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Magic: The Gathering Arena's economy sounds surprisingly reasonable

In theory...

While I'd never describe myself as a die-hard fan, I've dabbled in Magic: The Gathering since the 90s across its physical form, the early RPG-like Microprose adaptation of the game, and even a bit of Magic Online, which is still running despite having barely changed over the past 15 years.

The latest digital adaptation, Magic: Arena is currently in closed beta testing, and the developers have just outlined their initial economic plans for the game. While it may sound a little daunting, the abridged version is that this sounds more generous than Hearthstone for casual players, at the very least, although they've yet to pin down the final real-money pricing for the game.

For starters, Wizards of the Coast say that the price of Magic: Arena cards will not be linked to the price of real-world MTG boosters, as is the case with Magic Online. Presumably, this being the flashier, more accessible 'entry level' Magic game, they'll be pricing cards a little lower. Plus, being generous might help attract players away from Hearthstone.

MTG Arena will be entirely free to play during its initial beta testing period, without any microtransactions, so that they can tune things to be fairer for the free players. The plan is that semi-regular play will be able to earn you around 3-4 eight-card booster packs a week (with them aiming to front-load the rewards), with each match won paying out an additional random card, up to 30 per day. Given the sheer number of cards in Magic, and the semi-rigid nature of the colour system a single card might not be especially thrilling as a reward, but it should add up over time.

Perhaps the most coveted of all the rewards players can earn will be the Wildcards. These special tokens occasionally replace regular cards in boosters, but retain their rarity level, then can be traded in for any one card of the same rarity. While not quite as convenient as trading with players, this should at least give players a chance to grab that one vital card that they need to complete a deck without having to grind through endless boosters. Wildcards may pop up as rewards for multiple daily wins or consecutive victories as well.

One of the more mysterious and vaguely defined quirks of Arena's economy is the Vault, a progression-based unlock system. Every booster pack opened moves you a little further along the Vault reward track, and once your collection is sufficiently beefy, any fifth copy of a card found (you're only allowed 4 of any given non-land card in a deck) will automatically be converted into additional vault progress. Hitting certain Vault milestones will unlock additional goodies, including 'a number of Wildcards', although given how vaguely worded it is, I get the feeling this particular aspect is still a work-in-progress.

Magic: The Gathering Arena is currently in closed beta. I'm sadly not in this one myself, but if you want a chance at getting in before the average player becomes a hyper-experienced card-slinging demigod, you'll probably want to sign up here.

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Dominic Tarason