MTG Arena Free to Play Guide
Magic the Gathering has always been a very expensive game. Both in paper and in Magic the Gathering: Online. It’s all changed with Magic the Gathering Arena. With the daily guest and how the card system works, it’s very playable without investing any money into it.
Many games are marketed as free-to-play (or “f2p”) because they are free to download. But in many of these games you need to spend a lot of money to not get eaten alive by players with just better stuff. Magic the Gathering: Arena is both free to play and free to actually enjoy the game. To start with you get a lot of starter decks with lots of top tier cards. And by completing daily quests you get to draft and further start building your collection. And in no time, you can own the best decks in the game.
In this guide you will learn the best path to quickly build up your collection and how to keep your self wealthy in the MTGA world in the preparation for new card set releases.
You can skip this part if you are familiar with the software. I wanted to make sure everything is as clear as possible as we move forward.
MTG means Magic the Gathering. MTGA is short for Magic the Gathering Arena.
Limited is a format where you are not allowed to use your own card collection, but build your deck from a limited pool of cards that you either choose or that a given to you. Popular limited formats include draft and sealed. In limited you can use any number of cards to build a minimum of 40 cards deck. Always keep your deck at 40 cards, not 41, not 42 or more. This is because it gives you the best chance yo draw your best cards.
Constructed is where you build a deck using your own collection. You can use 4 copies of the same card and build a minimum of 60 card deck. Again, don’t go over 60 cards ever. A deck also includes a 15 card sideboard. It is used to modify your deck when facing different kinds of decks and brings in a very skillful element in deck building and in game play.
Competitive vs non-competitive: Competitive events in MTGA are best-of-3 games, which means you can use your sideboard on game #2 and #3. Non-competitive events are best of 1. You will find higher skilled players with higher quality decks in competitive events. But the prize pool is better compared to the entry fee.
Wildcards in your collection are one-time-use-only cards that will convert to any card of the similar rarity. Use these wisely. Whenever you open a pack, you receive points towards acquiring the next wildcard. You can see the progress in the pack windows while opening packs.
The Vault. Whenever you acquire a card that you already own 4 of, you earn vault progress instead of adding that card to your collection. The increase of the vault progress is depended on the cards rarity level: Mythic — 1.1%, Rare — 0.5%, Uncommon — 0.3%, Common — 0.1%. So 1000 commons to crack open the vault, that’s pretty miserable. But it’s still free stuff. When the vault is opened, you receive 1 mythic, 2 rare and 3 uncommon wildcards.
Gems and gold – Gems you can only buy with real money or win at events. Gold you can win at events or grind from daily quests. Some events like competitive drafts only accept gems as an entry fee, so always spend your first if you can.
2. Starting out – What to do and what not to do?
The easiest way to hinder your success in MTGA is to start doing the wrong things at the beginning. It’s crucial to know what will get you forward and what will set you back.
Do and do not list
Don’t play constructed events with starter decks. You will lose and drain your gold. If you want to experience what the meta game looks like, you can go ahead and try it but don’t expect to win.
Don’t waste your wildcards. You will run out of rare wildcards first, mythic wildcards second and you will probably have enough uncommon and common wildcards. Use them only when finishing a competitive deck.
Don’t play sealed. Drafts are just better value
Don’t use gold to buy packs or other products. Use it only to enter events.
Don’t build a bad deck. You will be playing your first deck a lot, so make sure it’s a top tier deck you are building. For example don’t use rare/mythic wildcards to improve the starter decks.
What’s your goal?
First you have to decide what’s your end goal. How do you want to play the game? Do you want to play constructed or limited? If you don’t know yet, I’ll answer it for you. You want variety. This means multiple decks to play constructed with and occasionally some limited play. In the beginning you can’t have variety. If you go too wide with your collection, you will end up with subpar decks and your playing experience will be miserable. Variety will come later when we have established a solid beginning. Many people also enjoy deck building and brewing new kinds of strategies. Don’t do this at the beginning. Trust what works.
To get more stuff, you need to win events. When you start out you don’t have any cards to build a deck. So the main strategy is to play drafts until you have collected enough good cards to build a good deck. With a competitive deck you can now play constructed and/or drafts to accumulate more cards.
Never play sealed. Drafts are much better value.
How long does it take to get competitive?
I define competitive as a point where you are playing a top tier deck that can’t be improved by adding or changing any cards. It’s just a perfect deck. When I started playing MTGA I wanted to build a top tier deck that can beat everyone. I don’t remember exactly but it took me about 30-35 hours of drafting (and 5 dollars) to build my first deck, a UWR control deck with about 6 mythics and 25 rares.
The time it takes to build a good deck varies from people to people. First of all some decks are cheaper than others. For example mono red aggro decks are usually very cheap and they are good. But I, for one, find them boring and I don’t like the fact that you can’t use the cards on any other decks. Second, you might be a god drafter and win everything or you might just open all the cards you need from packs. You never know.
