MTG Online vs Arena in 2023: Which Should You Play?


Trading card game Magic: The Gathering as been adapted to the video game format several times. Digital card games are all the rage now, but Magic is one of the first and best to embrace this trend. There are two main platforms for playing Magic: The Gathering online: MTG Online and MTG Arena. Here's which one you should be playing in 2023.

MTG's latest set, Phyrexia: All Will Be One just came out a few weeks ago. The set has led to the development of new strategies and powerful takes on old ones, such as the terrifyingly-fastToxic Aggro and the more controlling Esper Superfriends. Players have been taking these and similar decks to great success online and in paper.

MTG Online vs Arena in 2023: Which Should you Play?

MTG Online Advantages

MTG Online is the oldest and most established way to play Magic virtually. The service started all the way back in 2002, and continues to be played by thousands of players. It supports casual and competitive modes, and one of the major advantages it has over MTG Arena is that it contains almost every card ever printed, while Arena only has some of the most recent.

One problem MTG Online has is its complex economy. While the game itself is free, registering an account costs $9.99. Furthermore, cards, event tickets, avatars and packs all either cost real money or can be traded on a virtual secondary market. Furthermore, MTG Online's interface is quite a bit rougher than Arena's and features text chat that may become toxic during competitive play.

MTG Arena Advantages

In contrast to MTG Online, MTG Arena is the flashier younger brother of the virtual MTG ecosystem. It released for PC in 2019 and mobile devices in 2021. It's fully free to play, though microtransactions do exist to purchase the game's premium currency, Gems, and pre-order bundles for new sets.

In general, MTG Arena has a simpler economy than online, allowing packs and event entry to be paid in either standard or premium currency. Players can earn currency by playing the game and completing "quests" such as playing a certain number of cards of a specific color, or by winning games. While there isn't a trading system, "Wildcards" allow players to redeem them for any card of the appropriate rarity they wish, offsetting some of the randomness of packs.

MTG Arena is also a more streamlined experience than MTG Online, featuring detailed battle backgrounds, animations and sound effects. Its limited card pool is also more welcoming to new players and players who wish to focus on just one format at a time.

Which Should you Play?

MTG Online caters more to experienced players who have been playing Magic for a decade or more. Its full card pool allows players to build any deck they want and play in any format they want, but its complex economy and bare-bones presentation may turn off casual players.

MTG Arena is perfectly suited for new and casual players. Its totally free-to-play model and spruced up presentation make it a more palatable experience, and its availability on mobile devices is perfect for players on the go. Overall, Arena is the better choice unless you are a die-hard veteran who craves the classic Magic experience.