MTG Arena Beginner's Guide

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Arena Economy in Detail

Details on obtaining cards and duplicate protection

Packs

By far not all cards on Arena can be opened in packs, whether Store or Limited ones, or obtained as ICRs.

  • Regular expansions often have cards supplementing the main set that are used e.g. for beginner-level products or promotions. Arena doesn’t display the Collector’s Number that helps identifying them, so one can use -?booster query in the Collection search bar (along with other desired filters) or look on the web: this example query finds such cards from Kaldheim.
  • Aside from those, cards from Historic Anthologies and Jumpstart events can only be crafted with wildcards if you didn’t get them in the Store or in events themselves (this needs confirmation about J21 though). Plus five creatures added to spice up Brawl in its first year.
  • Store packs do not have the land slot, so some common basic lands have to be picked in Limited or crafted (as Common ICRs do not exist).
  • Several early alternate-art cards are coded as cards and not styles and can’t be crafted (Planeswalkers and Alt Art cards from here).
  • Arena also has a number of unobtainable cards coded in. You can encounter some fancy creatures added specifically for Momir, and several cards including Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall were used in a special promo event for Theros: Beyond Death.

Packs of regular sets plus Amonkhet Remastered and Kaladesh Remastered can be purchased freely in Store → Packs (see the lineup at the top). Unlike physical boosters, Arena packs don’t contain tokens or foils. Tokens are not needed, and fancy looking cosmetics is designed differently.

Rare/Mythic Rare drop rates

The chance of getting a Mythic Rare instead of a Rare in a Store or a Limited pack varies with the set, check here (an “approximately 1:8” rate is likely 15/121, as on paper printing sheets, at least for sets other than Strixhaven).

The chance of getting a Mystical Archive Mythic Rare card is 1:15, a Rare — 4:15.

Basic lands

Regular basic lands are available on Arena for free. Every player should automatically get basic lands of the set they started in, and further ones (given they still play, at least). Special basic lands: full-art, having old frames, made by a particular artist, etc — are treated as premium items, cosmetics, and sold in the Store or earned in events. However the developers so far didn’t devise a way for new players to obtain regular basic lands issued before they started playing Arena.

  • Kaladesh Remastered basic lands should be available in the Store as a 0-cost purchase.
  • Kaldheim snow basics are free for Constructed purposes, but you have to draft them if you want to use them in a draft deck.

Duplicate protection across sets

“Duplicate protection” is the system introduced to alleviate the issue of getting 5th copies of cards in absence of trading or “dusting” (a more fitting and unambiguous term would be “redundant copies protection”). It may be treated as encompassing all the cases, but most commonly people use “duplicate protection” only in reference to the mechanism of getting uncollected Rares and Mythics that works for Store packs. This mechanism, the Vault for redundant Commons and Uncommons and Gem compensation used for ICRs and Limited only work for cards of the same set.

Reprinted Commons and Uncommons (i.e. from different sets) exist in your collection in multiple copies. For Rare and Mythic reprints, a somewhat underwhelming version of duplicate protection is applied, and only given they have the same art: if you have a total of of 4 copies of such a card across sets, you only open more if you collected all the other Rares from that set. This only applies to opening packs and doesn’t affect ICRs.

Card bans and suspensions

General approach to bans and errata

As a paper game at heart, Magic doesn’t “nerf”, “buff” and otherwise alter cards in any significant way. Some errata happen, power level changes are avoided at all costs. In the case no good answers are found or printed for a problematic card, it is just banned from use in certain formats and modes. Bans are not a common thing, and bans made in 2019-2020 are more of a deviation from the normal way of things.

For clarity, here are some examples of errata that happened in the recent years:

  • With the Core Set 2021 release, Hound creature type was replaced by Dog. All past cards typed Hound are now Dogs.
  • Ajani’s Pridemate‘s ability lost the “may” word, likely to speed up things in Arena (you now have no choice and always add a counter).
  • Delina, Wild Mage‘s ability received the word “may”, because otherwise copying a Pixie Guide had a good chance to go on indefinitely.

Standard and Historic card bans

  • Having banned cards prior to the ban being put in effect is compensated by the same number of wildcards of corresponding rarity.
  • Banned Rares and Mythics may only appear in Store packs if you have all the other Rares/Mythics from that set (similar to same-art reprints).
  • Banned Rares and Mythics stop appearing as ICRs. Uncommons (and Commons) still can be opened and received as ICRs.
  • Regardless of rarity, banned cards will keep appearing in Limited packs (bans are for Constructed).
  • If a player started a Constructed Event and their deck contains a banned card, they can complete the event even after the ban.
  • If you open a Rare/Mythic card that’s legal in Standard but banned in Historic, you will get both the card and 20/40 gems of compensation.

