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MTG Arena Beginner’s Guide

Learn how to navigate around the client, how to play the game, and everything else you need to know to get started with one of the best card games in the world.

This is your complete, unabridged beginner’s guide to Magic: The Gathering Arena. Learn how to navigate around the client, how to play the game, and everything else you need to know to get started with one of the best card games in the world. This page will serve as the main hub for our complete list of guides, which you can read in order or skip to the section that is relevant to you!

Originally written by /u/localghost, Heffalump#3697, in 2020 – 2021, this guide builds on the massive effort of other members of the community and wouldn’t be there without a number of prior materials – thank you!

With the release of Dominaria United, we will begin the process of overhauling and updating this guide! If you have any questions or feedback, please contact us.

Disclaimer

This guide assumes you have a general idea of what a Trading, or Collectible Card Game is, and a basic grasp of Magic: the Gathering. If you need an introduction or a refresher, please go through Appendix A first. If you want to get better at Magic, check Level One or Appendix C instead.

Before you start: what is Arena and what to expect

  • Arena is a “true” MTG game, but it started off Standard and only has full Core and Expansion sets from Ixalan onwards. Arena’s non-rotating format is called Historic. It also includes a couple of remastered older cycles, several curated Historic Anthologies, most of two Jumpstart sets and a bit more, less than one quarter of all Magic cards total.
  • Arena is only 1v1. Adding other modes, as well as expanding to older sets/non-rotating formats is not ruled out, but is as distant as one may think. Pioneer was going to be gradually added, but currently delayed with no timeframe given.
  • Arena is a free-to-play game with economics pertinent to this kind of games. You don’t have access to all the cards at the start, and unlocking them requires either time — both in terms of regular and continuous play — or money (or both).
  • Arena is not pay-to-win, rather “pay to get on even terms faster”. A daily non-paying player may expect to have a competitive deck in a month or two, depending on the meta.
  • Drafting on Arena is possible both in player pods (but you don’t play versus the same people) or with bots (games are still played versus people).
  • Cards in Arena cannot be traded between players, and you cannot sell your cards neither for real money nor for any in-game currency. Trading accounts is against ToS.
  • On Arena, cards of the same rarity effectively have the same acquisition cost. This means “budget” paper decks may not be “budget” on Arena, and fun wild combo decks might be as hard to build as full competitive decks.
  • That all said, MTG Arena can be a free (or much cheaper than paper) way to play Magic, that isn’t leaving any soon and is being pushed as the way to play Standard and for e-sports.
  • Arena for Windows is downloadable from Wizards of the Coast or Epic Games Store. MacOS version is available since 25th June 2020 via Epic Games Store only. Mobile is released for Android (January 2021), 4GB RAM required, and iOS (March 2021). Steam Link also works.

Contents

The guide is divided into 6 core sections that explain in detail how MTG Arena gameplay works, and extra appendices that cover general Magic: The Gathering topics.

  1. Quick Start Guide
    Just started — Getting cards — Getting resources — What next?
  2. Using Arena: Interface and Add-ons
    General interface — Collection interface — Game settings — Third-party tools
  3. Formats, Queues, Events
    Constructed — Limited — Ranked system — Playing with friends
  4. Playing a Match
    Turn timers — Holding priority — Visual cues — Stack — Auto tapper — Mana pool — Various
  5. Arena Economy in Detail
    More on getting cards — Bans and suspensions — Mastery passes — Growing your collection
  6. Inner Workings of Arena
    Common misunderstandings — Common rule confusions — Bugs — Shuffler and matchmaking
  7. Appendix A. Introduction to MTG
    Overview — Card types — Combat — Stack — New sets and rotation — Sideboard
  8. Appendix B. Common MTG Slangs
    Color combinations — Mechanics and effects — Dual-color lands — Various
  9. Appendix C. Improving at MTG
    Understanding Magic — Getting better at Limited — Coping with variance — Tools to build your own deck
  10. Appendix D. Major MTG Arena Change Timeline
  11. Appendix E. Overview of Advanced Search Options in Collection and the Deck Builder

Changelog

This guide is written by an experienced MTG player, free-to-play Arena player, non-native English speaker, straight white middle-aged Caucasian male playing on a Windows PC. That inevitably means some parts of the guide are less on point than the others. If you believe it doesn’t do justice to the matter as perceived from another side of either of those divisions and can be bettered, please contact me.

  • v. 2.02, 11/11/2021: Innistrad: Crimson Vow Arena release day.
  • v. 2.02, 11/11/2021: Updated for the Crimson Vow Mastery pass information, other minor changes and fixes.
  • v. 2.01, 16/09/2021: Updated information with regards to Standard 2022 queues (that left) and MID Mastery pass.
  • v. 2.00, 26/08/2021: Fixed typos, formatting, updated and enhanced several sections, etc. The guide is ready to move on.
  • v. 2.00 beta, 20/08/2021: The guide’s completely overhauled. Please forgive typos, having some formatting issues and unfinished or temporarily named sections. It’ll get better soon.
  • v. 1.32, 12/08/2021: Various corrections and additions.
  • v. 1.31, 08/07/2021: A few correction and additions reflecting the current game state. Changed the mastery pass information to AFR.
  • v. 1.30, 12/04/2021: Appendix E on advanced search options added. A lot of small updates and corrections, including information on Strixhaven mastery pass.

The rest of the change log moved to the Appendix D.

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