MTG Arena Mobile Hinata
15, Jun, 22

MTG Arena Still Desperately Needs a Campaign

Article at a Glance

Despite launching in 2017 on PC, MTG Arena is still missing one core gaming feature, a campaign. This makes sitting down to digitally play Magic: The Gathering for the first time somewhat difficult. This is especially true for the swaths of new players on mobile.

Despite being available on mobile devices for over a year, MTG Arena’s mobile client is still far from perfect. With unresponsive menus and lackluster UI, MTG Arena on mobile is far from the definitive experience you might hope for. 

Thanks to these drawbacks, many players have dismissed playing MTG Arena on mobile as just a convenience that exists alongside the desktop client rather than something that could be a replacement. Unfortunately for fans of playing Magic: The Gathering on mobile, it seems that Wizards of the Coast has similar feelings, as many of the app’s issues have yet to be fixed. 

As more sets and expansions release onto MTG Arena, many of the mobile client’s issues only worsen. This is because as more sets are released, the game steadily becomes unintelligible to new players. While these issues aren’t always present for MTG’s veteran player base, they mustn’t be ignored if Magic: The Gathering wants to grow into the future. 

What’s the problem?

MTG Arena Tutorial Parody

Ultimately, MTG Arena doesn’t produce an environment conducive to learning on mobile. This may turn away new players while seriously hampering the game’s potential popularity. With a mountain of cards, minuscule text, and rarely enough time to read what they do, new players are often punished for trying to learn the game’s mechanics. 

MTG Arena may technically have a tutorial, however even this fails to properly inform a player of everything they’d need to know. Instead, after an explanation of core mechanics, players are directed toward online recourses outside of the game to learn more. This leaves new players unprepared for many of the complexities and mechanics in online games.

For example, in Streets of New Capenna alone, MTG was given four brand new mechanics, Alliance, Shield Counters, Connive, and Casualty. These mechanics are not explained in Arena’s tutorial, as it only uses Arena Base Set cards. Thankfully, we at least have comprehensive guides explaining each of these new mechanics. Unfortunately, this is still far from an ideal solution for new MTG players as it requires leaving the game client.

As the easiest way to download and play MTG Arena, the mobile client shouldn’t leave players with doubts about how to play the game. 

What’s the solution?

Heartstone League of Explorers adventure
Hearthstone’s League of Explorers adventure is an excellent template for a card-based campaign.

Like Hearthstone’s Adventures, MTG Arena would greatly benefit from a single-player story mode. Offering a way to expand upon the limited tutorial, a series of set-based campaigns could help teach new players all they need to know about a new set without relying on external material. 

A set-based campaign could be useful for new and veteran players by focusing on a set’s mechanics and lore. A single-player game also wouldn’t have the threat of MTG Arena’s online turn timer, making games increasingly stressful. This would allow new players the much-needed freedom to learn at their own pace and read all the new cards. 

This freedom is even more important on mobile, as MTG Arena’s tablet-esque design doesn’t translate well onto smaller devices. This makes reading cards covered in rules text a nightmare, mainly thanks to MTG Arena’s restrictive turn timer. This turn timer is made even more oppressive by the mobile client’s janky UI, which makes doing anything strenuous. It’s safe to say that the more complex decks MTG Arena offers are utterly unplayable on Mobile, giving Desktop players a competitive advantage.

Beyond providing a fix to some of MTG Arena’s core issues, let’s not forget that a set-based campaign could also be a lot of fun. As proven by past Duels of the Planeswalkers games, playing against AI opponents isn’t always a bad thing, far from it. Set-based campaigns could be laundered in addition to MTG Arena with the right level of difficulty or challenge modes. This can have the duality of teaching new players how to play the game while also giving MTG personalities fun challenges to stream. Imagine watching your favorite streamer try to beat a Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus on turn two or three.

Ultimately, we know there’s no perfect solution. Telling Wizards of the Coast to introduce a campaign for Dominaria United is a monumental amount of effort. The same is true of telling Wizards of the Coast to design a more useable and better-optimized UI. 

In the past, Wizards of the Coast has introduced a few limited-time story events into MTG Arena, so we can only hope we see more of these until a permanent solution is reached.

Read More: Magic: The Gathering 2022 Release Calendar

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