What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

It’s about playing the game from your home, whilst having a ciggy or sitting in your undies. It’s the world of online Magic – specifically the Cockatrice MTG program.

*** UPDATE ***

1. Please join our UK & Irish MTG Players on Cockatrice Facebook group for ongoing support.

2. To download the latest version of Cockatrice –  Click Here

3. For information on how to update Cockatrice MTG card lists database – Click here

What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

We’re all here for the same reason – we love Magic: the Gathering. For most of us it is probably our favourite game. It’s the right mixture of strategy and variance, whilst being nearly constantly updated and changed which leaves staleness a difficult state to be reached.

Some of us, like myself, have been playing the game for a decade, whilst new players are always coming (and rarely going). Magic, for many is a social game, and players enjoy the company of friends and the banter that comes with casting Leviathans or endlessly counterspelling every single card their mate ‘thinks‘ he will play. Maybe it’s a good ‘bolt to the face during your upkeep‘ that does it for you, or perhaps gaining 1,000,000,,874,000 life by going through some infinite loop is your steez. Well, this article isn’t about that. It’s about playing the game from your home, whilst having a ciggy or sitting in your undies. It’s the world of online Magic, specifically the Cockatrice MTG program.

Playing Magic Online

I myself, pretty much only play online these days. I don’t have a shop near me and well, let’s face it, I’m addicted to the game. It’s true that you don’t get the same feeling as when you are playing live with friends, but it certainly does well to satisfy one’s desire to draw a new opening 7. It is comfortable, convenient and there is always a game to join. It also serves the purposes of testing for competitive tournaments in both constructed and limited formats. For anyone serious about the game, and wanting to develop their skills at an accelerated rate, I highly recommend playing online Magic using Cockatrice.

cockatrice screen shot 1 What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

Magic: The Gathering Online (MODO/MTGO)

MODO login What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan RandleFor playing Magic online there are principally 3 different programs. There is the official one, ‘Magic Online‘ (or “MODO” / “MTGO”) which is downloadable directly from the Wizards of the Coast website. It is only available for Windows, so Mac users – sorry. The program, though, is fantastic. It features great visuals on both cards and settings, and the game play is fluid while the rules of the game are impossible to bypass. It’s also a great tool to learn the game with as it takes you through each phase of every turn.

However, the game is expensive to upkeep. It is, for all intents and purposes, just as expensive as paper Magic. It’s relatively easy and cheap to start off in the limited events, meaning drafts and sealed deck, but constructed will require a fair bit of monetary down-payment. There are other formats, such as Pauper, which allows only commons; however, even some of these good commons will set you back quite a few ‘tix‘ (online dollars). I do recommend this program, but there are other options.

Magic Workstation (MWS)

Magic Workstation screen shot What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan RandleThe second program I’ll mention is Magic Workstation. Workstation, or MWS as it’s known, is totally free and straightforward to download. You can pick up games by just logging on and creating a game for someone to join, or by simply joining someone else’s. My best advice for this program though, is to only use it to meet a friend to test decks. It is generally populated by people who will either quit in the middle of a game, or dispute the rules with you. The interface itself isn’t the best, aesthetically. MWS can also be fairly confusing to download and uploading the new sets as they’re released. To be frank, it probably isn’t worth your while.


This leads me on to the final program, and the main topic of the article – Cockatrice. Cockatrice is a program in the vein of MWS – i.e that it is free to download, and you can do that here:

Click here – To download the latest version of Cockatrice

cockatrice download screenshot What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

Cockatrice however, is vastly superior in every way. Updating the cards for example is extremely easy, the interface looks great, the people you meet are on the whole, on the same level, and it provides a great platform to test with friends or to learn the game from the beginning. It allows you to draft and clearly displays all the phases of a turn. It even highlights counters on cards, allows you to choose different colours for different counters, has different ‘zones‘ for exiled and dead cards, and is a clean crisp program which is totally free and easy.

cockatrice screen shot 1 What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

Installing and Setting up Cockatrice

To get yourself set up, firstly download the program, you can do this be Clicking Here. From there, follow these steps:

  • Go to download then click on the suitable Pre-compiled binaries (Windows or Mac).
  • Open on the folder entitled cockatrice that has been created from the download and click on the green Cockatrice symbol.
  • Click on the Cockatrice tab at the top, then connect.
  • Go back to the folder and double click on oracle and open it.
  • Go to the file tab at the top and click on download sets information then OK.
  • A list of all the sets of Magic should appear with tick boxes. I recommend leaving them as they are and just going directly to start download.
  • Once all the sets have been downloaded you are ready to go. Go back to the green Cockatrice symbol, connect to it, then you can go to deck editor and start building!

