Last night I spent a tiny bit of time in Magic the Gathering Arena because they unleashed the new Dominaria expansion. The funny thing is the digital version of Magic got Dominaria long before I actually got the box that I ordered. If you currently have access to Arena just the act of logging in gets you three packs, and once again remember these packs have 1 rare/mythic, 2 uncommon and 5 commons… and or a combination of wildcards. Wildcards as always can be traded in for any card you are missing of that rarity and they do not appear to be set dependent. This means that more or less you seem to be able to bank them and then turn in a bunch of them any time you want to build a deck.
The other thing that went in yesterday was the ability to spend money and buy the intermediary currency of Arena… Gems. There are two currencies in the game… Gold that you earn by completing quests and such and Gems that you plunk down hard earned cash. The prices range from $4.99 for the first pack of 750 gems making it roughly 150 gems per dollar all the way to 20,000 gems for $99.99 making that 200 gems per dollar spent. The thing that concerns me the most at this point is the fact that MTG Arena is a beta and I have yet to actually find any place that talks about whether or not there will be a wipe before launch… and if there is one if money spent will be refunded. This is the biggest hurdle for me personally against spending any money at all… because I would really like assurances that I would at least keep the value of that purchase even if I don’t keep the cards.
Now we get into the prime thing you can buy with your gems… packs of cards. At the 45 and 90 pack range you get what was the Dominaria buy the box promo card… making me think that they consider 45 packs to be the equivalent of a 36 pack Magic the Gathering Booster Box. I did some nonsense via spreadsheet before I actually noticed that there is a post on the forums with pretty much all of the economy elements outlined. As it stands the only scaling is on gem purchases… where the more money you spend the more gems you wind up getting per dollar. At the high end of buying 750 gem packs that places the price per pack at $1.33 and if you are buying on the low end at 20,000 gems the price per pack drops down to $1. That means 45 packs would be $59.88 buying 600 gems at a time and $45.00 buying 20,000 gems at a time… similarly the gigantic 90 pack bundle comes out to $119.76 and $89.99 respectively.
For an economy reference… Hearthstone buying in the smallest package ends up being $1.49 per pack and in the largest package $1.16 per pack… for 3 fewer cards each pack. The biggest problem with each and every gem pack is they do not exactly sync up with the dollar amounts meaning you are going to have a remainder of gems that are not really usable for the purpose of buying packs. Contrasted again with Hearthstone there is no intermediary currency so you always know what you are getting per dollar spent regardless of some nonsense exchange rate. My friend Toadchild also did some math and figured out that the most efficient way to purchase cards if you wanted the maximum number of packs for your gems… would be 1-45 card pack, 2-15 card packs and 4-6 card packs giving you a total of 99 packs for 19,800 gems. This still gives you an annoying remainder of 200 gems though in the process. If you are curious about the full range of nonsense here is the google sheet I was working things out in.
Other than just the ability to purchase cards for cash… they implemented the beginnings of a draft mode. Quick Draft however is not the pod drafting you were expecting however and instead something significantly different. Effectively when the event is going on you can enter the draft at will and be placed up against some AI that drafts with you. This apparently gives you the ability to leave the screen and return to your matches later any time while the event is active. The buy in is going to be 5000 gold or 750 gems… aka the $4.99 pack and rewards you a blend of cards and gems in prizes. Essentially you keep anything you draft into your collection and have the possibility to win additional prizes if you get to 7 wins before you get to 3 losses. Draft packs have the same distribution as tabletop giving you 1 rare/mythic, 3 uncommon and 10 commons making it a more familiar format for those who have drafted before. The prize support breakout looks a little something like this…
- 0 Wins: 50 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 1 Win: 100 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 2 Wins: 200 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 3 Wins: 300 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 4 Wins: 450 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 5 Wins: 650 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 6 Wins: 850 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
- 7 Wins: 950 gems, 1 to 3 eight-card boosters, and all the cards you drafted
The boosters are all listed as a “Chance for Extra Boosters” but there really isn’t any particular information surrounding that… maybe if you go 7 and 0 you get 3… or 7 and 2 you only get 1. This isn’t really clarified that I saw.
The other thing that went in is Quick Constructed which is effectively a tournament in a box allowing you to hop in and play in a competitive structure with prize support. The buy in here is 500 gold or 95 gems and has significantly more meager rewards primarily allowing you to gamble your gold for the chance at winning your 7 and getting it doubled in the process with a few randomized cards in the process. This would feel better were it not for the fact that they completely removed random card rewards at the end of winning a match, meaning this is now your way for getting that sort of thing. I actually loved the whole get a random card after you win thing… because it sorta felt like an Ante card even though that concept is an element of a bygone era. For those interested the prize support structure looks a little something like this…
- 0 Wins: 100 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
- 1 Win: 200 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
- 2 Wins: 300 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
- 3 Wins: 400 gold and 3 individual Uncommon cards
- 4 Wins: 500 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
- 5 Wins: 600 gold, 2 individual Uncommon cards, and 1 individual Rare card
- 6 Wins: 800 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards
- 7 Wins: 1,000 gold, 1 individual Uncommon card, and 2 individual Rare cards
In a worst case scenario you spent 500 gold and got back 100 and 3 common cards. In the best case scenario you spent 500 gold… doubled it and got back 2 rares and 1 common. Unlike draft this is not an AI mode and you are playing against players. They suggest that this is game mode primarily for players who have already completed their daily quests and are looking for a way to get more goodies.
All in all I am mostly happy with the economy of the game so far. It seems rather reasonable especially if you contrast it with paper magic. For your dollar you are getting way more value out of Magic the Gathering Arena both in the sheer number of rares and uncommon you get per dollar and the fact that wildcards exist. Wildcards and stockpiling them seems to be a really good way to prepare for the oncoming release of a new expansion. As it stands right now… I could sit on my stash of mythic and rare wildcards and then the moment the next expansion releases buy everything outright that i need to make a deck work. Cracking packs is always going to be fun for me personally, but for players who would rather just buy what they need… cracking packs becomes a way to get those much needed tokens to finish their custom “brew”. The only concern I have is that since this mode seems so much more equitable to the player… what will it ultimately do to the physical hobby?
Any gems purchased with real money during the Closed Beta will be given back to your account after a final wipe at the end of the Closed Beta.
— Wizards of the Coast (@Wizards_Help) April 27, 2018
I got a response back from Wizard of the Coast support and the plan is to return the spent gems to your account when it goes live.