Magic: The Gathering Arena is like playing a card game on your computer. It’s great.
Magic: The Beginning
I have played Magic: The Gathering since I was about 12 years old. My friends and I would play any time we could, for as long as we could. Every summer, we would go to Boy Scout Camp here in Indiana with the intent to earn merit badges by day, and to play some kick ass Magic by night. We would play until the early hours, and our Scout leaders were fine with it if we didn’t wake them up (It happened once, but never a second time). If we weren’t playing euchre, we were playing Magic. We played Emperor games, 1v1s and troop versus troop tournaments. The arguments about rules lasted as long as some of the games, but it was beautiful and we loved it. As you can imagine, I was very excited to check out Wizards of the Coast’s new addition to the Magic universe.
Easy Does It
The first time you log in, you must play through the tutorial. It’s six shortened matches against the computer, each increasing in difficulty, but you’re never in danger of losing. After those matches, I recommend opening all the card packs they give you, and then building your own deck. Using one of the basic color decks they give you in a match against another player is a recipe for a three-minute match. Spending even a few minutes in the deck builder gives you a much better chance of winning than the pre-built decks. The deck builder is intuitive and easy to use. It automatically calculates all the mana you need and puts it into the deck, as well as tells you the makeup of your deck. It breaks it down into how many creatures, instants, sorceries, enchantments, and artifacts are in your deck. Each deck is 60 cards.
Playing through my first match felt like I was playing the actual card game. I did not have the cards I’ve been using for years, but I was able to use cards I had received to make my deck my own. I was able to learn about the new abilities and attributes that have been added to the game in recent years, which was very useful. Selecting my opponent, or entering any specific tags for what kind of deck I wanted to match against, weren’t options, but gameplay did feel like I was playing against another person.
The game wasn’t as intense as those games during the summers of my youth, but there was anticipation in what moves my opponent would make and what cards I would draw. The other thing that felt like most games of MTG I have played was that I had no mana flow. I lost the matches that I played, but with more time spent curating my deck, I like my chances to win games in the future.
Final Thoughts and Verdict
You can buy gems for real money or earn gold in-game that allows you to get more card packs. There are weekly and daily bounties that award gold and card packs, so there isn’t a need to spend money on the game. There doesn’t seem to be a ranking system. My first match came against someone who clearly had more time in game and had the cards to show for it. I was using one of the starter decks they give you, and I would not recommend using them. Gameplay is smooth, and I didn’t experience any lag or any connection issues. The game is still in beta, so things could change, but so far it feels like a very polished game. I will continue to play this game, and I cannot wait to see how the game and community grows.
The most important thing to take away from this review is that I felt like I was really playing Magic. There were mana, creatures, opponents, moments of frustration and excitement, and a desire at the end of the match to work on my deck and get better. I highly recommend this game to tabletop players who may have the desire to play these types of games, but not the people to play with. While a computer game cannot give you the feel of playing with your friends at the same table, it does a good job of capturing the mechanics and technicality that comes with playing Magic: The Gathering. 8/10 would play again.