Developing the MTG Arena Economy

Posted in Magic Digital on January 17, 2018

By Chris Clay

MTG Arena is based on a simple idea: we want everyone to be able to experience Magic: The Gathering. We want to bring Magic's depth, its strategies, stories, creatures, and characters to the entire gaming world.

Today, I'm very excited to reveal the first iteration of Magic: The Gathering Arena's economy that we are testing and how its structure is built around this simple idea.

Let's start by looking at the details of how the economy, collecting cards, and rewards for playing will work initially. Then we'll move on to the principles we follow and how things can and will change throughout the beta-testing process as we iterate with input from fans.

MTG Arena Economy v1.0

There will be two in-game currencies forming the basis of the MTG Arena economy.

  • Gold: This currency is earned in MTG Arena by winning games, completing quests, and wins in events.
  • Gems: These can only be purchased for real money from the in-game store.

Both gold and gems can be used to unlock packs, events, and more. Gems will be available to purchase for players that want to bypass earning gold to speed up gameplay. While we anticipate offering some cosmetic items in-game that can only be purchased with gems, there won't be any gameplay content that can only be unlocked with real money.

Players can purchase gems during the Closed Beta. If you purchase gems during the Closed Beta and use those gems to purchase digital objects, they will be refunded to your account after each scheduled account wipe. We'll let you know when an account wipe is coming.

Then there are a few basic ways you can get cards in MTG Arena—in booster packs, Draft packs, individual card rewards, Wildcards, and The Vault.

  • Booster packs will be eight-card boosters containing 5 commons, 2 uncommons, and 1 rare or mythic rare.
  • Draft packs will contain 14 cards mirroring tabletop drafts (the basic land has been removed). Drafting will also add cards to your collection, as any card you draft will be automatically added to your collection.
  • Individual cards will also be earnable through play. We are testing a system where for every match win, players will receive one card in MTG Arena, up to 30 per day.
  • Wildcards are special cards that have a chance to appear in the place of each card at any rarity in every booster you open. Wildcards have their own rarity of common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare. You can redeem a Wildcard one-to-one for a card at that same rarity.
  • The Vault adds yet another layer of excitement to booster opening. Every time you open a booster, you earn progress toward unlocking The Vault. When you would collect a fifth copy (or more) of a card, you earn vault progress instead of adding that card to your collection. We are testing the rewards you can earn each time you open The Vault. We will start by awarding a number of Wildcards. We'll likely change the exact mix over time and during testing to get the balance correct and keep things exciting.

We'll begin testing the system with the release of Rivals of Ixalan in MTG Arena on January 18. At that time, the economy will include gold, Wildcards, The Vault, and win progressions, with gems and pricing coming later. The price of packs when using real-world money is still to be determined, but it will not be directly tied to real-world booster pack prices.

We won't be taking real-world money at this time as we test the free-to-play side of the game. That will come later, and we'll be sure to let you know when. But until then, let's talk about why we've designed this system the way we have.

Core Principles

This structure was designed with three principles in mind. Let's start with the first principle of MTG Arena's economy: Make our players' valuable time as fun as possible.

Every free-to-play game uses time as its basic currency. Too often, however, that time is designed to be a grind, an obstacle players have to push through to get value out of the game. We wanted players to truly enjoy their play time and look forward to coming back again. We designed the game, and the economy, to deliver that.

  • Front-Loaded Rewards: In Closed Beta, we're trying out a daily session where most of the rewards come in the first hour or two. While you can always play as long as you'd like, we wanted to make sure that even people with limited time can have fun and feel like they are being rewarded. For example, we're testing a system where the first win of the day gives you your biggest single-game gold reward.
  • Daily . . . or Not: Playing every day is a great way to keep MTG Arena fresh and fun, all while maximizing rewards. Each day brings a new quest that varies in difficulty and reward, and each day you can cycle out one quest for another. Play every day to maximize your first wins, or play a couple times a week to save up quests. Since quests don't always require wins, they are a great way to earn gold just for playing.
  • When You Want to Play More: Of course, sometimes, you just want to keep playing. And we wanted to make sure we supported that. So, we're testing out a system of rewards based on total wins in a week. As you win two, five, and ten games over the course of a week, you can earn Wildcards. Stack this with a couple daily quests and individual card rewards, and you'll have an amazing 3- or 4-hour session set up.

Now that you know your time will be well spent, let's talk about the second principle of MTG Arena's economy: Players need a variety of cards to have the most fun, so reward them with as many as possible. One of Magic's unique strengths is its depth, and that depth comes directly from the vast variety of cards we create each year. The countless combinations this provides have let designers and players alike create rules variants and even entirely new games. We want to make sure players have lots of cards so that we can take advantage of this breadth as the game grows.

  • Cards on Wins: We're currently testing a system that gives you a card on every win up to your 30th win each day. Each card has a chance of being any card in Standard, at any rarity.
  • Boosters Per Week: Boosters are classic Magic. In Closed Beta, we're testing rewarding players with the opportunity to earn three to four free boosters a week. Depending on how you want to play, this could be a booster every couple days, or a couple boosters in one super day of play.
  • Keeper Draft: You add all the cards you draft to your collection in MTG Arena. To enter, you use currency (instead of boosters). Add the rewards for winning to that, and you have one of the best ways to earn cards in the game.
  • Where's the Dust?: If we had used a traditional dusting system, it would have limited our ability to be as generous with card rewards. In addition, we simply didn't want players to need to constantly evaluate what to destroy. We wanted a path for players to complete their collections.

While it's great to collect many cards, its clearly better to collect the cards you want. That's where our third principle comes in: Make sure players can get the specific cards they want.

In tabletop Magic, players can collect certain cards by trading for them. We discussed trading at length and concluded that for digital we could create a better experience if we gave players a different way to collect the cards they want. This is where we believe Wildcards and The Vault make it easier to collect the specific cards you want. Because you'll receive regular opportunities to receive Wildcards or crack open The Vault, collecting specific cards becomes much more attainable.

We also want to make sure that you get the Wildcards you need over time, so we're testing out a pseudo-random system that increases your chances to open a Wildcard of a given rarity every time you don't open one.

On to Testing

Whew! That's a lot. Now, we need your help to test it. None of these ideas are set in stone. In fact, we are waiting to add gems to the game because we want to make the free-to-play side of things fun first. Your play and feedback in the Rivals of Ixalan update to the Closed Beta will help us shape the rest of the economy. For more questions and answers, check out our FAQ.

So, head to MTGArena.com and sign up now!

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