Lurking Roper - Illustration by Andrew Mar

Lurking Roper | Illustration by Andrew Mar

Digital Magic is similar to paper Magic in so many ways. The rules are the same, you play with the same cards (for the most part), and you inevitably top deck a basic land when any nonland would have won you the game.

But digital clients like Arena and MTGO have one thing that you can’t replicate properly in paper, and that’s roping. What’s roping, you ask? Let’s dive in and I’ll tell you everything you need to know!

What Is Roping?

Annoyed Altisaur (Commander Legends) - Illustration by Lars Grant-West

Annoyed Altisaur (Commander Legends) | Illustration by Lars Grant-West

Roping is the name for stalling out games. This term originally comes from Hearthstone where a rope ‘fuse’ starts to burn down on the screen when your turn time is nearly over. When it gets to the end of the fuse your turn automatically ends.

We have a similar system on Arena, with the glowing line that appears around your avatar when you’re running out of time. This is usually just a reminder that you need to hurry up with your turn, but some players have weaponized it to frustrate their opponents.

It obviously works since it’s triggered many-a Facebook rant over the years!

"What is it with people and roping today" Facebook comment from Bob Thomas Riley on July 26, 2021

But why do players rope in the first place? Well, you may be surprised to learn there are lots of reasons why this might happen. And they’re not (all) just different ways to say that the ropers of the world are whiny little children with smelly poo-poo faces.

Reason 1: Mad at Losing

The first reason is probably the most expected one: they just got mad at losing.

Maybe you were their first loss of the day, maybe you were their 20th in a row. You might have even cost them the win-and-in to Mythic. We’ve all been there when we’ve lost games in the past and the salt flows freely. Sometimes you just want to take it out on someone and, unfortunately, you’re the person your opponent chose.

There are two flavours of this reason for roping. It might be that they purposefully decided to make you wait it out in revenge because that’s the only thing they could do in response to the universe choosing their games to screw over with random chance.

But it may not be completely intentional. Maybe they Alt-F4’d out of the game or just stood up and walked away, leaving Arena playing out without them. Annoying you was just a by-product of their rage, not the main target.

Reason 2: Hate Their Opponent’s Deck

Kinda a variation on the last category, it might be that they dislike what you’re playing.

Are you playing control? Counterspell tribal to get your dailies? Lifegain? (Yeah, you, the filthy lifegain player.) Are you playing a top tier meta deck in the casual play queue? While all of these things are apparently acceptable, we all know you’re a worse person for doing it, and your opponent is just giving you (what they think at least is) your just desserts.

"Playing a Faceless Haven/Book of Exalted Deeds deck in 2022 Standard on Arena and so many opponents are just roping and playing until their deck is empty [eyeroll emoji]" Facebook comment by Adam Filiatreault on July 12, 2021

People complaining about someone else’s deck is as old as Magic itself. One thing we as Magic players like more than pretty cardboard rectangles is complaining about those same rectangles. And with the advent of digital clients there’s a new way to demonstrate this frustration.

But at the end of the day you’ll probably get a kick out of driving your opponent crazy like this if you’re playing a deck degenerate enough to drive your opponent to waste not only your time but theirs, too.

Reason 3: Having a Bad Day

It might not be something in the game that’s caused your opponent to rage quit. It could very well be the culmination of things going wrong for them both in and out of the game.

Imagine this: you’ve had a bad day. The worst, in fact. You decide to sit down in front of Arena to relax a little. Crack out your pet deck and knock down some dailies. Then what happens? You top deck seven lands in a row and your opponent gets the nut draw. Of course they did. Why wouldn’t they?

Well, screw this game, then. You close the app without conceding and go watch something disappointing on Netflix instead.

Reason 4: Arena/Computer Crashed

Now we’re looking at some reasons for apparent roping that aren’t to do with the sodium levels of the other player.

This is a top-tier game with millions poured into it, and never has any bugs, right? Right?

Well, I guess not, but it’s only been made by a small indie developer, so we can forgive its bugs… Either way, the client does, occasionally, have its issues, and this can definitely lead to what looks like roping by your opponent.

If you think that your opponent is definitely roping because you’ve gone off or countered their thing this may not be the case. I’ve personally had multiple occasions where my opponent makes a game winning play and my client decides to crash. It could be the universe just laughing at me, or it could be because you’re swinging with 15 angels with 20 power each and Arena can’t handle it. It’s even more frustrating when this leads to a crash, but I have the response in hand, so you win because my computer melted.

We’ve all had the game crash. It’s certainly not impossible that your opponent isn’t being a grump but just had to restart their computer again.

Reason 5: The Counter-Rope

Getting a little meta now with the counter-rope. This one is the ultimate revenge.

You know your opponent is roping because you can see them mousing over cards or, even worse, spamming “Hello” and “Your Go” again and again, obviously trying to annoy you. Well, if you succeed, you do have a… somewhat acceptable… get-back tactic.

They’re spending their time to waste your time. Well, two can play at that game. You let your timer run down, too. You could even hold off that lethal play just to waste their time even more.

Is it ethical to do this? Not really… Is it wise? Well, to be honest, why would you want to waste your own time? But is it sweet revenge?

Well, to be honest, even here it’s a bit underwhelming. If they don’t appreciate their own time enough that they’re willing to spend it wasting your time then they probably aren’t going to be that bothered by you using your time to waste theirs in kind.

