Magic The Gathering Arena Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

by OriginMD originally from

Welcome, Planeswalker, to the Beginner’s Guide to Magic: The Gathering Arena. This guide is intended to help you navigate through the MTG planes and map out the way to achieve the best results and maximum enjoyment. It’s by no means exhaustive but should allow you to reach your goals whether they are to reach a certain rank, build your collection or simply to have fun in MTGA.

TL;DR for those who don’t want to read the whole guide:

  • Use one of your beginner decks to complete the quests and unlock all the starter decks in 5-7 days in play or ranked play modes
  • Modify your deck (Merfolk, Eternal Thirst and Walk the Plank have the highest winrate) and grind those two modes and complete the quests until you have enough to build a viable constructed event grinding decks (RDW – Red Deck Wins, monoblue, White Weenie, drakes)
  • Play Constructed Event (CE) ad-infinum to get gold and Individual Card Rewards (ICRs). Spend the gold on ranked draft until gold rank, then hoard it for streamer draft events and continue with the CE.
  • Rare wildcards are the biggest bottleneck, save them and use only if you’re sure of it
  • Found some acronyms like ICR (Individual Card Rewards), CE or bo3 confusing? Check out the Acronyms and terms in Arena or for MTG in general
  • If you have specific questions not covered in this guide, go to the weekly Nicol’s Newcomer Monday thread or to the appropriate channel on Discord
  • Report bugs and players (for stalling) to support

If you’ve already decided to play the game, simply read on. If you’re completely new to card games, it’s best if you read through the guide thoroughly. If you’re an experienced MTG player it’s recommended you familiarize yourself with the quirks of MTGA such as hotkeys and go straight for the topics that you find interesting from the navigation bar on the left

If you’d like to know the differences between MTG offerings and MTGA is the right one for you, there’s a concise overview below.

Should I play MTGA/MTGO/Magic Duels/Paper?

The best way to describe MTGA is to say it’s a new digital wave in MTG. Let’s list the main differences between the offerings:

1. MTGA is a new collectible card game (CCG) that focuses mainly on the Standard format and e-sports. It’s free to play and in open beta. There are no planned collection wipes. If you’re ready to jump into the battle straight away, this is the game you want. If you’re completely new you need to be ready for a steep learning curve to succeed. Available on PC during open beta, it’s possible to play on phones and tables, but only with a remote desktop setup.

2. Magic: The Gathering Online (MTGO) is the previous WOTC digital game. It’s a trading card game (TCG). It focuses on replicating the paper experience. You will need $10 to open an account and will need to pay for cards you acquire from then on. You might want to play this game if you’re looking for formats that are not available in MTGA (Modern, EDH, Vintage, 2HG and so on).

3. Magic Duels is a free-to-play game more focused on beginner-level players. It has a limited number of sets (from Origins to Amonkhet) and a curated cardpool from those sets with rarity restrictions. There will be no new sets, patches or updates, but Duels provides you with good tutorials and the possibility to play against the AI. It can be played on PC, iOS and XBox One. Unfortunately it’s not cross-platform. It’s best to graduate to MTGA once you’ve learnt how to play Magic using this game.

4. Paper is the granddaddy of most TCGs. If you like human interaction and MTG, paper has some of the most diverse selection of options for you. From kitchen table magic with friends to ProTour championships you’re likely to find something that may fit your wallet requirements and fancy.

If after playing MTGA, you’d like to attend your local game store for a pre-release, there’s a guide for you

Can you play MTGA on Mac or tablets?

Officially MTGA is developed in Unity and therefore can be easily ported to Mac, Linux, tablets and phones in the foreseeable future. That’s yet to come as the developers would like to iron out the game on PC first. Unofficially, you can jury-rig your devices and work around the limitations.

For Mac:

Download Windows and use Bootcamp to install it. Press and hold the Option key to switch between MacOS and Windows during boot up. Once in the game, you may need to tweak the video screen resolution. This setup had been used since the beginning of Open Beta by some players. MTGA is compatible with Win7 and above.

Alternatively you could try NVIDIA GeForceNow or Parsec

For Linux:

This discussion may be a starting point.

For tablets and phones using iOS:

Use Chrome Remote Desktop/Teamviewer for remote desktop access or any other alternative. Currently that’s the only known way to play MTGA on those devices.

For tablets and phones using Android:

Use Steamlink for remote desktop access or any other alternative. Currently that’s the only known way to play MTGA on those devices.

For especially gifted you may even jury-rig it for Nintendo switch

Now that we’ve very briefly discussed the differences between the current offerings, let’s have a closer look at how MTGA may be played and the structure of available formats

What formats can be played in MTGA

The formats in Magic Arena open beta can be divided into two main groups – constructed and limited.

Constructed formats allow you to come up with a 60 card deck you build in advance. Limited formats are usually focused around building a 40 card deck from the card pool you select. There are five permanent constructed formats in Magic Arena at the moment and around six types of events that were held in closed beta.

It’s always best to check the event calendar that Wizards of the Coast publishes on the beta forums and twitter to make sure when certain events begin and end.

Formats in MTGA
FormatBest ofTypeMatchmakingCostRewards
Play1ConstructedOpen Play MMR, Games Played, Deck strengthFreeNone
Ranked1ConstructedRank, Constructed MMRFreeSeasonal
Constructed Event1ConstructedWin / Loss500 g3 ICR + Gold
Traditional Play3ConstructedWin / LossFreeNone
Traditional Constructed3ConstructedWin / Loss1000 g3 ICR + Gold
Singleton1ConstructedWin / Loss500 g2 ICR + Gold
Pauper1ConstructedWin / Loss500 g2 ICR + Gold
Momir1ConstructedWin / Loss500 g2 ICR + Gold
Streamer Constructed Events1Constructed
Win / Loss500 g2 ICR + Gold
Draft1LimitedLimited MMR, Win / Loss, Rank5000 g /750 gemsPacks + Gems
Traditional Draft3LimitedWin / Loss1500 gemsPacks + Gems
Sealed1LimitedLimited MMR, Win / Loss2000 gemsPacks + Gems
Streamer Draft Events1LimitedWin / Loss5000 g / 750 gemsPacks + Gems

Source: Parts of this reddit post and info by WOTC

Matchmaking Ranking (MMR) discussion is somewhat covered in the WOTC info in the hyperlink above.

