The Evolution of Digital Magic: The Gathering

The Evolution of Magic: A Talk with Christopher Clay 1

Magic: The Gathering is a game that is ever evolving, from the printed collectible card game to a series of online offerings, and despite the odds has remained relevant while many others have faded away into obscurity.

Wizards of the Coast has built an online offering for players new and old to experience the collectable card game. Lowering the barrier to entry over games such as Magic Online, Magic: The Gathering Arena is a new instalment in the ever-changing world of Magic. CGMagazine has taken some time to talk to Christopher Clay, Game Director for Magic: The Gathering Arena, about what players can expect when they jump into the game and how it will compare to other offerings they may have played in the past.

The Evolution Of Magic: A Talk With Christopher Clay 1
Magic The Gathering Arena – Wizards of the Coast

CGMagazine: Is Magic: The Gathering Arena targeting Magic fans specifically or is it tailored to bring in new audiences that may have only played games such as Hearthstone?

Christopher Clay: Whether you’re a long-time Magic player, a fan of deep strategy card games, or someone who’s looking to get into the game, we would love for you to come play MTG Arena. We want Magic: The Gathering Arena to let you play the game you love with all the depth, rules, and choices that make it unique, with the striking and easy-to-understand visuals that make it exciting to watch and stream.

CGMagazine: You announced that codes can be redeemed for Arena, what does this mean? What kinds of crossover support will be offered between paper and Arena?

Christopher Clay: The codes that can be redeemed enable players to sign up for the opportunity to participate in the MTG Arena Closed Beta via In terms of in-game codes, we haven’t announced anything official about that yet. There are many options the team is considering, but we are definitely looking to better integrate Magic players’ live tabletop life into their digital life. For example, giving an in-game benefit to players that attend a live pre-release.

CGMagazine: Are there plans to ensure Arena is kept current as new MTG sets are released?

Christopher Clay:  Our goal is for MTG Arena to release new sets as they’re released in the physical world. We want players to be able to experience the newest sets digitally at the same time they’re available physically.

The Evolution Of Magic: A Talk With Christopher Clay 2
Magic The Gathering Arena – Wizards of the Coast

CGMagazine: How does Wizards of the Coast plan to lure players away from other online CCGs currently on the market?

Christopher Clay: Our primary goal isn’t necessarily to “lure” players away from other online CCGs. Our focus with MTG Arena is on creating the deepest gameplay among strategy card games. Some CCG gamers may not be looking for a deep game, and that’s okay. The genre has matured to where there is something for everyone. And when a gamer wants to step up to the next challenge, that’s where we want Magic: The Gathering Arena to fit in.

CGMagazine: How accessible will Arena be to players that may be new to CCGs?

Christopher Clay: We hope it will be very accessible. There will be new player experiences at launch that will help walk players through the game of Magic. We’re also putting significant effort into an interface that allows players to access the depth of Magic in an intuitive and easy to use fashion.

CGMagazine: Duels of the Planeswalkers was an introduction for many to Magic. Will Arena replace the market for Duels?

Christopher Clay: MTG Arena is not a successor to anything. We’re taking what we’ve learned making Magic Duels, Magic Online, and tabletop Magic, as well as the team’s wealth of industry experience, to give you the best possible Magic experience in a digital game.

The Evolution Of Magic: A Talk With Christopher Clay 4
Liliana Vess – Wizards of the Coast

CGMagazine: How can players acquire new cards for their decks?

Christopher Clay: We’re exploring many different options for this. One of the best ways players can help test these options is to sign up for the opportunity to participate in the closed beta.

CGMagazine: Will deck building be available?

Christopher Clay: Yes, deck building will be available.

CGMagazine: Will you do things in Arena that won’t be available on MTGO and in paper?

Christopher Clay: We’re still in beta—too early to say definitively whether we’ll be doing something like this. As I mentioned, the team’s primary focus right now is to create the deepest gameplay among strategy card games. We believe that if we can take what is core to what makes Magic fun, keep it authentic, make gameplay smooth and fun to watch, we will have a uniquely compelling experience. That’s our starting line with the closed beta. From there, we’ll deliver new features that will give gamers more freedom, more experimentation, and more mastery then they’ve seen before in a digital card game.

CGMagazine: Are there plans for supporting other formats such as draft/sealed?

Christopher Clay: Yes, we currently are driving towards having both draft and sealed for launch.

CGMagazine: Will standard be the primary card pool when Arena is launched?

Christopher Clay: Yes.

The Evolution Of Magic: A Talk With Christopher Clay 3
Magic The Gathering Arena – Wizards of the Coast

CGMagazine: The biggest question in players’ minds is regarding Magic Online vs. Arena. Can you outline some of the critical differences between the two?

Christopher Clay: The focus of MTG Arena will be on the newest cards and game modes. Magic Online—which has a library of nearly every card ever printed from the game’s entire history—will continue to offer unique experiences to players. We want the combination of both games to offer any Magic player the digital experience they crave. Development on Magic Online will continue with new card sets, new updates, and ongoing tournaments.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Brendan Frye’s work such as his interview with EA Motive about Star Wars: Battlefront II, and his in-depth look at the Equifax Hack!

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