Creatures, artifacts, extraordinary places and sorcery await you in the final videogame inclusion of the popular interchangeable card title
On August 5, 1993, Magic: The Gathering is launched to the American market. The first set, called Alpha, consisted of 295 cards and the idea behind it was that, according to Wizards of the Cost, he had asked Richard Garfield, its designer, to create a lightweight and portable game that people could play in times of Convention breaks.
Garfield had just failed in a pitch for one of his most ambitious and complex games, RoboRally, but in one of those cosmic coincidences, he found a reef in that little interchangeable card game he had developed years ago and considered abandoned. Without being aware of the magnitude of that seemingly small project, I was creating the first TCG, and one of the most popular board games in history.
Talking about Magic: The Gathering is complicated regardless of its history and its tremendous influence on the genre. The game, which is already 26 years old, has an insurmountable and undeniable cultural advantage over each and every one of its competitors. So the launch of MTG: Arena is, rather than a discovery, a reaffirmation that Magic is still a relevant game, full of mechanics that sat chair, and that despite its longevity, it is not scared when it comes to experiment.
It costs little to talk about the virtues of Arena because we have long known that it is indeed a very good game. Its recent official launch feels more like a formality than an event. The title has been running flawlessly in its beta state for months, and its exit now, strategically planned along with the new expansion of the Eldraine Throne, could actually be seen as part of an advertising strategy to create a new starting point for Old and new players.
We must start by making it clear that the mere existence of MTG: Arena is good news. The brand has not lacked video game adaptations throughout its history, but it has always given its worst face in this facet. From the first attempts of MicroProse, to the orthopedic but functional Magic Online, the game has never had a digital counterpart at the height of physical cards. Even with Magic Duels, the most recent versions, we had visually very rigid games, somewhat slow, and never becoming complete enough for veterans. With Arena, Wizards of the coast takes note of the best current examples of the genre (mainly Hearthstone) and makes a series of crucial decisions to make it, so far, the final version of the letter title.
Magic's classic mechanics continue to work fabulously in this interpretation of Arena. Interacting with our cards is fast and fluid. It is spectacular but not in a distracting way, and the information we want to read is always at hand. Despite keeping intact the dense texts that have always accompanied most of the Magic cards, Arena knows how to intelligently hierarchize information through a series of icons, markers and color underlines that facilitate certain mental tasks and we They allow us to focus on the strategy that we want to carry out, without fear that we can skip some crucial step that we are forgetting in our turn.
The use of land cards to generate mana, undoubtedly one of the most iconic elements of Magic, is solved here elegantly. Automating the process every time we put a card on the table without getting rid of the freedom to turn the cards manually if that is what we want (sometimes we want to distribute the mana in a specific way that the title fails to perceive).
The mechanics of the blockade, another of the differentiating elements with respect to other current games of the genre, is always stimulating despite its age. In Magic you cannot declare creature-to-creature combat in normal conditions. Instead, a player declares which creature to attack with and the opponent with which creature he will defend. Since damage to creatures is regenerated at the end of the turn, and that the opponent can always stop our feet with the use of Snapshots (spells that can be cast at any time, even the opponent's turn), attacking in Magic is always an exercise that carries unexpected risks. Turning the games into a tense tug of war in which not fully disclosing our plays is important so as not to receive counter-opponents from the opponent.
The interface is one of the main changes in the right direction in this new iteration of the title. Arena is vibrant, colorful, and does not hesitate to embrace its video game status. With agile animations, constant sound effects, and feedback for each of our actions. The legendary cards are accompanied by a spectacular animation that comes off the board, and each of the lands we place emits an ambient sound that coexists with the music for a few seconds. MTG: Arena makes more than any other game in the saga so far the effort to evoke a sense of place and space, instead of simply virtualizing the table game experience.
Arena also manages to speed up the Magic experience in a way that its physical counterpart cannot achieve. This is achieved by automating a series of processes such as counters, mana allocation, passive, triggered abilities … As we have said before, the game achieves a great balance when it comes to shaking hands with many of the processes but Without ever doing anything for you.
Readability is also key in the experience. In a game with mechanics so dense and full of small interactions and constant effects, a great job has been done when it comes to achieving a readable experience. It is easy to understand what is happening at all times because the game paralyzes the action when skills are activated so that we can read them, and allows us to resume it whenever we want. With a look at the board, we can quickly understand what each of the cards that are at play does, and with the right click, we can zoom them in for a complete reading.
For veterans and newbies
All this automation and accessibility not only speeds up the MTG: Arena gameplay, making it an experience that nothing has to envy others like Hearthstone at the speed level. It also helps introduce the rookie player to one of the most complex and dense trading card titles that exist. Although the objective of the game is simple (ending the 20 lives of the opposing player before he ends yours), it is a formula full of layers, implicit mechanics, synergies between skills, and long and short strategies term that make the thing become complex and overwhelmingly overwhelms the one who has no experience.
The developers try to do several things to alleviate this. The first one is to make a guided tutorial where we are taught the mechanics of the game accompanied by an AI and facing a group of various enemy enemies. In these missions we cannot lose, and the game tries to get us to begin to mentalize ourselves in a certain way when it comes to focusing the games.
