For over a year, all competitive Magic was played on Arena. Even if we’re slowly starting playing paper Magic again, playing competitive Magic on Arena is here to stay. Various third party organizers offer tournaments played on Arena and I imagine at least a part of Organized Play will be held on Arena in the foreseeable future.
Playing online has several advantages over real life tournaments, even if the experience itself might be different. One thing you do need to play competitive Magic on Arena is a well-stocked account.
In this article, I’m going to talk about maintaining a valuable and competitive Arena account. As a Magic player, I love value, so I want my Arena account to cost as little as possible, while giving me everything I need to play.
Rare and Mythic Wildcards
For Championships, or the equivalent there-off the future hopefully will bring us, Wizards of the Coast gives you a fully stocked account. Playing any other tournaments, or even the qualifiers on Arena, is impossible without having your own account. And believe me, you want to account to be well-stocked.
Imagine having to play a lesser deck because you don’t have the wildcards for the deck you really want to play. Wildcards are the real bottleneck: if you’ve wanted to build a deck and can’t because you lack the necessary wildcards, you can’t just buy more wildcards.
How to Collect Wildcards
Arena has three ways of assembling wildcards:
Straight from Packs
1/30 will have a rare wildcard and 1/30 will have a mythic wildcard.
Wheel of Progression
Every 6 packs give you an additional wildcard. In total, 30 packs opened will give you four additional rare wildcards and one mythic wildcard.
Opening the Vault
Having commons or uncommons beyond the fourth copy goes into the vault. Each common progresses 0,1% and each uncommon 0,3%. Opening the vault gives you one mythic and two rare wildcards.
For $99,99 you get 90 packs on Arena. Assuming all the commons and uncommons go to the vault, opening these would give you approximately 7 mythic and 17 rare wildcards. Imagine having to assemble an entire, or even half of a Historic deck this way.
Next to that, once used, wildcards are gone. With the abundance of bannings lately, cards don’t stay useful. I can’t imagine I’ll be using my 《Tainted Pact》 very often anymore.
Many writers will advise you to be careful on what to craft. And that’s good advice for many players, but as a competitive player, I want to play the best possible deck. I want to try different decks before I choose which one to play. If I see a new flashy deck on Twitter, I want to try it out myself.
For the Strixhaven Championship, a teammate pointed out the Jeskai Mutate deck could be good, so I immediately made it and played some matches to get to know the deck better. And I didn’t want to use my fully-stocked-but-very-Bronze account Wizards of the Coast provided.
Point is, as a competitive player, you want to have all the cards. Roughly speaking, having about 90% of every set will give you enough cards to build everything using wildcards where needed. The easiest way is to spend $200-300 each set on boosters, which will give you enough of the new set and enough wildcards.
As I said earlier, that’s not really how I roll. I like to have a good account without having to spend a lot, or if possible, any money.
Gems & Gold
You get free gold with daily quests. Get a couple of wins every day is advisable, but try to clear the bigger quests at least every three days. Every now and then you can get some free gold or gems in the store in the daily deals. Not a whole lot to say here, just try to get as much free stuff as possible. Playing on a regular basis will do the trick.
Gems and gold are mostly interchangeable. The best gold to gems rate is 5:1, which you’ll get on Arena Opens. Draft queues are a fair bit worse, giving 6,67:1. If possible use your gold for a better exchange rate.
Arena offers plenty of events. Some are always available, some aren’t. I’ll walk you through the most important ones.
There are several draft queues: quick draft, premier draft, and traditional draft. All queues need roughly the same winrate to breakeven, so choosing which one you play is mostly up to personal preference. I sometimes to depend on how much time I have to draft or which format it is.
Importantly, these queues serve two mayor roles for me: accumulate enough cards from the set and hit Mythic. As I said earlier, I believe you need to own about 90% of every set to be able to build any deck at any time.
When a new set releases on Arena, I usually draft until I have about 100 packs in winnings, which has always given me enough cards and wildcards to keep playing whatever I want. In a month without new sets I just draft until I hit Mythic and leave it at that. For this, I’ll often just force an archetype that’s good and wins fast. Here are some examples from recent sets:
Strixhaven: Red-White Aggro
Throne of Eldraine: Mono Green or Mono Red with too many Artifacts
Ravnica Allegiance: Red-Black Party
The challenges are very good value. The last iteration of the draft challenge gave the following payouts:
|0 Win||No rewards|
|1 Win||1 Player Draft Token|
|2 Wins||1 Player Draft Token and 3 Boosters|
|3 Wins||2 Player Draft Token and 6 Boosters|
|4 Wins||3 Player Draft Tokens and 10 Boosters|
|5 Wins||3 Player Draft Tokens and 15 Boosters|
|6 Wins||4 Player Draft Tokens and 20 Boosters|
Meanwhile, the constructed ”metagame challenges” are the best way for dedicated constructed players to get a decent amount of packs with the following payout:
|0 Win||500 Gold|
|1 Win||1000 Gold|
|2 Wins||1500 Gold, 1 Booster|
|3 Wins||2000 Gold, 3 Boosters|
|4 Wins||2500 Gold, 5 Boosters|
|5 Wins||3000 Gold, 10 Boosters|
|6 Wins||4000 Gold, 20 Boosters|
|7 Wins||5000 Gold, 30 Boosters|
Try to play as many of both challenges as possible. The draft challenges is one of the few ways to win a substantial amount of gems, allowing you to build a bankroll of sorts. The constructed is the best way to turn gold into packs.
Arena opens offers a way to turn your Arena gems and goals into a real treasure. I love these opportunities, as selling winning on Arena isn’t possible. For me personally, the advantage of in-client events I can play at whatever time suits me best makes these ways easier to enter over third party events.
The Arena Opens also pays out a decent amount of gems, so you should be able to convert some gold into gems at a reasonable ratio.
As a competitive player, these tournaments are the most important ones. Qualifying for each one is a priority. In Limited, a reasonably high Mythic rank won’t decay. I’m not sure how the ranking system works, but I always enter Mythic in the top 100 and this doesn’t drop more than 100 places, even if I don’t play Limited for weeks. Constructed has a lot more volatility, so you need to make sure you can keep your rank up by the end of the month.
The qualifier itself pays out some gems, especially if you make day 2, but the goal here is to qualify for the Championships. Being able to play whatever you want during these tournaments is exactly why you want a competitive Arena account.
Steps to Reproduce
My own Arena account is very well-stocked. According to the mails I get every now and then about my account I’m in the top 10% of matches played, which makes sense. I play a lot of Magic Arena, but can’t spend entire days playing due to work and family stuff.
I’ve only ever spent $5 on Arena for the starter bundle of 2500 gems. I’m started playing Arena pretty early, so I’ve been able to draft all the sets, which is pretty important to be able to play Historic. If you don’t have this luxury, you’ll need even more wildcards to craft the necessary cards for Historic. Currently, my account has a bit over 60000 gems, 116 rare and .86 mythic wildcards, owning every card in Standard and a good portion of Historic. My winrate on Arena is a notch over 66% for Limited. I think a good competitive player should be able to maintain a winrate above 60%, which would make this approach a good way to maintain your account.
So, how to keep a useful account for competitive Magic:
Not only will your Arena account be stocked, you’ll also improve as you’ll be playing on a regular basis. If Limited isn’t your thing, I’m afraid the Arena economy is going to be way more expensive as you have no real way of assembling cards and wildcards except opening packs. Luckily, draft is a blast and being forced to play it is pure upside!
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Pascal Vieren (Twitter)