MTGA: My Experience
Mitch here with another digital trading card game review! A few weeks ago I blogged about my experience downloading and playing the new trading card game from Valve, Artifact. It can be found here. Recently, I downloaded Magic the Gathering: Arena and gave it for a spin this last weekend. I wanted to tell you my experience and show you that this game might be right for YOU.
First off, a bit of background about myself as a card player. My history begins with opening my first Magic the Gathering booster pack at the age of about eight years old. I have played Magic the Gathering for the good part of the last 22 years. I competed in Magic events over the years across the United States, but mostly played on Magic Online for three years for about one hour to eight hours a day. During this time, I tried other games including Hearthstone, Eternal Card Game, TESL Legends, among others. I was invited to the MTGA closed ALPHA and tried my best to enjoy the game. Shortly after the BETA arrived, I uninstalled the game. I started streaming on Twitch with the intentions of doing MTGA, but I couldn’t bring myself to play the game for long periods of time and eventually gave up streaming the game. I had made up my mind that the game wasn’t for me. After a long while away from the game, I had some extra time on a Saturday and decided to give Arena one more go. Here are my first impressions and thoughts on my experience and the state of the game:
All experiences are from a span of three playing sessions. These are opinions of the author, not Inked Gaming. Any information relayed here that is not true, please reach out to Inked Gaming for editing. These opinions and conclusions are first impressions only.
OPENING THE GAME:
Upon opening the game, you are taken though a tutorial. As an older player, I didn’t particularly need this, but it was fun, engaging, and moderately paced. After completing the tutorial, you are given a couple decks and some booster packs to open.
I cracked my packs and upon opening one of them I received a card that was blank, and it was labeled, “wild card.” After looking at it closer, I learned that these can be used to craft any card in the game that you need – the card just needs to match the wildcard’s rarity. After opening the other packs, I learned that the “bulk rares (cards that are not good enough to be played in a constructed deck)” that I opened were in my inventory and that there was no way for me to “disenchant them (destroy)” or turn them into materials to be able to use to create new Magic cards that I wanted. After looking through my inventory, I realized that most of my packs that I opened I will never use the rares from. They were all highly costed creatures that couldn’t be played in my decks, or other spells that seemed to be more suited for the commander format.
Reflection: The formula of acquiring cards in MTGA goes against the industry norm of, “if you don’t like the card, you can destroy it for way less materials than it costs to create, and you can use those materials at a later time to create cards you actually want.” Instead, MTGA does something that I’m still not sure about, but am warming up to the more I play the game. Once you hit four of the same cards in your inventory, the excess cards (you can only have four of any card) are automatically destroyed and sent to a “treasure chest” of sorts that opens once you hit so many points. I still don’t fully understand this part, but it seems interesting.
At this point, I decided I wanted to try some drafts to see what the experience is like for the purposes of writing this article. I was sitting at about 2 thousand gold, which I thought would be enough. After looking through the draft options it looked like 5 thousand was the lowest one available to me. So, I headed to the store and purchased the intro 5-dollar bundle to get some currency to fire up a draft. The bundle seemed like a nice deal- I was given quite a few booster packs and in game currency, enough for two competitive drafts it looked like. I fired up a draft and finished with a nice green/white beatdown deck! After six games, I finished with a 4-2 record and ended with more in game currency than I started with, plus some booster packs!
Reflection: Overall, it was a pretty great first experience, but I could see the issues with doing poorly in one draft and not having enough currency to play more of them. The rewards are great, and you receive a booster pack even if you don’t win any games. I think one solution would be to create a draft format where you don’t KEEP the cards, much like phantom drafts are in MTGO, with low rewards and very low cost of entry. This way, people that aren’t looking at building a constructed deck could have an option to log in and enjoy a few draft games with their friends.
You are given an intro deck, and with the cards I acquired from the packs I built my first constructed deck. I jumped into the queues and got to playing!
