Wizards of the Coast was unusually open on its MTG Weekly stream on Tuesday, sharing a breakdown of the top MTG Arena formats by popularity. While discussing how MTG Alchemy has progressed in the last year, Blake Rasmussen and executive producer for digital Magic, Chris Kiritz, revealed a graph displaying how the four Constructed formats on Arena (Standard, Alchemy, Historic, and Explorer) square up against one another.
There’s few surprises here: the MTG Standard format wins out head and shoulders above the rest, with over 50% of play. Historic is second, with about 28% of the playtime. Then there’s MTG Alchemy at roughly 12%, and the game’s newest format, MTG Explorer, bringing up the rear with a meagre 7% of play. Kiritz describes Explorer as “the growing format that we’re trying to build right now”, but there’s little sign of that growth, at least from the stats shared.
This serves as a reminder that while the Standard format is struggling (the pessimistic would say dying out) in paper Magic, it’s still going strong on MTG Arena. In fact, it looks like the latest MTG Standard rotation has caused a spike in the format’s popularity, with plenty of players rushing back to figure out the new best MTG Arena decks after an influx of new cards and the removal of old ones. A similar spike seems to have occurred back in September, after the release of Dominaria United.
Smaller growth spikes, coinciding with other releases, can be seen in the remaining MTG Arena formats. For instance, Alchemy got more play in July until September, during the gap between main MTG sets, and doubtless fuelled by Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate. August’s Explorer Anthology also made a dent.
Rasmussen said on stream that the results show how “Alchemy is a place where people can go once they’ve explored Standard fully and they feel like they want something else – it’s a gap-filler in a way.”
Kiritz explained this why he schedules Alchemy releases a month after a main set – the upcoming Brothers’ War Alchemy set for instance providing a new way to play once some fans have seen enough of MTG The Brothers’ War.
Chris Kiritz deemed the results to be “very healthy” and said Wizards “always expected the formats to coalesce around some striation of this.”
Of course, we can only glean so much from Wizards’ graph. We’ve no inkling how many people are playing non-ladder formats such as MTG draft, sealed, or brawl. We also don’t know Arena’s total numbers- it might be that the actual playerbase for every one of these formats is growing or shrinking, but here we only see the percentage of the total population.