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A Guide to the Many Queues of Magic Arena: What shall we play today?

Trying to find the right queue in Magic Arena can be confusing, as there are just so many these days! What’s really the difference between Traditional Standard, Standard Play and Standard Event?

Well, let’s find out!

Arena Play Modes

Arena Play modes are the modes shown when the button in the screenshots below is on the Arena Play Modes setting. You may toggle between Arena Play Modes and All Play Modes (covered later). All Arena Play queues are best of 1 (Bo1) – you only play one game per round. Each player has a 50% chance to be able to decide who goes first in Bo1 games.

Play Mode

Description: Play Mode is your bog-standard casual best of one queue. Play whatever you want in Standard or Historic – when you click the play button, you’ll have two options: “Standard” or “All”. Pick whichever you want and you’ll find a game quickly either way!

Remember that Historic uses every set on Arena, whereas Standard only uses sets in the current Standard rotation. For more information, please see https://mtgazone.com/the-ultimate-new-player-resource-a-key-concepts-guide-and-magic-terms-glossary/ and search for “Formats” using ctrl+f.

Rewards: Standard Play Mode allows you to complete your quests and get your wins of the day. Historic Play Mode only allows you to complete your quests. Neither has any queue-specific rewards, as one would expect given their casual nature.

Standard Ranked

Description: Standard Ranked is is the way to upgrade your Season Rank while playing best of one (bo1) Standard, or to ascend the Standard Mythic leaderboard while playing best of one.

How does season ranking work for Standard? There are six ranks, each with their own rewards: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Mythic. Each rank but Mythic is comprised of four smaller tiers: 1 through 4 with 1 being the highest tier before you move up a rank. You cannot drop between ranks i.e. from Gold to Silver within the same season. Each tier is comprised of six “rungs”. At Bronze or Silver, you ascend two rungs per best of one win. This decreases to one rung per win once you hit Gold and above.

At every rank but Bronze, you usually lose one rank per loss (Bronze never loses any) but there’s a buffer of three games or one match when you hit a new tier – if you rank up to Gold 1, you can’t drop back to Gold 2 for three games or one match (thanks to Brendan Dillon in the comments for this info).

Essentially, this means you need roughly 12 more wins than losses to ascend to the next rank in Bronze or Silver, and this rises to 24 per rank at the higher ones (not counting the effect of the tier buffers).

This means that to reach Mythic from Bronze, you need roughly 96 more wins than losses.

Rewards:

The two shiny things at the end are card styles! You get an uncommon card style at Gold and then rare and uncommon at Platinum and above. The larger gold piles represent 1000 gold (that doesn’t change from Gold to Mythic).

At Mythic, you don’t gain any more ranks or tiers through winning but you do gain MMR (matchmaking ranking) which translates into leaderboard progression. Each month, the top 1200 players in Standard or Limited are qualified for a Mythic Championship Qualifier Tournament two months later – you’ll receive an email with the dates near the time, and if you do exceptionally well in that you qualify for a winners’ tournament which has spots at the next Mythic Championship as rewards, the most prestigious tournament in all of Magic.

Bot Match

Description: This is a practice match with no rewards that you can play against Sparky, the tutorial bot. This can be a good way to test out card interactions or see that cool Liliana ult, since Sparky doesn’t really do much, but skip this one in most cases!

Play Mode is the generally more useful mode; Arena doesn’t have much of a PvE experience.

Quest progression and daily rewards cannot be earned in Bot Match.

Ranked Draft (Current Set/Throne of Eldraine)

This is the first of the two Ranked Best of one (bo1) Draft play modes. You get to upgrade your season rank while playing the latest set (currently Throne of Eldraine) in a Bo1 draft: first you do the draft stage, then build your deck then play games until you reach 7 wins or 3 losses (whichever comes first). Unlike the other Ranked Best of one Draft play mode, this one does not rotate: the current set will be available until the next set is released.

Season rankings work the same way as in Constructed, but you are rewarded separately for Draft and Constructed Rank, and there are only five “rungs” per tier as opposed to six. You don’t get additional card styles; if you make Platinum in both Draft and Constructed, you will still only get one uncommon and one rare card style (and it will always be the same one each month).

Rewards:

• 0 wins: 50 gems, 1 Booster Pack of the set you are drafting (20% chance of bonus pack)

• 1 win: 100 gems, 1 Booster Pack (22% chance of bonus pack)

• 2 wins: 200 gems, 1 Booster Pack (24% chance of bonus pack)

• 3 wins: 300 gems, 1 Booster Pack (26% chance of bonus pack)

• 4 wins: 450 gems, 1 Booster Pack (30% chance of bonus pack)

• 5 wins: 650 gems, 1 Booster Pack (35% chance of bonus pack)

• 6 wins: 850 gems, 1 Booster Pack (40% chance of bonus pack)

• 7 wins: 950 gems, 2 Booster Packs

Season rewards and Mythic Championship Qualifier invite for top 1200 as normal, as explained in the Standard Ranked section.

