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Magic Workstation Guide

Magic Workstation (MWS) is a Windows application that lets you do several things with Magic cards, including building and managing decks, creating custom card sets, and playing games either by yourself or with others across the Internet. This last feature is probably why you’re here – this guide will help you set up Magic Workstation, with recent card data and all the card images, for your and your friends’ amusement. I also go over setting up voice chat so you and your opponent can verbally abuse one another while ruining each others’ Pro Tour dreams, since I find that it makes playing the game and keeping track of what’s going on a whole lot easier.

So, onward!

Magic Workstation Preparation

Step 1: Download MWS

First, you need to download the application itself, from the MWS downloads page. Grab it and run it. At the end of installation, you’ll probably want to uncheck the “Launch Magic Workstation” checkbox, since there’d be little point to running it at this stage.

Step 2: Card Databases

Installing the MasterBase the first time is pretty easy. Subsequent installations may require additional hoop-jumping if you’re on Windows Vista or Windows 7, but I put said hoops in a footnote on step 3 for those who run decent and modern versions of Windows. And don’t even think about blaming Vista or 7 for this; it’s not their fault that MWS is antediluvian refuse.

  1. Open it, and extract the contents to wherever you installed MWS; it’s probably something like C:\Program Files\Magic Workstation\Pics\ (or C:\Program Files (x86)\Magic Workstation\Pics\ on 64-bit Windows systems). Tell it to overwrite with a vengeance!
  2. There is no step number 3, unless you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, in which case here’s a footnote. 1)

At this point, if you wanted, you could fire up Magic Workstation and see if it’s got all the card information in there. If it does, you’re ready for step 3.

Step 3: Card Images

This is usually the most challenging part, as finding all the pictures for the cards can be a righteous pain in the butt. Fortunately, because I’m such a nice guy, I’ve got most of them here. This main archive is quite large and will probably take at least an hour to download. I recommend doing it while you sleep, assuming you do that from time to time, or while you’re off eating dinner, which many Magic players could do with less of based on the look of their physique. The others are just additions to the big ol’ pile.

Once they’re done downloading, extract the contents to the Pics subdirectory, underneath wherever you installed MWS; it’s probably something like C:\Program Files\Magic Workstation\Pics\ (or C:\Program Files (x86)\Magic Workstation\Pics\ on 64-bit Windows systems).

Step 4: Making MWS Less Stupid

Magic Workstation is an ugly, outdated, convoluted piece of garbage. There, I said it. It’s the best we’ve got at the moment, though, so we make do. There are a few tricks to making it less irritating, though.

  1. View → Deck Edit Mode – I just think this layout is better.
  2. Tools → Preferences → General → Path to Deck Files (it’s down at the bottom) – I make a Magic Decks directory in my documents folder to keep all my decks in, and you can do the same and set the path to that directory here.

Voice Chat

Because Magic Workstation is older than dirt, it doesn’t have any built-in voice chat. Using voice makes the game way easier to manage, like with most other games, but you will need a headset or, at the very least, a separate microphone and headphones.

I’ve set up a TeamSpeak server for us to use when playing, since it’s free and decent. You can get it from the downloads page on their site; choose the 32-bit client (unless you’re running 64-bit Windows, in which case… you’ll want the 64-bit one… duh), agree to the unenforceable license agreement, and install it. Proceed logically through the setup wizard that runs when you launch it. I recommend using Push-To-Talk so that we don’t have to sit and listen to you baby-talk to your pet muskrat or whatever, but it’s your call.

You can connect to the TeamSpeak server with Connections → Connect (I know it’s completely nonsensical, but please try to keep up). The address is, and if you didn’t set the nickname during the initial setup wizard you should probably do so now. Then just hit Connect and you’ll… uh… connect. You’ll be in the Default Channel out of the gate, but you can right click “Team Changeling TeamSpeak” in the list and create one for your games, which I highly recommend doing; the rest of us really don’t need to hear you summoning your pink ponies or whatever lame cards you’re using. Just give it a name and the rest of the defaults are fine. Once you hit OK, it’ll automatically move you into the new channel.

