MAGIC: THE GATHERING ARENA

Magic: The Gathering Arena is a free-to-play digital collectible card developed and published by Wizards of the Coast. The game may be a digital adaption of the Magic: The Gathering (MTG) cards, allowing players to realize cards through booster packs, in-game achievements or microtransaction purchases, and build their own decks to challenge other players. It is commonly mentioned as MTG Arena, Magic Arena, or simply Arena within the broader Magic: The Gathering context. The game was released in a beta state in November 2017 and was fully released for Microsoft Windows users in September 2019, and a macOS version on June 25, 2020. Cross-save compatible versions for mobile devices are planned in late 2020.

It’s a competitive card where players can collect cards from an immense library updated every few months with some new cards (expansion sets) added to the core set (also updated every year). For a replacement expansion added, the older leaves the quality competitive format. In this way, players can continually explore new mechanics and synergies, collect new cards, and have challenging matches with great diversification and complexity. Anyway, the last 4 expansions removed and therefore the older core set is still available for other match formats (and competitions) within the game.

Gameplay

MTG Arena follows the same rules as the physical card game, in which players use decks of cards that include land cards that generate five separate colors of mana, and play cards that consume that mana to summon creatures, cast offensive and defensive spells, and/or activate effects and abilities. Players battle other players using a selected deck, with the goal of reducing the opponent’s life total to zero before their opponent can do the same to them.

MTG Arena supports both Constructed Deck play and Draft play. In Constructed play, players create decks of cards from their library. The game gives new players a library of base cards and pre-made decks from those cards, but as players win matches or complete daily quests, they will earn new booster packs that add cards to their library, and permit players to then customize their decks and improve them. Unlike most physical packs of Magic cards which usually contain 15-16 playable cards, packs in MTG Arena contain 8 cards (1 rare, 2 uncommon, and 5 commons). In the Draft play, players are first given a number of special booster packs to build out a deck. They then attempt to win as many matches as they will thereupon deck. Once the player has won either 7 matches or lost three games thereupon deck, that deck is then retired; the player gets to stay all the cards drafted and also earns rewards that provide more booster packs and resources to create up their library.

Arena follows the favored freemium paradigm, allowing users to play for free of charge with optional micro-transactions. Players can use real-world currency to shop for gems or in-game currency, which successively are often spent on booster packs or to enter the draft or constructed events. Gems also are given as rewards for winning draft mode. In addition to regular cards from the set, a player can also receive “Wildcards” of any rarity during a booster pack or as a gift. The player may swap these Wildcards for any card of an equivalent rarity. Magic: The Gathering allows decks with up to four copies of an equivalent card, so once a player earns a fifth copy of a named card through booster packs, this instead is employed to feature to a Vault meter, supported its rarity. When the Vault meter is filled, the player can open it to realize Wildcards. The game doesn’t include a feature to trade cards with other players because the developers state this is able to affect their ability to supply in-game rewards to the extent they want while effectively calibrating the economy to form it easy and efficient to urge cards through game-play.

As with the physical edition, new expansions are introduced into MTG Arena as other sets are retired. The bulk of the game’s modes require players to create “standard” decks that use cards from the present active expansions. However, the sport also has limited support for “historical” decks that use any card available within the game, though these modes aren’t eligible for various progression within the game. With updates in May 2020, the game will permanently support the “historic” format going forward, tracking ranked play with these decks separately from those in the standard rotation, with players able to purchase or craft historic cards.

With the addition of the Core 2021 set in July 2020, Arena was also updated to include support for the new “Jumpstart” booster mode, themed 20-card packs designed to allow a player to quickly get into the game.

Development

The arena is meant to be a more modern method of playing Magic: The Gathering with other players while employing a computer in comparison to Magic: The Gathering Online. A key goal of its development was to permit Arena to stay current with physical releases of latest expansions to the physical game, with the goal of getting the digital version of the expansion available an equivalent day that they’re available in retail. For example, the Dominaria expansion was released simultaneously as a retail product and within Arena on April 27, 2018, while the primary major core game update in several years, “Core 19”, was available in Arena on an equivalent day because the set’s street date of July 13, 2018. The game also will stay current with the designated Standard format, where cards from a previous couple of major expansions are considered valid for deck construction. Players able to gain cards from sets retired from Standard, playing those cards is possible in “Historic” mode.

The core part of the event of Arena was its game rules engine (GRE). The goal of this engine was to make a system that could handle current and future rulesets for Magic to support their plan to remain concurrent with the physical releases. The GRE provided means to implement per-card level rules and effects, allowing it to be expandable. The GRE also helped towards speeding up play in the game. Compared to other digital card games like Hearthstone where an opponent cannot interact during a player’s turn, Magic: The Gathering allows opponents to react throughout a player’s turn. In previous iterations of Magic games that allowed this, including both Online and Duels of the Planeswalkers, these systems were found to slow down the game while waiting for an opponent to react or opt to not react. Instead, in Arena, the developers were able to use the per-card support to determine when reactions to a played card needed to be allowed, using observations from Magic tournament play. This helped to speed up the game for both players while still allowing for complete card reactions to be played out.

The arena wasn’t anticipated to exchange Magic: The Gathering Online; Online which can still support the entire Magic’s card history, while Arena only includes cards within the current Standard sets from its initial release and any expansions going forward. The arena was first tested in a closed beta. An initial stress-test beta to selected users started on November 3, 2017, with those selected limited to non-disclosure agreements for testing purposes, while others could apply to gain access to later stages of the closed beta. The first large scale closed beta started in December 2017. Its open beta started on September 27, 2018, with its full launch expected in 2019. It will include a battle pass feature, known in-game as the “Mastery Pass”. While Arena will continue to be available directly from Wizards of the Coast, it will also be released on the Epic Games Store in early 2020, and a macOS client is expected to follow afterward. The macOS client is expected to come after the 64-bit compatible Windows client is released, such that the macOS client will be compatible with the more recent macOS Catalina system software. 

Cross-save clients for mobile devices with iOS and Android software are expected to be released by late 2020, with players able to process either on the desktop or mobile clients.

In July 2019, Joe Deaux, for Bloomberg, reported that “nearly 3 million active users are going to be playing Arena by the top of this year, KeyBanc estimates, which could swell to nearly 11 million by 2021 consistent with its bull case scenario—especially if it expands from PCs to mobile. That’s just active users, and registered users might be higher by the millions. Already, consistent with Hasbro, a billion games are played online”. Of Hasbro’s franchise brands, only Magic and Monopoly logged revenue gains last year. Brett Andress, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, predicts Magic: The Gathering Arena adding the maximum amount like 98 cents a share in incremental earnings to results by 2021 (which is at least a 20% boost).

Arena had its full release for Windows users on September 26, 2019, aligned with the release of the tabletop card game expansion, Throne of Eldraine. The macOS release is planned for June 25, 2020.

Esports

In December 2018 Wizards of the Coast announced at the sport Awards 2018 that an esports pool would be created for the sport for 2019. The $10 million prize pool will be equally divided between the traditional tabletop game and the new digital version Arena.

In 2019, Wizards of the Coast unveiled a new esports program which started with a special Mythic Invitational event and a $1 million prize pool at PAX East, in Boston, on the weekend of March 28–31. The event was held in a series of three double-elimination brackets using a new MTG format described as “Duo Standard” requiring two complete decks with no sideboarding. The event was won by Andrea “Mengu09” Mengucci claiming the top prize of $250,000. On February 16, 2020, Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa won the 2019 Magic World Championship. The format for the top 8 of this tournament was standard and the matches were played on Magic Arena.

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