I thought I was done with MtG with the exception of M13 Duel of the Planeswalkers for my MtG fix. I’m not sure what the spark was last year that fired my curiosity but I began exploring the possibility of getting back into MtG.
I quickly eliminated paper because I only played a couple of MtG face to face games, and that was back with a friend at uni in '94/'95, when we stayed up half the night playing casually with his cards (boiled down to whomever had the Serra Angel). Fast forward many, many years - 23/24 to be exact - and no-one I know plays MtG. Work and family life heavily restrict my time.
I initially considered MtGO, and then I heard whispers of MtG Arena and dismissed the idea because I initially wasnt interested in Standard. Yet I found myself reading MtG articles and getting addicted to ‘Alpha Investments’ YT content of all things (creepy Rudy). I also watched the odd Tolerian Academy (the Professor), episode also on YT over the last year or so (trying to scratch that MtG itch).
Then I read on Stately Play that a couple of forum members - @Kolbex amongst them - were playing on MtG Arena. I also ‘discovered’ Reddit at this time (as I’ve said before, it does take me a while with these things but eventually I come round. Eventually) - especially ‘AsiansGoneWild’ as a guilty pleasure - and started reading the Magic Arena sub-reddit. The excitement around the product and the meta in Standard drawing in old, new and returning players alike fired my interest.
I took the plunge a couple of days ago and have really enjoyed the experience (played 2 games - lost my first game with the janky blue Arcane Inventions precon deck, and then won my second game after deleting all of the precon decks and constructing a home-brewed W/G Selesnya deck) despite the awful New Player Experince [NPE].
The initial impression is a good one with the modern client in terms of play area, ease of play, animations, sounds, etc, although the female tutorial voice-over is annoying. Once you get past the 5 AI tutorial games, you are immediately dumped and left to your own devices with zero explanation of how Arena actually works - no explanation of the different tabs, profile, deck manager, how to obtain new cards, how the in-game currency works. Absolutely nada.
It was a combination of trial and error, Reddit posts, and finding a detailed run-down of how MtG Arena works on MtG Gamepedia (https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Magic:_The_Gathering_Arena).
- No in-game explanation of how to navigate the interface
- No in-game explanation of different formats (you have to unlock them)
- No in-game explanation that the game is player vs player (no single-player mode)
- No in-game explanation of the two different forms of in-game currency (gold & gems)
- No in-game explanation of how wildcards work
In true Wotc fashion, we have not one but two types of in-game currency that are used for different purposes:
- gold: for purchasing single booster packs (only x1 - other bundled quantities require gems) and entering some ranked events
- gems: for purchasing bundled quantity booster packs and entering some ranked events
Players can purchase gems with real money, and true to form for F2P with microtransactions, the real life / gem conversion rate doesn’t quite match to the cost of events or packs i.e. you’ll be left with a residual amount.
You can earn free gold, packs, and cards through quests and event rewards. However, unless you win a certain amount of games (approx 2/3rds of matches) in ranked events, the entry fee will most likely exceed any rewards.
At present, cards cannot be bought or traded. They are only obtained from free cards provided with the 5 precon decks (can delete the decks - cards remain in collection), in-game card rewards, winning or purchasing booster packs, and turning in wildcards.
Wildcards can be turned in for any card in MtG Arena as the same rarity of the wildcard i.e. a common wildcard can be used to obain a common card, an uncommon wildcard for a uncommon card, etc). Wildcards can randomly be found in packs - there is an average expected drop-rate based upon rarity and amount of booster packs bought.
All sounds quite negative doesn’t it? The negatives are outweighed by the positives:
- can play MtG online using a modern client (compared to MtGO)
- lots of players
- excellent Standard meta with wide variety of decks
- different events e.g. casual play (unranked and free), constructed events (entry fee) - BO1 and BO3 - draft events (entry fee), and limited time events (entry fee), and pauper (free) and sealed (entry fee)
- Wotc provide 5 precon decks free of charge (total jank - use the cards to construct your own decks), and a further 10 dual decks available via quests
- Special one-time offer of 500 gold, 5 packs, 2,500 gems for $4.99 (US and EUR) - hit that offer harder than smashing Asa Akira with the fury of a 1000 Hulks
If it isn’t already obvious by the fact that I’m typing at 03:10 in the morning, I’m immersed!
That said, if you’re interested in MtG Arena, go into it with your eyes open to weigh up the positives against the negatives. Entry fees for competitive play don’t put me off because I’ll probably only enter an event no more than once a month - so looking at the equivalent of $4.99. Of course, if you’re willing to put time in doing the dailies to grind free gold and packs, you could self-fund event fees and card purchases (‘go infinite’), however it is in no-way easy and would probably require an initial drop of funds to buy packs to increase card collection and wildcards to obtain cards for a Tier 1 / 1.5 deck. You’d also have to win approx 2/3rds of event matches to break even.
MtG Arena allows me to play MtG the way I want to play, with an interesting and exciting meta, and without spending a great deal compared to paper (caveats above apply).
I now need a ‘blocker’ in real life - my partner has just put her head round the door and inquired what am I still doing up, and whether I intend going to sleep at any stage tonight / this morning.