Tips and Tricks, Momir BASIC, and Leagues

Posted in Feature on December 20, 2006

By Frank Karsten

My column usually highlights Magic Online trends and talks about specific decks as they rise and fall over the course of a format. While I think that I am doing a good job of keeping you updated on what is going on, my columns (by their very nature) are usually outdated quickly. Decks change, metagames change, and what I wrote about last month might not hold anymore today. So unlike the other columns on the site, it is a bit tougher for me to find articles for rerun weeks. The article I chose for today is one that should hold well over time, though.

When I first starting playing Magic Online, I was baffled when I saw someone else type a smiley or use an undo. I had no clue what keys to hit in order to get those, but eventually learned it the hard way. Because I remember how intimidating the Magic Online interface can sometimes be for beginners, I enjoyed writing up some tips&tricks. I also addressed the timeless Momir BASIC format and a Time Spiral sealed deck, for which you can find the solution here. All in all, this column was a nice break from my usual tournament and deck coverage.

This article originally appeared on November 8, 2006

Since we are in the middle of the Time Spiral release events this week (with an awesome server load), there are no Constructed Premier Events to report on. Instead, I figured this would be a good time to cater to the less experienced Magic Online players and present some tips and tricks for Magic Online beginners. First, let me refer you to a useful article by Hollow0n3 on "Basics for Beginners." It goes over such things as navigating the interface, playing games, and using your collection. It is a good place to start. Another good resource is the Magic Online FAQ, which you can find here.

I also have some extra tips and tricks for you regarding stuff that isn't clearly documented and that I once had to find out the hard way.

UndoUndo: Magic is a strict game. Once you announce a spell or ability, there are no takebacks. There is of course a good reason for this. Imagine you'd play Dark Confidant, and when you notice your opponent is tapping counterspell mana, you say "No wait, I'd rather play this card instead." Those takebacks wouldn't make for a fair game, would they? There is one exception: mistapping your lands. You cannot gain an unfair advantage by tapping your Plains instead of your Mountain if you change your mind right away. Magic Online accommodates an "undo" function that allows you to untap lands you tapped by mistake. It can also untap artifacts that generate mana, creatures that generate mana, etcetera. You activate it by pressing Alt+U. Remember this key combination, and you'll notice you'll start using it a lot. Even then, there are some things Alt+U can't do. Alt+U won't work anymore once you click "OK" and pass priority, nor will it function as a "whoops" button if you play the wrong spell or block the wrong creature. It just untaps your mana sources.

Playing faster with the F-keys: The Magic Online interface offers some keyboard shortcuts.

  • Are you tired of moving your mouse over to the "OK" button all the time? Use F2! Pressing that key has the exact same effect as clicking "OK."
  • If you are done for the rest of the turn, but still want a chance to respond to anything your opponent might put in the stack, use F4. This will skip over whatever stops you may have set, but the game will pause if your opponent plays something and prompt you to declare attackers.
  • If you are really done for sure, use F6, which will yield to everything. You won't be prompted this turn anymore, even if heaven falls down.
  • Lesser known keys are F7 and F8. F8 is a key you press once per game and after you press it, the game will not prompt you anymore if you have absolutely no possible legal action
  • F7 is a new key introduced with the Time Spiral update and says "if multiple events trigger, and they have the same text and don't require targeting, put them on the stack." Quite a useful key for a deck full of graft creatures, for instance.

If you are up for some more time saving, use auto yields on recurring effects, such as suspend triggers you never want to respond to anyway. When the effect is on the stack, right click on it and choose auto yield. Now the game will never prompt you again in response to that effect, saving you some mouse clicks. I usually press F8 at the beginning of the game, and then play with one hand on the mouse and the other hand on the F-keys, one finger on F2 and one finger on F6. Good use of these keys will save time, but you have to stay concentrated, otherwise you might skip your entire turn by mistake. If you want to turn your yields off (auto yields, F4, F6, F7, F8), press F3. I will conclude this section with a word of warning regarding the F4 and F6 keys; they give away "tells." Because Magic Online will respond instantly to any "OK," an experienced opponent will easily notice you have hit such a key. Imagine you are playing a deck full of countermagic, but only hold lands. It is tempting to save time by F6'ing through your opponent's turn, but that way you might give away that you are not holding a Counterspell.