Suspensions

Suspension is a a procedure Wizards devised for Historic. It’s a soft ban that means cards are prohibited from play but have to be made legal again or banned for real after a period of about three months (initially tied to whether a good answer for a problematic card can be added via Historic Anthologies). Suspensions are not compensated by wildcards till a card is actually banned. Here’s the Historic banned and suspended list.

Bans in other formats

Specialty formats, including Brawl and Historic Brawl normally uphold their own ban lists. Bans in these formats do not entail a compensation or other changes listed above.

Set mastery and mastery pass

Also known as “battle pass” in some games. While not a separate way to expand your collection, it’s a combination of other things. The key thing to know is that rewards are retroactive and buying pass early doesn’t give XP advantage. Buy when youre sure in it.

  • You advance in the set mastery by gaining experience from daily quests (500 XP), daily wins (25 per win for 10 wins a day) and weekly wins (250 per win for 15 wins a week). The latter reset on Sundays (9:00 UTC). That makes at most 9000 XP per week. One level is 1000 XP.
  • There are two “tracks” in which you advance simultaneously.
  • The free track provides rewards for everyone: a pack of the set every second level (normally to the count of 3 packs per week of the set “lifetime”), and 5 Orbs to insert into the Set Mastery Tree.
  • The paid track, the actual mastery pass, provides a lot of value, breaking even somewhat ahead of the middle of the track. You get packs, Mythic Rare ICRs, Gold, and some Gems back (see below).
  • There are two price options for paid track: 3400 Gems and 5400 Gems. The latter advances you 10 levels immediately. You also can buy individual levels for 250 Gems. If you’re not interested in cosmetics, you only ever get the 3400 Gems purchase.
  • The maximum mastery level depends on the period between sets. Beyond that point paid track levels award Uncommon ICRs (upgradable, 5%).
  • WotC seemingly settled on the key rewards for the Mastery pass, but some details vary, check before buying. For Innistrad: Midnight Hunt it’s the following:
    • 20 packs of Standard sets (same total as before, 4 AFR packs);
    • 1200 Gems (=M21, ZNR, KHM and STX, ↑400 to IKO, ↓600 to THB, ↓800 to ELD and M20);
    • 4000 Gold (stable since THB, down 6000 compared to ELD and M20);
    • 10 Mythic ICRs (stable since ELD, but since ZNR it’s only Mythics from this set);
    • Player draft entry token (since THB, none before that);
    • Cosmetics (more or less stable, with some set specifics, e.g. ZNR had emotes, STX had avatars in the Mastery Tree, AFR had a set of sleeves). MID seems to have no specific rewards, though.
  • Even though Gems are a premium currency, 3400 Gems could be obtained via drafting. Unless drafting makes you nauseous, it may be worth doing. However for purely Limited players the pass provides fairly little value.
  • Set mastery closes/changes on the next set release. Orbs are set-specific and no XP towards previous set masteries can be gained. If you don’t expect to get over level 35–40 (roughly, depends on max level) of the mastery in time, do not buy the pass, wait for the next set.
    • You can spend your Orbs during the next set, but still only for cosmetics of the set they are specific for.
  • On top of regular XP sources, there could be events or codes providing XP. Some are expected towards the end of a set as a way to “catch up”. Besides, with a set release patch all the regular sources are refreshed: up to 3 new quests are given, weekly and daily win counts are reset.

Further details, not just on the pass, may be found on the near-omniscient page on reward distribution & drop rates.

Growing your collection

Unless you’re a purely Limited player, you will want (or need, thanks to set releases and rotation) to get new cards. Completing collection for free is possible, but money does lower the time investment. The following is written with the free-to-play way in mind, adjust based on your spending.

Free gains

Over the duration of one average set (13 weeks) you get some 40 packs from the free Mastery track and the usual code and about 100,000 Gold assuming average daily Gold gain. Playing Constructed Ranked till Platinum is doable and free, adding 9 packs over 3 seasons. If you spend Gold on packs of the set, you get roughly:

  • 120-122 Rares and 25 Rare wildcards
  • 18–20 Mythics and 10 Mythic wildcards

That’s decent and may let you update your deck but isn’t close to collecting all cards, even if we use Mythic Constructed ranked rewards instead. Adventures in Forgotten Realms, for example, has 240 total Rare cards and 80 total Mythic cards; 20 different Mythics was confirmed to be the default for next sets. Not mentioning Commons and Uncommons because in the long run you shouldn’t be limited by those.

So, just pursuing ranks won’t do much for your collection. To get more, you will need to use your resources for paid events. You will have to be moderately good either in Constructed Events or drafts, possibly not spending Gold on packs at all.

