I had the opportunity to interview Nate Price, Community Manager, about MTG Arena. I’ve had a week to digest my experience, and you can read my thoughts below the interview.

MTG Arena is the Future of Magic.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and give Wizards of the Coast the benefit of the doubt on releasing MTG Arena’s great potential. My play experience in just moments with MTG Arena showed me that it’s not just fun to play—it’s also fun to watch. And yes, there are some things they need to work out before it’s perfect, but they’re still in the early stages of development. WOTC has a gigantic opportunity here to launch this game into its next 25 years.

MTG Arena will revolutionize tournament coverage.

It’s an obvious move as we gain access to MTG Arena that eventually coverage will be displayed on it. There’s several reasons why this is a good idea.

It looks way more fun than the normal top down approach. MTGArena is much more fun to look at than MTGO. It’s like playing a vibrant video game in a fictional world versus battling against an Excel spreadsheet. Night and Day. I think that’s an obvious point, though. Magic is a visually exciting game. MTG Arena illustrates that quite well.

It invites the uninitiated to download the app and learn the game in the comfort of their home. The number of people I’ve talked to in my time with Magic that are just intimidated by the thought of joining this community by walking into a store of players to learn how to play is almost as large as the number of people I’ve met that play the game. Magic is a household name now. MTG Arena offers a great way to play the game without the judgement of strangers raining down on you.

It removes the scandal of cheating and the embarrassment of judge calls. Just look up the Pat Chapin debacle at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. Pat’s 10 min back and forth with the floor judge on camera for a legitimate mistake exposed a really embarrassing gaffe in live coverage. Judge calls are part of competitive Magic. They should not be part of Magic tournament coverage. The rules engine handles all these problems. They also stop players from cheating. If recent magic history can reinforce one truth it’s that high level magic players still cheat on the Pro Tour. MTG Arena will not stop players from cheating at high-level Magic events but it will stop the PR Nightmare of having players catch it days later. There is something to be said for that.

It solves the “What card was just drawn?” problem than plagues all coverage. Again if Hearthstone is any indication of coverage, seeing what is in both player’s hands and getting that information as it happens does a lot to improve coverage.

Information is displayed cleanly, and with the proper editing we get to see player’s faces instead of just their hands. This forwards the player narratives that WOTC has been trying to push over the last two decades. Household names get matched to faces. Seeing a player’s reaction to a card played by his opponent or the thought on a player’s face lends to this game. Looking at a bunch of cards and hands without that human connection is a thing of the past.

Eventually MTG Arena will replace MTGO.

Stop, calm down. Breathe. It’s going to happen. It will take time, but it will happen. Mobile gaming is not possible with MTGO. After ten years of MTGO, stilll no Mac client? MTG Arena solves both of these insane problems. If you have invested time effort and money to MTGO don’t freak out. Right now it’s still the best place to play Magic. But over time MTG Arena will offer more than just Standard and Draft. This is good for Magic. It might not be ideal for you. You may have to get all your cards from MTGO again on MTG Arena, but we have to look into the future.

In two years what will MTGArena look like? Five? Ten? The answer is much much better than MTGO. It’s a broken program with too many logistical problems to solve to bring it to Mac and mobile. And getting it to Mac and Mobile aren’t even its largest problems to overcome. MTGO will die, but it will not happen overnight. You will have time to play with your cards there, but as MTG Arena becomes more popular MTGO will become less important.

Goodbye to the MTGO Bot and Ticket Economy.

And for that matter, good riddance. If you have never played MTGO, then you have never had to figure out how to purchase a deck on MTGO. I envy you. The process for trading cards you don’t want for cards you do, and attempting to grind some kind of parity within that twisted secondary market, is convoluted at best and expensive at worst. It’s enough to make you stop playing because it becomes a job in itself. I can only hope that MTG Arena eliminates this by adopting a system similar to Hearthstone. Keeping the economy closed has proven a boon for Blizzard. I’m sure WOTC has seen how corrupt and ultimately superfluous the Bot economy on MTGO is and opts to move away from it.

Final Thoughts

I can’t say enough good things about MTG Arena, and it’s not even in Beta yet. Plenty can go wrong between now and and its public release. Policy choices for the client can easily be incorrect. But I’m willing to believe that after years of players complaining about MTGO’s many failings, WOTC has done their homework. I see big things for Magic in the next year and I think the folks at the helm do too. It’s an exciting time to be a planeswalker.

Zac Clark is the Founder of Hipsters of the Coast. An avid gamer since his early teens, Zac can often be found in Brooklyn either playing games or taking photos. When he’s not drawing extra cards, wrathing boards and countering spells, he’s taking pictures of other peoples good times and listening to 90’s Music.

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