You may have thought Oko was the most busted aspect of recent Magic: the Gathering history, but you’re dead wrong. The “Oops” emote on MTG Arena has won me more games than all of the clutch top-decks and opponent misclicks combined (note, the author is not actually very good at Magic: the Gathering, he just gets very lucky all the time).
Most of the emotes in MTG Arena have pretty banal uses: “Hello” is a greeting, “Your Turn” is what you spam when someone’s timing themselves out while you have lethal on board, “Good Game” is a greeting if you’re rude. But “Oops” is a 5-dimensional chess game.
Picture the scene: You’re fighting for board control in a Throne of Eldraine Limited Draft. Your opponent has a Syr Alin, the Lion’s Claw, you have one of the three Grumgullys you picked up because you draft like a champion, and you just top-decked a Barge In. The only way you’re taking out your opponent’s creature is by having them take the bait on a terrible attack. But no one would see a 3/3 coming toward a 4/4 and not immediately assume it’s bait, so you begin to employ your grade-school drama-club skills.
First, play anything you can on your precombat main phase, make it seem like you’re planning on just passing the turn. Next, spam the “Next” button until you declare “All Attacks.” Do this fast so it looks like you just accidentally cycled through your phases and didn’t mean to hit that button. Hover your mouse over Grumgully, long enough so that your opponent can see the white outline on their screen. Make it seem like you’re confused, that maybe you’re trying to click your creature to take the attack back. Wait a second, then hit them with that “Oops.”
Suddenly, this isn’t a cheeky attempt at baiting out value in the eyes of your opponent, this is a flat-out mistake. A product of buffoonery that they can capitalize on. Hell, they may even think that you’re new to Arena if you’re Bronze rank, and it’s the “Oops” that seals the deal.
Players utilizing tells and body language to manipulate their opponents’ actions is nothing new. Take, for example, the tried and tested technique of goading your opponent into an attack by preemtively reaching for your life total, suggesting that you’ve already decided you’re going to take the damage. Or by buying extra time by asking your opponent their life total, suggesting you’re close to killing them with some kind of unknown damage and making them play more conservatively. There’s also the very high-chaos technique of randomly asking things like “can I see your graveyard” when you’re playing a Simic flash deck, potentially completely throwing your opponent off as they try and recall what you could possibly have in your deck that their graveyard would matter.
In Arena, players lose almost all of these physical tells, but gain access to a whole host of mechanical aspects that you can exploit in a similar way to their IRL counterparts. For example, the aforementioned “attack on accident” play is impossible to pull off in paper Magic. The curse of the bad autotapper is also a fun exploit; playing a card, then hovering your mouse over whatever untapped lands you have before dropping an “Oops” draws attention to your mana and suggests that you have something in your hand that you are now unable to cast. There are some other techniques that do translate across from paper Magic, such as attacking with a smaller creature that you’d been holding back for a few turns, suggesting that you finally drew the combat trick you needed to let it survive an attack.
But the majority of the manipulation you can engage in during a game in Arena is mistake-based, so how do you properly set up your “Oops”? Dropping an “Oops” after a risky attack may work some of the time, but sometimes your opponent will either see through it, or just take the risk and, while you can’t really change how lucky your opponent is feeling, you can certainly make your “Oops” more believable.
First is to use it earnestly. Saying “Oops” after you get blown out with a pump-spell, or when your bomb rare gets countered, not only shows humility and softens the potential stress of the game, but it also primes your opponent to believe that you’re an honest “Oopser.” By using emotes throughout a game, you lessen the significance of their appearance, which in turn tricks your opponent into not overthinking your “misplay” that you just “Oopsed.” Second, “Oops” sparingly. Not every misplay or blow-out needs an “Oops,” or a “Good Game,” or even a “Nice!” You want your blow-out “Oops” to be subtle and consistent, not lost in a sea of similar reactions. At worst, constantly spamming emotes may lead to your opponent muting you which completely destroys this incredible tool.
So, now you know about basic “Oops” technique, now we can discuss what many in the industry call: The Pro-Gamer Moves.
One, The Double “Oops.” Take our Grumgully/Syr Alin example from before but, this time, you can’t kill your opponent’s creature with a pump spell because you don’t have a pump spell. But playing on defense isn’t going to do you any favors here, you NEED to keep your clock going and punch through with damage. So, how do you feign a combat trick? Attack with no “Oops”? What are you, a Hearthstone player? No, attacking with no “Oops” will almost always result in a block in my experience, if players have to pick between the risk of a combat trick and the potential death of an opponent’s creature, most will always take the risk. So what do you do? You “Oops” on attacks and, as you move to declare blockers, you “Oops” again. Suddenly, your opponent’s perspective has gone from thinking you’ve goofed up, to thinking you’ve just let the mask slip.
Why are they telling me Oops again? they wonder, finger hovering over your creature, a single bead of sweat beginning to form on their brow. Do they want me to think this was a mistake? Why would they even telegraph this was an error in the first place if they didn’t want me to try and capitalize on their mess-up?
The Double “Oops,” or the preemptive “Oops” where you “accidentally” admit your mistake before confirming attackers, is a great way of really confusing your opponent and slipping damage through when you’re bluffing an answer. Of course, sometimes bluffs bust and you should only really use them when you have things to fall back on in case they don’t work. Using a bluff as an all-or-nothing strategy can sometimes blow up in your face if your opponent can recognize that you’re in a bad position and doesn’t get greedy.
But this isn’t even the biggest Pro-Gamer Move you can pull. May I introduce you to GGOH. The trick which sounds like a Welsh hamlet is simple, instead of opening your game with “Hello,” feign a misclick and instead emote “Good Game,” swiftly followed by your first “Oops” and then the “Hello” you opponent was expecting. You may not always find opportunities to sneak in an earnest “Oops” during your game to set up your sneaky “Oops” later, and starting your Arena games with a theater of errors immediately sets up your opponent up to expect you to use emotes in a honest and casual manner. It also primes them to believe any bluffs you make are genuine misplays, after all if you can’t even click the right button to say “Hello,” it’s not crazy to assume you’re prone to other “mistakes” as the game goes on.
What started out as a genuine response to my own inability to remember that the autotapper is not my friend and, in fact, considers me its mortal enemy, has now taken on a new life as an effective “Press X to Bluff” button. But I haven’t stopped using it as it is intended. I’m a big advocate of using all the tools available to you win a game of Magic, be that wheeling and dealing in EDH, feigning a tell at an FNM, or through optimum “Oops” utilization on MTG Arena. But games should first and foremost be ways of having fun with other people and that doesn’t stop just because you can’t see your opponent. Yes, use “Oops” to win clutch stalemates, and sway the swing of battle in your favor, but using emotes for their intended purposes also improves your game beyond your win-rate.
Magic is at its best when you treat it like the game it is. Being kind, genuine and good humored with your opponents, both online and off, will always improve your experience in the game. Feigns, bluffs, and false tells should be used like you would a regular card, without malice and without manipulation beyond the immediate context of the game. And if you get “Oopsed” or “Double Oopsed” (Oops stopped looking like a real word about 600 words ago) then respond with a “Nice!” Encourage your opponents to play their best and have as much fun as you hope to in the game. Being able to contribute to another player’s sense of accomplishment as they best you, or giving another player space to feel okay and not bummed out if you trick them, is a great feeling and that is the most important technique to master the “Oops” tool: Be kind.