MTG Arena Beginner's Guide

Quick Start Guide

Table of Contents

  1. I just started. What to do?
  2. How to get cards? A brief overview
  3. How to get resources and craft cards?
  4. I got the basics and free decks are coming. What next?
  5. I stopped playing and now got back, any advice?

I just started. What to do?

  1. Free decks

After the initial tutorial that brings you 5 free mono-colored decks, you are going to earn 10 more dual-colored decks over ~a week. Through this “New Player Experience” you also get various stuff like currency, cosmetics and wildcards. The NPE may be seen as consisting of three “chapters”:

  • The basic tutorial — five simple scripted battles with guidance. Grants five mono-colored decks through this part.
    • This part can be skipped (if you’re an experienced player) via the Options menu (hit Escape key, then Account).
  • The Color Challenges — five series of battles, five for each color. Grant upgrades to mono-colored decks, some cosmetics and wildcards.
    • Four first matches in every series are still scripted, but with guidance. These are like puzzles, an extended tutorial.
    • The fifth match is played versus a real player. You don’t have to win it!
    • Completing some challenges also unlocks additional game options, like PvP in the first place.
    • Color Challenges also can be skipped via OptionsAccountUnlock Play Modes, but completing all of them starts the third chapter.
  • Special daily quests — simple stuff like Play X spells of a color. Grant ten dual-colored starter decks and one mythic wildcard.
    • The first dual-colored deck is rewarded just for completing Color Challenges, then you get daily quests for more.
    • You get one deck per day for 4 days, then a quest for a mythic wildcard, then 5 last decks (in the “enemy” color pairs) in one go.
    • You can play normally, you are just rewarded for returning to the game.
    • It’s advised to avoid crafting cards, or at least check what cards you get in these free starters before crafting. Lists can be found here.
  1. Free codes

At the very least, there is a code for 3 packs for each Standard set. Other codes for cosmetics and other stuff could also be active; here is the most updated list.

  • Codes are entered on the Store tab, top right corner.
  • Mobile versions have no in-game option to redeem codes. Go here, enter codes, then enter the Store in the client.
  • On several exceptional occurrences Wizards provided a whole free deck (about on par in power level with regular starter decks). Last time via a code, and before as a Twitch promotion. You may check all the running promotions here.
  1. Spending money

Arena may be played for free, and an active nonpaying player may be competitive, but reaching that point takes time. Spending money speeds up that process, albeit moderately: Arena is expensive for “I want it here and now” approach.

Regular purchases are: premium currency (Gems), available any time, and set preorders, two options for $50 (or €50) each that are about as good as the best deal for Gems aside from additional cosmetics. There are no discounts for Gems ever except that buying in bulk is cheaper. At the best rate you’re getting 1 Arena pack for 1$. Two one-time offers are better than regular purchases: Welcome Bundle ($5) and Adventurer Bundle ($15).

Important note: Prices are lower on desktop, and the biggest Gem bundle is outright unavailable in mobile versions.

  • If you’re going to spend a little, go for one-time bundles.
  • If you’re looking for a headstart, $100 brings you close to a top-tier deck; $200 gives you enough resources for one of a wide choice.
  • In the long run, $50 per set saves you from a lot of grind, and 50$ per month is likely enough for everything but full Mythics collection.
  1. Spending Gold and Gems

In short, the following general route looks the most reasonable:

  1. Get all the free decks, then (or in the process) decide what deck you want to build.
  2. Buy packs that may contain the cards you need. This also get you wildcards, your main means of getting specific cards.
  3. Once you have a deck you’re fine getting 4+ daily wins with, you may opt to play drafts over buying more packs.

For Gold, other spending options are not enticing for a new player. Constructed events (Standard and Historic) are highly competitive and unlikely to benefit you without a competitive deck, and cosmetics do not enhance your collection.

For Gems, you also can buy the Mastery Pass (known as Battle Pass in other games). The Pass is almost always good value for a starting collection, assuming you can advance enough before the next Standard set release (7.5 to 9 levels per week given you don’t miss daily quests). It’s also better if you play both Constructed and drafts. You don’t have to complete the mastery for the Pass to be worth buying, and you can wait till you are sure. The Pass rewards you with packs, individual cards, a free draft entry, Gold, cosmetics, and brings some Gems back.

