Hey and welcome to Magic: the Gathering Online! There is so much to Magic that it can be overwhelming at times, especially for new players. Added on top of that are the intricacies/eccentricities of the MTGO client and it's easy for a new player to have a case information overload.
Keeping that in mind, I wanted to make this New Player FAQ simple -- just enough to get you started off playing games (and having fun :D). Once you're settled in you can worry about tackling more complex issues by looking though the General MTGO FAQ, which is chock full of information - pretty much anything you would ever want to know (In fact, some of this was shamelessly pilfered from there ). Chances are, if you have a question that isn't covered here, it will be covered there.
Even though I wanted to keep it simple, some things ended up being a bit wordy. Trust me, if you take the time to read though it, it'll help you tremendously.
However, this FAQ is not meant to deter you from posting. If you have questions not answered in the FAQ, questions about the FAQ's answers, or just want to introduce yourself; feel free to make your own thread or post in someone else’s -- we'd love to hear from you :D. (For suggestions on how to improve this FAQ, please use this thread.)
Section 1 - Before You Begin
1-1 Completely new to Magic: the Gathering? An Introduction, Tutorial & an article series all beginning and returning Magic players should read. 1-2 MTG:Online Free Trial 1-3 Is MTGO Free? How much does it cost?
Section 2 - Account Contents & Starting Up
2-1 What does a MTGO account come with? 2-2 I just signed up and I have these cards, are they supposed to make a deck? Where are my New Player Deck decklists? 2-3 What are these Gold Bordered (Planeswalker) cards for and how do I use (or get rid of) them? 2-4 What are New Player Tickets and how do I use them? 2-5 What are Event Tickets/Tix?
Section 3 - Acquiring More Cards
3-1 How do I buy cards? 3-2 Should I buy a Theme Deck/Intro Pack? 3-3 Should I buy Booster Packs? Should I open them? 3-4 What are Bots? 3-5 What is ‘Credit’ that bots use? 3-6 How to Trade and where to find trading partners/bots. 3-7 How to get some free commons. 3-8 Where can I get extra basic lands?
Section 4 - Playing MTGO
4-1 I don’t know what this word means on a card? Keyword Definitions 4-2 Why can’t I play a spell/tap and attacking creature to stop it from attacking? 4-3 What are "Formats"? // Illegal card error when starting/joining a game? 4-4 I want to play constructed tournaments!! Which ones should I look into? 4-5 Examples of New Players starting MTGO - threads of users who kept a “journal” about their experiences. 4-6 MTGO interface guides. 4-7 What is an ORC? 4-8 How do I find out more about Magic Online?
Section 1 - Before You Begin
This section details some of the things you should probably know before you purchase a MTGO account and various resources that will “get you up to speed” if you are a new or returning player, with regards to playing the game of Magic: the Gathering.
1-1 Completely new to Magic: the Gathering? An Introduction, Tutorial & an article series all beginning and returning Magic players should read.Spoiler:Show
I highly suggest reading the Magic Academy Series, for both new players or players returning from a hiatus. It covers important concepts ranging from the very new player to the intermediate. If you read all of these articles, you should have a good initial understanding of the game from which to build off of....however, as time goes on and Magic evolves, the series is becoming out of dates in certain places… www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.a...
For returning players (from before 6th edition), the rules for Magic got a bit of a clean up with 6th edition. The biggest change (and probably the best) was the introduction of "the stack". I suggest you read about it here: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...
MTGO allows you to play the free trial before you purchase an account. Once you have installed MTGO, you can find a link to a Free Trial Server on the logon page. This will take you to a server where you'll be given an anonymous name and you will be able to play with the 5 core set theme decks against others in the Free Trial. Using this, you can get a feel for MTGO's interface and see if it's right for you. Note that many things are turned off in the free trial, including chat and the store.
1-3 Is MTGO Free? How much does it cost?Spoiler:Show
The short answer is that it will cost only as much as you want to spend. The long answer is a little more involved and depends on what you are looking to do. There is no monthly subscription fee, unlike many other online games. MTGO mirrors the cost of the paper game MSRP, namely $3.99 per booster, and $12.29 per theme deck (there are also Event Tickets, which cost $1 each and are used to pay the entry fee for sanctioned events and leagues). This upside to this setup means you are not forced to spend anything after your initial account creation fee of $9.99. If you want to go three months without spending anything, you can. And if you want to spend a few hundred dollars a week you can do that too. The downside is that most players find that they will need to invest additional money if they want to be competitive. Also, your paper cards will not entitle you to any cards on MTGO. You can not trade your paper cards for digital cards. Paper and MTGO are two separate platforms. As I said, accounts cost $9.99, but they come with some stuff (see next FAQ entry)
Section 2 - Account Contents & Starting Up
This section outlines what a MTGO account starts with while defining all of the objects and their uses and how you can begin to use your new items. 2-1 What does an account come with?Spoiler:Show
2 Event Tickets 4 New Player Tickets 1 Core Set Booster Pack (Don’t open this!) “Planeswalker” Card Pack - for use in the Planeswalker format only Around 300 cards from the most recent core set (mostly commons, some uncommons)
MTGO is installed with several pre-built decks that you can start out with. They are made up of the 300 core set cards. They aren’t very powerful, but they are something to start with.
Current list of Black Bordered cards included with a new account:
2-2 I just signed up and I have these cards, are they supposed to make a deck? Where are my New Player Deck decklists?Spoiler:Show
So, you've just signed up and your collection basically consists of 300 cards, a core set booster, and 2 Event Tickets. Want to jump right in and play a game? You're going to need the decklists for those 5 decks that your account came with. To find them: In your Deck Editor - Go into the deck editor. Click on the 'LOAD' button near the top of your screen. Then, select the dropdown menu and click "Themedecks". This will show you a list of folders, find the one named "New Account Decks". The 5 decklists are in there. There might also be older decklists in there as well. Just look for the ones with the most recent year in the name.
