MtG Arena Report, or How the Environment Just Sucks

I thought I’d just play a few games between meetings and it didn’t quite work out as someone might hope.

Game 1

Didn’t happen. Opponent apparently didn’t like their opening hand, sat there for a while and conceded before the game could even begin.

Game 2

Technically happened. My opponent played a total of two Islands before conceding.

Game 3

At least I got a game in. Opponent wouldn’t do anything before the timer kicked in on each of their turns, but at least there was a game. It just took much more time than it needed to. The game was actually kind of interesting and actually had some actual decision points. It would have been nice to actually be able to have fun instead of just waiting around for my opponent to wake up again.

On the other hand, apparently [scryfall]Legion Angel[/scryfall] doesn’t work. It triggered, but the trigger didn’t actually do anything. This used to work, but apparently has somehow been messed up. As they are currently trying to make the sideboard more meaningful for Bo1 play, one might suggest that they should actually not break the ways you were actually able to use it in the past.

Game 4

Well, another game. In name, at least. No decisions here. I played what I could, but because [scryfall]Embercleave[/scryfall] exists, it didn’t really matter what I did. The game was basically scripted and I never stood a chance.

Game 5

I played a 2 mana creature, it was removed. I played another 2 mana creature, which was removed. I played [scryfall]Halvar, God of Battle[/scryfall], followed on the next turn with [scryfall]Shadowspear[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Luminarch Aspirant[/scryfall] dealing 10 on the attack and gaining 10, leading to a concession.


That was the four wins and because the third game took much more time than expected, I couldn’t have played any more anyhow. I could have used this time for more games, but I was more motivated to write this, which should tell you something.

Okay, so out of the five games, only one felt like an actual game. This might be controversial, but 20% just isn’t enough. Of course, the sample here isn’t very large, but it does feel representative. Games are decided fast, so it’s more about goldfishing than actual playing actual decks. I would probably get more out of playing against Sparky (the testing automaton), because at least more of those games happen and at least I’m not overrun immediately by something like the aforementioned [scryfall]Embercleave[/scryfall].

Now that the world is reopening, can they actually maintain a player base? I get that the idea of the game and the worlds are both fascinating to the players, but if the design of the game feels like just throwing around ideas to see what sticks and not really actually designing anything. When the environment is like this, where close to half of the games never lead actually happen, why would people keep coming?

The incentives for playing are clearly messed up as well. The quests haven’t been changed at all since I’ve started playing, which means that they don’t pay attention to these either, or are you actually telling me that the company, which can’t get anything balanced these days just happened to get that right on the first attempt? Well, clearly not, as people are dropping out of games all the time before the games can even really happen.

I’m stubborn (or stupid) enough to still try to make all this work for me, but at the same time I’m often wandering why… There’s plenty of other games I could be playing. While competing in anything based on reaction times just wouldn’t work for me in my age, there’s always the solo games… which I’ve been putting more of my free time to anyhow. While I would still like to be a good MtG player mostly for reasons of networking, I’m not having fun playing Arena. Quite the opposite. It’s just frustrating and not very helpful from the point of view of maintaining any sort of play skill.

8 thoughts on “MtG Arena Report, or How the Environment Just Sucks

  1. It’s really not a fun experience. I also wonder why I bother booting it up, and have to wonder how many people have totally tapped out of Magic as a whole because the Arena experience is so awful. A lot of the problem is that standard is miserable, but Arena itself amplifies this 100 times over. 4 out of 5 games decided by how kind the algorithm feels at dolling out land to either player and then the 5th game is decided by turn 2 anyway based on how grossly overpowered everything is. I really hate it.

  2. I was recently suspended from Eternal, the card game so after a 4 year hiatus, I tried Arena again. I must be a masochist to play any CCGs…sigh.

    1. The shuffling issue- For years now I’ve been explaining that the RNG is flawed in every single game. I’m talking all genres, all games. The RNG doesn’t factor in reduced odds after drawing. If you have standard 24 lands in your deck and have drawn 23 of them to say7 spells, the odds of you drawing that 24th land next is still the same as when you started the match. Or 1 in 2 1/2, Not 1 in 30.
    The issue is the same in (insert game name here).

    *I was suspended for cursing them in game feedback about how the rope timer doesn’t work for selected players. They can run infinite combos all day.

    2. dumbest AI I have ever encountered. After playing Eternal for 4 and a half years, you get used to its “SUPER AI”. When the program/company/whatever decides you’ve won enough, it goes into a God mode where you don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. After a few games where it humiliates you, it goes back into a calmer, but still hard mode.

