A new digital version of Magic: The Gathering is coming soon. Called Magic: The Gathering Arena, it will allow players to purchase and collect cards just like the tabletop game. In a blog post today, developers at Wizar ds of The Coast revealed for the first time how you’ll be able to purchase those cards.
The announcement comes at an unusual time in the games industry, one where loot crates are receiving increased scrutiny. Many consider the Magic model of sealed packs of random cards as the inspiration for the modern loot crate, so all eyes will be on WoTC as they attempt once more to bring MTG to the digital space.
As expected of free-to-play games in the modern era, MTG Arena will have two currencies. Gold and Gems. Gold is the free reward for match wins and achievement completions. Gems are the RMT currency that is actually used to buy cards.
“Both gold and gems can be used to unlock packs, events, and more,” wrote Chris Clay, “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.”
Individual cards will be available five different ways.
- Booster packs will include eight cards in total, and include two uncommon cards and one rare or mythic card.
- Draft packs will contain 14 cards, excluding land, all of which will be available for that particular draft game. Players will take turns picking from those 14 cards and adding them to their hand. “Drafting will also add cards to your collection,” Clay wrote, “as any card you draft will be automatically added to your collection.”
- Individual cards can also be earned through play, but WoTC is unsure how that’s going to shake out. “We are testing a system where for every match win, players will receive one card in MTG Arena, up to 30 per day,” Clay wrote.
- Wildcards are a way to hand pick which card you add to your collection. They can show up in any booster pack, and will take the place of a common, uncommon, rare or mythic-type card in that pack. “Wildcards have their own rarity of common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare,” wrote Clay. “You can redeem a Wildcard one-to-one for a card at that same rarity.”
- Finally, The Vault will track your progress when you open a booster pack. On receiving the fifth duplicate copy of a given card, you will earn “Vault progress instead of adding that card to your collection,” Clay wrote. When The Vault is opened there will be another opportunity to earn new cards. That system is still in development.
Arena is in closed beta right now, and a small group of players will be able to spend money on gems soon. But the game will regularly receive complete wipes, which will reset player’s accounts. When that happens, it will remove all cards from a player’s collection and return all of their gems to their wallet.
All in all, the model is almost exactly the same as the previous digital title, Magic: The Gathering Origins. Player reception will depend on how atrocious the grind is in terms of how hard the difficulty curve will push players toward paying for competitive cards.
Everyone remembers when the ESRB compared predatory loot boxes to card game booster packs, now lets see if WoTC can manage to avoid steering into a mess of loot box controversy in Arena.