Thoughts on Arena

Online Magic forum

Posted on May 4, 2018, 7:15 p.m. by cdkime

Recently, I received a beta key for MTG's new online platform, Arena. After about a week of testing, here are my thoughts so far. I am curious to see what my fellow TappedOut user's thoughts and observations are such far.

General Gameplay

  • The gameplay is easy and intuitive, if you know how to play Magic. I can see it being a bit difficult for newer players, as there was not much of a tutorial. I presume Wizards assumes the beta testers know how to play MTG, and a tutorial will be added in the late game.

  • There are some things that are a tad frustrating--most notably, it presumes I want to be on the play when it randomly decides who goes first. There are decks where I'd rather be on the draw.

  • Using a touchscreen makes this game a lot better--it clearly feels like it was designed for a tablet/2-in-1. The click and drag method feels clunky when using a mouse/trackpad. That said, I've found some issues with the touchscreen method. For example, when I get to reveal cards and choose one, it fans the cards in front of me with some text covered. With a mouse, you can scroll over the cards to read each one; with the touch screen, it sometimes chooses the one you touch, when you are trying to touch+hold and read the card. It is also a little annoying to read someone else's cards in-play, since your hand tends to get in the way when you "scroll" over them with your finger.

  • I have not played MTGO, but I did play a bunch of Magic Duels for the singleplayer missions. Overall, Arena feels much cleaner.

  • Deckbuilding is easy, with plenty of useful little filter options.

  • Wild Cards are a great feature, and help alleviate some of the inherit pay-to-win nature of any pack-purchasing game.

Overall rating for gameplay: 8/10.


I have tested this game on two different computers. One is an older laptop I use for work/emails/word processing with integrated graphics. The other is a mid-range gaming laptop (I want to say GTX 960) with a touchscreen.

The game ran fine on the older computer and substandard graphics card. A little choppy, but far from unplayable.

On the mid-range computer, it could easily be run at the highest settings without any lag or choppiness. This made things a little more pretty, but did not influence the actual gameplay much.

Overall, it seems fairly well optimized, and playable even on non-gaming computers. 10/10.

The Human Element

This is my biggest complaint so far--other people. I've been playing UW Approach since (a) I had a decent set of cards for building it; (b) I am about the least aggressive player that exists; and (c) I find alternate win conditions fun.

I have had far too many people concede the game once their first spell gets countered. That's fine--it's a bit frustrating not to be able to play a full game, but not a waste of time.

Here's where I take issue: the game has a timer for movement, and if you fail to meet the timer too many times, you automatically lose the game. I've had a large number of players decide to stop playing, and let their timer run for a couple minutes, hoping that I'll get bored and concede before they forfeit. This seems quite sleazy, and makes the game vastly less enjoyable.

That said, I have had some good matches. I'd say it's about 50% good, 50% bad thus far.

I must say, I do miss the single player mode from Magic Duels--I quite enjoyed the story elements, combined with the somewhat unusual victory conditions they required.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the system, and can't wait to see how it develops.

My biggest gripe is that if you have no avilible plays (whether it being tapped out or no instants) it just auto passes priority. Pretty big deal for permission decks as if you don't have a counter spell, you cant bluff having a counter spell if you don't have any instants in hand.

May 4, 2018 11:11 p.m.

landofMordor says... #3

Well, as for priority, you can press Ctrl to retain priority...although I've been burned by auto-passing myself on many occasions.

May 4, 2018 11:54 p.m.

cdkime says... #4

TheDuggernaught and landofMordor

In addition to control to retain priority, shift + control allows you to disable auto-passing for that entire turn, and there's a little lock button allowing you to turn off auto-pass indefinitely. It's a pretty nifty little trick for bluffing, as most players expect an auto-pass.

May 5, 2018 12:12 a.m.

Boza says... #5

Besides UI, which is important, Arena offers nothing over MTGO. Less formats, a lot less people to play with, less attention span and more early concedes in games due to having nothing riding on the outcome. Random gripe, but quite important one - the camera angle at the battlefield is really weird, it makes cards look like they have the wrong aspect ratio. It is like you are a 5yo who has their chin on the edge of the table and that is your POV.

Honestly, if Arena is making trying to take a bite out of Hearthstone's pie, they are not going to make it. Magic's biggest strenghts are complexity of interactions and long history, none of which are present in Arena.

May 5, 2018 9:26 a.m.

Kawstk says... #6

You can also set stops at any of the phases on yours or your opponents turn. I use that when playing control.

May 5, 2018 11:44 a.m.

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