Magic Online or Magic Arena?

Playing paper Magic is easy. Choose a format, build your deck, find friends or a tournament near you, then test your mettle. When it comes to playing online, though, there was only one option for many years: Magic Online. It might have caught a lot of flack for being buggy or not very aesthetically pleasing, but for all its downfalls it was still the best way to hone your skills and play at anytime of day. Now with Magic: Arena there is a choice at hand and finding which is the best for you might not be as simple as it seems. The factors that fall into questions are your desired competitiveness, formats of choice, time, and money.

Formats
Magic OnlineMagic: Arena
  • Standard
  • Modern
  • Legacy
  • Vintage
  • Cube Draft
  • Standard Limited
  • Commander
  • Standard Best of 1
  • Standard Best of 3
  • Standard Limited
  • Special Formats
  • Historic Play

Both programs offer standard format play but Magic Online is the only way to play constructed formats with a larger card pools. If you have an upcoming modern tournament you need to test for or are just looking to play for fun, than Magic Online is for you. The same can be said for Cube Draft and Commander, as casual play for those formats is limited to Magic Online. Arena is expanding with the new “historic” format which will include all cards available on Arena as well as various special formats with strange rules. Lastly, if standard is the format you’re looking to play primarily I would recommend Arena wholeheartedly.

Competitiveness
Magic OnlineMagic: Arena
  • MCQ* (Paper)
  • Magic Online Championship Series
  • MCQ* (Arena)
  • Ranked Ladder

*Mythic Championship Qualifier

Mythic Championship Qualifiers are available on both Magic Online and Arena, but they each qualify players for different events. The Magic Online qualifiers will put players into the paper Mythic Championships and the Arena MCQs will qualify players for the Arena Mythic Championship. The biggest difference is that Magic: Arena has a ranked ladder to stack yourself up against the best in the world with numbered ranks. Magic Online has its own tournament series which has many ways to play and qualify with an end of the year event with $250,000 in prizes. Read more about the MOCS here as it is complicated.

Time and Cost
Magic OnlineMagic: Arena
  • High Initial Cost
  • Many Renting Options
  • Ability to Resell
  • Ability to “grind”
  • Can be Free to Play
  • Can be More Expensive
  • Optional Aesthetics

When it comes to choosing Magic Online or Magic: Arena this is the real breaking point for me. As someone who is already heavily invested in Magic Online I generally choose this as my place to play. Magic Online requires players to be able to buy decks flat out initially in order to be able to play in constructed formats. There are many options for players to use rental services to be able to play decks in various formats without having to fully invest. These typically run from $30-$60 per month. One benefit of Magic Online is that it is possible to acquire a collection over time and sell it for hundreds to thousands of dollars and put that money directly into your bank account. While possible, it isn’t exactly common or a task that is easy to complete. On the other hand, Arena costs can vary wildly depending on your willingness to complete daily tasks and desire to switch decks. More about this can be seen here with much greater detail. Where Magic: Arena truly wins is the visuals and they’re great.

TLDR – It can be hard to choose from one or the other, but if I had to shorten it as much as possible I would say if you’re looking to play non-standard formats than Magic Online is the place for you. If you’re mostly looking to play standard I would spend my time on Magic: Arena.

Until next time,

Daryl Ayers

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Daryl Ayers

Daryl Ayers

Daryl is known for his love of all things Temu and can normally be seen waiting for standard tournaments to end so he can indulge his real loves for both Modern and Legacy. This normally is not the best strategy for a Magic player, but it has proven somewhat successful, resulting in multiple Pro Tour appearances as well as a handful of top 8’s on the SCG Open circuit and Grand Prix stage.

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