Last updated on April 22, 2021
Animate Library | Illustration by Raymond Swanland
When you’ve been playing MTG Arena for a while, you inevitably take notice of its economy at some point. That is to say, you find out there are different ways to get your hands on things like products, gems, gold, packs, and cards.
WotC intentionally created this economy so you can experience Arena, and through it, MTG itself. Why? It gives you a chance to discover Magic’s depth, its strategies, stories, creatures, and characters. In other words, it’s designed to get you more involved in the game. One of the best ways to do that is through its most essential ingredient: the cards themselves.
There are a few different ways to get your hands on cards in MTGA. Finding the best way to get them can be a bit confusing, though. That’s why I’m gonna give you the lowdown on all your options to get cards in MTGA, right here, right now! I’ll also give you the pros and cons of each method. And all of it for free! Kind of like winning the lottery, really.
All right, let’s get crackin’!
How to Get Free Cards
Of all the ways to get your hands on cards in MTGA, getting them for free is definitely the most enticing. There’s no doubt about it, when it comes to a game where spending a lot of money on cards is pretty common, MTG knows how to hold down the fort. So, if there’s a way to get your hands on some free cards, you’d want to know about it, right? Right!
Tricks of the Trade | Illustration by Steven Belledin
If you’re a new player starting out on MTGA, you have to go through something called the “Color Challenge.” Essentially, this is a fun way to wrap your head around the game. In the challenges, you battle your way through games against each of the five colors of MTG. As you get further into the color-web, more decks and more cards will become available to you. All of them for free!
There are a grand total of 15 decks that will become available to you: 5 mono-colored and 10 dual-colored. The mono-colored decks have been updated to be rotation-proof with their own “starter set” on Arena. The 10 dual-colored decks were upgraded with the release of Zendikar Rising. Once you’re able to go through the full features that MTGA has to offer, the following decks will have been added to your inventory:
- Mono-white: Keep the Peace
- Mono-blue: Aerial Destruction
- Mono-black: Cold-Blooded Killers
- Mono-red: Goblins Everywhere!
- Mono-green: Large and in Charge
- Golgari: Back for More
- Izzet: Spellpower
- Boros: Company of Knights
- Rakdos: Line of Fire
- Simic: Massive Menagerie
- Selesnya: To Adventure!
- Dimir: Mutation Station
- Orzhov: Life Skills
- Azorius: Starry-Eyed
- Gruul: Stomp, Stomp
With each set released for Standard, Wizards adds a promo code to give you a taste of that set on MTGA. You get three free packs to crack and give you a sense of the cards in the set. If you didn’t already follow the spoilers, that is. It’s a great way of getting some free loot!
There are codes in various real-life MTG products as well. You can redeem them in Arena to get the paper deck you bought in digital form. The products supplied with codes are related to the formats available on Arena, which isn’t surprising. If you buy the Planeswalker or Starter Decks, you’ll get a free copy for your Arena account. Likewise with Secret Lairs.
Best Way to Get Free Cards
The best of the two methods mentioned above is definitely the codes. It’s easier and gives you less hassle. No winning or hoops required. The only problem is that you’ll run out of codes quick enough. Every new set gives you a new code, though, so you just need to be patient and you’ll get more things.
Pros and Cons
Are there any cons to getting free stuff? I can’t think of any. There’s not really any downside to either of the options above. The only con you’ll have to face with the Color Challenge is the time it takes to complete. But in the face of getting almost a thousand cards for free, even that seems pretty fair. Just get on it and enjoy!
Double Dip | Illustration by D. Alexander Gregory
Time to spend a little money or collect gold to expand your collection. How, you ask? By opening packs, of course!
How to Get Packs
You can get packs in the MTGA store in exchange for gems or gold. You can buy gems in Arena’s store for actual cash (or cash alternatives), earn them by being good at draft, or occasionally through events. Gold can be earned solely through completing challenges and events. When you’re ready, head on over to the store and score some packs. If you’re wondering which packs to buy, we’ve got you covered.
When you’re competing in events and completing challenges, you also get various packs as rewards. If you combine this with the Mastery Pass, you’ll get even more packs when you’re battling through those challenges and events. The pass is a great buy if you’re an MTGA grinder.
When to Open Packs
When you open your packs depends on what you’re trying to do:
Do you want to just have fun and enjoy yourself?
Open the packs right as you get them.
Are you dead set on collecting an entire set?
Save your packs. Do as many drafts as you can afford first, pick all the rares and mythic rares you come across, and then open your packs. MTG Arena’s duplicate protection will keep you from getting any rares or mythic rares you’ve already collected four of, giving you a better chance of filling out the set’s missing cards. This way you get more value out of your packs.
Pros and Cons
The obvious pro to buying packs rather than using codes is that you can get as many as your wallet (or schedule) allows. The con is that you have to spend your hard-earned money/time.
