Get ready to dive into MTG vs MTGO vs Arena. For someone looking to get into Magic the Gathering or even for the seasoned player, there are many options for play. We give you all the information in the debate and answer the question “which platform should I play Magic on?”
The collectible card game, designed by the great Richard Garfield, first appeared in physical form in the year 1997. The online, and completely separate, MTGO (MTG online) came out in 2002. The third and latest option, MTG Arena came out in September 2018. This is our take on which of these platforms is for you putting everything side by side in MTG vs MTGO vs Arena.
MTG vs MTGO vs Arena | OVERALL
MTG – This is the physical and original form of Magic the Gathering. You buy packs and open them with your hands. In this form, your cards are the most valuable they can be, but you have the hardest time to get into a game.
MTGO – This is the completely online version of Magic the Gathering that is identical to its physical component except for the whole digital thing. Cards do a good job holding their value because there is a way to trade them in for physical cards, but there is less freedom in how you sell them so that reduced value. The player count overall is not super strong so you cannot play whatever whenever you want, but you do have more options than physical. Drafting current sets, in particular, is amazing.
MTG Arena – This is a new form of Magic that takes the same game, but turns into more of a more freemium app experience that is most likely a response to games like Blizzard’s Heathstone. This is the cheapest way to play but cards have absolutely no value. There is nothing at all you can sell. Its definitely not “free”, if you want to compete at all you have to spend SOME money, but not as much as other platforms.
SEE ALSO: 5 Board Games Like Magic The Gathering
OVERVIEW | MTG Physical
This is still the tried and true form of magic and not something going away any time soon. This should generally be your choice if you have the time. It is hard for people to just hop into a draft or make it out of the house, and now there are greater health concerns of social interaction. In MTG vs MTGO vs Arena, its hard to hate on the original.
PROS: most value, most lasting, strongest history
CONS: physical constraints of going to events, most time commitment.
OVERVIEW | MTG Online
This was the platform for magic players who couldn’t keep up with the hobby or just wanted to keep things a bit more casual but still were willing to plop down $10 a pack and hundreds of dollars to build up a collection. The community was clamoring for this and Wizards smartly got it out as fast as the internet technology could handle it.
Its been a long time and keeping up player count is tough (especially now that Arena is here) so you can’t hop into anything you want like they would want you to believe but there are still big pockets of players in things. All formats outside of standard are still popular, though standard play has generally moved over to Arena. You own the cards in this situation but you can only sell them via a ticket system within the system so values are not as correct as they should be.
In MTG vs MTGO vs Arena, something new to consider is what does the future hold for a world that may require less in person contact and general social distancing. Online platforms in general are only going to improve in popularity.
PROS: way to own cards but play the game from a computer instead of physical locations. Limited is great.
CONS: player base dwindling, physical versions of cards have more value. Standard players have generally moved to Arean.
OVERVIEW | MTG Arena
This is the brand new platform that is a reaction to the world today. The most profitable games these days are games that are completely “free” and then have little add ons and season passes to back door their way into your money. Its called freemium, and this is in that category, but unlike other games in this specification, this is not one you can enjoyably play for free. Limited costs real money and standard requires you to have a somewhat decent deck. Like anyone who plays original magic, you need to build up a decent collection to even get to “solid deck” status.
The value proposition is interesting so we will try to explain that better. You are still buying packs of 15 cards set by set that each have 11 commons, 3 uncommons and 1 rare. A pack costs 200 gems which equals roughly $1.25 in real money. What you opened is added to your collection to build decks. What arena has are “wildcards”. When you open packs (that you won or bought) you also unlock common, uncommon, rare and mythic rare “wildcards”. When you build a deck, you can transform these cards into any card of the same type. Once you change you cannot go back.
What this basically means is no one particular card is worth more than others, so even if you had a bad draft, but ripped that $22 mythic rare, it is meaningless here. It is a fine tuned system though, once you get 4x copies of something, getting more adds to a different total that helps you unlock older cards.
PROS: Cheaper than all other MTG, most play options, free product opportunities.
CONS: Cards have no value.
MTG vs MTGO vs Arena | FINAL DECISION
If you are in it for the long haul play MAGIC THE GATHERING and dabble in ARENA. Collect physical cards, play in real tournaments. Scratch your limited itch on Arena, if you are good, there are profitable options (though getting money out of the game is not exactly an option).
If you are looking for casual play and do not see yourself doing this for more than 6 months to a year, then just play Arena. There is not going to be big money in the product, but the cheaper price of everything helps justify the no backend value.
Magic the Gathering Online is scary right now in our opinion. No matter how fun the system is, if there are no players to play with, this all falls apart and it does not recover. They do not offer a mac client (with no plans to) and they do on Arena (As of June 25, 2020). Who knows how many people will defect now that they have an alternative that is more in line with current tastes of people.