Conquering the Clock on MTGO, and More Pro Tour Tales

Jeroen returns with another bevy of reader-posed questions. Today he ponders the vagaries of Magic Online, revealing some handy hints for those who have trouble managing their play clock. He gives his opinion on the Standard metagame for the approaching Nationals tournaments, and shares his views on the much-maligned MTGO Shuffler. All this, plus the usual fun facts from behind the Pro Tour scenes!

Hey all, and welcome to the latest edition of my column. I am happy to say that I really enjoy writing these things, and despite a lot of nay-saying when I started, I am also very happy we are still going strong. Each time it looks like interest is going down, a new surge of questions seems to fill my mailbox, and I’ll have plenty of stuff to talk about again.

This past weekend I visited the local pre-release, getting my first view at the set that doesn’t belong, yet will be around for forever. I wasn’t too happy with what I saw, but of course that is food for another article. Keep your eyes open next week, as we will be running a bunch of set reviews, and I myself will be writing a series in a slightly different format as last time. And of course I’ll still write my weekly column.

Enough of next week’s content… on we go with this week’s fare:

The first question came from Jon Farmer, sent to me at [email protected]:


I play MTGO quite a bit and am reasonably successful. My biggest opponent is time. I am just too slow. What can you suggest?

Particular issues:

Stops. What do you set? do you change stuff within or between games?
How do you play when you have instants such as counters or damage prevention in hand, which you need to have available at all times.

It’s not decision speed that is my problem. I have most stops set to on, and I can’t help but think there is a more time-efficient way to play the software facilities.

Hey John, glad to see you enjoy reading my articles, but I would like to refer back to the article that was posted on 22-06:

Pro Tour regular and famous StarCityGames.com writer J. Evan Dean sent me this:

How do you pronounce your name properly? I have heard four or five different ways.

I’m asked this question a lot… I guess that’s what you get for having a full-blown Dutch name that is not known anywhere else in the world. My name is pronounced Yuh-Roon Ruh-me. Not that hard, and pretty doable, except most people don’t know it yet.

So I do appreciate the effort, but sorry sir, you had it all wrong…

Ah yes, you also had some questions:

The stops I have on are, in my opinion, all the stops you need in a regular game of Magic on MTGO; sure, sometimes you might want to do something in a step you normally don’t use, like your opponent’s upkeep (which you actually almost never ever use, trust me), but it’s easy enough to change this during the game.

I have stops set as follows:

My Turn
Main (Precombat)
Declare Attackers
Declare Blockers
Main (Postcombat)

Opponent’s Turn
Beginning of Combat
Declare Attackers
Declare Blockers
End of Turn

A lot of people seem to have difficulty managing the interface and finishing games on time, and to be honest, I wish I could help you any further with this. I never have any real problems, and I never have trouble finishing a match on time. I usually have at least 5-6 minutes more on my clock than my opponent.

When I have instants, I will play the exact same way than when I do not. There really isn’t much to say except maybe this little tip. The function keys on your computer make it easier to click “okay.” F2 is a click on okay, for example, and there are many others. I recommend looking them up in the Help File on MTGO. Here’s a copy/paste for completeness sake:

Pressing the F2 key is the same as clicking OKAY to yield priority to the next player.

Pressing the F4 key instead of yielding priority for a turn or step (by pressing OKAY) tells MTGO that you’re done playing spells and abilities for that turn. [Be careful with this one! I’ve skipped my entire turn a few times with this hideous misclick. — Craig.]

Pressing F5 will briefly flip over any face-down cards you have in play. This is only to view the cards so you can see the whole card. It’s not the same as playing the morph cost on the cards.

Pressing the ALT + U key combination will undo playing a mana ability. As long as you haven’t played a spell or ability, you can keep pressing ALT + U to untap all permanents you just tapped for mana and empty your mana pool completely.

Next up, a question by Julian Cheng:

With Nationals just around the corner, I’ve been trying to find the best deck to play, and in order to do that all I’ve been able to do is to look at the results which Blisterguy posts and take a guess at what I should play. So I have these three questions…

1. How do you choose a deck for the next big event?
2. How do you predict how much, and in what way, the metagame will shift by the time the event starts?
3. How much does an identical format differ in metagame from Regionals to Nationals to Pro Tours?

I usually play the top decks that are around, either in testing or in the format (like on MTGO, as in your example), and then I either choose the deck that simply wins the most, or if that isn’t really an option, the deck that I like best. In other situations, where neither of those really work for me, I choose to play the deck that my teammates play. If I can’t find the right deck to play, I usually trust their results and insights.

This is a matter of experience, and the more you play the more you get the hang of it. I know that the metagame at Dutch Nationals is always very diverse, and dependant on what the latest Internet craze is about. The Pro Tour metagame is always full of control and combo, with little beatdown, and this is what I think the US Nationals metagame will be like. An amalgamation of what’s popular on MTGO, but a little heavy on the control side.

Like I said, at the PT people tend to like control decks. At the Regional level, people tend to play more forgiving beatdown decks more. Nationals is a cross of the two, with Pros playing against people that qualified through Regionals. Also keep in mind that, at Nationals, people always like to play the same kind of deck they played to get there, so be sure to also check out the Regional-winning decklists.

Charles Jackson asked me the next one:

What is your personal opinion about the MTGO shuffler? I’ve heard and read many posts for and against it, and personally I think there is something wrong with it (and no, I’m not just a noob complaining). But I would like to get a pro’s opinion.