Orange highlight the rotating formats, meaning they may not always be available. Other formats have also been present such as holiday events and flash events. We don’t have an indication if they’re ever to return and how they will change.

The green highlights the events with the best Expected Value (EV) that you should aim to compete in.

Do note, that in Draft your EV is best before you reach Gold rank. Once you do, you get matched with good players in that bracket and unless you’re an amazing player don’t expect your win rate and EV to be the same in platinum and higher. Once you have reached Gold rank and feel your winrate has decreased you should stop playing bo1 ranked drafts and either hoard the gold and gems for draft events, move on to traditional drafts or to constructed event.

Constructed Event if a safe bet for now as long as you have at least one grinding deck for this format. You need the lowest winrate to play this format indefinitely and get the biggest bang for your buck.

One thing of note regarding formats is that another permanent format had been confirmed by the developers as being in the works is the loosely named “Arena Modern” that will feature all the cards that will rotate out of Standard so you will always be able to play your cards even if they’re not standard legal. There’s little information about it and it will likely not make an appearance before the rotation in Q4 2019.

Permanent constructed formats

For new free to play players the best way is to focus on completing their quests for gold and sticking to Constructed Events. We’ll be discussing how to farm gold in detail in the next section.

Once you click the play button on the bottom right you’ll be granted a few options (it shows only a few modes by default):

The first format a new player encounters is the best of one (bo1) Play which might be the easiest way to start playing. It doesn’t have an entry fee and has no rewards except for completing your daily quests. Be aware though, that it uses a deck strength matching algorithm and as such you should avoid some common pitfalls such as including cards from boosters to the starter decks. Furthermore, it uses matchmaking ranking so the more you play the mode the harder matchups you have, so it’s not a safe option for long.

More on this in the farming section.

Ranked is another bo1 mode of playing. You get seasonal rewards that are rather mediocre for the amount of time and effort you spend. However, getting to gold should not be a problem for casual players in its current state. We expect the ranked rewards to get a makeover as the open beta progresses.

Constructed Event requires 500 gold or 95 gems to participate in, but may have a good expected value compared to the ladder and unranked play. The main reason is due to its reward structure. You may win a maximum of 7 games and lose up to 3 games until the event ends, winning some gold and random Individual Card Rewards (ICR) to boot. More on this in the farming gold section.

Once you have followed the farming section and built up at least a somewhat playable deck, you’ll likely need to switch from Play and Ranked to this mode.

Traditional play is not visible by default. You need to toggle Arena Play Modes on the top right for it to show up:

It’s a best of three (bo3) format with 15 card sideboards and doesn’t offer any special rewards.

Traditional Constructed is also only visible with the toggle. It’s a bo3 mode. The event ends with either 5 wins or two losses. If you’re a new player, avoid Traditional Constructed – it’s designed with more risk in mind as you can lose a lot of your investment by entering the format but may potentially earn a lot if you have the best deck and are generally a top player with a high win rate.

Rotating Constructed formats

In rotating formats there have been multiple events announced in the schedule of open beta.

In the Singleton event you construct a 60 card deck with no more than one copy of a single card except for basic lands and sneaky rats. It’s likely to return at different times.

Other events that had happened in closed beta had included the Pauper event. Pauper means you may only play cards of common rarity with the card pool available in Magic Arena.

There was also the Momir event which is a peculiar format that likely needs a separate guide on its own. There are some quick tips here.

We’ve had numerous Streamer constructed events. However, it’s difficult to categorize them easily as they are quite different and are likely to change considerably as the open beta progresses.

In closed beta Flash Events had also occurred. These had an entry fee at the same price as a booster and the possibility of getting more than one as a reward based on how well you did in the event. They had all but disappeared by the end of closed beta so we shall see if they ever make a return.

Constructed games in MTGA are held in what’s called Standard environment. Cards from Ixalan onwards will be standard legal until Q4 2019 so it’s safe to craft most cards before then. If you’d like to know more about Standard and when cards rotate, the easiest way is to visit this site that has all the relevant explanations. Once cards rotate out of Standard there will be a permanent play mode where you can play the cards you had acquired or played previously.

Alternatively, you might want to jump into limited formats.

Permanent limited formats

Permanent limited formats include keeper Draft. It’s a bo1 exercise where you choose cards from the available packs and build a 40 card deck. Drafting is a good way to build your collection, but requires you to understand how to draft and getting enough wins to get more draft games. You pick a card and pass the pack along against bots with different personalities. This means you can close the game at any time during the pick phase and start from where you had left off when you return.

There is a short guide on limited in the Drafting bo1 section.   

The drafts alternate between the sets that are being drafted. So do check out the events calendar for Magic Arena to make sure it’s a set you want to draft.

Traditional Draft is bo3 and just like Traditional Constructed it’s a high risk high reward affair. Your entry price is at serious risk if you are not experienced and don’t have a good win rate, thus it’s not recommended for new players.

Rotating limited formats

Sealed is a format where you open 6 packs and build a 40 card deck with. It’s currently best of one. You get rewards up to 7 victories and may lose up to 3 games until the event finishes. It’s only available with gems and the Expected Value is not as high as in most other limited formats. Unlike drafts you don’t pick which cards you get to construct your deck with. It’s dependent on what you open in the packs. Furthermore, those 6 packs don’t advance your wildcard wheels.

