Everything You Need to Know About Magic: The Gathering Arena

Posted in Feature on September 7, 2017

By Jeffrey Steefel

Jeffrey Steefel is the vice president, digital game development for Wizards of the Coast, and starts every day in amazement that after more than 25 years of making games, he’s finally involved with some of the brands that sparked his love of gaming in the first place.

Nearly 25 years ago, Richard Garfield and his team took the seed of an idea—a quick, portable game to play with friends—and developed it into a sensation called Magic: The Gathering. The scope was modest and the idea was simple, but it turned into so much more.

In those two-and-a-half decades, Magic has helped transform the gaming world and grown into a global phenomenon. Fans the world over have played on countless kitchen tables, in thousands of game stores, and across tens of millions of competitive events around the world. They have come together through their shared love of what many say is not just the best game, but the best gaming community. Magic is played by tens of millions of fans in 70 countries and in eleven languages.

Today, we're announcing a new way to play.

The first and best strategy card game with the most vibrant global community deserves an outstanding digital presence. I'm proud to introduce Magic: The Gathering Arena.

What Is MTG Arena?

Magic: The Gathering Arena is free-to-play, authentic Magic, reborn digitally for gamers, fans, and streamers.

You've heard us talk about Magic Digital Next and the Digital Games Studio, our efforts to translate the rich world of Magic into modern digital gaming experiences. MTG Arena is the first of those efforts and is intended to be the ultimate way to play the latest card sets in Magic. It is available to download with no fee and is a free-to-play-game.

First and foremost, MTG Arena is going to be an amazing place to play the game you love with all the depth, rules, and choices fans love, plus the striking and easy-to-understand visuals that make watching online exciting. We want popular MTG Arena streams to consistently be among the most-viewed streams on Twitch. We want players to eagerly anticipate MTG Arena draft nights with their friends around the world. We want pro players' competitive ladder matches to be watched with the same fervor as a Grand Prix.

To realize that vision, we're creating the game with three important goals in mind.

We want to create the deepest, richest digital card game on the market. Magic already boasts some of the deepest strategy of any TCG in the world, tabletop or digital, and MTG Arena's goal is to live up to that depth right at the start of Closed Beta. By the time we go into full launch, MTG Arena will feature the full card sets in Standard, with around 1,000 new cards added every year. That means deeper gameplay, more experiences to discover, and more room to explore.

We want to create a version of Magic that's as much fun to watch as it is to play. Viewing MTG Arena on Twitch or other platforms will be a fast-paced, exciting, and easy to understand experience for fans across the globe. Our goal is nothing less than creating one of the premier esports communities, with viewing experiences packed with fun visuals, awesome sound, and cool ways to learn from and interact with our evolving catalogue of content.

We want to create a game that can evolve. We've created an all-new Games Rules Engine (GRE) that uses sophisticated machine learning that can read any card we can dream up for Magic. That means the shackles are off for our industry-leading designers to build and create cards and in-depth gameplay around new mechanics and unexpected but widly fun concepts, all of which can be adapted for MTG Arena thanks to the new GRE under the hood.

To accomplish these lofty goals, the development of the game is going to take time, and throughout this process our work will be more visibly inclusive of our fans than any previous Magic product. We have great ideas about the game—soon we'll be inviting players like you to play and share your thoughts with us.

How to Get Involved

There are two primary ways you can get involved with the development of MTG Arena: by signing up for the Closed Beta and coming to play at one of several events over the coming months.

First, you can sign up for the Closed Beta at PlayMTGArena.com. We will be sending out invitations in waves, inviting players as our testing allows. At the beginning, the Beta (which will be English-only) will focus on the first iteration of casual Constructed play, featuring cards from Ixalan. We will add more features and formats as testing develops.

You can get priority access to the Closed Beta by participating in an Ixalan Prerelease with a DCI number tied to a Wizards Account, playing in a Magic Online Ixalan Prerelease, or by linking your Magic Duels CSID number to your Wizards Account. Do any of these and we'll put you in the queue for priority access. If you're having issues with signup, be sure to contact Customer Service.

Second, you will also have the chance to get your hands on the demo at select upcoming events. Your first opportunity is this weekend at HASCON in Providence, Rhode Island. If you're not able to make it there, we'll be looking for other similar opportunities at venues and events coming up soon.

Also be sure to take part in the conversation through our Twitter account @MTG_Arena, and using the hashtag #MTGArena.

What This Means for Tabletop Magic and Magic Online

The focus of MTG Arena will be on the newest cards and game modes. Because of this, we know that Magic Online—which has a library of nearly every card ever printed from the game's entire history—will continue to offer experiences to players that are unique to Magic Online. Development on Magic Online will continue with new card sets, new updates, and ongoing tournaments. For more on the future of Magic Online, be sure to read Chris Kiritz's article, also posted today.

Another key goal for for MTG Arena is for both the tabletop and digital versions of the game to complement one another. We are exploring opportunities to connect real-world in-store play with digital play. We are still developing and evolving our plans, but we want your Magic gameplay to be part of a larger, integrated experience over time, in ways that have never been possible before.

Thank You!

We're fortunate to be working with the greatest game in the world as our starting point and with the greatest gaming community in the world as our sounding board. We could not ask for much more as we develop a new digital game for Magic. This is going to be an exciting journey, and we are honored to be on this adventure with such an amazing community.

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