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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Apr 12 2012 9:22am
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There is a monster out there.  One that is large, dangerous, and scary to most players.  A monster that keeps people from playing in multiplayer games, causes frustration and anxiety, and can lead to dissatisfaction and bad feelings.  That monster goes by many names, but there is one that I hear more often than most:  The 2 hour game.

For some reason I have the image of a fat Mario in my head.  The T-Rex is just icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, the 2 hour game is quite common to meet for Commander players.  Many of us have encountered good old 2 hour while most of us have attempted to avoid it.  I know my personal experiences meeting the 2 hour game are typically the same:  Staring at the screen, waiting for opponents to take several minutes to play their turn while muttering to myself, "Come on, I gotta put the kids to bed!  Hurry up!!!"  Making mistakes due to lack of focus, lack of concentration, or just plain not caring.  But at the same time hoping to beat the 2 hour game through a combination of pride, blind faith and hope that you can deliver the knock out blow.  And many times failing.

Of course, there is the rare 2 hour game:  The fun game.  This rarely seen variation of the 2 hour game takes place with evenly matched opponents who interact and have fun.  Although enjoyable the fun version of the 2 hour game is about as common as getting a royal flush on the flop.  If you should encounter one savor it, enjoy it and remember what it felt like.  Odds are you will be back in a standard 2 hour game grinding your teeth in no time.

All hyperbole aside, game length is a real problem in Commander.  Even though 6 player games are available they are rarely played specifically due to game length.  Click intensive games are common and drag things out.  I personally find that if games last more than an hour and a half my attention starts to wander and I just want to finish.  And I'm pretty sure that I am not in the minority.

Often times it's not specifically the game length itself, but the many game lengthening behaviors that make me want to shoot myself.  I'm hoping that I can show you guys a few tips to help move the game along.  Many of the old timers will know all of these suggestions so this is really for newer players.  But hopefully I can provide some useful information to make games quicker.  With all that out of the way let's get started!


When the game starts you should check the stops in set your game and determine how many of them are necessary.  For a refresher, the automatic stops can be set for the end of phases during your turn as well as your opponents.  You can either set them or turn them off to make sure that you have a chance to cast spells.  If you look to the left of your screen during a game, you will find an area that look like this:

As you can see each of the phases from untap through cleanup are clearly marked.  The little yellow square on the lower right side of the box means that I have a stop set for that phase during my own turn.  The little blue square in the upper left hand side of the box means that I have a stop set for that phase during my opponents' turns.  The easiest way to set a stop or turn it off is to click on those spots.  When you see a little square appear or disappear, you will know you have changed your setting.  You can also right click in the battlefield and click on "Gameplay Settings" which will bring up this screen:

From there you can set your stops in the box in the middle titled "Set Stops."  In this example you can see the default stops that I have set for all my Commander games.  During my turn I have a stop for each of my own main phases, for my declare attack and declare blockers phase, and my end phase.  During my opponents' turns I only have stops for the declare attackers and blockers, as well as end phases.  If there are no creatures to attack during a turn, the stops are automatically bypassed.

My basic stops are just a default but can be changed based upon the deck that I am playing.  In the Nicol Bolas deck I just showed you guys, I don't ever plan on attacking, period.  So I can turn off the attack phase stops during my own turn.  If I am playing a deck with only a couple of instants, it might not be necessary to put a stop at my end phase or my opponents' end phase.  This can change depending on whether I have a creature or a land with an activated ability though but it is important to be aware.

So when you start a game, check out your stops.  Do you really need to have a stop set during your opponents' upkeeps?  During your opponents' untap steps, or your own?  During their main phase?  I understand that there are times when you want to have a stop at the beginning of combat, or even each of these other steps mentioned.  Who knows, maybe you want to Silence a player or something.  But just be aware of your deck and what is in your hand.  If you don't need to have stops set, turn them off!  Having fewer stops means faster games.


Once the game has started, there are three hot keys that everyone has, but not everyone knows about.  You need to know about these, because they can greatly speed up a game.  

