Magic: The Gathering Arena makes a perfect leap to mobile platforms, but the new way of playing doesn’t solve any of its existing flaws.
The mobile client for Magic: The Gathering Arena It’s been in the works for a long time, and it was originally announced early last year. After a year of hype and anticipation (including a major rollback from its release date), Magic Players will finally be able to experience the game wherever they are: on the bus, while waiting at the doctor’s office, or even while traveling. While certain factors make that usefulness a bit less apparent, it’s still important to take a look at the latest offering from Wizards, which offers another avenue to play the decades-old game so loved by many fans.
As it exists in its current beta state, Sand on iOS it’s like on the desktop. It sounds like an overly obvious generalization, but it’s not easy to choose how to play. The game runs smoothly and allows players to experiment SandSleek graphics in a smaller form factor. Magic It’s quite a complex game and as such it makes sense to worry about how a lack of screen space would affect a newcomer’s enjoyment. Sand (as before) solves this problem with a pretty solid tutorial, consisting of initial battles against multiple opponents and then a semi-optional color challenge (players only need to complete one color challenges to access full multiplayer).
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Tapping on any card brings up the full text, with keywords helpfully explained on the right hand side. This also eliminates any memory problems, as the computer tracks any changes made during the course of the game. Someone picking up Sand for the first time on your phone you just have to focus on understanding the basics of the game. This sets the stage for a potentially huge increase in the game’s player base, as casual fans of other mobile card games (such as Hearthstone or Legends of Runeterra) take up the card game they’ve heard so much about.
Of course, those players are likely to hit a wall sooner or later: the game economy. Despite the almost perfect technical transcription of SandThe best qualities, the mobile version can not help but have its flaws too. Players get off to a generous start with the fifteen pre-built decks that are available, but none of those decks are of particularly high quality. Those who want to dive into Standard will need dozens of rare and mythical rare wilds, all for a format that undergoes massive changes due to bans and the dreaded Standard rotation.
Anyone who wants to avoid this can try SandIt is the only non-rotating format, Historical, but you will soon discover that your metagame can be prone to undergo so many changes over time. Cards purchased today may be worthless in a year or less, depending on which new deck begins to dominate the format. Unlike the paper version of the game, Sand it has no “refund” option for a player’s cards. Those who buy are stuck with what they have. This is an option that some other digital card games have ways to mitigate (Hearthstone allows players to “disenchant” cards), but Sand it has no such liberation. Until the developers consider a serious review of the game’s economics, it is unlikely to reach its full potential.
But for those who have already bought Magicecosystem, the mobile version of Sand it is a fantastic addition to the desktop version of the game. With the exception of deck building (which can be a bit difficult to navigate on such a small screen), the game works flawlessly. Of course, that might not remain true. An influx of traffic could slow down the entire Arena experience (on mobile and desktop) after the beta release, at least until Wizards develops the ability to handle the new stress. But that’s only one possible outcome – the only way to find out if Sand it works is to try it yourself.
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