Pattern Matcher | Core Set 2020
5, Jun, 24

Wizards Promises Major MTG Arena Matchmaking Improvements

Article at a Glance

There’s been a lot of talk about the matchmaking system on MTG Arena recently. For the longest time, this fundamental digital feature has been long complained about but shrouded in a thick layer of mystery. That was, at least, until recently, when savvy players reverse-engineered the system following a bug and cracked the code.

Following this inadvertent exploit, MTG players finally learned exactly how Wizards ranks their casual-oriented decks. Unfortunately for players who liked this new information, Wizards will soon be keeping it to themselves again. In a recent blog post, Wizards has revealed they’ll be patching the hole this information leaked out.

Thankfully, alongside keeping players in the dark, Wizards also promised to make improvements to the existing MTG Arena matchmaking system.

Keeping Secrets Secret

Make Disappear | Streets of New Capenna
Make Disappear | Streets of New Capenna

In the latest Arena Announcements post, Wizards of the Coast announced that matchmaking fixes would be coming sometime soon. Sadly., beyond a vague gesturing at the future, there’s no exact date on when these improvements will arrive. This is actually all part of Wizards’ plans to intentionally keep players in the dark.

While this may sound bad on the surface, keeping players in the dark is actually vitally important. As Wizards explains, revealing too much would create “Windows of opportunity for players to try and circumvent the system.” Not only is this a problem on paper, but it’s a real issue that many players have been experiencing recently.

Following the leak of the MTG Arena matchmaking code, many players quickly set out to exploit the system. By piecing together an assortment of the best surprisingly low-weight cards, you could create a practically unbeatable Brawl deck. Alternatively, you could do as u/Anonymus1921xD proposed and jam every high-powered card into one deck as a meme.

For some players, the added information was an incredibly useful tool to refine and fine-tune decks. Reddit user u/hawkshaw1024, for instance, explained how the information leaked allowed them to cut over weighted cards they weren’t properly using. This allowed them to adjust their deck’s ranking and find opponents more suitable to their deck’s true power level.

Ultimately, the concept of a true power level is a huge problem when it comes to brawl. As much as Wizards may be able to evaluate specific cards and Commanders it can’t comprehend the intention of players. Sadly, this may mean that the MTG Arena matchmaking system is fundamentally forever flawed.

Fixing the Unfixable

Zenith Flare

Thanks to MTG being arguably the most complex game in the world, Arena’s matchmaking system doesn’t have an easy job. With countless combos and synergies making otherwise tepid cards absolutely insane, creating a perfect system is arguably impossible. To try and counteract this, certain cards like Zenith Flare have been given absurdly high weights, but isn’t an ideal fix.

If you’re not running a single Cycling card, Zenith Flare is literally useless. That said, if you’re running Zenith Flare, you’re probably running a fair few Cycling cards. With this in mind, the system should work, however, there’s no consideration for partial synergy. This can leave many players feeling unfairly punished by the current matchmaking system.

Ideally, this issue should be rectified before too long as Wizards will be making changes to power ratings soon. Hopefully, this will deal with surprisingly low-weight Commanders such as Mythweaver Poq. From Wizards’ statement, this card may be specifically singled out as it’s a dominant force in the Brawl metagame.

“Beyond this, we’ll continue to explore how we manage the power level portion of matchmaking in a sustainably responsive manner, where changes are regularly accounting for shifts in the metagame but don’t impact our ability to run other parts of the game.”

Wizards of the Coast

For better or worse, this steady patching and tweaking may be the only way to keep Brawl feeling balanced. After all, when done correctly, frequent changes will properly account for new cards, as well as any newly discovered exploitable problems. Unfortunately, doing everything correctly is a lot easier said than done.

As many Alchemy players will know, Wizards plans for balancing and their actual implantation can be two wildly different things. In theory, changing the weight of cards should be a lot easier than fixing overpowered cards, but that doesn’t guarantee results. Ultimately, we’re just going to have to wait and see just how often the Brawl metagame actually gets tweaked.

An Unoptimal Solution

Kels, Fight Fixer
Kels, Fight Fixer | Jumpstart

Sadly, as we mentioned earlier, we won’t even be able to see when changes take place. Since Wizards will soon be hiding the card ranking information again, we’ll only be able to go off general vibes. Right now, we can only hope that these vibes will improve soon, as the current player solution is hardly perfect.

With no ability to pick your opponent on Arena, outside of direct challenges, instant conceding has become an interim solution. If your opponent doesn’t like the look of your Commander, or vice versa, there’s zero punishment for conceding and queuing again. Considering the plight of hell queue, it’s hard to blame players for this action, but it’s nonetheless not fun. 

Ultimately, all we can do for now is hope that Wizards makes the much-needed changes soon. Whether or not this will actually happen, however, remains to be seen… Or rather not seen, because Wizards is keeping all the juicy details to themselves.

Read More: Wizards Debuts New Digital Rewards for In-Person Play

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