That’s right folks, Magic: The Gathering is not only still around, but it is still growing into a lumbering behemoth the likes of which it seems like will never be taken down.
It’s hard to believe it, but the 26-year-old card game is experiencing a renaissance.
Competitors have risen to claim their share of the TCG pie, but no one has ever managed to topple Magic’s hold on the format nor best it by improving upon its design.
Blizzard’s own Hearthstone has suffered from a drop in playerbase support over the years, despite the developer doing their utmost to keep expanding and perfecting the formula.
Unlike Hearthstone, Gwent, Artifact, or other digital trading card games, Magic has started as – and continues to progress – as a physical trading card game.
While they’ve played fast and loose with some of the mechanics over the years, the fundamental game design works both on the tabletop and on the desktop browser.
Over the years, Wizards of the Coast have struggled to nail their approach to the digital formats of Magic. The design policy was all over the place.
Although Wizards never strayed away from the digital arena, their forays into the field of transitioning MTG into a viable product for digital consumption left a lot to be desired.
Playing with everything from annualized releases to the ever-expanding platform of Magic: The Gathering Online, Wizards have thrown just about everything at the wall, and nothing has stuck the way they’d want.
That is, up until Arena.
Although still technically in open beta, Magic: The Gathering Arena has proven to be just the answer that Wizard’s needed to bring to the table.
At first glance, one would be forgiven for thinking that it was just Hearthstone in Magic’s trappings. And Wizard’s should be applauded for seeking out a formula that just works.
Although its presentation borrows elements from Blizzard’s digital card game, the differences soon become far more apparent.
The first is, of course, Magic’s iconic “Stack” system, in which player actions and spells and abilities resolve in a system that is similar to the first-in-last-out data management paradigm.
In this, actions can be layered atop one another indefinitely, and proceed to resolve from the top down, resulting in the first spell to be cast on the stack resolving last. This alone affords a degree of play and control over the course of the game, as no player is ever limited by the game from acting on their opponents turn.
Of course, having 25+ years of game design and development certainly helps. And Arena benefits for it. Its sleek and sexy design and presentation coupled with a very generous and rewarding quest system allow players to truly see the depths that Magic can offer without spending a dime. Though, we can’t promise that you won’t want to.
This rise in popularity with Arena, coupled with Wizard’s increasingly aggressive marketing strategies for their product are shaping up to put Magic into a new golden era.
And truthfully, we don’t think there’s a better time.