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?
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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…Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: