MTG Arena Free-to-Play Guide: How to Maximize Value on Your Account
Hello everyone! Something that my Twitch community frequently points out is how rarely I need to craft cards to make a new deck, whether it’s Standard or Historic, and how much gold and gems I tend to have. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but many assumed I just spent a decent amount of money on Arena. Funnily enough, I’m almost a F2P (Free to Play) player! The reason I say almost is I bought the $5 welcome bundle back when I started Arena. Back then, I don’t believe there was a way to get gems without spending some money, so the investment seemed worth it at the time. It was a good starting point, but there were many other aspects that went into building my collection. The reality though, is that without money, building a collection can be very challenging, but certainly not impossible. It can be daunting for newer players to build an Arena collection, but there’s a lot you can do to help it along. Let’s get into it.
OPTIONAL: IF YOU CAN, BUY THE WELCOME BUNDLE
There’s a reason I bought the Welcome Bundle, it’s very good value for the price! 5 packs and 2500 gems is a steal at $5, so if you can afford it, that’s a great way to start off your collection. If you can’t, it’s not the end of the world. This is the first and last time I’m going to suggest buying something on Arena as I don’t believe any of the other paid products are worth their money. Let’s get into the F2P tips.
This may seem obvious, but you need to play Arena often to have a chance of building a big collection cheaply. For example, here’s a table on what each win gets you per day. In an ideal world, you’d be able to get the maximum 15 game wins per day to fill your collection, but that’s an extremely unreasonable ask for most people. What I recommend is trying to get 4 game wins per day if you want to balance time and efficiency.
Nabbing 550 gold per day is a very reasonable amount, and considering 5 more wins only gets you 150 more gold, the first 4 wins should be more than enough. So, if you always win at least 4 games everyday and you’re always guaranteed a 500 gold quest, you should be netting a minimum of 7,350 gold every week, not including getting any more wins per day nor any 750 gold quests. That’s quite a decent chunk of gold.
Let’s take that out further, since there is roughly 3 months between set releases, if you played everyday and got at least 4 wins, you would roughly accrue 88,200 gold within that time! For reference, this is again without playing anymore than 4 game wins per day and never getting a single 750 gold quest, so in reality, getting 100k+ gold in between set releases is not at all unreasonable. You could use the gold you accumulate between each set to just buy packs for 1,000 a piece. So, per set release, doing nothing else but this could net you around 100 packs every time. That’s quite good value for investing no money, but we can do better than that! Let’s continue.
REROLL ALL 500 GOLD QUESTS
Every day on Arena, you’ll get a new quest option and an opportunity to reroll it for a different Daily Quest. A lot of players I’ve talked to will keep 500 gold quests if they’re easy to accomplish like playing 30 lands or attacking with 30 creatures, but that’s not maximizing your potential gold. You should always reroll 500 gold quests when the opportunity presents itself each daily reset.
Furthermore, you can strategically avoid completing 500 gold quests in order to attempt a reroll on them should one of your days you naturally get a 750 gold quest. This may seem tedious, but over the course of enough weeks, the gold really piles up.
LEARN DRAFT, BUT DON’T RUSH INTO IT
A lot of players, new and old, don’t like playing Limited, but I promise you, it is the single best way to accrue value using your gold and gems. It wasn’t always this way, but Traditional and Premier Draft now has the same buy in, 1,500 gems or 10,000 gold. Let’s do a little math. Packs in the Arena store are always the same prices: 1 pack for 1,000 gold, 3 packs for 600 gems, 6 packs for 1,200 gems, 15 packs for 3,000 gems, 45 packs for 9,000 gems, and 90 packs for 18,000 gems. It’s a shame that you don’t get any value from buying in bulk as it’s straight scaling with size and prices, but that’s just how it is. Based on the Play Everyday section, you may be able to parse out which currency is more valuable, but I’ll just tell you. SAVE YOUR GEMS FOR DRAFTING. Look at it this way, 10,000 gold will always nab you 10 packs, while 1,800 gems can get you 9 packs. You can’t cleanly get 10 packs with gems, but that’s the closest comparison we have. With that in mind, a draft entry in gold is worth the same as 10 packs, where more than a draft entry in gems only gets you 9 packs. Always spend your gems first for Drafting and only buy packs with Gold.
