There are niceties that we take for granted when we play paper Magic. Shortcuts for infinite loops, triggers that we all understand and can skip by when they’re not relevant. We can pass by these things with a nod and when necessary scoop up our cards and shuffle up for another game.
Magic: The Gathering Online, however, affords us no niceties in this regard. Although it’s fantastic for finding a game on demand from the comfort of your own home, the rules enforcement necessary to make the game work sometimes feels very alien to those familiar with the paper experience. There’s a few cards that cause zero issues (well, maybe one in today’s article causes issues, but we’ll get to that) in paper playgroups that create frustration, slow games down, and sometimes crash the entire game if given the opportunity, that you should understand before you put them in your deck, because trust me, they’ll even be frustrating for you.
Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble
Now I alluded to this in my last article, but it bears repeating due to how ubiquitous this card is in EDH strategies that happen to contain Black mana. Blood Artist is universally a good card. It keeps your life total topped up and punishes your opponents for interacting with the board, which they will likely have to do at some point. Occasionally, it will also add “Destroy target player” to your favorite board wipe’s text box, and it’ll feel really, really good.
The reason this card is so frustrating to play on Magic Online, and you’ll notice a trend throughout this article, is the amount of triggers it generates. You can set up auto-yields, which will pass priority automatically on a trigger from a specific permanent, which if you’re playing or playing against Blood Artist you absolutely should do, but more importantly, Blood Artist’s controller will have to select a target for each trigger. This is technically how the card works, and Magic Online is just doing its job, but it’s a lot of clicks and if you’re like me, you’ll quickly find yourself cutting it from lists.
Don’t worry though! There are alternatives that allow for much smoother gameplay and are generally very strong in the decks that want this kind of effect. The newer templating on things like Zulaport Cutthroat, Bastion of Remembrance and Cruel Celebrant that read when your creatures die and drain all of your opponents are much easier to just auto-yield to and will make your games run much smoother. I recommend running these over Blood Artist to save yourself from wearing out your mouse by clicking to assign targets.
Vorinclex, War’s Toll, Mana Barbs, etc.
These cards all commit the crime of creating a trigger whenever a land is tapped for mana (well, Vorinclex commits all kinds of crimes but that’s beside the point). When you’re playing paper Magic, it’s very easy to tap 5, claim that you’re taking 5 damage from Mana Barbs and be on your merry way casting your spells.
Magic Online thinks a little differently. The rules engine wants to create a separate instance of the trigger and place it on the stack for each land that you tap. You can tap lands in response to the triggers, but it slows the whole game down and requires extra inputs to perform basic functions within the game. Most of the time I don’t even think of Vorinclex’s ability as a trigger, but sure enough it is, and I guarantee you it’s maddening.
WARNING: NEVER AUTO-YIELD TO WAR’S TOLL. Auto-yields are a pretty decent solution to Mana Barbs and Vorinclex provided everyone auto-yields, but NEVER AUTO-YIELD TO WAR’S TOLL. This will cause all your lands to become tapped when you tap one of them and there’s no going back after the trigger resolves. This has been a public service announcement.
Seriously though, nothing fun can come from these cards in your Magic Online game. Though if you’re a stax player that would run a Vorinclex, I doubt that matters.
Every card with the Graft keyword
An oft forgotten point about the keyword Graft is that you have the option to move a +1/+1 counter from the creature (or in one case, the land Llanowar Reborn) to another creature that has just entered the battlefield. The struggle is this doesn’t just check your creatures, it checks everyone’s creatures, and does not check to see if the Graft creature has any +1/+1 counters available to give.
The issue here becomes immediately evident when you play with or against it. Every creature entering the battlefield creates a trigger that goes on the stack that the controller of the Graft creature has to answer Yes or No to. The controller likely cannot answer “always yes” or “always no” on their auto-yield because they’re looking for the right time to move the counters. It’s like a Soul Sister that the controller always has to interact with.
Thankfully the list of cards with Graft on them is pretty short, but if you play cards like Helium Squirter or Novijen Sages in your Marchesa, the Black Rose deck, you should be prepared to pay attention to your game at all times.
If you happen to play Magic Online and have found any cards to be particularly frustrating to play or play against for purely mechanical reasons please feel free to let me know! I would love to avoid putting those in my decks, and spreading the word helps us all have a smoother gameplay experience.
Until next time,