When talking video games, time is an odd beast. Five years can be both an eternity and the blink of an eye depending on the lens through which you view it, and MTG Arena is no exception. It's been a blur since I joined the team almost three years ago, and when you think of it as over half of MTG Arena's life, it seems preposterous. Then, when I look at our roadmap, some of which we shared at the GenCon panel last month, I see projects we have planned three years down the line, and think that it might as well be an infinite time away before we deliver this awesome thing—until I realize that some of the planning is due now and oh Jeez, where did the time go?
I know I'm not alone in feeling this ebb and flow of temporal perception, but I think it's good to remind ourselves that it exists, and that it's relative to your point of view. As we talk about what we've accomplished, where we can improve, or what lies ahead, we'll try to remember that our "only a year away, how will we ever meet that timeline" is someone else's "so far it might as well be at the heat death of universe."
With that in mind, let's use the celebration of our fifth anniversary (make sure to log in and check your inbox every day from September 19 through the anniversary on the September 27) to take some time to brag about some of the fun and cool things we did this past year (going all the way back to Dominaria United) and talk about some things we are looking forward to in the upcoming year.
What We Did
First, let's recap all the amazing work that our team has done this past year, from sets and events to feature implementation, there has been a lot. Enough that this should come in a several bulleted lists.
The magic in Magic comes from amazing cards, and this year was no exception. We had some incredible releases in MTG Arena, from wrapping up the Phyrexian story arc that was first hinted at in Throne of Eldraine to starting an all-new arc with Wilds of Eldraine. We tried new things, like March of the Machine: The Aftermath, and we returned to fan-favorite settings like Innistrad. All in all, we delivered well over 2,000 new cards aimed at a variety of players.
- 5 Standard set releases – Dominaria United, The Brothers' War, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, March of the Machine, Wilds of Eldraine
- 1 Epilogue release – March of the Machine: The Aftermath
- 3 Alchemy releases – Alchemy: Dominaria United, Alchemy: The Brothers' War, Alchemy: Phyrexia
- 1 Alchemy set release – The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™
- 1 Remastered release – Shadows over Innistrad Remastered (and the monster that was Emrakul, the Promised End)
- 3 Anthologies – Explorer Anthology 2, Explorer Anthology 3, and Historic Anthology 7
- 7 Rebalance passes
Without a place to play, the cards are just pretty collectibles, but on MTG Arena, we have you covered with play options for all types of players. From Midweek Magic to Qualifier Weekends and everything in between, there should be something for everyone. For the competitive types, we've awarded over $2,000,000 in prizes through Arena Opens and Arena Championships. For those who just want a good bit of fun, we partied with Posty, embraced our roots, and tried to bring joy every step of the way.
- 11 Arena Opens
- Monthly Qualifier Play-Ins and Qualifier Weekends, plus a bonus showcase Play-In
- 3 Arena Championships
- Post Malone's MTG Arena Concert event
- Extra Life event
- April Fool's celebration with MTG Arena Store battlefield and well-loved sleeves
- Arena Decathlon
- Gladiator events
- 5 Cube events (1 Tinkerer's Cube, 2 Chromatic Cubes, 2 Arena Cubes)
- Several Alchemy rebalanced drafts
- No-ban list Historic event
- And countless other fun events!
Feature Updates and Quality of Life
Some of the unsung heroes of the year, these improvements might not always be the flashiest updates, but they make the game more enjoyable in so many ways, such as no longer having to always select your Unfinity lands, collecting cards much more easily with golden packs, and claiming rewards and live updates from our inbox feature.
Feature updates remove friction points so players can get to what they came to do: play Magic.
