Last updated on October 31, 2023
Soliton | Illustration by Jason Felix
The release of MTG Arena on mobile devices in 2021 gave players a new way to play Magic. It was far from the first time we could play Magic digitally, but it gave us a new level of convenience. Now we could play Magic between classes, while waiting for a bus, or even just sneak a quick game on our lunch break.
It’s available on multiple platforms and lets you play whenever works for you. You can play on Android and iOS, and you can play every format you can play on your desktop. So let’s get to the details!
How Does MTGA Mobile Work? Is It Any Good?
Urza's Workshop | Illustration by Alexander Forssberg
MTG Arena works incredibly similarly on mobile when compared to its desktop version. As mentioned before, you can play all the same formats and decks on a mobile device that you could on a desktop. Staying on the desktop for a moment, for more cards and eternal formats like Legacy, Pioneer and Modern you need to compare MTGA and Magic Online.
Personally, I find the mobile app on iOS to be incredibly stratifying and worthwhile. I primarily play Arena on mobile instead of on my desktop. While there’s a mild inconvenience in deckbuilding, the mobile release has been plenty of fun and actually led to me playing more Magic.
Availability on iOS
MTG Arena was made available on the mobile iOS system on March 25, 2021. Here’s a list of supported mobile devices:
- iPhone 14
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 11
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPad Pro de 12″ (3.a/4.a generation)
- iPad Pro 11″ (1.a/2.a generation)
- iPad Air (3.a/4.a generation)
- iPad (8.a generation)
- iPad mini (5.a gen)
Availability on Android
Arena became available on Android a little sooner than iOS, on January 28, 2021. Here are the mobile devices that support playing MTGA on Android:
- Asus ROG Phone 3
- Asus ROG Phone II
- Galaxy Note 10+
- Google Pixel 7
- Google Pixel 6
- Google Pixel 3
- Google Pixel 2
- Honor Play 4
- LG G7 ThinQ
- Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G
- Huawei Mate 30 Pro 4G
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro
- Huawei P30 Pro
- Huawei P20 Pro
- Motorola One 5G
- OnePlus 8
- OnePlus 7 Pro
- OnePlus 6T
- Oppo Reno3 5G
- Oppo Reno 3 Vitality
- Realme v3
- Redmi 10X Pro 5G
- Redmi K30 5G Racing
- Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S10
- Samsung Galaxy S9
- Sony Xperia XZ2
- Sony Xperia XZ3
- Vivo Y70s
- Xiaomi Redmi K30 Ultra
Mobile vs. Desktop
Arena's “Home” page looks the same between mobile and desktop, as you can see when comparing iOS to the desktop:
The Home Page
Mobile “Home” page:
Desktop “Home” page:
There’s a little more space in the desktop version, but that’s the only difference. Beyond that the functionality is the same. You can tap through to find the events on mobile behind the “Play” button:
The “Play” menu also holds your most recently played formats to make jumping back in even easier:
All of this is well and good, but what does it look like when you’re actually playing on mobile? Well, it still looks pretty similar to how the desktop does. Here’s an example of what a mobile board state looks like:
There's a big emphasis on the art of the cards on the mobile app. You don’t really get to read the names of the creatures, but their power and toughness are clearly indicated, and the art is sizable enough to help identify them quickly.
Magic board states can still get bigger than this, and those can be trickier to parse. The cards can get small, but at a certain point, the mobile app lets you scroll to the side so you can see the entire battlefield at a reasonable scale.
One small issue with the mobile battlefield is the stack. You just don’t have a ton of space on mobile, and the stack takes up a lot of the screen:
It can be hard to tell what’s going on once multiple spells or abilities start cluttering up the stack. There’s not really room to have an expanded stack, leading to several tiny items getting piled atop one another. You can expand the stack by clicking on it, but it can be hard to parse when it’s full, especially the first couple times you play.
The Deck Builder
One place that the app is a little bit lacking comes from the deckbuilding interface in Limited and Constructed, though it’s far less cumbersome in Limited. The main issue you hit with the Limited interface is that you have to scroll a little bit:
There’s no configuration of the screen that allows you to see an entire draft pack at once like you can when playing on a desktop. That said, it’s a fairly minor inconvenience. After all, you only need to scroll through 14 cards to see what you’re picking.
But Constructed is a different matter. The interface looks the same on the surface:
It is, in fact, incredibly similar. But it’s far more inconvenient because there are just way more cards in Constructed. You can spend quite a bit of time scrolling if you don’t actually know what you’re looking for.
Another drawback is that you can’t add and remove multiple cards at once. To remove cards you need to expand the decklist at the bottom. Unfortunately, Arena has a tendency to knock you back to the start of the card list if you expand the decklist, adding even more time to deck assembly.
I will say that I’m fine with this inconvenience in the grand scheme of playing Arena on mobile. I may be a little biased since I mostly play Limited, but I’ve also built all my Brawl decks on mobile. Assembling the deck isn’t nearly as important as the experience we get playing it, which works just as well as on a desktop, even if the cards are a little smaller. Tuning a deck once it’s built is also far less of a hassle than when you start from scratch.
