Some thoughts on Magic The Gathering: Arena

Hey, I was bored Saturday so I wrote something on Facebook about MTGA and it got pretty long. Here it is!

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I hope you're enjoying your Saturday! I wanted to say hello and say that I am really enjoying Magic: The Gathering: Arena. It is by no means a perfect game but it is a really fun rendition of Magic for the digital age and I've had a lot of good times with it over the past year or so, so I figured I'd take a moment and write up some thoughts on it since it came out of beta on Tuesday.

THE GOOD:

*Got some sweet animations that really add some zip to the game and make you feel tingly in your pants when a big mythic rare pops out.

*It's free to play without TOO many crappy upsell things. Some of the cooler modes (sealed deck) you have to pay for with gems but you can still do drafts and of course play regular games as much as you want. I spent 20 bucks on gems earlier this year but have barely spent them so far. You can earn some gems through free activities but that goes pretty slow. Still, most of the paid stuff is cosmetic, outside of packs, and you can get a decent number of packs through earning gold.

*I really dig the ability to stack up three daily quests and knock them out in one go. Any given day your quest will be something like "play 20 red or white spells" or "play 25 lands." If you get three of these all at the same time you can customize a deck to hit multiple objectives at once and you can pretty easily knock them out even if you lose your matches (I lose a bunch and still have fun).

*The free decks you get are pretty good and well-built and it's easy to make a copy of them and add your own power cards. You also get wild cards from opening packs that you can convert into any rare/mythic rare that you want, which is pretty handy if you know what you want to unlock. These obviously accrue pretty slowly but it's a nice feature.

THE BAD

*The deck editor could really use some work in ways that I don't have concrete recommendations for. Deck building back in my physical Magic days would involve just throwing all my cards down and figuring out what I wanted to do; it's a little more difficult to get a big picture of how to build a deck with the editor as it is now. It might need some kind of power user editor, but in the end it seems like it really relies on the user having a broad knowledge of which cards they want to use before actually hopping into the editor. This is especially true when dealing with the millions of dual lands that you wind up with. I don't have any concrete recommendations here; it just feels like this feature could be a bit better.

*Performance is still an issue. Lots of weird little hitches when you're scrolling through cards and when casting. Nothing devastating (it's turn-based after all), but it's distracting enough to be annoying.

*The UI feels like it could use some work. I'm not a designer at all and I hesitate to make suggestions here but it seems like the main menu has a lot of weird open space for promotional stuff and it results in them having to hide some of the play modes behind a toggle menu, which is less than ideal.

*People who want to be shitty can slow-play you and drag games out to the point where it's easier to just concede and start a new match than wait for them every turn. There's a timer system for plays but it's pretty long and if people want to drag things out matches can get really frustrating. But by and large people play pretty quick and most matches are done in under 10 minutes if not 5.

*Obviously the set rotations (which have been around in physical Magic for most of its existence) are going to be frustrating for people who aren't used to them. You can only use most of the cards for two years after they come out at which point they'll rotate out of Standard and only be available in Historic mode. Not a big deal if you're used to it but definitely something to be aware of if you wind up spending a bunch of money on cards.

CONCLUSION

This is a great digital version of Magic! I really dig it a bunch and I've at least checked in on it almost every day this year. They could've easily made this a fully paid product where you had to spend real money on the packs or added an energy system to prevent you from playing for free after a while, but as it stands you really do get a bunch of stuff to play with without spending money, which is what I'm looking for in a F2P kind of game. I had a great run with my Elf deck which just got rotated out, so I guess I'm in the market for a new one.

We did an Unfinished of MTGA a while back; not sure we'll do anything else with it but we'll see!

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