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magic the gathering arena

Magic the Gathering Arena – Beginner’s Guide

Magic the Gathering Arena combines the intensity, power, strategy and even the lore of the iconic collectable card game. While the paper version has been around since 1993, Magic the Gathering Arena is a way to experience it all on your PC. If you’ve ever thought of dabbling with the game but aren’t sure where to start, our Magic the Gathering Arena beginner’s guide will get you right up to speed.

Despite how easy it is to get Magic the Gathering Arena, new players, as well as those returning after a long break, may find getting into the game rather daunting. After all, with more experienced players online spouting obscure Magic acronyms at you, you’re bound to leave the conversation feeling more confused than ever!

Thankfully, we’re here to help. In this Magic the Gathering Arena beginner’s guide we’ll explain what Arena actually is, the differences and similarities to physical Magic, homebrew decks, as well as some important tips and tricks for playing Magic the Gathering Arena. While we can’t promise to make you a pro in minutes, you’ll know enough to ensure your intro to Magic won’t be a frustrating experience.

What is Magic the Gathering Arena?

A Magic the Gathering Arena beginner's guide

Magic the Gathering Arena is a highly rewarding, free-to-play collectable card game that lets you build a deck of creatures, spells, artefacts and more that you use to battle other players. The aim of the game is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero or force them to run out of cards to secure victory.

If you’re a long-time player of the tabletop game who knows your Ajanis from your Lilianas, you probably don’t need everything we’re offering in our Magic the Gathering Arena beginner’s guide! We’ll just let you know, though, that Arena does not have many differences from physical Magic the Gathering. There are a few modes and formats you can play in real life that have not been brought to Arena, though.

Barring that, both physical and digital Magic follow the exact same rules. So, if you’re looking for another way to play Magic while spending as little money as possible, Arena is the game for you.

What are the Magic the Gathering Arena formats?

A look at the different Magic the Gathering Arena formats

Most of the Magic community uses the word formats to describe the different game modes you can play in Magic the Gathering Arena. In Arena, these modes are as follows: Standard, Bot, Ranked and Traditional play. Here’s a quick overview of the differences between these modes.

  • Standard Play – Here you can play a single game against another player with any decks that you have, including those you’ve created by yourself. This mode is unranked, but it’s great for just trying out new decks and getting a hang of what it’s like to challenge others.
  • Bot Match – With the Bot Match, you’ll be reunited with Sparky, the soothing AI that helped you through the tutorial of Magic. It can be helpful for beginners, but you’ll often find yourself absolutely obliterating Sparky once you’ve improved your deck a few times!
  • Traditional Play – Traditional play lets you go up against someone in a best-of-three match. Win twice and you’ll be declared the winner.
  • Ranked Standard and Traditional – These are ranked versions of Standard and Traditional play above. Ranked in Magic works in a ladder system, meaning that with every win, you’ll go up the ladder. The higher you are, the more rewards you’ll get.

Along with these formats, Magic the Gathering Arena also hosts a number of different events. As you progress through these you’ll earn coins and card packs that’ll help improve your deck. These events vary and will keep you on your toes by offering new challenges, such as limiting what cards you can use, as well as how many rounds you can play.

What should I know before playing Magic the Gathering Arena?

A screenshot from a match in Magic the Gathering Arena

Despite it being free-to-play, Arena does have microtransactions involved that are, essentially, pay-to-win depending on how much you’re willing to spend. That said, you can also grind your way up to earn the number of coins necessary to purchase packs of cards. And if you’re a huge fan of card games, like us, you won’t mind doing so either.

Even though we’ve covered a bit of everything in our Magic the Gathering Arena beginner’s guide, you should also know that you’ll receive a tutorial in-game. It’ll start once you’ve set up your account, so you can safely download Arena without needing to worry about reading up on the rules. If you’re completely new, this will be helpful. If you’re not? Well, it never hurts to have a fresh reminder but you can skip it too.

Apart from these few things, you can truly go into Arena not knowing all that much! And, if we’re being honest, that’s usually the best way to experience things.

What are the best Magic the Gathering Arena decks for beginners?

Some Magic the Gathering Arena starter decks

Like in most video games of a competitive nature, Arena has its own ‘meta’. To put it simply, the meta deck are often more powerful or have a number of cards that can give them the advantage. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just adhere solely to the meta! Some of the best games come when you don’t constantly spam the same deck over and over again.

What’s also good to do is experiment with the different colour families in Magic. Each of Green, Red, Blue, White and Black has its own style of play, strengths and weaknesses. The majority of decks combine two or three of these colours together so find which ones appeal to you the most and choose your deck from there.

That said, for the purposes of our Magic the Gathering Arena beginner’s guide, there are a couple of beginner decks that we do recommend to those just starting out with the game. The names of these will change depending on what one you gain after completing the tutorial, but for me, the best starter decks were:

  • Out for Blood – This deck is full of low mana-cost creatures that you can put out on the field before your opponent can do anything about it. Playing too aggressively can hurt you in the long-run, but for new players, it’s the best deck to make you feel all-out powerful.
  • Cult of Rakdos – What’s better than vampires and fire creatures? A mixture of both. This deck can also be pretty aggressive, but there are also a number of high mana-cost creatures that will demand some strategy to pummel your opponent into next week.
  • Your Own Deck – We promise this isn’t a cop-out answer. Once you’ve played Arena more than a couple of times, making your own deck is usually the best way to go as it’ll help you experiment in making a deck that suits your play style.

Magic the Gathering Arena Beginner’s Guide – tips and tricks

Looking at an opening hand in Magic the Gathering Arena

Let’s wrap up our Magic the Gathering Arena Beginner’s Guide with some general tips and tricks. Follow these closely and they should make your games more fun and improve how you play over time.

  • Conceal your spell cards – Showing off spell cards immediately can cause your opponent to be on guard. Instead, take them by surprise by pulling off a spell card when they’re confident they’ve got the upper hand. It’ll send them running.
  • Know when to bluff – Sometimes you have a crap hand, but don’t let your opponent know that. We’ve waited for opponents to grow confident and attack us before finishing them off with either a spell card or a creature they didn’t see coming!
  • Tap your lands! – The tutorial does help you in letting you know when to tap your lands to apply their effect, but we’ve seen so many new players just completely forget about it outside of the tutorial.
  • Don’t be afraid to Mulligan – It can be tough when you have a bad hand. It’s even worse when you aren’t sure whether it’s bad enough to Mulligan to try and get something else more useful. Do your best to ignore that feeling, because a better hand with fewer cards is much more useful than having a hand that leaves you defenceless.
  • Try not to concede so much – Losing sucks, but we’ve seen a number of players concede after only losing five points to their health. Conceding early just completely destroys your chance of coming back to wipe the floor with your opponent.

So, we may have covered the basics in our Magic the Gathering Arena Beginner’s Guide, but there is always more to learn when it comes to Arena. How to find out more? Just give it a go and download Arena for free, you’ll be surprised to discover how much you can learn just from trying things out by yourself.

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