In addition, keep an eye out on daily deals offered in the Store (renew 15:00 UTC). They are mostly “discounted” cosmetics, but occasionally a pack with a small discount is offered, and once in a while you can buy Gold for less Gold or Gems for less Gems (or a bit of Gold).

How to get cards? A brief overview

  1. Arena Store packs

Bought on the Store tab or received as rewards. One pack costs 1000 Gold or 200 Gems (3 packs for 600 Gems is the minimum though).

Each Arena Store pack contains 1 Rare or Mythic Rare card, 2 Uncommons, and 5 Commons from the corresponding set, with a random chance to get a wildcard (see below) of the same rarity in place of a card. Opening Store packs also helps towards getting guaranteed wildcards.

  1. Draft, Sealed and Jumpstart

All the cards opened in a Sealed or a Jumpstart event, and all the cards picked in a Draft are added to your collection.

A Limited booster pack (used in Sealed and Drafts) contains 1 Rare or Mythic Rare card, 3 Uncommons, and 10 Commons. There’s also a dedicated “land slot” that, depending on a set, may always contain a basic land, always contain a common nonbasic land, or a mix. In the first case, since basic lands on Arena are free, a Limited pack will have 14 cards, and otherwise 15.

  1. Wildcards

Wildcards are your main way of obtaining specific cards. Wildcards differ by rarity just like Magic cards, and can be exchanged 1:1 for cards of the same rarity (that is also referred to as “crafting”). You can craft cards that you have no copies of; click Craft in the top right when in the Collection, or choose “Not Collected” filter and craft there directly or by adding cards to your deck and using “Craft All” button.

Wildcards are scarce. In the long run there’s usually no shortage of Common and Uncommon wildcards, but Rare ones are often a bottleneck. Don’t craft separate cards, craft with a deck mind, and don’t craft cards that you are not going to play immediately.

For details, check the next section, “How to get resources and craft cards?”.

  1. Individual Card Rewards, ICRs

ICRs are randomly chosen cards given out as rewards for playing, in events and in the mastery pass. The rarity and pool vary, but unless stated otherwise, these are Uncommons uniformly chosen from Standard sets, with a chance to be upgraded to a Rare; Rares have a chance to be upgraded to a Mythic. Common ICRs are not a thing!

The most common source of ICRs is daily wins: every other from 5th to 15th. Constructed events and sometimes special events also award ICRs.

  1. Set mastery and Mastery Pass

Set mastery is a two-part reward track that incentivizes you to play regularly. The free top track (as seen on the Mastery tab) rewards you with a pack every 2 levels, and some cosmetics. The bottom track requires the Mastery Pass purchase and rewards packs and ICRs of various rarity.

  1. Ranked rewards

Ranked seasons in Arena coincide with months of the year. There are two ladders, for Constructed and for Limited (though only Quick and Premier drafts are ranked). Each ladder provides 1 to 5 packs and 500 to 1000 Gold in rewards separately, but you have to play at least one ranked game in the respective format during that month. You can check ladder rewards on the Profile tab by clicking your rank.

How to get resources and craft cards?

  1. Getting Gold

Two main sources of Gold are:

  • Daily quests. You get a new quest every day at 09:00 UTC and you can hold up to three. A quest awards 500 or 750 Gold and you can reroll a quest once a day (usually trying to turn a 500-gold quest into a 750-gold one). The chance to roll a 750-Gold quest is estimated at 25%.
  • Daily wins. The first 15 wins a day are rewarded. Early ones are crucial: 4 first wins earn you 550 out of 750 daily Gold for wins. After 4 wins rewards are alternating between 50–25 Gold and an ICR (see above).

You also get minor Gold rewards from the Mastery Pass and can win Gold in paid Constructed Events, if your deck and skill are good enough.

  1. Getting Gems

Aside from purchasing Gems for money, you can win Gems in drafts while entering with Gold. In fact, it’s a common pattern for nonpaying players to play drafts in order to earn gems and buy the Mastery Pass. Some of the most competitive events on Arena such as Arena Opens also may offer Gem rewards. Finally, you get small compensation in Gems in some cases of getting redundant copies of Rare and Mythic Rare cards (see below).

