Baru, Wurmspeaker
29, Dec, 22

Missing MTG Arena Features Aren’t So Needed After All

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Launching in 2018, it’s no surprise that MTG Arena is nowhere near as complex as the 30-year-old game on paper. Featuring a fraction of the total cards released, MTG Arena players have to make do with placeholder and unique formats. Alongside the lack of missing cards, MTG Arena also lacks several key features, leaving it lagging behind Magic Online. Despite these missing features, in theory, being a bad thing, recently, MTG players have been praising Arena’s simplicity. Remarkably, some players have even been pushing back against adding new features to pursue simplicity. 

Simple Serendipity

Oversimplify
Oversimplify | Commander 2021

With Wizards of the Coast taking a well-deserved break over the holiday season, MTG players have finally been able to sit down and enjoy the game of choice. This has led to plenty of contemplation from MTG players throughout the anomalous end-of-year period. Across social media, we’ve seen players sharing their personal anecdotes, their unique decks, and their passion projects. Alongside all these posts, many players have taken this lull in spoilers to reflect on the year just gone. We’ve even been doing the same with our recent lists recounting the best and most controversial cards of 2022. 

Most recently, on the MagicArena subreddit, Reddit user u/InformalTiberius proclaimed “the best thing about MTGA.” In their post, u/InformalTiberius highlighted how Arena practically plays itself, with simplicity front and center. While initially, this may seem like a bad thing,  u/InformalTiberius explained how these qualities make Arena great. 

“No awkward rule disputes. No walking someone through how the clever mechanical synergy you built your deck around is, in fact, allowed. No sitting there in silence as the resident magic expert explains to your opponent in so many ways that the indestructible effect does not prevent the sacrifice of a card. No lamenting that you just wanted to play a card game but are now locked in a debate with a stranger that’s either too stubborn to realize they’ve lost or is possibly just trying to badger you into giving them the win. Roping can be annoying but I will take that over judges and disputes 100% of the time.” 

u/InformalTiberius

Rising to the top of the MagicArena subreddit, MTG Arena players quickly agreed with u/InformalTiberius’ declarative statements. Adding to the list of benefits, u/Cyan-Aid stated, “there’s also the classic ‘I just found out this card doesn’t work the way I thought it would. Oops,” which Arena’s automation prevents. 

Alongside praising how Arena simplifies MTG, other Reddit users highlighted Arena’s digital conveniences. For instance, u/nanobot001 commented, “I like how you can sort your cards and use the same cards in multiple decks.” While this feature is not exclusive to Arena, players were quick to voice their support nonetheless. “This is by far my favorite part of it, can’t believe this isn’t further up. Not having to pick out my manabase from one deck to play my other one? Not having to keep concise track of every card I own to be sure whether I can make a deck or not? Being able to just search ‘Disturb’ or whatever other mechanic and populate it by format? F*cking only reason I can afford the time to play magic nowadays is Arena,” u/Waffams commented. 

Silent Sentinel

Silent Sentinel
Silent Sentinel | Born of the Gods

While, evidently, MTG Arena’s simplicity can be a selling point, the digital platform is still missing some rather major features. Earlier in the year, for instance, we highlighted how Arena was still lacking key social features, preventing players from effectively communicating with one another. At the time, due to Arena’s dwindling competitive appeal, we stated that expanded social features were sorely needed to ensure the game’s continued health. Since then, however, MTG Arena has gone from strength to strength, thanks to new features and supplemental sets. This has somewhat mitigated player concerns about the platform, making social features no longer as vital as they once were. According to some players, MTG Arena may even be better off without proper player-to-player communication.

Taking to Reddit, u/PryomancerMTGA recently stirred up debate after proclaiming that “chat is toxic,” and shouldn’t be haphazardly added to Arena. Instead of implementing Magic Online’s open chat, u/PryomancerMTGA proposed a rating system for Arena that could “dynamically enable [chat] ONLY for those opponents that were civil enough for an individual’s taste.” Due to this system being ripe for exploitation, players such as u/DoNotArgueWithNerds quickly pointed out a major flaw. “Control players would be getting negative ratings every game.” Despite their principal idea being shot down, however, u/PryomancerMTGA’s post continued to cultivate an unexpected debate. 

Rather than being all for more open communication on MTG Arena, players were more interested in muting their opponents. “If I can mute it, sure,” u/Admiral-Tuna commented. “I mute emotes as they’re annoying enough.” Similarly, u/Different_Recover765 stated that “like many others, I have emotes turned off. I don’t want a chat option but have no problem with it being there as long as we can turn it off if we want.” Trying to suggest an amicable solution, u/BrakumOne claimed there are only two steps to making players happy. “Step 1: Add chat. Step 2: Have it disabled by default.” 

While this opt-out solution would prevent players from unwanted toxicity, it isn’t perfect, especially for Wizards. “So, waste a bunch of money for something 10% of players would opt in to? Makes sense why it’s never happening then,” u/Centoaph noted. Alongside these concerns, u/TheCelticNorse0415 stated that thanks to the moderation and tools that’d be required, “monetarily speaking it’s just shooting yourself in the foot.” 

Future Prospects

Once and Future
Once and Future | Throne of Eldraine

Currently, for better or worse, Wizards of the Coast is yet to announce any expanded social features coming to Arena. There is, however, a smidgen more hope that they could arrive in 2023, as Wizards appeared to have a renewed focus on Arena. Alongside the additional sets and new features launched in 2022, 20223 is a big year for MTG Arena. During a recent fireside chat with UBS, Wizards of the Coast president Cynthia Williams revealed some significant changes are on the way

“So in 2023, Arena will refactor our new player experience to improve onboarding for new players and help them quickly find the play experiences that appeal to them. This will reinforce our acquisition efforts and maximize the impact of our launch on Steam, which is the biggest gaming platform in the world outside of mobile”

Cynthia Williams

While not explicitly announced, this statement from Williams appears to confirm that, at long last, MTG Arena will launch on Steam in 2023. This should allow for player numbers to soar, provided that the launch goes to plan. Alongside the refactored new player experience, 2023 could be the golden age for MTG Arena. Who knows, many we’ll finally get the campaign that we’ve been requesting for so long!

Read More: What is the Easiest Way to Play MTG?

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