F6 - This is my favorite hot key.  If you press this during any turn (including your own) you are automatically passing any sort of priority to all your opponents.  You are basically saying, "I am not going to do anything during this turn, and there's no reason for me to pay attention."  This is great because you can just let others play while you watch ESPN or something.  The only time you will have to respond is if someone is attacking you.  Then, you will be able to declare blockers and nothing else.  With F6 you don't have to worry about anything else during that turn.

F6 is great for if you want to go get a beer, go to the bathroom, etc.  However, keep in mind that things can change at a moment's notice.  Someone may cast Wheel of Fortune, and you may get a playable instant in your hand that you may want to cast.  In that case you just right click in the battlefield and click "Remove Auto Yields."   You can also press F3, which serves the same function and removes all auto-yields.  You will then be able to respond to people playing spells and effects.  But for the most part, F6 is used to speed the game along.

F8 - This is a key that I press at the start of every game.  This key will make it so that it will always pass priority if you are unable to do anything.  This essentially means that if you are tapped out and have no blockers, it will always pass priority.  This is the reason why you see people tapping out early on in games when they don't cast anything.  They have pressed F8, and just want to move the turn along.

Keep in mind a couple of things with F8 though.  You have to tap out all sources of mana in order for it to work, including creatures that produce mana and artifact mana.  In addition, if you have a convoke card in your hand such as Chord of Calling or Sprout Swarm, F8 will not work for you, even if you have no creatures in play.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people like to tap out in the late game as well.  This can be a problem when you have 10 lands or so that you are tapping just to move the game along with F8, as people still do play with Mana Geyser.  I saw a game end up with a blow out because 2 players tapped 10 lands when it wasn't necessary due to this.  I can't think of another non-Red card that would really take advantage of the situation like this though.

F7 - This one is handy if you are playing a deck with a ton of triggers.  If the triggers don't target, and multiple identical triggers are on the stack, F7 will automatically put them on the stack for you.  This is really helpful for people that like to play Warp World, or for the Nicol Bolas deck that I featured last week.

A good amount of triggers, but we've all seen more...

I have noticed that if you have multiple different triggers on the stack, you have to place one of them on it before the auto-stacking occurs.  Then you can do it again with the next trigger.  It is very handy to use and definitely speeds things up.

Setting auto-yields - This doesn't really fit as a hot key but it seemed like the most appropriate place to put it.  Let's say that there's a card out there that produces an effect or trigger that happens a lot, just about every turn.  You know, cards like Underworld Dreams, Consecrated Sphinx, Mind's Eye or Mana Crypt that do stuff and you can almost never react to them in a positive way.  What do you do then?  Why, you auto-yield to them!  When the effect goes on the stack and it is your turn to respond, right click on the effect itself and you get 2 choices:

Ignore the Simulacrum in the corner...

You can either "Always yield" or yield until the end of the turn.  What you want to do is "Always yield" to the trigger in question.  This way, you don't have to click "ok" everytime the Mana Crypt forces its owner to flip a coin, or whatever.  Yielding until the end of turn rarely does anything and I don't think I have ever used it.  Always yielding will greatly speed up games as well, especially if everyone gets on the same page and does it.

As I said before, there are times when you may want to change the auto-yields you have activated using the hot keys, but I imagine they don't come all that often.  Again, the easiest way to remove auto-yields is to press F3.  Also, you can find a handy guide to all the other hot keys HERE.  I don't really use any of the other hot keys, but if you can use them to speed games along that would be great!

Occasionally I find that I will try to use a hot key or set an auto-yield, but it won't take.  You press F6 but you still get the game asking if you want to respond to every spell.  I find that the easiest thing to do is to remove auto-yields by pressing F3 and trying again.  Most of the time this little trick works for me, but there are occasions where even that won't help.  Then you'll be stuck clicking "OK" just like everyone else. 


Communication with the other players may not seem to be a way to speed games up.  Why type funny comments when you could be concentrating on  the game?  I kid, I kid.  However, communication really comes into play during a very specific time:  When people drop.  I'm sure all of you have played in games where someone suddenly disappears without any comment.  The player likely hasn't been very talkative.  Who knows, maybe you were even depending on having that player stick around to help you deal with a bigger threat.  And then all of a sudden they are gone.