Control_MagicThe Control key: When drafting, you can press Ctrl and click the mouse to outline a card. That card will be picked if you run out of time to pick normally, which might come in handy if you're a slow thinker and time out occasionally. If you are in a duel, holding Ctrl while playing a spell or ability lets you respond to it, i.e. you do not pass priority. For instance, when you have an Izzet Guildmage and want to copy one of your own spells, you should hold Ctrl while playing that spell to do so.

Managing your buddies: You can add a player to your buddy list (which appears at the bottom right side of your screen) at any time by typing /addbuddy name. Your buddy list allows you to reach your friends quickly and easily. A tricky thing to remember about this command is that if you want to add someone who has a space in his player name, you have to put quotation marks around it. For example, don't type /addbuddy My name contains a space, but rather /addbuddy "My name contains a space".

Typing Symbols in Chat Text: You might be wondering how everyone is making those smilies and mana symbols in their chat messages. No, just typing ":-)", like in instant messaging programs, won't work. You have to use special key combinations online. The way to do this is to hold CTRL+Q, then release both keys, then type the letter corresponding to the symbol you want to send. Some are intuitive, such as "G" for a green mana symbol and "3" for a 3 colorless mana symbol. If you are a smiley fan, then you can use S to make a happy face or Y to make a sick face (my personal favorite). Just remember that you should not hold CTRL, Q, and Y all at the same time - rather, you have to release the key combination of CTRL+Q before you hit the last key. A complete list of all the possible chat commands can be found here.

Away messages: You can mark yourself as being away from your computer by typing /away message in any chat window, where the message is what you want to tell other users. Your status and message will be displayed in the chat area of the room you're in, and a "ZZZ" icon will appear behind your name. Any players who try to send you private messages will get an automatic reply telling them that you're away plus your away message. When you get back to your computer, just type /away to show that you are back, and read the messages you have received in the meantime.

Boolean searches: In the collection pane and deck editor, you can use Boolean operators. The available operators are & (and), | (or), and ~ (not). For example, if you want to search for Elves that produce mana, you could enter "elf & mana". This can come in handy if you want to do specific searches.

Momir BASIC strategy

Momir BASIC is a very popular format. It consists of an all-basic land deck and the Momir Vig avatar. It is fun and doesn't require a large investment. The random factor makes it exciting. You could get an overcosted creature with severe drawbacks (Phage the Untouchable is a prime example), or you could get a cost-efficient game winner in (for example) Hoverguard Sweepers.

I sought a Momir BASIC expert online and found samdsherman. He has won a couple Momir Basic Premier Events, and he is the captain of clan Momir Masters, which is looking for good Momir players. If you are a serious Momir player looking for a clan, shoot him a message. I figured that if anyone knew how to win at Momir BASIC, it would be him. He told me that an aggro approach often pays off:

"If I win the die roll, I play first, and start making guys as early as turn 1. I drop a creature every turn and get in important early points of damage that can prove critical in the late game. By making early drops, you net tempo advantage, get the advantage of superior numbers, and you already have some chump blockers for later on. A lot of people wait until turn 2-3 to drop a creature, aiming to ramp up to eight mana and just making eight drops from there. Those are the players that I beat a lot, based on the advantage that a fast aggressive stance gives me. The best part about this strategy is that if they whiff on any of the first 3 guys they make, you just kill them. Nevertheless, for weaker players the 8 drop strategy might be the way to go, since it's easier to play. I play 12 of each basic lands, but I don't think that is optimal. If I tried to fix it though, I'd up the Islands."