  1. Getting wildcards

There are three ways to get wildcards:

  • Randomly from Store packs. Chances of opening wildcards are 1:3 for Common, 1:5 for Uncommon, and 1:30 for Rare and Mythic. A pack can’t have more than one wildcard of each rarity.
  • Regularly by opening Store packs. In the top right of the Packs tab there are two “wildcard wheels” that advance with every opened Store pack. Every 6 packs you get an Uncommon wildcard, and every 6 packs (shifted by 3) you get a Rare wildcard, except that every 30th pack it’s a Mythic one instead of a Rare.
  • From the Vault. The Vault compensates players for 5th copies of Commons and Uncommons. It fills for 0.1% per extra Common and for 0.3% per extra Uncommon. The Vault becomes visible at 100% as a chest icon next to the currencies at the top. Clicking the chest subtracts 100% from the Vault progress and provides you with 1 Mythic, 2 Rare, and 3 Uncommon wildcards.

Limited and Jumpstart packs can’t contain wildcards and do not help getting them in any way.

  1. How fifth copies of cards work?

An incidental way of getting small amounts of Gems and, in the long run, small amounts of wildcards, is the system that compensates players for obtaining redundant copies of cards from the same set. Or rather three systems. The first is often referred to as the “duplicate protection”.

For Rare and Mythic Rare cards:

  • In store packs, you don’t get 5th copies. If you have all the Rares from the set, you get 20 Gems (not a Mythic). For Mythics, 40 gems.
  • In Limited and as ICR you can roll 5th copies, and you get 20/40 Gems to compensate.

For Commons and Uncommons: redundant copies add progress to the “Vault”, 1 and 3 points respectively. Spending 1000 points, you get 1 Mythic wildcard, 2 Rare wildcards, and 3 Uncommon wildcards. The Vault is not visible in the game if your progress is under 1000 points (100%).

It has to be understood that this all refers to cards from the same set, and that not all cards can be found in packs: some are not included in the “main set” and wouldn’t be opened in packs. You can find these extra cards by typing -?booster in the Arena Collection search. They also can be identified by checking whether the Collector’s Number on a paper card or its image is higher than total number of cards, like 303/280.

I got the basics and free decks are coming. What next?

  1. Queues to play

The Play queue is the most suitable queue for a new player. It’s the only place in the game where the games played count is considered in matchmaking (for the first 50 games), and one of the few where some integral estimation of your deck’s strength is considered. The Play queue lets you join with Standard and Historic decks and matches you correspondingly.

Brawl (and Historic Brawl) is another place where deck strength is considered. It’s a special Constructed format where decks are built around a legendary commander, and only 1 copy of any card is allowed (aside from basic lands). The strength of your commander is also a matchmaking factor. All of this makes Brawl somewhat more approachable than usual Standard, and the mode still provides all the rewards.

Standard Ranked might be scary, but don’t shy from it completely. Get at least a game per month for the ladder rewards. Getting to Silver for a slightly higher reward should also be doable regardless of your deck, because you don’t lose progress at all in Bronze.

Quick Draft might be worth trying for the sake of ladder rewards, and since you keep picked cards you don’t lose much even if you go 0-3. You can even start the draft at the end of the month to play in each of two consecutive months for the same entry fee. Just be aware when the event ends.

Midweek Magic is a free weekly event that grants a Rare card for each of the first two wins, running several days in the middle of the week. Occasionally other free-entry events may appear. A full calendar and schedule of events may be found here.

  1. How to choose and build the next deck

While it’s clear that starter decks don’t hold their own in the open field, there’s no catch-all advice regarding the next step. If you’re not against looking up a list on our deck database, usually there are some decent ultra-budget options (0–5 Rares) that you can get more or less right after the NPE, as well as upgradable budget versions of competitive decks, or just cheap competitived decks (4–12 Rares, 0–4 Mythics) which you can reach in a couple of weeks thanks to the initial influx of wildcards from free packs from codes.

When choosing a deck on the web, be mindful of the following:

  • Wizards are against collecting deck performance data game-wide. If you see some, it’s partial, player-submitted data.
  • Some resources present tournament lists. Remember they are tuned for best-of-three and a specific meta expected at the event. Give things time to settle after new releases.
  • What’s called “budget” may be so in terms of paper cards value — or in terms of wildcards. Be sure to understand that.

