Curse of the Fire Penguin | Illustration by Matt Thompson
Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac are MTG Arena’s supported formats. But what if you’re part of the growing player base that would rather play on Linux?
While it’s very possible to sling your spells on Linux, getting MTG Arena to run may sometimes require a different kind of magic. I’ve got some tricks you can use to play Arena on your preferred OS.
Although MTG Arena doesn’t have an official Linux version, you can use compatibility tools like Wine, Lutris, Steam’s Proton or PlayOnLinux to run Arena on Linux.
MTG Arena has a “Gold” rating on Wine, meaning “Works as well as on Windows, but with workarounds required.” Running MTG Arena on Linux is perfectly possible but may need a couple of extra tricks.
Regardless of your operating system, first make sure your hardware meets the game’s system requirements:
- Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5600+ or Equivalent
- Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 8800 or Equivalent
- RAM: 2 GB
- Processor: Intel Core2 Quad Q9300 @ 2.50GHz
- Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 560
- RAM: 4 GB
Linux-based gaming software often relies upon a few fundamental apps, one of them being Wine. Wine is a free and open-source compatibility layer that allows Linux to run Windows software like Arena. Basically, Wine is a bridge between a Windows game (or other Windows application) and Linux.
Wine is run “under the hood” by other software (like Lutris or Proton) to let you run Windows games on Linux, but you can run MTG Arena directly on Wine.
In fact, Wine was one of the first workarounds that the Arena community used to run MTGA on Linux. In particular one high-profile content creator championed this method during Open Beta, and played MTG Arena on Linux in his stream.
(Note that the above tweet is five years old, so Wine’s current version is different).
To run Arena with Wine:
- Install Wine onto your Linux system either via Wine’s website or your distribution’s package manager.
- Download the MTG Arena installer for Windows either directly from MTGA’s website, the Epic store, or the link on Wine’s Arena page.
- Right-click on the installer file, select “Open With,” and then select “Wine” to run the installer.
Arena has a “Gold” rating on Wine, which is the rating for software that runs as well as (or better than) on Windows, but with workarounds sometimes needed. MTGA isn’t without a few known bugs, and users sometimes find that they need to partially reinstall MTGA on their systems whenever MTGA releases game update.
A fairly user-friendly method to play MTGA on Linux is through a game manager like Lutris.
Lutris is an open gaming platform designed specifically for Linux. As described on its official website, Lutris makes it easier to run Windows games, like MTG Arena. It comes with ready-to-use installation scripts that simplify the setup process. It can also connect with gaming services like Humble Bundle, GOG, and Steam, allowing you to play games that you own on those platforms.
I also highly recommend installing Wine from your package manager. Lutris usually won’t make use of it directly, but the peer dependencies installed from the Wine package are necessary to run Wine properly.
As attested by Redditors, Lutris has been a good way to play Arena on Linux since Open Beta, and it’s still the preferred choice for many to this day.
There are times when it won’t work for unclear reasons, specifically right after an update to the game is released.
Users have identified that this is sometimes related to the Visual C++ runtime needing an update; downloading the latest Visual C++ runtime and installing it in the Wine prefix could fix this.
Proton, developed by Valve, is an open-source tool (available on GitHub) that runs Wine and other compatibility tools “under the hood” and allows you to play Windows games on Linux through the Steam Play feature.
Users have already been using Steam to run Magic on Linux by adding MTG Arena to their library as a non-Steam game, but MTGA is now on Steam as of May 23, 2023.
You’ll need to install the Steam client on your Linux system and then enable Steam Play:
- Go to the Steam menu at the top-left corner and then select “Settings” to open the Settings window.
- Navigate to the “Steam Play” section.
- Check the box that reads “Enable Steam Play for supported titles”. This enables Proton for your Steam library.
- Search for “Magic: The Gathering Arena” in the Steam Store and then add it to your library.
- Once MTGA is in your Steam Library, right-click on the game’s entry in your Steam library and select “Properties.”
- Navigate to the “Compatibility” tab.
- Check the box “Force the use of a specific Steam Play compatibility tool” and then select the latest version of Proton from the drop-down menu.
Like Proton or Lutris, PlayOnLinux is another piece of software based on Wine that allows you to install and run Windows games. There’s a script for installing MTGA on PlayOnLinux, but it’s still in Beta.
PlayOnLinux is also rarely mentioned on the MTG Arena subreddit (compared to the many positive comments about Wine, Lutris and/or Proton), so it’s perhaps not the method you should try unless you already run PlayOnLinux or other methods fail.
How Does It Work? Is It Any Good?
There are several reports of MTG Arena breaking on Linux every time there’s an update to the game (which, to be fair, isn’t uncommon for Windows users, either).
Sometimes you’ll just have to “nuke it from orbit and reinstall.”
On the other hand, there are also reports of users having an even better performance on Linux than on Windows.
In other words, your mileage may vary when trying to run MTGA on Linux.
In principle yes, given that MTG Arena runs on Unity.
Reddit users were already pointing at this fact five years ago. As content creator Jeff Hoogland (who streamed while running MTGA on Linux) noted back at the time:
MTGA being made on Unity and therefore easily ported to Linux is also the main argument behind players requesting MTGA on Linux on Wizards’ official feedback page.
Does MTG Arena Run Better on Linux?
There’s no lack of users that have indeed found Arena to run better on Linux, but even a cursory search on Reddit tells you that “Nuking and reinstalling” isn’t uncommon and that minor bugs (from small visual glitches to lack of sound, blank screens, the Store tab not working, etc.) are also to be expected.
As of now, MTGA’s odds of running on Linux on your computer are well described by MTG Arena’s “Gold” rating in Wine: Arena indeed works on Linux, and sometimes even better than on Windows, but having to deal with workarounds should be expected.
Even nukes from orbit, sometimes!
In three harsh words: much smaller market. Fewer gamers use Linux compared to Windows, so there’s less incentive for companies to provide a native version and insure compatibility.
A good example is hardware driver support. Graphics card manufacturers often prioritize driver support for Windows, leading to better performance and compatibility on that platform while Linux support for some graphics cards may be limited or require additional configuration.
There’s also fragmentation: Linux has a wide range of distributions, each with its package management system, libraries, and configurations, which in turn create additional hurdles for game developers who wish to ensure compatibility across various distributions. As we all know, companies aren’t too fond of additional hurdles.
On the other hand, some of the biggest players in the PC gaming market clearly recognize the growing demand for Linux support. As we’ve seen with Steam, they’re actively working towards providing either native Linux versions or better compatibility with tools like Proton.
Finale of Devastation | Illustration by Bayard Wu
And that will be all for this outline of options to play MTG Arena on Linux! Are you a Linux user who also plays MTGA? Have you tried the new Steam release? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s official Discord.
And if you happen to like drafting, how about trying Arena Tutor on Linux, too? Arena Tutor runs under Overwolf, which itself has a Silver rating on Wine.
Good luck running MTGA on Linux, and may the bugs not be with you!
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