The Sukenik Special – Magic Online And You

Jonathan Sukenik talked about going infinite on Magic Online last week, but he wants to clarify some misconceptions about Magic Online and how it can help/hurt your game play.

The move to virtual cards is in full force. However, there is a good side and bad side to everything, and Magic Online is no different. In last week’s article, I talked about how I went infinite on Magic Online after twenty bucks and borrowing a deck. This, along with readers at home wanting me to go “infinite from scratch,” has led me to think that people may have preconceived or incorrect notions about Magic Online. Today, I will try to set things straight by discussing the pros and cons to playing Magic Online.

Let’s begin with the obvious stuff. Magic Online gives anyone with a computer and internet the power to play Magic anytime, anywhere. Might I suggest playing Pro Tour Qualifiers in your Linear Algebra class? No one? Just me? All joking aside, playing a lot of Magic must be good. Practice makes perfect, right? Wrong!

Playing Magic a lot is not the key to getting better. If it were, then people with the most Planeswalker Points would just win every Pro Tour, and that is not the case. In fact, playing a lot of Magic can make you worse. Let that sink in a little, and I will even repeat it for you. Playing a lot of Magic can make you worse. The simple reason is because bad habits will become reinforced.

Everyone has bad habits, even yours truly! While I don’t want to list off all of my bad habits so that everyone can just read me like a book, I will tell you some that you may do yourself. I have a habit of shuffling the card that I’m about to play to the front of my hand. This may seem like nothing when I play a creature, land, or sorcery. However, it is relevant when I play blue decks. It becomes obvious when I have a counter. I may as well play with it revealed, drop it on the table, or blow on the back of it and stick it on my forehead (the last one is really fun for those who haven’t tried it!). I solved this problem by randomly shuffling my hand while looking at my opponent instead of my cards. However, Magic Online both helped and hurt this blatant tell.

First, how did Magic Online help? There is no reason to shuffle the cards in your hand on Magic Online. You are just clicking after all, and there are no tells to give. I’m just staring at a screen. You can never be punished for a habit that you don’t do online. This is where Magic Online hurt me. When I would play paper Magic, I would just do whatever I normally do. No one would be there to point out my bad habits because I didn’t play enough paper Magic anymore. I would only play during Pro Tour Qualifiers, Grand Prix, etc.

There are a lot of little nuances that people do that will never get better by playing on Magic Online. Here is a quick list:

Shuffling: When some people shuffle, they show their opponent the bottom cards of their deck. Seeing a Goblin Guide can change how someone will mulligan. Having someone board in Condemn in the Caw-Blade mirror makes you play Gideon Jura differently. Don’t give your opponent free information.

Sideboarding: Smokecreen Sideboarding is something that is very easy to do and can prevent you from giving away information. On Magic Online, you are able to sideboard and have no idea what your opponent is doing. They could be sideboarding two cards or thirteen cards. I know I would play differently if my opponent brought in a lot or a few cards. However, in paper Magic, a lot of people show the opponent how many cards they are siding in. Instead, you can shuffle in your whole sideboard, and then take out fifteen cards. This prevents your opponent from knowing what’s going on.

Playing: A lot of people think of plays while casting a card. For instance, they will tap two mana, move to drop a card, untap, and then pass the turn. Either they are bluffing, or they have a two-drop and Mana Leak in their hand. On Magic Online, having everything laid out in front of you helps prevent this. Also, you are able to drag cards and hold the okay button but not pass priority without your opponent seeing. In paper Magic, one has to make sure he/she thinks out all of his/her plays before committing.

So, how do we get better at Magic via Magic Online? The key is having people help you out. I hope that statement sounds vague because it should! Friends can help out in many different ways. Magic Online has a feature that allows you to watch matches from the past twelve or so hours in Daily and Premier Events. In order to get a better grasp on the format, one does not necessarily need to grind a dozen matches. They can simply watch a dozen matches and see how those played out. What were the key cards? How long did he have that in his hand? He had that in his sideboard? I’ve had times where Brandon “sandydogmtg” Burton, Corey Mann, or Larry “Swasey Shuffle” Swasey have messaged me, asking me what I would have done in their position and give me a list of what was in their hand. My dad has always taught me that asking questions is a sign of strength, not weakness. That certainly applies here.

You can have people help you out in real life, too. This past weekend, I had my super-special-awesome college buddy Hepburn Best come over to my apartment to play Magic Online with me. And by play, I mean I would be playing on my account while he would ask questions, having me justify myself. Having someone do this is very helpful to the both of you. From Hepburn’s point of view, he got to hang out with one of the most awesome people he knows and learn some Magic tips. From my point of view, I couldn’t just click away without thinking anymore. I had to make sure every play had justification behind it. On Magic Online, it is much easier to go on autopilot than in paper Magic. Hanging out with Hepburn helped to prevent this.

There is another point I would like to make about playing Magic with someone next to you. Sometimes, they will ask questions that lead to decks evolving or a change in how you view a matchup. For example, I have been playing my Caw-Blade Blade Breaker deck on Magic Online for about two weeks. I had Timely Reinforcements in the sideboard because everyone plays that in their sideboard. Hepburn asked me why I didn’t just run Kor Firewalker. I told him that I wanted to be prepared for Vampires. He quickly asserted that in six to eight events I hadn’t played against a single Vampires deck.

