Magic: The Gathering Arena ruined Magic for me
I’ve been playing Magic for over twenty years now, the shape of my play has changed over the years, but through most of my adult life, the game was there in some respect. That is until recently, as Magic: The Gathering Arena has put a sour taste for the game in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, Hasbro’s constant need to maximize profit and print as many cards as possible isn’t helping either. I could decouple the sins of the company from the game I loved, but between Arena and maximum capitalism, I can no longer stomach the game. Many of my gripes are going to be personal, if you enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering: A Deckmaster Game, please know that it is not my objective to convince you otherwise.
The beauty of Magic was there was a nearly infinite set of combinations of cards to include in your deck to create unique and interesting interactions. Arena still has this, but the problem is, the meta constantly consolidates into a set of 4-6 specific decks that are maximized to win. I can only play so many games against White Lifegain before it starts to grate on me. Since Arena is blind matching, the intent is to run a deck that is performant against the decks you are most likely to play against, as a result, we end up with a small pool of ultra-optimized decks which dominate the meta. For me, exploration and deck building was most of the fun of the game. My fondest memories of Magic was when I would spend hours researching cards to include in my janky deck to beat my friend’s janky deck, which I had not beaten in weeks. Arena is missing, in my mind, the most important and fun part of Magic, the local meta. A local meta is a small ever-changing set of decks within a small playground, which makes deck creation much more interesting and fun.
I may just be a cranky old man who is fixated on the days of yore, but I personally do not find the style of play within Arena fun. I fully understand that the concept of a local meta is not dead and gone, but my playgroup has broken up, and I don’t have the time, or the desire to find a new playgroup and start from scratch. I know I am simply asking for Arena to be something that it never can be, there will never be a local meta at the scale at which Arena reaches, this is the natural progression of a large pool of players, and there is hyper-consolidation of the meta. Above all else, Arena incentives winning, you get absolutely nothing for losing, to progress your collection, or to play modes other than constructed, you must win. Of course, to win, you must play an optimized meta deck.
I was hoping that Arena was a way that I could engage with one of my favorite hobbies, but ultimately it made me stop playing altogether. Arena is bad for Magic but very good for profits for Hasbro. I know there is nothing I can do to change this, I am just ultimately an old man yelling at clouds on the internet who misses his old, favorite hobby.