Magic The Gathering Arena

It is unclear to me, though, what someone who does not already have an investment in Magic would do here. The game gives you a few single-color starter decks to play matches with in the beginning, but they’re all very weak and lack any kind of unifying strategy other than “play the cards in your hand.” You can unlock new decks by accomplishing different quests, but what incentive does a new player have to actually play enough games to make that happen?

It is currently unclear to me what the path from being a completely new Arena player with no experience to an enfranchised, experienced player looks like. Perhaps the Arena designers are simply expecting the fan community and content producers to pick up that slack, and if so, then there should probably be some in-game pathway to direct new players to endorsed sources of information to show what high-level, experienced play is.

For example, there’s currently no robust explanation or informational links in Arena to show players how to build a deck. There are land count suggestions and there are tooltips in loading screens, but there is no educational material that states why you might want to have X number of spells or Y number of creatures. While an experienced player is always going to have opinions here, and consensus in Magic always seems to follow whatever a pro player said in an article last week, it would be nice to have videos or accessible links in the actual game application that takes new players to resources that can help them be better at the game. Otherwise, it is setting new players up to be completely smashed into the dirt over and over again until they bootstrap themselves out of their nightmare loss streak. That doesn’t seem super fun to me, and I think it will probably churn a lot of excited but inexperienced players out of the game.

Image: Ken Lashley (Wizards of the Coast)

Another potential pitfall for new players is the “wild card” system. Opening packs can give you wild cards of different rarities that can be transformed into a card of that rarity. So, for example, an uncommon wild card can become any uncommon Magic card by expending it in the card collection menu. And, of course, you cannot play a card if it is not in your collection, so you want to use these wild cards to get your full playsets of four cards.

If I use all of my wild cards to get four of a bad card, and I realize it immediately in the first game that I play with those cards, then I am being punished for experimenting and trying to be creative. In this scenario, I have used my wild cards “wrong” in the sense that I have created four useless cards. That happens when we play with physical cards, of course, but in physical Magic I did not lose a valuable resource that is hard to get in order to experiment with deckbuilding. Four of a given uncommon in paper Magic is going to be less than a dollar; in Arena, four uncommon wild cards are only accrued over hours of game time.

This means that there is a heavy opportunity cost for expending resources to see if a card you are unfamiliar with might be fun to play with or build a deck around. It makes for a play space in which using your wild cards as conservatively as possible to create “sure bet” decks is the only strategy that doesn’t punish you, and I’m not sure that makes for an exciting or fulfilling play environment. In any case, it creates a different kind of constraint than exists in paper Magic, and I am interested in what the play experience looks like over the remainder of the beta period.