We’ve also had Streamer draft events with special conditions, for example each player receiving a treasure token each turn, or the cards not costing any mana. They had retained the bo1 draft entry and reward structure.

As a free to play new player you want to start with the ladder and focus on either the Constructed Event, drafting best of one or both interchangeably.

Finally, there’s a separate mode of playing called direct challenges where you can play against your friends. In this mode there are no timers and you’re free to play any type of game you want and test your decks at leisure!

An overview of MTGA economy

How does the economy work in MTGA? It’s a bit special. There are essentially six components that make up this CCG. NPE decks, Wildcards, ICRs, the Vault, Gold and Gems.

The first component is the New Player Experience (NPE) decks. After the tutorial you receive 5 mono-colored decks and a random dual-colored deck out of 10 available ones. You also receive a quest in those colors and get a new deck each day you complete those quests  for a total of 5. Finally, after you complete all the NPE quests you get all the 10 decks. It’s important to complete those quests as they will make up your deck building base.

An overview of all those decks may be found here.

The second is the wildcard system. You can exchange those wildcards for a card of the corresponding rarity. For example, a mythic wildcard can be exchanged for a Carnage Tyrant for your collection. Once.

You acquire wildcards from boosters and from the wildcard wheel.

The rare wildcard wheel changes to a mythic wildcard after every two rare wildcards and the cycle repeats again. The pattern is R-R-M-R-R.

The chances of getting rare and mythic wildcards from a booster are not disclosed, but the pity timer is set 24 boosters, i.e. you’re guaranteed to have a rare and a mythic wildcard in 24 boosters you open.

WC rarityPity Timer

Without going into much more detail there are two things you should note as a general rule of thumb regarding wildcards:

  1. Rare wildcards are the most valuable ones, don’t craft them until you’re sure you’ll be using this deck a lot and you’re certain of what you’re doing!
  2. Don’t craft cards so that you have more than 3 copies of any rare or mythic card!

The main reason for the second rule is the rate at which copies above the 4th impact your collection. You only get 1.1% of vault progress for 5th copies of mythic and 0.5% for 5th copies of rare cards (see 4th component), an extremely low rate unless you’re raredrafting or have an excessive amount of gems. Furthermore, your deck should be able to function with 3 copies of rares well enough. If it relies on rares too much it may not be suitable to be a beginner’s deck.

The third component is the Individual Card Rewards (ICR). You may be awarded ICR for dailies and events. As you have possibly guessed from the two rules above, rare ICRs are the most valuable ones and events that provide a guaranteed source of those are invaluable to building your collection.

The fourth component is the Vault that notably contains 1 mythic and 2 rare wildcards. It gets charged with copies of cards over 4th at a pretty mediocre rate. You can see the vault progress after it reaches over 100%, in the logs or using third-party tools covered in the corresponding section. The vault is due to be replaced by a duplicate protection in Q1 2019 at the earliest.

The fifth element is gold. You may receive the following possible daily gold rewards:

Note the diminishing returns. It’s always better to have consistent one to four wins every day rather than grinding 15 wins for 3 days a week.

The sixth component are the Gems, or the premium currency, it’s needed to enter some events and in the future, cosmetics. If you’re a 100% f2p player the only way to convert gold into gems is to play the bo1 draft. Right now only Traditional Draft and Sealed Events are gems-only. However, those are events best suited for experienced players and have a good EV only if you have a high win rate.

MTGA economy is different for your depending on what you’re focusing on – constructed, limited or both.

If you’re playing constructed you want to focus on your dream deck in the future and grinding deck in the present. You will need to leverage the wildcards to construct your deck.

If you’re only interested in limited, it’s hardly possible to sustain it as f2p and will only be briefly covered in the drafting resources.

If you’re interested in both you will likely alternate between the two modes. It’s perfectly possible to grind the constructed modes and play an occasional draft or two with the gold you had accumulated. Winning twice daily for 30 days will get you more than 6 drafts as covered in the Farming gold section.

So, that’s all good and dandy, but how does that help us farm the gold and how do we construct our dream deck? And what is even a dream deck for a person who’s just starting out?

Progressing to your dream deck

A dream deck will depend on a variety of factors, but ultimately it’s a deck you enjoy playing with and is feasible for you to construct in a reasonable timeframe. As an extreme example as a free to play player (f2p) with limited time to play the game, the number of viable decks won’t be high, while for someone who’s ready to spend money there is a broader range of immediately viable decks one can build towards.

The usual advice for new and f2p players is to build an aggressive (aggro) deck of grinding due to the following reasons:

  • It’s relatively easy to play (pilot) those decks.
  • They’re quick and as such can farm gold and other rewards faster.
  • They can be built on a budget.

The base from the NPE decks is usually enough to get you started on one of your farming decks. Before the next set, Ravnica Allegiance, is introduced on 17th of January 2019 to MTGA the following decks were the most popular and powerful meta decks that would be crafted from the starters:

  • Red Deck Wins (RDW)
  • Mono-blue
  • White Weenie

It should be noted that rare wildcards compose the major bottleneck and as such decks that require the least amount of them to be playable will be considered as budget in MTGA.

Dual lands that may come into play untapped are rare and as such for a new f2p player they compose a hurdle. RDW, Mono-blue and White Weenie are perfect in this aspect as they only use one color of mana and can be built to be competitive enough in any constructed mode in MTGA.

Let’s have a look at some typical bo1 modifications of those decks and how one would go about upgrading their deck.

