A Pack a Day Is Alright for Arena

Disclaimer: This is one person’s opinion on the current state of the Magic: Arena economy. You’re likely to disagree, because that’s how talking about games on the internet works.  

I am not a grinder. Never have been, never will be. Even if I wanted to “grind” an online game (and, wow, that verb choice makes it sound so appealing), I just don’t have the time. But I do enjoy playing Magic, and I do enjoy getting rewarded to do so. Which is why I think some of the recent updates to Magic: Arena‘s economy are perfect for me.

Within the link above, you’ll find a detailed explanation of the current Arena economy, including why rewards, boosters, and event entries are priced the way they are. One particular piece of that rationale gives me hope that Arena will pick up and retain a number of casual players, people who fit their video games in between work, chores, outings, and other real-life events.

“Together between daily wins and quests, players should be able to earn at least one booster per day with about 60 to 90 minutes of play.”

Dominaria Booster Arena - Matt Plays Magic

As a casual player, that’s almost exactly the reward structure I want to see. If I can string enough gold together for a draft every now and then, that’s awesome. If I can eventually build a fine-tuned, optimized deck from my pool of cards, that’s great too. But as a free-to-play player, I’ve already accepted I’ll be able to achieve those goals only with a significant amount of work on my part. It’s the cost of playing a game like this, where the economy has to be enticing enough to draw players in, yet “bad” enough that those same people might end up saying, “Well, if I buy some gems, I’ll get those last few wildcards I need for my deck …”.

If you start out accepting that free-to-play is going to leave you behind those who pay to play, and you’re okay with that, the current economy and the pack-a-day incentive structure works. I honestly don’t care whether my Green-Black deck has all the Liliana, Death’s Majesty-s that it needs. It’d be nice if it did, but as long as having four of every good Mythic Rare isn’t essential to being able to earn a pack each day, I’ll keep playing. The excitement of getting to open a booster after I’m done playing for the day is really all I need. It’s a discrete, achievable goal that leaves me feeling like I accomplished something. That’s enough to keep me coming back for more.

I understand this structure isn’t for everyone, and I’ll definitely concede that the economy could be even better. Particularly, I think it’d be great to have some way to trade cards I know I’m never going to use for cards I’m missing, as it mitigates the feeling of opening your one-per-day pack and getting nothing that you “need.” And if the ranking system somehow doesn’t work, and I find myself unable to earn my pack each day or couple of days because I just cannot win games with the cards I have, then the economy will have failed.

But that hasn’t been my experience so far. In the first month or so of the new economy, I’m winning enough games or completing enough quests to earn about 1,000 gold or one “free” pack each time I play (and my play periods often don’t even last an hour). While that slow drip of new cards won’t allow me to build a perfect deck, that’s not what I’m looking for out of my free-to-play Magic experience. I’m looking for the ability to sit down at my computer as if it were my kitchen table, experiment and tweak things a bit, and win a few games here and there while earning some new cards. On that front, the current Magic Arena economy delivers.


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