Magic the Gathering Arena open beta has been out for just over a week now and I am having a grand time grinding away playing draft and sealed. The game has improved so much since closed beta and I have to say Wizards have really have done a good job with the game.
While the graphics and 3D animations for the mythic rarity cards are very basic and cheesy, the core attractiveness of paper Magic has not been lost in this digital version.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts so far on Magic Arena and please feel free to leave a comment below to share what you think about MTGA so far!
My Card Gaming Background
- I’ve dabbled in Magic for a year in highschool, this was back in Urza’s Destiny. I wanted to play Magic the correct way so bad that I printed and binded a copy of the comprehensive rules and carried it around with me during school so I could study it closely and settle any arguments that our Magic group may have.
- I started playing paper Magic again two years ago, and then quit, again, a year later. Trying to play constructed was almost like having a second job. You have to keep up with the meta, constantly playing with your cards like they are hot potato—trying to predict and get rid of them before they crash in value. While switching to limited alleviated some of the issues, you still had to deal with problems like cheaters, scheduling, traveling to the store, etc. These issues became more prominent as I got older.
- I’ve played Hearthstone since closed beta and even created a few sites about it. One was acquired and another one was disguisedtoast.com. (What do you like on your Toast?) Sadly, Hearthstone has not been introducing any new features for the past 5 years. I can’t remember the last time I opened the game.
How Much Money Have I Spent?
I’ve spent $105 so far on Magic Arena. I bought them in $10 bundles, and only bought them when I ran out of gems to participate in sealed or draft events. The events cost 2,000 and 1,500 gems respectively.
I play only limited events but I plan to start playing constructed once the Ixalan block rotates out. I do not want to invest in any wildcards in the Ixalan block and I will feel more comfortable once Wizards have figured out the solution to the fifth card problem (right now the Vault is the temporary solution).
I currently have 3,000 gems, so that will hold me over for 2 more competitive drafts. (Competitive draft is very lucrative in my opinion, need just 3 wins over 5 games to be very profitable).
How is the Grind for Currency and Cards?
If I had bought the biggest gem bulk bundle (maximum value) with my $100, instead of spreading it out over 10 small bundles, I would’ve gotten 20,000 gems. That is worth 100 packs, at a cost of 200 gems per pack.
Let’s assume that a booster box of paper Magic cards on Amazon is $100. A booster box contains 36 packs. That comes out to roughly $2.78 per paper pack. Magic Arena’s pack cost $1.00 (or 200 gems).
Unlike paper Magic or Magic Online, I can’t use my packs to enter drafts on Magic Arena. So, how many packs have I accumulated so far?
I currently have 92 packs and 3,000 gems, which is worth about 15 packs. Minus the weekly rewards (6 packs since I had my quests reset due to the server bug) and the 3 free packs (use the code PlayRavnica, anyone can redeem this), I roughly got my $100 value back. But wait, there’s more!
Remember how I only played limited? That means I have been opening up packs of 15 cards for ‘free’! 3 packs when I play draft and 6 packs when I played sealed. I currently have a whopping 216 rares and mythics! Minus the duplicate New Player Experience deck bug (37 so far) and the 3 planeswalkers closed beta reward, this brings the number to 177. This is very, very generous compared to Hearthstone. I already have 2 [scrylink]Ral, Izzet Viceroy[/scrylink] and 3 [scrylink]Vraska, Golgari Queen[/scrylink].
I even opened the Vault once already (this happened much quicker than I thought, not sure if it is related to the reset bug?). And I still have all the unused wildcards (and the wildcards I would get from opening my 90+ packs).
Do note that my rewards are skewed since I have played Magic for a number of years and participating in the competitive events allows me to reap the more lucrative rewards. But this demonstrates that if you are good, there are events that are high risk and high reward in Magic Arena!
How friendly is the Free to Play system in Magic Arena?
Between the quests, daily rewards, weekly rewards and especially the New Player Experience system, it is very easy to get into the game and get started. The New Player Experience give new players 5 mono colored decks and 10 duo colored decks and they don’t skimp out on the rares! (Yes, they only give you a single copy of a specific rare card but it is still free.)
