Welcome to a world of flashy animations and sweet sound effects; this is not your daddy’s MTGO. MTGArena is the newest digital offering from Wizards of the Coast that has been making waves in all sorts of communities and many of you may have actually gotten your hands on a beta key and jammed some games in the queues. I have been in the beta since day 1 and can tell you we have come a long way in a short time although there is still work to be done. Recently there was a large update that introduced full Standard into the game and 24-7 Draft queues as opposed to the previous weekend event model. With these features implemented Arena is starting to become a very legitimate platform to play Magic on. Moving forward I will be your source for all Arena news and will provide insight into playing on the platform. I can say I have been having a blast with Arena and am extremely excited for what the future might hold for this newest Magic adventure.
Welcome to the Arena
So, you just got your beta key and you are ready to start slinging some spells in the Arena but what cards do you start with? To begin with the developers have been kind enough to provide 10 prebuilt starter decks that you can immediately begin jamming some games with. These decks have a decent power level and are a good starting point to get a feel for the client and start earning rewards. You also are given a ton of packs to open right off the bat so results may vary there to what is added to your collection. Then the best part is with the newest update that added Kaladesh block to the game everyone was given one of every rare and mythic rare, two of every common and uncommon and playsets of some Standard staples such as Fatal Push, Walking Ballista, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and more! This leaves you with a pretty sizable starting collection and with the wild cards you open from your booster packs you can quickly build a tier deck. Which leads me too…
Wildcards are MTGArena’s answer to the dusting system common among other digital CCGs popularized by Hearthstone. The idea is to eliminate having to destroy tons of cards for very little value to get the exact card you want and instead get a one-to-one trade. Whenever you open a booster pack on MTGArena you have the chance of receiving a Wildcard of a certain rarity and you can then redeem that Wildcard for a card of the corresponding rarity. So far, I have personally enjoyed this Wildcard system and have found the drop rates to be fair. If you are smart about the way you invest your Wildcards then you will get a lot farther in building your collection out faster such as getting cards that are useful in multiple decks, but we will talk about that more another time. This does mean that much of your collection will gather some digital dust since a lot of magic cards are draft chaff and not really constructed playable. I do find it strange that there is no way to destroy all the terrible commons to turn into a real card but I don’t really mind since the exchange rate for lower rarity cards are generally terrible in games with dusting that I have found it easier to create a tier deck without spending any money in MTGArena than I did the first time getting into Hearthstone. Another reason is it is supposed to eliminate feel bad moments for newer players that might not know the power level of certain cards and accidentally destroy a chase rare in order to build a “bad” deck. I recommend most players to just start out playing the welcome decks and stock up on wildcards and don’t just start spending them randomly until you know what deck you might actually want to build.
Alright you have picked out your deck and are ready to start playing but there are several different formats to play. Newer players I recommend starting off with ladder play since your starting deck will not be at the same power level as players in the other queues. All players will play 10 placement matches for both constructed and limited which will establish a starting rank for matchmaking purposes similar to games like League of Legends. These are single game matches which make gameplay quick and allow you to grind rewards quickly. Next are the Quick Constructed queues which are a way to earn more gold and cards after exhausting your daily and weekly rewards. The entry is 500 gold which is the in-game currency earned through gameplay only or 95 gems which is equivalent to less than a dollar and is the game’s form of currency purchased with real money. Again, you play single game matches and play until you get 7 wins or 3 losses after which you are awarded prizes based on your number of wins with 4 wins breaking even and earing a few cards including a guaranteed rare. Then the newest format introduced into the game are the competitive queues which are best of 3 matches with sideboards and are first to 5 match wins or 2 losses. These cost 1000 gold or 190 gems and at 2 wins break even and earn a few cards including a guaranteed rare.
If constructed isn’t your thing and you enjoy draft then I think Arena is a great platform to jam a ton of games on. The only real drawback of drafting on Arena is that the rest of the drafters are AI which subtracts from the draft experience a bit. Although personally I find the drafting fun and with no timer it allows you to really put some thought into your decisions which can make future ones easier under higher pressure. I do still hope and expect the ability to sit around a digital Arena draft table with 7 other real players but in the meantime I have found that not having to pay for drafts is much easier on Arena and spending even a little money can go a long way if you have a somewhat decent win rate and just by getting all your rewards throughout the week you can at least do one draft for free. As far as draft queues once again we have Quick Draft which are single game matches and cost 5000 gold or 750 gems. Draft queues are a little different as well since they pay out in gems and boosters instead of gold and cards, so in Quick Draft you need to get 6 out of 7 wins to get 850 gems to enter another draft and you get a booster pack with a 40% chance for another. Finally, there is Competitive Draft which can only be entered with 1500 gems (about $10) and you play best of 3 matches and first to five wins or 2 losses. With 3 wins you break even and get 4 booster packs and at 5 wins you get 2100 gems and 6 boosters. The thing about these competitive queues are that once you get two losses you are done unlike MTGO leagues where you are rewarded on your record after 5 games and makes things a bit riskier. For the next month Dominaria is the Competitive Draft format and the Quick Draft format will rotate every week between each of the blocks currently in Standard.
Glory and Riches!
We all love playing the game but let’s be honest, we love sweet rewards too! In Arena there are a few different ways to earn rewards across all the formats which are your daily quests, daily rewards, and weekly rewards. Daily quests vary from things like, play 25 lands or cast 20 blue spells and yield between 500 and 750 gold when completed. You can only get one new quest per day and only can have 3 at a time so you can let them stack up over three days before completing any because there will still only be one available to you each day otherwise. Daily rewards have continued to be tweaked and changed and currently reward you a small amount of gold for your first 4 wins of the day and then at 5 wins you get a card of at least uncommon rarity with a 10% chance of being a rare. Every other win after that you get either gold or a card up to 15 wins per day. Finally, you can get weekly rewards at 5, 10, and 15 wins and you are rewarded a booster pack at each level. You should try to at least get a free booster every week and complete all your daily quests and you will be close to having a free draft or be able to play a bunch of Quick Constructed.
I personally have had no problem utilizing all these means of in-game currency and a decent win percentage to build a couple of good decks and play a lot of Magic and I hope to help you all do the same. There have been many complaints about the economy of the game and the way you get cards and I just want to say that while yes there are some flaws with the way things work I personally am just enjoying the client and find it so much more fun to play than MTGO. If I want to do some serious testing of several different decks or play a big tournament then I will boot up MTGO and log into my ManaTraders account to start jamming decks. Otherwise I have just been loving Arena so much that I would rather just play on the client if given the opportunity especially with the introduction of full Standard and 24-7 draft. I feel like building out a full collection won’t be as hard as people think once there are no longer collection wipes which will give players the ability to more easily switch between decks. So, stay tuned for all your MTGArena news and coming up I will be diving into what some of the best starting cards and decks to craft are and hope to get you to those first 7 wins in a Quick Constructed. In the meantime if you haven’t already then click here and signup for the beta to get in on the fun otherwise I’ll keep everyone else in the loop about development of the program and I’ll see ya in the Arena!