Top 8 MTG Arena Bugs

Ryan Normandin
August 02, 2019

 For years, Magic players everywhere rejoiced at repeated opportunities to gripe over what a horrible program Magic: the Gathering Online (MTGO) was. Allegedly*, it was an AIM-style messaging software that was repurposed last-minute to play the world’s most complicated card game, and that didn’t go over too well. From cards crashing the game on the spot to the most recent, still-denied “scry bug,” MTGO always provided fodder for conversation among Magic players, that passionate group which loves nothing more than to complain. After complaining about the weather and complaining about each format chronologically, they inevitably progressed to complaining about MTGO.

But today, Magic Arena (MTGA) has changed everything. With queue times on MTGO allegedly* reaching weeks for Standard and Modern besieged by Hogaak, players have allegedly* left the program in droves, migrating to the new, sleek MTGA, with its fancy animations, terrible draft bots, and alleged* ties to Vladimir Putin and the election-hacking scandal.



This means that now, players have found a bountiful bonanza of bugs in MTGA, including everything from the ability to erase all files from its parent directory (that was a real one) to allegedly* leaking images of your face, your fingers, and your preference for either apples or bananas to foreign governments, domestic governments, and 13-year-olds who just learned what “a Linux” is.


In these terrifying times of playing the Beta version of a game that has random switches that conceal half the gameplay options, menus that require you to return to the homepage every time you want to go back one level, and animations so terrifying and realistic that they allegedly* put multiple minors (all SCG grinders) into the hospital, I have decided to list my eight favorite bugs, or, as WotC calls them, “features,” that have graced the game with their presence.

(*I am the one alleging these things. And before you ask, I don’t have any “evidence” or “proof” or “facts” to back up these allegations. I read on the internet that I don’t need those anymore, and I am now allowed to just “say things.” Poop!)

 8. Random Avatar Display

Magic Arena, like the card game, which free t-shirt you wear, and the side of your parents’ house you vandalized, is a venue for self-expression. In the card game, you can build wonky decks like Standard Arcane Adaptation to express to everyone you play with who you are – a loser. In MTGA, this is done not just through deck construction, but also through the selection of your avatar. Once your avatar is selected, their head is severed, propped on a stick, and displayed while you play your card game – or so we thought.

Many players who have played against streamers on Twitch discovered something unexpected when they ghosted their opponent: that board wipe was a top-deck. They also discovered that the avatar their opponent had chosen to express themselves was not the same one they were seeing. While the most likely explanation is that all the avatars are simply Lazav, and he gets confused shapeshifting sometimes, the second most likely explanation is that it’s a bug, and a troubling one at that. If I can’t reliably express to my opponent that I’m an angsty teenager (Jace), a hothead who compulsively and obsessively makes terrible puns (Chandra), or a sexy wizard who just doesn’t believe in wearing much clothing (Karn), then what’s even the point of playing the game?


 7. Skipping Priority when I Need it the Most


Imagine that, like a diamond in the sand or some cocaine in your table salt, you find a friend. The moment you do, you ditch Magic: the Gathering to play some real esports, like FIFA. Or that other game which is the same as digital soccer except, for some reason, the players are all cars. While playing this game, the opposing team shoots on your goalie, and the game doesn’t permit you to move the goalie character (or car-acter) to attempt to block the shot. “Alas!” you might cry. “Why would the game not grant me the ability to respond when I need it the most?”

Every day, millions of players allegedly throw their computers out the window, all thanks to Legion Warboss. Even though they have the Shock in hand, MTGA decides to skip the opportunity to cast that Shock and move directly to the part where the Warboss finds their friend and throws it at you. This makes it into the Top 8 bugs because, while since allegedly fixed, it is the bug responsible for the most real-life damaged hardware.


6. Adapt

We’ve all been in that weird mood where we turn on Spotify looking for something… we just can’t put our finger on it. Eventually we search for “bubbling goop” as a keyword and find just the right tune. You know the one: it sounds like bubbling goop. But it’s not enough. In your ravenous aural state, you need more. You find the track “Bubbling Goop” by Momir Vig ft. Kraj, and import it into Garage Band. Once there, you layer the track onto itself over and over and over again until eventually… you have something magical. A strange electronic dubstep melody that is just lots of bubbling goop.

