Magic the Gathering Arena

I’ve been in the Magic the Gathering Arena beta for quite a while, but only this week the NDA dropped. So now I can finally express how incredibly disappointed I am with this game. In Magic Duels they had a great game which was mobile and playable for all different sorts of players, including casual and new players. And they stopped supporting that to make Magic Arena, which is solely tailored for the needs of a very small hardcore crowd.

Magic the Gathering is 25 years old this year. So over the years there have been quite a lot of digital editions of the game. And every time, after a few years Wizards of the Coast stopped support of the current platform and launched a new platform. Which means that every time any cards you had bought became useless, and you needed to start your collection all over again. One needs to be very hardcore under those conditions to invest heavily into Magic Arena. But with Magic being the original pay to win game, the people who do invest heavily have a huge advantage over those who don’t.

Because Magic Arena only features a single player vs. player mode, constructed, this mode is dominated by those hardcore players. You simply can’t start up Magic Arena and play a fun, casual game. There are neither casual PvP modes like two-headed giant, nor are there any modes to play against an AI of various difficulty levels for practice or just plain fun. There aren’t even less cutthroat competitive events, like limited mode leagues. There is only hardcore constructed, where anybody who isn’t hardcore and who hasn’t spent much on cards is just simply crushed. There doesn’t even appear to be some sort of matchmaking algorithm to even try to get people a more equal opponent.

That means that the flow of play of Magic Arena for a new player looks like this: He starts his first game, gets crushed, then gets crushed again and again, until he either uninstalls the game, or pulls out his wallet to be able to play with the big boys. My guess is that very few people will opt for the latter. It is as if the developers had carefully studied exactly what made Hearthstone such a big success and then decided to do exactly the opposite. Magic the Gathering simply isn’t such a mass market game any more that you can run a digital platform only for the hardcore.

I really don’t understand why Wizards of the Coast had to stop supporting Magic Duels, they could have kept that one going for the casual and mobile players. There is no overlap in the target audience of Magic Duels and Magic Arena. And now I am really sad that there isn’t any digital Magic game for me any more.