update the store inventory in the near future, yes. In case you need prices for the most recent sets the other resources mentioned are a good reference. Glad you liked the article. :-)

  5. i loved the article. I have been on MTGO for 2 years now and know this but it was a great link for all my friends who have just started on MTGO as it teaches them how to do it properly.!

  6. Great article!

    I would just add as a resource to search for cards, bots, and prices as well.

  7. I’ve been looking for an article like this for ages! Thank you so much. The advice given is really good and every beginner should read and take into account. I spent around 20 dollars to get myself a deck only to find out it’s not allowed in the standard format. The deck is great but I wish I could use to play in standard. I haven’t opened the booster pack yet because someone told me not to. I was curious as to why and now I found the reason. Good thing I didn’t open it. One question, when does the season start and end? I’m aware that standard format decks have a life span but I have no idea when banned cards/decks are given out, etc. Any help would be appreciated and thank you again for this comprehensive and helpful article :)

  8. The Magic 13 core set was released in July of this year I believe and the set has 3 expansion 1st being Return to Ravnica released Oct 15th, 2012 and the last set of this block i believe will be released April or May 2013. Then the M14 set will be released again a year from the M13 release

  9. Hi everyone.
    I am expirienced player in real magic, I have started few weeks ago playing MTGO.
    I have made one huge mistake, mistake number one:
    1. Buying booster packs and opening them to get cards
    Believe my, I have spend to much money for them. Cheeper would be even to buy separate tickets and trade with players to create your tournament deck.

    I have managed to create it, but had to buy few more tickets to do that.

    Don’t make that mistake!

    p.s. Plejades, very good list! Good job!
    Kind Regards

  10. I have bought an M13 DECKBUILDER TOOLKIT 300 random cards and a few handpicked from mana leak. I have bought 6 booster’s as well and pulled Tamiyo,Angel of Senrenitiy and Sphinx’s Revelation.

  11. I don’t know what ORCs you are talking to, but they are different from the ones I have had the displeasure of interacting with. They are the worst customer service I have ever dealt with, always treat players(not just myself) like garbage, harass people constantly for little to no reason, and have incredibly poor rules knowledge that they liberally throw out and ruin peoples’ games. My advice to a new person would be GET OUT NOW before you’ve invested so much money into it that you feel trapped and have to play in an environment that makes you miserable. Like if you were at an actual tournament and the officials all heckled the players.

  12. TaaNop, I cannot confirm your observation. I have always found that you reap what you saw. If you converse politely and with respect ORCs do provide useful information and treat you well. The exception confirms the rule – but that is just my opinion. Enjoy the game!

  13. Thanks for the read and tips bud. Trying out MTGO for the first time and having minimal knowledge of the game, I am overwhelmed by the amount thinking that goes into not just playing the game but what surrounds it as to how you approach it. With my slim knowledge of only playing on Xbox for a limited time. I am hopeful that your article is true and will be very beneficial in what I hope to be a long term commitment to the game. Look forward to finding other useful info you have out there.

  14. Great read an hour into the game now and this has answered most of my initial questions . Thanks for the help

  15. This is very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to help out the beginners like this.

  16. Been playing cardboard crack for about 18 years, but MTGO about 3 weeks now. Found this when searching for keyboard shortcuts. I knew they existed, and I needed to learn them. Interestingly, trading is the other thing I’ve not done at all yet and need to learn. This article looks dead on to me.

  17. Probably one of the most useful articles for MTGO noobs ever written! Thanks a bunch for this awesome free content!!

  18. According to the ORC there new player room no longer exists. What’s the next best thing to try out decks etc. before you buy the cards?

  19. With the new version of MTGO, has the format for Block and Standard switched around? So I guess if it has switched, we should start off in the Standard instead of Block?

  20. @DFam: Both of the formats are a good starting point. In general Standard has more diversity then Block but includes more sets. It is mostly a matter of taste – many play both once they have aquired the cards for it. Have fun playing!

  21. I don’t really play this game on computer and I need to know if you need to save after building a deck and how to save or if there is auto save! BTW my brother Tom would do this game to test decks and cards before he actually bought them in real life. Just… putting that out there

  22. Love the article. I’ve been playing Magic for a month now and I’m SO addicted to it. I’m an instant fan of this site.