When starting a game - Next to the 'Deck' field, click the "BROWSE" button. Then, select the dropdown menu and click "Themedecks". This will show you a list of folders, find the one named "New Account Decks". ImageShow
2-3 What are these Gold Bordered (Planeswalker) cards for and how do I use (or get rid of) them?Spoiler:Show
Those gold bordered cards are for use in a special format called ‘Planeswalker’. Once you open the planeswalker pack, which comes with your new account, you can’t get rid of the cards. These cards are non-tradable and can only be played in the Planeswalker format only with other gold-bordered cards (you can’t mix in any black/white bordered cards, even basic lands). Some people have trouble finding their gold-bordered lands when building a deck, the easiest way is to click the dropdown menu in your deckbuilder that is labeled starts as ‘All Cards (Online)’ and switch it to “Planeswalker”. This will hide all non-gold bordered cards.
The purpose of the planeswalker set is three-fold. Firstly, it serves as a way for people to easily transition from the Duels of the Planeswalker game for the Xbox and PC (the decks contain basically the same cards as in the game). Secondly, it provides new players a set of cards, for almost no money, which could not otherwise be given out so casually. Many cards are traditionally very costly, and it would flood the market to give them to everyone in a non-gold bordered way. Thirdly, it gives new players a format where they can have fun with little to no input of money. It’s also fairly balanced because everyone has pretty much the exact same cards.
Depending on what you want to get out of MTGO, you may or may not want to use these cards. If you just want to play MTG extremely cheaply and don’t mind not having all the cards or you want the same experience as DotP, but with the ability to deckbuild, then you’ll be quite happy with the Planeswalker format. However, for most, the gold-bordered cards will just be a stepping stone onto MTGO as a whole. It depends on the player on how long they want to play with the Planeswalker cards, for some it’ll be a day, others a week, and others will play for months, after you get a grasp of the system, you can move on to build your own decks and buy whatever cards suit your fancy to play “real” MTGO.
2-4 What are New Player Tickets and how do I use them?Spoiler:Show
New Player Tickets were introduced with the New Account Starter pack update when M13 was released in 2012. They are a great way for new players to get exposed to limited tournaments.
The New Player Ticket can be used to enter special 4-person tournaments (no other entry fee required). These tournaments are called “phantom” events because, while you open boosters during the event to build your deck, the cards are not added to your collection after the event ends (you do keep the cards for non-phantom events).
There are two different types of these tournaments you can enter: sealed or draft. In each, you are provided with phantom Core Set boosters from which to build your deck (40 cards total in deck). Each event is 2 rounds total and you get to play both, win or lose. At the end, a single player (of the 4) will have won both rounds and will receive a promo card.
These events are a great way for new players to get a taste of limited events without having to pay a bunch of money (limited events require you provide booster packs with your entry fee). Limited has a learning curve, so it is not uncommon for new players to lose frequently when they start out, meaning no or few prizes, which effectively increases the “cost” of the event. (The Swiss drafts that have been introduced help very much with this though, making it to where new players to play more (more experience and bang for your buck) and are more likely to get a prize (flatter payout).
Tickets, oftentimes abbreviated as tix, were originally designed as the “entry fee” for online tournaments. Rather than handing the tournament organizer $5 to enter, like you would in real life, Magic Online includes Event Tickets as part (or all) of the entry price. The tickets are purchasable from the store for $1 each. Due to the ticket’s $1 value in the store, they have become the de facto currency of Magic Online and thus most people trade cards for tickets rather than other cards.
Section 3 - Acquiring More Cards
This section is geared towards helping new players learn about how they can get more cards (though buying or trading) by explaining some of the trading/selling systems that are in place on MTGO. It is geared towards the budget minded player. As such, there are many tips for getting the most for your money on MTGO.
Magic Online includes a store built into the client. Just click on the "Store" tab along the bottom of your Magic Online screen. Once you're done selecting items and adding them to your cart, click checkout and complete the process. Boosters and decks cost full retail prices ($3.99 for boosters, $12.29 for most theme decks/intro packs, and $1.00 for Event Tickets [all US dollars]). The game itself can be downloaded for free. Once you complete checkout, your order goes to processing. Processing can take anywhere from 2 seconds to 24 hours, so be patient. It does usually get processed within five minutes, however, so don’t let that “to 24 hours” scare you off, it is more of a failsafe to keep techsupport from getting bombarded by impatient users. If you're logged on to the game when processing completes, you'll get a pop-up box announcing your new goodies. If you're not logged on, the products will show up in your collection next time you log on, though there won't be a pop-up notification. If you haven't gotten your products after 24 hours contact the Customer Service via wizards.custhelp.com with your account name and the order number included. Now, the MTGO store only sells boosters and theme decks/intro packs. To buy single cards or out of print boosters, theme decks, or intro packs, you'll need to trade with other players/bots. You can trade card for card or 'buy' cards by trading event tickets for cards. For more on this, I suggest reading the FAQ entry on trading and event tickets.
3-2 Should I buy a Theme Deck/Intro Pack?Spoiler:Show
I would not recommend that players buy theme decks from the MTGO store. The main reason being that the contents of any given theme deck/intro pack can be purchased on the secondary market for 2-5 tickets quite easily. If you liked the look of one of the theme decks/intro packs (you could use one as a base for a theme and build off of it) and want to purchase the cards on the secondary market, the first thing you'll need to do is find the decklist. Luckily all the decklists are already saved on your computer for you to browse: Finding DecklistsShow
You can load these up in your deck editor to get an idea for a deck and then take it from there, buying some/all of the cards in the deck from the secondary market, along with others you think will complement the deck. If you plan on this, I suggest using the wishlist feature to make trading for the cards faster and easier.
3-3 Should I buy Booster Packs? Should I open them?Spoiler:Show
While at first glance it may look like the best/only way to obtain cards is to buy booster packs and open them, this is generally considered a less than economical way to go about things. This will make a bit more sense when you’ve gone though other sections of the FAQ, like ‘What are Event Tickets?’ and Trading, but bear with me for a moment. You see, the MTGO secondary market (buying from other players) is a pretty nifty place. The market is very liquid because of the ease in trading. Additionally, the card supply is, for the most part, pretty high compared to the demand. Both of these factors mean that the majority of cards are dirt cheap. You can get many rares for as cheap as $0.10 each, but, boosters cost $3.99 from the store. I think you can do the math :D. The cards you generally get from an opened booster pack are worth $1 or less on the secondary market... So opening a booster is almost equal to ‘throwing away’ $3. Now, you can certainly luck into opening a high dollar rare, but the odds are against it. Additionally, by purchasing singles, you can control exactly what you get, so that you get cards you want and not something you’d never use.
