On the MTG Arena Economy in 2022

Posted in Magic Digital on March 17, 2022

By Wizards of the Coast

For several months now, the community has been having a robust conversation about Magic: The Gathering Arena's economy. We haven't had much to say in the interim as we listened, collected data, and discussed internally. Throughout that time, more and more players have expressed concerns, shared their issues, and asked us to address it all.

Meanwhile, our silence has probably made things more difficult. This is a tough topic, and one we wanted to address holistically instead of piecemeal. We do hear you, and we're ready to start having this conversation.

This is the start of that conversation. This is not a day where we're going to solve every problem the community has raised. We're going to discuss the core vision for MTG Arena and how that translates to the economy we have today. We'll discuss some of the issues we've seen, both in our data and from the community. Finally, we'll discuss a few more short-term things we are doing to address some of the feedback.

All of that can be found below, but we also held an open conversation with MTG Arena Executive Producer Chris Kiritz on Weekly MTG, and you can watch the full video of that economy discussion. Kiritz spoke to not only what can be found in this document but also answered some additional questions live from fans.

We appreciate you watching, asking questions, and reading through our side of the conversation, and we look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

MTG Arena's Vision

Before we dive deeper into some of the specifics and decisions around the game's economy, let's first lay some groundwork for what our vision and philosophy is for MTG Arena as a game, as this guides our development decisions.

We've said before, but we'll say it again: MTG Arena's goal is to provide a fast, fun Magic experience for everyone, anywhere.

What this means for players is that, whether you're playing in the comfort of your home or on the go, on a PC or on your phone, you have access to everything MTG Arena offers, from exploring new releases, to battling your friends, to competing at the highest levels of competitive Magic. We want to build great experiences that embrace our digital platform while staying true to the essence of Magic.

While we want to embrace Magic's roots, we also must acknowledge that we are a different platform with its own unique needs and constraints. MTG Arena was originally built to engage players with what we call "frontlist" play at no cost, specifically Standard Constructed and recent Draft. As time passes, we're continuing to expand on that original intent to include things like Historic, Cube Draft, and even Alchemy, but this expansion also creates new challenges that we must overcome as our game and community grow.

MTG Arena Economy 101

What exactly do you mean when you say "economy"?

When developing MTG Arena's economy—and when judging the relative health of it—we look at all the ways players earn and spend the various resources they have at their disposal to grow their collection and play games. This includes the resources themselves, such as gold, gems, individual card rewards (ICRs), packs, and wildcards, and the ways in which those are earned, such as through quests, event rewards, daily and weekly wins, and, yes, monetary transactions.

What are some of the overarching goals or the philosophy behind MTG Arena's economy?

First and foremost, we're looking to balance the needs of our various players, whether they are trying out Magic for the very first time or have been playing for decades. Most tend to fall somewhere in the days, months, and years between the two.

Next, we also try to encourage what we consider to be healthy play behaviors; we don't want players to feel like they must play ten hours each day and complete all their daily wins to remain competitive. Our quests are based on playing, not winning, games of Magic, with a once-a-day reroll option that lets players tailor their experience if one of the quests doesn't quite fit their preferred playstyle. Daily win rewards are front loaded—most of the rewards available on a day-to-day basis are earned in the first couple of wins—to reinforce this commitment.

Finally, we believe that opening packs should be fun and having a collection should be rewarding. Magic is constantly evolving, and you never know when new cards are going to breathe life into previously released cards. MTG Arena offers a variety of events beyond the primary formats, often with deck-building requirements or limitations that emphasize cards that may not show up in the traditional metagame. Having a collection lets players participate in these experiences and rewards general engagement in the economy.

For Constructed play, our focus is on deck iteration over collecting every card in a set. As such, the economy is designed around building and growing specific decks over time. Most players have a deck, color, or style preference, and we expect players just starting out to take decks from the Color Challenge that appeal to them and evolve them before moving on to experimenting with deck builds of their own or searching for additional deck ideas from the community. Simply playing every few days and completing quests will provide a steady stream of currency and packs players can use to grow their collection while still having reasonable decks starting out.

We expect this behavior to continue for our more advanced players—those who have grown as players in MTG Arena or are joining as veteran Magic players—but by virtue of their experience, we expect them to have an even better understanding of what they are looking to build and to have more specific card needs. We expect these players to rely more on crafting over the organic process of opening packs.

Both scenarios assume that players who don't want to spend money will earn cards and make those changes over the course of a release season as they complete quests, unlock levels on the mastery system, participate in events, and just generally play. They will, however, need to have resources, either saved from previous rewards or purchased from the store, if they want to accelerate that process.

With our focus on deck iterations, we do know that players who are "completionists"—players who wish to collect every card available—may find collecting sets harder. In practice, we know this is a relatively small segment, but it is something we want to support, and we're discussing ways to improve that process for players who are looking to round out sets. For instance, we'll soon be launching a Mythic Booster pack available for 1,300 gold that ensures that the card in the rare or mythic rare slot is always a mythic rare (unless it is replaced by a wildcard). This should help collectors who are "rare complete" but are still missing mythic rare cards.

