Magic: The Gathering Arena - Recensione

Author: Alessandro "Alex" Alosi
Date: 2020-07-30 17:14:44
In conjunction with the publication of The Throne of Eldraine, the latest expansion, after a year Magic: The Gathering Arena has officially left the beta phase to try to claim a throne that - literally but not only - on paper belongs to him by right.

With over twenty thousand cards and twenty-six years of experience on the rump, it is understandable why Wizards of the Coast took time to transport the magic of paper on our monitors in the best way. There is talk of a complicated world and a dynamic game, of reactive mechanics and lightning reasoning, it must not be deceiving the fact that it is the TCG par excellence, precisely that Magic born many years ago from the mind of the mathematician Richard Garfield, an idea so brilliant that it subsequently inspired an infinity of paper and digital versions: Magic: The Gathering , the card game, has been entertaining millions of players since 1993 and, if it can still do so today, the motivations are there for all to see. Finally, even PC players can enjoy a flawless transposition of an indelible fragment of playful history.

Among the many reasons behind the success of Magic: The Gathering Arena is the way in which the videogame version manages to manage the numerous paper dynamics. The ingenious and stimulating complication of the gameplay is made very well by the digital version, which automates the effects allowing the player to control every element of the game and coordinate every move easily thanks to an increasingly complete game interface. Years of new mechanics and cards with the most disparate effects give life to practically infinite combinations, innumerable and absurd joints that allow the most creative to unleash their imagination by inventing any type of deck.

Starting from five colors (White, Black, Green, Red and Blue), over time the universe in which the Planeswalkers collide has expanded enormously and populated without stopping with cards of all kinds. Although the digital version does not include all the expansions published to date but "only" from Ixalan onwards, to ensure that the paper and the virtual are aligned, the Standard / Historic and rotation modes have also been implemented in the online version of sets: if in the first mode it is possible to use only the cards of the current Basic Set and those of the two blocks of previous expansions, in the second you can take advantage of all the cards available to us without restrictions. This rotation of the sets was revealed for the first time on digital with the publication of Eldraine's Throne and serves, among other things, to guarantee a destination as stagnant as possible. In case you missed the explanation in the opening video, here's a visual summary:

Unlike its largest antagonist, Hearthstone , Magic: The Gathering Arena provides randomness in infinitely lesser doses - excluding the physiologically inherent in any game based on cards and their draw - and players are always aware of what happens on the battlefield , without ever letting fate decide the fate of a match. More than ever we say not so markedly, here, because the fundamental mechanics of the Lands (the mana to cast spells that must be drawn like all the other cards) is also random, with peace of mind of the less fortunate players.

Given the limited space available we will not talk in depth about the mechanics, for those there is the discreet tutorial that you can deal with after downloading the launcher and which proves to be a good excuse to start understanding something. It will not be enough to become masters, but it will certainly help those who approach the game for the first time and will feel lost in terms of never heard terms and fascinating illustrations. With a loyalty to the paper absolutely intact, Magic: The Gathering Arena is very complicated for those who approach it the first time and, introduction aside, not too inclined to help novices. Just to mention a handful of nuances of the gameplay and explain to those who do not know what it is, just think that it is possible to intervene during the opponent's turn, actively use the finished cards in the graveyard and even put them back in their library (the deck ).

This is just the tiny tip of an iceberg that has been accumulating layers for twenty-six years, so it will take a while before you associate each name with the right skill. But when the apprenticeship process ends and you start to feel at ease, well that will be the moment when the player's eyes will really open and the true magnificence of the title will be admired without veils due to ignorance.

Basically Magic: The Gathering Arena is an online card game, a less immediate and faster free to play than the giant of Blizzard but certainly capable of offering a more complex and complex experience. Before exulting, however, it is necessary to make a necessary clarification: that of the F2P is a mask that, by dint of winking at your virtual wallet, will fall in the long run. Just like in reality, because even the paper version requires some economic bleeding, and just like in most online card games, one must be aware that microtransactions are an integral part of the game.

Those who spend real money will see their collection grow rapidly and will be able to launch themselves to the sound of precious gems in the most sought-after modes such as the Draft and the Sealed of the current expansion, while those who cannot / will not want to do so will still be able to raise money in game to buy envelopes and access to minor drafts, but will clearly see its collection grow more slowly. It depends a lot on the spirit with which the game is faced because if you live it as a fun pastime then the F2P model holds up great, while if you want to compete at high levels quickly you need to take into account even a minimal outlay.

Sure, there is a crafting system to allow each player to enlarge their pool of cards, but to do this you need to use a Joker card of the correct quality. These wild cards are found in the packs randomly, but you can also get a copy of different rarity after opening a certain number of boosters. As for the growth of the profile, the player's account can level up by increasing the Mastery points. By unlocking the related talent tree and growing up, you receive rewards. In addition to the Mastery linked to the account, there is also a sort of season pass linked to each expansion, which can be purchased with real money. The system of seasonal rewards bifurcates into "free", which allows you to obtain envelopes from the latest expansion and in "premium", in which various aesthetic objects, gold, gems and so on are also unlocked. Again the novices will encounter some difficulties due to the fact that the points accumulate by completing the missions and winning the games, the latter request obviously not so simple for those who are beginners.

As for the available modes, there is something for all tastes and budgets ... or almost. They range from training matches against AI to friendly matches, passing through the competition in the Standard (Bo1) and Traditional Standard (Bo3) rankings without forgetting to mention the various events such as the Sealed and the Draft which, based on the number of wins, allow you to get tasty rewards and keep the cards with which you will build the deck for the event. The only drawback is that at the moment only the Standard seems to be the object of attention, so know that we will have to wait for some news about the Historic cards or events reserved for them.

Yet, in my opinion, there is something that still prevents the excellent title of Wizards of the Coast from tearing the scepter from Hearthstone 's daring hands. Will it be the least predisposition to the show due to a slower and fragmented gameplay that, perhaps, the public might consider less spectacular than other more immediate and faster approaches? No, despite the structural and rhythmic differences Magic: The Gathering Arena has already carved out its place in the world of eSports and, in the future, it will do so even more thanks to the publisher's investments between tournaments and events. Could it then be the impossibility of creating a list of friends, of quickly organizing challenges between cronies and of writing in chat? They are social gaps that make themselves felt, it is true, but they are not the reason, also because they are improvements foreseen on the roadmap of the works, as can be seen below:

I personally believe that the lack of a mobile version (even before a possible console version) is the main reason that currently prevents Magic: The Gathering Arena from becoming the ruler of the digital TCG, since now that of smartphones and pocket companies is a market which cannot be ignored if you aim to conquer a people who want to play their titles in any place and at any time. In addition, the title would benefit from a better articulated crafting system - perhaps with the possibility of exchanging cards with friends -, some more help for newbies and a better optimization of the game because, despite appearances, the title is slightly heavy; nothing that prevents you from enjoying the most amazing fantasy game of cards on PC, it is clear, but certainly it is an improvement that would fall within the concept of "more accessibility for everyone" and which, after all, is one of the secrets of success of some of the most popular F2P projects.

I tested the game from the beginning of the beta on PC (Intel i5-7400@3.00 GHz, 8 GB RAM, Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti and 64-bit Windows 10), squandered avalanches of gold in envelopes of each expansion and created decks that taught me the true meaning of the word humility. Lately, thanks to a code provided by the developers, I have been able to deepen the contents of the latest expansion quickly and launch myself in Sealed and various Draft with fluctuating results.