However, there is a certain feeling you get from ripping a booster - that sense of discovery when you see what you got. It’s basically a form of gambling and can be addictive :D. So, it can be a form of entertainment, like spending money to watch a movie. I just want to make sure that people are aware they are paying a premium for that little slice of entertainment (the booster lottery).
You may then ask, “Why does anyone buy boosters then? What good are they?” Limited You need boosters to play Drafts and Sealed deck tournaments. So, that’s what they are mostly used/opened for. One other thing, if you do want to purchase boosters, you can frequently get them cheaper on the secondary market than from the Online Store. Remember what I said about supply being higher than demand? Well, this goes for boosters too. You can almost always get them for less than $4 (4 tickets) by buying them from other players (usually 3 to 3.5 tix). And, if you find yourself with some boosters (perhaps you did well in a tournament or you have the core set booster that new account come with) you could: * Try cracking it (most likely not worth it) * Use it to enter a draft/sealed deck tournament * Sell it on the secondary market for event tickets that you can then turn around and use to buy cards from bots, getting dozens of rares and hundreds of commons.
I've already thrown the word 'bot' around a few times. Bots are automated trading programs; it's as simple as that. People set them up so that they can trade 24/7. The majority of card buying and selling in MTGO utilizes bots. You can think of each bot as a different MTG retailer (i.e. comic shop or MTG card website). Some just buy cards for tickets; others only sell you cards for tickets, and some do both. You can still find people that will trade you card-for-card (called casual trading), but bots have proven to be extremely efficient and convenient so they've "taken over" the marketplace, so to speak.
Trading with a bot is fairly simple. When you enter a trade, a chat box will pop up wherein the bot should begin giving you instructions. This is also where the bot will tell you the price of a card if it wasn't listed in the classified ad. When you've selected your cards and the bot has taken cards/tickets from you, usually the bot will instruct you on how to finish the trade. Some just ask that you confirm, others need you to type something (like "done") before they will confirm the trade.
Now, there two basic types of bots: smartbots and "dumb" bots. Smartbots are able to set a specific price for every card in their inventory. When you select a card, the bot will tell you the price they charge for it. "Dumb" bots are incapable of variable prices for the things they sell (i.e. they sell everything they have for trade at a particular price, such as 5 cards for 1 ticket). Some "dumb" bots can set different prices for different rarities (i.e. 96 commons for 1 ticket, 20 uncommons for 1 ticket, or 5 rares for 1 ticket) Because of the ability to set variable prices, smartbots generally have very large inventories. One stop shopping, one could say. On the other hand, a "dumb" bot's limitation of selling all cards for the same price means they can only sell a certain subset of cards, thus they have a more limited inventory.
As I said in the FAQ entry for Event Tickets, tix are the de facto currency with there worth being ~ $1. Now, unlike every other currency in the world, there are no denominations. There aren’t special tickets worth $20 nor are there fractional tickets worth 0.1 or 0.05 of a tix. To get around this problem people do two things. They either only buy/sell in whole ticket amounts (i.e. sell 2 items each worth 3.5 tix for a total of 7 tix) OR a bot will keep “credit”. It’s basically the bot saying “I owe you this much.” So, if you want to buy 50 commons at a bot that sells them for 0.01 each, you’ll spend 0.5 tix and the bot will say “I’m saving 0.5 credit for next time.” Yes, this gets around not having smaller denominations for tix. No, it is not a very good system Two main problems with this system are: forgetting which bot you have credit on and trusting the bot. For the most part, each bot on MTGO is autonomous, so credit will not be shared between them (except in certain circumstances). This means that you need to keep track of each bot that you’ve left credit on. It doesn’t do you any good to have credit saved on a bot if you have forgotten its username and never trade with it again; you’ve effectively thrown away that credit. Thus, it is a good idea to add a bot to your buddylist when you plan to leave credit on it. The second problem is trusting the bot. You only have their word to go on that they will save the credit (or not go out of business within two weeks). Now, the vast majority of bots (99.9+%) are honest and will indeed save your credit. So a good rule of thumb is generally “don’t leave enough credit on a bot that you would be upset to lose it.” This usually means some fraction of a single ticket.... It’s hard to believe, but some people actually leave multiple full tickets worth of credits on a bot, that is a very dangerous move.
3-6 How to Trade and where to find trading partners/bots.Spoiler:Show
Where to Trade Trading (probably with bots) is the most common way to get cards on MTGO. First, I should probably familiarize you on where to go in order to find trading partners before I dive into the mechanics. The Classifieds Board: Menu-->Community-->Marketplace-->Classifieds. The classifieds is a place where anyone can post an ad, which will stay as long as the user is logged on or they remove it. At the top of the screen, there is a place for you to enter search terms in to filter the multitude of ads. Frankly, it's not a very good search. It uses exact phrases, so I suggest you keep your searches simple. Even to the point of searching for part of a card name rather than all of it (i.e. search for "Elspeth" rather than "Elspeth, Knight-errant "). You can also search for general things like "common" or "rare", but it won't reduce what you have to look through by much .
The majority of posts here in the classifieds are by bots, which frequently list big ticket items, hoping to 'lure in' someone shopping for that particular card. You'll find that searching for many card names return zero or very few postings. This is pretty common with less popular cards, especially commons and uncommons. I don't have any type of optimal strategy to find cards if they aren't showing up this way. You can randomly open trades until you find the card. Some of the larger dealers have websites which may allow you to more easily browse their inventory; you could try searching the internet in order to find said websites.
If you are looking for other players to trade card-for-card, try searching for "casual" or “human” in the classifieds.
How to Trade - Trading itself is a fairly simple process. Right clicking on any username (or classifieds ad) will give you the option to trade with that person. Once in a trade you can see the other user's tradable* cards and they can see yours. To select a card you want, just double click it. This will put the card in your "you get" pile at the bottom right. If you accidentally select a card you don't want, you can put it back by double-clicking the card in your "you get" pile. Once you have selected the cards and are ready to finish the trade, each user needs to click the "confirm trade" button near the top of the screen. When both players click this, the trade will go to the second confirmation screen. It is important to review all the cards in the trade during this step to make sure your trading partner isn't taking something they shouldn't. Once you've looked over the cards, each player clicks "confirm trade" again and the trade will then be completed.
