The Weekly Guild Build: How MODO Made Me A Jerk

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StarCityGames.com!I watched him flail his way through the traditional route of newbie mistakes; burning on excess mana because he didn’t know about the Alt-U “Undo” trick, zipping past phases he should have had stopped, and hitting the wrong creatures. It was a shame to watch.

But you know what was worse?

The fact that I didn’t help him at all.

I knew my opponent was in trouble when, on turn 6, he tapped four mana and Faith’s Fettered his sole mountain.

He appeared to be at least a fairly accomplished Magic player; he had some darned strong cards in his deck, and his Hour of Reckoning-based build had some nasty synergy to it. Still, he had that new player smell; after his Minister of Impediments shook off its summoning sickness, he whizzed past its first combat phase without tapping a thing (during which I smashed him with a Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi). Then, on the second turn he had his active Minister, he tapped after attackers had been declared, which didn’t help much.

On the third turn, he tapped his own Minister by mistake. Ouch.

I watched him flail his way through the traditional route of newbie mistakes; burning on excess mana because he didn’t know about the Alt-U “Undo” trick, zipping past phases he should have had stopped, and hitting the wrong creatures. It was a shame to watch.

But you know what was worse?

The fact that I didn’t help him at all.

I think it was because he was unfriendly. I typed in “Hello, good luck, and screw Tim Aten!” the way I always do before a match, but got back nothing but stony blankness on my chat window. On MODO, that’s just being surly. I don’t care what you type back – “Hi,” “Good luck yourself,” “Go jump in a lava pit, you stupid n00b” – but in my online world, you should at least type a response before a match.

And then, as his match went on, I kept expecting him to ask for help. I mean, when you misclick so grievously that it costs you four life points, you should at least acknowledge that. “Misclick, obv” or “Oops” would have told me that this whacked-out player was a soul in need of guidance! If he’d followed up his first Ministerial failure with a “What the ?”, I would have taken him by the hand and explained what he needed to do.

Yet he said nothing.

In the absence of any sort of plea for help, I began to rationalize my meanness.

“Well, he should be asking,” I muttered. “Clearly, the fact that he is saying nothing as he screws up every other click in this game indicates that he is too proud to ask for help.” I began to envision my opponent as a shameful tightass, a tower of haughty intellectual pompousness who would not – could not – ask for help from his fellow man, preferring to thrash his chaotic way into the abyss rather than lower himself to ask a plebe like me for help.

Well, screw him, I thought. He can lose the hard way!

I could have said, “Okay, I know what you meant to do,” and held my Guardian back for a turn (since it would have been tapped anyway). Instead, I sent the Guardian in, forcing a very unfair trade, and took the first of what were two very unfair games.

This, I should add, was in a League game – about as casual as it gets in a tournament where prizes are at stake. It wouldn’t have meant much to me to lose, since I wasn’t going to play this until Week Four anyway.

Yet I beat him anyway, in silence, and clicked off.

I regret that now.

I mean, there are other things that might explain his lack of communication – maybe he didn’t speak English. Maybe he didn’t know about the chat window, and hadn’t noticed it. Maybe he was blind, and playing a mean pinball.

In any case, I should have more sympathy because MODO is set up craptastically for an experienced Magic player. The stops are set totally wrong (you sail by before combat without a chance to respond), and the Alt-U trick should really be a button rather than a semi-documented keyboard shortcut, and there are a lot of common effects that should have a “Yes/No” caution flags around them (like “Do you really want to destroy your own guy?”) I hope some of these newbie issues are handled in the much-vaunted MODO 3.0…. But in the meantime, Magic Online is a brutal place for someone who knows how to flip physical cards but doesn’t know the ins and outs of this program.

I’ve been there. So why was I such a jerk?

More importantly, when should you be a jerk?

I was playing in a fairly casual league, for the possibility of points. If I’d been in a draft situation, where I had to win three games or lose fourteen bucks, I would have screwed that guy in a heartbeat. You shouldn’t swim with the big dogs unless you can soar like an eagle, buddy.

But what about a prerelease event? Or a casual game? Magic Online forces you to be a cold, callous person because it so painstakingly enforces the rules – if you target the wrong critter with a Giant Growth, no amount of opponent niceness is going to stop that unfair trade. The math will be done, and your critter will get binned according to the mechanics, no ifs, ands, or “Hey!”s. You simply don’t have control over that much.

But you can suggest someone take a moment to zip over to their options screen if they seem to have their stops wrong, and you can tell him why something he obviously thought would work didn’t (usually due to a misunderstanding of the rules), and sometimes – like I said – you can leave a creature on the sidelines when you have the ability to send it smashing in because you know that if he’d done what he’d intended, that thing would be sitting back anyway.

I do that all the time in real life.

I’m not particularly giving in PTQs, of course – you’re there to win, chummo – but most of the time, I am a much nicer person in real life than I ever am on MODO. In real life, if I’m facing someone who clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing (or, heck, just seems nice) I’ll read his cards for intent. I’ll allow takebacks. I’ll let him go, “Wait, no, I meant to do this” and go back to the previous combat step if it’s not too arduous.

I am, in short, a nice guy.

But MODO makes a man mean.

First of all, you never see a face online, so it’s rare that I actually care about anyone sitting across from me. When someone sits down across from me at a real-life table, I can see his smile or his angry hunch or his nervousness, and I respond to it. But online, everyone’s the same damn table and set of cards, so what do I care? It makes me rather callous.

During the game? Well, as I said, I don’t have a hell of a lot of control over what happens anyway – I can’t allow takebacks – and online Magic is enough of a click-fest anyway without taking the time to type in a bunch of semi-funny comments in the lower screen. You can have fun chatting in real life, but online it makes the game go a lot slower, and it’s not nearly as satisfying as cracking wise and watching your opponent grin. 90% of my games have absolutely no interaction between the starting gun of the “Screw Tim Aten” and “GG.”

The entertainment is the game. Not the experience, mind you – the game.

And finally, in real life I get my best socialization in after the match is over. I’ll often ask for feedback on my strategy (“So should I have attacked all-in on that next-to-last turn?”) or ask him about his decisions (“Why weren’t you attacking all-in when I had next to nothing?”). If he had a weird deck and it’s a casual event, I’ll ask to see it. If he looks like he didn’t know what the heck he was doing, I may even offer tips.

But on MODO, the game is over the moment I click “Concede.” My opponent inevitably vanishes an instant later, and any opportunity to dissect the previous game with a stranger is lost.

It’s like cybersex; you hook up, you get what you need, and you get out. There’s no room for chit-chat!

MODO probably makes my game a lot better, because I’m more focused on it. I’m certainly a cleaner player post-MODO, and since the effects are automated with nice little “Do you want to retrieve your Verdant Eidolon? Yes/No” boxes, it makes me remember them more in real life. It gets me filled in on the rules, stat, or I get my ass handed to me. And to be frank, playing as mercilessly as MODO intends me to makes me a better player, since the fact that there are no takebacks makes me think a lot harder before I enter my next step.

But I think I’m more of a jerk.

So I ask you folks: What category do you put MODO in? Is it simply a tool for testing cards, where the social fun gets chucked to the sidelines when you practice for the next Grand Prix? Is it somewhere you play bloodthirsty draft games, but chat with a few old friends in the few moments before you head off to the next round? Or is it a place that you, somehow, manage to make friends online and have fun, social games?

And does MODO make you more of a jerk?

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy

P.S. – This week’s Home on the Strange brings back an old character, and helps explain why some nerds will tolerate the most annoying people before we launch into our next storyline, “Princess Fluttershine.”