Constructed Events

Playing Constructed events as a means of expanding collection requires a solid deck (preferably top-tier) but may cost little or even net you Gold. It is tedious and harder to plan because ICRs are not duplicate-protected and come from all various sets (making it egregiously bad for Historic). This means that if you have the idea of completing a set in mind, you have to hold a number of unopened packs that will “fill the holes”, and thus you don’t start it while you still want to open packs to get wildcards.

Constructed Events award three ICRs. Best-of-one events repay the fee at 4 wins, and you need 5 wins to guarantee a Rare (which is what you strive for). Traditional events repay at 2 wins, guarantee a Rare at 3 wins, and have better upgrade rates for ICRs — but are somewhat more punishing at 0 or 1 win.

Drafts

Drafting to complete collection is widely suggested, well-researched, and doesn’t rely on collection (you may skip building a constructed deck entirely if you wish) but requires spending more resources or higher win rate to keep going. For an average player getting all the Mythics this way is actually out of reach, but getting all the Rares from a set is more or less doable.

The process involves drafting a lot while picking Rares that you have 3 or fewer and holding off opening packs of the set till you finish drafting. Usually it implies you pick any Rares you lack, making your draft deck weaker, but you’re welcome to decide on it yourself once you grasp the concept. The idea is to leverage the duplicate protection on packs that guarantees you other Rares than you drafted, so you need even unplayable Rares.

To dispel a popular misconception, this process has nothing to do with getting more wildcards. At most — with saving some in the long run. This is a long-term undertaking which will bear fruits months and months ahead, so here as well, you likely start it when you are not in immediate need for more wildcards. But repeat the process for several sets, and you arrive at the position where you don’t have that need because you have the cards.

So, how is it possible and what are the limitations? Let’s go for some napkin math, having Quick drafts in mind:

  • Arena bots overpick Rares and Mythics. Expect no more than 4 Rares per draft on average. Lucky runs will bring more; later runs might bring fewer since you’ll collect some in 4 copies.
  • This means a modest estimation for 10 Quick drafts is 35 Rares, and you also get 12-13 packs as prizes.
  • The free mastery track provides on average ~40 packs (3 per week of set life, which happened to be anywhere from 10 to 19 weeks).
  • Ranked rewards for 3 seasons (at Gold rank on both ladders) provide 12 packs, plus the obligatory PlaySetname code adds 3.
  • N opened packs give you ~4/5 to 5/6 of N Rares (the rest is Mythics and wildcards).

NB: several sets before Zendikar Rising had a total of 212 Rare cards (53 different ones). Zendikar and Kaldheim got 256. Strixhaven had a whopping 276, with lessons having their own slot in Limited but not in Store packs. Adventures in Forgotten Realms backed up a little to 240. In this regard Arena economy became worse without actually changing, as the process that brought you 200 Rares may not be enough to bring 250.

If you only enter Quick drafts with your per-set-average 100,000 of Gold income, that’s 20 Quick drafts, making a total of 70 picked Rares and ~80 packs that translate into ~65 more Rares. That makes about half of what you want, so you need to reinvest Gems you won to play more drafts. How many more can you play? It depends on your results.

  • Averaging 1 win per draft, you will only be able to play 3 more drafts off your rewards. That’s not enough with our base assumptions and only makes sense if you pick noticeably more Rares per draft (which is not impossible). If you’re getting this level of results, keep checking whether you want to go further or just buy packs instead.
  • Uniformly going 1, 2, 3 or 4 wins (an average of 2.5), you get enough for 7 more drafts directly and more off those, about 10 total. That’s very decent and way better than buying packs (more cards, somewhat fewer wildcards), but not enough to complete Rare collection with our base assumptions. It’s decently close for sets with 53 different Rares, but not for newer sets.
  • Winning around 3.5 times on average, you fund 12 or more drafts off your initial 20 drafts, and more off new winnings. That should be enough to complete Rares from a set, or to be close enough to fill the gaps with wildcards, following Mastery passes or just lucky ICRs. In this case you also may consider switching to player drafts.

Player drafts are more rewarding but also much riskier and arguably have better competition. The ranked system makes it even more complicated: Quick and Premier draft matchmaking considers Limited rank as a secondary parameter, making games at Bronze or Silver way easier than at Diamond or Mythic. Traditional draft matchmaking only considers the event win-loss record. Player drafts also may be easier to go “infinite” in, entering again and again with your Gem gains, but that relies on rarely getting bad results (2 wins or less in Premier, less than 2 wins in Traditional).

Going for all the Mythics is significantly harder. You have the luxury of skipping unwanted Rares (and get better decks) because you aim to accumulate more packs than could be ever needed for Rares, but you need many more, think 40–50 Traditional drafts with a good record.