I'm also going to note here that MTGO enforces a 75 item per trade limitation. If you want to get more than 75 cards, you'll need to do multiple trades. For example, if you see an ad where someone is selling "150 commons for one ticket", you will need to do two 75 card trades. In the case of humans, you'll just have to trust that they will allow you to trade with you for the 2nd set of 75 cards (having taken the ticket from you as you got the first 75 cards) For bots, they should be programmed to remember your 'credit' the next time you trade, allowing you to get the remainder of your cards in subsequent trades, but it again comes down to trust. There are also several ways to make trading easier. Heavy use of your filters can cut down on the cards you have to look through. You can also use the wishlist feature to make trading easier. You can use your trades with the Free Commons bots (see FAQ entry) to get the hang of where the buttons are and whatnot.
*Tradable - To mark a card in your collection tradable, you need to go into your collection and look under the card. Note that, only cards you mark tradable can be seen by those you trade with, and you must mark things tradable before beginning a trade. PictureShow
Value - Now, regarding the economics of trading, to maximize the value of your dollar, you'll need to shop around. It's just like cutting coupons and shopping at many different stores -- there are bargains to be had if you look. You can save money if you put time into it, but you have to decide if the amount of time you put into it is worth what you save. This causes some people to be 'brand loyal', they’ll find a bot that has a good stock and they believe has fair prices and shop only there. Sure, sometimes they will pay a little bit extra, but they feel it's worth it because of the time they save by not having to shop around every time they want to buy something. There is a balance here, time spent vs. money saved. It’ll vary from person to person and is up to you to decide for yourself. If you have disposable income but little free time, you’ll likely be brand loyal. Conversely, if you have plenty of free time but a small budget, then you’ll likely want to aggressively shop around.
What to Trade for - Of course, you will only want to buy cards that you like and want to play with. This will mostly be dependent on the format you want to play, so I suggest you read the FAQ entry on formats before you choose which cards to buy.
There are a 2-3 bots in the classifieds that give away 64 free commons each. To find them, just go to the bottom left of your screen and go to: Menu-->Community-->Marketplace-->Classifieds and search for "free".
Many ads will be displayed, but there are only 2-3 bots that are giving out free cards (occasionally, not all 3 will be online). Make sure to scroll through the list to find all of them that are online. When you find one of these bots, you can then right click on the bot's name to trade with it. However, they are frequently busy so you may need to repeatedly try to trade with them or try again later. Additionally, you may want to make sure that you read the FAQ entry on formats before selecting cards. If you want to play a particular format, you don’t want to get cards that you “can’t use”.
3-8 Where can I get extra basic lands?Spoiler:Show
Well, my first question is “Are you sure you need more basic lands?” Your decks should generally be 60 cards, maybe one or two more. Unless you are playing a format with a specific decksize (commander, 100 card singleton, prismatic, etc), then you really should stick with a decksize of 60 cards. So, besides making a deck for those large-deck formats, you likely don’t need more than the lands your new account started with (you’d need 22-25 lands in your 60 card deck).
Now, let’s say you are trying to make a Prismatic or Commander deck and you DO need more basic lands - a perfectly legitimate scenario. Basic lands are really crazy cheap, it would be a shame for you to have to waste some of your money (even a small fraction of a ticket) to get basic lands. So, there are some ways to get free basic lands
The free commons bots (see FAQ entry), though it is a shame to ‘waste’ some of your free commons on lands. Ask other players. Yep, that’s right, basic lands are so dirt cheap, most experienced players have loads of them laying around that they’d be happy to give to you. Now, the ORCs won’t really like you asking for handouts in the game room chats, so your best bet is to ask one of your opponents. When you’re playing a game, if you get the impression your opponent is an experienced player (much more likely in the just for fun room) and you had a friendly match with them, don’t be shy to ask, the worst they can do is say no. While there are some jerks on MTGO (as in all of life) there are many many very kind people who would be glad to help out by doing something as easy as giving a new player a few basic lands!
This section goes over some of the common problems new players run into when they begin to play games on MTGO. It also has resources for how to start playing constructed tournaments on MTGO, learning more about the user interface, and gives examples of other MTGO user’s first experiences with MTGO. 4-1 I don’t know what this word means on a card? Keyword Definitions.Spoiler:Show
Many magic cards have keywords. Things like Exalted or Scry . MTGO has many many many keywords, so it is understandable for a new player to have trouble remembering (or learning in the first place) all of the different keywords. So, rather than teach you all the keywords here, I’ll tell you how to get MTGO to show you the definition of a keyword when you come across it.
When you’re in MTGO and you see a keyword, notice that it is actually highlighted in grey (any word highlighted in grey on a card is a keyword). All you need to do is left click (and hold) with your mouse on the grey highlighted word and the definition will appear within 1-3 seconds. Ta da!
4-2 Why can’t I play a spell/tap and attacking creature to stop it from attacking?Spoiler:Show
MTGO enforces the rules of MTG very very very precisely and there are no “take-backs”. Sometimes this makes it easier to do something on MTGO (rules wise) sometimes it makes it harder (“Woah, wait a second, I tap that before you can attack with it&rdquo. So, MTGO forces you to know the rules of the game a little bit better so that you can perform things at the exact right time.
For tapping down blockers with something like Master Decoy or Downpour , the very latest you can do it is during the “Beginning of Combat” step. If you wait until the “Declare Attackers” step (when your opponent indicates what creatures are attacking), then it is too late. Now, you can always use your spell/ability earlier in the opponent’s turn, but it is ‘strategically best’ in most circumstances to use those type of things at the last possible moment.
Now, the problem is that, by default, MTGO doesn’t allow you to play spells/abilities during that step on your opponent’s turn...doesn’t make sense, does it? So, you are going to need to change a setting on MTGO to allow you to do this, but never fear, it is very quick and easy to accomplish.
Along the left side of your dual screen, you will see a list of all the steps and phases of the turn. If you right click on one of the steps you will get the option to add or remove a “stop” to that step/phase on either your own or your opponent’s turn. A “stop” the term they call the process of telling MTGO “hey, stop here and allow me to do something”. If you don’t have a stop set on a phase/step, then MTGO will skip right past it.
