Last updated on August 25, 2020
We’ve already covered the basics of getting MTG Arena started here. Maybe you’re a new player to Magic who’s making the big jump from paper to digital, played paper and Magic Online (differences here), or (like me) you’re an established Arena player and feel like there should be some easier ways to use the program to its fullest.
Now that you have the game going, how does this conglomeration of 0s and 1s let you play the game? No, I won’t be going into the code and boring everyone out of wanting to read another word.
There are some counter-intuitive gameplay tricks that aren’t technically needed to play the game but make the play experience much better on both sides of the table. They can all be found if you dig into the settings, but knowing how they all actually work is a different discussion. Here are some shortcuts and other tips and tricks to help you to become an MTG Arena power user!
Power Play | Illustration by Matt Stewart
MTG Arena Keyboard Shortcuts and Hotkeys
Here’s a list of some little-known keyboard shortcuts in MTG Arena:
Ctrl – Temporarily enable full control
The simplest explanation is that this will hold your priority until you manually give it up. You may have noticed the game automatically tapping mana, giving your opponent priority as soon as you play a spell, or continuing to the next phase on your turn if you have no cards in hand or don’t have enough mana to play anything in your hand. Basically, it’s telling your opponent that you have nothing to do. This is beneficial when you want to bluff having something in hand and can wreck their plans. Shock or Negate, for example. This stops that for the turn you activate it on.
Ctrl + Shift – Permanently enable full control
The same as just plain old Ctrl, except it turns full control on for the whole game (or until you turn it off again).
Z – Undo
Works for any actions you can cancel out of, but also for mana abilities like untapping a land you manually tapped. Sadly, unlike in paper, you don’t have the ability to undo much and the chances you have disappear after you lose priority. No takesies backsies!
Enter – Pass the turn
This does what it says on the tin. Basically, it lets the game know you forfeit your priority on the turn in the current game state. You’ll get priority back if your opponent plays something before your turn is done and changes the game state, however.
Shift + Enter – Pass the turn unconditionally
Unlike the previous shortcut, this one will forfeit your priority no matter what happens the rest of the turn. I’d suggest only using this if you aren’t planning on playing anything else your turn no matter what or are playing against someone who is combo-ing off and you can’t or won’t answer. I will not eat the oven-ed cat in a box, with a fox, etc.
Space – Pass priority
Basically the same as clicking “Next.” It doesn’t work when priority isn’t in the equation though, like with un-counter-able actions. This is pretty underused but it can really save time over the course of a match.
L – Display the turn phases
This is technically on by default, so this allows you to turn the little phase icons on and off.
Q,Q – Float all
It’s odd to write this shortcut out. You hit Q twice quickly. This is a shortcut that you may have seen in the gameplay settings and didn’t really know what it was all about. And no, it does not mean that Arena can be used as a floatation device in the event of a water landing. It means to tap all your land. It comes from the game lore concept that the mana you activate is floating in your mana pool prior to use. This is extremely helpful in times when you are maxing an X cost spell as much as you can or playing Wilderness Reclamation in a Temur Rec deck. It saves both your and your opponent’s sanity.
Hold Q – Float stack
This is a new one brought to us from Reddit:
Thanks for authoring! An extension of the QQ command was just added (perhaps barely after your article was finalized) whereby you can hold Q for a second or so then start clicking stacks of like mana sources. They’ll all be auto-used when you let go of the key (why this single Q predates the double Q, I don’t know but I guess it therefore must’ve been planned in advance).u/freestorageaccount
Right click – Zoom in on a card
The game will automatically zoom into a card on most occasions when it’s on the stack or on the battlefield. However, there are other areas (hand, graveyard, library, exile) where zooming can be useful. Right-clicking on the card will do this for you in those other areas.
Shift + . (period) – FPS Counter
I feel like this is self-explanatory, but if you’re troubleshooting other things, displaying your FPS can help. For more troubleshooting, we’ve got a handy guide for you over here.
Ctrl + . (period) – Move FPS Counter
Another update from Reddit:
ctrl + .(period) moves around the fps counter to different positions on the screen if you don’t want it in the bottom rightu/Steal_Your_Waifu
Tab – Cycle chat
This will bring up your current friend chats. Repeated presses cycle through all of the chats you have and then close them once you reach the end of the list.
MTGA Gameplay Settings
You may have seen this in the gameplay settings and be curious as to what it is. “Doesn’t MTG Arena already auto-tap? Why is that a setting?” Well, this allows you to turn it off. Yes, OFF. Separate from full control. It’s only editable in a match, but if you’re running a deck where specific lands need to be tapped to allow for a combo to work, turning it off can help if you don’t want to activate full control.
