Okay, so my first impressions of the game. I'll try to be quick and not try to sound like ad copy .
Currently the only play mode that is available for testing is PvP mode, Competitive Constructed. This of course makes plenty of sense for a Beta version of the game, and I am sure that the official release will have more modes, based on the open space below the main image. If I was to make assumptions there will most likely me a solo story mode, a casual Constructed, and potentially over times a Modern Format version of both Casual and Competitve. The usual options are in a nice menu at the top.
Cards and Packs
Starting the game, I was awarded 23 boosters for Ixalan and 8 Boosters for Rivals of Ixalan. As I mentioned previously, and as stated from the Twitch stream of the announcement, MtG Arena is focused on the current Block sets of Magic, and currently that is Ixalan, and Rivals. As those of you who are familiar with MtG's various formats, currently there isn't anything like Modern available. The above screen is the Pack Cracking screen.
(Yup, that's right...8 card boosters )
Opening a pack is a nice animation and the cards are tossed out like this. The packs do follow the standard MTG assortment style, with each pack containing (at least for these 8-card boosters) 5 Commons. 2 Uncommons, and 1 Rare/Mythic. They also implemented a nice hover-over to look at a card more in depth, example below.
The only unintuitive thing here, is that mechanics and keywords that are shown on cards don't have a tool tip to figure out what they do or mean. Still in the Beta, so hopefully WotC adds something here for players who aren't familiar with all the keywords MtG has in it.
Some people might have noticed the white chest in the upper right of the screen.
For each pack you open, the progress bar fills up a little. Once filled to 100% it awards you 8 Wild Cards of varying rarity, which I will explain in the next section.
Card Collection and Deckbuilding
This is the screen for you collection of cards. I am rather impressed at how this is laid out, with the cards easily readable. There are plenty of filter options and a search option if you are looking for a specific card. All in all it is super easy to navigate and find what you are looking for.
As for deck building, the screen is very similar, with a few added options.
You select your cards and they move to the space on the right. (OH LOOK A SIDEBOARD TAB) The Deckbuilder keeps track of your deck and has a handy dandy extra Breakdown screen for referencing your decks makeup, see below.
I find this to be a nicely done screen and deck makeup tool. It displays the mana curve of the deck, and even breaks down the makeup of what cards are in each cost slot, so that you can adjust properly. For example, the cost slot for 3 in this screen has 7 cards, hovering over the yellow portion of the bar (Which is for noncreature card (spells) shows what exact cards are making up that portion. Nice!
Quick note on the aforementioned Wildcards. This is a new mechanic for Arena, wherein you can randomly pull Wildcards of varying rarities from packs. The purpose of these cards allows you to swap them 1-for-1 with a card from the current cardpools list. WUT?!? Yep... With my initial pulls, I can hand select any 3 Mythic rares I want from the current cards. Definitely a new way of filling in decks with key cards.
AND VIOLA! Here's your playmat!
The playmat/match screen is very animated but not overly so. Super easy to use and understand as well. Turns play out in standard MtG style...play a land, play a spell, attack, spell, end turn. I would say that it is beautifully done and the ambiance really helps the match feel right. The even nailed the sound of flipping a card down, spot on. Most table interactions are simply drag and drop and then you sit back an enjoy the actions play out.
On this screen, all cards in play are minimized to show just their stats, which I am guessing is for space saving. At any point though you can hover over them to get a popup view of the full card and it's text. There are also icons attached to cards that represent certaincommon mechanics for quick references, for example my Bishop's Soldier has the icon on the bottom left that represents the Lifelink mechanic. My opponents Headhunter has a Tap icon, which let's me know that the creature does have an ability that can be activated by tapping it, so maybe I should hover over it to see exactly what it does.
There is a nice touch done with cards and sound, where each card has its own play sound that relates to it. Play a Dinoaur, it's gonna roar when it his the field, when it attacks, and when it blocks. Rare creatures and such get even better treatment. When they are played they get a not only a unique sound, they also have unique animations for when they are played. I wasn't able to screenshot any of them, but I will try to later when I play again. For example, you play a Rare Creature like Deathgorge Scavenger, and that dino pops up all 3D out of the card and lets out a roar as it enters the battlefield.
I am pretty excited about this title so far. It runs smoothly and is beautiful as well. The biggest things for me so far, and what really gets me hopefully:
- It really feels like playing Magic, like sitting down at a table and playing.
-The ambient design is STELLAR and has limitless potential down the road. The current set is Ixalan, which for those not into MtG story, is based on a island filled with dinosaurs, pirates, vampires etc. The playmat is designed to feel like it is from Ixalan. The opening screens are backdropped with the sounds of a jungle. Wizards HAS takes this concept of layering the setting of the current expansions into the games ambiance.
I am going to play some more later on today and might grab up a few more screens to share.