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How to use BotArena (Last update 14-Oct-2012 19:39 UT)

by battlestar

Moderators: FranAvalon, Marek14, CCGHQ Admins

How to use BotArena (Last update 14-Oct-2012 19:39 UT)

Postby FranAvalon » 01 Oct 2012, 14:34

Botarena interface windows

Most of the game windows are detachable. I only use a couple of windows when I play: Messages and Actions, but each player has his/her preferences. The windows are:

Actions - When you have priority, all possible actions will show here. It has three switches, All Actions, Untap and Auto.

All Actions switches whether "stupid" actions (like casting Doom Blade on your own creature or tapping a land for mana when you have nothing to spend it on) will be shown in the window. If they will, they will have a question mark next to them.
Untap switches whether the cards will be automatically untapped during your untap step or whether you have to manually select them. You should probably have this on.
Auto switches whether an action is selected automatically when it's the only possible action in the list. Usually better to have on, sometimes you might have to look into the log to see what the heck just happened.

Preview window: this shows the card that was last under the cursor. Situations like selecting a card from list usually have their own previews. BotArena is capable of using the full card pictures from slightlymagic but you need to copy them into its image directory (Images\Cards\MWS)and some of the set codes (directory names) differ. When in doubt, open the deckbuilder by Ctrl+D, find the card you want, and name the directory according to the displayed set code.

Messages: shows the log of events that happened during the game. Use it when computer does something unclear (what was that card he revealed to play Silvergill Adept?). Some information (like top card of your library, when revealed, or the number of poison counters) is currently only displayed here.

Stack: this window opens only when stack is nonempty.

Turn: shows the turn number and active player, also shows the current phase/step and allows you to set flags on them (similar to Manalink). At the bottom of this window are two important icons, Pass and Combat. "Pass" (Space) means that you don't want to do anything now and you pass priority to the other player. "Combat" (C) is used in your main phase to signify that you wish to go into combat phase. Current implementation has an optional combat phase so beware -- one of my common mistakes is to accidentally press Space in Main phase and lose the chance to attack.
Ctrl+Space can be used to say that you wish to pass continuously. This will end either when something goes on the stack, when you have to declare blockers or when your turn starts. Be careful, the pass loop will NOT break when opponent attacks! If you have some manlands you wish to activate in response to being attacked, don't use Ctrl+Space!

Player: Shows the life totals of both players, the number of cards in their hands, libraries and graveyards, as well as the current content of their mana pools.

During the game, the names of players, their life totals and their mana pool is displayed on the right of the playfield.

How start a game.

There are four ways to start a game

- Menu: Game -> Start
- Click on the green arrow in top left of the icon bar
- Press CTRL+S.
- Right click on the battlefield and select on Game > Start.

The Start Game window is divided into two parts, top for player, bottom for AI. On top you can set your name and your deck (button on the left from deck droplist lets you change directory, default directory is Decks in the main directory, and then there are subdirectories where we store Daily Decks and official preconstructed decks that we have). There's a "Random" checkbox on the right of the droplist that allows you to have a deck selected randomly from everything in the directory.

The top part also has "Start first?" line where you can check Yes, No or Don't Care.

Bottom part allows you to set deck for computer, along the same lines. The Opponent field has a dropbox which normally only has Computer (CPU) in it (if you connect to another player through net, you can find him here and play against him).

The AI vs AI part allows set a number of games where AI plays versus itself and you can watch the game. If it is set to 0, the games is player vs AI/ player.

Finally, there are "Mulligan" and "Full Screen" buttons, function of which should be clear.

The game.

