Arena Hot Keys and Interface Guide: Simplify Your Game with These Easy Tricks
Hello everyone! I’m going to write about something that may be common knowledge for a good amount of you, but can be extremely helpful for those who are newer or those who don’t know a particular command to do what they want on Arena. Today we’re talking about Hot Keys! Hot Keys are commands that you can input or click to enable a specific action to occur on the Arena interface. Nothing too complicated there. I want to go over a lot of the common Hot Keys and other things you should be cognizant of when you’re playing on Arena.
You can see (most) of the MTG Arena keybindings if you go to Options > Gameplay:
SHOW PHASES – L
This is a simple one which toggles whether or not you see each player’s phases as they happen on the right side of your screen. You’ll still be able to see the phases around your Avatar whether you toggle this or not, but I like having both up for maximum clarity.
FULL CONTROL – Ctrl
Getting Full Control means that no priority will be passed without you expressly doing that. This is mostly relevant when there are triggers that will generally automatically go through such as Kroxa or Uro’s ETB trigger and the subsequent death trigger or Sagas triggering. This can be helpful if you have an instant or an ability you want to activate before automatic triggers go through. When you hit Full Control, you’ll have full priority within that phase, but when you pass, it’ll put a stop on the next phase, but you’ll no longer be holding Full Control.
HOLD FULL CONTROL – Shift + Ctrl
This is the same as Full Control except it doesn’t turn off until you actively turn it off. You can use this to have priority in phases you normally wouldn’t like upkeep or the draw step, or to bluff interaction. This will significantly slow down your play and can be obvious to your opponent that you’re holding full control if you do it for too long, so I would use this bluff sparingly.
PASS UNTIL RESPONSE – Enter
This will pass priority through the current turn until something you can respond to happens. That means combat (if it’s your turn any attacks you can make or the opponent’s any blocks you can make), or your opponent casts a spell that you can respond to. The thing to be careful of is that you will not regain priority for triggers.
PASS TURN (F6) – Shift + Enter
Full passing the turn, or colloquially known to MTGO players as F6, will completely pass the turn giving you no opportunity to do anything else that turn. The only time you will regain priority when using this is blocking on your opponent’s turn. You can turn this on or off as well with the Orange arrow on the bottom right corner of the screen or by hitting Enter again, but you’ll have to be pretty fast to turn it off in case you hit it on accident. With that in mind, I recommend never clicking the large Next button to change phases as it’s so close to the Pass Turn arrow and that’s an easy way to lose the game if you misclick.
UNDO – Z
This is a simple command that lets you undo any action that doesn’t utilize the stack, namely mana abilities or tapping lands. You can’t use this to undo actions that impact the game at all like Chromatic Sphere which, although a mana ability, also draws cards. A weirder application is that if you sacrifice a Skirk Prospector for mana but don’t cast a spell, you can actually undo that action.
PASS PRIORITY – SPACEBAR
The Space Bar is the equivalent to the large Orange Button on the bottom right hand corner of the screen and I implore everyone to get used to using this instead of using the button. I think the risk is much lower that you’ll accidentally hit the spacebar too many times compared to accidentally skipping your turn because you hit the pass turn arrow.
FLOAT ALL MANA – QQ
This is a rather new feature that was added when Wilderness Reclamation was in Standard and required you to manually tap all of your mana. If you tap QQ this will tap all of your NON-CREATURE mana, so lands and any mana rocks will be automatically tapped and colors added. When using QQ I thought the first color displayed on the card would be the one added, but different lands seem to work differently. From my understanding, Shock Lands, the Kaladesh Fast Lands, and the Amonkhet 2 Color Cycling Lands will tap for the first color on the card while the Ikoria Triomes and the Ixalan Check Lands will tap for the last color on the card. I don’t know why it works like this and I assume that’s just an oversight on Wizard’s part.
