BO1: The Future?

I know this topic has probably been done to death on every MtG forum, but looking at Arena right now (and at WotC employees' responses to queries), it seems like best of 1 matches are the way forward for the near future at least. More troubling is the way best of 3 is being made more and more inaccessible. You need to flick a switch (from Arena Play Modes to All Play Modes) and then look through the side menu to even find it. Even if you find it, it doesn't contribute to the ladder rank. Direct challenge matches are also best of 1 (made the Arena Twitch Rivals matches a pain).

What does this mean for Arena, and even Magic as a whole? I have nothing against best of 1, and I do enjoy some best of 1 in some formats (like draft or singleton, and of course kitchen table games), but best of 3 has always been the essence of Magic for me, especially competitive Magic. Sideboarding is a wonderful thing that really sets Magic apart from other TCGs and I feel that the Arena team's current 'agenda' is pushing that away. I don't want the game to lose what makes it special. BO1 has its own issues: being at the mercy of RNG and mana flood/screw, fast aggro >> slow reactive decks, entire archetypes being unplayable, goldfish decks that don't survive sideboarding taking centre stage, etc. Why shouldn't best of 3 be advertised with the same amount of visibility? Why shouldn't it contribute to season rank? Not to mention Arena is now a way to qualify for Pro Tours Mythic Championships, which will of course be best of 3. Or will they?

This raises all sorts of questions, and the possible answers make me uneasy. What are your thoughts on this, Cardsmith Community? What's your take on best of 1 vs best of 3? Which would you rather play, and why? Do you agree/disagree with any of the points I've raised? Let's have a discussion!


  • Just because Arena is using best of one doesn't mean best of three will be going anywhere anytime soon.

    Best of three is still played predominantly at most paper tournaments, whether they be actual tournaments or FNMs, and, of course, pro tours. And since most people who play magic play paper, that's an indicator of arena not being able to dominate anytime soon. While Wizards is putting emphasis on a lot of weird things when it comes to arena, I honestly don't think it's gonna make waves.
  • @Lujikul: I do hope you're right. Arena's Curious Obsession (sorry) with best of 1 seems to be a response to the success of the likes of Hearthstone, although it seems an odd tactic considering they barely share a target audience.

    And yes, as you said, tournaments will probably continue to be best of 3 but this raises questions of why the qualification for a best of 3 tourney should be based on ranking in a best of 1 system. Surely the same players don't necessarily do well in both? Either have qualification be based on best of three or make best of 1 a completely new format and devote the tournament to that format.

    Looking at all the (not-undeserved) hype that Arena is getting and considering 6 of the 10 MC's next year are going to be on Arena, I feel like this is a high priority for the devs to fix. Let best of 1 be there, but also provide ranking for best of three. And dear lord get rid of that "Arena Play Modes" button, even intelligence agencies can't hide information as successfully as that button. These requests seem fair, but responses from Arena staff haven't sounded very encouraging. They respond with rather misleading stats to show that more best of 1 matches are played than best of 3 (note that they used number of matches played, not number of players in each format, since of course you can play 2-3 BO1 in the time it takes to play 1 BO3 so that number will always be higher). It's the response from Wizards that has scared me a bit, actually. They seem eager to avoid discussion about this.

    This is rather concerning and only solidifies my fears. I feel like things like Sphinx of Foresight, Knight of Autumn, etc were also designed for BO1.
  • Not anything to be incredibly concerned about, yet. While it's likely that a few other cards were also designed for best of one, flexibility in cards will help for more interesting games, I think. It's not much worse than tossing a couple cards (including even rare slots) to the commander format.
  • Plus Arena wants to attract new players, and sideboarding is an artform in and of itself.
  • @Lujikul and @Corwinnn: I appreciate the added flexibility on cards in any format, and I also understand that sideboarding is a daunting task. While I have a decent understanding of Standard, Modern sideboard strategy is a bit of a headscratcher even today, and I can sympathize with how new players feel, having been one just three years ago. I have nothing against best of 1. On the other hand, I am against disincentivising best of 3. It costs more to enter, is less rewarding, and is hidden behind a rather confusing button. I just want WotC to be honest and open with the community and tell us what they're trying to do, I guess, rather than mislead us with cherry-picked stats. I want both options to be available and equally viable, that's all.
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