MTG Arena Hardware Guide
Magic: The Gathering Arena isn’t exactly the most hardware-intensive title out there as a PC game. After all, it’s just cards and flashes and other effects happening on screen. Yes, even if you do have card art and companions animated on-screen consistently. As such, hardware performance hardly becomes the topic of discussion for this type of game.
That being said, depending on your intended settings, your graphical experience on MTG Arena could still be potentially different per configuration. We understand that this isn’t directly related to the game itself, but at least this article should serve as a guide to make your play experience smoother.
Besides, there’s no harm in learning what to expect from the game’s graphical settings anyway, and how to optimize it. If need be, we might even be able to determine which PC components should changed or upgraded to fix potential play issues.
(DISCLAIMER: This guide assumes that you already know how to check the components of your own computer. If not, you can refer to a guide like this to help you get started.)
MTG Arena PC Requirements Guide Overview
- Official Hardware Requirements?
- MTG Arena Hardware Pointers
- What Do the Graphics Settings Do?
- Should You Aim for 60 or 120 FPS?
- Improving the Game’s Performance
- Specific Graphics Card Recommendations
- Specific CPU Recommendations
- Should You Buy a PC Solely for MTG Arena
- Cheapest PC That Can Go Full Ultra
Official Hardware Requirements?
If you visit the actual MTGA page for its hardware requirements, you will see the following:
- Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5600+ or Equivalent
- Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 8800 or Equivalent
- RAM: 2 GB
- Operating System: Windows 7
- Processor: Intel Core2 Quad Q9300 @ 2.50GHz
- Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 560
- RAM: 4 GB
- Operating System: Windows 10
Yes, this is the same listed requirements even if you check the more recently created Steam download page. Theoretically, according to these hardware requirements, if you have a midrange PC from the 2010s, then you already have a PC good enough to play MTG Arena.
Which is... actually still true to this day. Case closed then?
Well, not really. These hardware requirements don't exactly specify settings, does not show target resolutions and frame rates, and doesn’t even tell how the game allocates hardware resources. This especially becomes somewhat troublesome when you factor in all the other updates the game has gone through since its 2018 debut.
Besides, non-tech-savvy people can hardly familiarize themselves with current-generation hardware, how useful would a 15-year-old component reference would be today? Case in point? Ignore this requirement altogether. Either dive into more specifics below, or jump to our updated TL;DR conclusion at the end.
MTG Arena Hardware Pointers
General expectations for MTG Arena’s performance relative to the hardware used are as follows:
- Much like most modern games, MTG Arena will more or less automatically adjust its settings depending on the CPU and GPU configuration you have, plus the available screen resolution that you are using. As such, you might not be able to see any discernible difference immediately unless you check the settings, look at how different the settings are, and fiddle around to check other configurations.
- Again, like most modern games, MTG Arena benefits greatly with the use of an SSD. Any typical modern SSD will do; a reliable SATA-type SSD like your old Crucial MX500 or Kingston KC600 should be more than enough to quicken software-based (not network-based) loading times.
- If using a discrete GPU, the game’s VRAM requirements are basically negligible, at least for any entry-level model that was manufactured for the last four generations (2014 and later). That being said, we recommend at the very least 1 GB of free VRAM to prevent any issues from this spec.
- The game, on average, consumes about 1.5 to 2 GB of RAM when inside a match or game. Theoretically, systems with 8 GB should have no problems this way. However, due to how stacked software in modern operating systems work, you might have to close other programs to mitigate stuttering issues, or go for the more typically accepted 16 GB capacity.
- CPU contributes quite little to the overall performance of the game. You can virtually get away with the official recommended specs (Core2 Quad Q9300, a 2008 CPU), and still be able to crank it to High with smooth performance using something like a Geforce GTX 1050 Ti (2016 entry-level GPU).
- Lower-end systems might have trouble loading graphical assets for the first time after firing up the game. There will be a noticeable stutter whenever the menu or in-match animations appear for the first time. The duration lessens with better configurations, of course, but it will still be there to a degree.