- Refactored new player experience
- Steam launch
- Favorite lands and preferred printing
- Improved duplicate protection and card styles in packs
- Improved pack opening visuals
- Updated play blade
- Improved wildcard and vault display
- Golden Packs
- Inbox messaging
- Permanent wildcard bundles
- Summer Sale
- Improved Advanced Filters in deck building
- Duel scene improvements to the stack location
This year, we've tried to improve the amount of communication and community conversation we're having. You can see this in the weekly announcements, new channels, and a concerted effort to be engage more through proactive messaging and interactive conversation. We are looking for players at conventions, connecting content creators to our players via Streamer Events and our YouTube channel, and organizing dev diaries and Q&A sessions. We still have a ways to go, but here's some of what we've done this year:
- Booths at MagicCon Vegas, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis
- Panel at GenCon
- 5 Streamer Events (previously named Early Access)
- 8 Dev Diaries
- Community-organized events through our Discord channel
- New Community Platforms
- Story videos on YouTube
How We Did
Now that we've outlined what we delivered, let's talk a little about how we did. We know there are still areas we can improve on, so let's take a quick look at some of those in reverse order.
While we've increased our communications, we still have some work to do on frequency, timing, and accuracy. Too often content was published too late, with incorrect information, or with links that didn't work. I won't bore you with the how this happens, but we'll need to work to reduce these occurrences and make sure we're providing the correct information when players need it.
We want to continue to increase accessibility and foster a two-way dialog with the players. This means finding more ways to engage in meaningful ways on channels that are not necessarily one-way conversations. From AMAs to more interviews with content creators to finding ways to get Dev Diary topics from players, we think there is an opportunity expand in this space.
Features and Quality of Life
We've mentioned it several times, but there are a variety of players on MTG Arena, and we want to continue to deliver features and improvements for all of them. With this in mind, we don't have infinite resources, so we need to prioritize that effort. While we do a reasonable job much of the time, we have opportunity to improve.
One of those improvements will be managing our feedback site better to ensure that player feedback isn't slipping through the cracks. In addition, we'll try and be more proactive in discussing why certain areas may not see the rate of improvement some players want.
We also want to continue to build better connections that match how players play. This includes better connection between tabletop and digital play, rewarding play styles that are not as concerned with wins and losses, and continuing to improve the social and communications capabilities in MTG Arena. To try and temper some expectations, some of these features are over a year out, but we are currently thinking about solutions.
Events and Card Sets
We're rolling these together because the improvements here tackle the same basic principle: play that matches player desires. Whether it is the cards used in decks or the events available to participate in, we'll continue to refine and expand what we offer to match various play styles. We cover some of this philosophy in our formats article, but in general we're continuing to lean into tailoring experiences for specific players and maximizing the time available for play those players want to engage in.
We've seen good examples of this over the past couple of summers, where the summer creates a hole in the schedule for those who aren't interested in Limited formats of the summer set or in Alchemy. We'll see it again next summer when we release Modern Horizons 3. While we may not have something for everyone every single week, we do want to minimize the time when folks are less excited to log in. We don't have specific plans to share yet, but we are aware of the opportunity to engage more players.
In addition, we've heard some of the feedback on the various releases, and we'll continue to iterate and try to make releases as exciting as we can for players. Again, no plans to share, but there is likely an opportunity to have a release that has a narrower focus on the player it appeals to as a way to experiment and see how players react.
In addition, we're constantly evaluating, particularly the digital formats, to ensure they are healthy and players are having fun. This will definitely continue, and we'll work to manage those as actively as we can in the upcoming years.
That was a quick look back at the year and a little peek where we want to do better. The last five years haven't always been easy, but they have always been rewarding as we continue to build and build on the promise of MTG Arena that launched way back with Guilds of Ravnica. In that time, we've brought Magic to millions, played billions of games, and hopefully delivered on the promise of "fast, fun Magic for everyone, anywhere."
Finally, none of this would be possible without you all, the best fans in the world who join us every day to play the best game in the world, so you all have our deepest and sincerest thanks.
Here's to five years and the knowledge that we are far closer to the beginning of this journey than the end.
Thank you all.
Executive Producer, Magic: The Gathering Arena