So what happens at that point?  People are sort of stuck.  You guys sit around, waiting and hoping (or not) that the guy will come back.  Of course, there's usually someone who wants to kick the guy off right away, and another player who wants to wait the full 10 minutes.

Might as well read a book while waiting...

Almost all of this can be avoided if you let people know what's going on ahead of time.  Maybe you have a rough internet connection, maybe you have kid problems and need to bail, maybe the dog is eating your power cord.  Whatever it is, just let people know what is going on.  If you have to leave and aren't planning on coming back, let people know.  If you are planning on coming back, let people know.  Just make sure that you communicate.  Nothing sucks more than waiting for the full 10 minutes for someone to come back when they never do.  That's 10 minutes further along in the game that you could be playing.  "Sorry, gotta go" doesn't take that long to type so please be considerate and let people know what you are doing.  No one likes to waste time.


Now we get to the portion of the article that is bound to be a little more controversial.  Basically one of the best ways to increase the speed of your game is to build your deck in such a way that you aren't really waiting to react to people.  This means playing with fewer instants, less counterspells, and essentially less Blue.

What do you mean "No Blue"??!?!?!!!!!?

I'm not saying you can't play Blue.  I'm just saying that if keeping games shorter is something you are interested in and want, playing with less Blue is going to help you with that goal.  Yes, I know this is a radical concept.  And no deck can ever just F6 through every other turn as there is almost always something to react to.  But it is possible, and it will help you move things along more quickly.  As a matter of fact, the very first deck I wrote about, which you can find HERE, didn't have any instants at all and still did well at the time.

Of course I know that people like to use cards like Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation specifically so that they can react to every single play by an opponent.  But keep in mind that this will lengthen the game.  This also doesn't mean that you have to avoid instants and Blue completely, but keep in mind what will happen if you use these cards.  I admit that I even show decks with lots of instants but typically those type of decks aren't my first choice and I don't play them if I know that I have a limited amount of time.


So there you go, some basic tips for keeping games shorter.  Figure out how to set your stops and determine how many of them you actually need.  Use your hot keys and auto-yield.  Communicate with your opponents.  And don't play Blue (I'm actually kidding about that last one, I really mean is cut back on instants).  That's 4 pretty simple rules that if most people used would lead to much quicker games.

Of course, this is just a small sample of some of the more basic ways to speed things up.  I am sure that many of you have your own ideas about how to avoid wasting time while playing.  I want you guys to provide your own options and ideas in the comments!  Please share your thoughts with the rest of the world and maybe we can pick up some things that we didn't know about before.

I realize that this article may not have provided a lot of new information for many of you but there are plenty of players, new and old, who don't know all the things provided here.  And finally, you may be one of those people who like 2 or 3 hour games.  For you guys, I say:  Good for you and I hope I never play against you!

Until next time people.

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



Great stuff, the part that by JustSin at Thu, 04/12/2012 - 15:59
JustSin's picture

Great stuff, the part that always bugs me the most is during the first 3 turns when very little is played and yet we still kill 10m off someone's clock.. that's the most frustrating part for me, time wasted when no play occurs

Your gripe is answered by one by themonkey at Thu, 04/12/2012 - 19:05
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Your gripe is answered by one of my suggestions to make games go quicker. Play with Collective Voyage. In addition to what the card says, it also has the added benefit of removeing about 30 minutes of boring game when everyone is trying to build a mana base. All of a sudden everyone jumps ahead to where the game gets really interesting. Rites of Flourishing, Oath of Lieges, or even a Howling Mine can work in a similar way.

I'd also suggest using F2 as a hotkey. For me it seems easier just to hit F2 rather then taking the time to click "OK".

And for me and my older computer, turning off the foil animation also helps my computer run faster and hopefully decreases lag.

Great idea for an article, I enjoyed the read.

Yeah, I guess 2 other things by Leviathan at Fri, 04/13/2012 - 02:47
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Yeah, I guess 2 other things that I think I could have mentioned are 1. try and make sure you have a good internet connection and 2. try and make sure that you aren't going to have any other distractions. I think those 2 are the biggest culprits for waiting forever during the first couple turns.

I've had the foil animation off for so long I kind of forgot about it. That's a good suggestion, as lag definitely increases when there's a lot going on.