You may be wondering why MTGO even has this feature or why all stops aren’t turned on by default. That is because MTGO has to stop and ask you if you want to play anything (which involves you clicking 'OK' ) every time there is a stop. If there is a stop on every step, it will slow down the game. Thus, they include the ability to set your own stops to reduce the amount of times you need to click “OK”
So, the long and short of it is that you need to set a stop to let MTGO know you want to play something, then you need to play your spells/abilities in the “beginning of combat step”
Note: Stops can also be changed in your MTGO settings (Menu-->Settings-->Gameplay)
4-3 What are "Formats"? // Illegal card error when starting/joining a game?Spoiler:Show
If you are receiving an "illegal cards" error when you try to start or join a game, there are two common reasons why. 1) You are mixing gold bordered with non-gold bordered cards in your deck. The planeswalker format only allows gold bordered cards (even land!). And gold bordered cards can’t be played in any other format. When you are building a deck with gold bordered cards, I suggest you go to the top of your deckbuilding scene and click the dropdown that says “All Cards (Online)” and switch it to “Planeswalker” (it’s near the bottom). This will prevent you from building an illegal deck for the Planswalker format. Do not use the “Add Lands” button. This will add black bordered lands, you need to set the filter and look for your gold bordered lands.
2) Some of the cards in your deck are illegal for the Standard format. Standard is the most popular format, so it’s the default format when you start a game in the game rooms and many of the games you try join will be Standard. Changing the format to Extended, Modern, or Classic when you create a game will "get rid of" this error. Now, you may not know what a format is….
Formats were devised as a way to keep Magic feeling new and fresh as well as providing a bit of accessibility to new players. Magic has been around for a VERY long time. Rather than have all cards legal, formats restrict what cards can be played by their age rather than their ‘power’. This is so that the newest cards can be alone in a format whilst having formats that also include varying amounts of the older cards. In this way, the “young” formats are always changing as new sets enter and leave, these younger formats are also easier for new players because they only deal with a (relatively) small number of cards, which are in high supply because they are currently on sale.
One more thing before I start. Magic is generally measured in “Blocks”, traditionally a block is composed of 3 sets. For example, Innistrad block contained the sets Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored. Blocks usually share common themes. The first set of a block is released in the fall of a year, with the next two sets being released around February and April of the following year. Rinse and repeat. So, to break it down, roughly by size:
Oops, guess I lied. I’m actually starting with Pauper, because it is one of the most popular formats for new players. Pauper has a pretty large cardpool – any card released on MTGO at the common rarity (if a card was printed multiple times, if any copy is common, any version of the card is legal). Considering the majority of every set is commons, this is a TON of cards. So, if you get overwhelmed when faced with too many choices, you may want to start with Block or Standard, which have smaller card pools, but include rares and mythics.
Pauper has many advantages. For starters, everything’s common, thus it’s crazy cheap. Even the best tournament winning pauper decks are no more than ~$40, and that’s at the maximum. So, you are going to be able to build a good deck for very very cheaply ($1-5). On top of being cheap, it’s quite the fun format to play. There is a good deal of variety in decks and it’s popular, so finding a game will never be a problem. There are even pauper tournaments that you can play in!
The block format only allows cards from the most recent block. There should always be a decent amount of casual play for the current block. However, the best use of this format is if you want to get into competitive constructed tournaments. The nature of the format makes it easier to get into competitive play than the other formats. 1) The decks are usually going to be relatively cheap (compared to the other formats, at least). The block format is only available whilst the block is on sale; this is the same timeframe that drafting that block is most popular. So, there is a large supply of cards from the drafters, making them cheaper. Also, block decks will frequently be using cards that are in low demand because they aren’t good in other formats like Standard or Extended. 2) The cardpool is small. If you start playing block in the fall/winter, the entire format is composed of a single set. This makes it much easier to actually go through ALL of the available cards so you can try to build decks 3) In standard, there is frequently a ‘best deck’ or three. When you want to make a deck for yourself, you have to ask the question “Why should I play this over the ‘best deck’ and can my deck beat it?” In block, a ‘best deck’ is usually less defined. Additionally, the power difference between what someone might consider the ‘best deck’ and many of the decks you could throw together yourself can be pretty small. This is a result of the limited cardpool. Any given deck has a limit to it’s power, which is lower than in the other formats with larger card pools.
As I said, Standard is the most popular format on MTGO. It contains all cards from the most recent two blocks and their associated core sets. Standard rotates once a year: during fall, when the first set of the next block comes out. At this time, the oldest block and core set rotate out of standard (two core sets are standard legal for a few months in summer).
For example, in August of 2012 the standard format consists of: Scars of Mirrodin Mirrodin Besieged New Phyrexia M12 Innistrad Dark Ascension Avacyn Restored M13
It may seem a little confusing at first, but after you go through the rotation once or twice, it makes good sense.
Example rotation: When Return to Ravnica is released in October 2012, Scars block and M12 will rotate out of standard, leaving only Innistrad block, M13, and Return to Ravnica. The next rotation wouldn’t occur until October 2013 when the block after Return to Ravnica is released.
Since standard is the most popular format, many casual games are Standard and the Standard tournaments end up being the most well attended. There are some cons to standard though…When extremely good decks rise to the top, their rarest cards become quite valuable. This is through the sheer power of high demand. A deck is good, a card in that deck is very good, it is rare and in moderate supply, everyone wants to play this good deck, everyone wants to buy this good card…prizes go up. This can cause problems like $500+ decks. Yes, it sounds scary, but you needn’t worry. * If you are a casual player, you need to keep in mind that these are tournament level decks, not something you need to be playing in the casual room, nor is it something that you’ll likely play. If someone has a fully powered, expensive deck like that, they are more likely to go play in a tournament than play casual. Though, you may occasionally run into someone playing a deck like this or, something like, the deck at half power, it shouldn’t be too terribly often. * If you want to play tournament magic it’s still OK. Firstly, not all decks are that expensive. If you have a limited budget, there will be decks that are close in power level that are cheaper. Or, you could start to think of it as an investment. Buying an expensive deck could help you win more prize boosters, which you can sell for tickets, and then recoup the cost of the deck. Additionally, if you try to resell your cards before they rotate out of standard, you can recover a good deal of their cost – not 100%, probably not even 80%, but 50-70% should be likely barring odd market fluctuations.
