The vampire-laden Magic: The Gathering set Innistrad: Crimson Vow swooped onto Arena’s digital client November 11th, bringing with it the second promised half of the plane’s latest spotlight in the popular trading card game. Unfortunately, a host of game-breaking bugs and issues tagged along for the ride, and players experienced a fairly volatile opening day - even by Arena standards.
MTG publisher Wizards of the Coast began scheduled maintenance on the MTG Arena servers around 3 p.m. GMT, which lasted about three hours. Once finished, players began to notice several problems with matchmaking and draft formats using the newly released set of cards.
One of the more innocuous bugs was a lack of assets loading in when players would crack open packs of boosters in-game. Instead of the frankly impressive artwork across the set, the cards showed a greyed-out little homunculus known as Fblthp with a red warning sign in the corner. The game uses them when an asset is missing or the client is having trouble pulling it from install files, but many players apparently encountered the phenomenon for the first time and took to social media asking if Arena had given them useless blanks instead of digital cards.
In-game complications proved the more pervasive snag, both on mobile and PC platforms. After queuing for the Premier Draft or Sealed event - both part of the limited format where players craft a 40-card deck from booster pack contents - games would freeze up on an opponent’s turn if they waited too long to act. This is called “roping” and is normally an annoying but harmless way to show bad manners during a match.
Typically, priority is passed once a player burns through their time outs, but many claimed Arena simply stopped working. Locked in a game where neither competitor can act, it became a waiting game to see who would concede first and eat a loss in an event that costs a solid amount of gems - Arena’s premium currency.
Other players said their draft events simply booted them out, awarding them the consolation prize for zero wins regardless of whether or not they had actually ever started a match. The drafted cards were added to their collection, and the entry fee was not refunded - Arena seemingly decided to trash the chance for a higher payout like a faulty vending machine. A large number of community members on social media and Reddit claimed to have lost a draft opportunity in such a manner, going by the number of tweets, comments and threads asking for help.
We plan to do an automatic grant to @MTG_Arena players who had their draft and sealed events forcefully ended as a part of today's extended maintenance.— Wizards Customer Support (@Wizards_Help) November 11, 2021
We will continue to provide updates here as necessary. Thank you for your patience.
I experienced this first-hand on launch day, tossing 1,000 gems into a Premier Draft and coming out with an admittedly subpar deck (I lacked the Red and White creature support to field Odric, Blood-Cursed). I saved the deck and exited the app for lunch, returning to find one Crimson Vow booster pack and 50 gems presented with a little fanfare that felt somewhat sarcastic given the circumstances.
Wizards of Coast’s customer support Twitter account addressed the issue around 7:48 p.m. GMT, saying the company plans to grant affected players some sort of recompense, seeming to imply that the drafts forcefully ended “as a part of [November 11th’s] extended maintenance”. By 11 p.m. GMT, customer support said the issue had been resolved and the team was working to release grants to all affected players.
Magic Arena’s game director Jay Parker commented on a Reddit thread detailing what the grants will look like. “All players who had an event end early will receive gems equivalent to the sealed and/or draft entry fees (regardless of whether you entered with gold, gems, or tokens). You will also keep the cards from your original pool and whatever rewards you earned from the in-progress courses,” Parker said.
A common - and unhelpful - response to those players who reported issues was that launch days are always a buggy mess and those who play (and pay) on them should know better. It is true that Arena tends to fumble set launches with enough regularity that the community has learned to avoid the game for at least 12 hours post-update as a matter of course. Magic Arena has suffered from a historical lack of resources over the course of its lifetime, cutting planned features from a roadmap Wizards of the Coast once provided on its website before finally axing the roadmap altogether.
Dicebreaker reached out to the publisher to ask what might have caused the rocky reception to the vampire wedding but did not receive a response before publication. Given the amount of profit Arena reportedly makes for Wizards and parent company Hasbro, one wonders whether or not the development staff is receiving the resources or time necessary to run proper quality tests. The time between Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow was substantially shorter than normal for main set releases.
Innistrad: Crimson Vow will hold a paper prerelease event this weekend, beginning November 12th, and host a full physical launch on November 19th. This is the last big set planned for 2021, and next year will start with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty in February of next year.