Last updated on March 21, 2021
It wasn’t that long ago that MTGA was a friendless wasteland where you were forced to play your games with strangers. Since just December of 2019, though, we’ve had access to a new feature: the MTG Arena Friends List.
But we didn’t get here without a couple of bumps along the road, and there’s sure to be plenty more ahead as well. So, how did we get to this point, and what should we expect in the future for the Friends List?
The History of the Friends List
The Friends List has been a point of contention in the MTG Arena community for quite some time. The open beta launched in September of 2018, and players started asking about the potential for this feature almost right away. In fact, the Friends List has been a recurring topic over on the MTGA subreddit.
Some posts only mention wanting the Friends List while others rant about various changes and additions being implemented before the Friends List. Which, to be fair, there’s been a lot of. Especially considering that the Friends List wasn’t added until long after Arena officially launched.
In fact, there were so many of these posts that new tabs started to open in the Æther somewhere and this is what my browser looked like:
Suffice it to say, there has been many a discussion regarding social features in the MTG community, both recently and since Arena was launched.
A Rocky Start
All right, so the community has been clamoring for social features for a long time. And though it took quite a while to get there, Wizards didn’t… totally drop the ball. Long before the Friends List was implemented, they added what even they called a quick fix to stave off the social feature pandemonium (if only for a little while): Direct Challenges.
Direct Challenges, Pre-Friends List
This was likely a hastily put-together, probably not-very-thought-out feature and it really showed. Players had tons of issues with their challenges not sending properly, if at all.
There were no notifications and no accepting or declining challenges. Instead, both players would challenge each other to end up in the same “queue”, so to speak. Direct Challenges would sit in wait in this empty queue either until an hour had passed, at which point they would be kicked, or until the challenged player sent their own Direct Challenge in response.
To make matters worse, because each player had to send a Direct Challenge to the other in order to play, they both had the chance to select their own set of match options. If the players chose different options, say player A chose BO1 while player B chose BO3, an “options mismatch error” message would pop-up and they’d have to start all over again.
Oh, and sometimes you didn’t even make it that far. Display names with spaces in them didn’t work properly, which was never fixed. You would have to manually re-enter the space in the display name. This isn’t a super big deal, but giving players what should have been a temporary workaround instead of an actual fix isn’t really the best look.
The Friends List Reception
The first whisper that we heard about the Friends List finally being added to MTG Arena was in the September State of the Game last year. Wizards announced that this would be the first of many social features to be implemented including messaging friends and sharing decks. It seems like this wasn’t meant to be, though, as the October announcement saw the feature delayed.
And then November came along and WotC announced that the Friends List would be added to MTG Arena in that month’s update. A week later and players’ hopes were dashed when the MTG Arena Twitter account posted this:
December chills brought the cold shoulder with a hidden burst of cheer. If you had been hoping to get some updates in the State of the Game, you would have been sorely disappointed. However, the Friends List feature was in fact implemented on December 12 during the game’s scheduled update.
Its reception was less than warm, however. Expectations were high since the community has been asking for the feature for so long. But when it seemed like we were finally getting it, there were not one, but two delays. Some players were even unaware that the feature was even implemented in December.
What the Friends List Looks Like Now
The Friends List has been live for just under two months now, so it’s high time we take a look at what we’ve got. And though Wizards has mentioned future possibilities, there is lots more that I’m sure we all want to see sprout from this.
Current State and the Community’s Requests
The Friends List as it stands now is pretty simple, allowing you to add players by their display name (including #####) or the email associated with their account. You can currently have up to 200 friends (this includes outgoing requests that are still pending) on MTG Arena, and friend requests never expire.
A notification (of sorts, we’ll get to that in a second) appears when you receive a friend request, and you can block incoming requests in general if you so choose. There’s also an option to block an unlimited number of players through the Friends List, though only the first 50 that you block will be displayed in MTGA.
You can reject friend requests, which will also clear it from your pending queue. The other player will not be notified that you rejected the request, though, it’ll just get permanently stuck in their outgoing requests.
You’ll also now be able to send Challenges to any online friends. The player who sends the Challenge sets the match options (BO1 vs BO3, 60-card deck or Brawl, and coin flip options) and all the receiving player has to do is accept. The only two known issues at this point revolve around this aspect of the Friends List.
If two friends simultaneously send each other a Challenge, they’ll both be stuck in an outgoing Challenge waiting on a response. The current workaround is to simply have one friend exit out of their outgoing Challenge and accept the one they were sent (i.e., don’t send each other Challenges, have one friend send and one friend accept).
The second issue comes up if you receive a Challenge from a friend while you have the play blade open and change any of the game parameters e.g., you were challenged to BO1, but you want to play BO3. This will leave your friend in a locked state. The workaround for this is to not change anything when you receive a Challenge and instead cancel out of it and resend it with the changed options.