In either case, keep in mind the following considerations stemming from the Arena economy — and of course choose something you like.

  • It’s easier to get cards for a mono-colored deck because you don’t need lands producing more than one color of mana. Good lands of that kind normally require Rare wildcards and are crucial for the deck to function.
  • It’s easier to get cards for an aggressive deck because the effects control decks want are more often found at higher rarity (e.g. board wipes).

Check the following section to estimate the pace of accumulating wildcards for your desired build.

  1. How long does it take

The following bit assumes a free-to-play player buying packs to amass wildcards. The focus is on Rare wildcards as these are more likely to be the bottleneck, though at the very start wildcards of any rarity may happen to be in short supply. Time to get your deck depends on your activity.

  • Minimal involvement: logging once in three days to complete daily quests and winning 15 times a week. You should be able to get all the packs from the free set mastery track (3–4 per week) and 5000–7000 Gold per week. You’ll need roughly 2.5 weeks to get 4 Rare wildcards.
  • ’Default’ daily play: aiming for 4 wins daily. Weekly Gold up to 7500–9500, so 4 Rare wildcards are gained in about 2 weeks.
  • Up to the limit: completing 15 wins daily. Weekly Gold up to 9000–11000, so 4 Rare wildcards are gained in under 2 weeks. With this you’ll also be getting many random Uncommons (see ICRs above), occasionally upgraded to higher rarity.

If you’re spending real money, start with Welcome and Adventurer bundle, one-time offers with good money to gem ratio.

With regular gems purchases, $100 gives you 100 packs that translate into 16–17 Rare wildcards and 6–7 Mythic wildcards; Common and Uncommon wildcards likely won’t worry you. This usually brings you close enough to some competitive decks. $200 should be enough to build a competitive deck of your choice.

Note that Arena’s economy system neither lends itself well to occasional, irregular play, nor to “I want it all now” approach.

  1. Buying packs or drafting?

You may see a lot of recommendations to spend your Gold and Gems on drafting, but this approach is not universally good. The key benefit: drafting is essentially the only way an average free-to-play player can get a nearly full Rare collection. The key negative: unless you’re very very good, you earn more wildcards via buying packs, not drafting.

For an average-skilled drafter, going for the collection by drafting implies drafting a lot (think 30+ drafts on a set) while generally taking every Rare regardless of whether it is fit for the deck or for Constructed. All this time earned packs should stay unopened: opening them later guarantees uncollected Rares. Packs should be opened when (0.8 × packs count + collected Rares) roughly equals the total number of Rare cards openable in the set boosters. In the long run this is doable in Quick Drafts even with a below-average record, assuming reinvesting won Gems into more drafts.

Going only half the way is taking the worst from both worlds: getting fewer wildcards and likely not getting all the cards you may need in drafts.

I stopped playing and now got back, any advice?

For a returning player, the general advice is the same as for a new player, except that you might have some resources (Gold, Gems, wildcards) saved from your previous bout.

  • If you skipped a September set, it means the Standard rotation happened, and decks you played may not be legal for Standard anymore. Check our Standard Rotation guide if you’re unsure what Standard is or what is in Standard now.
    • You can play all your cards in Historic, but former Standard decks are going to be demolished in Historic, only having slightly higher chances in the Play queue, thanks to deck weight playing a role in matchmaking there.
    • If you already played Historic before, it might be your deck doesn’t need much to stay afloat. Or maybe you can assemble a Historic Brawl deck to get things rolling.
  • Every player should have the current iteration of starter decks, or at least cards to build these decks. You can see the lists here. The game may not be distributing them automatically to long-inactive accounts though, so if you don’t have the cards, open a ticket to support.
    • Some old players may still go through Color Challenges to get these decks, but the majority won’t be able to. You still can play the Challenges, but with no rewards attached.

You may glance over important things changed and added during your absence on the timeline page.

2 Responses

  1. Oskar says:

    I don’t know if this guide is up to date. I see a trend where I no longer can get 750-gold-dailies and when I try to swap my 500-“goldies” I just get a new one.