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Magic: the Gathering Arena — A First Look

Wizards finally unveiled the new Magic: the Gathering Arena game! Here's all information we gathered from the livestream and

Audio / Visual

The first impression is it looks very Hearthstone-like in appearance (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Some key audio/visual elements from the new game:

Magic: the Gathering Arena Battlefield

  • 3D tabletop, with location-based designs (welcome to Ixalan!)
  • Card frames are condensed with symbols indicating statuses, effects, and keywords
  • Rares and Mythics (and other "key" cards) have special animations. Carnage Tyrant was shown during the stream and it was especially impressive.

Magic: the Gathering Arena Carnage Tyrant Animation

  • Planeswalkers have voice lines! They're displayed in full art off to the side, with a pop-up menu to select abilities.

Magic: the Gathering Arena Samut Activation

  • Tokens are represented with a different frame.
  • Lots of animations: creatures attacking players, destroy effects, pump spells, etc.
  • Lots of sound effects (lots of unique dinosaur roars during the stream!).

Game Play

Mechanics-wise, the devs have promised the "full" Magic: the Gathering experience. In default mode, the game automates most mundane things like tapping for mana, 1-click attacking, etc, but also has a "full controls" mode which lets you maintain priority and execute things manually. The game moved briskly, much faster than a Magic Online match. Some mechanics displayed during the stream: 1-click attacking, multiple blockers, assigning blocking order, crewing a vehicle to block, using full control mode to hold priority to cast spells. Oh, and the most important thing: you can shuffle your hand!

Nuts & Bolts

  • The game is in pre-Alpha. If you want to register for closed beta, visit
  • The game is PC-only on release, but is built on Unity which supports multiple platforms.
  • Free-to-play, but the exact mechanism are unknown.
  • Arena will focus on Standard, whereas Magic Online will focus on older formats like Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Cube, etc. Magic Online will continue to support new sets.
    • Will have every card in Standard.
    • Sets released alongside tabletop Magic.
  • Ranked Matches, Draft Events, Casual Constructed play modes.


Magic: the Gathering Arena is still far from finished, but everything looks promising so far: fast-paced gameplay, modern graphics, full Magic: the Gathering rules. The only concerns are the PC-only initial launch, and how this all plays out with Organized Play and Magic Online. What are your thoughts on the new Magic: the Gathering game? Excited? Worried? Impartial? Let us know in the comments below.


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