QUICK TAP – PRESS AND HOLD Q
So this was a command even I didn’t know about and played around with it to see what it did. Per my understanding, if you hold Q and select a land or a mana from a land, it’ll become highlighted, but not tapped. You can do this to multiple lands at a time and when you release Q, all the highlighted lands will become tapped and the chosen mana added. At first I couldn’t think of a good use for this, until I realized this is actually an extremely cool bluffing tool that could come up in niche scenarios. Normally, if a player needs to deviate from Auto Tappers suggestion, they would manually tap each land individually to cast a spell. This can give the opposing player a lot of information on what they must have if they’re specifically tapping mana to cast a spell. However, if you use this feature, it will look like you just used Auto Tapper and you’ll avoid giving out unnecessary information. This is a rather corner case hot key, but keep it in mind!
HOW PHASES AND STOPS WORK
Stops can be somewhat confusing or not intuitive for those who aren’t used to it. I have messed up many plays and lost a lot of matches by messing up stops myself despite playing a lot of Magic and Arena in general. Here, I’ll go over each individual stop and talk about what they do so there’s no confusion. The first thing to know is that stops have two different colors, Orange and Blue. If a Stop is Orange, that means the stop will be active for your turn, and if the stop is Blue, it means it’ll be active on your opponent’s turn. Now I’ll show you the photos for each and, for clarification, all of these photos will be for when it’s your turn, Main Phase 1.
This is how your phases normally look.
STOP ON UPKEEP AND DRAW STEP
This will give you priority in the next upkeep and the draw step. Since the stop is blue, you will get priority on your opponent’s turn. You will retain this stop until you pass into the main phase.
STOP ON MAIN PHASE 1
This will give you priority before either you or your opponent can enter combat in any capacity. There’s functionally no reason to have this stop on your turn, but this is a very relevant stop for your opponent’s turn as you can then interact before an ability that activates at the beginning of combat such as Legion Warboss or Luminarch Aspirant.
STOP ON COMBAT
This stop will first create an opportunity to respond in the Beginning of Combat phase, but will also give you the opportunity to set stops in the Combat Phase list as well. You can also see the Combat Phase list once you are in Declare Attackers as well.
COMBAT PHASE LIST
The dots on the ends represent the beginning and of the turns still (upkeep/draw and end step), and the rectangles still represent the main phases, but the rest of the menu is different from what we’re normally used to. The single sword is Declare Attackers, the Shield is Declare Blockers, and the Explosion is the Damage Step.
STOP ON DECLARE ATTACKERS
This stop will give your priority right after you declare your attackers and before your opponent can declare any blockers.
STOP ON DECLARE BLOCKERS
This will give you priority after blocks are declared, but before damage resolves. It’s rare that you need this stop as you will normally get priority after blocks are declared anyway.
STOP AFTER DAMAGE
This will give you priority after damage and before the phase changes to Main Phase 2. This is also an extremely niche stop that I personally never used, but you would use this if you need damage to resolve and you want to cast a spell that can only be used during combat.
STOP ON MAIN PHASE 2
This stop versus the next stop is probably the most confusing so pay attention to this part. This stop will give you priority before you go into the end step, not priority to the end step itself. So keep in mind, if you have a stop here and you cast a spell at this point, you will still be in Main Phase 2, not the end step.
STOP AFTER THIS TURN
This stop can be misleading by the name, but this is the stop in the end step. This will give you priority before the turn is passed to the next player. This was particularly important with Wilderness Reclamation as this would give you priority before the trigger would go off.
UNCHECK AUTO ORDER TRIGGERED ABILITIES AND AUTO ASSIGN COMBAT DAMAGE
This is what my Game Play settings look like. You can find these by hitting Escape then choosing Gameplay in Settings. As the title says, you should uncheck Auto Ordering Triggered Abilities and Auto Assign Combat Damage. Arena is a pretty intuitive program and will generally do the optimal sequences for you, but trusting it in every situation can lead to game losing scenarios. It doesn’t take up much more time as you can just pass priority when Arena has the triggers ordered correctly or you can quickly change it when they aren’t. The more important of the two is Auto Assigning Combat damage as there are situations where you may not want to kill multiple things to fuel an Escape creature or something of the like.