Avatar of Screw

Charles, let me just try and end this discussion as quickly as possible: the MTGO shuffler is completely random. There is nothing wrong with it; it just randomizes your decks perfectly. The reason people tend to think it’s not working is because people are not used to having their decks sufficiently randomized, as this is near impossible to do while manually shuffling. This means that in real life your draws will even out a bit more, since one way or another, your deck is slightly sorted, and your draws will look a little similar. On MTGO you will get a bigger variance, since… well, it’s more random.

My favourite quote about Magic Online’s shuffler is still by local level 3 Judge Richard Drijvers: “Man, I don’t know about that shuffler… it’s sooooo random.”

Sy Johnston sent me a whole bunch of questions, and I’ll try and cover as many as I can:

At what point in your Magic career did you realize you were good at the game? What set the triggers off? What do you feel was your greatest asset to get there?

I never felt I was really good at the game up until the first time I made back-to-back Top 32 results at a Pro Tour, and then followed that up with a Pro Tour Top 8. Winning PTQs was never something I did very often, and any idiot can get lucky and post one or two results, but doing it consistently made me feel like I was actually capable and doing something right.

My biggest asset as a player has always been that I never see myself as someone that knows he is right, and continually doubt myself. This means that I will be open to new things. I keep learning new things when I play, and thus I improve. I know my technical play is very sloppy, and that mostly I depend on my instinct to win me games… and knowing is half the battle (Yooooooo Joe!).

The War Against [card name=

To sum it up, I think my biggest asset is my self-awareness. I see a lot of new kids coming on the scene thinking they already know everything they need to know. They think they are awesome, but fail to do well because they refuse to learn. That’s when you see these kids will never get good enough at the game.

Where were some of the most memorable places you’ve visited to play Magic? Can you describe them?

To be honest, to me no place actually stood out as the most memorable. I have been to Australia, Japan, everywhere in the States, and even Russia, and the fact that I have been to all these places – and the experiences these places provided – is what makes playing Magic as a Pro so awesome. Hawaii, of course, was one of the best experiences of my life, as living in a beach-house for a month with some of your good friends is an experience few can only imagine.

What were some of the most embarrassing moments you’ve witnessed in a game of Magic?

The most embarrassing moments I have ever witnessed were both executed by the same person: the Wise One himself, Gary Wise. Most of you already know this particular story…

Gary was in a longwinded game, but the turn before he would die saw him topdeck a Shock. This would keep him alive for another turn. Of course, his opponent was at two life himself… Gary could’ve killed him by sending it to the dome, but that’s not how the Wise One rolls. He Shocked a creature, and died a turn later.

The other play is less known, and happened during a match in the Chicago Masters series…

Gary was playing a Beast deck, and had his opponent close to locked. His board included a Worship, three Ravenous Baloths, and 2 more Beasts, while his life total stood at a Worship-protected “one.” His opponent had no cards in hand. He was playing an aggressive deck, and had very few outs.

During one of his turns, Gary drew a Windswept Heath… he played it, sacrificed it to fetch a land, and killed himself. He lost the unloseable game.

The man’s repertoire is still very impressive, and I love him to death, but that is what you could definitely file under “embarrassing.”

What are some of the more ‘wild’ things that go on in a hotel room while on the Pro Tour? The night before the event? The night after the event?

I don’t really know what kind of idea you have of us during these events, but let me tell you, most of the time, the wildest things that do go on are… Drafts. Most of us are just regular guys, guys that enjoy these events so much because they allow us to play Magic with the friends we don’t normally see.

Back home I don’t get to do the same kind of stuff, like Team Draft with my buddies – or even simply go out drinking with them – so I try and make the most of it when I can.

The night before the event it is usually a flurry of last minute preparation and practice, and the night after it’s all Team Drafts until we go out… but that’s a whole different story.

Oh, and of course it’s a running gag to trashcan Julien Nuijten, or to squash Frank Karsten between the bed and the wall, but that can’t be what you are looking for…

What were some of the more crucial things that you’ve had to do without at a Magic tournament?

Female lovin’, man! These things are a sausage fest, and there really ain’t a lot of that going on. Richie Hoaen, though, has some other things he missed. At Pro Tour Prague, Neil Reeves popped the button on the one pair of pants he brought with him… and then used his southern style sweet-talking to con Rich out of his belt! Rich is just not very smart compared to Neil, so he had no shot. This meant that Rich was walking around the entire weekend holding up his pants, as he had lost a lot of weight the months prior to the event. Let me tell you, walking through a packed Prague nightclub after the Pro Tour and seeing Richie’s pants drop to his ankles is something I will never forget.

Of course, Rich then got his belt back, and Neil had to buy Josh Ravitz belt for $100. Josh could not be sweet-talked.

Describe the wackiest things you’ve had to do to entertain yourself while traveling or waiting for a Magic tournament.

When we were flying to Hawaii, we had a stopover at Seattle airport, where we met a Wizards of the Coast representative (Greg), to take care of some business. Let me tell you, the look on his face when he walked up to us and saw both Sam Gomersall and Jelger Weigersma playing Shandalar on their laptops was priceless. Other then that, between iPods, In-flight movies, and Mike Flores Deckade, there is always something to entertain.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll do the last article on your questions this month, as I’ll be going on vacation. Keep those questions coming though, as I will be ready to start answering those the minute I get back.

[email protected]