This morning you are going to get a tutorial how to do something that likely no one has actually ever asked for. One of the more poorly documented features of Magic the Gathering Arena is the ability to directly challenge your friends. This is also one of the more poorly supported given that there is no construct for keeping a friends list or seeing who is actually online and available for dueling. Regardless… there technically is the functionality of being able to switch over to Direct Challenge mode and input your username + random digits BattleTag style handle in and purposefully link up to another human being that you actually known. Recently Tam, Mor and Lyle have been dueling each other and having a good time building decks with the limited pool of cards that they had available to them. This largely meant that the three of them were relatively on even footing, and playing some really fun and really janky magic that mimics a sealed environment.
The challenge is that both Kodra and I have spent a lot more of our time and by reference money on MTG Arena, which also means that we have a much wider pool of cards available for building decks. This also means that in theory we can build way more efficient decks that are probably less fair than having to be forced to play with the cards available and not necessarily the cards you want to play with. It got me to thinking… Magic the Gathering is a community that has an amazing set of web based tools to simple Price Lists like MTG Goldfish or amazing search engines like Scryfall. I thought surely someone had already come to the point of wanting to fake out a sealed pool of cards… and if not I would potentially be trying to build one myself and at least needed to research the APIs that would be available to me.
What I found was MTGen a website that allows you to replicate a lot of the common sealed formats and generate lists of cards replicating the experience of opening packs… including as you can see above the various seeded boosters that occur in pre-release tournaments. The site more or less gives me what I was wanting minus a few problems. What I actually want is the ability to simply say I want X of this pack and X of this pack and X of this pack… but for sake of this experience I deemed it good enough. Now the challenge that we have in front of us, that I experienced last night is that the default sealed formats expect you to take the pool of cards and build a 40 card deck with them. When you are doing direct duels in MTG Arena it requires both players to have a 60 card deck meaning we are going to have to increase the total number of packs opened. So instead of 6 packs for a normal sealed deck you would in theory open 9 packs as Kodra suggested to me last night. Again if doing the pre-release format you would be adding 3 more packs… and thankfully the MTGen site supports this sort of functionality.
The only NEGATIVE however is that MTGen does not support Magic The Gathering Arena as an export format… and of course Wizards of the Coast had to be difficult and could not simply recycle Magic Online. This again lead me to find a work around. I figured MTGO would be the most common format for converting deck lists from that online tool to Arena. So I rolled with that and found that ultimately I just needed a list of cards minus the Sideboard heading. So when you copy the cards out from MTGen make sure to trip that first line.
Now we move on to another website… MTGArena.Pro and more importantly their Deck Converter tool. This allowed me to paste in that list of cards that I got from MTGen and it converted it to the more contorted MTGArena format. You can assign a deck name if you so choose, because the default in Arena will simple by “Imported Deck” if you do not. I personally left it alone given that I would not want to accidentally pick one of these “Jank in Progress” decks for playing proper magic with, and at least I would know if it was still named Imported Deck I should stay away. The site provides you a handy copy output button, which will place it on the clipboard stack… which is important because Magic the Gathering Arena works weird.
Lastly you go over to your Decks section of Magic the Gathering Arena and click Import… at which point it will automagically try and import anything you have put in the copy/paste buffer. This is not the behavior I expected… I would have instead expected to be presented a file dialog to go find a text file on my hard drive. I guess in theory they have gone this route to eventually make mobile support easier? I guess at this point all mobile devices pretty much have robust copy and paste functionality.
I realize I said lastly on the step before… but you are presented with a list of your cards that have been plugged into Arena. Now you can simply weed out the cards you don’t want to play and build your own janky sealed deck. There will of course be problems if you don’t actually own a copy of the card and as such will have to craft it using the proxies you have earned up to that point. This is also why you might want to draft a larger pool of packs if you happen to have a smaller pool of cards available. It also might steer you to certain colors, but while this is not a perfect solution it does at least allow you to manually replicate sealed environments and play directly against your friends in this manner without having to hope to get into the same draft or sealed event on Arena.