Magic: The Gathering Arena will see some big changes this week. Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion, will debut on April 16th. The new set is sure to shake up the competitive metagame, but that's not the only major shift coming to MTG Arena. The April 16th update will also see the digital edition of the popular trading card game revamp its options for drafting. MTG Arena will introduce player drafting, allowing players to draft with seven other players at a virtual table. This will recreate the competitive draft experience that longtime Magic players know and love.
The introduction of the new draft means some changes to existing draft modes and the introduction of one brand new drafting experience. The current traditional draft experience is being revamped. Traditional Draft is MTG Arena's best-of-three drafting experience. Players have felt that the Traditional Draft experience goes on too long. As of this week's update, Traditional Draft will last for a maximum of three best-of-three games. Also, players will be drafting against other players instead of bots. This mode will remain unranked
What is now known as Ranked Draft is being renamed Quick Draft. Otherwise, it will remain unchanged. Players can jump into this mode to draft against bots and then plan in a best-of-one environment. The reason for the name change is because this mode is no longer the only ranked drafting experience.
Enter Premier Draft. This is the new draft mode that will recreate the experience of drafting in person and is intended for the most dedicated competitive drafters. Players draft in a pod with other players, then compete in a queue until they reach 7 wins or 3 losses. The entry fee is 1500 gems or 10,000 gold which seems steep, but the rewards make it worthwhile.
Chris Cao, the executive producer of MTG Arena, said on a press call that the team wants Premier Draft to be a high stakes event. But players who are good at it can go infinite with 5 wins, earning 1600 gems. Even 4 wins will earn a player 1400 gems, 100 gems shy of another entry.
This is one step towards more significant limited play via MTG Arena. "We will take limited and this player draft experience to our pro scene and pro online play," Cao says, noting that Arena is more than just a Magic video game, but "the digital face of Magic."
Cao and his team are serving a broad and diverse audience, from casual and lapsed players to hardcore players and pros. "Arena has all kinds of Magic players in it, " Cao says. "We have an incredibly broad spectrum." The three different drafting experiences are meant to serve all of them. Premier Draft is a "bigger, brighter" limited experience based on data, surveys, and events meant to serve limited's most dedicated adherents.
MTG Arena is becoming more and more a part of the overall Magic: The Gathering community experience. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic keeping players out of local stores, MTG Arena has begun allowing stores to run tournaments in Arena, even setting up Discord channels to help recreate the in-store feel. Cao says that he and his team are "invested as players and as business people" in helping stores through this crisis.
As for what's next, right now Cao's team is working on putting the "finishing touches" on Arena's recreation of the classic Magic experience. After that, it'll focus on community features and the kinds of play that is only possible with a digital platform. Cube draft is coming later this year, and more informal limited experiences are being looked at. More Historic Anthology sets are being planned, as well as Pioneer remasters. Also, the Amonkhet set, which was removed from Arena when the game entered official Beta, will be returning later in 2020.
The game is also planning to expand. The Mac version MTG Arena is still being worked on and they're playtesting early mobile builds of the game. They're also brainstorming player challenges that would bring new modes of high stakes competition to Arena, possibly even creating prize pools out of entry fees.
Cao sums up his team's goals this way: "We want to be a part of a bigger Magic."
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and the premier draft update comes to Magic: The Gathering Arena on Thursday, April 16th. Here's a break down of how the premier draft experience works:
Update: A previous version of this story had some errors regarding buy-in price and uprising. Those errors have been corrected.
It is possible to go infinite in this mode. Five wins earn 1600 gems, enough for another buy-in. Four wins get you pretty close with 1400 gems.
Premier Draft Queue
When asked, Cao said that -- through the use of a multi-queue system -- Arena's wait times for Premier Draft should average between two and five minutes. During peak playtimes, he expects it will be less than that.
Take Your Seat at the Table
This is where the competition ramps up. Signaling is now an important tactic to understand if you want to draft successfully.
Pick 1, Pack 1
You can see your name and what pick number your own in the top center. You can also see who is sitting to your left and to your right and how many packs they have left to open.
The timer begins at 75 seconds per early picks when there are the most cards to choose from and the most difficult decisions to be made. As choices dwindle down to draft chaff, the timer will shorten down to 30 seconds.
After drafting in your pod of eight players, you can take your draft deck into the queue. You won't be playing against the people you drafted with, but Cao feels the player draft experience and playing the deck you've built through the draft is the piece of limited play that players most crave.
Games played are the equivalent of a local tournament event or a Grand Prix event. You can play up to 7 wins, or until 3 loses.
Once you're done, you reap your rewards. Here's the new draft rewards progression for both traditional and premier draft:
Entry Fee: 1500 Gems or 10,000 Gold
Event Record: Three Matches (Regardless of win/loss record)
· 3 Wins: 3000 Gems, 6 Packs
· 2 Wins: 1000 Gems, 4 Packs
· 0 – 1 Win: 1 Pack
Entry Fee: 1500 Gems or 10,000 Gold
Event Record: 7 wins or 3 losses (whichever comes first)
· 7 Wins: 2200 Gems and 6 Packs
· 6 Wins: 1800 Gems and 5 Packs
· 5 Wins: 1600 Gems and 4 Packs
· 4 Wins: 1400 Gems and 3 Packs
· 3 Wins: 1000 Gems and 2 Packs
· 2 Wins: 250 Gems and 2 Packs
· 1 Win: 100 Gems and 1 Pack0comments
· 0 Wins: 50 Gems and 1 Pack
You can also export your draft deck to play against friends in a direct challenge game. There are more draft innovations on the way as well, including the implementation of cube draft. Cao says he also knows that some competitive players would like to be able to form draft pods with friends for practices. While that's not possible now, it's something the team is aware of and considering.