In July of 2010 WotC changed the Extended format quite drastically. Previous to that point, extended consisted of the previous 6 years of blocks and core sets…but, currently, Extended is the most recent 4 blocks and associated core sets. It works the same way as Standard rotation; it just goes back 4 years instead of 2. Some even call it ‘Double Standard’ because that’s basically what it is.
This format is still relatively new, so I don’t know much to say about it yet. I think it has some promise, though.
Modern is a relatively new format. It was created to give something between Extended and Legacy. Additionally, the format was made to be non-rotating, since the only existing non-rotating formats have gotten enormously huge with 20 years of Magic cards having been released.... Modern consists of all cards released since they changed the card face. This happened in 8th edition, so all cards in 8th edition onward (Mirrodin onward) are legal in Modern. It has a banned list too: www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.a...
Although not all of the early MTG sets have been released on MTGO (and never will be), they want to make MTGO Legacy the same as MTG Legacy. This means releasing frequently played cards in Legacy in “Master’s Edition” (MTGO only sets) or as Promos to make them available to MTGO players. Legacy, like classic, is nice because you can play pretty much whatever you want.
Finally, we come to Classic. You may think it’s very similar to legacy, in which cards from all sets are also legal. However, in Classic no card is banned. Rather than banning, they restrict certain cards to one per deck: www.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Resources.aspx...
This makes classic a very different format for tournament play, but I’m not sure if there is too much difference in casual play.
Now, you may be thinking that it’s a bad idea to play Classic in the casual room. In theory, it is a bad idea. All cards are available, so decks have the potential to be very very powerful and fast. However, in practice, playing Classic in the Casual room can be quite fun. Even more so than with standard, if someone has a fully powered Classic deck, they are more likely to take it to tournaments than play in the casual room. Frequently, people play Classic casually because they just feel like playing with their old cards, don’t want to bother worrying about which cards are legal, or want to play with a single, favorite card of theirs that is only Classic/Legacy legal – but isn’t necessarily powerful at all. There is actually a great variety of casual Classic decks, people play totally random things. So, I suggest you give it a try once you’ve built up your collection a bit and have a few older cards (or even if you don’t).
Yes! You can play multiplayer on MTGO. It doesn’t look the prettiest and there are more bugs in multiplayer games, but it works (MTGO had an overhaul 2 years ago, multiplayer wasn’t quite ‘finished’ and other things are currently higher priority than fixing up multiplayer). Previously, multiplayer had its own room on MTGO, but they have recently combined it with the other rooms. Now you can start multiplayer games in the just for fun and tournament practice rooms
Note that, on MTGO, the 2HG rules are different than in real life. They have yet to implement the ability to share turns. So, on MTGO, you and your other head take separate turns. Also, each of you can only attack one of the heads. This makes 2HG on MTGO basically 2v2 with shared life totals.
The easiest way to build decks legal for your format of choice is to use the filters along the top of your Collection, Deck Editor, and Trading screens. In the top-middle you will see a dropdown menu that is set to "All Cards(Online)" by default. Changing that to "Standard" will display only Standard legal cards that you own in your Collection and Deck Editor and it will display only Standard legal cards that your trading partner has up for trade when you are trading, likewise with the other formats/sets.
As a final note, legality is based on card name. Thus, if you filter for Standard and see a Lorwyn Oblivion Ring , it is standard legal because it was also printed in Magic 2013.
4-4 I want to play constructed tournaments!! How should I start?Spoiler:Show
There comes a time in the lives of most MTGO players where they want a little bit more than playing games solely for fun in the Starting Out/Just for Fun rooms. They feel the need quench their competitive instincts...and try to win some prizes! MTGO offers a very large variety of tournaments, both with regards to format and size/structure. I’m gong to try and list these in terms of newbie-friendliness; however, there will also be an opposite correlation with ‘best prizes’. This is not surprising; events with the best possible prizes are going to draw the most players, especially the good ones.
For this FAQ entry, I’m mostly going to be talking about the structure of the events themselves. Now, within each event structure, you still need to pick a Format to use to build your deck. I listed some suggestions of which format you should play in the ‘What is a Format?’ entry of the FAQ, but I’ll recap some of that here.
Pauper: A great introductory format (or just great anytime). Only commons are legal, so that makes it quite cheap with regards to building your deck.
Standard: The most popular format type. However, some Standard decks can be quite expensive to assemble. The good thing is that there is usually a deck or two that is quite cheap and still competitive (just likely not the absolute best deck possible). Frequently, these cheaper decks are very aggressive, usually Red, White, or Red/White.
Block: Aside from Pauper, block is probably the best format to start playing constructed tournaments with. Block has a small card pool, so it limits the amount you need to learn. Also, Block consists of only the very newest sets, so the supply of cards is extremely high, making them more affordable than later on, when they are still Standard legal, but after a new Block format has started (aka - about a year after you buy them).
So, when playing any of the below tournaments, you should likely be looking to play one that is based on Pauper or Block.
Also, when trying to choose a tournament, you’ll want to know the entry fee and the prizes. You may notice that the description of each event is actually brightly colored text. Well, those are actually hyperlinks to web pages that’ll describe most of the technical details of the event...so click them!
One last thing, if you want to get a feel for what other decks you’ll be playing with or to get some ideas on what you want to play, you can always browse the Decks of the Week archives. Each week, WotC pulls all the decklists from 4-0 and 3-1 players in every Daily Event and lists them for you to see: www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Archive.a...
I’ll actually be starting with the only event that isn’t actually ‘sanctioned’ by WotC. PREs are exactly what they sound like, events run by other players on MTGO. Frequently, these events have zero entry fee, which is great for the newer or more casual players. However, this means that the prizes are generally pretty low, usually something like $5-20 worth of stuff split between the top players. This is both a good and bad thing, the low level of prizes can actually help to keep the super serious competitive players out of the picture. They could be spending the same time on a PRE playing an event with a much higher possible prize payout. The downside is the prizes are, well...small. But, this event is mostly just for funsies, you might should just think of the prizes as a nice bonus.
