Over the weekend, players at MTG Arena got a taste of something familiar but equally new; Gladiator. First appearing as a sanctioned format last weekend, Gladiator has been making waves on Arena since 2022. Similar to Commander, which MTG Arena is sorely lacking, Gladiator is a 100-card singleton format; however, with one essential difference: there is no commander. Despite this stark difference, last weekend Gladiator captured the hearts and minds of the MTG Arena community.
Come back gladiator, we miss you already
After disappearing from the spotlight at the end of the weekend, Arena players quickly began to clamor for his return. While not uncommon for Arena’s briefly available formats and events, requests for Gladiator’s return have even reached Magic’s lead designer. In a “not really a question” posed to Mark Rosewater Blogone user hoped Wizards could “make the format a permanent queue option or at the very least a regular recurring event.”
In response to the question, Mark Rosewater provided a surprisingly simple and absolute “can do” answer. For better or worse, this seems to confirm Gladiator’s return to MTG Arena in the near future. While it’s nice to get confirmation from Magic’s Lead Designer, it’s not entirely surprising that Gladiator is back. After all, Wizards of the Coast likely intended Gladiator’s first appearance to be a test for future releases.
Whatever Wizards’ intentions, it’s understandable that players would want to see Gladiator return. As a 100-card singleton format, Gladiator offers a compelling amount of variety, similar to Commander. Unlike Commander, however, Gladiator lacks the titular Commander’s safety net to build a deck around. Instead, MTG Arena players need to get creative with almost every card on the platform.
Didn’t quite make the landing
As far as there were those celebrating Gladiator’s successes, the new format also had many detractors. However, the complaints from these players weren’t primarily about the format itself, but rather Wizards of the Coast. The main cause for concern was the somewhat confusing decision to hold Gladiator Weekend as a best-of-three event. As an unqualified format, this choice frustrated many players, who lamented the lack of ability to adapt to an opponent’s deck.
Along with the best-of-three game mode, players have also complained about the pre-built decks Free to players for the event. Contrary to what you might expect, the pre-constructed decks required players to use their own cards. This meant that heard won jokers would have to be spent if a player did not own all the cards in the deck. Ultimately, this barrier to entry may have prevented many new players from tasting the event, which which is really a shame.
Because having fun with a new format isn’t enough, players have also complained about Gladiator’s rewards. While the actual reward of two individual card rewards was more than enough to satisfy players, their implementation, again, left a lot to be desired. Due to the best-of-three format, players found themselves needlessly struggling and spending too much time trying to win.
Despite these complaints, Gladiator’s current format seemed well received. With changes to how the Wizards present the format, they could have a hit on their hands. Given that people actually play it, Gladiator certainly seems a lot more popular than Brawl, even though it’s my favorite format.
The times are changing
Now that Gladiator has spent its time in the sun, we’re aimlessly waiting to see when it returns. In the meantime, however, Arena has another exhilarating format to enjoy; Cube. Until Dominaria United’s release on Arena on September 1, arena cube offers players a truly unique drafting environment. As Wizards explain, “In this event, you open and circulate packs like a typical draft, only the card pool is not a single Magic set, but rather a selection of some of the best cards available in MTG. arena.”
For better or worse, Arena Cube is a ghost event, so you won’t keep the cards you draft. Despite this, players must hand over 4,000 gold or 600 gems as an entry fee. Luckily, you’re not just paying for the thrill of what might just be Arena’s best draft environment, as there are also prizes on offer. Ranging from a few individual card rewards to 6,000 gold, we certainly hope Arena Cube can stick around for the long haul. We also wouldn’t complain about maps being balanced for draft only to improve the overall experience.
Read more: New Dominaria United spoilers may change MTG as we know it!