21, Mar, 22

The Pros and Cons of an MTG Arena Dust System

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Last week, Wizards of the Coast shared their plans for upcoming changes that they will be making to the Magic Arena economy. The reception to that stream was not great. The general sentiment from many players is that these announcements don’t get to the core of the issues and are the changes that they want. One of those changes that players want is Dust system, but is that really the best option?

What is a Dust System?

Blizzard Entertainment

A dust system is an economy system for collectible card games, mainly popularized by Hearthstone. This system is paired with a crafting system, and cards can be destroyed for a fraction of the cost to craft the same card. This allows players to get rid of cards they don’t want, and create cards they do.

While this system has been widely adopted by other card games, Wizards of the Coast opted to exclude this in favor of a pure crafting system with Wild Cards. This has caused a lot of problems for players, as the acquisition of Wild Cards was heavily tied into buying packs.

Players have been calling for Dust System for a long time, and it has only been amplified over the past week, but what are the benefits to something like this? What are it’s pitfalls?

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Pros of an MTG Arena Dust System

On one hand, a dust system is definitely something that could benefit Magic Arena for a few reasons.

First off, WotC tends to reprint cards quite a bit, and often times, the only differentiating factor on the cards is the set symbol. With a dust system, players can dismantle extra copies of cards that they get in packs, especially rare lands.

Another reason is that not all cards are competitively viable. There’s a ton of cards in the game, with sets having upwards of 300 cards in them. There’s bound to be cards that aren’t going to ever see the light of day in constructed play. For many players, the ability to ditch those duds, and craft cards for competitive decks seems like a great thing. The metagame for Standard rarely shifts enough where enough cards come into viability where someone could be worried about this.

The other thing benefit here is collection management. Wizards stated that they wanted players to collect on Arena. They want players to feel like they have cards to play with. The reality is, players don’t go to Magic Arena to collect. If the goal of Arena is to be fast, fun Magic, players don’t want to spend tons of time filtering through their collection. Being able to break down unwanted cards keeps things tidy, and is something that players are familiar with in the paper world.

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The Cons of an MTG Arena Dust System

With all of it’s benefits, there are some downsides to this as well. During new set release, players are often quick to try and find the new broken deck. This comes at the cost of cards that may not necessarily be optimal or competitive. This can lead to players killing the EV of their collection in a matter of minutes with a very quick realization that they made a mistake.

In dust systems, the value at which you dust cards is often 1/4 the cost to craft a card of that same rarity. This will eventually lead to player card pools being “worth” significantly less in the closed economy. Ultimately, this give players fewer deck options, as they’re limited to the cards that they didn’t dust. This issue can be solved with the “deck testing system” that WotC said that they were working on. With this, players would be able to make more informed decisions with their crafting system.

In this scenario, players will be left with 2 choices. Grind more Wild Cards with a deck that they aren’t happy with, or spend money on more packs to backfill more dust. If you think about it, it’s no different than where we are at now.

Wizards of the Coast

Another problem is that as Arena adds more formats, player are going to need cards for them. What may be viable in a format like Pioneer, may not be in Standard. So having a variety of cards to choose from will help facilitate players getting into the those older formats.

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So at the end of the day, I think the benefits would outweigh the negatives for implementing a dust system. But in order to get it, WotC would have to against a core design philosophy, which probably won’t happen. We can keep asking for it, but I think there’s better solutions that WotC can put in the game.

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