If you're a Hearthstone player looking to get into MTG Arena, you're probably wondering if the prices are fair and if you can get decent rewards from playing the game for free so let's take an in-depth look at Magic: The Gathering Arena's economy.
What do you get when you make a new account?
When you create a new account, you're treated to five free decks, one for each color in the Magic color pie. These five starter decks are pretty bad but you can earn another ten free decks by doing quests in the New Player Experience. These ten decks are two-color decks and there is one deck for each two-color combination. The New Player Experience quests last for six days and you'll also earn five Magic 2019 packs along the way. Luckily, the two-color decks are good and many of them contain three copies of strong cards like Llanowar Elves, Lightning Strike, and Murder. These two-color decks offer a good starting experience but they can be improved as well.
If you take a preconstructed deck into ranked mode, you have a high chance of getting matched with players who are also using preconstructed decks. In other words, the matchmaking system tries to match players against decks with a similar power level. However, there's no guarantee so you could get matched against something entirely different.
Anyway, you also get eight common wildcards, four uncommon wildcards, two rares, and one mythic for free. That's not enough to make any deck which is disappointing and it's barely enough to upgrade one of the starter decks.
The Welcome Bundle
Magic: The Gathering Arena offers a $5 Welcome Bundle to new players that contains five packs and 2500 gems. This is a great deal and if you want to put a little bit of money into the game, this is definitely the way to do it.
Daily and weekly quests
Every day, you get a quest to win up to fifteen games. You get 250 gold for the first win, 100 gold for the next three wins, and the rewards only go down from there. You also get a daily quest for 500 or 750 gold which usually involves playing cards in one of two colors. These quests aren't a problem to complete with the starter decks since you just need to play certain cards, you don't even need to win. You also get a weekly quest that resets every Sunday where you can earn three packs by winning fifteen games in a week.
If you're set on getting the most gold, I recommend winning four games every day. Four wins is not a big time investment and if you win more than that, you quickly earn much less gold. You'll also easily complete the weekly quest within four days. If you win four games a day, you'll get at least 7350 gold plus the three-pack weekly quest which equates to at least ten packs a week. That's not bad but if you want to build multiple decks, it's not good either.
My final grade for free-to-play players 6.5 out of 10
You can easily earn ten packs every week by winning four games a day which as I say, isn't bad but it's still too slow to make new decks. There are plenty of ways to get random cards such as by opening packs and via the card rewards from constructed events but there aren't enough ways to get the cards you want. Your ability to make decks is also severely limited by the number of wildcards you open. Free-to-play players almost have it good because of the fifteen starter decks. However, if you want to create a deck that's not similar to the starter decks, it will take a very long time. Wizards of the Coast should increase the number of starting wildcards, provide more wildcards in packs, or offer other means to get the particular cards players need for their decks.
Is the price of gems fair?
You use gems to buy everything from packs to drafts and event entries. The price per gem depends on how many gems you buy as the more gems you buy, the lower the rate is because the MTG Arena store clearly wants you to buy the most gems. The store accepts only two currencies: US dollars and Euros and it also charges the same amount for both currencies. Euros have the greater value so the only reason to buy gems in Euros is if you're in Europe and your bank charges currency conversion fees.
Is the price of drafts fair?
Many Magic players primarily enjoy playing limited formats but the price of entry can be prohibitive. The entry price for draft is 5000 gold or 750 gems which equates to around $5. You get some of your gems back from event rewards but unless you're very skilled or you have lots of money, you won't be playing draft as your go-to game mode. Competitive draft is even more expensive which is 1500 gems to play draft in best-of-three. Unless you're especially skilled, you will lose gems very fast. If you get unlucky and go 0-2, you will be down $15 and you'll play as little as 4 games if you go 0-2 twice. Finally, because you keep the cards you draft and get at least one pack every time, quick draft is a reasonable way to build your collection. It's a better deal than buying packs which I'll get into a bit later.
Is the price of quick constructed fair?
Quick constructed is a best-of-one constructed event where you keep playing games until you reach either seven wins or three losses. The cost is 500 gold or 100 gems so you can earn enough gold every day to participate twice just by doing your daily quest and winning four ranked games. If you have a good deck, you can easily play infinitely by winning enough games to recoup your entry fee every time. Constructed event is not present all the time but I wish it was because it's an excellent way to get card rewards.
Is the price of competitive constructed fair?
Competitive constructed is an event that's like quick constructed but instead, you play in best-of-three matches. The entry fee is 1000 gold or 190 gems so you can play at least one event per day. I think playing competitive constructed is much like playing quick constructed because if you have a good deck and sideboard or you're skilled then you can play infinitely. If you're below average then you might have to settle for only playing one or two competitive constructed events per day or just stick to quick constructed.
Is the price of sealed fair?
Sealed is a format in the physical card game that's popular during pre-releases before each new set. In Arena, sealed costs 2000 gems and you immediately open nine packs. Depending how well you do in the event, you'll get some gems back ranging from 200 to 2200. There's not really much reason to play sealed when you could just play three drafts instead. At least in draft, you could pick desirable rares and mythics for your collection but there's no option to do that in sealed. You also get to play more games which is good from the standpoint of becoming better at limited formats.
Is the price of packs fair?
Packs cost 1000 gold or 200 gems when buying them individually. Therefore, $20 will get you 15 packs, $50 can get you 45 packs, and $100 will grant you about enough for 100 packs. The quantity of gems you can buy do not match with the number of packs you can buy in the bundles so if you buy gems for packs, you'll always have a few gems left over which is simply not consumer friendly.
If you spend $50 on the 45 pack bundle, you won't even get enough wildcards to make a single deck; at least, not if that deck has more than 3.4 mythics or 7.9 rares. I came up with these numbers by reading this article and running the numbers for 45 packs. It's pathetic that you can spend $50 on Magic: The Gathering Arena but still not be able to make the deck you want. Of course, you might already have some of the cards in the deck you want to build but that doesn't fully remedy the problem.
What is best to spend money on in MTG Arena?
If you want to spend money in Magic: The Gathering Arena, I highly recommend entering quick drafts to rapidly amass cards and also earn a few prize packs for your efforts. Keep in mind, buying packs with gems simply offers poor value. As I mentioned, even spending $50 on packs isn't enough to make a deck which is downright outrageous.
The fifth copy problem
The fifth copy problem has been making the rounds on social media. Basically, you can only have four copies of any card in a deck so when you open more copies in a pack, you don't actually get the card but you get a very small amount of vault progress. When the vault reaches 100%, you open one mythic wildcard, two rare wildcards, and four uncommon wildcards but that's nothing when you consider that you need to open nearly a hundred mythic cards to open one vault. That being said, Wizards of the Coast is aware of this problem so expect it to be fixed before Magic: The Gathering Arena is officially launched.
My final grade for the paid economy 5 out of 10
As I've argued, buying packs is a poor decision. At least there is a Welcome Bundle for new players but those 2500 gems will be gone quickly. If I spend $50 in a card game like Magic or Hearthstone, I expect that I will be able to build a competitive deck with my investment. If you're starting from scratch then that $50 will only get you half of that deck which is unfortunate and greedy. You can spend money on drafts and that's what a lot of players do but if you're not successful at draft then you will lose a lot and won't get many gems back in prizes. I'm not particularly good so after every draft, I expect to get back less than 200 gems from an expense of 750 gems. In summary, there currently isn't anything I can buy in MTG Arena that would offer good value for my money.