It's the time of year to talk about the things we're thankful for. What am I thankful for? Ice cream. Also, the duel scene!
Last month, I went into detail about context menu design. Today I'm going to keep exploring the duel scene, with more of an eye towards tips and tricks. There's a lot going on in this scene, and there are features that even our most enfranchised players might not be aware of. Let's start at the beginning…
There are quite a few useful hotkeys in the duel scene. They are great for speeding up game play and saving time on your clock. Previously, these hotkeys were a kind of tribal knowledge passed down between players. There was no in-client source for what hotkeys existed and what they did, and you certainly couldn't change them.
The Wide Beta Client is trying to change that. You can see a list of the hotkeys and their actions by going to Account > Input Settings page.
Hovering over a hotkey creates an "unbind" button that you can use to re-bind a hotkey to your preferred buttons. You can also use combinations of buttons, such as Alt+Y, Ctrl+Z, or Shift+1.
Let's walk through some of the key bindings and what they do.
The most commonly used hotkey is the shortcut for clicking "ok" in the prompt box, which is F2 by default.
The player is sometimes prompted with a "yes/no" choice. For example, if you hit your opponent with a creature while you have a Bident of Thassa, the prompt box will ask you if you want to use the ability.
You can either click on the buttons, or use the Yes and No hotkeys. The default for "Yes" is Alt+Y, and the default for "No" is Alt+N. We recently removed the ability for the "Ok" shortcut (F2) to also activate a "Yes" response, since that was leading to accidental "Yes" clicks.
Lastly, the Esc key will click any cancel button in the prompt box, such as when you're in the middle of paying for the cost of a spell.
There are a few different ways to zoom in the Wide Beta Client. I personally use the middle mouse button—just hold it while hovering over a card with your mouse. If you don't have a middle mouse button, you can hold both the right and left mouse buttons simultaneously. For laptop users, it can be useful to have a key binding for zooming. The default for zooming is the Z key.
Many years ago, I was playing in a regional tournament in Seattle to qualify for US Nationals. I didn't make the Top 8, but I stuck around to watch a friend play. It was a fairly friendly match with some back-and-forth banter. Later in the game, one player taps his lands as he's about to cast a spell, then says "Alt-U" and untaps his lands. His opponent thought he heard "all you" and started to take his turn. The judges worked out the miscommunication, the match continued, and "Alt-U" became a bit of a joke in the area.
Alt+U is the original undo command in the current client, which will undo the last mana ability that was used. Well, not ALL mana abilities; you can't get your Satyr Hedonist back.
In the Wide Beta Client, Ctrl+Z is the default undo command, which is a more intuitive choice. Undo is a very powerful command, so it's a good one to have in your repertoire.
This is my favorite new hotkey in the Wide Beta Client. While holding M, clicking on a mana source will automatically use the top ability in the list. For example, take Opaline Unicorn:
Normally when you click the Opaline Unicorn, you'll get a context menu with all the options. However, if you click on the Opaline Unicorn while holding the M key, it will automatically add white mana to your mana pool. This is especially useful when you don't care about the color of mana you need, like when you're paying for the colorless cost of a spell.
The M key can really speed up Constructed play when you've got a lot of dual lands in your deck. When casting a spell, I typically pay for the colored costs first by using the context menus of my dual lands, then hold M and tap lands for the colorless costs. Just be careful with your lands like Cavern of Souls, when you care about exactly which mana ability is used.
In the future, we could make this more integrated into the normal mana-payment flow. For example, it could be that Magic Online treats it like you're always in the holding-M state while paying for colorless costs. Similarly, maybe this feature finds the "best fit" mana to use if the land can add the color of mana to your pool that matches the color of mana you need. This gets a little tricky with lands like Abandoned Outpost, as you might accidentally end up sacrificing them, but it's worth going down that design path to see what we find. As usual, this isn't a promise of things to come, just a look into the design space we're exploring.
You can essentially "pre-pass" on your priority by setting up auto yields. It's a great way to save seconds on your clock every turn, which can really add up.
The most commonly used auto-yield is "Pass until End-of-Turn," which is F6 by default. This will automatically pass all priority until the turn ends. (You're still given the option of attacking or blocking.) This also makes it one of the most dangerous auto-yields, as it can skip your whole turn if you're not careful. Typically I push F6 around my opponent's upkeep when I know I'm not going to do anything that turn.
A valuable auto-yield that I don't see a lot of people using is called "Disable Bluffing." It defaults to F8. While most of our auto-yields only last for the turn, F8 essentially flips a switch to the "on" position for the rest of the game. After pressing F8, the game will auto-pass for you whenever you have no legal actions. Even untapped lands count as a legal action, so it really only applies when you're tapped out. However, in a format like Cube Draft, this could signal to your opponent when you have something like a Slaughter Pact in your hand. Personally, I click F8 at the beginning of every game now. I could see this being an "always on" check box in the settings one day, instead of something I have to activate once per game.
Sometimes you want to pass priority for the rest of the turn, unless your opponent does something. There's a key for this! "Pass until You Can Respond," which is F4 by default. It acts like an F6, until your opponent takes an action, and, like F6, it still gives you a chance to attack and block. So let's say you've got a Sentry of the Underworld, you can F4 to save time, but still get a chance to respond to your opponent's Hero's Demise. (There appears to be a small bug with F4 right now. It only works if you press it while a prompt box is currently asking you to press "OK.")
"Remove All Auto-Yields," defaulted to F3, allows you to remove an auto-yield that you've turned on. This resets any F4, F6, or F8 keys you pressed. This also clears any auto-yields you set up for abilities. It's a good safety button to be aware of.
Lastly, I want to mention that these auto-yields are all happening in the background, and many of them can only be activated with the hotkeys. While they're more visible in the Wide Beta Client than they are in the current client, they could be more apparent and intuitive. There's no way to tell if you've hit F6, or if F8 is active, for example. I could see a day where these are given a visual representation in the duel scene, so that you can activate and deactivate them using mouse clicks. Again, just some forward-thinking design.
Some decks can be really trigger-heavy, and it can be annoying to have to keep adding the same triggers onto the stack. The "Stack Abilities Automatically" hotkey (F7 by default) will automatically put abilities onto the stack if multiples of the same ability trigger at the same time (for example, if you activate Elspeth, Sun's Champion's +1 ability with a Purphoros, God of the Forge in play). It works like the F8 key, flipping the switch for the rest of the game. This might end up as a checkbox setting one day. In the meantime, it's something that's useful to hit at the beginning of games when you're playing a trigger-heavy deck.
The "Look at Face-down Cards" hotkey, F5 by default, is not useful in all formats. While holding this key, any face-down cards on the battlefield that you control, like a morph creature, will be temporarily revealed. You can still zoom in on any face-down card you control to see what's on the other side, but the F5 key is a good way to see everything at a glance. It's still not going to let you see your opponent's morphs, though!
Generally, Magic Online automatically passes priority after you cast a spell or activate an ability. However, sometimes it's necessary for you to hold priority, like if you're trying to Reverberate your own spell. Holding the Ctrl key while casting a spell or activating an ability will hold priority, allowing you to cast or activate other abilities.
This key binding isn't represented on the Input Settings page, so for now it's still in the "tribal knowledge" of Magic Online. Hopefully it will find its way to the key bindings page one day.
It looks like I had more to say about the duel scene than I thought! We're breaking this article into two parts, so you can catch part 2 later this week.
As always, I look forward to your feedback via email, the forums, and Twitter. Thanks for reading!