Wizards of the Coast say changes to card packs and trading in Magic The Gathering: Arena, are part of an attempt to balance the game’s economy. In a press conference, executive producer Chris Cao said that the changes were also part of an attempt to differentiate the game’s digital format from the tabletop card game.
While Cao says that the development team have tried to capture “authentic Magic,” ahead of the closed beta, “the experiences are different.” As a result, the digital game has had to be altered “to serve that medium best.” While trading was something the studio reportedly discussed at length, Cao says that the system “is a hallmark of the paper game,” and an attempt to create a unique digital experience inspired by the tabletop game (rather than a pure simulation) lead to some mechanics being removed in favour of others.
In an FAQ, Wizards of the Coast stated that maintaining a “balanced economy” is part of the reason around the lack of in-game trading. When asked for clarification on this, Cao said that a development aim was that “to reach the greatest number of people, we wanted to be able to give out the most value.” Part of that is to enable an economy where players can earn as much as possible by themselves, and “to not have trading in, so you don’t have people doing exploitative things.” Cao says the team want “what you’ve earned [to be] what you’ve earned, what you’ve purchased [to be] what you’ve purchased,” something they say will let us reach “a much larger group of people.”
Despite a desire to give away as much as possible, MTG: Arena’s regular booster packs will only have eight cards in them, rather than the tabletop game’s 15-card packs. Cao says “the reason we went with eight on the regular booster packs is that we actually changed the number of uncommon and common [cards].” The reason behind that is that “to a new player, a lot of cards can be very intimidating, especially with the depth that Magic has. Our cards say a lot, and do a lot, often more so than other games.” Instead of padding out a card pack with commons, booster packs will contain Rare and Mythic cards, uncommons, “and then a smattering of the commons.” To fill the gap between the digital and tabletop games, Cao says there will be plenty of cards offered as rewards for completing daily quests or competing in a variety of game modes.