Note: Just to give some context, this review comes shortly after Magic the Gathering Arena switched over to the Mastery system from the weekly quests system.
If it seems like it’s been a while since there has been any gaming content on the page, that’s because it has. I have been working over the last few weeks to get caught up on my comics reading so that I can provide newer content. As a result, most of the recent articles have been reviews of older comic books.
I wrote in my last article that I’m now caught up and next week’s reviews should contain reviews of current comic books. This week I wanted to take a break from comics and get back to what started the page in the first place. Since Quinn is showing an interest in Magic, a new set just came out, and I don’t think I’ve ever done a comprehensive review of Arena, I figured MtG was a good place to start that pivot back into gaming.
The Good (Magic the Gathering Arena is fun!)
I wrote in my notes, “You got Hearthstone in my Magic! You got Magic in my Hearthstone! Two great tastes that go great together?” Because, at my heart, I’m a dad and I abuse dad jokes whenever I can. I think when MTGA was first announced, I even called it Magic the Gathering Hearthstone edition.
I realize now that I’m looking at these two screenshots that I’m selling MTGA short by comparing it to Hearthstone. Sure, they both have interactive backgrounds and an emote system, but that’s about where the similarities end. The animations in MTGA are so much better and more intricate. MtG’s gameplay is so much more in depth and rich than Hearthstone.
I was watching a Kibler stream where he played some ridiculous Angels deck against Day9. They both had nearly 100 angel tokens on the field. Kibler, laughing, said, “You wonder why they don’t have this on mobile? Here’s why.” I admit to asking why in the past. My phone would probably spontaneously combust trying to render that many animations at once.
Magic the Gathering Arena is so much more than just a rip off of Hearthstone. I am ecstatic to have been wrong about that. In my opinion, MtG is so much better than Hearthstone and I would much rather play this game for random gold and packs than Hearthstone. I do still play Hearthstone but only after I’ve finished my time in Arena.
The Bad (Magic the Gathering Arena is Standard Only – for now)
Look, I understand that they need to start somewhere and that Standard makes the most sense. I also get that the game is buggy and suffers from slowdown even now with only standard sets programmed. Still, I’m a Vintage player at heart and I’d love to be able to hoard my wild cards to put together a deck that I’d never play in a million years in paper or even on MTGO. It’s a pipe dream at best, but maybe I’ll live long enough for them to (a) properly optimize the code and (b) transfer all cards into the game.
After all, they’ve announced a new format specifically to address the fact that older cards have already been coded in since the game has been in beta since Ixalan. They’re calling it Historic (?), which seems like a really dumb name. Also, given their recent lack of success in creating new formats, I don’t give this one much chance of lasting very long. Then again, I’ve been wrong before.
The Ugly (Magic the Gathering Arena rewards aren’t as much fun?)
Like many games that want to keep you on the treadmill, Magic the Gathering Arena has daily quests. They used to also have weekly quests. By winning 15 games in a week, I could collect 3 free packs. Apparently, someone decided that was too generous and they changed over to this Mastery system, which gives rewards based on gaining experience through daily quests and your first three wins of the day.
I put this under the ugly section mainly because of my reaction to it. I was not happy with the initial announcement and became less enamored with the idea once I saw it in action. However, as with most things in life, it would appear that Wizards of the Coast knew better than I did. I’ve been playing Arena more now than I ever did under the old reward system. Well, played WotC, well played.
The Verdict (Magic the Gathering Arena is good)
It should come as no surprise that someone who enjoys Magic the Gathering would enjoy a PC game based on Magic the Gathering. Well, the surprising part here is that I despise MTGO. I don’t like playing it. I don’t like watching streams that play it. I enjoy watching Hearthstone so much more and it is mainly for the cartoon graphics and silly animations. Those, therefore, are the main reasons that I keep coming back to Arena and streams that play Arena.
The game isn’t very polished at this point. There are bugs and slowdown from a lack of optimization. However, it is Magic the Gathering. That part I mostly enjoy. I’m still suspicious that RNGsus hates me and loves my opponents. But, I will continue to play as long as they support the game. Look out for me on a virtual tabletop near you.