For Red Deck Wins we’ve had tons of variations, here’s the list of the metadeck from mtggoldfish on 08/01/2019

What do we have from NPE deck? The starting decks grant us 3 shocks, 3 lightning strikes, 4 acts of treason and 1 banefire from the list. So how do we prioritize crafting our rares and other elements? This comes down to experience, but here’s how I had approached it when open beta started.

The key to the deck is fast aggressive dealing of damage. My first craft were 3 goblin chainwhirlers as they absolutely destroy some token strategies and are a solid card for any monored list. After that I hadn’t crafted any rares for a very long time. What did I replace the rest of the rares in the main deck with? As we must keep up aggro I was using the budget replacements. Two act of treason, viashino pyromancer, goblin instigator, boggart brute, charging monstrosaur, rekindling phoenix that are provided in the starting pack can be included in your first RDW deck. For the rest of the rares you will want to prioritise runaway steam-kin, experimental frenzy and risk factor. Legion Warboss and other rares should not be a priority.

This is a quickly thrown together list on a minimum budget that was close to what I had crafted at the start of closed beta for the constructed event. Note that some of those cards are used in many other decks such as lightning strike and shock. Remember, that the rares are usually extremely powerful cards in those lists and the power level of a full deck is going to be much higher than without them.

RDW of different varieties occupy a large part of the mythic metagame and remain a popular choice.

Let’s say you had wanted to build a mono-blue deck on a starter budget.

Keep in mind, that this is a tempo deck, it’s aggro-control and requires a better grasp of MTG concepts. If words like aggro-control confuse you, that’s normal. The gist of the idea is that a tempo deck plays creatures like aggro and messes with the opponent’s gameplan like control. It uses counterspells and combat tricks to do that.

As such it has a higher layer of complexity that RDW and monowhite aggro. It also requires you to know the metagame, what’s played, what are the threats. If you first instinct when you see the tempest djinn is to play it on turn 3, it’s a bad sign. You need to know how to protect your creatures, mess with the opponents plan effectively. If you do, you will be able to get to maximum wins in Constructed Event with the final version of the deck. If you don’t, you’re unlikely to win a lot. It comes down to deep understanding and practice, practice, practice.

Here’s the list on 08/01/2019 from mtggoldfish

The good news are twofold. This deck can function on only 2 crafted rares. You get one Tempest Djinn from the starter deck and you can replace the warkite marauders with some cards from the sideboard, for example 2 copies of Sleep, and exclusion mage for good measure. Your priority crafts are mist-cloaked herald, siren stormtamer, djinn, curious obsession and dive down. You can also play nightveil sprite and surge mare. Those are the core of the deck. Counterspells should be adjusted based on the metagame.

You might also want to check out a quick description and modification of this deck that achieved mythic rank with the deck.

Explaining in detail how to play this deck warrants a separate detailed guide. But if you do decide to go this route this deck can be built on a budget from the starting kit.

Finally, let’s round up with the White Weenie list. It’s one of the easiest to pilot, straightforward and strongest list at the moment.

Here’s a list from mtggoldfish from 08/01/2019

The first thing you need to decide is wherever you want to have the red in the deck for heroic reinforcements. If you cut it out you don’t need a ton of rares including lands and the deck functions well enough without this. So, what are the priority crafts?

The priority crafts are 3 legion’s landing and 3 venerated loxodons. Those rares 3 mythic rares in history of benalia are enough to provide an extremely strong core for the deck. What can the rest of the cards from the list be replaced with? Snubhorn sentry, healer’s hawks, leonin vanguards, rustwing falcons can all see play in the deck. Naturally if you have Ajani he’s also welcome in the deck.

White weenies are a popular deck and had been used to achieve rank 1 in mythic a few times with different modifications.

This short overview of the metadecks is not meant to force you to play one of the three. There are multiple viable decklists that may be enjoyable to you personally. MTG is an extremely diverse game with a good metagame right now. If you build correctly you can play any archetype to reach your goal in Arena. Think of those decks above as your possible farming decks on a budget. If you have the time and possibly some money to spend your options of viable decks and the power of those decks increases. If you’re f2p you will feel underpowered at first but after a month of farming (calculation in farming gold section) you should be able to afford one of the full monocolored metadecks.

How do you recognize your dream deck? Watch streamers play, read reddit, visit deckbuilding sites like

Do keep in mind that those decks are not guaranteed to be extremely good! They need a discerning eye to know which ones work and which don’t but they give you an idea of how much variety you can expect from the game.

If you’re not sure what to pick, consult the standard metagame lists. You’ll need to modify them for bo1, but at least they’re proven to be working and there’s nothing wrong with copying a deck that’s good. You just need to have the knowledge of how to play (pilot) the deck, the card interactions, matchups and many other things. If in doubt, try to play without spending the wildcards first and ask for help with budget replacements.

Avoid the Arena Metagame lists and the auto-meta on MTGApro like plague! Those lists won’t help you much, they’re uncurated and will fold to any of the standard metagame lists that had been slightly modified. If you use them, don’t expect to get consistent 7-x wins in constructed.

A special note for the upcoming Ravnica Allegiance and any new set that may come to MTGA: the metagame is bound to change significantly. It’s best to hoard your wildcards, gold and gems unless you’re 100% sure you want some specific deck right now. Wait for a few weeks after the set had been released if you can.

How do you build towards it? After you have finished your grinding deck, use the next section on farming gold to grind out the wildcards.

