MTGA Assistant Review – How does AetherHub’s new tracker stack up to those already available?
Welcome, everyone! I’m Drifter and today, I’ve been asked to peer-review Aetherhub’s MTGA Assistant, the new Arena helper extension. So what is MTGA Assistant exactly? What does it do well and badly? What does it bring to the table that the other tools don’t offer? I’ll answer all of these questions in this piece with the aim of helping you lot, my fellow Arena aficionados, navigate the many options and decide what works best for you.
Brief note before we get into it: While I’m affiliated with the lovely site you’re on right now rather than Aetherhub, this is sponsored content/a collaboration. As you’ll see, that doesn’t mean I’ll be shying away from criticism at all, but I wanted to make it clear for the sake of full disclosure. Still, my work should speak for itself; I intend to go through precisely what the tool does well and badly, nothing more or less. My duty is to my readers, as it has been in every article I’ve done.
What is MTGA Assistant?
Hearthstone’s third party tools have made this sort of extension famous, having repeatedly revolutionised the Blizzard card game’s meta by giving players access to a bunch of data and features on which to base their ingame decisions and enhance their gameplay experience, from in-game deck tracking to mulligan winrate stats. It turns out you can do a lot by tinkering with the log files of card games, and Arena is no exception; there are already a bunch of tools out there, from Untapped’s Arena Tracker to MTG Arena Pro to MTG Arena Tool, each beloved by large swathes of the community.
MTGA Assistant is an Overwolf-integrated tool (this has its own section later) that goes hand-in-hand with the Aetherhub site, and markets itself as the most convenient and least obtrusive option on the market. I’ll be exploring those claims in the “What sets MTGA Assistant apart” paragraph a bit later.
Here’s a promotional message from Aetherhub:
Note: I was asked to put this into my own words, so the writing is still me, but all the information is Aetherhub.
Aetherhub always had the dream of having its very own deck-tracking software, but it wasn’t firmly on their radar as it seemed like far too much work and they weren’t even sure where to begin. After some suggestions from Overwolf, renewed effort on the part of their dedicated team, some tinkering through their logs, a little blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of love for the game, they’re able to bring you their hot new extension absolutely for free!
MTGA Assistant aims to be far more than just a deck and draft helper; its a symbol of Aetherhub’s vision of expanding upon the game and bringing all the things we’ve grown to love about Magic into Arena by merging tools, metagame, and community all for the enhancement of the players’ experience. Thanks for your support!
MTGA Assistant is a fairly new tool, only a few months old. As such, it’s still receiving regular ongoing updates; I’ll review its functionality now, and also mention how it will improve in coming patches. I’ll be reviewing, comparing, and contrasting MTGA Assistant’s implementation of the features provided by the other tools and stating what it does differently:
- In-game deck tracker. Probably the most famous use of these tools, this is an overlay that allows you to track certain kinds of information within your games that it would otherwise take a great deal of attentiveness or maths to attain, such as what cards you’ve drawn from your deck, what cards remain in it, and the ever-changing probability of you drawing those cards. Just being able to view your deck as you play is a huge boon: it can help you decide what cards to tutor for and serves as a healthy reminder of your outs/cards you want to draw towards, giving you a lot of information on which to formulate your gameplan.
One common issue with deck trackers, including the MTGA Assistant Tracker, is that it fails to take into account some forms of known information – if I’ve scried a card to the bottom of my deck, I can no longer draw that card until I shuffle, and yet the %s aren’t adjusted to reflect that – it’s not true that I have a chance to draw either of my two Mystical Disputes in my next draw step, if one is on the bottom of my library.
- Draft helper. These tools enhance your experience during the draft stage in a few ways:
a) Every tool offers some kind of Draft ratings and advice to help guide you on the journey through your draft; Aetherhub’s Assistant offers Luis Scott-Vargas’s ratings from ChannelFireball.com (Untapped also uses these, and I would be more inclined to trust these than those used by other extensions, as a Draft reviewer myself). You can also hover over the ratings to see LSV’s explanation of them, which is a neat feature that the Assistant’s competitors don’t offer. While I don’t think good drafters should over-rely on ratings (see the “why have a mission statement” section of this page for a full explanation but tl;dr draft is extremely contextual, and how good cards are in your deck constantly changes throughout the process), they are very useful to newer players, and it’s often nice to immediately see the best cards in the pack so that you can decide between those rather than have to look at all fifteen.
b) Draft helpers can be very useful for recording your previous draft picks, so that you can see possible wheels i.e. if I’m expecting good white cards to wheel later in the pack, that pushes me towards white a little during the early picks. While the Assistant does not currently have this functionality, I recommended that they add it and have been assured it will be out in their next update (1.3) in a couple of weeks. For now, it’s worth noting that MTG Arena Tool does have it, and it’s very useful.
c) Aetherhub shows how many copies of each card you have in your collection (the x/4 in the screenshot below), for rare-drafting purposes.
