About two months ago, Magic the Gathering Arena (MTGA) started its open beta phase after 10 months in closed beta. The game, of course, is based on the legendary trading card game (TCG), Magic the Gathering. I also learned in my month of playing that this physical TCG is referred to as Paper Magic within the community! Isn’t that cool? Now we all know that the online card game world is dominated by Blizzard’s Hearthstone – so where does MTGA stand as a new competitor?
I’ve never played Hearthstone myself, and apart from the occasional Yugioh and Duel Masters card game sessions in my childhood I really don’t remember playing any TCGs. So I started MTGA about a month ago, and well, I’m hooked. The game has adopted the same winning formula from Paper Magic and while I’ve never played that, I think that this game is perfect for newbies and long-time MTG players alike.
Free to play
MTGA is a free-to-download game but includes microtransactions in the form of gems. These gems can be used as an entry ticket into different competitive and non-competitive play modes or as a currency to buy booster packs. A big concern with business models like these to players is that the game may become a pay-to-win game with whales (players who spend an astounding amount of money) dominating the top of the ladders. From what I see with MTGA, you can be a whale if you like or you can be a free to play (F2P) player. Both will grant you the opportunity to create competitive decks, the only difference is the amount of time it will take. With wise spending and decent skill, as an F2P player, you can positively craft a trendy/meta deck in about 2 weeks to a month depending on the number of dailies you complete to collect coins. If you play a few games every day to complete the daily quests you will definitely have at least the 1000 coins needed for a new booster pack. There are currently 5 types of expansions for the packs you can choose from: Guilds of Ravnica, Dominaria, Core Set 2019 (M19), Rivals of Ixalan and Ixalan. If you want a head start, a significant boost USD $5 welcome bundle is available to all new players. This welcome bundle is a one-time purchase and includes 2500 gems and 5 M19 packs.
Expansive, exciting and a little bit gruelling
The universe of MTG is colossal, and while MTGA only has part of the cards that MTG has, 1253 cards is still quite a number. With the four different colours of cards – white, black, blue, and red – their different combinations and interactions can get a little difficult and overwhelming at times as a newbie. But luckily for us, there’s an awesome community on Reddit where you can ask questions and post about your experiences.
Reading the cards carefully will help greatly but it’s difficult to understand what some of the strings of words mean on the cards. That’s where the community comes in! Despite the minor difficulty that I faced (and still currently facing) I found that the game was so interesting and fun. No matter how long you’ve played Magic, everyone can agree that with Magic you never stop learning. There are so many aspects to why this game is enjoyable but my favourite is creating your own deck and playing the way you want and then strategically beating your opponents with that sweet homemade deck. Even if you think you’re not wise enough to create your own deck you can always refer to the probable millions of decklists online and tweak them to your liking.
The bad stuff
I know the game is still in open beta but there are some issues here and there. Mainly the slider that lets players view competitive modes such as the BO3 traditional formats, ‘Traditional Play’ and ‘Traditional Constructed’. Many would say BO3 is the real way to play magic because the additional required win will reduce the randomness factor in the game. The problem is that the slider is tiny and many players don’t even notice it. Coupled with the fact that there are no rewards for Traditional Play, BO3 seems desperate for an update.