Whenever I have a spare moment, and often when I haven’t, I find myself having a quick dabble with this game, Magic The Gathering – Arena. I’ve become something of an addict!
Arena, for those not in the know, is the official digital version of the hugely popular Magic The Gathering card game, designed by Richard Garfield way back in 1993 – the fact that it’s still the collectable card game to play pays testament to its simplistic basic mechanisms and the ability to build on these and keep things fresh.
I originally dipped my toe in the murky waters of Magic in 1997, when I bought myself a ‘Portal’ starter set, aimed at those new to the game – I still have the cards. Portal was basic, sticking to simple cards in order to introduce new players to the games complexities, notably mechanism timing. From there, I bought a few pre-made decks and added to these with boosters.
My enjoyment came from putting decks together, forming synergies that were unique and fun to play, something I still try to do today. The biggest problem I had back then was a lack of people to play against and this was, in the end, why the game disappeared into a box in the loft, not to be explored again for another decade or so.
Once Yasmin had caught the gaming bug, I decided it was time to introduce (force) her to Magic. I wasn’t sure whether it was a game she’d be interested in, as she can be difficult to judge when it comes to what she likes and what she doesn’t. I needn’t have worried. Magic was an instant hit and for the first time I had a willing, and readily available, Magic buddy.
Magic, though, can be a frustrating thing. Creating decks, especially ones that work well, isn’t easy when you’re limited to a few decks of cards to choose from. Boosters are relatively cheap, but you can’t guarantee what you’ll get in them and in an ideal deck, you need four of most of the cards you’ve included. And so, the best thing to do is design your deck and then buy the actual cards singularly from the Internet. This takes both time and money.
We continued to play with what we’d got, adding packs of cards every now and again, and creating more decks from these. I wanted to explore the deckbuilding more, but my frustration at the amount of time it took and the cost to put the physical thing together, ebbed my enthusiasm – enter Arena.
Arena is free. Okay, there are options to relieve you of your hard earned cash, but if you choose not to you can still do quite a lot here and become competitive enough to gain a modicum of satisfaction. Personally, I only spend enough cash on there to gain the extras in the Mastery tree if I haven’t got enough Gems saved up.
By playing through the tutorial and then just playing games against others, it’s easy to build up a collection of cards quickly and start getting creative. Wild cards can be earned by opening enough boosters, which themselves can be gained by playing games and completing daily goals, such as casting 30 Blue Spells. Wild cards can be swapped for one copy of any card of the equivalent wild card value – a Rare Wild for a Rare card – and this is how you can fill your deck with just what you want.
Over the months that I’ve been playing, which must be around a year now, I’ve found myself spending more and more time building, refining, and playing, to the point it has impacted on other things. Even as I’m writing this, I have Arena open in another window. I write a few paragraphs then play a game, and then back again. When I’m painting, I have my laptop beside me. I paint a bit, I play a game. It’s become a bit of an obsession!
I get an immense sense of satisfaction from it, that’s the attraction. Trying to second guess what my opponent has in his hand and what he may play next. Playing a synergy that comes together just at the right time to win a game. Coming back from 1-health to snatch victory. Coming up against an opponent with a unique deck, who thwarts my schemes at every move. It all makes to intoxicating game play.
There’s nothing more satisfying than putting a deck together that works well and, for me, is a little different from the Meta. Let’s not beat about the bush, though. The only real way to be successful on Arena, and indeed, in the physical version too, is to follow the current Meta, at least when playing Standard. But I, like a lot of players, like to put my own spin on it. Include a few things to catch the opponent off guard, and I get a buzz from trying to do that.
Currently, I have five or six decks I play with. Two are competitive standard decks. One is an older deck that was competitive but still falls into standard. The other decks fall into explorer or historic format. I have plenty of other decks too, but these are either non-competitive decks that I’ve built around an ‘idea’ or are works in progress. Either way, these will probably get deleted when the standard rotates unless I think they have something really worth exploring.
Deck building is a big part of it for me and I tend to go about it in several different ways. The easiest and quickest method I use to build a competitive deck is by following the Meta. I’ll watch some Deck Tech videos by the big names in Arena, like CovertGoBlue, and import their decks onto my deck list. From there, I’ll play around with it until it does what I want and is competitive – the decks most of the ‘Names’ show on their videos are good but need tinkering to make more efficient; they don’t want to give away all their secrets, now, do they!