- Record of previous games. Deck trackers track all of your games played and provide you a lot of useful data about them. The Assistant shows a record of all of your recent games and what rank your opponents were playing at, but is otherwise quite bare-bones in this regard. I’ve been assured it will show vast amounts of data after future updates such as what your opponents were playing, whether you were on the play/draw, how long the games took etc. For now, you might need to use it in conjunction with an extension such as MTG Arena Tool or Untapped if you want to have access to that data.
- Collection tab. This provides a variety of data on your Collection, including your set completion percents, your overall collection progress, and how much of the vault you’ve filled (see here for an explanation of this; Arena normally doesn’t let you view this). This is a bit bare-bones compared to the level of data provided by MTG Arena Tool and Untapped, where you can view the set fully and are able to see how much of each card you’ve gathered so far, but a useful overview nonetheless. I personally didn’t know the % of uncraftable cards I had gathered until now, as the other extensions don’t have that!
- Recently acquired cards. This resets each session and can be a useful way of tracking updates to your collection – say you open a booster or get a card reward without really keeping track of what you got. I will say that it would be nice if you were able to see new cards from a period of time, rather than each session – say if I wanted to see what strides my collection had made this week or in the last month.
- “Your Decks” page. You can see all your decks and export them to Aetherhub in one click here, in order to access the deck-buiding tools and data the site provides including the ability to view your curve, access mana base calculations, see how many rares/mythics it has, make use of their calculators, and share them on the relevant forums. However, Aetherhub doesn’t currently give you specific information about your decks either on site or the Assistant; on the other extensions, you can see your winrate with individual decks, your overall winrate, and how well those decks performed against other popular meta archetypes. This is another update that’s planned in the future.
- Meta Statistics (in order of subheading):
a) The Assistant has the main metagame breakdown the Aetherhub site is famous for displayed here (see image below).
b) The Assistant displays decklists from major tournaments in this section, including for older formats for veteran players. If you click on a decklist, you’re transported to the site and can view & import the deck directly from there. The developers plan to expand this page to include a meta summary for Arena (best of one) Standard, Historic and Brawl, which will form a separate page.
c) There are links to a whole bunch of recent deck videos, giving you access to a multitude of different content creators, and helping them get their videos out there! I’ve really enjoyed this feature, and it has already helped me find a couple of innovative brewers I need to look into some more…
d) The Assistant displays a whole bunch of interesting meta statistics here, such as most played cards in certain formats, which the other extensions don’t provide. They fill your loading screens with a random stat from this page, which I thought was a great touch since I’m sure we’re all pretty bored with the default screens we’ve glanced over hundreds of times by now.
What’s to come?
Note: I already mentioned some of this stuff in the features.
Version 1.3.0: (patch notes provided by Aetherhub, due to release in the next couple of weeks)
- “Decks page renamed to Account”
- Draft picks now stored and information is available during the draft and under personal data
- New Collection page: Compare Deck – Enables you to compare any decklist to your collection to see what cards you are missing.
- Compare Collection: function added to Metagame, Event and Video decks.
- Meta Page: Improved layout: Added New layout for Deck tracker: Slim mode.
- Added more toggles for Deck Tracker Show/Hide Mana symbols and Draw chance.
- Added Deck Tracker Preview in Settings for toggle buttons.
- My decks option added: Open in default web browser of Overwolf browser.
- Bugfix: Comparing function that could case certain card images to not load fixed.
- Ranking ladder with team functionality.
EDIT: the update is out now, here’s the link to the release notes!
What sets MTGA Assistant apart from its competitors?
Rather than being hosted outside the game through its own client, MTGA Assistant integrates all its information into the Arena client itself, which is a major advantage, as it reduces clutter and enables you to view the relevant information and change any settings you want in a much more convenient place.
MTGA Assistant prides itself on being unobtrusive and minimalist, to avoid hampering your Arena experience as best it can. At this, I’ve found that it mostly succeeds – it doesn’t use up a lot of space and you can choose turn off or on all the onscreen elements it displays, including the in-game deck tracker. It’s a boon that it doesn’t disrupt Arena’s overall aesthetic – I’ve often found other deck trackers and user interface options obtrusive and distracting, but the ability to just turn them off with the touch of a button is very refreshing – when using MTG Arena Tool or MTG Arena Pro, you have to go into their client settings to individually disable or enable the in-game data they display, and there’s the constant danger of misclicks (which sometimes function as hyperlinks and drag you off the Arena screen, which thankfully the Assistant doesn’t do).
Everything is tucked away neatly until you need it – gone are the days of frantically trying to click through overlays to set stops or view your opponent’s screen name. The Assistant feels like a natural and synergistic add-on; it manages the space carefully so it fills bits of Arena that are empty rather than clashing or obscuring, blending in instead of disrupting.