The second is the so-called Mastery system, a progression that each player takes individually as he plays and wins games against online opponents. Among the rewards in this system are the preconstructed mallets, a series of mallets (usually five by expansion) that work autonomously and that are usually built around a main mechanic, such as Scrutiny or Show, for putting only two of The most recent mechanics. These decks are not useful in a competitive environment, but they work well in casual games, and serve to introduce the player into a series of synergies around a mechanic that they might not otherwise discover. For the newbies, it is also a way to enjoy the mechanics of the game without the pressure of having to build the perfect deck at the first change.
Whether for veterans or newbies, strategies to build our mallets remain an art in itself, as important as knowing how to play them once we get into a game. Some players prefer aggressive monocolor decks, other color combinations to achieve specific synergies, and others center them around a series of key cards that guarantee effective plays. Magic's goal, like that of many other titles in the genre, is constantly changing and yet the game is deep enough to allow us to be competitive with strategies that come out of our harvest, if we know how to arm them correctly.
And it is that building our winning decks is still the main addictive component found in Magic, and Arena perfectly recreates that feeling. The editor is simple, readable, and allows you to filter letters under a series of specific conditions, even if they contain a specific word in your text. It also helps us in aspects such as the enjoyment of mana cards. One of the most sensitive elements of the construction of mallets in Magic.
This is where the monetization system also comes into play. Undoubtedly one of the most questioned aspects of the title and one of the usual gender issues. In recent weeks, Wizards of the coast has been in contact with some of the most criticized movements, such as the fact that historical cards (those that are already out of the goal) were going to initially cost more than crawl than standards. Or that a payment system like the Master's Pass would replace the rewards of a free system such as the weekly challenges. Although WoTC has decided to reverse these systems, the game economy remains one of the clumsiest aspects of the title. Without reaching any of the most bleeding cases of the genre, it is a game where progression is somewhat expensive if we want to focus on the purely competitive game.
Less regular players will not have problems with a progression system that regularly rewards envelopes, new cards and some gold. But modes such as drafts (one of the main competitive modes) require paying about 5,000 gold to enter, the equivalent of about 5 envelopes in the store, or about 700 gems, the alternative currency that can be obtained with real money or also through playing, but with droppers. In the game store, most purchase options are made with gems, relegating gold to a slower progression. It is a system that deserves improvements and revisions in the coming months, since it limits the progression of the title in a way that impoverishes the experience in general terms.
The official launch of MTG Arena has coincided with that of Eldraine's Throne, the latest expansion of Magic The Gathering with which it brings popular stories to the world adapted to its own fantasy mythology. Hunters, princesses, knights, fairies, and many other archetypes enter through the big door in the new Magic decks, along with a couple of new mechanics that significantly alter the current goal. Adventure cards take on a special role in this expansion, with many new cards that can be activated as creatures directly or with an alternative cost to cast a spell before.
Food also becomes a new key mechanic, a consumable that has several ways of being generated and that in addition to healing, it has endless synergies with both new and classic creatures. There are new creatures that generate food, others that consume it get new effects. And the classic ones can benefit from the effect of winning lives every time we consume them. This does not allow to introduce the mechanics in mallets that we have whose folosophy is to wear away the resources of the rival while keeping their attacks at bay and constantly healing ourselves. Or create new ones based on resistance. Be that as it may, in many of the recent games that we have played we have perceived first-hand the effect of these mechanics, with clashes that lengthen much more than in the past due to the constant gain of lives on both sides.
The Throne of Eldraine not only represents a new goal and new ways of playing Magic, it also renews the rotation of the expansions, which implies that the 4 expansions prior to the basic collection of 2019 are relegated to historical modes (which will arrive soon to the game), and that the new goal only takes into account the four basic expansions, which of course include the Eldraine Throne.
This means, in short, that this is an ideal turning point for new players to join the car of the greatest reference in the genre of the exchangeable cards. 26 years later, little more can be revered to this classic in a way that has not been done so far. But fortunately, and for the first time in a long time, we have in MTG: Arena a videogame that lives up to its name.
Magic The Gathering Arena means the definitive inclusion of the franchise in the world of video games. After years of hesitation, economic failures and questionable design decisions, Arena selects some of the best features of the current titles of the genre and updates the franchise with an agile, vibrant, accessible computer game with a constant mythology and card collection increase. Its monetization is now the aspect that can leave many players more unhappy, especially those who want to focus on the competitive, so it is necessary to warn in that regard. But for those players who just want to enjoy the best version of the longest and most complete trading card game, Arena is the best experience the brand could want right now. And probably in a long time.
- The Magic experience moved in all its splendor and with all its updated content
- Agile and intuitive gameplay, automates processes without taking control of the player
- Visual and sound presentation at the height of the best in the genre
- A record of actions is missing in order to keep track of everything that has happened in the last shifts
- The monetization system deserves a revision to be less intrusive
Remarkable game that we will enjoy and remember. A good purchase, highly recommended for lovers of the genre. It is well taken care of at all levels.