Any other advice? Yes, if you’re opening packs for your dream deck focus on sets that have

  • High power level or cards
  • Have rare dual lands

If you consult the list of the most played cards in Standard for example, you will see that the sets that have the most played cards in general are Dominaria (DOM) and Guild of Ravnica (GRN). Ixalan (XLN) comes next with the general power level being lower, but still containing the rare dual lands and some powerful cards. Rivals of Ixalan (RIX) and the Core set (M19) are generally low-powered and have some bomb cards you might simply want to craft from the wildcards. So, this is the current priority for sets depending on what your dream deck is:

  1. DOM/GRN
  2. XLN
  3. M19/RIX

Keep in mind the diminishing returns of boosters. Your collection advances miles ahead with the first boosters you open and grinds down once you start hitting duplicates. If you already have a farming deck it’s not advisable to open more than 10 packs of each set except the new one (you receive 3 packs from the new set as rewards for 15 wins). In fact, it’s best if you don’t spend your money on packs and instead use the gold to go infinite in Constructed event to grind out your collection by getting ICRs.

Final and more positive note: once you’ve acquired the rare dual lands you should be able to use them forever. Even if they rotate out of Standard but are reprinted later with the same name you should be able to use the rare lands you had crafted before. Right now is the best time to start playing MTGA and building the collection, so let’s discuss how to farm that gold!

Farming gold

So, how do we farm gold? There are some easy-to-remember steps you should take outlined below

The first thing you need to check is whether you had used the one-time redeem code PlayRavnica to collect your 3 GRN boosters. From 17th of January you can also use PlayAllegiance to collect 3 RNA boosters. Go to Store, Redeem Code, paste it there and confirm.

Next you need to have all the 10 NPE decks to really start farming. Complete those quests in the first week to get the whole package.

To reroll the quest press the swirly arrow to the left of the quest description. It will replace a quest with a new one and hopefully you’ll get lucky and get a 750 g quest. Limited to once per day.

You should also note that if you’re playing the Play mode and doing your daily quests you should not modify the starter decks in any way! The reason for that is deck strength based matchmaking. If you add some high-powered rares or mythics to your deck the algorithm will match you with high-powered decks even though the rest of your deck is weak and you will get rekt.

You also will get paired with better decks once you’ve won enough in the Play mode, so graduate from this mode as soon as possible.

Other modes such as Ranked and Constructed Event don’t use this algorithm. So feel free to modify your deck to the best extent you can.

Once you have the first two pieces ready you need to estimate how much time you have. The rewards are front-loaded, so you get most of them for your first wins.

You need to reroll any 500 gold quest for a chance at 750 gold quest. The 750 gold quests are not too common, so don’t worry if you don’t get them. If it’s not the correct color pair, don’t despair. You can accumulate up to 3 quests at the same time so it’s fine not to complete a daily quest at once.

If you’re a completely new player and need the boost before completing the NPE quests you may want to construct a deck that has only 1-3 converted mana cost (CMC) creatures and spells with around 20 mana and just jam as many.

If you play every day and win at least twice every day for a total of 15 wins per week you will get the following rewards in a month of playing

  • 500 g * 30 days = 15,500 g from quests in the worst case scenario
  • 350 g * 30 days = 10,500 g from daily wins
  • 12 booster packs of the most recent set
  • A few boosters from ranked rewards

As a casual player that’s not a bad progression for spending 30 minutes per day on playing and trying out the game. The key is consistency.

Your first month of farming gold and those booster infusions should allow you to craft your first grinding deck that lets you go infinite in the constructed event. With a high enough win rate you can easily increase the amount of gold you receive above this benchmark. 26 thousand gold that you had earned is enough to get you started with your deck and drafting.

A few notes regarding farming: Don’t burn out. MTGA is not going anywhere. Take breaks during and after the farming sessions. Personal rule – lose 3 times in a row, take a minimum of an hour break. It’s easy to get tilted, but don’t let it get to you and keep on trucking the next day.

Spending money and gems

The first and the most important lesson on spending gems is how to spend the money on them first, especially if you’re from outside the US.

  1. Always select USD as the payment method, it will always be cheaper than EUR
  2. Use paypal, add a US address there
  3. Select address of delivery in the US (there are tax-free states btw)

This will be the most cost-efficient way to purchase gems in MTGA, up tp 20% less easily. Let’s review the available bundles and how to get the biggest bang for your buck

Bundle namePriceGems/$
Starter bundle(2500 gems)$4.99500
750 gems$4.99150
1 600 gems$9.99160
3 400 gems$19.99170
9 200 gems$49.99184
20 000 gems$99.99200

The bundle also provides five M19 packs. Even if you don’t get playable cards from those boosters your wildcard meter progresses.

The bundle does provide a boost that an experienced player can use to jump into a more competitive side of MTGA straight away as this may be used to play at the very minimum 3 drafts or buy 12 packs of your choice.

It is evident that the starter pack that is available as a one-time purchase provides excellent value compared to any other purchase packs. You may hear on reddit people saying they’re ‘almost f2p’. Most of the time it means they’ve only bought the starter bundle. If you’re spending money on MTGA, start with it first.

How many gems you feel you need to buy depends on how you play and your goals in the game. If you’re a limited player you will need to buy gems for drafts at the very least initially. If you want to have a deck of your choice immediately you will buy the packs to get the wildcards.

It is perfectly possible to be a competitive constructed player without spending any money. There are many people who had played since the beginning of open beta and had not only built multiple tier 1 competitive decks but have stockpiled tens of thousands gold coins.

But make no mistake, it takes time, consistent dedication, knowledge and improvement to reach those results. Spending money may help you jumpstart your collection and build your first few competitive decks. But after a month of diligent playing it comes down to skill, not the size of your pocket to achieve success in MTGA.

That being said, there had been quite a few studies regarding how many boosters you need to open to reach a full collection (4 copies of each card)

How to play vs blue decks (Control)

One of the common gripes for players who start out in MTG are their games vs control decks, especially against control decks that use blue counterspells. In this section we’ll be covering how to increase your chances of winning this matchup and how to approach it.

