Wizards of the Coast has announced the open beta phase of Magic: The Gathering Arena. The closed beta phase started on November 3, 2017, and it has gone through many updates, both in terms of gameplay and UI, as well as adding new MTG expansion sets. My preview of the closed beta was generally positive, though I was concerned about the experience of new players, as the matchmaking could use some improvement. Since then, I believe it has improved, with deck strength seemingly having more weight than the player tier. This should make the new player experience much more palatable.

The announcement trailer features the venerable Danny Trejo as a particularly annoying backseat card gamer to a frustrated player. It’s a clever way to popularize Arena, and it should attract a new generation of card gamers looking to try the quintessential collectible card game that is MTG. Although the trailer also gives a lot of screen time to the 3D animations for some of the cards, the real strength of Arena is in its implementation of MTG mechanics in a way that makes it the ultimate digital MTG game after a long list of failures and half-successes.

There will be a lot of changes and novelties with the open beta update, and the biggest is that four expansion sets, namely KaladeshAether RevoltAmonkhet and Hour of Devastation will be leaving Magic: The Gathering Arena for a while. So that the remaining sets will be only those that are standard legal. As explained by Wizards of the Coast, “Each year, four Magic sets are released and added to Standard. Once per year, when the fall set releases, the four oldest sets in Standard rotate out.” And so the open beta update will also include the new expansion set Guilds of Ravnica as it enters Standard. In fact, the expansion will be available to play two days before its official tabletop release.

Other details for the update include the expected account wipe, where players will have their accounts reset, though they will also be reimbursed for all in-game currency or bundle purchased since the start of closed beta. Players who participated in the New Zealand–only Dominaria code test will also be reimbursed with a Dominaria pack. The test seems to have been successful, as Wizards will now include codes in select tabletop products of the new expansion that are redeemable for in-game items, though this won’t be available in all areas.

Following a three-day downtime from September 24 to 27 at 1 PM PDT, Arena will begin its open beta phase, and Wizards claim this is only the beginning. From here on, they promise more experimental event types, making player ranking and progression more meaningful, cosmetic items, and, more importantly, a better solution to what happens when you get a fifth copy of a card. Additionally, they’ll be looking at how to handle set rotation and bringing back those sets that rotated out to the game.

Have you tried Arena yet? Are you looking forward to the open beta? Will you miss the sets that are exiting Standard? Let us know in the comments below.

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Richard Costa

Staff Writer

Ape meets keyboard. Hack for hire, recovering academic and RPG enthusiast who started gaming on MSX in the late 80s, then witnessed the glorious 90s on PC.