I desperately want to like MTG Arena. Ever since its release in 2018, I have repeatedly tried to get into this stylish, digital presentation of the card game I love. As someone who doesn’t always have time to attend local events, playing Magic: The Gathering on the go sounds terrific on paper. But developer Wizards of the Coast has made the entire process of building a constructed deck an utterly miserable experience. Though the new Wildcard Bundle ostensibly alleviates some of the deckbuilding problems rampant in MTG Arena, it’s instead a deeply exploitative offering that only highlights the biggest issues with this game.
For those out of the loop, a Wildcard is an MTG Arena exclusive “card” typically earned by opening booster packs. These Wildcards come in four rarities — Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Mythic Rare — and can be exchanged for any actual card with the corresponding rarity. This means that if you have an Uncommon Wildcard, it can only be turned in for any Uncommon card. At first glance, these seem like a neat way to help people build their decks. The problem is you cannot individually purchase cards, meaning you’re entirely reliant on the Wildcard system if you want to build a specific deck.
It’s an ineloquent system — one that has been a problem since the game launched. In an attempt to give players a chance to unlock the cards they want, Wizards of the Coast recently released a new Wildcard Bundle. Priced at $49.99, players who buy this will receive 12 Rare Wildcards and 4 Mythic Rare Wildcards. This alone is comically overpriced. For the same amount of money, you can buy 45 booster packs, which often provide a bunch of Wildcards along with whatever else you open. Sure, you aren’t guaranteed to get Wildcards with every booster pack you open, but you will certainly get close, if not more than what the Wildcard Bundle offers. This isn’t even counting all the Common and Uncommon Wildcards/cards you will pull, which are also used in deck building.
Going even further, the amount of Rare and Mythic Wildcards you get from this bundle isn’t even enough to fully build a competitive Standard deck. Looking at some of the top meta decks right now on MTGGoldfish, players would need at least 20 to 25 Rare Wildcards and around eight to 12 Mythic Rare Wildcards if they want to make a viable top tier Standard deck. You can create great decks without needing dozens of Rare or Mythic Rare cards. But if you want to play competitively or with some of the best decks in the format, you shouldn’t be tied down to MTG Arena‘s archaic and overpriced method for unlocking cards.
Even if you have the money to buy the Wildcard Bundle, it’s a one-time purchase, meaning it will only get you about one-third of the way to making a top-tier deck. Since you cannot purchase cards individually, you are then forced to keep opening booster packs in the hopes of either pulling the cards you need or obtaining a Wildcard. It’s a system designed to punish not only those who cannot just gamble money on opening packs of cards, but also new players.
Look, I’m not against the selling of Wildcards directly to players — in fact, it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. The problem lies in the amount of money asked versus the number of cards you’re getting in exchange. These aren’t physical Magic cards that can be traded or sold to other players, increasing in value as time passes as a result. They are digital and not tied down to the often volatile secondary market that physical players have to deal with. There’s no reason that 16 Wildcards should be priced at $49.99 — especially when you can almost always get more value by buying the digital booster packs instead. I want to be able to buy Wildcards, but not in overpriced bundles that prey on inexperienced users.