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MTG vs MTG Arena: What Are The Key Differences?

Everything You Need To Know About Wizards Of The Coast’s Latest Online Offering 

Magic: The Gathering is the oldest trading card game in the world and it was created by a group of friends in the early 90s. 

These friends wanted to create a more portable version of a board game that they could carry around with them and use in public. Little did they know they would be changing the gaming industry forever. 

Fast forward to 2018, when the beta version of Magic: The Gathering Arena was released. This online game was a reimagining of the card game, created to play online. Thanks to the internet they were able to create a more dynamic and interactive version of the game loved by millions of people around the world. 

You can even get tools like the MTGA Assistant to help enhance your gaming experience. 

Today, we are going to be looking at the two games, what they have in common and how they differ. 

What Is Magic: The Gathering 

Magic: The Gathering is a card game that was produced by Wizards of the Coast in the early 1990s. Card packs that allow players to expand and strengthen their decks have been released since then. 

One of the founding ideas of MTG is the 5 types of magic. Each is represented by a different color in the game. This system allows players to design their own decks with a mixture of cards they collect. Each deck can be unique and still function well. 

Another benefit to this color system was that it made it possible for the game to be expanded infinitely – unlike most of the board games available at the time. Much like sports trading cards, they could release new cards every year and not have to worry about making their previous releases redundant. 

This system has been used by many other trading card games since. 

What Is Magic: The Gathering Arena

Magic: The Gathering Arena is a digital version of MGT that started beta testing in 2017 and was fully released in 2019. The game came to mobile in 2021. 

MTG Arena was not the first online version of Magic: The Gathering, but it is by far the most modern and cohesive. MTG Arena is designed in the same way as the card game, it can be expanded upon repeatedly without invalidating older cards.

Players are asked to create online decks of cards and battle one another with them. There are themed events, tournaments, and AI competitors available in the game. 

There is an in-game currency that can be used to buy new packs of cards. 

The Key Differences 

These two games have many similarities. 

For one, they are at the very base level, they are the same game, they use the same rules, and follow the same playing patterns. If you know how to play MTG you will be able to play MTG Arena. 

They are also set in the same universe, players of both games play as planeswalkers who travel around the multiverse with their armies and battle other planeswalkers. 

The cannon storyline is also the same for both games. 

Let’s take a look at how they differ. 

MTG Arena Takes Place Online 

This is the most obvious difference between the two games, but it is the biggest difference. 

MTG is a physical game that you play using paper cards. MTG Arena is a game that is played online using digital cards. 

Playing online opens the game up to a whole range of new possibilities that didn’t exist when the game was first created in the 1990s. Online you can play with people from all over the world, you can instantly get new cards, and you can enjoy a range of extra features. 

MTG Arena Offers Interactive Events Alongside Card Releases 

Wizards of the Coast chose not to start a new storyline when they launched MTG Arena. Instead, they incorporated it into their already existing universe and cannon. 

New releases mean that new worldwide events are launched on MTG: Arena. 

These launches have varied over the years – but most have included some kind of battle challenge that ends with winning an exclusive set of cards. 

This does not happen with the paper cards, there would be no way to do this unless physical events were held, where the hosts would play the opponents. 

A new card launch means that there will be big changes in MTG Arena. 

MTG Arena Offers More Features 

When you play with paper cards, you are limited to what you can do. You need to have someone to play against you in the same location. 

MTG Arena is not limited in this way. 

MTG Arena offers tournaments, events, new ways to build decks, and incredible interactive graphics. The experience as a whole is more immersive than its paper predecessor. 

You can even earn free cards for winning battles on MTG Arena, which you cannot do with the paper game. 

There are even MTG Arena ESports events that have a prize pool of $1 million dollars. 

The Storyline Of MTG Arena Is More Central To Player Experience 

It is possible to play the paper version of Magic: The Gathering without even knowing there is an in-universe storyline that governs the cards that are released by the company. In fact, many people do just this. 

However, when you are playing MTG Arena, everything is tied up to the storyline. The opponents you will encounter will be based on the story, the in-game events will be based on the story, and even the overall theme of the website is inspired by the current story. 

It is much more central to the players’ gaming experience. 

You Cannot Buy Specific Cards ON MTG Arena 

Due to the format of the game, when you are playing MTG Arena, you have to buy mystery packs to get cards. 

While this is the way you are meant to play the paper game, there are many sites online that will allow you to shop for the specific cards you want. This can be a faster and cheaper way to build a deck. 

It also means that you are in control of the cards you own, with mystery packs, what you get comes down to luck – you may get something amazing, or you may be disappointed. 

Can I Convert My Physical Decks To MTG Arena 

If you already own a selection of paper MTG cards, you may be wondering if you can convert them into digital cards.

The sad news is that this is not possible. There is no way to convert or link your physical decks to the online game. 

Not all of the cards that exist in the paper version of the game currently exist in MTG Arena. 

To get digital cards you must earn or buy them online. 


MTG Arena is an online card game that is based on the physical card game Magic: The Gathering. They are both based in the same universe and many of the cards exist in both games.

While they are similar in many ways, MTG Arena is an upgraded form of the game that allows you to play with people from all over the world, enjoy interactive graphics, and do things that you could never do with a physical deck of cards. 

Both of the systems have their benefits but if you want to be able to enjoy a more modern form of Magic: The Gathering, then we recommend playing MTG Arena. 


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