Collective Voyage and the like are interesting suggestions. I think some of the more competitive players may like having the leg up that playing with a lot of accel gives them though. But they will definitely speed things up!

I really need to get Oath of Lieges in a deck soon...

I don't think you should tell by BaldEagle247 at Fri, 04/13/2012 - 05:15
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I don't think you should tell people to not play blue, or even play less blue. Simply point out that they REALLY need to be on top of things if they are playing blue.

I've seen people play Azami by KaraZorEl at Fri, 04/13/2012 - 05:55
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I've seen people play Azami decks that put a ton of abilities on the stack. It doesn't win unless it goes off and most players are smart enough to keep it from doing that. At best, blue is a support color in Commander. I like Hinder, Spell Crumple and Spin Into Myth, but I won't go much further into control than that.

I don't play commander, so by BaldEagle247 at Fri, 04/13/2012 - 07:09
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I don't play commander, so thanks for the info. I would probably play it, but I'm not a huge fan of singleton style games, also, my favorite color is blue, so that doesn't help.

Before I talk about Blue, I by Leviathan at Fri, 04/13/2012 - 14:43
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Before I talk about Blue, I wanted to say thanks for reading! I sometimes forget that non-Commander players will check out the article and I'm glad you brought up the Blue issue.

Your favorite, like that of many people, is Blue and that's really understandable. As we all know Blue is considered the most powerful color in Magic and for good reason: It is really powerful. And in a format like Commander, which has a smaller ban list than Vintage, it is possible to go all out with many of your favorite cards.

The issue with Blue is that it lives at instant speed. Most of Blue's most powerful cards are instants. You just have to look at the cards mentioned by Karazor to see what I'm talking about. As I noted in the article, getting away from instants that you play during opponents' turns is a great way to speed up games. Having to click OK in response to each actions your opponents' take incrementally increases the length of each game and those small amounts add up over time. When you play a Commander game you may notice that games with multiple Blue players tend to take longer (on average) than other games. Blue is not only typically more complicated but takes time to play.

Of course, other colors can do similar things. As was pointed out Azusa decks (and plenty of others) can put a crap ton of triggers on the stack slowing everything down to a crawl. It just happens to be that Blue is most often the worst offender when it comes to these issues. You can definitely play Blue without causing delays, it just takes some focus and deck tweaking.

Also I disagree with Blue being described as just a support color. My opinion may not mean a whole lot, but what I've seen while playing is that Blue can do just about everything all by itself, on top of being able to keep opponents from playing what they want. I know that there are a lot of people out there that say mono-Green is the most powerful deck out there (I also don't agree with this) but Blue is not only good by itself, I believe it pretty much increases the power of the colors that it plays with. I'm glad that there are people out there like Karazor that only rely upon Blue in support as they make playing Commander more bearable, since there are plenty more people out there that rely on Blue to do broken and (subjectively) unfun stuff. Blue is definitely one of the biggest, if not the biggest, colors in Commander.

:3 by Elbinac at Sat, 04/14/2012 - 00:57
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Just wanted to note, it isn't so much that specifically a lot of blue makes games long.
Multiple control decks do.
Just like the decks that tend to take the long turns/chain of turns that bore people are usually the click intensive combo decks.

Not that I'm suggesting everyone should only be turning dudes sideways to win.
Most of the decks I play have the option to do so but not the need.
When I do turn dudes sideways, I prefer them to be big dudes.
To save time clicking a horde of 1/X's, 2/X's, etc.
Not that everyone should, just saying it saves time.

I agree, play blue if you by themonkey at Fri, 04/13/2012 - 15:45
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I agree, play blue if you want, but you have to be careful if you want a quick game. Not only does blue have lots of instants, but it has lots of time walks. There is nothing worse than sitting through someone taking multiple multiple turns. One extra is okay, but stringing together 2+ usually makes me leave the game just out of boredom.

Although there is one offender that is much worse. Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. If you want to bring games to a crawl, use this card. Not only does is pretty much make opponents play at half speed, it puts a trigger on the stack EVERY TIME you tap a land for mana. If he doesn't go away soon, I usually concede because I have better things to do with my time that deal with that many triggers.