Continuing with Momir coverage, I present to you a pet project of Josh Clark, a.k.a. SwingBlade. He is a Momir BASIC enthusiast and put a lot of time in a handy chart that includes the number of available creatures and the stars for each cost, as well as percentage charts on various creature categories:

  • Flubber - A creature that you have to return to your hand, including gating creatures and upkeep bouncers such as Oni of Wild Places
  • Mana or Hand Boost - Creatures that somehow increase your available mana, or increase your net hand size.
  • Die upon arrival - Creatures that die when they're played, or by your next upkeep. Most of these are 0-toughness creatures.
  • Instant Loss/Huge Resource Loss - These are the guys that are most hated - Phage the Untouchable, Leveler, etc. - because when you drop them, they are almost certain losses or a major setback in resources that will almost definitely result in a loss.
Converted Mana Cost Number of Creatures Chances of Getting Flubber Chances of Getting Mana or Hand Boost Chances of Getting Die upon arrival Chances of Huge Resource Loss Stars Kerplunks
0 3 0 0% 33.33% 0% Ornithopter
1 231 2.16% 5.19% 0.87% 0% Weathered Wayfarer; Wall of Hope; Taunting Elf; Soul Warden; Sakura-Tribe Scout; Birds of Paradise; Isamaru, Hound of Konda; Groundskeeper
2 446 1.35% 6.73% 0.67% 0.22% Azorius Guildmage; Broodhatch Nantuko; Kiku, Night's Flower; Shinen of Life's Roar; Tempting Wurm
3 591 1.52% 6.26% 1.86% 0% Azusa, Lost but Seeking; Terravore; Dogged Hunter; Hallowed Healer; Krosan Restorer; Witch Hunter
4 618 1.94% 3.24% 2.27% 0.32% Nightscape Master; Thornscape Master; Sunscape Master; Solemn Simulacrum; Desecration Elemental Desolation Giant; Eater of Days
5 400 0.50% 3.75% 1.50% 1.50% Stuffy Doll; Sprouting Phytohydra; Fortune Thief; Scalpelexis; Master Healer; Elvish Bard Sky Swallower; Leveler; Desolation Angel; Soulgorger Orgg; Taniwha
6 233 1.29% 3.86% 0.43% 0.43% Rith, the Awakener; Treva, the Renewer; Nut Collector; Visara the Dreadful; Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind; Kamahl, Pit Fighter; Kamahl, Fist of Krosa Worldgorger Dragon
7 111 0% 5.41% 1.80% 0.90% Platinum Angel; Ancient Ooze; Serra Avatar; Memnarch; Stone-Tongue Basilisk Phage the Untouchable
8 48 0% 0% 2.08% 0% Hoverguard Sweepers; Akroma, Angel of Wrath
9 21 0% 4.76% 4.76% 0% Bringers; Blazing Archon; Kuro, Pitlord; Crimson Hellkite
10 8 0% 0% 0% 0% Krosan Cloudscraper; Deep-Sea Kraken
11 3 0% 0% 0% 0% Hypnox; Darksteel Colossus
12 1 0% 0% 0% 0% Iname as One
13 0 - - - -
14 0 - - - -
15 1 0% 0% 0% 0% Autochthon Wurm
16 1 0% 0% 0% 0% Draco

We can learn from this chart that making a five-drop is risky, as the chance of getting a huge resource loss or instant loss is not inconsequential. There is a reasonable chance of getting a one- or two-mana creature that boost your mana or hand count, which support samdsherman's strategy. Turn four is the time where you will miss out an a creature that lives most often.

Josh also told me the following:

Benthic Behemoth
"I personally use the aggro approach, whenever it works. You would think that holding land a turn or two to get bigger creatures gives you a distinct advantage. Surprisingly, they often don't get to that higher level. Hard and fast wins often. As far as deck construction, you definitely want to have all five colors present. Each color has killer activated abilities, and if you are caught with your pants down, your bomb becomes a dud. There are a few dangers with domain, though. First, is Sundering Titan. This 8-drop, when it comes into and leaves play, requires you to destroy a land of each basic type. If you're caught with a domain base, you're taking -5 land come resolution. Have to be careful.