Creating a deck on Cockatrice

cockatrice deck editor screenshot What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

Once you’ve customised your deck you can connect to the games where you will see a list of players advertising different formats, simply join one of them. The game play itself is straightforward, just follow the steps that are very clearly marked on the left hand side. It will take two or three games to get the hang of it, but from there you can do anything you want. Cockatrice is a great tool for Magic players. If you have a Mac, don’t want to spend money, or just to play with all the cards then this is simply the best.

I’ve included a video below that I’ve found very helpful in showing what Cockatrice is all about.

How to use play using Cockatrice

Now that you’re ready to play, here are some tips to get you going in your game. Firstly, a list of the hot keys. Always useful and good to learn early on as they’ll help you master the program and get you playing quicker and sharper.


View library


View graveyard


View sideboard


View top car(s) of library (Choose a number)


Shuffle deck


Roll dice


Draw 7, then mulligan successively


Draw a card


Draw Cards (Choose a number)


Undo last draw


Set Life (useful when adding or subtracting a large number of life)


Minus 1 life


Add 1 life


Untap all permanents you control


Remove all local arrows


Brings up menu to Create a token


Creates last token you made

(Select card) Ctrl+Del

Move to graveyard

(Select card) Ctrl+A

Attach Card (For equipment and auras)

(Select card) Ctrl+H

Clone (Make copy of) selected card

(Select card) Ctrl++

Increase power

(Select card) Ctrl+-

Decrease power

(Select card) Alt++

Increase toughness

(Select card) Alt+-

Decrease toughness

(Select card) Ctrl+Alt++

Increase power and toughness

(Select card) Ctrl+Alt+-

Decrease power and toughness

(Select card) Ctrl+P

Set power and toughness

Ctrl+Enter (Return)

Next turn


Move to next phase


Untap step


Draw step


First main phase


Beginning of combat step


Second main phase


End of turn step


Concede game


Getting down these keys is not essential, but they do help and will let you fit more games in and make you more confident in your use. They also demonstrate the versatility of Cockatrice and the extent at which your life as a player is being made easier. As well as looking good, Cockatrice is also very user friendly. All the cards are available for you to use, giving you total access to the game without any hindrance whatsoever.

The important of good online etiquette

be nice or leave What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

Playing online can be much like playing in person – etiquette wise. Sadly not everyone observes this, but I’ve found that the people who play on Cockatrice are vastly more polite than MWS. It is courteous to say hello when you join a game, and gg (good game) should you lose. Maybe the most important thing though, is to not just ‘rage quit‘ in the middle of a game. In fact, even if you have to go it is far more polite to just tell your opponent you have to leave rather than just switching it off. It’s annoying when it happens to you so it’s important to not feed the problem.

This is all common sense, but ultimately very important to observe because without etiquette the whole scene can just disintegrate into a futile pass-time for delinquents.

We’ve also made a video to show you how to use Cockatrice, thanks to GeOhDe001

Better… stronger… faster. We have the technology

There are, I think, a few reasons why the average player today is better than the average player ten years ago. The main one is that knowledge, and therefore skills, have been spread at a much faster rate. Player’s abilities accelerate as the wealth of strategy sites disperse and relay the information. Another reason is that player’s have access to powerful tools, and Cockatrice is one of them. People can game for much longer than they used to now that they can sit in the comfort of their own home.

You can test out any deck, any list, try any cards. This will invariably make you a better player. I know from my experience that going in to a tournament with a deck you know how to play well, know how it matches up against other decks is a massive advantage. You can play sharper and tighter as you have become more familiar with most of the scenarios that you may face in the tournament itself. You are more confident in your decision making and more aware of each angle of the game. The same goes for limited too, as knowing which cards are important to pick in your draft allows you to build the most optimal deck.

cockatrice chatroom screenshot What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

The online Magic community

If you’re a new player, a casual player or a seasoned tournament player I highly recommend you use, and get used to Cokatrice. It offers you unlimited access to the game in a clean crisp program which is still being updated and improved. Along with the gameplay istelf, there are also forums to join where you can ask questions about the system, or even about the game itself. Cockatrice is in fact, more than just a program to play, it is growing in to a community. Being a part of it will undoubtedly improve your skills as a player and offer you as much fun as you wish to indulge in.

skype network What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan RandleUsing Cokatrice also a fantastic way to connect with long distance friends. The social dimension of a program such as this should not be neglected since you can set up your own game ready for a friend to battle with. You can even play and meet people from all over the world, from Liverpool to Hawaii, from Paris to Moscow. Try using Skype while playing so you can chat to each other at the same time. This is the future of free online Magic so get involved now!

