Subspace Radio

 

(Listen to the recorded version, here.)

Oh hoy yo!

Arlas here, still in text form... One day I'll find the I/O tower that gets me out of here (to those who get that reference, thank you). You know, it does get boring trapped inside this maze of a machine, so from time to time I have to entertain myself. The programs here aren't exactly very appealing, most of them just whine about their daily tasks. So, to help them take a load off, I decided that I'd introduce them to simple logical gaming, and I decided to take them to the Arena. The Magic: The Gathering - Arena.

The arena is actually pretty simple, a simple playfield, a place for your deck, and two player spaces. If you know how to play Magic: The Gathering, then you'll feel right at home, being able to play right away. If you're brand new to the game then you'll get a brief crash course on how Magic works. There is no story, being an all multiplayer game, with the exception of the tutorial. You'll face off against Goblins, Thieves, Elves and then finally fight the Bad Dragon on the Plane, Nicol Bolas. He offers you a deal: beat him, and he'll let you go; or your soul is his after he stomps you flat. Let's be honest though, this is the tutorial, you knew you were going to beat him.

 

After you finally free yourself from the clutches of 'Bad Dragon the Immense' over there, you finally get the chance to experience the game. You're given a series of starter decks after completing the tutorial: being Arcane Inventions (a mono-blue Control deck), Tactical Assault (a mono-white Midrange/Combo deck), Dragon’s Fire (a mono-red aggro deck), Forest’s Might (a mono-green Combo deck) and Graveyard Bash (a mono-black Zombie deck… mmm decrepit flesh). There is also a deck editor, so as you get more cards, you can create your own deck to fit your playstyle, like my Red-White Aggro/Combo deck, Virtuous Vengeance.

 

You can then begin playing the Ladder mode, which is a simple 'constructed' style 1v1 match. Your deck doesn't need to follow the standard 60-card limit to play a normal game, but it's definitely a good suggestion. There is also a ranking system to determine how well you play. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work too well, as I've been stuck in Bronze, with no progression even after having a huge winning streak.

 

 

Alongside the normal 1 on 1 matches you'll experience, there are a variety of shifting 'draft' and 'sealed' play modes that give you a chance to win big prizes if you can win 7 games without losing 'x' number of times. Usually ‘x’ is three, but it can be as low as 1 loss, and you're eliminated. These events are timed, and typically last two weeks. You can enter as many times as you have either Gold or Gems for. I once ran two separate Drafts on the gold I had. Not that I went anywhere, because many of the opponents you'll face either have a far greater skill than you, or a better draft. There are the few though that you’ll outclass, but it all depends, really.

That does bring up the issue of in-game currency though. Progression isn't necessarily tedious, but the in-game currency and economy is not forgiving. Currency is split between gold, which can be earned by completing daily and weekly quests, and by winning Constructed Events. Either that, or Gems, which can be bought using real-world money and can also be earned back by winning Draft and Sealed events. Not that you'll be doing that any time soon... I know I didn't. These two currencies are also used to purchase booster packs, as if you were playing the paper card game. Typically, the daily quests alone will net you enough for a new booster, but if that booster doesn’t contain the card you needed/the color you wanted, it’ll feel wasted. The Weekly Wins however may turn your luck around, as you can get up to 15 wins in a week, and get small rewards such as a new card, or even more coins to spend on boosters.

After you’ve managed to build up a sizable amount of cards, you’ll finally think it’s time to build your own deck. From your decks tab, you can press the nifty plus icon to start construction on a deck all your own. If you’ve gotten comfortable playing the starter decks, and only want to make minor alterations, you can also do that by double-clicking its respective deck box. But, this is where things get a little wonky. You’ll be greeted by a wall of cards, and an empty column to the right when you start building your first deck. Don’t worry, this is normal. Using the color icons at the top of the screen, you can filter what colors you want to play, or click the gold ring for ‘multicolored’ cards. It’s helpful if you don’t want to scroll through pages… and pages… and pages of cards trying to find your favorite. Or, if you know a card’s name by heart, type it in the search box to immediately pull it up.

You can have a max of 4 prints of any one card, any more and they’ll be stripped down and put towards… ‘the vault’. It’s a mystical place that can’t be seen, or accessed until you manage to burn enough of the ‘5th wheel’ cards. It’s been brought up before that it was going to be replaced, but no one knows with what. Until such time, as long as you’re opening card packs, you can contribute to getting ‘wild cards’. These Orange, Gold, Silver and White lotus cards can be used to create a card you don’t own a copy of. For example, in the picture shown here, I currently only own one Ajani’s Welcome, but if I so choose, I can click on it and redeem a Silver Wildcard to get another copy. It’s a real nice way to help speed up the progression a bit. Beware though: only the Silver and Gold wildcards are earned for opening packs; the common White and Mythic Rare Orange wildcards are found in packs, and cannot be earned any other way.

Best of all, if you went around to one of the various deckbuilding websites like mtgarena.pro, you can take a look at every available card in the sets, build a deck and then export it for use in Magic Arena. If you don’t own the respective cards, they’ll be highlighted in red in the deck builder. To use those cards, you’d have to redeem your wildcards for them. For my Red/White deck, I needed “Ajani, Wise Counselor” (a Mythic Rare) and ended up redeeming an Orange Wildcard for him, which are damn near impossible to find. If you own all the cards, just name the deck, and give it a theme picture, and away you go into the world of Constructed once again. Keep in mind though, this game runs the ‘Standard’ Magic format, meaning only certain cards are legal to use. To find out which packs/sets are legal for the format, just check the store.

Anyhow, if you fancy yourself a good game of Magic, and want to get back into the swing of things, just download Arena. It’s free to play, and easy enough to download from the Wizards of the Coast official website. I’d hope to see you all there. But don’t expect to see me, because there are no social features… yet.

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