What Do the Graphics Settings Do?
When combined together, all of these settings do provide a significant visual difference when compared side by side a the setting gaps get wider. But, even with a preset of Low, the experience of playing MTG Arena is not diminished at all. In any case, it would still be educational to at least learn what they do, and if you prefer them turned on, or set to a specific level:
Increases the size of the screen, or if set to full-screen, increases the game’s current pixel density. Generally, the larger the resolution, the more pixels the game has to work with. However, in MTG Arena, resolution has little to do with the perceived level of performance. For any basic build, just set this to 1080p (1920x1080), or anything higher than 720p (1280x720), and forget about it.
Changes the frames rendered per moment in time. If you can spare frame rates higher than 60 with better hardware, please help yourself with either 120 or Unlimited. Otherwise, just leave it at Vsync, unless your monitor supports higher-frame rates (in this case, you should set it to 60 if using lower-end hardware).
The level of smoothing rendered on graphical assets. It doesn’t affect performance that much, but there’s no point toggling it to High either for lesser capable systems. Just let the game decide what Anti-Aliasing setting is best for you.
Well… it adds shadows to stuff around the screen. Not important at all for something like a digital card game. Keep it off unless you have a beefier system.
Simulates unfocused parts of camera recordings to create its natural diffused light effect. Might be important for some play effects. But then again, it is a simulated card game, so priority is still low.
Simulation of soft shadows and lighting around an object to make it feel more realistic. Again, this might be important for some card effects, companion animations, and board tricks. Good enough to be turned on, but only if your system won’t suffer from visible frame drops.
Recreates the blurring effect of fast-moving objects in reality. Not important for the game at all. Keep this setting off.
Should You Aim for 60 or 120 FPS?
This a card game, so high frame rates are never really required to begin with. So, just aim for 60 FPS. If your monitor does not support anything beyond 60 Hz anyway, then just keep it at Vsync. Keep in mind, though, that higher frame rates do still affect your overall impression of the game’s smoothness. So, if the financial tradeoff between an upgrade is small enough, you may want to consider switching hardware anyway. That… or maybe try to play the game on a smaller resolution if settings can no longer be lowered enough.
Improving the Game’s Performance
The easiest way is to get a PC that is adequately overspecced for the MTG Arena. Barring that, you might want to try the following options (as hinted already by the aforementioned setting descriptions):
- Lower the resolution – the fastest way to ease the burden on your hardware is to lower the amount of pixels being processed. The image might look a bit more grainy as a result, however.
- Turn off everything – the Low preset still has a couple of settings turned on. So instead of choosing this, go to Custom, and proceed to select “Off” or “Low” to everything.
- Do a single-component upgrade – instead of buying a new system, just swap out the part that is bottlenecking your PC’s performance. The cheapest one to replace (or add) is memory. Be sure that you are using two sticks in dual-channel, at have at least 8 GB (with other programs closed), or 16 GB and more (for multi-tasking). For CPU and GPU recommendations, refer to the next section below.
Specific GPU Recommendations
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are the general GPU recommendations for MTG Arena. Not to sound like a parrot at this point, but don't forget to use two sticks of RAM in dual-channel (x2 4GB instead of 1x 8GB, for example). Such configuration is even more important to integrated GPUs since they also use the native RAM of the system as its VRAM. Anyway, here's the short list:
Any integrated GPU from 2014 to 2018:
- Intel HD Graphics 520 (2015)
- Intel HD Graphics 630 (2017)
Any integrated GPU from 2017-2020:
- Radeon Vega 3 CU (2019)
- Intel Iris Xe Graphics 11th Gen (2020)
Any AMD integrated GPU from 2021-2023:
- Radeon 680M (2021)
- Radeon 780M (2021)
Any midrange discrete GPU from 2015+:
- Radeon RX 480
- Radeon RX 570
- Geforce GTX 1060 6GB
- Geforce GTX 1650 GDDR6
Once you get beyond the performance point of an RX 580 and GTX 1060 6GB, then it's most likely overkill at that point. Any RTX GPU from Nvidia, for example, is overkill. Any Radeon RX 7000 GPU from AMD is overkill. Even Intel discrete GPUs like the Arc A580 would be theoretically overkill, if we exclude potential driver issues when used on older motherboards.