If you’re playing aggressive deck

Aggressive decks are favored against control for the following reasons:

  • Threats are cheap and multiple of them can be played on the same turn
  • The damage adds up fast and control can’t deal with them until the late game arrives
  • Aggro decks don’t care about losing a specific creature in their gameplan

If the control player gets their life total chipped away every turn and has to spend mana inefficiently, they’re on their way to losing. There are also special tools that aggro decks that are meta right now may use to beat control.

White weenie is straightforward – play cheap creatures, attack with everything, watch out for mass removal (sweepers)

Red deck wins is the same with an important addition – burn spells allow you to close out the game efficiently, you just need to get their life total in the range of burn spells, i.e. 5-10 life depending on the turn. Bonus points for including a copy of Banefire that can’t be countered.

To play well against control there are two pitfalls that are common for aggro players:

  • Making the deck more midrange than aggressive
  • Overcommitting into sweepers

There’s a high incentive for inexperienced players to include cool and strong cards in their aggressive decks. For example, should you include 2 copies of Siege-Gang Commander in your RDW?

The answer is no. It’s a good card for Big Red decks that have a midrange plan, not an aggressive plan. By turn 5 you want to have your opponent on less than 10 life and finishing off the game with burn. Fight the urge to include cards that cost four or more mana in your aggressive decks.

If you’re playing aggro and want to be a good player you need to know all the sweepers that see play in the metagame. Settle the wreckage is the only instant speed sweeper, so four open mana from your opponent and no played cards until turn 4 should be a clear signal – it’s a trap!

Deafening Clarion, Golden demise, Fiery Cannonade, Ritual of Soot, Cleansing nova, Find/Finality, River’s Rebuke and the new sweeper from RNA should all be a part of your game awareness. Do you have lethal in two turns with the cards on the battlefield already? Don’t play more creatures.

Against counterspells aggressive decks have a relatively easy time. If the opponent has to spend two or three mana to counter your cheap creatures, you’re doing everything right as long as you have more creatures to follow up on the battlefield and attack.

What is the recipe for aggro decks against planeswalkers? Go face, ignore them. If it’s turn 5 you need to get them low enough to finish off with burn, attacking planeswalkers only buys them time.

Finally, know when to concede. If a control deck had survived by turn 6 with enough life (10+), has a planeswalker that’s generating card advantage for them and you have only a single 1/1 creature on the board, you’ve lost this match. Concede and jam more games. Learn what you might have done better from this match.

If you’re playing a midrange deck

Midrange decks generally have an unfavorable matchup vs control for the following reasons:

  • Midrange decks have midrange threats as the most potent ones
  • Damage generally doesn’t ramp up fast enough
  • Control decks have the better late game compared to midrange decks

Control decks want to deal with decks where they can get the biggest bang for their buck. If you play a huge, expensive threat like gigantosaurus for five mana and they counter it for 3 mana – they’re in an excellent position.

In the current metagame the cards that are best positioned against control from the midrange perspective are three types:

  • Can’t be countered
  • Hexproof
  • Haste (especially when RNA arrives)

Carnage tyrant and Niv Mizzet (accompanied by Dive Down) are thus some of the best threats a midrange deck might have in the current meta. Control has troubles dealing with them unless they use a Detection Tower, Settle the Wreckage, Cleansing Nova or some other tricks.

Other than that, hexproof creatures like Vinemare, Nullhide Ferox may be good cards vs Control decks. If you can cast them successfully (resolve them) it will be problematic for control to deal with them.

With sideboards one of the most played cards in Standard is Duress. It’s good against Control decks but feels pretty bad vs aggressive decks that are prevalent on the ladder. So it’s always a question for midrange decks: do you want to be slightly better against ~20-30% of control decks in bo1 and worse against 70-80% of other decks?

As the meta changes constantly by the format you play, the time of the day and the flavor of the week deck, adjust your list accordingly and don’t mind losing to an occasional control deck if you’re playing midrange.

If you’re playing a control deck

In a control match showdown one of the most important things to keep track of is the card advantage. If your opponent has one card while you have seven, this is the best thing in the world because generally you have so many more options than they do.

If you’re a new player with a control deck never slam your threat without backup. No playing Teferi on curve. Wait until you have counterspells against their counterspells, sometimes multiples. You want the opponent to tap out before casting your threat and ways to save it once you do.

Once you have your planeswalker on the battlefield that generates card advantage you’re already well on your way to victory. If you play other bombs as finishers the same applies – have patience to only cast them with multiple layers of protection.

Additional information

One of the best ways to learn how to play against a deck is to play it yourself. Give control decks a try. You’ll see just how much dual lands it needs. How bad the draws can be. How bad it feels to be on a draw vs an aggressive deck when you lose without a chance to cast a spell. Try it and you’ll learn more.

Finally, some general advice on how to play vs control decks has been covered in this topic. Good luck!

Hotkeys and tips for using the interface to your advantage

The hotkeys in MTGA are as follows:

  • Ctrl temporarily enables full control
  • Ctrl + Shift while still pressing Ctrl permanently enables full control
  • Z undo action (works for mana actions, e.g. you can cancel your treasure           tokens payment and redo it)
  • Enter passes the turn unless your opponent takes an action
  • Shift + Enter passes the turn even if the opponent takes action
  • Space Passes the Priority
  • Alt + F4 Closes the game
  • Shift + . Brings up FPS. If the GPU temp is too high, check this thread
  • Esc opens the concede/settings menu
  • L shows phases

Right mouse click – zooms in on the card. This works everywhere – the stack, the graveyard and on the battlefield. You can also see the flavor text of each card on the right once you zoom in.

If you would like to concede or disable auto-tap, press the wheel in the top right corner.

You can press Esc to open the menu that shows some of the hotkeys. You’ll have the menu that allows you to concede, changing graphics and sound settings and permanently disabling emotes.