Another method I use is by starting with a specific card or two, that has a particular mechanism that I think can be effective if expanded on, and start searching for cards to form a synergy with them. ‘Rabble Rousing’ was one such card.
I’d had this card played against me a few times and thought it could form the focus of a deck. I went green/white with the aim of swamping my opponent with small creatures. From there, I looked at how I could get as many creatures out as quickly as possible and then multiple them by playing this card and attacking. This came by the use of tokens and cards that produced multiples of them.
The deck was quite good and got me to Mythic just as the season ended. It’s the old standard deck I mentioned, and I still play it in standard every now and again, as it catches opponents off guard and can be effective against some of the new decks.
The other main way I put decks together is by type or keyword. For example, I have a Zombie deck and a Dragon deck, both examples that I put together by searching for their type in my collection. Keywords, such as Proliferate or Haste, are examples of what I searched to build some of my other decks.
I’m constantly tinkering with my decks, nothing is ever perfect and even if it’s hyper-competitive one day it can all change the next with the release of new cards. This is where spending money counts. I don’t and so I’m behind the curve on things, always playing catchup. I get my deck competitive too late in the season to make it up the Mythic rankings, but I don’t mind, it’s the enjoyment of it all that counts.
I do aim to get into those rankings though, just to say I’ve done it, I’ve got into the top 1200 Arena players, or however many it is that that get ranked. I’m sure it will happen one day. At the moment I’m happy exploring, building, and playing, win or lose, and that’s what counts, though, I’d probably get more posts out if I cut down on my addiction!
6 thoughts on “Game Chat – Addicted To Magic!”
Have watched games and have many friends who spent a lot of time and cash on physical decks, and would spend a huge amount of time gaming. For me I’d rather have a model on the table, but did enjoy looking at some of the art that was involved. It sounds like you really enjoy this game, which isn’t a bad thing at all, just need to get a few more models painted ! LOL You could always set it as a reward for yourself, once I’ve got this bit finished I can have . . . on arena
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Lol! I’ve tried setting it as a reward but failed miserably because I purposely set the requirements too low. Instead of, ‘Once I’ve painted this figure I can have half-hour on Magic,’ it’s, ‘Just paint this arm and then a quick game!’
As you can see, I have zero willpower😁
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I would have never guessed that you started with Portal, mate! I would guess that I started around the time of Mirage so I was into MTG before you which I find shocking because I’m pretty sure you’ve got some years on me.
Magic is a great game and while I haven’t played it in years, it isn’t hard to pick up and there are many cool cards like you pointed out. The cost to play in in-person tournaments is not exorbitant for a working adult but it isn’t cheap at all so I know what you mean about all of that. You can end up with a lot of Magic cards though. I have a bunch in the house I grew up in and am going to have to get rid of some of them one of these days though I’m sure I’ll keep some for many years to come due to nostalgia.
I haven’t considered playing Arena but I’ve tried other card games on my phone and find them a bit lacking. I would be willing to bet I could get pretty into Arena if I gave it a try but I have so much I’m trying to do already that it probably isn’t wise to start. Its very tempting though! 🙂
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Mirage came out in October 96, Portal May 97, so not a lot in it. I have a deck or two from the Mirage range.
Don’t be tempted mate. I thought, just a quick dabble, and now I can’t leave it alone; it’s become all-consuming!
Thing is, it’s just too easy. No sorting out your cards into piles and then rearranging them again as you decide on a different approach. No filling card files (I have a few) to keep them nice and safe. And it’s ready to play in an instant, always with a willing opponent. Yep, it’s just too easy and before you know it, it has you by the throat, which is, I admit, better than the wallet that physical gaming can grab you by!
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I didn’t realize Portal came out that close to Mirage because when it came out, I thought I didn’t need to buy any because I knew how to play Magic already. Between me and my brother, we bought some anyway haha!
Magic is very addictive and the collecting aspect really gets you. I have played a couple versions of Magic on the PC many, many years ago and even with a lot of technology issues like playing online being pretty slow, the game is still really fun 🙂
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Glad you’re enjoying it, Justin! 🙂 I think I’m in agreement with Dave Stone on this and I’d rather have minis in front of me!
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