Klothys’s Design | Theros Beyond Death
21, Mar, 23

MTG Designer Reveals The Future of MTG Arena

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While each year is full of exciting sets and products, it’s safe to say 2023 is a big year for MTG. For starters, after years of build-up, the Phyrexian Arc is finally concluding, supposedly changing the multiverse as we know it. Following this, the most highly anticipated Universes Beyond set, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, will be released. As if that wasn’t enough, MTG players can also look forward to Commander Masters to sate their desire for reprints. Alongside all these fantastic paper MTG sets to look forward to, 2023 is poised to be an incredible year for MTG Arena. Thanks to a revamped new player experience and launch on Steam, MTG Arena may well be entering a new era. 

As much as 2023 has plenty to look forward to, the further future remains shrouded in mystery. After all, with Wizards Presents 2023 still on the horizon, we’ve only heard tantalizing teases up until this point. Thankfully, while Wizards is traditionally tight-lipped about the game’s future, recently, players have been given a peek behind the curtain. This comes thanks to a recent Q&A on the MTG Discord, which revealed there are seemingly a lot of plans in the works. 

Question Time

Hold for Questioning
Hold for Questioning | Jumpstart 2022

Considering the Q&A was explicitly centered around Shadows over Innistrad Remastered, unsurprisingly, it was the topic of many questions. Kicking off the Q&A, for instance, MTG Design Manager Ian Adams was asked why Remastered sets exist at all. Explaining Wizard’s thought process, Adams highlighted how “there are a lot of reasons for this, but the big ones are flexibility and impact.” Through this flexibility, Adams divulged how the Amonkhet block could be curated to have “some kind of impact on the historic format.” Additionally, by not implementing each entire set, Wizards could avoid needlessly problematic cards. 

“In the case of Kaladesh, it let us avoid some cards we know would likely be banned out of the gate. Originally, it meant that SIR wouldn’t have to include Emrakul (obviously, that would up happening anyway).”

Ian Adams

Latching onto this question in a thread, several players question Wizards on the notable exclusions from Shadows over Innistrad Remastered. MTG player Metallix87, for instance, highlighted how “Behold the Beyond specifically, is an odd omission from the set.” Thankfully, despite its omissions, Behold the Beyond hasn’t been entirely outlawed on MTG Arena. Instead, Shadows over Innistrad Remastered simply wasn’t the right place for the card, as Senior Game Designer Jiachen Tao explained.

“A variety of factors contributed – we worked on this well in advance of the PT and at the time, Behold was just starting to show up. The card was not doing for limited while the other three black mythics [were] definitely all more impactful. We’d need time to secure new art. The Anthologies series is also there to serve for the purpose of filling out constructed needs without impacting limited.”

Jiachen “JC” Tao

Following questions about Shadows over Innistrad Remastered’s development, several MTG players went on to probe the future of Remastered sets. Surprisingly, despite Wizards’ history of being tight-lipped, this question led to a remarkably revealing and optimistic answer for Adams. “I’d like to hit two a year, but it depends on making sure we hit our obligations to Standard.” While this answer may cause many players to be excited, it comes with a significant caveat. Namely that “the schedule of remastered sets is heavily impacted by the schedule of tabletop releases that we take on Arena.” Subsequently, “the love to do two or 3 [remasters] a year” may just be a hopeful pipe dream. 

Fantastic Future Features

Witness the Future
Witness the Future | Innistrad: Crimson Vow

While Shadows over Innistrad Remastered was commended for pushing Explorer one step closer to Pioneer, during the Q&A, the future of the format wasn’t explicitly laid out. Anthology sets were touched upon briefly. However, Adams only stated they “definitely want to keep moving in that direction.” This lack of a concrete plan led some players to ask about a possible Khans of Tarkir Block Remaster. While far from being confirmed, this out-of-order remaster appears somewhat likely, as Wizards has development freedoms. 

“SOI is the lack block where we had partial implementation from the early beta. That;’s relevant largely because it now means the next thing we work on doesn’t have ‘partially done’ impacting the decision making and opens a lot of options.”

Ian Adams

As a beloved, memorable, and mostly Pioneer legal set, the Khans of Tarkir Block would make an excellent addition to Arena. Especially because the set features the allied cycle of fetch lands. While these cards are banned in Pioneer, they’re a staple in Modern and a highly requested addition to Historic. While there are some concerns about what fetch lands would do to Historic, it nevertheless appears they’re in the pipeline. As, according to Adams, “I expect to see Fetch Lands on Arena eventually.” 

Following this reveal, Discord user Abenyose pushed their luck by asking about a potential “road to Modern,” following fetch lands. Remarkably, this appears to be an actual possibility, as Adams stated, “I can see it happening on a long enough timeline.” Unfortunately, there’s no word on how long this timeline may be, however, Modern on MTG Arena is nevertheless an exciting prospect. 

As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, it appears MTG Arena is getting Masters sets in the future. With Adams stating the chances of Arena getting a Masters set are “pretty good,” it seems plans may already be in the works. Regardless of what Wizards has up their sleeves, however, there’s no telling when a Masters set may release.

Only Time Will Tell

Time Stretch
Time Stretch | Dominaria Remastered

Unfortunately, while it appears that MTG Arena’s future is going to be bright, there’s no telling when anything will happen. Even our best or most hopeful guesses at the moment will likely be subject to extensive change. After all, there’s no telling what might happen to MTG Arena following its launch on Steam during Q3 2023. Should the launch go swimmingly, with droves of players flocking to the platform, Arena could enter into a renaissance. Commanding more development staff plans for Explorer, Masters sets, and Modern could be greatly accelerated. On the other hand, should the Steam launch flop, Arena’s development may take a back seat to more lucrative ventures. 

At the moment, it’s simply far too early to tell which of Ian Adams’ teasing reveals will come to fruition first. Perhaps following 2023’s Wizards presents, we may know more. However, there’s no guarantee about that. Sadly, we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds. It is at least nice knowing there are plenty of good things in store, however. 

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