Let’s get into the Limited portion of the Limited section. Limited is a great way to build your collection, but only if you can guarantee some wins. The absolute worst case scenario is you go into Limited, pick your 3 guaranteed rares, see no other rares, and not win a match. That would only leave you with 3 Rares and 1 pack versus the 9-10 packs you could’ve gotten for that value if you’re doing Traditional Draft. Ouch. With that in mind, I would ease your way into Limited.
The absolute best way you can learn about Limited is reading our guides and watching a Limited streamer play the format. There’s a ton of great streamers out there, but the ones I can recommend the most highly are Ben Stark, Voxy, and NumottheNummy for Limited. They are all strong players who nearly exclusively play Draft and also have high interactivity with their chat, the 2 elements you should look for in an educational streamer. There are other streamers who are excellent at Limited that don’t exclusively stream it such as Autumn Burchett and Chris Kvartek, two MPL members, so if you can catch them when they’re on and playing Limited, they are also great resources.
Once you feel comfortable with Limited, I would recommend first doing Premier Draft, AKA Ranked Drafts. This may seem counterintuitive to start off in Ranked, but if you’re starting off in Bronze, the players there on average will be less skilled than those in the Traditional Draft section which, beyond your current record, is completely random who you get paired against. As a reference, in Premier Draft, you will be paired up with real players around your rank and with a similar W/L record to you.
Alternatively, you could play Quick Drafts which are also ranked, have bot drafters, and is half the price for the entry, but I highly advise against doing so. You only make your money back when you get 6 out of 7 wins, and even doing extremely well nets you very little value. Compare that to Premier Draft where you nearly recur your entry fee with 4 wins. If you can manage to get 4 wins before your 3rd loss, you’ll get 1,400 gems and 3 packs. So with an initial investment of 1,500 gems, you spent functionally 100 gems to get 3 packs. That’s obviously a great rebate. If you can do even better, then you’re actually earning gems for drafting! 5 wins will get you 1,600 gems and 4 packs, 6 will get you 1,800 gems and 5 packs, and the full 7 will get you 2,200 gems and 6 packs! For the value, this is the best mode, however, there’s an issue. If you continue to do well, you’ll face better and better players, making getting those requisite wins more and more difficult.
With that in mind, if you are a newer player, I would probably stop once you hit Gold 4 in Limited to avoid losing value. If you are a more adept player, you can continue until Plat 4, then I would likely stop there. If you’re feeling confident, you’re more than welcome to try and climb higher, but it becomes significantly harder to gain value with every rank advancement you get. Take this from someone who peaked at Mythic #4 in Limited, even in Platinum it can be challenging to constantly get your money back. So what do you do when you hit the cap? Move over to Traditional Drafts.
Traditional Drafts have a few differences compared to Premier, they’re unranked, Bo3, and the pairings (beyond record) are completely random. If you are a stronger player, this will obviously be a huge boon for you. However, the reward structure is definitely more punishing than it is in Premier Draft. You can only get back your value if you score the perfect 3-0 record. Getting a 2-1 is nice, but you’re still spending 500 gems to get 4 packs. This may seem punishing, but once you hit the cap I recommend in Premier, I think going for Traditional Drafts is the way to go. 500 gems for 4 Packs and a full Draft is a very good value if you can consistently manage that; if you’re struggling to do that, it’s ok to hold your gems and wait for a different format to pop up for draft, or to wait for the season reset so your limited rank will be lowered and you can climb back up. In that vein, you can also wait to do ranked drafts until the end of the month to filter out better players who were reset back into lower ranks rather than those who float there.
RARE DRAFT AGGRESSIVELY
I would suggest you Rare Draft very aggressively when doing drafts. The way I see it, I only don’t take the rare in a pack in 2 scenarios. One, the rare is unplayable in Constructed. Two, the pick you are giving up would make your deck significantly better. Ideally you take even the bad rares because they’re more likely to go later in drafts, and then you don’t risk opening them in packs you earn. However, the main goal of the draft is to earn your money back, so if you have to pick between a random rare and an excellent card, take the excellent card.
OPEN PACKS AS LATE AS POSSIBLE
This is an extension of playing Limited, but this is a mistake I made early and often when building a collection. If you plan on playing Limited, try as much as possible to avoid opening packs and crafting Rares/Mythics from the set you plan on drafting. The worst feeling is when you’re building your collection and you open a Rare you already have 4 of. This is difficult in its own right because it demands you to be patient, but you will save SO MANY wildcards if you can avoid opening packs until it’s absolutely necessary.