Using Magic Workstation

Here are the basics for how to use this crazy thing.

Creating Decks

(I’m assuming you did the first thing listed under Making MWS Less Stupid, above, and put the application into Deck Edit Mode. If not… well, go do that now. I wrote it there for a reason.)

First and foremost, you can locate a card quickly in the left-hand pane by typing the start of its name into the Search box at the top of the list.

  • Adding cards to the main deck – You can either double-click it in the left-hand list, or select it and hit Enter. You can also use the blue arrow button between the two panes, but no one does that because it’s slow.
  • Adding cards to the sideboard – Select the card in the left-hand pane and hit <key>C-Enter</key>, or use the green arrow button.
  • Moving cards between the main deck and sideboard – Use the gray up and down arrow buttons between the two panes.
  • Adjusting quantities of a card in a deck – Select it in the right-hand pane, and either use the + and - keys on your numeric keypad, or the + and - buttons on the main toolbar.
  • Removing cards from a deck – Hit the red arrow button between the two panes, or use your numeric keypad’s - key or the - button on the main toolbar to reduce the quantity to zero.

When you’re done making your new deck that’s going to break the format and place you so highly on the Pro Tour that Wizards will have no option but to offer you a job of your choosing, you should probably save it. Click any card in the right-hand pane to make the deck list active – this is important and confusing, which is why it’s in bold – and then do File → Save Deck/Library As … If you did it right, the resulting “Choose a FileName …” dialog box will have “Save as type: *.mwDeck” at the bottom. If it says “*.mwBase” instead, then you didn’t click a card in the right-hand pane, and you’re going to end up a janitor at Wizards. Which I guess is probably cooler than a lot of other jobs, but far from ideal. So, name it something and save it. It’s a pretty rudimentary computer skill.

Using Decks from the Internet

Since netdecking makes you a cooler person, and guarantees your success in Magic, lots of sources make deck lists available for download, and you can load them directly into MWS pretty easily. First, find a deck – for instance, here’s the B/R Goblins list that took first at the $5K in Orlando – and then hit the link to download it in Apprentice format (unless they make it available in MWS’s .mwDeck format, which very few sites do). Select all the text and copy it to the clipboard, and then switch back to MWS. Use Tools → Paste Deck from Clipboard, which will show you what you already knew was in there. Hit the “Work with it” button, and it’ll probably pop up a dialog telling you that the deck list doesn’t contain any edition information, which is fine. It may also tell you that some of the cards couldn’t be found – most commonly, it says “4 [??] AEther Vial ()” because, for some reason, it hates AEther Vial – so you’ll want to note what they were and how many, since you’ll have to add them to the deck manually. Then hit the Close button on that oh-so-helpful dialog. Fix any errors with cards that it couldn’t find, if there were any. Then click any card in the right-hand pane, and then save the deck as per the paragraph above.

Solo Testing

You should probably do this first, before connecting with anyone else, so you can set your MWSPlay preferences up, including your player name.

Once you’ve created a deck, you can goldfish it against itself; the registered version of MWS will let you goldfish any two decks together. You can either do Game → Test Deck in Solo Mode, or hit <key>C-T</key>. This will bring up the “Start new Game” dialog, which I go into in more detail in Playing the Magics, below.

You’ll probably want to change your name to something other than “Player,” unless that is your name because your parents are weird. You can do so with Options → Preferences… and then entering the name of your choice in the text box near the top. I also enable the “Auto rotate table” option on the General tab because it makes goldfishing a bit easier. You can make it take up the full screen, which can be kinda nice, by either hitting <key>A-Enter</key>, or choosing Options → Full Screen Mode. You can then exit MWSPlay if you want, or keep playing with yourself; either way, the name change won’t take effect until the next time you play a game.

Because I’m a total loser with no friends, what I often do is load up a deck that I want to test against other decks in Solo Mode, and then play the other deck with physical cards on the desk in front of me. Even my cat pities me, but it is a good way to do such testing without having to register the application.

