Magic: The Gathering Arena

The whole world of modern digital collectible card games, all these Hearthstone, The Elder Scrolls Legends, Gwent, Faeria, Duelyst, Chronicle: RuneScape Legends, Fable Fortune, died in the World of Tanks Generals Bose, and even the upcoming Valve Artifact based on Dota 2, everything they owe their appearance to the game, released 25 years ago, to the great-grandmother of all modern CCG (Collectible Card Game) - Magic: The Gathering from Wizards of the Coast. And although since that time there have been many video games based on this board card game, only Magic: The Gathering Arena, which began open beta testing a week ago, can be called a complete, convenient and friendly MTG, MTG for everyone. The game we've been waiting for.

Created in 1993 by Richard Garfield, Magic: The Gathering was the first and most successful collectible card game. In 2015, the number of players in MTG in the world was estimated at 20 million people, and only for the period from 2008 to 2016, more than 20 billion (!) Paper cards of various sets were sold. Since 1996, MTG has held professional tournaments with a good prize pool of $ 250-400 thousand, like for similar games. The last tournament, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the game, was held on August 3-5, 2018 in Minneapolis (USA), its prize fund was an impressive $ 800 thousand. Currently there are almost 20 thousand (!!!) different cards in the MTG. The most expensive of them is still Black Lotus from the Limited Edition Alpha. One of these cards was sold in 2018 on eBay for $ 87,672!

The first MTG computer game was released in 1997 by the legendary MicroProse and was called ... Magic: The Gathering. The designer of this original RPG / strategy / card game was Sid Meyer himself, the one we have to say thanks for Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, XCOM, Pirates! and dozens of other great games. In that Magic: The Gathering, you, in the role of a magician gambler, were supposed to travel around the world and fight with other magicians, winning cards and collecting your game deck. It was this game that introduced your humble servant, like thousands of other players in the post-Soviet space, to the world of MTG. Honestly, I would not give up the remake.

Magic: The Gathering Arena
In 2002, Magic: The Gathering Online, the closest-to-paper online version of MTG, appeared in many ways ahead of its time. Here was the sale of boosters for real money, tournaments with live players, etc. Pro players managed to make money on MTGO, on the Web it was really possible to meet such legendary professional players as Kai Budd, Raphael Levi and Oliver Ruel. Why, MTGO review was written to us by the author, who was in the Top-10 European players. Alas, MTGO has remained a game for a narrow circle of pros, despite 300 thousand registered accounts.

Since 2011, Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games launched the series annually, almost like some kind of FIFA, updated more casual MTG versions with a limited set of cards, a purely nominal deck editor, but with an offline campaign and interesting card puzzles: Magic : The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, Magic 2013, Magic 2014, Magic Duels: Origins. These games were good in their own way (one mode the Two-Headed Giant was worth), but the players wanted more - freedom, which has always been the basis of Magic: The Gathering. Finally, we waited - Magic: The Gathering Arena absorbed the best of Magic: The Gathering Online and Magic Duels: Origins, as well as spied on some of the elements from Hearthstone and other modern digital CCG.

Magic: The Gathering Arena
So, in Magic: The Gathering Arena (MTG Arena) all the current Magic: The Gathering paper card sets are available to players. Basic Core Set 2019 of 280 cards (this is the 19th edition of the basic set of cards), released July 13, 2018, and the last four extensions: Ixalan (279 cards, September 29, 2017), Rivals of Ixalan (196 cards, January 19, 2018), Dominaria (269 cards, April 27, 2018) and the freshest Guilds of Ravnica (259 cards, October 5, 2018). Moreover, the Guilds of Ravnica appeared in the MTG Arena simultaneously with the pre-release of the paper version, as early as September 29, 2018! Total for today in MTG Arena 1283 cards are available to players, of which they are free to collect decks of MTG-approved formats.

Magic: The Gathering Arena
In addition to a simple game of pre-made decks with random opponents in your collection of cards, MTG Arena offers asynchronous tournaments of all official formats. Quick Constructed - a tournament using your pre-assembled deck of 60 cards. Quick Draft is a classic draft in which you select one card from a printed booster (package), virtually transfer the rest to another player “to the left” and get the remainder from the player “to the right”. Alas, instead of live players who select cards, AI works here. From the selected cards you need to collect a deck of 40 cards. Quick Singleton - the same Constructed, but in the deck can be only one copy of each card, except for land; very unusual and interesting format. 

Sealed - you get 6 boosters with 15 cards each, from which you need to make a deck of 40 cards. Competitive Constructed is conducted by pre-assembled decks, but there is a sideboard (an extra set of replacement cards), and the match goes up to 2 victories. Competitive Draft - the same as Quick Draft, but matches up to two wins.

