MTG Arena, Wizards of the Coast's online interface for Magic: The Gathering play, has been increasingly important in the last year. Between the shift to esports for competitive play and the pandemic's toll on the "Gathering" aspect of Magic: The Gathering, MTG Arena has been a major source for gameplay. However, MTG Arena has always been different from paper Magic in a variety of ways, and today's "State of the Game" update for December doesn't change that fact. In a move that further distances MTG Arena from paper Magic: The Gathering, the developers for MTG Arena have decided to put a limit on the amount of tokens on each player's side of the battlefield at one time to 250.
The line of thinking from the developers is sound; after all, while in paper it's easy to shorthand doubling how many of a certain token someone has, on a computer each of those triggers has to resolve one by one. Given that the maximum number of tokens a player could have on Arena was previously 2,147,483,647, players often found themselves losing to time or crashing the game when Scute Swarm got going.
However, this decision by the developers sets a disturbing precedent for Arena, and perhaps for the game as a whole. It's obvious that Wizards of the Coast is looking at more and more mechanics that are easily applied to digital interfaces over manual ones. Cards such as Crystalline Giant are a good example of this. As easy as it is to randomize a type of counter on a creature on MTG Arena, it's far more frustrating in paper Magic.
But this is a horse of a different color, so to speak. This update ultimately changes the rules of the game itself by imposing a limit on how many creatures can feasibly be in play.
In an extreme corner case, 250 creature tokens may not be enough for a player to win the game. Say your opponent has a 251/251 creature with trample and you only have 250 toughness worth of tokens, but they're all copies of Scute Swarm, and you could make more tokens, if not for this new rule. In a paper game, you'd win. On Arena, you'd lose.
If it were up to me, there would be another solution, one that does not involve a limit on how many tokens can be generated in a game, or any other number-based limitation, if possible. Perhaps Scute Swarm simply needed to be banned outright instead.
Speaking of high-figures, Wizards also used the State of the Game article to announce yet another Arena Open tournament event, starting five days from now on December 12th. Once more, players will have an opportunity to vie for $2,000 USD by playing best-of-one or best-of-three Historic Constructed. A few restrictions and terms apply, but the event looks like it'll be fun for those who can cough up the 20,000 gold or 4,000 gems with less than a week of notice. Players must win seven best-of-one matches or four best-of-three matches in order to qualify for the second of this two-day event, and then whoever can manage seven wins on day two wins $2,000. Even if players only win six of their seven day-two matches, they'll make $1,000. If this sounds lucrative to you, it might be something to consider entering.
Finally, a few more events are underway as of the December update, due to fire up on the 10th of the month. These include Standard and Historic Shake-Up events, Cube Draft, and Historic Brawl. That last event will be available with no cost to players for a few days in early January, from the 2nd to the 8th.