It's been a while since I've seen a discussion about MTGO. I just got a Windows machine for the first time in 15 years, so suddenly MTGO is an option. I downloaded the software but haven't quite committed to the $500 it would take to play Vintage. I feel like I have already spent enough on paper Vintage and the idea of spending money on digital cards is hard to swallow. On the other hand, it might be the best place to play Vintage.

I was hoping people who play on MTGO or have in the past could comment on MTGO for vintage specifically. Are league matches easy to come by? Are league matches like Challenge matches in terms of quality of players and decks. I'm not sure how often I could give a whole Sat. for a Challenge event, though these seem great for playing the best people out there and getting better. Is it still worth $500 just to play in Leagues? Is the interface an insurmountable problem in some way? Any opinions thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


I don't do much on MTGO, but I don't like the interface. I will say there's always a game to be had and you will get more games of magic for your money if you go the online route. Some of the games are extremely competitive. There's also the odd guy playing Oops all spells.dec, or something similiar.
Look into rental services too if you don't want to drop the money on a deck. That was viable when I bought in.

I have on Oath on MTGO i'd part with. 4 forces and the p8 and some blue duals, can't recall if i last played when Oko and Force of Negation were out. But if you decide to buy, i'd sell the deck for like 80% of whatever the cheapest copies are.

Get used to the program before deciding to spend $500 to see if it's irritating.

there are also services to rent mtgo cards/decks, so actually spending $500 upfront isn't necessary

+1 to using a rental service. I think 500 tix rental capacity on cardhoarder is like $15/week, which is sort of expensive but takes about half a year to catch up in price, and also let's you change up decks as much as you want. I have gone back and forth in terms of MTGO. I think ultimately i like the interface better than arena, even though it is a little clunky. It feels like it has all the nuances of "real" magic to me. You will lose games to the interface for the first couple weeks though. It sucks but it is real.

I’m not a fan of MTGO, but I’d say it’s worthwhile if you love Vintage since it’s the most competitive place to play.

Arena, even with its own set of issues, is more fun to me even though it’s not vintage.

last edited by Guest

Thanks everyone for all the great advice. I thought about renting cards at $15/wk, but still over the course of a year I would spend over $600 and have nothing to show for it. Is there an easy way to test the interface? I didn't notice a way to goldfish. I feel like I would have to make a deck with the default commons and uncommons and just play a few pick-up games to see if the interface is more than I can handle.


P - Please keep the great advice coming.


Yeah I think for $10, with a new account they give you some new player tokens to play m21 with other new players. But its possible with Arena, they're moving away from that? If you're very interested in trying it out, you should just make an account and see what kind of tutorial program, if any, they have available.

You know there's also a group of people who play on webcams more regularly now. If that is something you could be interested in instead.

last edited by Guest

@desolutionist said in MTGO 2020:


You know there's also a group of people who play on webcams more regularly now. If that is something you could be interested in instead.

The Facebook group that does live games via web cam is good. There's one for oldschool too. Lots of magic online to be had.

last edited by John Cox

Do they play Vintage? I would definitely try MTGPO if I could play some Vintage on the regular with the cards I have.


MTGO has much higher quality play in both Leagues and Challenges than I've ever found in a local proxy event. It's a side effect of the format being incredibly more accessible. Unfortunately this forum caters primarily to paper players so the above paper bias in the responses is expected.

MTGO is probably the best place to play Magics other best format, Pauper. I think the platform is a bit crappy if you don't play multiple formats.


I agree that MTGO is the most competitive place to play Vintage other than Champs.

But in terms of quality, do you really think MTGO is a quality program? What specifically do you like about it? I like that the cards work the way they're supposed to (for the most part) automatically. Meaning I don't have to interpret the effects of the cards like I would have to on Cockatrice. And the graphics are definitely better than Cockatrice, but at the end of the day its still running on 20-year-old technology and the interface can be irritating to someone unfamiliar with its nuances.

It's interesting that on Cockatrice or a webcam game, you can find opponents who are just interested in playing the game the way it's supposed to be played. However on MTGO, your average opponent will do anything to win, whether that be gaming the chess clock, exploiting a bug, or capitalizing on a misclick. I suppose that’s not unlike some paper events where someone might call a judge in his final hour of defeat to try and shoot some angle. The webcam games are just more friendly.

I also don't think there is any catering going on. Anyone can post whatever they want to.

last edited by Guest


If Magic has a phone app, I’d play it about 1000 times more.

My computer still thinks MTGO is a virus.


