This online ‘Magic’ game offers a lot to all levels of players
By Lauren Kelly, Graphics Manager
Are you interested in playing Magic: The Gathering? If you are, and you have a PC, you should download Magic: The Gathering Arena. Arena has recently left closed beta, which means that anyone can download it and give it a try.
Arena is an online version of Magic that focuses on the current Standard-legal sets. “Standard” is the format where decks are built using cards from the newest Magic sets. The current sets, and those used in Arena, are “Guilds of Ravnica,” “Core Set 2019,” “Dominaria,” “Ixalan,” and “Rivals of Ixalan.”
The main form of play is Standard constructed—constructed meaning that the decks are created prior to the start of a game. However, Arena also has drafts and sealed events, as well as other rotating formats like pauper—a variant in which competitors only use commonly found cards. It has the same gameplay and follows all the same rules as regular Magic, which makes it an easy way to learn the game for new players and a good way to get more playtime or to try out different decks for Magic veterans.
The reason Arena is the perfect way for someone to get into (or back into) Magic is that it is free to play. When you start, the game gives you a handful of decks to play with. All of the cards from these are also a part of your collection. Playing games wins you a total of 15 daily rewards of cards and gold, as well as daily new decks and less frequent packs of cards. This means that your collection accumulates quickly without you needing to spend any real money—something that I wish I could say about paper Magic. The game has a wild card system that also helps keep things on an even playing field. When you open boosters, you have a chance to get a wild card of a varying rarity that you can redeem for any card in that rarity. You use these to fill out your decks without having to spend way more on certain cards like you would in paper Magic.
Arena has two forms of currency: Gold, which you accumulate through daily wins as well as through some tournaments, and gems, which you can buy with real money or win in tournaments. You can use both currencies to enter draft and sealed tournaments, which get you three or six packs’ worth of cards respectively, as well as whatever prizes you win. If you perform well enough in these, you can win enough currency to do another event or come close to affording one. This means that you never have to spend real money on the game as long as you either do well enough in events to win a lot of gold and gems, or if you have the patience to play basic matches and win daily rewards for a day or two.
The game itself is very graphically interesting, with beautiful stages to play on as well as animations that trigger when you play many of the cards. For those who don’t like the sound of animated Magic, don’t worry—after the initial animation the game just shows the cards on the field, and you can always turn them off. However, I think the dynamic visuals add a bit more fun to the game.
Overall, Arena has a ton to offer. It’s free to play, removing a big barrier for new players who want to play competitively and levelling the playing field. It’s also playable at any time, so players don’t need to wait for scheduled events. For the shy, it has limited interaction with opponents, so people who are worried about interacting with strangers at game stores have a way to play comfortably. Arena also has plenty of fun features and modes that keep things fresh and interesting. I would recommend it to any player, new or old, to at least try.