BotArena divides the game into timesteps. When you have the priority, you must select and perform an action. This can be done by several means:

First of all, there's the "Actions" window -- this is the main method, and, unfortunately, it can get very confusing. Basically, this window lists every single basic action you can perform, such as tapping a land, casting a spell, activating an ability, or selecting an attacker. For example, when you have a Cunning Sparkmage, the Actions window will list as a possible action activating him for every possible target. It's currently not possible to get mana after announcing a spell or ability, you need to gather it beforehand. Actions are also sorted alphabetically and they interpret Magic symbols alphabetically, meaning that when there's lot of them, it gets confusing (you might not remember right away that blue mana symbol is alphabetically after the tap symbol!).

Basically, Actions window is a "fallback" system that you have to use when the other don't work.

Actions window is also used for many special decisions:
Mulligan -- BotArena doesn't let you choose "Play or draw", but if you checked Mulligans, the game starts with mulligan decisions. Some players get burned on this one because they don't realize that they need to use the Actions window at the very beginning.

Trigger target-selecting -- you might suddenly get target choices when an ability triggers that needs a target. For abilities that target and have a "may" wording, there's currently an option to skip that ability altogether, although strictly speaking, that's not rules-correct.

Trigger order -- when several triggers you control goes on stack at the same time, you have to select their order.

Actions window has several checkboxes - All Actions lets you show both "reasonable" and "questionable" actions (i.e. actions the computer doesn't see any point in performing), Untap makes the untap step automatic instead of letting you choose individual permanents to untap (this should be turned off only in case that something limits your untap actions, for example Winter Orb or Smoke), and Auto will select an action for you automatically, if there's only one possible thing you can do.

Second method of acting is right-clicking the cards. Any visible card (battlefield, hand, and even graveyard, if it's not too obscured) with green border has actions associated. You right-click it and the top part of the menu shown tells you what you can do with it. Right-clicking is almost always easier that selecting directly from Actions window. There's just one problem with it: the number of actions the menu shows is limited. If there's a LOT of things you can do with the card (typical example is casting a X burn spell, since there's one action for every combination of mana payment and target), and you don't see the one you want, then you have no other option then use the Actions window.

Third method: double-clicking a green card. This performs an action associated with it. This ONLY works if there's exactly ONE action. For example, to get mana from a basic land, just double-click it -- but for a dual land, you need to use the right-click method to choose what color you want.

If you double-click a card, but nothing happens, it's possible that there's some action you haven't noticed. For example, it's possible to tap Llanowar Elves for mana when you're declaring attackers (as a preparation for Propaganda and similar), so you need to select whether you want to get mana or attack. Another common source of this problem is when opponent has a planeswalker and you select attackers - you have to use the right-click there and select who you want to attack with that creature, unless the attack is forced (Gideon Jura).

Fourth method: buttons in the Turn window. Turn window basically shows progress of the game, it tells you what phase/step it is, the number of the turn, etc. The bottom of this window is the most important part, showing:
A bar with either "Waiting for computer..." or "Your action needed". When it shows the latter, you need to input something.

A green arrow icon. This is the "Pass" button, and you press it to signify that you don't want to do anything. It's only disabled when it's mandatory to perform an action (for example, with the selecting order of triggers).
A sword and shield icon. This is the "Combat" button. At this point, if you are in main phase and want to attack, you must say it explicitly. Combat button is one way to do it.

Both Pass and Combat actions also show up in Actions window, they are usually the very first ones.

Fifth method of inputting actions is via keyboard shortcuts. There are three:

Space: Pass.
C: Combat.
CTRL+Space: Automatic passing until computer puts something on stack, your turn starts, or you're required to choose blockers. Very useful if you have some untapped mana and nothing to do with it and you don't want to be bothered pressing "Space" at every step. Currently a bit unfortunate in that it won't stop on computer attacking you (so you won't get a chance to animate manlands for blocking, for example). If you worry about that, only press normal Space.

The stop button (brown square in top left of the screen) is a button to concede and stop the game.

As for menus, the most important menu is Options -> Game Play settings, where you can:

Customize the name of computer player
Set the thinking time of computer player -- the AI algorithm is a tradeoff between intelligence and speed, the more time you give it, the better it should play.
Do various tweaks
The last option in this window selects what happens when double-clicking: it can either zoom the card to be readable or select only available action. I usually use the Preview window where the cards are shown, so I keep this on action.