But there’s one example of an epic counter-rope duel that has to be mentioned here. In the early days of Arena when Nexus of Fate was still legal, Shahar Shenhar played a 107-minute game in which he counter-roped another player who was looping Nexus to stop either player from winning. While this led to some changes in the client including banning Nexus in BO1, there’s still no way to propose a drawn game in Arena.

Reason 6: Other Outside Factors

"I'm not roping you, I'm just far and I'm making a sandwich. Or getting out the other half of my sandwich. Or making another sandwich." Facebook comment by Mike Allen on August 2, 2022

Another way to accidentally rope is when something comes up in life outside of the game. Maybe your opponent’s child just woke up and they had to dash away. Maybe they stepped out for a second and got distracted. Maybe they thought they conceded but that last click of the mouse didn’t register, and they unknowingly left the option screen open on their device.

There are lots of things that can happen in the world outside of Arena which can get in the way of gameplay.

This is one I think we’ve all probably been guilty of once or twice. Maybe we should be more careful but it’s not the end of the world, so don’t beat yourself up about it.

"Just had someone who threw a card out with a paragraph printed on it and they quit while I was reading it. I'm not roping you newb, I'm just trying to get through this novel of a card. [two laughing emojis]" Facebook comment by Shawn Gibson on September 19, 2021

And remember to be patient. Maybe your opponent isn’t as used to things as you are.

What to Do if You’re Being Roped

So. You’re being roped by someone, either because they’re salty or you’re just unlucky. Unfortunately there’s not much you can directly do about it.

But there are a few things you can do to lessen its effects on you. For starters, you could use that time to do something useful. You could watch a bit of your favourite YouTuber (ahem). You could even use the time to take that pile of plates that’s been growing next to your computer for the past week to the sink. Whatever you do, it’s just bonus time!

It’s also important to remember that if your opponent is salt-roping, it’s probably because you’re playing an annoying deck. Let’s be honest, you are. And you love how annoying it is. Enjoy the moment because it’s clearly at least part of the reason you’re playing it!

How to Report Someone for Roping

"Fun fact, it takes about the same amt of time to report a player for roping as it takes for the rope on their side to run out. Also, its pretty easy to tell roping from someone having issues with the program lol" Facebook comment from Mikey Brosif on January 21, 2022

Something else you can do if your opponent is roping you is report them. This does lead to bannings.

Wizards has a portal where you can report roping, which can be found here. It’s a portal to report a number of things including problems with Limited events (that can lead to refunds!), but what you’re looking for in the drop-down you see after following the link is “Report Conduct.”

Information you need includes your username, your opponent’s username, and the approximate time when the roping happened. You’re also asked to provide a log that you upload to the website.

Why You Shouldn’t Rope

"I do not see the point in Roping. Sure you might lose but dont waste people's time like that no need to be a sore loser." Facebook comment with a screenshot of an MTGA match by Oga Tatsumi on October 25, 2021

As tempting as roping could be when you’ve drawn that seventh land in a row or your opponent top decks that busted mythic in a Draft, remember that it doesn’t really benefit anyone. If anything you’re giving your opponent the satisfaction of beating you so badly you ran away crying.

You don’t really want that, do you?

End of the Rope

Fifty Feet of Rope (Adventures in the Forgotten Realms) - Illustration by Andrew Mar

Fifty Feet of Rope (Forgotten Realms) | Illustration by Andrew Mar

So what have we learned about roping? Basically, anyone who does it is pretty silly because it isn’t helping anyone. But sometimes there’s reasons why it happens, and we’ve all had the same feelings that lead someone to rope, so to some extent we can understand it.

So, what do you think of roping? Have you roped? Are you a reformed roper? Let me know below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.

That’s all from me for now! Stay safe, stay healthy, and…

MTGA Rope
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4 Comments

  • Avatar
    tiera October 26, 2022 2:49 pm

    Two other possible reasons:

    The player is spending time reading unfamiliar cards. This is more likely in Midweek Magic or special events like Omniscience or Momir.

    In a format where losses dont matter, a frustrated player just trying to get their wins. By deliberately stalling right from the start, they are hoping their opponent will just get fed up and concede and give them the easy win. This could occur in MWM, Jump In, or occasionally the play queue (for daily wins).

    • Avatar
      tiera October 26, 2022 2:58 pm

      And reasons.

      Perhaps the player stayed up too late and dozed off at the computer. (I regret to say that I’ve been guilty of this myself.)

  • Avatar
    jessica October 31, 2022 10:31 am

    When I saw “counter roping” I thought you’d cover decks which add a lot of counters to cards for little to no effect, especially when one is guaranteed to lose, which delays the game but doesn’t burn the rope counter. Anything that causes a long animation counts too. This is especially common when a board wiper fails to put you in a bad position with their wait until they are about to lose then start playing the game high risk often telegraphed strategy. You’ll see genuine roping pierced by in-game stalls and their turn can take upward of 15 minutes. It isn’t nexus of fate bad, but this has forced me to concede when I was winning before, I only have so much time to grind my way up the ranked ladder every day and I could have played three entire games during my opponent’s turn so as sad as it makes me and as much as it makes me periodically uninstall this game that won’t ever be fixed I allow my opponent’s superior villainy and concede.

    There is something especially awful about combining roping with legal game delays.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha October 31, 2022 11:32 am

      Yeah it would be really nice if you could turn off animations to speed up gameplay. I think for the effects there may be a way to auto-yield or auto-pass in that situation to make it so you at least don’t have to interact on your end.

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