And we’re getting some updates in March 2020! This game update should see you now able to message your friends in Arena, along with the ability to manually mark yourself as “Busy” or “Offline”. There’s also an update to the emote system as we’ll now be able to respond to “Nice” with “Thanks” and “Oops” with “Sorry”. It’s not much but, seeing as there’s no way to add an opponent you don’t know IRL, it’s… well, something.
How Tos, Step-by-Step
Now that we’ve talked about what you can and can’t do with the Friends List, let’s show you how to actually do those things! We’ll keep this updated whenever new features get added, so consider this your one-stop-shop for all things Friends List.
Finding Your 5 Digit Number
1. Open the “Profile” tab—your username along with the five-digit number associated with your account will be displayed on the top left
Blocking All Friend Requests
1. Click the “Adjust Options” menu on the top right
2. Click “Account” at the bottom of the Options menu that appears
3. Select the “Block Incoming Friend Requests” checkbox at the bottom of the Account menu
1. Open your Friends List
2. Click the plus icon at the top of the list
3. The “Send Friend Request” pop-up will appear—input the display name and five-digit number or email of the person you want to add and then click “Send”
- If the request is accepted, your new friend will appear in the Friends List above your Sent Requests, Incoming Requests, and Blocked Users (if you have any)
- Pending requests will appear in your Friends List under “Sent Requests”
Accepting and Rejecting Friend Requests
- When you have a pending friend request, the friends icon will have a fiery glow and jump around a bit
1. Open your Friends List
2. Your pending requests will appear under “Incoming Requests”—click the red minus sign (left button) to reject the friend request or the green checkmark (right button) to accept it
Unfriending and Blocking Friends
1. Open your Friends List
2. Right-click on the friend you want to unfriend or block and then click the appropriate option, either “Unfriend” or “Block”
3. A confirmation pop-up will appear asking if you’re sure you want to unfriend/block this person—click “OK”
- Unfriended players will disappear from your Friends List
- Blocked players will show up under “Blocked Users”
Messaging Your Friends
- You can’t open a chat window with an offline friend if you haven’t messaged them before
- The number on your Friends List panel shows you how many of your friends are currently online
1. Open your Friends List
2. Hover over the online friend you want to message and then click on the chat bubble to the left of their name
3. Type your message in the message bar and then hit “Enter” or click the arrow to the right
- You can press “Tab” to cycle through your chats and open the next one (if you only have one, it’ll just close the current chat instead and you can hit it again to reopen it) or “Esc” to close the chat window
- If you have messaged an offline friend before, you’ll be able to open the chat window but won’t be able to send any messages until they’re online
Marking Yourself as Busy or Offline
- Marking yourself as Busy means you’ll still receive friend requests and messages, you just won’t get a notification pop-up for them
- Marking yourself as Offline removes you from the social features and you won’t be able to receive any friend requests or messages
1. Open Your Friends List
2. Click on the three-dots icon at the bottom right of the menu
3. A pop-up will appear with three options: “Online”, “Offline”, and “Busy (Notifications Off)”—click the one you want to appear as
- If you mark yourself as “Offline”, your Friends List will be blank until you change your status to either “Busy” or “Online”
Accepting and Rejecting Challenges
1. Open your Friends List
2. Click on the play blades next to your friend’s display name to accept the Challenge or the red minus to reject the Challenge
- Any friends that have sent you a challenge will have the play blades icon along with the red minus button available
3. If you accepted the Challenge, the Challenge setup menu will appear—click “Accept”
4. The same menu will reappear now with an option to select your deck—click the big plus icon and then select/edit your deck and click “Play”
- You’ll be brought to the queue screen while you wait for your friend to select/edit their deck and join you
1. Open your Friends List
2. Click the play blades icon to the right of the friend that you want to Challenge
3. The Challenge setup menu will appear—change any settings at the top as you want to and then click “Challenge”
- If your friend rejects your Challenge, you will receive a pop-up notification that they did so
- A red minus button will appear next to your friend’s display name in your Friends List along with a loading wheel over their play blade when you have sent them a pending Challenge
4. Once your friend has accepted the Challenge, a “Challenge Accepted” notification will appear—click “Join Now”
5. The Challenge setup menu will appear with an option to select your deck—click the big plus icon and then select/edit your deck and click “Play”
Goodbye, My Friend
There have been calls for more social features beyond just a Friends List in the game. This post on the MTG Arena subreddit covered some of the most common requests along with some others that we think would be a great add like observing games, sharing decks, and showing your collection and/or decks to friends.
Though WotC did say in their January State of the Game that they would be adding a messaging feature for friends in the next few months, so hopefully we’ll be able to tick off the most requested add-on sooner rather than later (no further word on sharing decks, though).
As it stands, we’ll just have to wait and see what this Friends List turns into. Some in the community have pointed out that, with no extra features to speak of other than blocking friends, this feels a lot like a (definitely improved) rehash of the Direct Challenge with up to 200 saved opponents instead of just five.
What social feature do you want to see added to MTG Arena the most? Is there a social feature that you definitely don’t want to see? Let us know in the comments down below!