Playing Well with Others

If you didn’t set up your player name already, then you probably should do that now. See Solo Testing, above, for details on how to do that.

If you’re lucky enough to have another human who wants to join you in playing the game, then you can connect with them and play over the Internet. You can do so with Game → Connect to Opponent … or hit <key>C-I</key>. Most people use public MWS hosts to connect to one another, because almost all of us are behind routers and firewalls, which makes connecting to one another directly kinda tricky. In the “Connection on TCP/IP” dialog, you can “Enter your opponent IP” (MWS seriously makes the English language cry); I run a public server for people to use at You can either type that in the box each time, or hit the ”…” button to the right of the text box and add on a line by itself to the top of the “Servers list” that appears; that’ll make it so that the awesome server that we all love to use appears at the top of the drop-down box whenever you’re setting up a connection. Then hit Call.

Once you’re connected and in the “MWSHost viewer,” you can either join a game that’s waiting for you, or create a new one. To do the latter, type a name in the “New Game” text field – I usually use the archetype of the deck I’m wanting to test, but if you want the element of surprise then you can name it whatever you want – and hit Create Game. Then you wait.

Once someone else connects, selects your game, and then hits the Join button – which is exactly what you should do if you’re in the passenger seat and someone else has created a game you want to join – then you’ll need to hit the Accept button down at the bottom by their name. Then MWSPlay will launch and you’ll be on your way to Magic dominance. See Playing the Magics down below for details on how to work on that goal.

Playing the Magics

Whether by yourself or with others, this is likely to be where you spend most of your time. I’ll start with an overview of where things are in the interface, followed by some handy shortcuts, and then proceed with details.


So you’re staring at this big, blue sprawl and wondering what to do; let’s get some bearings first.

Over to the far right, top to bottom, is the zoomed card image, the match number, game timer, and match timer, and the action and chat log. If you wanna type anything to the jerk on the other end of the wire, that’s down at the bottom.

The rest of the screen is divided in half horizontally by the turn number and the step tracker, with your junk along the bottom and his or her junk along the top. Along the left of each side, from top to bottom, is the player name and portrait and their current life total, the library with the number of cards remaining in it, the player’s current hand size, their graveyard and the number of cards in it (which turns green when they reach threshold), and their exiled stuff. Alongside the card piles are mana counters; you can left-click one to increment it, and right-click to count down.

Down along the bottom of the screen, from left to right, is your library – if you’re playing with the top card revealed, which you can do by choosing that option from the “Show” menu and then clicking once on the library down in the corner – and your hand. Pretty simple stuff.


The general workflow that I utilize when playing is like so. First of all, if I’m using voice chat (see above), I don’t bother with the step tracker; I just say, if necessary, “untap, “upkeep,” “draw,” and so forth, with a pause in between. There’s no step tracker in real life Magic, so I figure the same system used there would work here. If you do want to use the step tracker, you crazy freak, just hit <key>C-Spacebar</key> to advance it forward.

Untap (<key>C-U</key>), upkeep, draw (<key>C-D</key>).

To play something from your hand, double-click it. To tap or untap an individual card on the field, double-click it. You can tap or untap multiple cards at once by dragging a box around them and then double-clicking any one of the selected cards. When you play a land, creature, artifact, or enchantment, it’ll try to put it in the right row on the battlefield, but you can organize things however you want. Any other spells – including planeswalkers, since MWS was last updated in 2005, before anyone even knew the card type was going to exist – will appear in the topmost row. Once you’re done resolving a non-permanent spell, just drag it over to your graveyard.

If you want to show something being targeted, right-click and drag from the source – your Lightning Bolt, say – to the target – for example, your opponent’s dumb face, or one of his lazy creatures. You can clear the most recently created arrow with <key>A-Backspace</key>, or all arrows with <key>C-Backspace</key>. They also clear when advancing to the next step in the step tracker.