With mtgUK growing, and with it becomes the focal point for the UK Magic community, it might be a fun and progressive endeavour to set up an online system so that people from around the country can play together, as well as communicate. Perhaps we could organise an online league, or just regular testing sessions for upcoming PTQs and Grand Prixs– in fact we are already doing this right now via our Facebook page UK & Irish MTG Players on Cockatrice and/or mtgUK Chat Room, all you have to do is log on and ask for a game!

mtguk worlds What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan RandleSeeing as everyone will have access to all the cards through Cockatrice, nothing would be beyond our reach, it just depends on one’s own drive and ambition. Magic in the UK could reach another stage, another level should we have organised online play. Players from all over will become acquainted with each other instead of their being different factions from the different regions. I actually think some online league, or tournaments would be a lot of fun and pretty competitive. That being said though it would also give experienced players the chance to teach newer ones. There really is no limit and this would only serve to increase the general level of play in the country.

Final Thoughts

I really encourage you to comment on this article, for the purpose of encouraging this idea, or coming up with one yourself. There is so much untapped potential with Cockatrice and if people are enthusiastic enough then maybe we can arrange an online tournament using Cockatrice. You should definitely download Cockatrice now though, if you haven’t done so already. Give it a try, it’s well worth it!

If you know someone (like your fellow Magic playing friends) whom you think may benefit from this article, then please can you do me a favour and share this article with them. I hope that in doing so, we may increase connectivity and make further progress with our game in the UK.


Due to legal issues, Cockatrice is no longer supported by its original developer. However you can continue to update your own database, and for more information on this, please read this article on mtgUK - How To Update Cockatrice Card Lists Database

Thanks for sharing, and thanks for reading.



 What is Cockatrice MTG and how do I use it to play Magic online? by Jonathan Randle

  1. well im sure going to try it!!im portuguese but living in france and i have no one to play with here…im just a begginer casual player i mostly just collect the cards but i really miss playing magic and this will be a great chance i think!thank you for this article it was quite helpful :)

  2. i just wanted to say tht even though i am new to magic game i love n this program its an amazing tool to help new players such as myself to learned n become a better magic player.. thanks for making this it real good n helps alot….

  3. Is there a way to specify which image I want the program to use? For instance, when I look up “think twice” it defaults to the old images as opposed to the Innistrad art.

  4. I tried this program however I didn’t really like it because it didn’t seem very customizable. Maybe I just didn’t know my way around it. I’ll have to try it again I suppose because I use MagicWorkstation but everybody talks about how this is so much better.

  5. Michael Thornton October 30, 2011, 10:05 am

    Thanks for the info, looking forward to some games.
    As to your post, couldnt agree more with trying to improve uk game play and this indeed could be the way to do it. Not enough collaberation, help or appricaition to people who do.

    Thanks again Jonno for post and your time for doing it.
    Look forward to meeting again soon and giveing you some green lovin.

  6. 3rd party draft woot <3

  7. Great article!
    Your suggestions were excellent imo!
    Promoting etiquette in any game must always be praised!
    I hope that after this article many more will contribute to your idea and make the community of mtgUK bigger and more interconnected!

  8. awsome sauce dude, clicked the link right away as the article skim had me sold. ty x

  9. Couple quick questions:

    Does Cockatrice support multiplayer?
    How about limited? Can you draft with it?
    Are the card images included in the download?

    I’ve used MWS for years and it’s really not that bad, you just gotta avoid the people who don’t bother to change their name (‘Player’) and the people with [ITA] tags. But I’m willing to give Cockatrice a try if it’s “better enough.”

    • Hi HJ,

      Re: Are the card images included in the download? – Yes, you just run the Oracle updater when you first install the program and every time a new set comes out.

    • Cockatrice is fantastic for multiplayer.

      While I can’t say how many it _actually_ supports, any more than 4 people gets really, really awkward in terms of screen space. That said, you can play 4-way casual EDH pretty much 24/7 on Cockatrice.

      As for limited, it doesn’t have draft functionality but there’s usually at least one draft going where someone sets up an 8 player room and then arranges it in the chat using a third party website.

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