Magic the Gathering is the world’s first and (probably) most popular card game, and it recently celebrated its birthday, an amazing 25 years since its conception. Even though it’s ancient (in terms of fantasy games), it’s still going strong with new editions coming out regularly and big events held across the globe. With the advent of online card games, however, some of MtG’s popularity could be compromised. Well, Wizards of the Coast are ever vigilant (so, they attack without tapping?) and have been hard at work to grab their own share of the online CCG market. Magic the Gathering: Arena is their own answer to the Hearthstones, Eternals and Faeries of the world, and from September 27 it entered Open Beta.
Even in closed beta, MtG: Arena was proving to be an excellent translation of the world’s most prominent CCG to the screens, with the same gripping gameplay of Magic itself but a new and improved visual identity, something lacking from previous Magic the Gathering clients like MTGO. In Arena you’re playing at impressive boards instead of just a gray background, the cards and effects are animated, Planeswalkers talk when entering the battlefield, taking damage and using abilities, and the game has an overall dynamic quality to it. It was slightly buggy, but nothing too serious.
Now, moving out of Closed and into Open Beta, Arena is even better than before, with more nuance added and the bugs mostly cleansed. Not only that, but the Open Beta introduced the new Guilds of Ravnica set even before the pre-release, and long before the actual release date of October 5th. MtG Arena players already have a chance to play with the new cards, try to see what their old favorite decks can use from the set as well as theorycraft about new possible archetypes. The set is looking good so far, with 5 of the Ravnica Guilds making their appearance (Boros, Golgari, Dimir, Selesnya and Izzet) and the other 5 waiting for the next set.
A couple of play modes have been made available as part of the Open Beta promotion. For instance, a special free-entry Singleton event is being held, where players could freely test out their Singleton decks (decks featuring just a single copy of any card, excluding basic lands), and try to see if they would get to 4 wins before they lose 2 games.
There’s also a Sealed Guilds of Ravnica game mode available, where players construct a deck out of 6 booster packs and go head-to-head versus other players that have done the same. Sealed Deck is the format of choice for pre-releases of a new set, and the Guilds of Ravnica paper pre-release gave players the option of choosing a Guild. Then they would receive a box with 5 random boosters and 1 seeded booster, with cards relevant to the Guild of their choice. The MtG: Arena version, unfortunately, doesn’t use this principle but rather lets you make a deck out of 6 random boosters. The Guilds of Ravnica competitive draft mode will also be available soon, in just over 25 hours from the time of writing of this article.
Another great piece of news is the integration of the online and paper aspect of Magic (finally!). Players who participated in the Guilds of Ravnica pre-release received a special token card with a code on the back side. This code is redeemable in MtG: Arena for participation in the Sealed event (which is normally 2000 gems, so a rather nice value). There will also be other codes and free goodies in booster packs in the days to come, so keep your eyes peeled. If you’re a player, here is one code from us: PlayRavnica. You can redeem this code inside Arena for three free booster packs. Good luck opening some nice mythic rares!
As for account progress, for those that played before the client went into Open Beta, their collection has been wiped and they’ll need to start again. If, however, they had purchased and spent gems while in Closed Beta, they would receive the full amount of gems back to spend as they wish, again. The wipe is not ideal, but with the purchased gems coming back, one can relatively easily spring back into it.
So, there you have it, if you’re already a fan of Magic the Gathering, or just getting into it, MtG: Arena is looking like the next big thing in the world of Planeswalkers!