Dark Confidence: Playing Magic The Gathering Online (MTGO/MODO) with Dan Stokes

Dark Confidence: Playing Magic The Gathering Online (MTGO/MODO) with Dan Stokes


‘So much to do, so little time’ – Its an old adage that only seems to grow truer the more time passes. Right from High School to the working world, we are taking on more responsibilities and projects. Working a 40 hour week, keeping up with Sports, keeping in shape physically and being in a fully committed relationship leaves us all with a very Painful Quandary….

‘How the Sam Hell do I get to do all these things AND play Magic?’

If you don’t know me, or didn’t read my last article lord-knows how long ago, then I’m Dan Stokes; tall, dark, handsome and the biggest slave to the Blue portion of the colour pie you’re likely to meet. And over the course of a series of articles in the next few weeks I’m going to tell you how to play more magic and, hopefully, how to play it better. Starting today with the tools at our disposal that will enable us to play more magic when we have less time.


Laptops as play-mats.

We live in an age now where everyone has access to a computer and, vicariously, an Internet connection. Sometimes you may only have access to a computer but even then you can travel to your local library/school/friends house and use the Internet and a pen drive to get access to the two most vital tools I have to offer you in your quest to play more Magic in your busy schedule. The first of which was created by the very people who gave us Magic in the first place, Wizards of the Coast.

Magic the Gathering: Online (MTGO for short) is a smart piece of software from Magics flagship website and is free to download, once you have the program, simply sign up with an email address, pick a screen name and suddenly you have all the Magic you could ever want with the click of a mouse and the entry of your credit card details. Because this program is designed by the very creators of Magic, there is a LOT of Magic to be played here. All sorts of formats are happening at all times, Drafts of various sets, Sealed deck tournaments, Standard tournaments, even Online PTQs and Legacy tournaments are happening online 24/7.

When you sign up you have to pay a sign up fee of $10 but you get $10 dollars of stuff in return. You see, actually using this program to its full effect is not free.You can buy Booster packs, just like you would in a shop, to get yourself an online collection, you can trade with traders and friends to get the cards you want and you can even draft to give yourself some ‘bulk’, win boosters and get yourself free ‘Tickets’. ‘Tickets’ or “Tix” as they are often referred to, are the main currency of MTGO, you need to buy them to enter all the sanctioned events and you win them if you do well. They’re cheap and you also use them to buy other cards from other players if you want to. All the cards you win, buy online or draft stay in your online collection and can be used to build decks to test online. Just playing some games for testing is free, you can even meet up with friends online and play a bunch of games to test for tournaments. The best thing about this program is that all the rules of Magic are integrated into the program and, whats more, the program does all state based effects and triggers for you using nifty little graphics and such. This means two things:

1. The program won’t let you do anything illegal, meaning you’ll learn about the game as you play and get out of bad habits.

2. Because it reminds you of all the ‘may’ triggers you’re less likely to forget about things in your upkeep and such and therefore you should fewer mistakes.

When you play a creature that has an ability or a spell that targets etc, much like in Duels of the Planeswalkers for Xbox/PS3, the program will ask you to pick your targets using your mouse then will ask you to confirm your targets before finally resolving the spell. All done coloured arrows and simple instructions. The program goes through every phase in a turn, a feature you can customise to skip certain phases/pause in certain phases, and does as much as it can to make the play as smooth as possible. Activating abilities is just as easy, you simply click on the Creature with an ability then click the ability you wish to use before choosing your targets and confirming. All in all the program is easy to use and there are plenty of online tutorials to read or watch that will help you.

Another advantage of using MTGO is that if you do enough drafts and sealed decks or buy enough boosters and do enough trading, you may find yourself in a position where you own 4 of every card in a set. If you do, you can pay to have Wizards send you the real cards. Pretty sweet, right?  So Magic the Gathering: Online allows you to play a whole host of formats, learn the rules of the game, qualify for Pro Tours and gain a size-able collection. But what if you don’t have a lot of money and just want to play any magic card for free before committing yourself to buying it to put in your deck? Well, then I have another program that will help you do that.