"Next is landwalk. Generally, the most consistent (and dangerous) landwalk is islandwalk, found in the 8-drop Benthic Behemoth, a 7/6. However, forestwalk shows up at 8 as well, in Chorus of the Conclave. Though it's only a 3/8, that's 3 damage in a high-toughness critter. Swampwalk also shows up a decent bit, at lower costs. Red is easily a very vital and powerful color. Some of the greatest removal comes in red, in the forms of Ashen Firebeast (CMC 8), Vampiric Dragon (CMC 8), and Crimson Hellkite (CMC 9). Black can also play a key role, in mass-removal guys such as Sanguine Praetor (CMC 8), and Kuro, Pitlord (CMC 9). Blue is nothing to sneeze at, either. Blue boasts very potent abilities, such as the game-stopping Azorius Guildmage (CMC 2), Sunscape and Nightscape Master (CMC 4), and Temporal Adept (CMC 3). Blue also has a powerful evader in Ethereal Usher (CMC 6) and arguably one of the most powerful control elements in the format: Memnarch (CMC 7). My personal deck configuration, which balances the dangers of landwalk with the need to use activated abilities, is thus: 15 Mountains, 14 Swamp, 11 Island, 10 Forest, 10 Plains."

Build a League Sealed Deck along with Online Tech

League play is a form of Sealed Deck, which runs over a period of weeks instead of hours. You begin the league with one tournament pack and two boosters to build your deck. A typical league runs four weeks, although the special release leagues only last for one week. In a typical league, you purchase an additional booster to add to your league deck each week beyond the first. As a result, your Sealed deck will get better and better as the weeks progress. Each week, participants can play up to five matches that count towards their league rating (not towards your Magic Online Limited ratings). At the end of the league, players are awarded prizes based on their league rating. You can play more than five matches each week, but they only count towards your tiebreaker points.

Leagues are a good place to start if you want to get used to competitive Magic play in a more casual environment. It is not expensive to join; for the cost of a tournament pack and some boosters you get as many games as you can find the time and opponents for, weeks of fun, and tons of practice with various evolving sealed deck builds. And don't forget, you are building your collection in the meantime. Furthermore, leagues are perfect if you have a tight schedule. You can spread your matches over the week as you please, playing one match a day if you'd want, although I advise playing on the day when the new packs are added. That way you can avoid sharks with very good decks that typically camp in the room for tiebreaker points later in the week.

To join a league, click Leagues in the Main Room. In the first part of the Leagues room is a list of leagues that are running. Look over the list to find one you want to join (choose one that is in its first week), select it, then click "Go To" to enter the room for that league. In that league's room, click Join. You'll be taken to the Deck Builder screen to put together your league deck, and off you go. Once your deck is done, you can click "Play" in the league's room and set up a game. For frequently asked questions on leagues, go here to read more.

Almost everyone on Magic Online is playing Time Spiral Sealed Deck release events this week, and I signed up for a league as well. Today I will present my Sealed Deck pool and next week I will return with my thoughts, final build, and results. In the meantime, you are invited to take a look yourself and to make the best possible deck out of it. If you're up for this Sealed Deck exercise, then post your build in the forums, and compare your build with mine next week!

Time Spiral League Sealed Deck Pool

Download Arena Decklist

Latest Feature Articles


July 21, 2022

Lost Legends by, Blake Rasmussen

A long time ago—1994 to be exact—in a warehouse just far enough away, Legends were . . . lost. Case after case of the beloved Legends set sat on shelves waiting to be rediscovered, waitin...

Learn More


June 24, 2022

Double Masters 2022 Release Notes by, Jess Dunks

Compiled by Jess Dunks Document last modified April 4, 2022 PDF Download Links:English | 中国话,汉语;中文 | Français | Deutsch | 日本語 The Release Notes include information concerning the relea...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All