The ability to hold large events with rules integrity trumps any gripe I can muster about MTGO's other shortcomings. The fact that events such as GenCon, PAX, and NYSE have opted to use MTGO versus Cockatrice or Zoom is also a huge selling point. Gavin Verhey announced that Eternal Weekend would also be on MTGO. I'm a simple man that plays the games where I can find the most opponents and where prizes are on the line so that my opponents have the incentive to play real strategies.

Gaming the chess clock, exploiting a bug, or capitalizing on misclicks are the digital version of slow play, illegal game states, marked cards, hiding cards off webcam, and many other shortcomings that are found on webcam or Cockatrice. No system is perfect. I enjoy webcam exhibition channels such as 90sMTG and The Legacy Pit, but only as exhibition and not for any tournament series.

I also find the MTGO Vintage community to be the most welcoming and insightful. The Vintage Streaming Community on Discord ( is vibrant and full of helpful innovators. This place is completely dead in comparison and only perks up during preview season.


While Zoom may be an option, I can't see any large Con or Tournament that depends on WotC's good graces using Cockatrice unless they use it without any images, and I can't see any players wanting to use it without images, so you can't really use it as a viable above the counter option. It's pretty much the back room poker option for Magic at this point. The number of publicly viewable and joinable vintage games aren't that many; most are either playing privately with a select group of friends, or they are on private servers to control who gets in.

I think people might be talking over each other a bit here. Here's my take on what's going on in this thread, and I hope I can be helpful to @marcb and anyone else wandering in looking for info

There's no doubt that Magic Online is a flawed program, but it gets the job done, and it's by far the most active spot for Vintage games online, especially if you're not already part of any smaller group of players. You won't find league games as readily as you can find standard matches on Arena, but as someone who played vintage for a decade when paper was your only option, it's night-and-day how accessible and easy it is to find a Vintage game on MTGO.

If you want to play against the best players, with prizes on the line, and you want to do this remotely (surely a bigger concern these days), MTGO is going to give you that opportunity like no other platform can.

I'll follow up on @AeonSovarius 's desire to play a few games before buying a collection though - the MTGO UI is a bit awkward, it takes some getting used to, and some people will never get used to it. The first league you play in, you will lose games because of a misclick, or because your turn-stops aren't set correctly, or because you don't know how to put something on the stack without passing priority, or because you played Mindbreak Trap and counter your own spells because you didn't know that the UI for playing Mindbreak Trap is fundamentally broken.

Beyond that, it's a different experience than paper in general. Everyone will be affected by this on different levels, but playing on MTGO is emotionally a different experience than playing in paper. Your opponents are meaner to you, the losses and wins hit you differently. Personally I find myself conceding Magic Online games MUCH more often than I concede games in paper. Situations that in person I might feel tension or excitement can feel like a slog on MTGO. I find myself asking the question "Do I really care if I win this game?" a lot more online. Some people don't feel any difference at all, and some people just cannot enjoy MTGO. There's really no way to know if this applies to you without playing yourself.

@80PercentBuffoon is absolutely right that a subset of MTGO players have formed an active and passionate community on the discord server he linked to. If you want to find people to chat with about Vintage and you don't have a group you're already doing that with, the Vintage Streaming Community discord is an awesome place to check out.

All that said, cockatrice and webcam matches are other great ways to enjoy vintage as a hobby from home. Of course the price is right (it's free). I own a set of power, but I prefer to play with (easily distinguishable) proxies, even over webcam.

If you're comparing Vintage Magic Online to other online games, the pricing model is pretty awful in terms of value-per-dollar, but if you compare it to other ways of playing magic, you're basically going to be able to play any number of Vintage decks forever, for the price of a single mid-tier paper Standard deck that won't be legal in three months. Obviously it's completely a personal decision whether the value is worth it for anyone. I own a Vintage MTGO collection and a Vintage cardboard collection but I don't have a ton of other financial priorities and I'm lucky enough that my career path happens to be a lucrative one.

Playing with voice chat over a video call gets me much closer to the feeling of actually being at a tournament than I had expected. There's no reason you couldn't set up a match over MTGO and use a voice call too, and you'd probably get about the same experience. Personally I prefer the usability of cockatrice over MTGO, though MTGO looks nicer. When you're talking with your opponent over voice chat via Cockatrice, you can shortcut all the things you shortcut in paper, you can move through phases without incessantly clicking pass-priority, you can't really misclick because you can just roll back mistakes. Compared to Cockatrice, MTGO can feel glacial. To be fair, neither is very usable and neither looks very good. I also suspect Cockatrice against an unknown opponent with no voice chat is the worst of both worlds, but I haven't done that.

Obviously there are massive limitations here that aren't true of MTGO. In theory you can find someone in a server looking for a Vintage game on Cockatrice but I don't think it happens that often. Basically you're going to have to find someone who wants to play with you some other way, and then arrange to meet online. Practically speaking, if you're not already part of a community that does this, it's not very likely to happen. There might be a public Discord server where people try to find opponents, but I don't know about it. I would love for people to use TMD to coordinate games, but no one does.