BE MINDFUL OF AUTO TAPPER
Same as before, Arena is generally pretty good with tapping for spells automatically, but there are a few scenarios where Arena still seems to struggle. The biggest issues it has is with Utility Lands or when you have Color intensive spells in hand. Anyone who has played with Phyrexian Tower knows that Arena will randomly seem to want to tap it or not tap it depending on the scenario. Secondly, if you have a spell like Shatterskull Smashing in your hand, Arena will generally try to keep that open over anything else. For example, say you have 2 Scavenging Oozes, a Shatterskull Smashing in hand, and 2 Forest and 2 Mountains on board. If you attempt to trust auto tapper with casting both Oozes, you may find that it’ll tap both your forests. A niche example of Auto tapper being problematic is with spells that can have their cost reduced after mana is already used for something else. The most common example of this is Mystical Dispute and if you’re tapping down to 1 or 2 mana, Arena may not recognize that although you can’t cast it right now, you may have an opportunity to do so and may tap all of your blue mana. Always double check how Auto tapper is tapping for you.
BLUFFS AND INFORMATION LEAK
The largest disadvantage to playing on Arena for 99% of players is the amount of information Arena inherently gives away with it’s stops. If your opponent plays a Mountain and passes, then on your turn when you attempt to go through your phase and your opponent still gets priority, you know they have a Red instant. Similarly, in Historic if there’s a pause after you cast a spell, even if your opponent is tapped out and has no abilities they can use, you know they have Pact of Negation. It’s really difficult to not leak information, but there are ways you can utilize this to your advantage either offensively or defensively.
If you want to check if your opponent potentially has an instant speed spell to cast on you turn, you can change phases to test if they ever receive priority. The opponent may try to pass back priority quickly to disguise that they have something, but there will be a noticeable stutter compared to the smoothness that Arena passes if the opponent has nothing. Similarly, if priority passes smoothly but when you cast a spell then there’s a pause, you know that they have a counterspell in some capacity. Depending on how smoothly priority is passed with each spell you cast, you can even surmise what counterspells they may have in hand.
On the other hand, since most people are aware that Arena can give away information, you can also use that to your advantage. If you want to pretend that you have a spell in hand you can cast on their turn, but you don’t, there’s two ways you can do this. You can hold Full Control which will constantly give you priority or you can put a Stop on every phase. Holding Full Control can bluff that you’re waiting for a good moment to use a spell, but if you use that but end up doing nothing, that may give away the information that not only do you not have anything, but you also care about bluffing. Setting a bunch of stops on the other hand can give it a more convincing type of stop as it more looks like how it does when you have an instant rather than just holding Full Control.
The last Bluff you can do pretty easily is to quickly pass the turn to make it look like you don’t have an instant when you actually do. I do this very often when I have a Bonecrusher Giant in hand that I don’t want my opponent to know about. With this scenario, I do two things. What I will do is ready my hands to deploy my land and hit enter right afterwards to give the illusion that I don’t have anything. You want to be careful that you don’t pass without playing your land, but with practice, you can make it very convincing. The problem with this is, once the turn passes, your opponent will see you receiving priority with each phase and the illusion will be broken. There’s actually a good way to stop this as well. Say you really want to bluff that you don’t have Bonecrusher, but you know you’ll cast Stomp on your opponent’s end step if they don’t do anything. What you should do is play the land and pass the turn, the second the turn passes, set a stop on your opponent’s end step and then Pass the Turn (Shift+Enter or Orange Arrow). What this will do is that it won’t give you any priority until the End Step so if the opponent attempts to check if you have a response, it’ll look like you actually don’t have it. I’ve gotten many people by doing this trick as it really looks like I don’t have anything. The only thing I would say with doing this trick is to be ready to hit Enter again if you need to stop the Auto-passing of turn, such as when your opponent plays a Haste creature like Brushfire Elemental.
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