Magic the gathering is evolving
In my previous article on MTG, I explained how Magic Arena is a different game from the paper version of MTG, not superior or inferior, just different for a different audience. From that article more than a year has passed, and the 2019/2020/2021 roadmap of MTG has proved that and more…
MTG is evolving into a new form, as a game MTG has constantly evolved in order to bring new mechanics, cards, etc; the kind of evolution that I’m talking about is an editorial evolution.
This is not a rant, I’m actually excited to see the future of this incredible game.
The new MTG
What is evolving MTG? I want to start saying that there isn’t a 100% clear answer, since this evolving process is still happening, but I can still formulate certain educated guesses based based on various sources.
The MTG evolution started in 2018 with the distribution decision, then it accelerate in 2019 with MTG Arena, I would say that we are going to see a new important spike in October/November/December 2020 and finally the consolidation in mid 2021.
Monday 3rd of August 2020 Wizard of the cost has announced the new update of the Ban and Restricted list. Usually that would be a pretty standard event, however in this announced has happen something new something that never happened before.
“Another archetype that has maintained a high win rate over a long period of time is Black-Red (or Jund) Sacrifice, featuring the Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven combo. In addition to having high overall win rates, these decks put considerable pressure on aggressive and midrange creature decks. Further, the number of triggers generated by these decks can be cumbersome for both players in digital play. To weaken these sacrifice strategies, open up more metagame diversity, and create a more fun gameplay environment, Cauldron Familiar is banned.”
One of the reasons that lead to the ban (in paper and digitally) of “Cauldron Familiar” is the amount of triggers that are required by MTG Arena to play the deck. An high number of triggers has two main consequences: first the games are longer, as each trigger is accompanied by an animation, secondly the deck can be harder/unfair to play because it's more susceptible to “mis-clicking”. However both these consequences are almost not present in the physical version of the game, nonetheless the card has been banned both in digital and in paper.
The reason for this decision is quite clear, maintaining a continuity between Arena and Paper, nonetheless this proves the “power” that now Arena has gained and the fact that Arena is one of the reason why MTG is evolving.
This “new” MTG editorial, is focused on the division of the MTG players in different categories and to create different products based on each category need and desire. Before MTG divided the players only into two categories:
Newbie: people who just started with MTG and they don’t know the rules/cards/products, their products are the core set and the premade decks. They might be interested into collecting or not
Players: people who plays the game, their product is the booster pack. They might be interested into collecting or not.
In the new editorial those are macro-categories, each macro-category can contain any of the the new types:
Casual: The casual player is the MAIN Arena user, this is also proved by that as 75% of the arena players are below the diamond rank. This user is interested into playing the game using 1 max 2 decks, doing small or strange tournament (like the tournament with RNG elements in arena) at its convenience. The main product for this player is MTG Arena. Casual are also present in the paper section but MTG is clearly pushing those user to move to Arena, by giving codes, and slightly reducing the printing of new sets and the general support of local store (don’t worry paper MTG is not dying).
Competitor: This is player is more interested into the competition part of the game, wants to compete, this is the 8% of the Arena players and a few percentage of the paper players. Their products are prized tournaments and competitive set (where player can obtain MUST HAVE cards) like Modern Horizon.
Influencer: This players are the streamers, twitchers, youtubers, etc that create content related to MTG. At the moment Wizard is supporting only arena content creator, by giving them codes (for them and their audience), VIP access etc, while content creator like Corbin Hosler, are supported by independent stores/sponsors. The reason is quite simple the vast majority of the audience is in the casual section and they are interested into casual aimed content.
Collector/Market Trader: This sector is called “Whale” (a term that I do not like) in the mobile market is a small percentage of people with a very high disposable income interested into, highly exclusive, highly limited, highly premium products no matter the cost. In the case of MTG we have the collectors: people who might play but they mostly enjoy the collectable part of the experience and the Market Trader, people who invest and speculate on MTG market. Their products are secret lair just to cite one.
The new editorial vision of Wizard can be the Ace in MTG hand, allowing MTG to prosper for other 10/20 years. However this road is also a risky one because divide the audience and then create specific products for each audience can also lead to:
Pay2Win mechanics: certain cards are available only in premium products
Audience under-representation: certain audience have less products or no products because they are spending less or they are a minority