Magic The Gathering: Arena (MTGA) is about to come out of open beta and into the glorious world of official release. So first things first let's celebrate that!
With that being said, in its current build state Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has done a fantastic job and for the purpose of this article (and series) I will go over what I think they are doing great and make suggestions as to what strides can be made to further improve this ever growing game. As a point of reference, I am a MTG player who played on paper in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but never won anything at a Friday Night Magic and never took to playing the game in any serious manner. At the time, I was more interested in playing my jank goblin decks because they provided a theme rather than playing the more serious meta deck that was available at the time.
(This is as far as my deck building got me back in the day and it wasn't pretty.)
I took a very long break from Magic but came back recently when I was invited to the Beta for MTGA. Since then, I have started playing in a more serious and competitive manner often competing in Mythic qualifier events. Now that the arduous housekeeping and full disclosure is out of the way let's get to the good stuff. My overall experience with MTGA has been a great one for the most part; however, one I have bought gems & bundles ($800+) to allow the ability to play pretty much any deck I want as well as to jump start into any new set that comes out.
This isn’t to discuss the difference when you are a F2P player versus someone who is not. For the price of a AAA game (60$) you can build one top tier meta deck from any starting point and that speaks volumes if the user wants to complete and start a collection. With one top tier meta deck one could earn enough gold to build other decks and never have to pay out of pocket for additional cards if you didn’t want to, but this is a trading card game and cost is an inherent part of the game. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to assume players spend towards the game even if its cost is minimal (in the eyes of the gaming community) in a range of $5-$100+/month. The game has ways for you to earn all the currencies in the game which many F2P models don’t always allow - this is a particularly amazing feature. Well done WotC!
The game is filled with a plethora of voice lines and crisp animations that make the user really feel like the game has come to life! Once you’ve queued up, entering into a match is a breeze once and users are typically entering into a match in about 10 seconds after the request. The weekly and daily quests to complete give players a sense of satisfaction and of feel-good vibe even if the user wins or loses the match. In my opinion, the Tutorial Mastery system is honestly something that does not get enough credit for its simplicity yet amazing ability to ease new players into such a complex game and immediately make them feel comfortable.
(If you know someone who wants to learn magic I can't think of a better teacher then the MTGA Tutorial and Mastery System...well other then a human of course!)
I could go on and on about all the cosmetic’s that were added to the game which are great but I think they have only scratched the surface with what is achievable in this arena (I’m looking at you expression emotes during matches).
(Check these expression emotes from the TCG Duelyst think if these were all Nissa!?!)
IMPROVEMENTS TO BE MADE
One area that I believe the game falls flat on and would elevate MTGA to new heights is to fortify the gathering aspect of the game. For all of the amazing aspects that MTGA brings to the table it fails when it comes to the connections that users have with one another. Bringing people together is the aspect is that I hold as one if not the most impactful reasons this game has been so successful for the last 25 plus years. Sure you can duel against another wizard anytime you’d like but you can’t interact with them in anyway other than the five premade, predetermined chat bubbles. Outside of this feature, users can not interact with their opponent in any meaningful way. Magic has always been a place where people gather and socialize. For those who have been playing the game for the last quarter century, it may have even been a platform for where they learned how to socialize. Why have we gotten so far away from one of the original pillars of the game to only be provided a platform without any social aspects to it. In the beta version we are relying on third party applications like Discord and Twitter that then provides users with a disjointed experience. Users shouldn’t have to search for my opponent’s twitter handle just tell him that was an amazing play, to compliment their deck or ask to see a deck list. These are important interactions to the game of Magic helping to drive a community and the organic growth of the game. What I am going to be suggesting in my next few articles is that we put the gathering back in Magic the Gathering! Here are some of my recommendations for implementation to the next version in order to bring users back together. Create a friends list, in-game chat lobbies, and Clans/Guilds to connect. In my article next month, I will explore the possibility of completing for planes as a guild versus another and maybe earn ICR or gold to be giving out to your entire guild with a win.
I will conclude by saying that MTGA does feel like playing Magic for the most part. You are provided the same emotional reaction and rush from top decking online that a player would on paper. The visuals themselves are so well done and stunning that one could almost believe they are a real planeswalkers. We just need to find ways to feel like your playing the game of magic with your friends at your house and not a silent bot. I can’t wait to see what is next for MTGA. I do hope they work in more aspects to bring people together so users get that true gathering feeling and an overall experience which is akin a reminiscent of paper Magic.
MrPunchingBag is newly returned Magic Player, who just wrote his first article hoping it will help him better understand Magic and well as join the community he has grown to love.