The world of Richard Garfield's deliciously addictive trading card game has had me hooked since I begged my Opa to buy me my first back almost 25 years ago. I browsed through my first back of Fifth Edition and was simultaneously stunned and amazed at the beautiful artwork and intricate game mechanics that I couldn't possibly understand at that age.
My schoolyard days were filled with friendly competition as aspiring wizards threw cardboard spells at each other during our 15 minute recess breaks. Everyone seemed to have a different interpretation of the rules, and there were often heated arguments about how certain cards and interactions were supposed to work.
This was all pre-internet, and we were forced to negotiate and come to agreements, often forming our own house rules in the process.
Fast forward 20 years and we are in the age of Magic Online, and more recently MTG: Arena. I realized that I couldn't begin to afford to play Magic Online at the level that I wanted to, and so I was excited to try Arena as soon as it was released.
Games that are "free" to play are always interesting in that we get to see the various ways in which we are tempted to fork over real credit card info to buy virtual products. As I grind my way up the ladder I am rewarded with gold coins that I anxiously save to buy a booster pack for a mere 1000 MTG dollars.
I "tear" open the pack and gaze longingly at my virtual cardboard crack. Alas, the mythic rare I was hoping to open is not there. I read over the junk card that I got instead, realizing how difficult it is to earn some of the staples in the current standard format.
Soon, I cave and spend five Canadian dollars for the promo deal. I open these packs and get a few decent cards. After a few days I have cobbled together a decent blue-red Izzet deck and begin my slow ascent up the competitive ladder.
I resisted the urge to buy any more packs and relied on my own in-game abilities to slowly earn my way towards a completed Tier-1 60 card pile of pixels. A good way to do this is to spend any gold on the featured events that are offered on the home page of the program.
Doing well in draft, sealed deck or standard events can earn you much better rewards than simply playing out game after game. The trouble is many of these events cost up to 5000 gold to enter. Many of them only allow you to pay with gems which need to be purchased with cold, hard credit.
I realized that if I had access to Arena when I was eight years old I would have likely funneled most of my hard-earned Christmas money into the hands of Wizards of the Coast. Arena can be very appealing to young people as it is visually much nicer than Magic Online and a lot more user friendly as well.
I chose to focus on playing Izzet because it forces me to learn how the stack works. Arena is very good about showing how multiple spells and abilities can stack up, and how priority is passed from one player to the other.
The complex interactions that can happen in Magic are often quite overwhelming when one is playing live and in person. There are often many rules issues during the course of a single game, and it isn't uncommon for players to call out for a judge to resolve a heated disagreement.
Arena has solved many of the paper Magic issues while also teaching people the more difficult mechanics of our beloved ever-evolving game. Playing Arena has also helped me in my Friday Night Magic games at my local store. (Big ups to Pair-A-Dice in Campbell River!)
My thoughts so far are that MTG Arena is a great casual alternative to the classic Magic Online. It's a great way for absolute beginners to pick up the game, while also offering enough competitive action for seasoned veterans to hone their skills.
Another great feature of Arena is that there is no live chat, which is a huge blessing in today's troll-filled internet. There are simple verbal emotes such as, "Your Go, Nice!, Good Game, and Thinking..."
On my channel I've been streaming my Arena games and learning from my many mistakes. The beauty of Izzet is that you are forced to make multiple tough decisions and really understand how your deck functions against other top decks in the format.
Here is my name and player number. Feel free to add me if you're up for a long, painstaking game! I have to give props to Wizards of the Coast on this one. I had previously been playing third-party programs that imitated Magic Online. Most of these have had copyright issues, and were often riddled with in-game problems.
Arena isn't a replacement for MTG Online, but it offers a unique take on our favorite game! I encourage people who are interested in it to try it, but be sure to resist the temptation of buying 20,000 gems in hope of finding that mythic rare. All the best till next time, see you on the stream.