Reflection: The cards that I was using were similarly matched up against my opponent’s builds. My mono green big creature deck got some wins in on the first few games and I was able to acquire more gold, and some packs through the “quests” that I was given. Quests are objectives that are given to you upon opening Magic Arena. For example, you could have a quest that says, play ten green spells. Go grab your monogreen big monster deck and get to casting spells! These quests give you gold, which allow you to play in events or purchase more packs.
After using the wild cards from the packs I opened and the cards I’ve drafted, I decided to give constructed a go. I was able to grab a deck list from MTGGoldfish.com and get going on building my “Golgari” deck. All in all, I was able to construct about half of the cards I needed for a full deck and got to playing on ladder! A few games in, I completed a couple quests, gained another pack, cracked a mythic rare that I needed for the deck and had a great time. I was able to win a few more games than I lost – running up against many players with similar decks as mine – somewhat budget but still some pretty good competition. At the end of my session, I noticed that I wasn’t winning nearly as much gold per win as I was earlier, so I decided to call it a night.
Reflection: From the looks of it, there are “diminishing returns” on how much gold you are awarded after each win. This seems like a pretty nice way of going about it since most people who play this are going to be on the more casual side of the spectrum, so weighing the rewards at the front end makes for a better overall experience. The constructed ladder had multiple ways of competing (best of 1 or best of 3) and it looks as if MTGA will be rolling out even more features in the future. The pace of play, time spent in game, the competition, the client features all left me satisfied. After playing for a few hours this weekend, I am very optimistic about the future of the game.
First impression ratings 1-10
I cannot give this game a higher than a 7 for this until the deck building interface is addressed. Everything else is smooth and beautiful, just very non-intuitive for me, much less a brand new player.
Difficulty: (1 most difficult - 10 being easy) 5
Magic the Gathering has a history of being relatively easy to learn, insane to master. This game follows that trend.
Most digital card games have the replayability aspect on lock-down. Magic the Gathering is the game in which most other card games are modeled after, and Magic the Gathering Arena does not disappoint.
Overall Score: 8
Magic Arena is the digital card game of the future. Change is hard for Magic players, including myself. The way Wizards of the Coast has listened to their community and made sweeping changes to their game leaves me optimistic for the future. This game does not disappoint and has left me wanting more.
-The profile section of the menu is just a menu with your gamer tag and a place where you can select your in-game avatar. Recent statistics, overall win rate, personal achievements, among other features are things that come to mind that could be added relatively easily. I think this menu has a lot of potential, it’s just very bland currently.
- The deck building interface for both draft and constructed could be improved dramatically. I feel like one of the only things that Magic Online currently does better than Arena is this aspect. To become a more accessible game, I think Arena should focus on this section very soon.
- Adding a ranked ladder like in other digital TCGs – I could see both sides to this. On one hand, most people do not care where they are placed on ladder. On the other hand, having a ladder showcasing how you match up to other players in the world could potentially make the game more competitive and nothing makes for better social media hype retweets than your best friend hitting rank 1! Wizards has already announced that they want to make Arena more “esports-centric” and I think this could be a natural step.
- I was advised by a friend to only craft the 3rd card of a set and hope that you open your 4th one naturally for collecting full sets of cards. They advised this so that you won’t craft 4 of one card and then open a booster pack and hit the card you just crafted. Little tricks like this are nice to know but could be circumvented if a small revamp of the card crafting system is changed.
Despite these small criticisms, I enjoyed the new version of Magic the Gathering immensely. The game play is smooth and crisp. The animations are beautiful but not overwhelming. The new drafting feature in addition to the multiple constructed modes make for hours of endless, unique game play. I fell in love with Magic the Gathering 22 years ago and lost that love a few years back. Magic the Gathering Arena has sparked an excitement in me about this game for the first time in a very long time. I hope that you’ll join me in rediscovering the game that we all grew up playing.
Go try Magic Arena here.
Check out the hundreds of talented Magic Arena streamers here.
Check out our Official Digital Card Game team, Team Rankstar’s Magic Arena page here.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in game!