The issue is expectation. Some new players want to jump in and start playing with tier one meta decks. It will be very expensive and it will take a while to accumulate the cards. But that should not stop you from learning and enjoying the beautiful game that is Magic the Gathering.
The major problem right now is not being able to play with your friends (for now). Once that feature kicks in, I think Magic will be much more friendly and see an uptick of players.
While I may be a paid player, but that’s only for the limited format. I have been using my constructed side to test out the free to play aspect of the game. You probably noticed my ‘Farm’ black deck in the screenshot. That’s basically 39 copies of [scrylink]Rat Colony[/scrylink] (a common) and 21 Swamps. Does not get more free to play than that!
Don’t forget using the code PlayRavnica (case sensitive) gets you 3 free packs and if you get a prerelease promo code, you can get a free sealed entry (worth 2,000 gems) which guarantees a payout of 9 packs (one time per account). Be on the look out for giveaway threads like this.
Is Magic Arena here to stay?
Past games by Hasbro/Wizards has always been outsourced. For Magic Arena, they wanted to translate the complete experience of paper Magic on to the digital platform. They created an in-house team (finally) for it. This shows a degree of seriousness on their part.
Wizards also have a track record of abandoning older Magic games in order to sell and cash out a newer version of the same game. See ‘Magic Duels‘ and its releases.
If Wizards can provide a solution to the fifth card problem and implement a friend list (and playing with friends) by the end of the year, I think the sky’s the limit for Magic Arena. The rules engine and logic are miles ahead of Hearthstone. Just the final tweaks to the economy and implementing the social features will really make this game take off.
There are also examples of the developers listening to good feedback. This is a good sign.
There was also an unscheduled server outage last week that affected a lot of players’ events. Since some of these events were basically paid with real money, Wizards were pretty quick on the reimbursements. I got my 2,000 entry gems back in less than 24 hours after sending them a ticket about it. Another good sign.
Where are all the resources?
Magic the Gathering is an old, old game. It was released it 1993, making it much older than some of those playing it! Here are some resources that are dedicated to Magic:
- MTG Gold Fish – Price lists, articles and deck lists
- Scryfall – Card database
- Channel Fireball – Articles
- Starcity Games – Articles and deck lists
- Magic Online – Deck lists
- MTG Top 8 – Deck lists
You’ll also find numerous guides on this site as well. I am slowly building up a collection of evergreen (always relevant) guides. So check them out!
If you have a favorite Magic site that you think is worth mentioning, leave a comment below!
So how is the limited format on Magic Arena?
It’s a lot of fun. A lot. You’d think best of 1 (in the sealed event) would not be the full Magic experience. It’s not. It’s a new Magic experience. I’d complain if best of 1 was the only way going forward in Arena but best of 3 still exists for the spikes. Options and new ways to play are always good. The awkward part is drafting with AI opponents.
The AI drafting opponent at the start of beta was really terrible at valuing aggro cards. I faced a ton of Boros aggro decks just filled with mentors. I switched over myself and ran over a lot of opponents. It’s now much better and you can safely draft other colors. Though I think Dimir is now undervalued by the AI just a tad.
I do not miss drafting with human opponents (on Magic Online, MO). Since I’m tossed into a a big pool of players for the actual matches on MO, drafting on Magic Online is already skewed.
The event that is currently missing on the schedule is Competitive Sealed. Hopefully that’ll be implemented soon. Though I enjoy best of 1 quick sealed games, my preferred mode is still best of 3.
So what’s next?
Wizards was pretty smart with a limited number of active events with a rotation schedule. This keeps the players engage and something to look forward to on a weekly basis. Core events will be kept available 24/7. So there are events like Guild of Ravnica non-competitive draft, singleton and Dominaria draft on the way.
Wizards said the friend list is one of the first items they are working on post open beta launch. Hopefully we’ll get an update soon.
There is also a memory leak performance issue that is especially a problem for streamers since they would have to restart their client every 2 or 3 hours.
Guilds of Ravnica and open beta just launched so everyone is in their ‘honeymoon phase’. It’ll be interesting to observe at the 2 and 3 month mark, where the meta becomes rather stale and the number of complaints is expected to rise (bannings, economy grievances etc).
I personally can’t wait to see how far Magic Arena can go! What about you?