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How to Play Browser-Based "Magic: The Gathering" on UnTap

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

A Magic game on UnTap

A Magic game on UnTap

What Is UnTap?

You've likely heard of Wizard of the Coast's hit card game, Magic: The Gathering. Fans of this addicting strategy battle will play the game anywhere, from the privacy of their own home to the energetic atmosphere of an airport.

But what can you do if you don't know many people who play, or simply don't feel like venturing into the cold, cruel world today? Internet to the rescue! Your options:

  • Curl into a fetal position, only blanketed with your sorrow.
  • Utilize the official Magic: The Gathering online site; however, collecting cards there is gonna cost you some serious dough. See previous point.
  • If you're willing to put up with a few issues (we'll get to those later), you can try a using a website or program like Cockatrice. One of of your best bets is the browser-based website UnTap.

Starting a Game on UnTap

Once you login to UnTap (you'll have to make a username, and confirm it through email), you'll want to build a deck; simply click New Deck to begin. You can manually search for the cards one by one, but it's much faster to paste a deck recipe.

Once you have at least one ready, click Games on the main Hub to browse through available matches. If you don't see the format you're looking for, create your own game and name it Vintage, Modern, or whatever mode you're utilizing. Typically, I have an opponent enter my created game within five minutes, so you're not usually dilly-dallying long. Thankfully, the site will beep when another player joins, so feel free to do whatever on your computer while you wait.

UnTap will randomly select a player to go first, but you'll be manually performing tasks (see Cons for more information), like drawing your opening hand. It's time to duel—er, play Magic!

A fan-made Godzilla card

A fan-made Godzilla card

Pros

So you know what UnTap is, and how to begin a match; here's a summary of the positives you can expect from the site!

  • Free!
  • Works in your browser, no download required
  • Impressive card list, easy to build decks
  • Message and play against people in real time
  • Can play any format, Modern, Commander, you name it
  • Can play multiplayer
  • Alternative artwork for cards available
  • Can use fan-made cards
  • UnTap woks for other card games too, like Yu-Gi-Oh or Force of Will

Free
If you're a huge cheapskate like me, that one word you were really searching for was "free," and you found it. UnTap won't charge you a dime, nor must you download anything to your computer for it.

Fan Cards
UnTap has almost every card you want, and on the rare occasion you find one missing, you can upload it yourself for everyone to enjoy. You can play in any format and even with fanmade cards (be sure to specify that in the match or you will be bombarded with malice).

Community
There's also an ongoing forum for people to post in, a button to add other players as friends so they pop up when online, and an option to turn the artwork of your basic lands into anime girls. Yea, as if Magic isn't nerdy enough already (and boy is it), nothing screams "future prom king" like a Forest card depicting Sailor Moon.

Still, it's cool how customizable the site is. Check out some semantics you can expect other players to use below.

Lingo

AbbreviationMeaning

EDH

Commander Format

Kp

Player is keeping beginning hand, no mulligan required.

gl hf

"Good Luck, Have Fun." A good indication of a polite player.

gg wp

"Good Game, Well Played." If you don't say this after a game, especially when you lose, you'll come across as a fetid sleazeball. Don't be that guy.

s

"Swing," s6 means the player is swinging at you with 6 power, s1 would be 1 power.

g2?

"Game Two," player is asking for a second match.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Cons

Contrasting the many boons of UnTap, here's a rundown of the disadvantages.

  • Must manually perform the effects of cards
  • Disorganized, aesthetically-lacking layout (update: this has been improved on)
  • Opponents, shall we say, fluctuate in politeness
  • Lag rears its ugly head
  • Deck Paster has some issues

Game Mechanics
By far the greatest shortcoming here is that UnTap doesn't really know the rules of the game, nor will it perform the effects of cards. You get to do that yourself. Now, it has the tools for you to do this, you're just gonna have to do it every darn time. If a creature enters with a plus one counter, you yourself have to click the plus counter button and smack that puppy right on there. This sounds bothersome, and to an extent it is, but once players learn the shortcuts for how to quickly search libraries, discard, etc. (noted below), games should proceed quickly.

Deck Pasting
Also, while UnTap's ability to copy and paste a deck recipe works fairly well, you'll still want to browse through the results. Sometimes it misplaces cards with similarly-named ones, and you'll have to fix them; for Planeswalkers, UnTap tends to paste their tokens or emblems into your deck, not the Planeswalker itself. Thus, make sure good ol' Jace is actually by your side before you wade into combat.

Player Attitude
It's inevitable you're gonna encounter players who will just up and leave when losing, call your deck cheap, and remark about the girth of your mother (to be fair, she really should cut back a bit). While it's frustrating to face people who can't take a loss, this is more of a fault of mankind than UnTap, and I imagine you'll run into these heifers no matter where you go.

UnTap Shortcuts

KeyEffect

C

Draw a card

X

Untap your cards

D

Discard a card

V

Shuffle deck

F

Search deck for cards

T

Put card on top of deck

Y

Put card on bottom of deck

UnTap's field display

UnTap's field display

Overall Review of UnTap

Despite the disappointing aesthetics and physics, UnTap is still a fast, variable, and free platform for playing Magic anywhere you have access to the internet. It's far from perfect, but patient players can find hours upon hours of enjoyment here. So go ahead and tap that.

But first, cast your thoughts on the UnTap experience, learn about the best planeswalkers to deploy in your library here, and I'll see you at our next Magic review!

Questions & Answers

Question: I was in the middle of a good game of browser-based Magic: The Gathering, when it seemed the site went down, and when I tried to get back into the site, it said "This site can't be reached" and "untap.in took too long to respond". What happened that I should know about?

Answer: It was probably an update or temporary bug; the site seems to be working fine (as of this writing). It could also have been an issue with your internet. Either way, if something like that happens, chances are good you can log back in a day or two later.

© 2017 Jeremy Gill

Comments

Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on July 19, 2018:

@x1134x

You're right that this occurs much more than it should, but to be fair, it's pretty common in any online chat feature between strangers. Rather than calling out an obnoxious player in the chat, it might be better just block them, and if something got real bad, there are moderators who *may* assist.

x1134x on July 19, 2018:

Just stay away from the chat lobby, if you even mention something about your game that is "verboten" to them, like for instance "my opponent rage quit", they'll jump you for "bringing salt" into the chat, and treat you like you've been spamming the channel with obscenities, and if you DARE ask "why" boom 7 day ban. "Do not question my Uhthoritiiiiiiii" They're very quick to stroke that ego of theirs with mouse clicks, its the highlight of their day.