  • If you want to bluff having an instant spell you can enable full control by using the key combinations.
  • You can manually set stops on certain phases. For example you can cast Spore Swarm at instant speed on your upkeep to get a buff from Song of Freyalize for them.
  • You can move the icons of the emblems on the left and the stack on the right by clicking on the arrows above them. It might be needed if you want to target something below them.
  • If you want to tap specific lands and don’t trust the auto-tapper (e.g. Unclaimed Territory or Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin) you can manually tap them first. Look at the highlighted lands and check if those are the ones you want to tap.
  • There’s now an indication on a tooltip when targeting the graveyard (gy). E.g. if an opponent uses eldest reborn to target a card that’s in the gy it will be highlighted and will have the tooltip.

Improving your Limited (drafting) skills

Drafting is an interesting beast. Reading this through will easily carry you to the gold limited rank, but likely no higher. If any platinum player or simply a top drafter is ready to contribute to the guide it will be warmly welcomed.

For best of one drafts in MTGA you should note that you shouldn’t rush to increasing your limited ranks. Once you do, you get matched within the bracket and your winrate is bound to suffer. Still, you’re safe until you hit the gold rank and it’s always good to learn new skills in MTG.

Drafting tests your skills in reading signals, sending signals, picking the correct cards, constructing a cohesive deck and figuring out the metagame of the currently drafted set.

In MTGA bo1 and bo3 drafts you’re currently drafting against bots. This has its own pros and cons. The advantage is that you can close MTGA after you had started the picks, ask for advice, drink a cup of coffee and return to the same pick afterwards. The disadvantage is that bots have different personalities and pick based on the data from MTGO drafts. This leads to certain predictability of their signaling and experienced players can use this to their advantage constructing very powerful and synergetic decks.

However, the bot personalities and their picks are bound to change and that may lead to major changes in drafting picks. After patches you usually have to adjust to different colors because developers have data on how strong certain colors of the drafted deck become (e.g. Dimir and Boros in GRN drafts) and nerf it. Bot picks patterns change and you need to be ready for it.

Picking the correct cards is a little more straightforward. There are tier lists that are prepared by some of the best players in the world that discuss each new card and rank it in limited. Tier lists are there to help you pick in the vacuum, meaning they’re made for pick one, pack one.

There are also streamers and content creators that make those for MTGA. There are also two theories on how to pick the cards – BREAD and QUADRANT that we’ll be discussing.

Finally, there’s a point of constructing a cohesive deck. Simply picking the cards according to the tier list may not be enough. Do you have the colors to support your resulting deck? Two or three colors? Is the format you’re drafting in fast or slow? What are the decks to beat? What are the synergies in the deck? There are always reviews of the set after the spoilers have been released, so do check them out.

Let’s jump into the known theories that govern the picks. BREAD stands for Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro, Duds.


These are the cards that are the best of the best in this environment. Picking them is almost always a good idea for drafting. Sometimes they’re evident from the first glance, e.g. Lyra that can win the games all on her own in limited. Sometimes they’re format specific, like patient rebuilding that is a bomb in M19. Knowing the bombs in each format is one of the first things you want to look at in the tier lists.

Try to understand why they were listed as bombs and what are the winning strategies for that draft format!


You cannot really go bad with removal. Your opponents are humans and will draft accordingly. They will likely try to win with creatures and removal helps you get rid of those threats. The BREAD theory of pick orders tells us to value removal high and pick it if no bombs are available. Cards like Eviscerate and Luminous bonds may not see much play in constructed, but they’re prime picks in limited formats. Also do note that in limited you can pick more than four copies of a card, so you can have 6 Luminous bonds in your deck if you’d like.

Keep in mind that removal doesn’t have to have ‘destroy something’ in the text. It can tap the creature permanently, be attached to a creature, exile and even a creature can be close to a removal spell if it can be flashed it.


Cards with evasion are limited staples. It’s not uncommon for a board stall to form in any of the drafting formats where attacking is unfavorable for any side. In this case creatures with flying, unblockable and creatures that can tap opponent’s blockers become extremely valuable as they’re able to close out the game.

In some formats you might even encounter flyer decks that rely on evasion as their main win condition.


Drafting is about more than picking only bombs and removal. What if you’re unlucky and didn’t get any? The way to win this is to try to be aggressive, when offence is the best defense. You need to play creatures early on turns 2, 3 and 4. You need to have a smooth mana curve and have somewhere between 13 to 17 creatures in your deck.

An aggro draft with a few removal spells and bombs is viable in many formats.


Cards that you don’t want in a draft deck. Do note that this might include high rarity cards. You don’t want low power and no impact cards in your deck. Cards like Skirk prospector and Scapeshift are not something you want, but will pick if BREA is not available for you. Please note that since there are no sideboards in bo1 the utility of some cards like Naturalise is close to zero.

Use duds to fill out your manacurve. They’re not pretty, but they fulfill their purpose of either improving your manacurve of feeding your collection.

This rounds up the BREAD theory. Consulting the tier lists and following it in practice can lead to decent limited results. Watch the videos of people drafting to get a sense of how this process happens.

For draft tier lists at the release of the sets the sources to watch out for are Marshall and LSV. Personally I had been using Deathsie’s tier lists for drafting in MTGA.

If you want to practice picking cards without the risk, use draftsim or any other simulator. Lotus tracker (link in the tools section)

To break into the platinum ranks from gold it’ll require more that simple application of any theory and a few days of practice.

  • You need to know not only the individual power of a card, but focus on flexible picks that can work in a broad variety of deck
  • You need to know which archetypes are the strongest in the draft
  • There’s little place for raredrafting if you are pushing for the top. A good common will be much more preferred to a mythic rare if it helps you win the draft
  • Your deckbuilding skills should be up to par. Smooth manacurve, optimal number of creatures, spells and lands

A decent source of listed archetypes may be found on mtgsalvation. Read them through before heading into the draft. GRN, XLN, M19, DOM. And remember – practice makes perfect. The theories can help you understand how to play and what to improve, but the more drafts you play the better you understand the environment.