Look at it this way, a lot of Constructed playable Rares and Mythics will be taken early and be hard to get through drafts, but all the other ones will be more easily found when drafting. If you do enough drafts, you’ll amass a reasonably large amount of packs and a lot of mediocre rares and Mythic rares. This doesn’t sound that exciting, but Arena has duplicate protection, which means once you hit 4 of a particular Rare or Mythic, you can’t open another one. So if you have a bunch of the less powerful Rares and Mythics already in your collection as 4 ofs, the chance of you opening relevant cards becomes much more likely.
CRAFT UBIQUITOUS CARDS FIRST
Finally, some Constructed advice! Wildcards are a precious commodity that are hard to get, so they should be spent as wisely as possible. So how do you know what to craft? Well, you can reference a helpful card tier list to see which cards are the most powerful, thus the most likely to be used in multiple decks. Furthermore, you can look at the top decks in the metagame for whatever constructed format you’re looking to break into and see which cards overlap into a lot of different archetypes.
That being said, the best cards you should try to accrue first are Dual Lands. Dual lands will always see play in the color combination they represent, so those are always extremely safe crafts. The Triomes (3 color tap lands) are a little more risky since fewer decks utilize them, but they are good crafts as well. If you’re trying to build a collection, I really recommend avoiding crafting any Rare/Mythic that’s only good in one strategy. Unless that deck is something you need to practice or is so good it can carry you through Ranked, crafting Rares and Mythics that can quickly become obsolete is very inefficient. A situation that is more feel bad but important, I try to avoid crafting Rares for a strategy where a card is likely to be banned from it soon. If a card is banned, you do get those Wildcards back, but that’s just for the banned card and not any of the rares that were only good within that one deck. I still have Fauna Shaman rotting in my collection because Winota, Joiner of Forces got banned in Historic. Inevitably, this is likely to happen to everyone, but try to dodge that when possible.
START WITH CHEAPER DECKS FIRST
The horror story of Arena is someone burns a lot of Wildcards building a deck then they realize it’s either bad or they hate it, and they can’t afford to make something else. This leads to an incredibly feels bad experiences that I want everyone to avoid. With that in mind, Standard tends to have really expensive decks, but it can also have extremely inexpensive options as well. We have our dedicated section for budget decks that utilize the least amount of rares and mythic rares as possible and at the same time try to be competitive.
Take for example in this Standard format, Cycling and Rogues.
Cycling is probably the cheapest relatively competitive option available with only 17 total rares and 2 Mythic Rares, with 14 rares and both Mythics all being lands! If we’re talking about effective use of your wildcards, you literally can not do better than Cycling. However, if you’re looking for a more competitive option, I would recommend Rogues. This list is definitely more expensive, 23 Rares and 3 Mythics, but again, 14 of those rares and all 3 Mythics are lands! Compare both of these options to something like Gruul Aggro.
27 Rares and 17 Mythic Rares! That’s not even the most expensive you can get in Standard as that’s pretty typical of most decks, but you get the idea. I’m not saying that crafting Gruul is bad or anything, but most Standard decks can get very expensive so picking which ones to make is extremely important to maximize the long term value of your account.
This is the most difficult of all the things you can do, but will get you the furthest. The reason I’m able to maintain a nearly F2P account is mostly because I’m patient and follow all of these rules. I play daily, I draft a lot when a new set comes out, and I save my packs. By doing this, I can generally get a lot of the Rares and Mythics in the set within a few weeks or so. If you keep doing this for every set, you’ll find that eventually you own most, if not all, of Standard and Historic!
I pretty much only drafted for a year when I picked up Arena and only had a few Standard decks, but my diligence paid off. Now that Zendikar Rising is out, and many older sets that I didn’t play as much rotated, I drafted every Standard set a lot as they released, I own functionally everything in Standard. Historic is more challenging with the Bundles and Jumpstart eating into the wildcards, but because I was patient with what I crafted, I own most of Historic now as well as I only crafted cards I literally couldn’t obtain otherwise. As I type this, I’m taking a break from Kaladesh drafts which I’ve been doing well with and enjoying (3 3-0s in a row!) Building a collection can be daunting, but if you’re patient, you’ll have a stocked account before you know it.
Thanks for reading! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitch! Have a great day!