Auto order triggered abilities
Another important gameplay setting you can toggle. If you want the freedom of deciding the order that your abilities will enter the stack, you can turn this off and the game will ask you select the order you want them to appear. It can slow the game down a bit, but when the order matters it’s especially important. I’m looking at you, mutate!
In this scenario, you’ll want triggers to be ordered so that Gemrazer’s ability targeting Kaya’s Ghostform resolves before Dirge Bat’s ability targeting Titanoth Rex resolves, so it stays in the graveyard.
Auto apply card styles and hide alternate art styles
This one is minor but can be a bit of an annoyance. While I generally like the look of the card styles and love the look of the Godzilla special art in Ikoria (is liking/hating those still controversial?), they can be a big annoyance in drafting.
Even though I have them all memorized, it still takes me a second to figure out what the actual card is. A second that can cause issues in a Premier Draft. If you want, you can turn them off here and new card styles won’t be automatically applied to your cards. Likewise, if you prefer to not play with card styles, you can completely hide them from your collection with the second option.
Separate creatures from non-creatures in the deck builder
When you’re deck building, you may get annoyed trying to search through and see how many creatures vs non-creatures you have in your deck. Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, we know there’s a solution for that! Just type “
t: creature” in the Search bar and the builder will visually separate the creatures in your deck from the non-creature spells.
Here’s what it looks like when you separate creatures from non-creature spells in a draft deck.
MTG Arena In Game Tips and Tricks
Quick Multi-block and Multi-attack
While the game offers you the ability to “Attack with all” during your attack phase, what if you want to attack with just all of your Pteramanders? Or, if you’re defending and you want to have all those Pteramanders block that 2/2 and knock it out?
While there isn’t a button for this, you can select a stack of cards by shift-clicking and the game will keep track of what you have selected. In terms of attacking, this is only useful if there are multiple targets (i.e., a planeswalker to attack), but it can save a few clicks for blocking.
Reddit gave us another way to do this, too:
You can block or attack with a staple of creatures by clicking on the top right number of the staple. If you block an attacking staple, each creature in your staple will get one blocker from the opponent staple.u/Kellerhefe
You can interact with the phase icons.
If you hover over the phase icons, they’ll light up and you can also click on any of them to place a “Stop” on it. In order words, the game will hold your priority in that turn phase (whether it be your turn or your opponent’s).
This can be helpful if there is a card with flash that you want to play after your opponent completes their second main phase, for example. If you decide you don’t want the Stop anymore, you can click the icon again to deactivate it.
Bluffing: You’re Revealing More Information Than You Think
Unlike paper Magic or Magic Online, MTGA actively wants to move the game along quickly. In order to do this, it has a lot of automation built in, such as the autotapper, auto assign, and auto order functions. Because of this, it makes it exceedingly difficult to not give your opponent clues about what you may or may not have in your hand at any given time, at least if you don’t adjust any settings.
For example, let us say you’re playing Dimir control and your opponent is playing Red Deck Wins. It’s their turn. Here are the board states:
The whole match so far you’ve been blocking them from playing their key win conditions with control spells, but they seem to have gotten some heavy hitters down like Torbran. There’s a good likelihood that an Embercleave is coming but, given what you’ve been doing, your opponent might be hesitant to play it as it could very well just hit the graveyard instead. If they attack with everything in our example moment, you’ll survive with two life.
Embercleave | Illustration by Joe Slucher
The way the game is set up to work out of the box, it’ll expedite priority based on the board state. You only have three mana untapped while Lochmere Serpent needs six. When your opponent completes their main phase, it’ll automatically forfeit your priority to them to continue to the attack phase. This pretty much gives them the green light to pull any other damaging shenanigans they may have in-hand to deal more damage and end the match.
However, if you use full control or at the very least put a Stop on their first main phase, you can bluff that you have a control card in hand since the game won’t automatically give away your priority.
For more in-depth discussion and information on this topic, I highly suggest watching this video by Matt Sperling:
Of course, if you want to become a true MTGA power user, I suggest checking out our Arena Tutor. It automatically does stuff for you that Arena doesn’t, like keeping track of the cards you and your opponent has played, and even calculating your deck and format performance. What’s more, if you like what you see here and would like to help support our ability to bring you more great content, please consider becoming a Patron. Your support means the world to us.
I always suggest playing the game as you feel the most comfortable (some Magic is better than no Magic, after all), but these settings, hotkeys, and tips allow you to replicate paper Magic as much as possible in this digital format. I’m sure more discoveries and developments will come as the game changes and adapts.
Have you spotted something our list is missing? Do you have a question about how to better use these tips? Feel free to leave a comment below, or join us on our Discord server!
Lochmere Serpent | Illustration by Sam Burley