Magic The Gathering Arena, or MTG, is a digital manifestation of Richard Garfield’s tabletop collectible card game that was released in 1993. More than two decades later, it still sets the standard in the CCG scene. How? Well, here’s the full 411.
Apart from going digital, there aren’t too many changes to the game commonly referred to as MTG Arena, it’s published by Wizards of the Coast, developed by their gaming wing Wizards Digital Game Studio, and maintains the same rules as the analog version.
MTG Arena made its official Windows debut on the 26th of September 2019, though a beta version had been on live exhibition as early as 2017. Mac OS users and mobile gamers had to wait even longer, with the former only getting an official release in June 2020. The latter in March of 2021 – Covid-19 might have had a role to play in these delays.
So what’s playing MTG Arena like?
First of all, MTG Arena is served to players in the very popular “freemium” format. So, expect to encounter the usual like microtransactions and maybe using real money to acquire some in-game currency every now and then.
For the veterans of MTG, the digital game plays like a dream. Possibly the most successful port in the history of gaming. It’s everything you already know, stacked with the benefits of going digital.
However, the original tabletop Magic The Gathering had a nasty habit of being a little confusing and may be intimidating to people who aren’t familiar with the game. This dynamic made appeasing the vets and attracting new players a tricky business.
How did they satisfy both ends of the coin?
Thankfully, the development team found a way to deliver a product that satisfies both objectives. They achieved this by paying careful attention to the user experience and user interface. Because MTG Arena was created to be a digital alternative to card games and not a replacement, sticking to the tested was the most obvious way to please the veterans.
To attract a new audience, the minimalist approach was the best choice they made. The simplistic interactive layer that developers built into the game ensures that it flows smoothly from the tutorial right through to the actual gameplay. It will never feel like your fingers are running a clickathon. This makes MTG Arena a great entry point to CCGs, even with zero experience behind you.
Speaking of the gameplay, playing MTG Arena is exactly the same as playing MTG. Minus your opponent’s physical presence. The rules of the modern variation run directly parallel to physical card games, staying in step with the current and future decrees.
Players use a selected deck of cards that is made up of play cards and cards that generate mana. The play cards expand in order to attack or defend spells. As players go head-to-head, the objective is to deplete your opponent’s life total to zero.
MTG Arena matchups happen in two formats, constructed deck playing and limited deck playing. During constructed play, participants put tougher a deck from their own libraries according to a set of requirements. The biggest impact is that players are able to construct their decks ahead of a tournament.
On the other hand, limited play means that partakers are only allowed to build their decks using cards that come only from predetermined Magic products and cannot happen pre-tournament, hence the name ‘Limited’.
MTG Arena is not flawless though
Though masterfully executed, for the most part, MTG Arena has its shortcomings. Firstly, scarcity feels a little exaggerated when it comes to mythic and rare cards. Secondly, there are more than a few players who have complained about the game’s card shuffling algorithm, even going as far as claiming it is rigged.
Beyond that, the only other issues are minor annoyances to mobile players. To be more specific, reading the text written on the cards does get a little tedious on a smaller screen.
MTG Arena, for the most part, has achieved exactly what its creators made it to do. To present a more accessible form of the classic CCG, to both its loyal fanbase and new entrants. As time goes on, one wouldn’t be surprised to see this digital iteration of MTG growing to all new heights.