How much does it help to spend money?
To speed up the process entirely by buying packs to get a good collection is terrible value. You need to spend close to $200 to get a good deck.
On the other hand, spending 5-50$ to buy gems for draft entries might speed up the grinding process a lot. Running out of gems or gold can mean no drafts for you in 3-4 days. There’s a $5 one-time-purchase starter kit, which I will recommend buying if you want to spend some money.
3. The Basic Strategy
In the beginning you literally have nothing. There is a daily quest which resets after 24 hours. There’s also a weekly quest for a booster pack and quests for the premade decks. Just try the decks you are given and complete the daily quests. If you are completely new to the game, the premade decks might be a really fun way to learn about the cards and the game.
Once you have gathered 5000 gold, enter a draft. Before entering a draft, you should know the pick order of cards and basic game play. If you enjoy drafts and don’t enjoy the premade decks, you can try playing 1-2 draft games a night to complete the daily quests, so you will eventually have enough gold for another draft even if you lose your first one.
Watch and research constructed
Don’t play constructed yet. You don’t have the cards. But make yourself familiar with it.
Have some kind of an idea in your head what kind of a deck you want to be building. Watch streams and youtube videos to see what the top decks of the format are. Think about which one of those decks would fit you the best. If some of the decks have a lot of older cards you can’t access with drafts and some of the decks have more newer cards, it would be wise to try building the latter one first so you will have a competitive constructed deck faster. Even if it’s not the deck you will enjoy the most. It worth to think about in how many decks the cards you will be using your wildcards to will go to.
If you win a lot, the best formats is competitive drafts. Don’t play sealed. There’s more luck involved in the deck building phase and you don’t get to choose what cards to add to your collection. Also the entry fees are really high compared to the prize pools.
Though competitive drafts are better in prizes, I would advise you to play the normal drafts that cost 750 gems to enter. The competition is a lot less skilled and you will win more easily. Also, when trying to acquire the needed cards for a competitive decks, it’s very useful to try to pick rares and mythic rares you will need in constructed during a draft. When you are playing with lesser skilled opponents, you can get away with missing a critical pick for your draft deck in order to pick a much needed constructed mythic rare.
In normal drafts compared to competitive drafts, the prizes are worse but the entry fee is also lower. If you go into competitive drafts too early, you might get 1-2 bad drafts and lose all your gems and then you are back at grinding daily quests. So switch into competitive drafts only after you have amassed something like 8000-10000 gems. And if you lose a lot, go back to the normal drafts.
Switching to constructed
Once you have build up your gold, gem and card count it’s time to build the constructed deck you have been aiming to do. Find deck lists online. They differ a little, so test out different version in quick match in order to figure out what fits you the best. Also play quick matches until you know how to play your newly built deck. Constructed is a lot different from limited.
When you have learned how to play your deck, it’s time to enter the competitive constructed events. These events are great. This is the place where you can earn a lot of cards, especially the older ones you don’t have access to with drafts. Just play, play, play and you will get so many rares and mythics.
Once you start playing you will see a lot of different decks and have a better idea which decks are good and which will suit you the best. So keep grinding for new cards so you can build another deck.
The meta game changes rapidly. New decks emerge and older ones will have improvements. Keep up with the meta game and try to always play the best deck in a given situation.
How can I go infinite if I’m bad
Now you have probably figured out that grinding magic online if you keep losing your matches is pretty tough. If you feel like it’s really hard to draft or win games, it’s time to start learning. Magic is a competitive game and you need to be better than your opponents. There’s a lot of luck involved so it’s not always clear if you are playing bad or just losing because of bad luck. Always assume you are doing something wrong so you can find things you can improve.
The best way to learn is to watch a lot of twitch streams. But don’t just passively watch but think about why the did something you wouldn’t have done. Also after your own games, try to think about why you lost. It’s sometimes easy to blame it on a luck or some other factor, but the odds are you could have played it better. So find the better plays for next game.
If you don’t want to improve, you can’t go infinite on magic arena
- Grind daily quests any means necessary until you have gold for drafts
- Research what competitive decks you might want to play so you can pick up the cards in drafts.
- Enter noncompetitive drafts
- Win drafts. Sacrifice draft picks to pick up good constructed mythic rares.
- Play a lot of drafts until you have enough cards to build a competitive deck
- Play normal constructed and practice your deck
- Once you know how to play your deck, enter competitive constructed events
- Win events and modify your deck and sideboard to the metagame you are facing
- Keep grinding constructed events and draft events. Eventually you want to play different decks so keep your options open and golds and gems growing.
Only buy event entries with gold and gems. Never packs or any other products. Only exception is If there’s some kind of one time super promotion, then do that if it feels lucrative.
Don’t waste your Mythic and Rare wildcards. These should be used on cards in non-draftable formats that you need. Only use them as the last cards you need in a competitive deck. And make sure the deck you are building is actually good so you can win games.