Ranked Draft (Rotating)

This is the second of two Ranked Best of one Draft play modes. The key difference is that this one rotates every two weeks between all Standard legal sets. Please see https://mtgazone.com/events/month/ for the current rotating draft.

All other information and rewards are the same as in the Ranked Draft (Current Set) section above.

Event Queues

Please see https://mtgazone.com/events/month/ for the full event calendar. There are usually 1-2 events running at any given time – event descriptions and rewards can be found on the page above.

Brawlidays

Brawlidays is an ongoing event that allows players to play Historic Brawl Bo1 games at any time at a cost of 10,000 gold or 2000 gems for a one month period beginning at the starting date of the event.

The current monthly period ends on January 16th, upon which presumably another full payment will be required. The reward for this period is one copy of Rhys, the Redeemed. Remember that you can craft this card, if you would prefer not to pay – the main draw is simply to be able to play Historic Brawl at any time. All quest progression/daily rewards may still be earned.

Weekly Standard Brawl

Weekly Standard Brawl is a special event queue each Wednesday, allowing players to be able to play Standard Brawl at any time during the event’s 24 hour running period. There is no cost to entry.

There are no rewards other than the usual quest progression/daily rewards.

All Play Modes

For the purposes of Arena, Traditional refers to Best of three (Bo3). This means that you play a game 1 and then 1-2 sideboarded games. You sideboard for games 2 and 3 only, and the person who lost the last game may choose who goes first. For game 1, players have a 50% chance to be able to choose, like in Bo1.

Bo3 favours better players: the competition tends to be more experienced but if you have a high winrate in both Bo1 and Bo3, you are likely to do better in Bo3 as variance has a lesser impact on the outcome of your games/matches. Newer/less experienced players are less likely to do well in Bo3.

Traditional Play (Standard)

Traditional Play (Standard) is the Best of three (Bo3) version of Play (Standard). This is the Bo3 casual queue with no ranked progression.

Rewards: You receive quest/daily progression for each game you play within the Bo3 matches – so if you go 2-1, you will get two wins towards quests/daily wins. There are no other rewards, as this is the casual queue.

Traditional Standard Ranked

Traditional Standard Ranked is the Bo3 version of Ranked (Standard). You receive ranked progression for the results of the match, not individual games, and you drop two rungs for a loss and gain two rungs for a win instead – if you go 1-2, that still counts as an overall loss so you will drop two rungs.

Otherwise, all information is the same as in the Ranked (Standard) section.

Rewards: You receive quest/daily progression for each game you play within the Bo3 matches – so if you go 2-1, you will get two wins towards quests/daily wins. Otherwise, all rewards are the same as in the Ranked (Standard) section. You cannot earn season rewards for both Standard and Traditional Standard – they share the same overall rank, and both raise that rank. Leaderboard rankings are also the same – your matchmaking ranking is the same for both Standard and Traditional, so losses or wins in either will count to the overall Leaderboard rank.

Traditional Historic Ranked

Everything is exactly the same as Traditional Standard Ranked, but you are playing the Historic rather than the Standard format. Please see that section for all information. There is no Traditional Historic Play – if you want a casual experience, you must play Bo1.

Remember that Historic uses every set on Arena, whereas Standard only uses sets in the current Standard rotation. For more information, please see https://mtgazone.com/the-ultimate-new-player-resource-a-key-concepts-guide-and-magic-terms-glossary/ and search for “Formats” using ctrl+f.

Rewards: Historic Ranked will raise your Constructed Rank/Leaderboard Rank – Standard and Historic share the same overall rank, and both raise that rank. Leaderboard rankings are also the same – your matchmaking ranking is the same for both Standard and Historic, so losses or wins in either will count to the overall Leaderboard rank. Please see Traditional Ranked (Standard) for all rewards information; it’s all the same.

Standard Event

Standard Event allows you to play Bo1 Standard games for rewards until you reach 7 wins or 3 losses. It costs 500 gold or 95 gems to enter.

Rewards:

• 0 wins: 100 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 1 win: 200 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 2 wins: 300 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 3 wins: 400 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 4 wins: 500 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater (this is the break even point where you make your gold back)

• 5 wins: 600 gold, 1 card of rare rarity or greater & 2 of uncommon or greater

• 6 wins: 800 gold, 2 cards of rare rarity or greater & 1 of uncommon or greater

• 7 wins: 1000 gold, 2 cards of rare rarity or greater & 1 of uncommon or greater

Standard Event will not give you Ranked progression, but will give you quest/daily progression.