It’s a huge boon that the Assistant doesn’t require any sort of login so you don’t have to go through the monotonous affair of making an account, having to remember your details, and wait potentially as long as 20-30 seconds every single time. As long as Overwolf is running in your system tray, the extension should boot in a matter of mere moments after Arena’s loading sequence is complete. While the Assistant uses a few ads, it never puts them on anything Arena-native – no ads on Arena menus or in-game, and only one or two per page in its own hidden menus.
Glitches and crashes are a plague upon some of the other tools; a severe hamper to user experience and a constant danger that in some cases brings down the client itself. By contrast, the Assistant runs really smoothly for me overall; I have not had any performance issues with it or noticed any glitches that weren’t very minor. It’s responsive and I’ve never had it crash.
What’s an Overwolf?
Not a title bestowed upon Master of the Wild Hunt, sadly. Overwolf is a client that offers a wide variety of apps for all manner of popular games from other collectible card games like Hearthstone and Shadowverse to those in completely different genres such as Overwatch and Dota 2; you can find a full list here. Essentially, it’s a means of enhancing games using third party software to provide a wide range of benefits and features, just as the Arena extensions themselves do, but on a much bigger scale. The Assistant is Overwolf-integrated which, as we’re about to go into, has its upsides and downsides.
The primary advantage of being on Overwolf is convenience; the Assistant is very easy to download, Overwolf does all the heavy lifting, and if you use Overwolf for other games/have it enabled on startup, the Assistant will load by itself seamlessly every time you open the Arena client. One often has to open other extensions manually and then either have them on all the time or remember to quit out of them which, when you just want to get right into the heat of the action or you don’t have much time, is super annoying to have to remember. If you’re only getting the benefit of your tool half the time because you can only be bothered to load it half the time, that’s like getting a 1 for 1 when there’s an easy 2 for 1 available. If you have to quit the tool post-use every time because you don’t want the clutter, well you’re probably going to forget sometimes and it’s a bother that Overwolf integration avoids. Overwolf itself is unobtrusive; it will run quietly in the background until you’re ready and won’t even open a window on startup if you don’t want it to. The Assistant is easily the most convenient tool available, in part due to Overwolf.
Unfortunately, Overwolf has a big downside too. There are reports linking Overwolf to performance hampering including excessive memory usage and frame drops; the Overwolf client hasn’t shown itself to be especially well-optimised and in using MTGA Assistant, you’re taking the risk that it might not work well for you. However, this is an issue that’s easy to measure; I recorded my FPS and RAM usage inside and outside Arena with and without Overwolf, and it didn’t seem to have much of an impact. The Assistant itself feels very smooth and I didn’t see any performance issues or bugs directly from it. I recommend you just be mindful of this as a potential issue people have run into, and do a short test to see how much impact Overwolf has on your device. If Overwolf doesn’t run well on your device, even having it on in the background via your system tray/having it boot on startup could throttle your performance.
The Extension’s Cons: How could it improve?
As I went over specifically in Features, one issue with minimalism is that the extension feels rather bare-bones when used by itself – for example, to see basic deck and meta statistics, you must use it in conjunction with the Aetherhub site; it makes exporting and linking there very easy, but it’s still a blemish on its claim of fitting everything smoothly into the Arena client. Right now, the amount of data it offers you isn’t too detailed and I occasionally found myself having to open my other extension clients, but it is only a few months old, and the planned updates promise to add significant functionality.
Another thing that hampered my experience is that the extension doesn’t give you a lot of customisation options and is very rigid in terms of the space it uses; sometimes just turning things off wasn’t what I wanted. There are times when I wanted to be able to move the deck tracker around or resize it to better view the information/work around the space so I could better see what was going on in my game, but I don’t think you can for the moment, which competitor interfaces such as MTG Arena Tool do allow.
My readers will need to decide for themselves whether the advantages of MTGA Assistant outweigh the other offerings, but for me the tradeoff of convenience and better performance for access to less information has really been worth it, especially as I can still just boot another client when I want to consult data from them that the Assistant doesn’t currently provide. I feel more immersed in the game and less annoyed by superfluous interfaces and overlapping space; as a result, I plan to carry on using its deck trackers and overlays exclusively, and look forward to upcoming updates, which should really boost its functionality. Aetherhub has been forthcoming with my suggestions, including the important draft tracker change which is due to come out in 1.3 and will allow me to look at potential wheels; they seem to have a healthy attitude to community feedback/constructive criticism, so feel free to blow them them away with some Aether Gusts of your own!
Overall, I’m happy to recommend MTGA Assistant, though with some reservations based on their deliverance of the promised updates and some concerns about Overwolf performance which you’ll need to look into yourself. The word “recommend” is certainly not one I would use if I didn’t mean it. Even if you don’t love it right now, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
You can always find all my articles at mtgazone.com/Drifter! I also did an interview for ArenaBrawl.net here.
I maintain a draft tier list, am an infinite drafter, and offer a coaching service! Message me on the discord or through Reddit if you’re interested.
The MTG Arena Zone discord: https://discord.gg/SPYMExR. Engage with your favourite arenazone content creators there, myself included!