If memory serves, I’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering since I was 12 years old. And still to this day Magic remains a hobby I enjoy. And, my greatest praise of Magic: The Gathering Arena is it finally offers a solution for those of us who do not want to spend the money it takes to play Magic: The Gathering Online and don’t have easy access to a local game store.
But I’m not here simply to praise the creation of it. I’m here to review it as a long-time player. And, I’m glad to say that it does function like playing the card game. Barring a few allowances for the digital medium, the system is responsive and natural to anyone who’s used to moving cards on a table. Clicking and dragging is usually the best way to go with these things, and the game feels fluid with it. Sure, sometimes the game almost feels like it requires too much input—but there’s also no other real way to manage higher complexity strategies.
The ability to hop in and play a single game—not a best 2 out of 3—is also a nice feature. Allowing one or two games during a busy day. The lack of a chat input, while obviously a standard feature for most games, is honestly nice here. The toxic nature of online gaming is something in need of remedying on a broad scale, but Magic: Arena skirts it. It’s nearly impossible to do anything to troll or bother other players. The time limits can be dragged out to annoy—but are short enough that’s not much of an issue.
Additionally, we must talk about the free-to-play aspect. I, for one, have spent more money on Magic: The Gathering cards than is reasonable. I know I’m not the only one, either. So, the ability to play and earn cards without spending money is wonderful. Sure, constructing a top-tier Standard deck takes forever—but the metagame of Arena makes this less of a problem. I’ve come across a lot of fun, experimental decks you can build quickly. Fringe strategies and silly deck constructions are much more feasible. It makes the game almost newly fresh.
Now, that’s not saying the game is easy for newer players. Magic is complicated and Magic: Arena is not much easier. The learning curve is neither smooth nor gradual. I only recommend it for players with some experience or people who plan to deep dive into the game and don’t mind the barrier to entry.
But, if you are willing, if you do plan to deep dive, if you can manage to learn super layered rules, Magic: The Gathering, and, by extension, Magic: Arena, is one of the most fun and deep games ever invented.
And, hey, this version is free—so, why not?
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