MTG Arena to Add Player Drafts in April Update

by in Magic: The Gathering Arena | Apr, 13th 2020

Last week, I was invited to a private conference call with Steve Sunu and Chris Cao from Wizards of the Coast. In it, they spilled some very secret, awesome information, that we can now share with you! We’ve known for a while now that Player Drafts were going to come to MTG Arena, but there was no definite date until now that is. We can confirm for you it’s coming, and sooner than you might think!

Ikoria and Player Drafts

It’s almost time for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths which releases on April 16. With it, we also see some other changes, in particular, the Player Drafts! With the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s made it significantly harder to play MTG against other people in our local card shops, for me as well as everyone else. However, thankfully, MTG Arena is tapped into that same wavelength. The ability to play MTG is still around with MTG Arena, but what about drafts?

A lot of players who were lapsed may be coming back to the game or might be new to the digital version altogether, and MTG Arena is here to help bring them together. But one of the things tabletop players are used to is the ability to draft packs against other players, and that’s coming to MTG Arena. You’ll still be able to draft against NPCs though if that’s your jam, so don’t worry.

So, what is Player Draft anyway in MTG Arena? It’s just drafting against other players. It is one of the most-requested features in MTG Arena, that’s for sure. This is more than “adding a new mode” to MTG Arena. Far from it! Instead, it’s completely changing this “Limited” format, and how it works in MTG. They didn’t simply want to bolt on a new mode like Frankenstein’s Monster.

With the release of Ikoria being a “wedge” format (meaning decks are likely to be three colors instead of two), this is a great time for a new draft format. One of the best things about MTG Arena is that it has such a wide audience. From tabletop players, MTGO players, MTG Duel players, Professional MTG players and more. There is so much you can do with Player Draft, this is a great time for it. Drafting is a huge part of the MTG experience, after all. Player Drafting in MTG Arena is going to be similar to the tabletop experience, except you won’t have to sit there and play for hours at one time if you don’t want to!

There are lots of little things in the UI for Player Drafts to help them figure out what’s going on. You’ll see who has how many packs waiting, who they are passing to, et cetera. For those who don’t know, in Draft, you open a pack, pick one card from it, and pass that pack on. These packs get rotated around for eight players until no cards are left. But there is a constant stream of packs being circulated around the board, so everyone gets their shot to pick from each pick to build a deck. It has a different UI compared to the old draft, which felt so impersonal, so bland. This looks far interesting, and with other players drafting, you might (or might not) be able to get away with strategies that worked on the AI.

What Kinds of Draft?

There a few kinds of drafting to be aware of now, So I think we should take some time to let our audience know exactly what they’re in for. First of all, there’s Traditional Draft. That’s the standard, best-of-three set. One of the bits of feedback they received is that Traditional Draft took way too long. It was lengthy and frustrating. This will also be only against other players.

So, they changed the number of games, so that it’s only three matches. You get rewarded for the number of wins you make (similar to what might see at a real-life MTG event). It’s unranked, though because people just like to draft, regardless of the level of skill on offer. You do how well you do, and that’s the end of it. In real life, you don’t have a PC to put people together based on their draft skill.

Next in the MTG Arena Player Draft update is Quick Draft (Formerly Ranked Draft). This is the current AI/Bot Draft, for 750 Gems/5000 gold in Arena. It’s very convenient for people who just want to draft quickly, not wait on other players, and want to get their fix in. They also gave us a fun fact: Only 3% of matches in MTG Arena are done in best of three. Best of one is truly the dominant way to play across all match types in MTG Arena.

The convenience of best of one fits nicely into Quick Draft. The prices stay the same, the drafting remains the same, but they just renamed it. You can quickly draft, or stop, and come back to it whenever. It’s very casual. But there’s a new kind of Draft! Premier Draft is the latest addition to the MTG Arena Player Draft system. Premier Draft is the new “Player Draft.”

Drafting is a high-skill system if you ask us. Premier Draft will represent the level of skill on display in a draft in general. Premier Draft is the 7/3 (7 Wins, 3 Losses), which is similar to a best of one event in MTG Arena. You sit at a digital table with 7 other players, and draft! After you draft your deck, you can play in a queue of other players. You don’t have to sit there and just play those players over and over.

You still have to dedicate the 20-30 minutes to the actual drafting. You have to take the time, figure out who is taking what cards, who is passing which way, and put the thought and strategy into drafting. But then you can play against anyone in the queue. It’s far more accessible this way. In a real Local Game Store, you play against everyone in that pod of drafters and nothing else. You’re already there, so it’s convenient. But asking people to put their lives on hold at home for a few hours might be a bit much.

This way, you’ll have a nice varied pool of players to play against, who may or may not have drafted similarly (or had the same cards on offer). It can be a really exciting way to play, that’s for sure. They’ve seen a lot of feedback that says players want that kind of League-style play (to play against the same players perhaps), but that’s not what’s in the game right now. Perhaps in the future! So there’s a style of draft for any player. Traditional Draft and Premier Draft have a different price though: 1500 Gems/10,000 Gold. The price might seem a little high, but they want the stakes of the play and draft to be high. But the rewards are just as good!

At five wins, you get enough gems to get your win back, so you can draft again, plus packs. They want a higher skill level to be reflected. They will also be giving out a free Draft Token on April 16 so people can try it and see how they feel about it. Since this launches this week with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, so you don’t even have to wait very long! Plus if you want to see it in action, there’s the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Preview Event, which I’ll also be taking part in!

You can tune in to my Twitch channel on Wednesday, April 15 at 2 PM EST where I’ll be spending a few hours drafting, making decks, and getting a feel for the madness that is Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. They showed off the UI for the MTG Arena Player Draft, and I have to say, I like it. It’s easy to understand, as someone who played both tabletop and PC MTG.

One of the things asked is “Is there an estimated time for someone waiting for a draft table?” and their unranked queues went fast. They don’t feel like it will be much longer than five minutes, but I think it will be much shorter. Draft is very popular, so I think people will be wanting to queue up frequently. I’ve never had a long wait in MTG Arena anyway, no matter what the setting. Most of the time it will be sub-a couple of minutes, in most situations. Ranked queues might be longer, depending on how many people are at your level.

Final Thoughts/News

However, one more thing I’d like to see is the ability to play Private Drafts. Say you and eight friends team up and all buy-in for a draft that you play privately. It would be like a real experience at a Friday Night Magic or something. You’d all just play each other for a few hours, and just have a fun, social MTG Arena experience. This is something they are interested in, but no devoted plans or work are being done. So it’s just something we hope to see. We’re also hoping to one day see Commander or Multi-Player (2v2, 3v3).

There’s other stuff coming down the pipeline, too! More Historic Anthology is one the way, for one! That’s a mode that needs fleshing out, that’s for sure. Cube Drafts will continue, so that’s nice. They’re also leaning in deeper to FNM At Home, and over half of the stores that take part in FNM are joining into this digital event, and we’re glad to see it. They’re going to keep doling out events and rewards into that. Players can also look forward to more on “Most Asked Questions” in their next State of the Game (like “When is MAC?”). Spoiler: They don’t have a date, but it is still being worked on.

They also revealed that Amonkhet is coming back as a huge addition to the Historic Meta! Mobile is also coming this year! Huge things are on the way for you MTG Arena fans, that’s for sure. Wizards are also bringing more high-stakes play to the game, with “Player Challenges” to Arena. These are competitive, Arena-only events. They want to award more than gems/packs here, too. More news on that will be coming in the future, so stay tuned for that. We’re very excited about Player Drafts in MTG Arena though.


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