Magic: The Gathering Arena
|Magic: The Gathering Arena|
|Developer(s)||Wizards Digital Games Studio|
|Publisher(s)||Wizards of the Coast|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, macOS|
|Genre(s)||Digital collectible card game|
Magic: The Gathering Arena is a free-to-play digital collectible card game developed and published by Wizards of the Coast. The game is a digital adaption of the Magic: The Gathering (MTG) card game, allowing players to gain cards through booster packs, in-game achievements or microtransaction purchases, and build their own decks to challenge other players. It is commonly referred to as MTG Arena, Magic Arena or just Arena within the broader Magic: The Gathering context. The game was released in a beta state in November 2017, and will have its full release for Microsoft Windows users in September 2019, with a macOS version due in 2020.
MTG Arena follows the same rules as the physical card game, 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, or other activate effects. Players battle other players using a selected deck, with the goal of reducing the opponent's health 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 can earn new booster packs that add cards to their library, and allow 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 uncommons, and 5 commons). In Draft play, players are first given a number of special booster packs to build out a deck. They then try to win as many matches as they can with that deck. Once the player has won either 7 matches or lost three games with that deck, that deck is then retired; the player gets to keep all the cards drafted and also earns rewards that provide more booster packs and resources to build up their library.
Arena follows the popular freemium paradigm, allowing users to play for free with optional micro-transactions. Players can use real-world currency to buy gems or in-game currency, which in turn can be spent on booster packs or to enter draft or constructed events. Gems are also given as rewards for winning draft mode. In addition to regular cards from the set, a player may also receive "Wildcards" of any rarity in a booster pack or as a reward. The player may swap these Wildcards for any card of the same rarity. Magic: The Gathering allows decks with up to four copies of the same card, so once a player earns a fifth copy of a named card through booster packs, this instead is used to add to a Vault meter, based on its rarity. When the Vault meter is filled, the player can open it to gain Wildcards. The game does not include a feature to trade cards with other players as the developers state this would affect their ability to offer in-game rewards at the level they want while effectively calibrating the economy to make it easy and efficient to get cards through game-play.
Arena is designed to be a more modern method of playing Magic: The Gathering with other players while using a computer when compared to Magic: The Gathering Online. A key goal of its development was to allow Arena to remain current with physical releases of new expansions to the physical game, with the goal of having the digital version of the expansion available the same day that they are available in retail. For example, the Dominaria expansion was released simultaneously as a retail product and within Arena on April 27, 2018, while the first major core game update in several years, "Core 19", was available in Arena on the same day as the set's street date of July 13, 2018. The game will also stay current with the designated Standard format, where cards from the last few major expansions are considered valid for deck construction. Players will not be able to gain cards from sets retired from Standard, and while the game presently does not have such modes, the developers want to offer means to play with non-standard decks in the future.
The core part of the development 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.
Arena was not anticipated to replace Magic: The Gathering Online; Online will continue to support the whole of Magic's card history, while Arena only includes cards in the current Standard sets from its initial release and any expansions going forward. Arena was first tested in a closed beta. An initial stress-test beta to selected users started in 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 afterwards.
In July 2019, Joe Deaux, for Bloomberg, reported that "nearly 3 million active users will be playing Arena by the end of this year, KeyBanc estimates, and that could swell to nearly 11 million by 2021 according to its bull case scenario—especially if it expands from PCs to mobile. That’s just active users, and registered users could be higher by the millions. Already, according to Hasbro, a billion games have been 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 as much as 98 cents a share in incremental earnings to results by 2021 (which is at least a 20% boost).
Arena will have its full release for Windows users on September 26, 2019, aligned with the release of the tabletop card game expansion, Throne of Eldraine.
In December 2018 Wizards of the Coast announced at The Game Awards 2018 that an esports pool would be created for the game 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 as 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.
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