Is it the Right Time?
So, you play Pioneer on MTGO, and you’ve been thinking about making the move over to MTG Arena, have you? Or maybe you’re a life-time paper player and you’re finally thinking about giving the wide world of online gaming a go – and what better game to start with than Magic the Gathering’s newest game: MTG Arena? The question of “when is the right time to start playing MTG Arena?” is an increasingly contentious one. There are many pros and cons to making the plunge and finally signing up. There is not currently a Pioneer format on the client, but there is Explorer. You can’t really buy the cards you want, but arguably they are just free. You can’t converse live with your opponent via chat, but you are also not exposed to conversing live with your opponent via chat.
Whatever has sparked your curiosity enough to read my article and explore playing Magic on its newest client, I thank you and am here to reassure you that you are making the right choice!
A Modern Feel
One of MTG Arena’s biggest selling points is its modernized gameplay. There is no arguing that it is pretty. It’s fast paced and intuitive – providing functions like self-tapping lands whenever you cast a spell and its “attack all” option when going face. The game animates certain cards with screen-shaking effects and voice lines that will have your inner Yugi Muto screaming “it’s time to duel!” Yeah, that was a Yugioh reference, but I promise you it’s the last one – in this article, at least.
If you didn’t know, the game also ports over seamlessly to your mobile device through a free downloadable app made by Wizards of the Coast – and is much more reliable than the Companion App, I promise. This makes grinding way easier because you can virtually play anywhere – in your bedroom before bed, on your commute home from work, in the bathroom, or even in the delivery room of the hospital awaiting the birth of your first child! Seriously, the options are limitless as long as you have an internet connection and a battery charge. I’d like to see MTGO do that!
Finally, it brings forth a new way to play any of your favorite formats fast with a Best of One feature that allows you to play just that – mono y mono to the last point of life with no sideboards – winner takes all. This has created so many new deck archetypes that are stronger as just Best of One decks that some people really rally behind. Every wonder why Tibalt’s Trickery is banned in every Arena Format? It’s not because Jim Grinder at your local FNM has finally cracked it – it’s because of Arena Best of One and people like me who love to spin the wheel for free wins (and many more free losses). It’s a different way of playing the game that isn’t for everyone – but honestly, sometimes it’s just a nice way for even the most experienced player to play a deck more casually or in their down-time. An almost “mini-game” within the world’s greatest card game; and again, it’s free!
But the Economy!
I hear you. If you have been following Arena in any capacity – one concern you’ll often hear about is that it has a “bad economy.” What people mean by this is that card values – as they know them – are completely irrelevant and there’s no way to outright “buy the cards you want.” Arena works off of a booster pack and wildcard system. When you open a booster pack, you permanently unlock all the cards inside said booster back and you build towards unlocking a free wildcard. The wildcard will either be of rare or mythic rarity – and you can redeem your wildcard at any time for any card on Arena of the same rarity (which is the same as real life card rarities). Therefore, all cards are “free” and one mythic card is worth the same as the next mythic.
So, some players have given this system a hard time because if you need a playset of a certain card for your deck – you may need to open multiple packs in order to have enough wildcards to redeem the cards you want. Is this ideal? Certainly not, and I get that argument – but that said – I have been playing Arena for over four years now, on and off, and have only ever bought $50 USD worth of a new set on launch weekend (50 pack bundle) as they come out and have never otherwise had a problem making the decks – or some variant of the same decks – that I want to play when I want to play them. Contrast that with paper magic, where at minimum I am spending $110 USD on a new box on release weekend for thirty-six (less packs) and likely even more because I won’t open everything I need in one box. The same can be said for MTGO, where prices of some cards like Den of the Bugbear at the time of this article is written, have gotten so extreme that they are 25 TIX each (essentially $25 USD). The exact same card in paper costs $7 USD – but will always cost only one wildcard on MTG Arena.
Like anything, there are pros and cons to every system – and you need to see what is right for you – but if you take anything away from my ramblings here it should be this: don’t believe all the misinformation about Arena’s bad economy. If you want to play MTG Arena, it can be very affordable – or completely free – depending on how quickly you are looking to build your collection.
Ok, but why now?
If you’re reading this article on this website it’s because you’re a fan of Pioneer – and if you’re a fan of Pioneer and not currently on Arena – you need to get on it! Wizards of the Coast has finally made the promise to move Pioneer over to Arena’s client slowly but surely. They released a format called Explorer on Arena on April 21st, 2022 which is a placeholder format for what is supposed to eventually be Pioneer. All Pioneer-legal cards that are already programmed on Arena are playable, the Pioneer ban-list is already in effect – and there is a promise to move the remainder of the Pioneer format over to Arena in the coming years through Anthology Sets and Set Remasters.
It is the perfect time to start building your collection on Arena because none of that has happened yet! Therefore, you can jump right in (for free) today and begin doing your daily quests to generate gold and gems for your account – saving them for the first Pioneer-exclusive sets to launch and purchasing them when they do. “Gold” is the in-game currency that you receive for completing daily, weekly and season quests. You can use “gold” to purchase packs or other cosmetic items. “Gems” are a different in-game currency that can be purchased for actual money and used to do the same as gold (though generally for a large discount).
When you first download the game, you immediately gain access to ten Standard starter decks which are seriously competitive. Each deck comes with six rares and one mythic – including one copy of all ten Pathways (heavily played Pioneer dual lands)! That’s a grand total of sixty rares and six mythic rares – FOR FREE! Not to mention all the highly-playable commons and uncommons.
Furthermore, you can instantly redeem the following codes in the in-game Store section of the game (on desktop only; otherwise, you have to use your browser) for forty free packs! That will additionally grant you six free wildcards, which you can use to modify your favorite starter deck to be even more competitive.
I cannot stress the importance of completing your daily quests to build your gold as much as possible if you are looking to get the most out of this game for free. My final pro-tip for you all is to try and reroll any “500 gold” quest into a “750 gold” quest daily – as the more gold you can get for your effort the better. “But Tyler! I don’t want to log in EVERY day for daily quests – this isn’t World of Warcraft!” they yelled angrily. Worry not, Redditors! The client will store you up to three daily quests at a time before it stops giving you new ones – which means you can leave the game idle for three days at a time without any penalty to you! Remember Farmville? It’s like that but for Zoomers.
Why not Both?
I want to believe that if you’ve made it this far into my long-winded Arena pitch – I have at least convinced you to consider making the leap of faith that is required to try something new – but if you are still on the fence, I encourage you to do some of your own research into the game. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain! The key here is that you don’t need to stop whatever way you currently play Magic to try this. As I outlined above – if you do this correctly – you can give Arena a try with no investment and a free collection. Bad economy? Psh.
Pioneer might be one of the greatest formats that Magic has had in years, and I believe that Arena is the long-term future of this game. Don’t let the game pass you by and grow without you! Even if it’s only to complain about Greasefang, Okiba Boss decks or Mono Red Aggro – Arena needs players like you to continue growing Magic the Gathering for it’s next generation! If you do make it online sometime soon, I hope to find you fearlessly doing battle in the Arena!