Magic Workstation or MWS is free to download, use and play online. You simply go here, download the program, download the ‘Masterbase’ and install and Bobs-your-uncle. Infinite Magic testing all the time. Every time a new set is realised you can download it from the website and add it to the program with relative simplicity and use it in your decks. This program is nowhere near as advanced as MTGO but it serves its purposes well. You can host your own game for other people to join or just join someone else’s game and play for as long as you like. Whilst it doesn’t have all the rules integrated into the system nor any fancy schmancy graphics for each action, it does have every turn phase for you to go through and nifty ways to do almost anything you may need to do in a game of Magic. There’s a chat bar at the side of the game so you can talk to your opponent about what you’re doing or to just generally talk if that takes your fancy and a lot of the actions have shortcuts configured to the keyboard meaning you can get a lot of games played in a relatively short space of time once you’re familiar with the program. Meeting up with friends online is a little harder here because of the primitive nature of the program but when coupled with Facebook or mtgUK chat or the like it becomes easy. You can also link two laptops with cables and play offline if you don’t have an Internet connection.

All in all the program is really simple to use and will suit your needs if you’re simply looking to cram a few games in without having to pay any money or wait in ques. The only real down side to this program is the ever famous ‘Rage Quitters’. ‘Rage Quitters’ are people who simply quit the program the very second you get in a better position than them or play a deck that you may have seen on the internet. This can get quite annoying but, as I said earlier, you can just play with your friends or specify that you don’t want quitters when you make a game for others to join.

Consoles as Libraries.

You may have seen me mention Duels of the Planeswalker a little earlier, this is a download-able game for Xbox 360 and PS3 that was designed by Wizards again and lets you play Magic on your console. Unlike MWS or MTGO you can’t design your own deck on this particular game but there’s still plenty of Magic to be played and fun to had. The latest installment of this game features multiplayer games of 2 or more players and the Archenemy format Wizards released last year on top of ‘Two Headed Giant’ ‘Campaign’ and even ‘Puzzle’ mode where you get to flex your Magic playing muscles to win a game within a turn from a pre-decided game state. So if it’s general magic playing rather than testing for a tournament or practising your drafting skills you’re after, this could suit you down to the ground. Downloading it costs £6.99 or 800 Microsoft Points, depending on your console, and can be played both offline by yourself or online with friends. Like MTGO, this has all Magics rules integrated into it, lets you zoom in on cards and pause game play if you have a response.

Generally, this game is like a MTGO-lite those who don’t want to spend a lot of money aquiring cards online but still want to play magic in an environment where the rules are in place and that will help them learn the game as you play. The game also gives you useful tips and tricks about the game of Magic as you play, comes with a number of pre-constructed decks for you to play in the game and allows you to unlock cards for the decks to give them a bit of extra beef.


Come be Communal.

As if those options weren’t enough, if you yearn for the feeling of cards in your hand, if you’ve spent hours testing a deck on whichever program takes your fancy and you to find out how good it is against REAL opponents, then every Monday night at Manaleak they have ‘Monday Night Testing‘ where a bunch of cool players sit around and play Magic until late, testing decks and generally hanging out. They play any format they have decks for and its always good fun with quick take away runs at some point too. Players there love meeting new people and are always willing to help you with any deck you bring along. And, of course, if you want a real challenge keep checking the Manaleak Facebook page or UK Magic Calendar for all in-house competitions coming up so you can be ready, or just roll up to FNM and let the cards fly. If you can’t get to Manaleak in Worcester then check out the UK Magic Calendar and find the closest Magic events happening near you.

So, that’s it from me for this installment. Join me next time when I’ll be talking about what you’re opponent is telling you and how best to use what he’s doing to tell YOU what to do. Until then, if you were wondering what MTGO looks like in action, check out Jon Randles video of him playing UB Control using the program here, or watch Matteo Orsini Jones draft like a bad-man here. Both those videos should give you a good idea of what to expect if you decide to download it.

Take care and keep sharing,


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