Raise Your Standards – My Paralyzing Problem with Arena

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards. This week I’ll be talking about Arena. I’ll go over the things I like about it as well as the things I dislike. I’ll also tell you about a problem I’ve encountered when playing Arena, as well as providing some possible solutions to this problem. Let’s get started.

Open Beta

I started playing Arena while it was still in closed beta. I was one of the lucky people to receive an access code early on; however I didn’t really take advantage of it. I played it a few times, generally liked what I saw, and then stopped playing because I knew my account would eventually be wiped. I had some concerns about the Arena economy that I let the development team know about, but overall I liked what I saw.

Once the Open Beta started, I began playing more regularly. Knowing that the cards I received weren’t going to be taken away from me meant that I cared about them and wanted to get more. I’ve known from the beginning that I have no interest in paying actual money to play Arena, as I feel that I spend enough on Magic by playing the physical card game. The way cards are obtained in Arena meant that I would need to make due with whatever cards I received as part of rewards for winning games and packs that I had purchased with the gold that I had won by completing daily challenges.

Over the course of a month or so, I’ve accumulated a fair amount of cards including Wildcards of various rarities. And this is where the problem lies. When I collect the physical paper cards, I collect a full playset of each expansion so that I can play any given deck. This also allows me to switch my deck whenever I want to. However, because of the limited ways to get cards in Arena without spending a significant of money, I cannot play Arena in the same way that I play paper Magic.

I’ve also found myself playing games mostly with the preconstructed decks that you can earn in the game rather than creating my own decks. I do have one Mono-Red deck that I’ve built for myself, and while it is fun to play, it doesn’t feel like any of the Mono-Red decks that I can build in paper Magic and play at my local Friday Night Magic (FNM). I know that I have the means to build a deck like this if I wanted to by spending my Wildcards on the cards I would need, but then my Wildcards would be gone and I wouldn’t be able to create any new FNM-level decks.

This issue with Wildcards highlights the fact that getting specific cards in Arena is very difficult. For me, it creates a paralysis effect, as I don’t want to spend my Wildcards for fear that I will not be satisfied with the deck I create and will then be stuck without an easy way to create a different FNM-level deck.

I understand that the minds behind the economic system in Arena believe that this system helps lessen the bad feeling that destroying a card (in order to create ‘dust’ that can then be used to create new cards) causes. However, by eliminating this “feel-bad”, they’ve managed to create a different problem and a new bad feeling.


One solution would be to revamp the economic system that’s currently in place. Adopt a policy similar to the Pokemon TCG‘s online game that allows players to trade cards and booster packs with each other. Not only does this make it possible for players to get specific cards easier, but it also makes a collection have value. The reason I will not put any money into Arena is due to the fact that that money is entirely sunk money. There’s no way for me to get any return on my investment at all. Since I already spend a lot on physical Magic cards that do have monetary value, I cannot justify spending any amount on a game that offers nothing tangible in return. I would never consider spending any money on games like Candy Crush which offers the same return on my investment.

Another solution would be to increase the frequency that Wildcards appear in packs. After playing for a month, I finally have 4 Mythic Rare Wildcards. At this rate, I would need to play the same amount another 15 months in order to acquire enough Mythic Rare Wildcards to be able to get a full playset of Mythic Rare cards from a single expansion. Since new expansions come out approximately every three months, completing a set doesn’t seem likely.

Another solution would be to allow a player to trade in multiple Wildcards of a lesser value in order to get a higher value one. For instance, if I could trade in four Common Wildcards to get one Uncommon Wildcard, or four Rare Wildcards for one Mythic Rare Wildcard, it would make getting so many lower rarity Wildcards worthwhile.

Wrapping Up

My problem of being paralyzed when it comes to spending my Wildcards is a very first-world problem. However, it’s still an issue for me and possibly countless others. While I love the gameplay and enjoy best-of-one games, not being able to play any given deck is problematic for me. While I could build one specific deck, my enjoyment while playing Magic comes from playing a variety of different decks rather than the same one again and again. I enjoy the differences that different deck styles offer. Playing control is very different from playing an aggro deck. With the current system, I can’t build both styles of decks and have them both be competitive. That creates the paralysis in spending Wildcards that is the problem. Hopefully it’s a problem that’s being looked into by the development team and will be addressed in an upcoming update.

What kinds of problems do you have with Arena? Are you also paralyzed when it comes to spending your Wildcards, knowing that once they’re gone, they’re gone and you’re locked into the deck you’ve built with the cards you used them on? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.  Or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com. And, don’t forget to like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MTGDeckTechs/) to be sure to be notified when a new article is posted.

Also, be sure to check out my articles every week on CoolStuffInc.com. I have a new article there every Friday as well.  If you like the innovative decks I write about here each week, you’ll want to check out my articles there as well.

And be sure to join me back here next week for another installment of Raise Your Standards.  I’ll see you then!

— Mike Likes


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Mike Likes

Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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