Look. I read the post about the economy for MTG Arena. I read the response Chris made on the official forums. I’ve read Reddit’s compilation of Chris’s commentary from various places. I read all of it and today, instead of discussing all of the incredible stories coming out of Pro Tour Dominaria, I feel compelled instead to discuss what I believe is the very fundamental disconnect between the MTG Arena development team and the concept of Wildcards as a means to build a collection in that game.

Here it is, as plain as day, as succinctly as I could put it: Magic players don’t want more cards than the ones they plan on actually using (at some point).

MTG Arena will be a vastly different experience from paper Magic and from its cousin Magic the Gathering Online not because of the fully immersed digital extravaganza that is MTG Arena, but because for the first time in Magic’s history we’re going to all have no choice but keep every single card we open. Wizards is pushing this idea, that wildcards allow them to give us more cards overall, as if its what we’re asking for.

It. Is. Not.

Do you know how I know? Because places like our sponsor, Card Kingdom, have built entire businesses from the premise that Magic players don’t want cards they aren’t going to use. Card Kingdom, and its competitors who I’m sure you’re all familiar with, allow for the large-scale facilitation of cards that you don’t want exiting your collection in exchange for cards that you do want.

It’s a very simple business and even if you don’t use an (insert cash register shilling sound here) excellent service like Card Kingdom you always, with paper cards, have the opportunity to remove them from your collection by trading with your friends (or complete strangers) or by going to your local store and seeing if they’ll relieve you of the burden.

Heck, raise your hand if you’re one of those people who, at the end of a night of drafting at your local store, puts together a pile of all the commons and uncommons that nobody wants, and finds a few folks who are new to Magic and give them away to help the new players kick-start their collection. I know I sure am, because what the heck am I going to do with that junk?

But when it comes to MTG Arena, Wizards believes they are doing us the favor of allowing us to keep all of our cards in exchange for the wildcard system of obtaining the cards we actually want. Actual quote from Chris Cao’s economy post: “We’ve said we created WCs so we could give out more cards, and we meant it.”

Chris, buddy, pal, amigo, executive producer. Let me let you in on a secret. We don’t want more cards. We really, really, just want the ones we want.

Now, on paper, one might get the illusion that we, Magic players, want all of the cards. That’s because there are a lot of things you can do with a paper Magic card. You can play any of the main MTG formats including Standard, Modern, Legacy, and Vintage. You can play a plethora of alternative formats such as Commander, Brawl, Cube, or Battle Box. You can bend them and flick them at people. You can donate them to a local charity. You can make a YouTube video where you take them out of the pack and rip them up without ever looking at them. The possibilities are truly endless but even if you have a card you don’t want to use anymore you can just trade it for a card you want or sell it for cash (or tickets on MTGO).

With MTG Arena that’s simply not the case. I can’t do anything with the cards I’m never ever going to use. Now, maybe there will be some quirky Tavern Brawl-esque event that allows me to showcase some of the lesser-used cards in my collection but how often is that going to be? We don’t even know if Modern will ever be supported, why should we hold our breath for something like Tribal Wars where everyone has to make a singleton Tribal deck and the winners get mythic rares from a pool of pre-curated tribal cards?

It’s a simple concept and it’s one that has fueled Magic for 25 years now. Most people just don’t want every card. Heck, Richard Garfield was so convinced people wouldn’t collect the entire set that the original Alpha release didn’t have a checklist. We just want the cards we plan on using or that fill out our collections in the way we want. Or we play some wacky format with the cards we’ve ended up with. You see, that’s the beauty of a collectible card game. No one can tell you how to collect it. You can collect it however you choose. By creating Wildcards and the economy that MTG Arena is touting, they are breaking this fundamental contract.

Is Magic the Gathering Arena even a collectible card game? By definition the only collectibles with any value in the packs are actually the Wildcards and those get redeemed, usually immediately for something of play-value. Maybe MTG Arena is a redeemable card game? Or a grind-able card game? But I don’t think Wizards should continue calling Arena a collectible card game until they actually put something collectible into it.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13

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