In addition, we know that this structure is not ideal for players who are "deck brewers" or who like to build many decks in reaction to the metagame, as experimentation is more difficult in our current system. While there may be some overlap with the completionists, we're also evaluating some options that will improve the ability for explorers to try decks without the full commitment of collecting/crafting all the cards up front.

How do Limited events (Draft, Sealed) factor into this? Limited's primary goal is to have fun with cards from a given Magic expansion. That fun can be building a deck from a limited selection of cards, proving your skill at reading packs in a draft, or even just experiencing cards in a way that is more engaging than opening packs. Since we value collections, ensuring players keep cards they open (outside of special experiences like Cube) is important, but the events are also designed to be rewarding if all you want is the play experience. This gives them extra weight in the economy. We're aware of this and will be looking to adjust Constructed event structures to be more in line with their Limited counterparts.

Player Collections

If the Constructed play economy is centered around deck iteration, why can't we "dust" our collection?

(For the uninitiated, dusting in digital collectable card games refers to a player's ability to remove "unwanted" cards from their collection and, in doing so, acquire a resource that can be used to collect the card or cards they do want.)

MTG Arena is built on the belief that players keep the cards they open and earn. We know that decks and strategies come and go all the time, which can shift both the desirability and power of any given card from set to set or format to format. This variation is part of what makes Magic special.

We never wanted players to feel pressured to dismantle their collection to build the deck they want, only later to be disappointed when they realize they need to reacquire cards they destroyed. In addition, dusting changes the tenor of conversations around the game. Instead of "what should I build" conversations, you get "what should I destroy" conversations, which are inherently more negative.

Knowing, however, that opening packs in the hope of getting the cards you want places a ton of weight on what you happen to open, our "dust" was added to another part of MTG Arena that is fun and reinforces collecting: opening packs. Every MTG Arena Store pack you open not only includes the cards inside, it has the possibility to reward a rare or mythic rare wildcard that moves you toward a guaranteed rare or mythic rare wildcard. This, combined with duplicate protection, ensures that there is always a finite number of packs you need to open before you collect the card you're after—without having to liquidate your collection in the process.

None of this includes the vault, which has morphed from a version of duplicate protection into a bonus for those who have collected lots of commons and uncommons. While not a large part of the economy, we're happy with the role it currently plays as an additional source of periodic wildcards.

Will we ever be able to exchange lower rarity common and uncommon wildcards for a rare or mythic rare one?

There are currently no plans to support this.

Okay, but . . . forget everything else, I just want to buy rare or mythic rare wildcards so I can finish this deck.

While this is currently possible just by buying packs, we're aware that the process feels inefficient. With the release Streets of New Capenna, you will be able to purchase a Wildcard Bundle for $49.99 USD that contains twelve rare and four mythic rare wildcards as a simple way to get the wildcards you need to finish off your current deck or kickstart your next deck.

As with many new features or products, this new bundle will start as a limited-time offering for about six weeks. After that period, we'll evaluate engagement and go from there.

Tabletop and Digital Play

Does MTG Arena take into consideration players who collect cards for both tabletop and digital play when making economy decisions?

While we know there is player overlap, each platform has its own strengths that we try to emphasize. Sometimes this means we lean into shared experiences, like the MTG Arena codes in Prerelease Packs, and sometimes that means we deliver products and experiences for a specific audience. By supporting a play-free path, we hope that anyone who wants a "play anytime, anywhere" experience can hop on MTG Arena and have fun, in addition to all the other ways they may play Magic.

Why should I play a digital product like MTG Arena versus tabletop play with physical product?

We believe that both tabletop and digital play have their own advantages based on how players choose to play the game, and we leave it up to the players to make the decision that best aligns with how and what they want to play. What we can say is that, whether you play one or the other or a combination of both, we plan to support both tabletop and MTG Arena for many more years to come.

Why Alchemy? Why not Pioneer, or Commander, or any of the other tabletop formats?

First, as we continually look to provide experiences for all player types, we've found that there are players who want a format that is able to grow and shift at a pace that matches the speed of digital consumption. Alchemy provides an experience for those players, as was shown by the recent Neon Dynasty Championship-winning Orzhov Venture deck piloted by Eli Kassis.

Second, Historic was able to carve out an identity of its own that filled that basic need for a non-rotating format on MTG Arena. Coupled with the fact that there are still five years' worth of sets to get to Pioneer, we shifted priority to something that we'd be able to act on more quickly.

Finally, Commander and other formats require even more effort than Pioneer. While we'd love to find a solution for multiplayer on MTG Arena, there are some technical hurdles we need to solve before we can make meaningful progress.

That said, we know that the introduction of Alchemy and the inclusion of Alchemy cards in Historic has pushed that format further away from tabletop than some players would like. As a result, we'll be adding a non-rotating format that exclusively consists of cards available in tabletop. This will give us the symmetry between our live and print formats, with each having a rotating and non-rotating variant. More news on this format as we get closer to its launch.

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