The choice you have to make is whether you think it’s worth it, how much time you spend on MTGA, and to what purpose.
Are you a pro? Do you want to become one? If you said yes to either question, then investing is probably something worth doing.
Are you a casual player in it for the fun? If this is the case for you, then buying a ton of packs is probably not the way.
Paper Tiger | Illustration by Heather Hudson
I’ve discussed crafting before, so I’m going to assume you’re up to snuff on how to get and use wildcards. This is another great way to get cards in MTGA.
If you want to build a particular deck, all you have to do is upload the decklist into the deck builder or put the deck together yourself. Once you’re done, Arena will show you which cards you’re missing, if any. All you have to do is click ”Craft” and all the missing cards will be added to your collection in exchange for the associated wildcards.
There’s no hassle in opening packs and hoping for that one card you’re gunning for. It’s fast and easy. All you need to do is have the required wildcards in the appropriate rarities.
Pros and Cons
The big pro is that you get to pick which cards you want instead of rolling the dice. You can technically do this without spending any money/gold/gems and just open packs you get for free while playing the game. This does limit the number of wildcards you get, but it can be done if you’re on a budget.
The biggest con is that you need to open packs to collect wildcards for use in crafting. This keeps you from using them indefinitely, so make sure you’re certain about the deck and cards you want before spending wildcards. You can’t undo crafting once you’ve pushed that “Okay” button.
Bureaucracy | Illustration by Mark Zug
I lightly touched on this already, but drafting is another great way to get cards in Arena. If you’re not in the market for collecting entire sets, then you can just pick the cards you like or want and build a fun deck at the same time.
If you’re an accomplished drafter, or wanting to get better at it, you can use the drafts to win more packs, gold, or gems.
Both methods are great and, above all, fun. Pick your poison, as they say.
Pros and Cons
The pros to drafting are pretty straightforward. You get a bunch of new cards to add to your collection and, as you win more games, the rewards grow as well. Plus it’s fun.
The con is that you have to like drafting and there’s definitely some skill involved in getting the most out of your drafts. If this is new to you, get ready for a learning curve.
Individual Card Rewards
ICRs, or individual card rewards, are the rewards you reap from daily rewards, events, and the Mastery Pass. I’ve already mentioned ICRs as secondary perks for some other card-earning methods, but it’s a definite path on its own, too.
Pros and Cons
If you enter a lot of events and complete your daily bonuses, your amount of free loot will soar for sure. There’s a high upside in participating in the different events Arena has to offer.
The downside is that these events aren’t (always) free. You usually have to fork over some gold or gems to enter, so you have to have some coin/shiny before you can earn participate a lot of the time.
Mine, Mine, Mine! | Illustration by Heather Hudson
It’s a bit fringe, but once you’ve collected the right amount of duplicate commons and uncommons, your vault will open and reward you with six wildcards: one mythic rare, two rares, and three uncommons.
These allow you to craft more cards you might desire, thus converting into more cards for your collection. Best of all, it’s completely free! Just a small gift from the people behind MTGA.
Pros and Cons
The best perk is that this is absolutely free and all you have to do is play. Duplicates automatically go towards your vault and it keeps track when it’s full to burst and shower you in wildcard goodness.
The con is that it’s hard to find out how far along you are in your progress. This is because the vault isn’t displayed on Arena (though you should just use Arena Tutor, because it displays this information very prominently). So, there’s no guaranteeing when your vault will open, just that it eventually will.
Can’t I Just Buy Cards Directly?
The short answer to this question is no. But we’ve come up with a very interesting workaround for you. You can directly buy codes that will net you cards in MTGA. Immediately.
So this means, to some extent, you can buy:
- Preoconstructed Decks
The way to do this is through Gray Viking Games. You just go to the store, add a bunch of packs to your cart, click purchase, and you get codes you can type into MTGA and redeem immediately for more cards. Note that you can only buy one of each max:
Packs for sales on Gray Viking Games – about a buck per pack.
It’s a similar process for decks:
The best thing about these is that you can browse the decklists on the site to see exactly what you’re getting.
If you have more money than time — or just some budget allocated for MTGA, this might be the best bang for your buck.
The Best Way to Get Cards
I thought it would be easy to pick a winner from all the methods I’ve mentioned in this article. Nothing could be further from the truth. It all comes down to you and what you’re looking to get out of playing on MTGA. Is it fun? Experience? A lot of loot? A way of spending excess cash? All these variables influence which method is best. So, instead, I’ll give you the best way to go based on your goal:
- For fun: The free methods are your friend, my friend.
- For experience: Combine drafting and crafting to get your desired cards.
- For loot: Board the ICR train to loot station, my friend.
- For spending cash: Run to the MTGA store or Gray Viking Games and spend, spend, spend to your heart’s content.
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That’s all for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one.
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