My Experience with Magic Arena

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By Byron King
@DoneTheMath
 
Magic Arena is the most fun I’ve had playing Magic in years.  The interface feels as smooth as Hearthstone, but you still have Magic’s complexity and depth.  The ability to grind out a collection feels novel after years of paying and trading for singles.  I feel actual excitement to open a Doom Whisperer in a booster packIt doesn’t hurt that Standard is incredibly fun right now.  If you haven’t already done it, put this article down and go download Magic Arena now.
 
The best method I’ve found is to alternate between drafting and constructed to build up my collection.  Drafting provides the chance to rare draft along with the chance to open 15 card packs (instead of the normal 8 card boosters).  Drafting also rewards you with gems, the premier currency in Arena.  Standard gives you a chance to use your new cards, and it is the easier way to complete quests for more gold (for more drafts).Drafting is fairly simple, provided you already know the basics.  You can play best of 1 drafts for 750 gems or 5000 gold, or you can play best of 3 drafts for 1500 gems. 
 
Arena drafting is a little different, since you can pause at any time for any reason.  You also draft against the computer, instead of regular players.There are plenty of draft articles available for players looking for basic Guilds of Ravnica strategy.  For Arena drafts specifically, you can pretty much force Boros or Dimir if you want.  The computer will mostly move out of your way if you really force it, and it is pretty difficult to get a complete train wreck.  I’m not sure if it has finally been changed, but Disinformation Campaign has been going absurdly late in Arena drafts, and you can almost always count on finding one.
 
For Standard, Magic Arena gives you some starter decks.  As you play, you unlock more of them (no more than 1 a day, I believe).  Eventually, you should have a total of 15 decks, one of each color and one of each color pair.  I have heard good things about the blue-green Merfolk deck and the white-black Vampire deck, but I started with the mono green deck.
 
 
Forest’s Might

2 Llanowar Elves
2 Driud of the Cowel
2 Greenwood Sentinel
3 Highland Game
3 Centaur Courser
2 Elvish Rejuvenator
3 Bristling Boar
1 Gigantosaurus
2 Vigilant Baloth
1 Aggressive Mammoth
1 Meteor Golem
1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger

2 Plummet
3 Rabid Bite
3 Titanic Growth
1 Verdant Rebirth
2 Blanchwood Armor
1 Prodigious Growth

25 Forests

Most of the preconstructed decks are at similar power levels, but the mono green creatures are just bigger than everything else.  Starting with a mono colored deck also conserves wild cards, which is good at the beginning.  I slowly worked towards this deck before abandoning it for greener pastures.

 

Upgraded Forest’s Might

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Pelt Collector
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
2 Kraul Harpooner
1 Thorn Lieutenant
4 Steel Leaf Champion
3 Thrashing Brontodon
1 Jadelight Ranger
4 Nullhide Ferox
1 Goreclaw, Terror of Qual Sisma
1 Gigantosaurus
1 Carnage Tyrant
1 Aggressive Mammoth
2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger

3 Adventurous Impulse
1 Vivien Reid

23 Forest

I probably should have stopped somewhere before a full set of the rare and mythic cards in this deck.  It was particularly egregious for me to be crafting Nullhide Ferox over Vivien Reid.  In my defense, this deck is close to a month old, at the time Golgari was just starting to dominate the format.

Speaking of Golgari, my first crafting spree turned my wildcards into Vraska, Relic Seekers, Jadelight Rangers, and Overgrown Tombs

I don’t even want to provide that decklist.  It certainly had the air of a pile of cards someone just pulled out of a trade binder randomly, with no active plan.

The biggest lesson I learned with the Golgari deck was that guildgates were perfectly reasonable substitutes in the deck.  The rare lands are clearly superior, but tapped lands are serviceable as you build up wildcards for the lands.  I had perfectly acceptable results with the deck with only a single Woodland Cemetery and Overgrown Tomb in the beginning.

I played that deck for a while, occasionally switching back to mono green for the quests it could complete easier.  Eventually, I opened a full set of Thousand-Year Storm, so I put this decklist together.

 

Storm

3 Electrostatic Field

4 Opt
4 Shock
4 Anticipate
3 Discovery // Dispersal
4 Radical Idea
3 Lightning Strike
4 Pirate’s Pillage
4 Thousand-Year Storm
2 Expansion // Explosion

9 Island
8 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

Like the Golgari deck, I had to work for a little while to complete the playsets of Steam Vents and Sulfur Falls.  This deck is fun and very different from everything else happening in the format.

I was just starting to look at crafting Archlight Phoneixes before the Pro Tour, where Yuuya made Top 8 with this decklist

 

Izzet a Phoenix?

4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Enigma Drake
4 Archlight Phoenix
3 Crackling Drake

4 Opt
4 Shock
1 Maximize Velocity
4 Chart a Course
4 Discovery // Dispersal
4 Radical Idea
3 Lava Coil

7 Island
5 Mountain
1 Izzet Guildgate
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

This deck is fun, and there is a lot of crossover between it and the Thousand-Year Storm deck.

After the Pro Tour, I also ended up making mono red.  The rise in white aggressive decks due to the Pro Tour made red very good, since Goblin Chainwhirler backed by removal destroys that deck.

 

Red Deck Wins

4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
4 Runaway Steam Kin
4 Viashino Pyromancer
2 Legion Warboss
3 Goblin Chainwhirler

4 Shock
4 Lightning Strike
2 Lava Coil
1 Risk Factor
2 Wizard’s Lightning
4 Experimental Frenzy

22 Mountain

There are a couple things worth mentioning about this deck.  The biggest is the 3 copies of Goblin Chainwhirler.  That stems from Magic Arena’s pitiful payout if you open the fifth copy of a card.  Unless a card is absolutely critical, I will often make three copies of it and just wait to open the last copy.  Legion Warboss and Risk Factor are both filler cards.  Two copies of Wizard’s Lightning make room for two copies of Lava Coil, since the Phoenix deck is very popular on Arena.

One deck I haven’t covered yet is the mono blue tempo deck.  I don’t think the deck is very good right now, since Lava Coil is at an all time high, but the deck needs a total of six rare wildcards.

 

Nassif’s Mono Blue Tempo

4 Mist-Cloaked Hearld
4 Merfolk Trickster
4 Siren Stormtamer
2 Warkite Marauder
4 Tempest Djinn

4 Curious Obsession
4 Dive Down
4 Opt
2 Spell Pierce
2 Chart a Course
1 Essence Scatter
4 Wizard’s Retort
1 Sleep

20 Island

This deck is fairly simple to play.  An evasive creature with Curious Obsession is a quick clock that provides lots of cards.  Tempest Djinn does a ton of heavy lifting, giving the deck some actual muscle.

 

I haven’t really touched control decks yet, as they are usually three different colors.  I don’t have quite enough wildcards yet to make three color mana bases work, so I’ve been sticking with my current collection of decks.

Overall, there are plenty of ways to start your path in Magic Arena.  My best advice is to have a general plan on how you are spending your wildcards.  The rare wildcards are particularly valuable due to the demands of your mana base.  Any single color, with black as the exception, can be modified into respectable decks.  Mono red and mono white in particular are great to grind with to build up your collection.  Just make sure you are completing your quests every day for the gold.

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