Traditional Standard Event

Traditional Standard Event is the Bo3 version of Standard event. It costs twice as much to enter: 1000 gold/190 gems. You play until you reach 5 match wins or 2 match losses.

As compared to Standard Event, Traditional Standard Event is much higher risk/reward: it is recommended for more experienced players, not newer ones.

Rewards:

• 0 wins: 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 1 win: 500 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 2 wins: 1000 gold & 3 cards of uncommon rarity or greater (this is the break even point where you make your gold back)

• 3 wins: 1500 gold, 1 card of rare rarity or greater & 2 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 4 wins: 1700 gold, 1 card of rare rarity or greater & 2 cards of uncommon rarity or greater

• 5 wins: 2100 gold, 2 cards of rare rarity or greater & 1 of uncommon or greater

Traditional Standard Event will not give you Ranked progression, but will give you quest/daily progression.

Traditional Draft (Current/Throne of Eldraine)

Traditional Draft is the Bo3 Draft option. It costs 1500 gems to enter, and you cannot use gold. You play until you reach 5 match wins or 2 match losses. Traditional Draft is always the current set; there are no older set Bo3 draft options currently.

As compared to Ranked Draft, Traditional Draft (Throne of Eldraine) is much higher risk/reward: it is recommended for more experienced players, as the rewards are far better if you do well despite losing ranked progression. It is also much more punishing if you do badly, as you lose twice as many gems.

Rewards:

• 0 wins: 1 pack

• 1 win: 2 packs

• 2 wins: 800 gems & 3 packs

• 3 wins: 1500 gems & 4 packs (this is the point where you make your gems back, and get 7 total free packs!)

• 4 wins: 1700 gems & 5 packs.

• 5 wins: 2100 gems & 6 packs

Traditional Draft will not give you Ranked progression, but will give you quest/daily reward progression.

Sealed Events

When a new set is released, Sealed Events are the only way to play it for Limited: draft is generally released a week later. The new set sealed event will generally end about a month in; otherwise, Sealed is available intermittently for different sets. Please see here for the full Event Calendar.

When Sealed is available, it is always Bo1 only and costs 2000 gems to enter. You play until you reach 7 wins or 3 losses; whichever comes first.

Sealed is a fairly poor value proposition: it does not have amazing rewards as compared to its very steep entry cost, and you are liable to lose a lot of gems playing it regardless of skill level (whereas a strong Traditional Draft player will not lose many, and may even make some).

The best reasons to play Sealed, outside of as your first Limited experience as a set releases, are if you enjoy it more than Draft, are significantly better at it than Draft, or want to open a lot of packs quickly but at as a greater value proposition than simply buying them.

EDIT: I’m mostly talking from a gems to gameplay standpoint. Please see here for an article on expected value, which should help you make an informed decision!

Rewards (You always receive 3 packs, regardless of performance):

• 0 wins: 200 gems

• 1 win: 400 gems

• 2 wins: 600 gems

• 3 wins: 1200 gems

• 4 wins: 1400 gems

• 5 wins: 1600 gems

• 6 wins: 2000 gems

• 7 wins: 2200 gems

You will not receive Ranked progression for Sealed, but will receive quest/daily reward progression.

Thanks for reading and we hope you found the queue you were looking for!

This list is up to date as of 27/12/19.

About the Author:

Drifter writes articles on quite the variety of subjects. Find all his articles and guides here: https://mtgazone.com/drifter/.

Drifter’s last new player article: https://mtgazone.com/the-ultimate-new-player-resource-a-key-concepts-guide-and-magic-terms-glossary/.

The MTG Arena Zone discord: https://discord.gg/SPYMExR. Engage with your favourite arenazone content creators there, Drifter included!

Drifter

Drifter

I am a staff writer and editor for Mtgazone! I am an infinite drafter, and offer draft coaching alongside my articles. Far too obsessed with magic generally, not sure if that's a credential or the opposite...

4 Responses

  1. Physicist says:

    Overall a nice article explaining all different ways of playing. However I don’t fully support your statement on the value proposition of sealed. In Frank’s article https://www.channelfireball.com/all-strategy/articles/whats-the-best-mtg-arena-event-for-expected-value-and-can-you-go-infinite/ there is a nice graph in the end that gives an overview of value as a function of win rate. In the 44-55% win rate region sealed provides the best value. at higher win rates traditional draft gives better value. This is of course based on the assumptions he states in the beginning of the article.

  2. Brendan Dillon says:

    As a heads up, you always get three games of tier protection in BO1 and one match in BO3. So if you move to Platinum 1 from Platinum 2, you can’t drop back to Platinum 2 during the first 3 games or 1 match. After that the tier protection is gone.
    I also didn’t see it mentioned that once you make it to Platinum, you can’t fall back into Gold until the season is over.

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