You can declare something as attacking by selecting it – or drag a box to select multiple guys – and hitting <key>A-a</key>. One can declare something as blocking by selecting and hitting <key>A-B</key>. Unless it’s completely clear what’s going on, you might want to use arrows for this, as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

That’s really all there is to it, for the basics.

Tricks and Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts

Untap <key>C-U</key>
Draw <key>C-D</key>
Advance a step <key>C-Spacebar</key>
Next turn <key>C-Enter</key>
Gain 1 life <key>F12</key>
Lose 1 life <key>F11</key>
Set your life total <key>C-L</key>

Mana and Storm Counts

I like to use the mana symbol counters underneath the player name and portrait for keeping track of mana pools and storm counts in complicated decks where you’re doing a bunch of crazy shit. There’s a spot for each color, including colorless at the bottom, and you can increment it by left-clicking and decrement it by right-clicking. For storm count, I’ll usually use one of the colors that the deck doesn’t use (e.g. white in Two-Land Belcher).

You can also create a fake token creature (see immediately below) named “Spells” or “Storm Count,” put it on the battlefield, and then add and remove counters from it on the right-click menu.

Counters on Cards

You can put counters on cards by right-clicking the card, and choosing to either Add, Remove, or Set Counters.


You can right-click on the battlefield, then choose Create Token… → Create Token… Type its creature type(s), its power and toughness, its colors, and any ability text it has, then click “Add.” This will put it in the Predefined Tokens list, making it easier to create one in the future as it’ll appear under the Create Token… submenu when you right-click on the battlefield. Create your first one by selecting it in that list, and clicking Create. The first token in the list can easily be created by hitting <key>A-T</key>.

Variable Power and Toughness

You can set a creature’s power and toughness by right-clicking it on the battlefield and selecting Set Creature P/T…, or just selecting the guy and hitting <key>C-P</key>. I swear my Tarmogoyf is a 25/26. Dies to everything, though.

Copying Stuff

Just select it and hit <key>A-D</key>. The copy will have a yellow title, so you know it’s fake. Not like the real card sitting next to it, the one with the white title.

Attaching Equipment and Auras

Just drag the card you’re attaching onto the card to which it’s being attached. It’ll do the right thing. See the notes on cards bit below for Umezawa’s Jitte, though.

Notes on Cards

You can put any text as a note on a card, by selecting it and hitting <key>S-Enter</key>. Instances of where this can be handy:

  • Champion and O-Ring effects – Exile the receiving card, and then on the card that made it GTFO, put a note of which card was exiled.
  • Taunt your opponent – Write some pithy insult on a card, making sure he knows your opinion of his mother and extended family.
  • Umezawa’s Jitte – When you attach this to some guy as you would any other equipment, it’ll hide the number of counters on the Jitte. While it is fun to hide stuff from your opponent, he might come through the Internet and punch you. To prevent that from happening, I usually keep the Jitte where it is, and put a note on it of which creature it’s equipping; if I have two of the same creature, I’ll put a numbered note on the one who’s holding the stick and name it thus on the Jitte’s note. Not that it matters, because whoever first sticks a Jitte and hands it to a creature wins, so the game won’t go on very long.
  • As a suicide note – No one understands or loves you, so you can prove your point by taking yourself out. Leave a note on a card of your choice so we all learn how our apathy toward your very real and very important problems brought this about. Note that this will count as a match loss, and then you’ll later be dropped from the event when you fail to show up for your next match; your would-be opponent thanks you for the free win.
1) If you’ve installed and run MWS before, and you don’t see the new cards after manually shoving in the new MasterBase and firing it up, it’s because Magic Workstation is an antiquated piece of garbage. You can fix it, though. Open a Windows Explorer window, and in the address bar type %AppData%\..\Local\VirtualStore and then hit <key>Enter</key>. Go into the Program Files or Program Files (x86) folder you see there, and then into the Magic Workstation folder inside that. If you see a file called Master.mwBase delete that shit!! Seriously. Get it the fuck out. Then launch MWS again and see if your M11 toys are there.
magic/mws.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/18 13:50 (external edit)