Wizards allegedly became aware of the bubbling goop craze and decided to put it into MTGA as an easter egg in the first month of the Simic Adapt mechanic. The first activation would play the “Bubbling Goop” track on loop, and multipled would stimply layer on top. Eventually, you would achieve what could only be described as the audio version of Simic Ascendancy.


5. Cat-Clicking

Everyone knows that cats have attitude. They’re sassy, rude, and they can turn against you at the drop of a hat. Wizards of the Coast knew that, if they were going to give you a pet cat in Arena, they needed to make that experience authentic. Boy, did they!

During those first couple of days, the billionaires of MTGA, the 1% who have foiled-out Jund decks that they throw out after every use (too much work to unsleeve and resleeve, you know?), went wild purchasing gaudy cats on Arena that they could flaunt against their enemies. Some people buy sports cars, some buy big houses, and some… well, some buy digital cats that change color when you click on them. But alas, those digital cats still had the weakness of being cats, and they quickly turned against their purchaser. Players discovered that clicking on their opponents’ cats could freeze up the entire game for their opponent, forcing a concession.

And that, my friends, is how I allegedly hit #1 Mythic with a deck of 60 Islands – and no sideboard.

 4. Blocking is a Bug, not a Feature

Wizards has made it clear that they hate the idea of players blocking. They want players to attack, attack some more, and then cast Nexus of Fate for three hours while their opponent ropes them. Even in the early days of MTGA, when Anointed Procession and Hidden Stockpile were legal, who was going to go through and click on a hundred different tokens to block in the mirror without timing out? Even on MTGO, the mirror clearly favored the attacker; it was often more advantageous to simply attack all every turn since everything had lifelink anyways.

More recently, Wizards has resorted to some other interesting ways to encourage a lack of blocking to speed up games. When the game prompts you to “Select Blockers,” what it really means is “click on your card a few times, watch as nothing happens, and then just declare no blocks out of frustration.” Of course, if you click enough times or wait for long enough, the game eventually lets you block. But nobody but the most committed pro-blocking advocates are going to actually do that. Hell, I click through my turn so fast that I regularly “attack all” with my 0/3’s into 4/4’s; I don’t have time to wait to assign my blockers! I look forward to seeing what creative features Wizards will come up with next to encourage attacking and fast games.


3. Keep it Clean, Take your Actions

Wizards wants to be a top dog in the esports world, and they have two methods of doing that. First, Hearthstone is bae. Second, make the game friendly to new players. What this means is that they want players to cast all the spells they can before moving on. To helpfully suggest that, you can see that Arena has removed the button allowing you to progress to the next phase if there is an action that you can take, even if you don’t want to. It looks like the player with priority is decently ahead in this game, and that’s no fun! Wizards wants to encourage close, interactive games, so unless this player casts Time Wipe, they will lose.

But let’s also talk about the elephant in the room here: this player has a Teferi on the battlefield, so don’t they, like, kind of deserve to lose…? They don’t want anyone to have fun, and that should include them.

 2. The Stack is Confusing

When most games release a “patch,” it does things like fix bugs or (allegedly) steal your personal information. But Wizards knows better; they know that the best way to get people to stop talking about the bugs that won’t go away is to introduce new, snazzier bugs! In one of the latest patches, many more bugs than can fit in this Top 8 article were introduced, but the best is certainly the one displayed here. Once casting a spell or playing a land or attacking a player, stuff just stops. You can keep playing, but the images are stuck and, even though a creature really might be on the battlefield, you need to click on it where the image is stuck on the stack in order to manipulate it. Of course, Wizards has been telling us that the stack is confusing for years and, with this new improvement to Arena, they’ve finally proven it.

 1. Pinchy McStingbutt


Scorpions belong to the class Arachnida, making them cousins of spiders. As such, they definitely count as bugs. From the beginning, Pinchy has been there for all of us. When our opponent was taking forever trying to decide whether to swing at us when we had no blockers, Pinchy provided us with amusement as we clicked on him. When we were exulting at the simple fact that MTGA was not MTGO, nothing proved it like clicking on Pinchy. And, when we were unaware of Pinchy’s existence, therefore slapping at the black speck that we assumed to be a bug on our screen – that, too, was the joy of Pinchy McStingbutt. As the only bug in the game that truly enriches our experience, rather than turning our experience into a high-tech, creative version of the war we fought for years on MTGO, Pinchy deserves all of our love and gratitude. I salute you, Pinchy. May your claws remain pinchy and your butt stingy for many years to come.



 Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.