MTG Arena: Free to play Magic: The Gathering

So MTG Arena has entered its open beta phase with the new rotation of Guilds of Ravnica, and there doesn’t seem to be a thread about it, so let’s bring it up.

MTG Arena is Magic: The Gathering, fully functional (with phases and passing priority and whatnot), quite pretty, and with the current set of standard cards. New players get 5 precon decks right off the bat, and can earn 10 more over the course of the next week.

Sealed and Draft are present, even if they’re pricy as hell (I had to grind for almost a week to make my first draft, but it’s not hard to go infinite).

You can earn cards by buying boosters with gold you get from playing. Additionally, the game has a wildcard system - sometimes instead of a card of a given rarity, a booster will give you a “wildcard” which you can redeem for a card of its own rarity (you also unlock these naturally after opening a certain number of boosters). This factor feels unnecessarily stingy to me, and it means that unless you’re really good at limited or spend a lot of money, building more than one competitive deck is going to be very slow going - I’ve been playing for two weeks pretty obsessively and I used every rare wildcard I got to build a mono-red aggro deck and am still missing several copies of choice rares.

Overall though, I am playing this obsessively. Because it’s really, really fun! And absolutely worth playing even though it’s still in beta. Give it a look! :slight_smile:

I agree it’s fun. I have been fortunate enough to have been playing since day one of the beta and have seen the evolution and improvements. For long time players I would suggest you not think of it as a constructed format game. You won;t have every card you want (at least right away). It is more like limited where you have to make due with a card pool. In this case the pool is the packs you open and the starter decks they provide. That make it feel less frustrating I think

The game play is great and worth downloading I think.

I assume that there’s also the option to pay real money for boosters, for those too impatient to grind for them, and that that’s how the game designers are profiting? What about trades-- Are those allowed?

There’s no trading nor a “dusting” system like Heartstone has to turn unwanted cards into the specific cards you want. That’s one of the biggest knocks on Arena so far: in order to play the deck you want, you have to spend an inordinate amount of money buying packs to get enough wild cards to build the deck, or you have to play a suboptimal version of the deck for a long time while you slowly add to it.

I’ve been having fun with the game. I’ve mostly been playing a red-white drakes deck, and a black-green saproling deck. I also created a green-white deck, but all of these are suboptimal. I haven’t spent any rare or mythic wildcards yet, as I’m still thinking about which deck I want to build towards.

The draft and sealed formats are also pretty fun. I’ve been saving gold to enter draft, and then using gems I win from the draft to save toward sealed. It takes a while to save 5000 gold though, and it’s tempting to spend money instead.

Interestingly, this is my first look back at Magic since I stopped playing legacy around the release of Alara Block. And what I’m noticing is… holy shit creature power levels are getting pushed. Steel-Leaf Champion is a mono-color 5/4 that can’t be chump-blocked for 3 mana. Benalian Champion is a Glorious Anthem on aggressively-costed legs, again on 3. Doom Whisperer is a mono-colored 5-mana 6/6 with flying, trample, and a really powerful activated ability. Carnage Tyrant is a one-card answer to the question “what if my opponent is playing a deck without many powerful creatures and I just want to win?”

I remember back when I was still playing, Watchwolf (a 2-color 3/3 for WG) was a big deal. Now, every color gets incredibly aggressive creatures. Even blue gets Tempest Djinn, which typically starts at 3/4 flying for 3 and only gets stronger in mono-blue builds. Ghitu Lavarunner in particular is basically a 2/2 haste for R. No wonder mono-red is so good!

Not complaining, but… damn. That’s one hell of a balance shift.

For what it’s worth, the spells have gotten worse to compensate. There’s no Cruel Ultimatum any more. More importantly, there’s no Ponder or Lightning Bolt.

Hence why I said shift rather than creep. :wink:

Yeah there was a shift in design philosophy several years back where they wanted the core of the game to be creatures punching each other. You can still make spell heavy decks but the really powerful non creature decks are mostly for eternal formats.

I think the key there is that creature-killing has always been so easy (typically, a couple of mana and a card). Back in the day, actually casting a Force of Nature or whatever was supposed to be a Big Deal… except that it almost always ended up being followed by just a Terror. So you’ve got to either make it harder to just eliminate creatures, or make the good ones easy and common enough that they can’t all get Terrored, or make the big deal ones a big enough deal that on the rare occasion they don’t get killed, they’re still worth it. Or all three, which is pretty much what they’ve done.

Another shift in this vein is designing a lot of creatures that give you some kind of value upon entering the battlefield (Ravenous Chupacabra destroys a creature, Jadelight Ranger explores twice, Izoni makes tokens, etc), so even if your creature immediately dies, you’re advancing your position. This also gives counterspells more of a reason to exist, vs. just running creature removal.

It really varies from set to set. The Ravnica set is pretty aggressive (didn’t know about the 2/2 haste for R, that’s bonkers ! And to think I was miffed to see a 3/2 with ability for 1G, when the staple 1X creature was the 2/2 grizzly bear (sometimes with ability)). But Zendikar for example (the set right after Alara) was called Battlecruiser Magic because there were tons of weak attack, high defense creatures as well as numerous tappers or return-creature-to-hand effects ; so matches usually devolved into everybody having a dozen creatures on the board staring at each other until someone slammed down either a planeswalker, some big flyer or an Eldrazi (huge motherfuckers costing 11 and up that destroyed things just by being on the board). The Theros set I also remember as having a low-to-middling power level on creatures with a few notable exceptions, because the set was very enchantment-oriented, had an XP mechanic and big monsters tended to be middling then had to be upgraded while on the field. Amonkhet OTOH had mildly overcosted creatures as many of them had a cast-from-grave mechanic.

It’s pricey no doubt. I bought a couple of the large gem bundles during closed beta (so I could draft a lot, then draft all over again after the wipe/refund). If you stick to quick draft you can stretch your $ over a very long time with only a modest win %. I figure If I can keep a 3.5 - 4 ish win per run average I can draft 4 of 5 times a week all year. Cheaper than paper, that’s for sure.

Plus with ‘breaks’ playing the free ladder once I get sick of the currently available quickdraft set I can build up gold. I’m pretty much done drafts/sealed for the current set.

I’ve mostly been playing the competitive mode since I got my mono-red aggro built. I can almost always hit 4 wins to get my gold back, and often get 5+ for a substantial profit. Mono-red seems pretty crazy. It’s not the most consistent and sometimes flames out, but Unstable Flamekin is really good, and with him and Experimental Frenzy you sometimes have turns where you can just dump half your deck into the opponent’s face.

Oh, and Goblin Chainwielder remains an incredibly stupid card, almost single-handedly winning games against Saprolings, Merfolk, mono-blue aggro, and more.

We did that once, me and the wife. She didn’t like it.

That’s deck, with an E.