Magic: The Gathering Arena
All tournaments in MTG Arena are paid, for some you can pay for in-game coins, for others - only with crystals that are bought for real money. An important feature of Arena is that, like in Real Magic, all cards purchased for participation in the tournament are included in the player’s collection and can be used to create decks in the Constructed format. The cost of participation varies from 95 crystals / 500 coins for a Quick Constructed tournament to 750 crystals / 5000 coins for Quick Draft and 2000 crystals for a Sealed tournament. There are prizes at the end of the contest, even if you have not won a single victory, the consolation prize is guaranteed to you - coins, crystals, boosters or individual cards. Crystals for participating in tournaments and buying boosters can be purchased for real money. 750 crystals cost $ 4.99, 20,000 crystals cost $ 99.99. At the same time, the cost of boosters is 600 crystals for 3 packs, which is cheap compared to the paper Magic: The Gathering.

However, playing in MTG Arena is quite realistic, without paying a penny. As well as in other digital CCG, daily and weekly quests are available, where you can earn cards, boosters, coins and 15 (!) Pre-assembled official decks, which are enough to start playing, even if you are not well versed in the nuances of collecting decks of modern card set. Wins are also encouraged, up to 15 per day and 15 per week.

But the availability of all maps and formats is not the most important thing in MTG Arena. The main thing is that the developers have incredibly accelerated the inherently slow game, reducing the time of the standard game to 5-10 minutes, unless both players have taken awkward and complex blue-white or blue-black decks with a lot of card effects and interruptions. In fact, this is an incredible achievement, especially after Magic Duels: Origins and its previous iterations! The speed is simply overwhelming. And all that had to be done was to put an automatic phase skip into which you can not do anything with the current scenario and reduce the timings for all actions. It seems that a turbo engine was built into MTG. No, in difficult situations you always have time to think, you can even take an extra 30 seconds, if there are any (given out for every three moves during which you didn’t see the timer), but overall, speeding up the game is a huge benefit. In the time that Magic Duels: Origins took one batch, you can play two or three MTG Arena!

The second great solution is to reduce the size of the map. In Arena, the map was reduced to a picture, a symbol of ability and strength. A small square, which when you hover the cursor on it, opens into a full one, and when clicked, it expands even more. In the second and third forms, you can see a complete description of the card's action, there are tips on abilities, etc. But at the same time, basic information in mini-copies, as a rule, is quite sufficient, especially after several dozen games played. Reducing the size of the map, more visual designation of effects, their directions, interrupt stacks, etc. much improved the convenience of the game. Heck, MTG Arena is even more convenient than the paper version.

The only thing to complain about is the delay in changing the phases of a move in case you have instant action cards. Firstly, it gives the enemy the presence of such an interruption, which can be used at any phase even of his turn, and secondly, the pace of the game is somewhat inhibited. On the other hand, you can always manually set interruptions for any phase of your and others' moves - this is a bit like a bluff and allows you to mislead your opponent. The trouble is that the timings of automatic delays are quite easily calculated by an experienced player. The second problem, at least, I had to deal with it once - failures when parsing large, from 5-6 cards stacks of spells. Considering that the history of moves was removed from the game, and there is no external judge, or just a chat, there is no way to dispute the result of a difficult situation. However, when parsing long stacks in a real game with paper cards, disputes and failures also occurred.

Although there are some training scenarios in the form of battles with AI opponents and a parallel explanation of the basic principles of MTG, you still need to understand a little bit of Magic: The Gathering to complete the game. To be able to read maps, get acquainted with new types of creatures and their abilities, new types of maps, etc. Nothing extraordinary, but the threshold of entry here is still significantly higher than in Hearthstone.

Currently MTG Arena has no version for mobile platforms, and Wizards of the Coast is not talking about its future yet. The problem is that some interface solutions will be difficult to implement on the touch screen. However, there is nothing fundamentally impossible in such an adaptation, especially considering the experience of cooperation with Stainless Games. Apparently, the decision on the timing of the transfer to mobile platforms will be made according to the results of the beta test and the release of Arena on PC in 2019. So far, Arena is available only on the official website of Wizards of the Coast, perhaps after the release the game will appear on Steam.

Considering that Magic: The Gathering Arena is the official Wizards of the Coast game, it is obvious that the company will quickly add new card sets, correct mistakes, hold regular tournaments, add new formats (return the Two-Headed Giant, fiends!), Etc. . The potential of the Arena is really impressive. If you have never played MTG, or played, but have long since abandoned, the exit of MTG Arena is an excellent reason to join for the first time or return to the world of Magic. Believe me, in terms of complexity, depth and variability no other collectible card game can match this one.