Since its original release in 1993, the collectible arcade game phenomenon Magic: The Gathering (MTG) has explored digital releases on numerous occasions, but it was not until the arrival of Magic: The Gathering Arena in 2017 that developers at Wizards found of the Coast. The Perfect Digital Title Format – One that combines the beauty of a card game with the convenience and flair of an online and always available digital experience. The only caveat: It was still only available when I was sitting at your computer … until now.
With Arena arriving for iOS and Android, it is time to dive into the game, either for the first time or to start diving into what Digital Magic has to offer. There’s nothing “submerged” in Arena either, as nearly all cards from every physical deck since the 2017 beta release have been integrated into the digital game. Whether it’s tokens, counters, epic stories, or parties, even the most complex modern interactions are represented seamlessly, making it often the easiest way to learn how keywords and new concepts work before you play the latest shows with your physical floors.
Magic at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere
The launch of Arena on mobile is exactly what fans have been hoping for – everything you have on the PC version is here in your Arena mobile account, and all the progress is flowing through both versions of the game. Arena on mobile gives you more ways to play, more often – which also means that you are likely to bump into your friends a lot, too.
If you haven’t played before, Arena is a generous title that gives you loads of free cards and combos via the Daily Quest system, which you complete by playing cards of specific colors or just casting spells in-game. And with new mobile releases, you have easier access to staying up-to-date on daily newspapers, earning more cards, more decks, and more free packages.
There’s also a great introductory experience in Arena, as it sends you on a journey through the game’s different colors. Even if you haven’t played a single Magic Card before, this introduction is a great way to learn what each of the game’s five colors represents and how they play against each other. Of course, there are more free cards that can be won by playing through this introduction. Once completed, you’ll have access to all the modes offered by Arena – Limited, Standard, Historic and Brawl.
In Arena, you’ll also win characters instead of different rarities from cards. Each wilderness can be cashed for a specific card of that rare value to help you build exactly the outfit you want. You can get wildcards directly when unlocking card stacks, but you’ll also get credit towards more wildcards per pack, so you’re always on your way to earning more to use it.
And you don’t have to worry about not owning all of the cards, either. Aside from wildcards, formats like Limited ensure you don’t have to have a lot of cards to be able to compete. Here, you draft cards from packs you unlock only for those series of matches alongside everyone else, making it more about your deck-building skills, rather than your initial set of cards. You can also keep cards you craft to add to your total deck, which makes Limited a rewarding format for players who want to play and collect cards at the same time.
Quick tips, the way forward – fast
If this is still a bit difficult, don’t worry – we’ve put together a quick set of tips to help you dive into the Arena and have a great experience:
- Clear the full introduction. There’s no shame in switching things around when you first dive into the arena, and you can quickly jump into general standard games if you want. But lots of bonus cards and decks are tied up in the Preliminary Mission lines, with other modes unlocking once complete. So be sure to check out this experience and power through it to access everything Arena has to offer.
- Watch those daily tasks. Choosing chests for your daily missions earns you loads of coins and bonus combinations, so make sure you keep chopping them up as well as playing the wider ring. Often times, with the right group selection, you can clear two missions at once too, so be smart and get rewarded.
- Check out the deals. In the Arena store there are always special deals, and they change regularly. From virtual card sleeves to pets to alternate card art, and of course, specials on card packs, some deals offer big discounts that you won’t want to miss.
- Track your friends. Magic is always at its best with friends, so ask around and make your mates on your Arena buddy list so you can play together. The official launch of iOS on March 25 should see more people ready for action – and more available than ever.
- Look for free gifts. Wizards of the Coast releases free private codes online with each specific release (and sometimes only kicks), so it pays to search now and then to see if there are any codes to redeem them for free packages. For example, you can use the symbol Play Caldheim To get three packages of the selected latest version! You will find the Redemption Code box in the Store section of the MTG Arena App.
Additional Q&A with WotC’s Chris Cao
As part of the research in this article, we spoke to Chris Kao, Executive Producer of WotC, about bringing Arena to mobile platforms. As a special bonus for Magic fans, we’ve included a selection from that interview below.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in getting a portable version in our hands?
a: The biggest challenge is the one we set ourselves: being able to run the original MTG on your mobile device. This translated into dozens of smaller challenges such as managing screen real estate, adapting game signals so that they can be read, and even rebuilding much of the core UX for mobile gaming. Through it all, we made choices that kept the authenticity intact. Just like in a tabletop, you can have 100 goblins running around, and no, it’s not always pretty. But it is fun to play which is what it takes to create a Magic mobile.
Q: Are there any examples of challenging card interactions in a touch environment?
a: In a game with almost infinite combinations, player created? Yes, we had a little. MTG is an edge-case game, and Scute Swarms (a card that makes a lot of itself) loves to ruin mobile performance. In this case, we set very high limits for the semi-infinite nature of MTG, but we were careful to set those limits at appropriately unreasonable levels to keep as many games as authentic as possible.
Q: Have any areas of the game gotten a mobile redesign, whether it’s card management, deck building, or other areas?
a: Although we included some minor differences, we felt that the current card management systems were intuitive enough to be ported to mobile devices. There is a zoom feature that has been re-emphasized during gameplay, which players can do by sliding their fingers over the cards. This is most apparent on a mobile phone and allows visual information to be displayed more clearly on smaller screens.
Q: What strategies would you like to follow in how you use the wildcards you are winning?
a: Overall, I like to use my Rare Wildcards on coherent staples on deck, like the Double Rare Lands. This way, you feel like you’re getting a lot of value to redeem a single wildcard, since you can use it on many different types of paperwork. Once you start building staples, you can start crafting more specialty cards, like tribal synergies. I would also suggest focusing on one group and improving it over time, rather than trying to build a bunch of different decks that you might not have the strongest cards for.