These events are generally held in the “anything goes” room of MTGO...because that room is almost always empty. One person will organize the event, meaning that they’ll tell you which people are playing which during every round and handle all the other logistics of an event. Some may wonder where the prizes come from for these events? Good question. It just so happens that many of these events will be sponsored by one of the larger bot chains. They use it as advertisement, which is pretty much how all sports around the world are funded. Also, the prizes are frequently credit at the sponsor’s bot. So, if you win, you may get 5 tix worth of credit, which you can then use to shop at that bot for whatever you want.
So, these events are a great way to ease yourself into playing tournaments. There’ll be no real investment, other than your deck, and the atmosphere is friendly. One other nice thing is that PREs are often the home of wacky/experimental formats like Tribal, Commons/Uncommons-only, etc. To find out more about available PREs on MTGO, you should check out the PRE forum: community.wizards.com/go/forum/view/7584...
On MTGO there exist queues for both constructed and limited tournaments. Queues are on-demand tournaments that start frequently. You join the queue and, as soon as the proper number of people join, the queue will instantly ‘fire’ and the event begins. The constructed queues are in the Menu-->Play-->Tournaments-->Constructed Queues. Queues generally come in 2 varieties, though other types have existed in the past and new ones could be invented in the future. They are: 2-Player Queues 8-Player Queues
2-Player queues are likely where one should begin. They have the lowest investment (entry fee = 2 Event Tickets). These events are single elimination 1 match (best 2 of 3) tournaments with only 2 players. Each player is putting in 2 tix and the winner gets a booster pack as the prize.
8-player queues are 3 round, single elimination tournaments with...8 players. The entry fee is 6 Event Tickets and the prize payout is currently 5-3-2-2. This means that the winner gets 5 boosters, 2nd place gets 3 boosters, and 3rd/4th each get 2 boosters, with the other 4 players (who lost in the first round) getting nothing. These are nice in that you can both make a profit and get (possibly) 3 round of tournament play in entertainment value.
As for the queues, the 2 player ones are probably the friendliest option for new players. Daily events (below) are most likely better for a newer player than 8-player queues(and Daily Events could arguably be better than even the 2 player queues)
Daily Events can be found in the Menu-->Play-->Tournaments-->Scheduled Events room. These events cost 6 Event Tickets to enter but, unlike the queues, have a scheduled start time - you can go to the event room to see when an events start. These events have the term “4-RND” at the end of their name
These events are Swiss style (as opposed to single elimination) events. This means that you get to play every round of the tournament, win or lose). Daily events are fixed at 4 round per event and can have anywhere from 16 to 128 players. At the end of the tournament, you are awarded prizes based on your record. Currently, a player who wins all 4 rounds (4-0) is awarded 11 booster packs and a 3-1 record (1 loss) will earn you 6 booster packs (with 2-2, 1-3, and 0-4 records getting you zero prizes).
Daily events are nice because you get a guaranteed 4 rounds of play (and practice!) in the tournament. Additionally, they have quite good prizes if you can manage to go 3-1 or 4-0. In this regard, they are much better than 8-man queues if you have a high win percentage. However, if you generally win as much as you lose (50%), you may walk away empty handed from daily events, where you could win a couple of boosters in the 8-man queue.
These are MTGO’s highest level events and are all found in the Menu-->Play-->Tournaments-->Scheduled Events room of MTGO. Now, these are actually 3 separate things that I’ve grouped together.
Premier events - These are events anyone can play. They are Swiss style events, similar to the Daily Events. However, they are usually larger, both in amount of players and number of rounds. 100+ players may play in these events, and they’ll have 6+ rounds. At the end of the normal rounds, there will be a cut to the Top 8 (every one else in the tournament is finished except the Top 8 players who play to see who the winner is). These events are extremely top-heavy. You will win very little prizes unless you can make the Top 8, but the prizes for the winner are extremely good. These events are for two types of people: those who like long tournaments and those who think they are very good and can claim the top prize, so they don’t worry about the bad prizes for not winning.
PTQs (Pro Tour Qualifiers) are very similar to the Premier events, except that the 1st place prize is an invitation to play (in real life) a Pro Tour event. Pro Tours are large, invitation-only events that award $40,000 to the winner with a total prize purse of >$200,000. However, you’re going to have to travel to the Pro Tour with your own money...but, for winning the PTQ on MTGO, you’ll be able to enter an event at the Pro Tour, only for the MTGO PTQ winners, where everyone gets $1,000 cash and a variable amount of MTGO boosters. This $1,000 can basically be thought of as WotC’s refund of your travel cost to come and compete at the Pro Tour.
MOCS events are similar to the PTQs, however, these events are invite-only. But...how to earn an invitation? Well, you see, most tournaments on MTGO award, in addition to booster packs, something called QPs (qualifier points). For example, an 8 player queue awards 1 QP to the winner, and a Daily Event awards 3 QPs to everyone that goes 4-0 and 1 QP to everyone that goes 3-1. During a month long “season”, if you can collect 15 QPs, then you’re invited to the MOCS monthly championship. This tournament is also similar to PTQs and Premier events. Really, it’s only the winner that wins something of extremely high value. Similar to a PTQ, the winners of all the MOCS season championships during that year are invited to compete for the MTGO Championship, which is held in real life, rather than at home on your computer. The MTGO championship a minimum prize of $5000 cash, with more awarded to the winner. This is, just like the PTQs, basically a way to pay for your travel expenses to attend the tournament (and more), though you have to pay to get yourself there in order to earn the prize. MOCS: www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.a...
So, there I’ve listed the types of tournaments. Now, I’m going to give a detailed example of how I suggest a new player can begin playing constructed tournament while not spending too much money.
I believe that the easiest and one of the cheapest ways to start playing constructed is with the Block format. It is best if you can start in the fall (between mid-October and December), but any time of the year should work (though summer is a bit of an iffy time to start).
This is because the new block always starts in October, making that the absolute best time to jump into this format. As I stated in other areas of the FAQ, the block format is nice because the cardpool is small. This reduces the quality of the decks somewhat and (usually) allows for several different decks to share the title of the “best” deck. This both makes the cards cheaper (the price of a deck is spread amongst more different cards) and allows you to build your own decks and have them be able to compete on a somewhat level playing field (the power level difference between the best decks and a random deck someone makes is less than with other formats like Standard or Modern, where the best decks are much stronger).