If a spell or ability have just one target, you can pick and drop the card over the target. The target can be another card or a player (drop on avatar). This is the best way, but of course you can use the action list to do this. Drag and drop works only if the mana on mana pool is the necesary one to play the spell/ability. If not you must choose from action window or righ clic on the card.

In case that the spell/ability has several targets, the only way to use it is with the action window.

Other useful info:

BA has several Hotkeys which are showed on help menu.
For example most used hotkeys are "G" which opens a window showing your graveyard, R opens window with your exiled cards. CTRL+G and CTRL+R do the same thing for opponent.

Card frames: The card frames in the game can change colors to signify some events. Standardly they are white or black to fit with the scans (Portal: Three Kingdoms seems to have the wrong color of frames when used with slightlymagic scans).
A green frame around a card means that there are possible actions for that card. You can right-click such cards in order to get a list of actions for that card. The action window still lists ALL possible actions, and if the number of actions for the card is large, not all of them will be displayed on right-click and you'll have to use the action window.
A red frame around a card means that it participates in combat. It will be also shown with a Sword icon (attacker) or Shield icon (blocker). Also, attackers and blockers are connected with lines to signify who blocks whom.

Other interface marks:
Power and toughness of creatures is displayed in their bottom right corner, so it typically overlays their normal P/T box. When a creature takes damage or has a temporary P/T boost/penalty, its unmodified P/T is displayed in parenthesis. When a creature has summoning sickness, the P/T box is black, otherwise it's white. Creatures with summoning sickness are also grouped separately on the table.

Counters on cards are also displayed in bottom right corner of the card. They are symbolized with the first letter of their name, so Garruk Wildspeaker will enter the battlefield with "LLL" in his lower right. P/T affecting counters are signified with "+" or "-". The convention is that once there are four or more counters of the same kind, they show with a number (like "4L" or "5+"), if there are three or less, they all show as individual symbols.

Animating is currently not very optimal. When you animate a card (say, an Inkmoth Nexus), a creature token will be created behind the card. While they behave as a single card for most purposes (for example, they will share counters so Raging Ravine works as it's supposed to), you must, for example, aim Doom Blade at the "creature half" and the "land half" can have no summoning sickness while the "creature half" has. The animated versions of cards use special images. If I'm permitted, I'll post the link to token file so tokens would work corretly for you (while normal tokens use scans from here, they are renamed according to the token's internal number).


Deckbuilder is opened from menu Decks -> View Decks or by pressing CTRL+D. BotArena is capable of accepting plain text decks where every line has format [number] <cardname> [(number)].

First number is number of cards - if omitted, then it's 1.
Cardname is obvious.
After cardname, there can be a number in parenthesis - that's the internal code which allows to distinguish different printings of the same card. You don't have to worry about it when writing/importing plaintext decks.

The file can also contain comment lines (starting with //) and special commands (starting with #). For example, the command #Sideboard delineates the rest of the deck as a sideboard.

Sideboard, however, currently only appears in deckbuilder and you can't sideboard in games, but is usefull for wishes.

Using the deckbuilder is the second possibility to add new decks. In the current version, the deckbuilder has a top and bottom window, where top is the deck you're editing, and the bottom has tabs and can be switched between global cardpool and the current deck's sideboard. Cards can be found by scrolling, by typing first letters of their name, or by using the filter line in the bottom window (where you can search for strings in various fields). Between the windows are buttons for transferring cards in either directions, left-click transfers one card, right-click transfers four. Top window has a directory change button, a drop-down box with all decks in current directory, and buttons for adding a new deck or saving the current one. (Currently, it doesn't offer you to save the deck when you change the directory, so you have to do it manually.)