Specific CPU Recommendations
As mentioned earlier, the CPU plays significantly less in managing MTG Arena’s processing resources. But if you need something that can still be fairly future-proof features-wise, you might want to skip the Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad era (2009) and go at least 2-3 years further:
Any 4-core CPU from 2012 and later:
- Intel Core i5 2400 (4-core 4-thread)
- Intel Core i7 3770 (4-core 8-thread)
- AMD FX 8350 (8-core)
Any 2-core 4-thread CPU from 2016 and later
- Intel Core i5 6200U (laptop)
- Intel Core i3 7100 (desktop)
- AMD Athlon 3000G (relatively powerful iGPU)
If you are using anything higher than these CPUs in the modern era (upper model tier, more cores, higher clocks, more recently released, etc.), then it is more or less already super overkill for MTG Arena. Yes, even something as cheap as a second-hand Ryzen 5 2600.
Should You Buy a PC Solely for MTG Arena?
No. If you really need to buy a PC to play MTG Arena now in this day and age, aim for something higher and more versatile. Something like a PC to play DOTA or League of Legends at 1080p 120 FPS High settings, for example. At the very least, your minimum target frame rate and setting should be 1080p 60 FPS, Medium, which then allows your system to play very smoothly at Low.
If you can push just a bit more to medium-setting triple-A game territory, then good. At that point, you should be able to max everything out and even play the game at 120 FPS.
Cheapest PC that Can Go Full Ultra
So, with the idea of going beyond just MTG Arena in mind, what would be the cheapest PC that can go full Ultra settings at 1080p or 1440p 120 FPS? Something with enough headroom for all your multi-tasking stuff and even play triple-A games on the side? We can recommend the following component combinations:
Instead of going entry-level for a 2016 system, aim for something mid-range. But, you might want to get more modern technologies in mind anyway, and as such, we recommend these components instead:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5500 (a cheap, 6-core 12-thread high-performance CPU from 2021)
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6600 (almost double the performance of a GTX 1060 6GB)
- Memory: x2 8GB DDR4-3200MHz (configured in dual-channel)
- Storage: Any TLC-type NVMe SSD, doesn't matter if PCIe Gen 3 or Gen 4
For mobile PCs, any refurbished or good quality second-hand laptop with an Intel Core 8th Gen 4-core CPU, GTX 1060 GPU, and x2 8GB RAM should be more than enough. If only later models are available, or you really want it brand new, just be sure that you are getting a 4-core 8-thread CPU at minimum, an SSD as your boot drive, and keep the double 8GB memory sticks. Then, the discrete GPU should have at least 4GB VRAM, as this usually denotes a standard performance tier model.
If going with an integrated GPU, we recommend any entry-level laptop using at least Ryzen 6000 or 7000 series processors (this is where the jump in iGPU performance becomes very noticeable). 120 FPS might be out of reach, but you might still be able to crank the settings all the way to Ultra at 1080p. Just be sure to set the FPS to 60 instead of Vsync if the laptop uses a high-refresh-rate monitor.
Summary / TL;DR
If you have a respectable mid-range machine from at least 10 years ago, you’re not an FPS elitist, and if you don’t mind the occasional stutters, then MTG Arena will automatically adjust to keep your play experience relatively okay. You might not even notice the setting differences without checking them in settings, or without using another PC to compare the differences.
But, if you want the nicest baseline experience for the cheapest amount of money, try going with a 4-core 8-thread entry-level system that was commercially released at least 5 to 6 years ago. Make sure that it also has at least 16 GB of RAM and uses an NVMe SSD for its boot drive. Ultra settings might still be out of reach, and you're still stuck to Vsync or 60 FPS. But it sure would feel quite more stable, plus it opens the possibilities for upgrades in the future anyway.
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