If you are able to start in the end of a year, you’ll be buying cards from a single set to play in the block constructed format. The cards will be close to the cheapest they will ever be online (at least, while they are standard legal), because the set is being heavily drafted, so there is a huge supply of cards with not that much demand (economics!).
So, you’ve bought some cards from the most recent set, time to make some decks and practice with them. You can make your own original decks or you can get “inspired by” (or just copy) decks that other people have done well with. To see decks that have performed well, visit the Decks of the Week page: www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Archive.a...
To test how good they are, you’ll want to play some matches in the Tournament Practice room (for free!) before you spend your money on entry fees. This will help you get a feel for what other decks people are playing, give you practice, and help you determine a sideboard.
After you feel that you are comfortable with your deck and your ability to pilot it, it’s time to join some tournaments! The 2-player queues in the constructed queues room are low-risk, low-reward events that you may want to start out on if you are risk adverse. However, if your goal is to get lots of practice for your money then you could join a Daily Event in the Scheduled Events room. These 4-round events (for 6 tix entry fee) give you more tournament matches worth of practice per tix than the 2 player queues, but you will only walk away with prizes if you can win at least 3 of your 4 matches (though the prizes are very good - 6 boosters for 3-1 and 11 boosters for 4-0).
If you started with the 2-player queues, you can move up to the 8player queues and daily events when you gain more confidence. 8player queues have pretty good prizes, but Daily Events give you the most prizes for your entry fee. The biggest problem is that they are scheduled, so you have to work around that and you can only play so many, the 8player queues can be played anytime you want.
Now, as the following sets in the block are released, you can get those new cards (hopefully by using tix you got from selling boosters you won) to update your deck or make an entirely new deck.
After that block is done being released and the new block gets started you can repeat the cycle of playing block constructed. However, at this point you will have all of the cards from the previous block (or at least all the ones good for constructed decks). This will allow you to also start playing Standard. It was ‘too expensive’ to start standard at the beginning when you didn’t have any cards, but now you have all the cards from the previous block and you’re buying the new block to continue playing block constructed. All that is missing are a few cards from the core set that you may want in a standard legal deck. Also, not only do you already own the cards from the previous block, when you purchased them (a bit after there release, while everyone was drafting them), they were at close to the cheapest they will ever be (at least, while standard legal). If you pay attention to the market, you can see that, when a new block comes out, the ‘good cards’ from the previous block rise in value. This is because they are still good cards that people want to buy to play with in Standard, but there is very little supply because everyone started drafting with the new block.
So, from then on, you can continue playing block constructed. You can also start playing Standard with little to no additional investment (well, there is your time, since you will be waiting a year before you can play standard). From that point, if you are good, you can start to accrue winnings, which will allow you to buy cards for older constructed formats, if you are interested in playing something like Extended, Modern, or Classic.
So, in short, if you want to play constructed tournaments, play block constructed and you will: Have low startup costs Buy all your cards when there value is near the lowest it can be Usually be able to make your own decks because of lower power levels Be able to cheaply get into playing Standard after one year Have a head start in playing standard because you know all of the good decks from the previous block constructed format
4-5 Examples of New Players starting MTGO - threads of users who kept a “journal” chronicling their experiences.Spoiler:Show
Occasionally, a very kind individual will decide to chronicle their experiences starting MTGO on these very forums. These are some nice examples of how people decided to start up (generally with a budget mindset). They are listed in reverse chronological order. While the older threads will still teach valuable lessons, players who have recently started MTGO may be unfamiliar with the older cards and the New Account Starter kit contents changes somewhat over time.
While some parts of the MTGO interface are intuitive...others aren't. Community members have pooled their knowledge to create some guides that will help you in navigating v3. How to download v3 guide: puremtgo.com/node/709
ORCs are moderators for Magic Online and the forums. It's their job to make sure MTGO is a fun and safe place for everyone. ORCs can't play or trade while on duty, so don't bug them with trade requests or challenges. The primary duty of the ORCs is to enforce the Wizards Code of Conduct. If you misbehave, an ORC will issue you a warning. Just like in real-life Magic tournaments, a warning is a heads-up that you did something wrong. If you keep doing it, an ORC can mute you (you can't chat at all) or kick you from the game for up to 24 h. In excessive cases, punishment can be escalated immediately, skipping some steps. All conduct actions are reported to Customer Service, who can issue additional punishments, including extended bannings or even permanent removal. On the other hand, ORCs are really nice and helpful guys and gals to those who have honest questions or problems. If you ever have a problem or need help figuring something out, just ask one of the ORCs. ORCs can usually be found in the Support room (click the "Chat with Support" button on the Home scene), and they also wander around the other rooms. You can also type "/join Support" in any chat prompt other than Duel or Trade chat prompts.
4-8 How do I find out more about Magic Online?Spoiler:Show
As I alluded to in the introduction, the General MTGO FAQ is the repository of pretty much all MTGO related knowledge. It's absolutely tremendous and can answer most questions. So, if you're the type of person who likes to learn everything there is to know about something before jumping in or you want to learn some more advanced features of MTGO, you should probably peruse the General MTGO FAQ! Also, Tempeseye has created a nice listing of v3 features that may not be so intuitive, you can check out his thread, too: forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=9766...
After struggling for 4 days, I've FINALLY gotten far enough in the process of signing up that it's telling me I have to buy an account for $9.99, but the reason I'm here is because I already bought a Core Set pack with an activation code, which MTGO III apparently won't let me enter unless I buy an account. I haven't even been able to get an account so I can be frustrated with MTGO like everyone else, I've been frustrated for 4 days and I still don't even have an account to be frustrated with. *exasperation*
After struggling for 4 days, I've FINALLY gotten far enough in the process of signing up that it's telling me I have to buy an account for $9.99, but the reason I'm here is because I already bought a Core Set pack with an activation code, which MTGO III apparently won't let me enter unless I buy an account. I haven't even been able to get an account so I can be frustrated with MTGO like everyone else, I've been frustrated for 4 days and I still don't even have an account to be frustrated with. *exasperation*