    MTG Arena’s AI on the other hand plays like the dumbest 5 year old ever. You name the mistake, it will make it multiple times.

    3. Waiting for server- Bad connection? Try horrible in Arena.

    4. Arena is slow as homemade molasses. Whether it’s rope timer abuse or doing anything at all, this game slowly puts me to sleep with it’s lack of speed.

    5. Power creep-this is an issue in every one of these. The newest cards making the older ones obsolete so you’re left with a ‘why did I bother” feeling. Op cards also exist in them all but at least Eternal doesn’t have these “Written in Stone(paper)” and can try balances to fix problems. (and does)

    I just have no incentive to keep playing this. None.

  3. I’m 35, and though I have seen friends play Magic since high school, MTG Arena was my first time really learning the game. I started playing a lot in the last week, and I began to enjoy it quite well. I had a few games where I got trashed, but I got back in the ring for another swing…

    Now I see the problem. It isn’t technical, like RNGs or sets and what not. Magic has always been a balanced game. It’s the nature of online play.

    When you go to your local shop for FNM, (I have gone but not as a player) there are maybe about 10-15 people and while they may have binder’s full of cards, this is generally the crowd you will play. But online, when you play a game you could get paired up from among one of the thousands of people on the server at any given time.

    So, one game can have you paired against a RDW you didn’t brew well and your green bomber deck crushes him, and the next game you play that same deck against a blue-white deck of a guy who spends $100 a week on digital cards and casts back all of your creatures before beefing up a 28/24 creature and casting a card that taps all of your blockers, and then deletes you, who’s able to afford his hobby because he doesn’t have any other hobbies outside of work.

    And any online game is going to have a meta, a certain type of play that is just OP and unless you have the right counter, it just wrecks you. And this is hard to counter because of the RPS method of the game. The RPS style makes it fun when playing smaller samples like your local paper magic game, but online it just isn’t an option. You can’t develop a single deck that is strong against all.

    And that’s why it sucks for me, personally. I have to work a lot to afford the living I do have, along with being social and dating, and it just isn’t possible to be competitive in Magic when I don’t have that much time or money to commit. And worse, losing in Magic makes me feel very, very stupid, and I don’t see myself committing the time and money into MTG Arena. Paper magic, most likely, but not Arena.

    The collecting is very addictive, but at home I’ll play my Xbox instead.

  4. I agree, the digital form of Magic in MTGA is horrendous. It seems fun at first, but then after a short while, a player notices it is nothing like the original card game and completely rigged and skewed. Much talk has been made online how the MTGA format is designed to reward the players that pay for the most gems. I have no way of verifying that, but I suspect it’s true and the online magic is experience more about WoTC making money than players having fun with the cards.

    • Well, obviously those who have the best access to cards have an advantage, but if you are suggesting (and hopefully I’m not reading too much into your comment) that they somehow give additional edges to those who spend money, I think you are wrong. You have to take human psychology into account. After you have been seduced into paying for gems once, doing it again has a lower threshold.

      Brewer’s Kitchen also had his own thoughts on the economy just a couple of days ago and I do think he has a lot of good points:

      The insidious way I do believe they are making people use more gems is that they are upping the randomness of the game. Why this matters is that this way they can push down the win percentages of players. The way the payouts on drafts are set up, you need a pretty high (almost 70%) winrate to maintain your gems over time. By adding more powerful cards, which have only a few or no answers easily available, they can bring up the winrate of certain cards, but since you can’t choose the cards you are playing freely in limited, everyone who doesn’t have those cards is going to lose some of their wins and thus go down in gems.

      I don’t know if they are doing this knowingly, but I do feel this is happening.

  5. I’ve decided to stop wasting my time with this game, truthfully.

    I do understand if you spend thousands of hours working up a deck, well just maybe you can play a game or two on standard and be somewhat ready for an entire deck of legendary douchedragons breathing asshole sauce all over you. However, I think I have better things to do. All I wanted was to play a fair game that uses a bit of tactics – sort of like building a deck with a mate and playing the tabletop game. MTG arena is nothing of the sort – it’s geared towards people who have thousands of hours to spend on building a deck – I would say ‘skill’, but it’s far from that, really. Anyone can win when you’ve got the cards. Think I’ll go back to playing chess instead.

    Ciao chaps.

  6. Shouldn’t even be called magic the gathering. More like imitation magic the gathering. Like imitation vanilla. You can still bake cookies with it,but it just isn’t going to taste as good. It may even leave an off taste in your mouth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.