Decks are saved in what is basically a plaintext format, but the resulting file has automatic comment lines delineating the deck's structure, cards are separated by type, and all of them have the internal numbers. I usually import decks as plaintext, and then use the deckbuilder to finetune the card's versions to what I want them to be.

How to use the card filter
I will not explain color, spell types and rarity icons, because I think that their are selfexplained. Here i will try to clarify how I can use the search box.
Open menu box at left of the text box has seven options:
- Card name
- Card type
- Cost
- Power/thoughness
- Rules text
- Expansion
- Block

a) Card name:To use it you only need type the name of the card or a part of the name and press enter. On card list will appear only cards with the searched word on their name. That is very usefull if you remember only part of the name but not how the card name start. Also if you are looking for cards with a specific word in the card name.
If you knows the card name its better select a card on card list and start to type the card name.

b)Card type:you can put here spell type (same as icons) or the best utility is to search for a subtype as a creature type, arcane spells, planes, schemes....

c) Cost: Search for that cost, but if you put for example 2U as cost, you will get all cards which cost has 2U on it, as for example 2UU, or 2UB.... Not very usefull. I never used it. Its better order the card list by card cost ;)

d) Power/thoughness: look for an specific P/T

e) Rules tex:You can write a word or a phrase, but the search is for the exact phrase structure. Usefull.

f) Expansion: Just type the set code, for example TSP for time Spiral (card code is the letters on the right of the set symbol)and you will get all cards from that set.

g) Block: here you can type card format: standard, legacy and modern, and you will get all cards from sets included on that formats. We dont have Banned list, so be careful here. Also you can filter by blocks, just writing the name of the block, ex. Masques-> mercadian masques block, ice age-> Ice age block and so on.
Here is easy try the correct work, because the text box will try to help you and when you start to type will appear the block/format name.


Gamelogs are stored on Botarena folder/AppData. There you can found txt files called GamelogX.txt, where X is a number.

On that file you can see the seed to shuffle the deck for each player and the decklist. Also a brief statistic. After that you will see the log of the game, turn by turn.
On each turn you can see some information on a text box, where you can found the player name and his/her/its life, the number of the turn and info about four game areas:

Libray: (Cards left)
Next three cards from top to bottom. (top, second card, third card)

Graveyard (number of cards into the graveyard)
Cards on the graveyard from top to bottom

Battlefield (Number of cards on the battlefield)
Shows all cards and tokens on the battlefield. Cards tapped are represented by a (T) before the card name.

Hand (number of cards)
Name of the cards.

And of course triggers and actions on that turn.

Last update 14-Oct-2012 19:39 UT
Last edited by FranAvalon on 14 Oct 2012, 19:42, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Update
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Re: How to use BotArena

Postby Emfatic » 01 Oct 2012, 17:32

Just thought I'd add this here. Sure helped me.

FranAvalon wrote:On deck builder to filter for a card set, you need to select expansion and then write the set code, for example TSP for time Spiral (card code is the letters on the right of the set symbol)

If you want search for standard cards, just select block and then write standard (that works with standard, legacy and modern). Also you can filter by blocks, just writing the name of the block, ex. Masques-> mercadian masques block, ice age-> Ice age block and so on.
I'd also like to add that there's a check box in the action window, for All Actions. It allows you to see actions that the AI would never consider doing, but you may need for your deck, like giving damage to yourself.
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Re: How to use BotArena

Postby FranAvalon » 01 Oct 2012, 18:37

To do a complete guide to use BA will take a lot of time, time that I don't have at this moment. Real live is hard ;)
As Marek said in other thread, we are a small group of persons developing the app, fixing bugs, checking different boards, updating our own board and a large etcetera. Currently we are five on dev team, and on last release the big work was done by Marek and a important contribution from triadasoul.

I will try to update this guide slowly, but I don't promise it. For now I will update a bit the deckbuider with that information :wink:


Updated with that info :wink:
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