Workarounds for Non-Supported Devices
1. Download and install the MTG Arena client on your PC.
2. Download and install Steam, open it, and keep it open.
3. In Steam, open the Game dropdown menu on the top left and then click “Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library”.
4. Find and select “MTGA Launcher” or “MTG Arena” in the pop-up that appears and then click “Add Selected Programs”.
5. Download Steam Link from the Google Play Store on your Android.
6. Open Steam Link and then press “Get Started”.
7. Press “Use touch control” on the Pair Controller screen and then select your PC.
8. A 4-digit PIN will appear on your Android. Input this PIN in the Steam pop-up on your PC and then click “OK”.
9. A Testing Network screen will appear on your Android. Once the test is complete, press “OK” in the Network Test Complete pop-up on your phone.
Quick note: You may get an Unknown Device warning; if you do, click through this.
10. The Steam Link page with “Start Playing” will appear. Press “Settings” and then press “Streaming”.
11. Press “Advanced” at the bottom of the Streaming Settings page.
12. Change the Start Streaming Desktop option to “Enabled” using the arrows.
13. Press the back arrow at the top left of the page until you’re back to the main Steam Link screen and then press “Start Playing”.
Quick note: You may get a pop-up stating that additional driver installation is required; if you do, follow the prompts in Steam on your PC to install/update the appropriate driver and then press “Start Playing” again.
14. On your phone, press the options at the top left of the screen and make sure “Touch Controller” is Disabled and “Trackpad Cursor” (recommended) is selected as the Mouse option, and then press “Done”.
15. Open MTG Arena through Steam (you may need to make sure the “Full Screen” Graphics option is checked off), and start slinging spells!
1. Download and install the Epic Games Launcher on your Mac.
2. Download and install the MTG Arena client through the Epic Launcher.
3. Download and install Steam, open it, and keep it open.
4. In Steam, open the Game dropdown menu on the top left and then click “Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library”.
5. Find and select “MTGA Launcher” or “MTG Arena” in the pop-up that appears and then click “Add Selected Programs”.
6. Download Steam Link from the App Store on your iPhone.
7. Open Steam Link and then press “Get Started”.
8. Press “Use touch control” and then select your Mac of choice.
9. A 4-digit PIN will appear on your iPhone. Input this PIN in the Steam pop-up on your Mac and then click “OK”.
10. A Testing Network screen will appear on your iPhone. Once the test is complete, press “Continue” in the Network Test Complete pop-up on your phone.
Quick note: You may get an Unknown Device warning; if you do, click through this.
11. Press “Start Playing” and your Mac screen will become visible on your phone.
12. On your phone, open the options at the top left of the screen and make sure “Touch Controller” is disabled and the mouse option is selected for “Trackpad Cursor” and then press “Done”.
13. Open MTG Arena through Steam and start slinging spells!
The main issue you’ll run into using these screen-sharing methods is a bit of lag. It’s going to be trickier to play than it would be if you were natively using the application on your device, as well as a little slow and annoying. But the game will be playable as long as you’ve got a strong internet connection.
GeForce NOW (Android Only)
GeForce NOW is an app made by Nvidia that allows you to play games through a virtual cloud-based computer and play them remotely. That said, there is a membership fee. You can make a free account but you’ll be restricted to hour-long sessions unless you pay for a Priority or Ultimate monthly plan. It’s also only available on Android.
Here’s how to get it set up:
1. Download and install the NVIDIA GeForce NOW app on your Android device and then open it.
2. You’ll be brought to the Join Today to Play page. Click “Join Today” to create an account.
Quick note: Click “Log In” instead if you’ve already got an account and skip to step 6.
3. You’ll be brought to NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW page. Click “Join Today” again.
4. You’ll be brought to the Choose a Membership page. Click the “Join” option from whichever membership you'd prefer.
5. Input your information and then click “Sign Up”.
6. Once you’re signed in, use the search function on the top right to search for “Arena” and then click on the game.
7. MTG Arena’s page will open. Click “Play”.
Quick note: Click “Add to Library” to save MTGA to your games library.
8. A pop-up will appear letting you know that the game requires a keyboard and mouse. Click “Continue”.
Quick note: The game is playable on Android the same way you can play using screen sharing without a keyboard and mouse, but it's tedious and can be difficult to drag cards at times.
9. The MTG Arena log-in screen will appear. Click “Already have an account?” and then sign in.
Quick note: Tap the screen to click anywhere, and use the keyboard option on the top left of the screen to type.
10. You’re good to go! Select the event or format you’d like to play, select your deck, and click “Play” as you normally would.
The gameplay here is similar to playing with screen sharing. You’ll probably notice considerably less lag since the GeForce app lets you play with a virtual computer instead of making your mobile device read what’s happening on the desktop computer, which is what creates the lag.
Finale of Promise | Illustration by Jaime Jones
Magic has come a long way from when the only option to play the game was cracking packs around the kitchen table. There are now a plethora of digital options to choose from, and MTG Arena coming to mobile devices only increased those options. There’s even ways to play it if you don’t have a supported device.
The convenience of playing whenever, wherever makes up for some slightly adverse interface conditions that come from the mobile platform. Do you play Arena on mobile? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments below or on the Draftsim Twitter.
That's all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: