As we react to the current circumstances, we adapt in different ways. For some, that means trying Canlander. For others, rediscovering Magic: Arena. Today, Katie talks about how COVID-19 has affected her Magic experience. 

Most competitive players get to a point where they just fade away from the game for a while.

Over the last year, as I slowly approached my 30th birthday, I found myself playing Magic less and less. Previously, I had played Arena daily. I played Legacy twice a week in a local store. I played EDH on the weekends, and I played at least one tournament a month. That’s a fair amount of Magic.

Between long work hours, homeownership, health issues, and a general aversion to my local scene, I’d been playing less and less. By the time COVID-19 had kicked into full gear, my Arena account had gone untouched for a couple of months, my legacy decks had gathered a thick layer of dust. I was only playing Magic on the weekends at drunken EDH sessions, if at all.

For context: I have chronic health issues that, when combined with my lack of health insurance, have left me feeling especially vulnerable to COVID-19. As I write this article in Mid-April, I cannot tell you what day of quarantine I’m on, but I can tell you that I haven’t had direct contact with anyone who isn’t my husband since February. I haven’t gone anywhere besides the occasional long car ride in at least six weeks. To say I’m going stir crazy would be the understatement of the century. Between the lack of weekend EDH tournaments and a lack of general excitement for the new set—I’m not a huge Godzilla fan, and though the set looks cool, it’s just not my style—I found myself feeling detached from Magic for the first time since I started playing during original Theros block.

It wasn’t a feeling I was prepared for, and it wasn’t a feeling I wanted to linger on. With the virus threat already making me feel so detached from the world, I couldn’t mentally handle being cut off from one more thing that I love. So, I closed Stardew Valley for what felt like the first time in weeks and booted up Magic: Arena.


I’ve always preferred paper Magic: meeting new people, long tournaments with friends, the adrenaline of a hard earned victory—even trying new jank around the kitchen table. When I finally booted Arena up again last week, I genuinely questioned if this was going to be able to scratch the itch that I had. There was one key point scored in Arena‘s favor already, though; you can only play so many games of Magic against your husband at home before it gets old. You need the thrill of new competition, and fresh opponents to battle.

I found myself diving back in with vigor. Playing through all the special tournaments, quickly trying to wrap up my mastery tree before the end of the season—I think I’m going to be two levels short!—putting together fresh standard decks, and jamming Arena Cube like there was no tomorrow.

I realized that while Arena can’t quite fill the hole that paper Magic has left in my heart, it has helped me remember how much I love the game, and to anchor myself to one more thing that COVID-19 had made feel so far away. The thing I’ve been craving most from paper Magic is something I think everyone is craving right now, and that’s the chance to interact with people.

Fortunately, just in the nick of time, Wizards added Arena drafting with people! It couldn’t have come at a better time. Seeing the whole community excited about Arena while we all are so isolated has really helped stave off the loneliness that can come along with playing online. If you’re looking to try out the Standard ladder as well as drafting, and want to collect your playsets as soon as possible, consider checking out the free to play guide Rich put up this week.

When all of this is over, I hope to see all of you at some large, crazy, fun tournament. In the meantime, though? I hope to see you in the queues on Arena, my unexpected lifeline.

Kate hails from Worcester MA. She mainly plays Legacy and Modern, though occasionally finds herself playing EDH. She also dabbles in card alters. 

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