My response? “You’re right; there is no reason to run Timely Reinforcements over Kor Firewalker on Magic Online.” He was right, and there was nothing to do but make this change to my sideboard. I proceeded to auto-win against every Red Deck Wins opponent along with having a creature that goes better with my Torpor Orbs than Squadron Hawk. Friends for the win!!!

Let’s go in a completely different direction. Virtual cards vs. paper cards. The issue with virtual cards is that you won’t be able to use them in Grand Prix and StarCityGames.com Opens. You can’t trade them as effectively. Your foils won’t look as cool or real. Magic Online involves you spending time and money on graphics and computer memory space. In that case, what is the advantage to virtual cards?

Personally, I like online foils better. I refuse to play with foils in real life because they bend. I think the foils look cooler as a whole online. I wouldn’t mind grabbing foil basic lands for a few tickets for my decks. You also don’t have to worry about the quality of virtual cards. They never get “shuffled” or “played.” When the time is right, you can always redeem full sets of Magic cards. However, you can’t put paper Magic cards online.

For years, I would trade and build up my paper Magic card collection. However, now, I have primarily Magic Online cards. Why the change? My biggest reason was the sole fact that my virtual cards would get a lot more use than paper Magic cards. Over the past year, I have spent about five to six hours on Magic Online a day. (For those of you skeptics out there, I would play about ten to fifteen hours during the school year last year but didn’t play over the summer that much.) How often do I use my paper cards? I’d probably use them only twice a month. The move to virtual cards was an easy choice from this point of view.

Magic Online will affect your game play in one way or another. For those who need help with the technical aspect of the game, Magic Online is perfect for you. There is no human element, no other matches to be distracted by, and no judges to ask for help.

On the topic of judges, while I really like every judge I know in person and appreciate the work they do, Magic Online allows there to be no fuss or potential cheating involved. Whatever happens happens. Sometimes, having a judge tell you to play faster can put additional unneeded stress on a match. Magic Online has the chess clock to take care of that for you.

Back to game play, being able to watch replays can help you see things you never thought of before. While the “double Tectonic Edge while your opponent is at four lands trick” is great once you become aware of it, not everyone has time to read articles. Watching replays can help you get these tricks into your repertoire.

However, Magic Online will tend to “baby” you with triggers. The biggest one I’ve noticed is the Consecrated Sphinx trigger. Sometimes, it is just hard to remember in real life. When playing online, you can just F6 through your turn, and then it will auto stop for you to Consecrated Sphinx trigger. A lot of people tend to F6 in real life but miss the fact that Sphinx is a may trigger. Little things like this can in turn make you worse at Magic by playing too much online.

I hope all of this helped you understand that Magic Online is both better and worse than you probably think. One last thing I would like to say is that not everyone can go infinite on Magic. Some people will fail; some will succeed. There is never a guarantee on how people do on Magic Online, just like real-life Magic tournaments. I have been monitoring how I have been doing on Magic Online, and I feel like I am in a rut. But it happens!!! Sure, I lost 51 tickets last week and only profited thirteen this week. Ups and downs occur in life, and Magic is no different.

Over the past week, I have had about ten to fifteen people message me on Magic Online, complimenting me on my articles and saying that last week’s article inspired them to play online again. I appreciate all the support and am always up for a chat. As a heads up, if you try to add me on Facebook and I don’t know you, I won’t accept. However, I do like to talk on Magic Online. Watchwolf92 is a friendly guy ūüėÄ


Now, what could the bonus possibly be? I wish it was a bonus for writing these articles, but it is a bonus for you guys!! Just as good in my opinion. I’m going to give you a list of my Caw-Blade Blade Breaker, which I will list as a different name in honor of Hepburn Best’s innovation on the deck.

This list is designed to have a favorable matchup against Caw-Blade, Red Deck Wins, and Splinter Twin. The not as good matchups are Valakut and any Birthing Pod deck. As far as I can tell, these are the only decks in the format.

The major eyebrow raising thing when looking at this decklist is that I am running three Sword of War and Peace. Before you ask, no, it is not too many. I have always felt like Sword of War and Peace was the best Sword in its ability to end the game so quickly. The reason why Sword of Feast and Famine is considered to be a better one is because people will play into it (whereas a more knowledgeable player will be able to make your Sword of Feast and Famine a lot worse) and because people build their deck differently to make Sword of Feast and Famine better.

Instead, I tried to make a list that complements the power Sword of War and Peace more. This can be seen in Mental Misstep (got to counter those Nature’s Claims when I tap out somehow!) and Mirran Crusader. Mirran Crusader wins in the Blade Splicer vs. Mirran Crusader battle because he complements Sword of War and Peace better. If you ever connect with Mirran Crusader wielding a Sword of War and Peace, it’s probably game over.

Also, Sword of War and Peace on an Inkmoth Nexus allows you to threaten both poison and damage lethal at the same time.

Valakut and Birthing Pod are bad matchups because you do not have access to Spell Pierce or Day of Judgment. Personally, I’m willing to make these sacrifices to have a good matchup everywhere else. Even though the current Standard format is over, I’ll keep working on Best-Blade because Innistrad will not hit Magic Online for quite some time now. Gotta get out of this rut!

Thanks for reading,

Jonathan “Watchwolf92” Sukenik√ā¬†