Time Out | Unstable
7, Jun, 23

MTG Players Are Sick of Arena’s Most Frustrating Feature

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Article at a Glance

Since launching in 2018, MTG Arena has been a great boon to the popularity of Magic: the Gathering. Sure, it may not have the game’s most popular paper format, Commander, however, it’s still a compelling modern digital client. Allowing players to enjoy Magic at all hours of the day, MTG Arena certainly has its upsides. Unfortunately, however, there are also some flaws that get in the way of players fully enjoying the game. 

Beyond the somewhat troubled economy and grievances against digital-exclusive formats, MTG Arena suffers from a number of core issues. Similarly affecting Magic Online, these issues stem from the digital nature of these clients. Arguably the most frustrating of these issues is the pace of play which is much slower than on paper. While this isn’t inherently the worst thing in the world, unfortunately, it’s easy to exploit and abuse this system. 

Unsurprisingly, after years of this system being abused, many MTG players have had enough. 

The Long Game

Time Walk
Time Walk | Vintage Masters

On paper, games of MTG can be over in a flash thanks to players having myriad different speedy shorthands. With a quick glance, nod, or tap of the table, players are able to convey situational information in an instant. On MTG Arena and Magic Online, however, players always have to press a button. 

Thankfully, on both digital clients, this process can be sped up somewhat by using keyboard commands. While this certainly helps, it hardly fixes all of the problems that digital clients face. At the end of the day, MTG is an incredibly complex game, with infinite combos, bizarre rulings, and card-naming shenanigans. Due to this, players need to be specific in order to play properly. 

On paper, naming a card can be as simple as saying “Borborygmos” to your opponent. When playing on a digital client, however, players need to sort through an exhaustive menu to select the right card. Typically, this process doesn’t take more than a few seconds, however, all the minute pauses add up. 

Because of the time it takes to complete actions, MTG clients have to be forgiving with the time they allocate. After all, not only do players need to think about their turns, but they also have to act them out. As a result of this, players can be left waiting for minutes while their opponents figure out their turn. Understandably, this can definitely be frustrating, however, this is just part of playing Magic, as some decks can be incredibly complex. 

While it is a good thing that combo players actually get to play their decks, this lengthy turn timer isn’t just for them. Instead, every player, regardless of their deck, skill level, or intention, gets the same timer. Unfortunately, this opens the system up to abuse.

Enough Is Enough

Teferi, Master of Time | Core Set 2021
Teferi, Master of Time | Core Set 2021

As much as we love it, MTG can be an incredibly frustrating and salty game sometimes. Whether it’s because of your game-winning bomb being countered, or an opponent playing theirs, there are myriad reasons why players can get upset. This may cause a player to concede the match out of anger. Unfortunately, however, there is another, more toxic alternative when playing digitally.

By simply walking away from the game, or refusing to participate, ill-mannered players can force their opponents to wait unnecessarily. Thanks to the length of the turn timer, this waiting can often drag on for minutes at least. When you’re one turn away from winning, those minutes can feel like a frustrating eternity. 

Unfortunately, due to how easy it is to do this, this toxic behavior is rather widespread. So much so, that it has affectionately given the name “roping”. Since we all have things to do and MTG to play, usurpingly players on either platform don’t like getting roped. This has led some players, such as Reddit user u/FinnTrollNovellis to suggest a solution. “For the love of God reduce the idle timers.” 

Lamenting the length of turn timers for AFK and unresponsive players, FinnTrollNovellis presents a compelling reason for a change. Alongside this, many other players shared their own grievances and anecdotes, highlighting the plight of this issue. 

“You gotta love it when you throw down a huge bomb, or a big move that swings the game, or they are clearly about to lose next turn, and that’s when the roping starts. It’s like clockwork.”


Thankfully, when it comes to AFK players purposefully or accidentally forcing opponents to wait, it does appear there is a solution. Pointed out by users such as u/Obelion_ Wizards could implement ping and focus checks to ensure users are paying attention. If they’re not, their turn timer could be reduced to keep from wasting precious time. While this seems like a perfect solution, as Obelion_ notes, this isn’t a perfect solution.

The Greater Good

Perpetual Timepiece | Kaladesh
Perpetual Timepiece | Kaladesh

While roping can definitely be used maliciously to waste a player’s time, Wizards didn’t integrate this system just for toxic players to abuse. Instead, the lengthy turn timer is intended to be an incredibly useful tool for those that need it. Allowing players to attend to something away from the game or look at cards they’ve never seen before, the turn timer’s duration is far from a bad thing. 

This point was recently proven by Reddit user u/greenlaser73 who admitted “It’s me. I’m the one who ropes every turn.” Writing about the difficulties of having children and trying to play MTG, greenlaser73 showcases the turn timer’s benefits. Sure, no one likes to be roped, but with a more aggressive system, MTG would be much less accessible. 

Alongside this major upside, it’s worth remembering that MTG Arena, for better and worse, is a digital game. This means that it is not immune to bugs and glitches that may cause players to disconnect, or be unable to play. Thanks to the generous turn timer, however, many players are able to rectify the issue and continue their game without being unnecessarily punished.

Ultimately, thanks to these major reasons, it’s probably for the best that MTG Arena keeps its turn timer. Yes, it can be abused by malicious players, however, sometimes that is simply unavoidable with features like this. In this case, the benefit outweighs the negative, even if it is a really frustrating negative when it happens. 

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