For new players I’d recommend streamers who go into details of their picks and don’t hurry:



For people who are more experienced and wish to up their drafting game I’d recommend


Ryan Spain – going optimal (he had also participated in the development of MTGA in closed beta)

+1 for this podcast. Go back a few episodes to where Ben Stark talks about “Drafting the hard way”. Here’s the link:

They also does set reviews, etc.

For a newish drafter, what might be really interesting is the first ~5 minutes of each episode when they do a “Crack a pack”…. basically they open a pack and discuss which card they’d pick and why. This gives you insight into how the pros evaluate different cards.

For a slightly longer version of this, they did “crack a draft” here, which walks through the first few picks of a draft:

If you want the best content possible I’d recommend looking at anything from Ben Stark, particularly his videos on sets you are interested in and his article on “drafting the hard way.” There is also an excellent article entitled “drafting the medium way” by Ondřej Stráský that is well worth reading. In general, any of the drafters on channelfireball are exceptionally strong.

Some more articles that may be incorporated into the guide regarding drafting. Quadrant 1, Quadrant 2

A note on randomness, probabilities, mana screw and mana flood

One of the frequently asked questions that’s being brought up pertains to the randomness aspect. A good real life example that could illustrate the problem was the apple and spotify shuffle debate. I’ll quote from the linked article:

“When Spotify launched, the company explained in a blog post, it made its random playlists using the “Fisher-Yates shuffle”. That is an efficient algorithm that takes only three lines of code to make “the optimal amount of operations and optimal amount of randomness”, creating random playlists without using much computing power.

But users complained that the playlist wasn’t genuinely random. Artists or genres tended to appear next to each other, giving the sense of the playlist being unfair – even though it is likely that different artists will bunch up as that they will be evenly distributed throughout.”

It’s a well known problem, but how does that concern MTG and MTGA in particular?

A deck is being shuffled by the random algorithm. You get no lands for 5 turns – you’re mana screwed. Or you draw only lands 12 times in a row – you’re mana flooded. This is variance and the nature of the game.

Traditionally to deal with this, MTG had employed first a limit of the same cards (maximum 4 in a constructed deck) and a bo3 structure that allows variance to even out somewhat. This is one of the reasons why bo3 is played in most major professional MTG tournaments.

In bo1 there are a number of ways to help you build your deck to lower the effect of variance on your gameplay:

  • For Aggro decks play low-cost spells that allow you to win on 2-3 mana
  • For midrange decks have some ways of generating card advantage (draw or filter cards)
  • For control decks generating card advantage and filtering is of paramount importance

There are a number of resources that explain the current random algorithm and why it won’t change.

Third-party verification of the shuffler working as intended:

Game Director Chris Clay confirming the shuffler working as intended:

Chris Clay expanding on the shuffler working as intended, and why they won’t change it:

Chris Clay and Megan O’Malley discussing the shuffler (working as intended) on a recent stream:

Another important difference between shuffling in paper MTG and MTGA is that you can’t mana weave. Mana weaving is when you put a land card after two cards in your deck before you shuffle. Such thing might be ok for games between friends but it’s illegal in a tournament setting exactly because it reduces variance in an unfair manner.

Furthermore, according to the official rules a deck is considered shuffled if you have done such an action thirty times. Every time. Very few people do that in a real life setting, but it becomes easy in MTGA for the program to do it for you.

As such, arguments that you get less mana flooded/screwed in paper is usually moot.

If you still find yourself willing to debate about the shuffler, it’s best if you have a good sample size of games (1000 minimum) and read through the material above.

One other topic that seems to still be debated hotly is the impact of the algorithm that chooses the better starting hand in best of one matches. The following should be noted:

  • This applies only to best of one game modes
  • If you mulligan even once it stops applying
  • We don’t know exactly how it leans toward the better hand

There had been theories how it’s best to use only 22 or 26 lands in MTGA since closed beta. These theories are oversimplified and have been debunked by the developers as wrong. Based on the experience of thousands of games with 16 to 27 lands the usual deckbuilding rules to land count apply. You might always go up or down one land from your current list. Just be mindful of variance and keep track of your games. Good luck!

Tools to help your deckbuilding, collection and match tracking

There are a number of helpful tools that allow you to track your collection, pack and ICR openings, vault progress and win rates of decks. Some of the trackers also have the functionality of keeping tabs on your draft and sealed decks. Furthermore, some of them allow you to browse decks and see how many wildcards you need to complete a given deck.

Trackers read data from the logs which if freely available and visualize it for you so they had been given a green light from the developers.

However, neither the developers nor the author of this guide can bear responsibility if anything goes wrong with them. If you run into problems with any of them the best way is to visit their relevant subreddits and Discords to deal with them.

  • MTG Arena Pro Tracker synchronizes your progression and deck list with their website (you can track your stats and collection and use your collection in an online deck builder.) Has most of the functionality listed above but lacks a deck list overlay. Has a mobile app. Closed source.
  • MTGA Tracker has a decklist overlay and a collection inspector built into the tracker itself. Open source.
  • MTGA Tool has lots of different features. Open source.
  • Lotus Tracker is the newest and has the largest feature set – including an online deck builder. Now has in-game LSV draft tiers. Antiviruses hate it. Open Source.

For new streamers it’s recommended to use free, open source software such as OBS or streamlabs (based on OBS). The latter is a little easier to set up for new players.
If you’re a streamer you should use the Deckmaster overlay that allows viewers to hover over the cards and see their detailed description.

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