You're never going to see a "large, official" tournament run this way. WotC can't officially promote Cockatrice (though I suspect they don't really have a problem with it), and it's more or less impossible to stop people from cheating in a webcam match. Basically you need to treat a webcam match the same way you treat playtesting at a card shop - you play with people you don't think are going to cheat, and you don't cheat because if you do, what's the point? This is very maintainable when it comes to one-off matches or small tournaments among friends, but it's going to fall apart if there are big prizes on the line. Basically if you want to play in serious, large, official tournaments online, it's MTGO only. For me that isn't a deterrent, because the best matches of Vintage I've ever played weren't in serious, large, official tournaments. For me Vintage has always been a format about small, player run events with no WotC support. But I totally understand the draw of a Vintage Challenge.

@80percentbuffoon said in MTGO 2020:

Unfortunately this forum caters primarily to paper players so the above paper bias in the responses is expected.

Obviously obviously I have to respond to this, though I hope I don't sound bratty or defensive.

TMD does not explicitly cater to paper players in the sense that I have taken zero active steps to provide anything specifically for paper players. I genuinely have no idea what part of the site could be considered paper-centric, maybe the Tournament Announcement forum that nobody's posted in for months?

I think you'll find that paper players don't really use TMD either. There aren't many living paper communities out there any more, and there tends to be a pretty big overlap between people who don't like playing online and people who don't like internet forums, for obvious reasons. If I try to pin down what I see as "the paper community", I think of places like the New York metagame that until recently ran regular large events. Players who play at an astounding level and just have no interest in an online forum. I don't think Joe Brennan even has a TMD account. I think the majority of active TMD posters (myself included) are _ex_paper players. People who used to go to tournaments regularly and for whatever reason no longer can, who drop by now and then to brainstorm some new spoiled card just to exercise their Vintage muscles. Then we recede back into our neighborhoods where there just aren't any paper Vintage tournaments to go to anymore.

I've tried catering to paper players. I've also tried catering to MTGO players. I ask people what it would take for them to use TMD more. I ask people that a lot. I'm guessing a lot of people I know are sick of me asking them. I almost never get an answer beyond "ban ____, I don't like them" and "I don't go there because no one goes there".

The fact is, people don't want to talk about Vintage on a forum. I keep it running out of a sense of obligation, and because I can afford to, but it's just not something people are passionate about enough to contribute to.

If could think of a way to cater to paper players, I'd do it in a heartbeat. If I could think of a way to cater to MTGO players, I'd do that instead.

I know this all sounds kind of defensive, and maybe it is, somewhat ... I do feel bad when people dislike the site ... but more than that, I don't think you would have said that if you didn't feel like you were somehow being excluded ... and I don't want people to feel like they're being pushed out of the site when I've been so desperately trying to make people feel like they can participate (a fact that some people have told me is the biggest problem with TMD).

I wish I could lay out some action plan I have for fixing any issues you have with the site, but I think I'm all tapped out.


Thank you so much for the insightful response. It sounds like I really need to buy a pauper deck or something just to test out the UI before committing to vintage MTGO.

As far as the difference in emotional experience between MTGO and paper Vintage, I'm not sure how I will feel until I try it, which of course would require an investment in a digital Vintage collection.

If I had to choose between an ultra-competitive online environment or a casual fun game of Vintage (drink in hand), I would definitely choose the latter. To be honest, your thoughtful unsolicited response is a microcosm for what I love about Vintage, the players. If I thought that I had another option to easily connect to the vintage community and play and discuss decks, I wouldn't be looking at MTGO.

On a slight tangent, I've visited this site nearly daily for at least 15 years because of all the awesome discussions dating back to Roland Chang and Vroman debating 5c Stax vs Uba Stax or Rich Shay and DeMars discussing whether Control Slaver really needed Burning Wish with a tendrils in the SB. Over the years, new players have joined in the conversation, and I have learned so much from all of them (too many to list, but you know who you are). All I really want to do is play some friendly Vintage Magic with people who appreciate the format as much as I do. And when I can't play (which is most of the time), I come here to engage the community. I wish I could do more as I feel more players were active in these forums in the past, and I don't know why things have changed. There are still several current TMD members, whose posts I look forward to, because I know that I'm going to learn something or be forced to think about a deck or match-up in a novel way, but for some reason the frequency of these posts have decreased. Why do people suddenly not enjoy discussing Vintage on a forum? I've never won a tournament. Nobody knows me on this site, yet I've always felt welcomed to participate.


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