Last updated on December 14, 2021
Quasiduplicate | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak
You want your play set, or four copies of one card, but what do you do with extras in a virtual card game? Since you can’t sell or trade your extra cards as you would in paper Magic, any extra copies are useless on MTG Arena.
This is where duplicate protection comes into play. Let’s dive into what duplicate protection is and how it works.
How Duplicate Protection Works in MTG Arena
Duplicate protection is relevant once you receive your fifth copy of a card, one more than a play set (4 copies). Receiving the fifth copy of a card triggers different outcomes depending on the rarity of the card. Let’s break down each of those scenarios.
When you receive your fifth copy of a common or uncommon, you get vault progress. Vault progress saves up all those duplicate commons and uncommons for rewards later.
If you receive a rare or mythic that you already have a playset of, that card will be replaced by one that you don’t already have from that same set. This means the more rares/mythics you have from a single set, the more likely you are to get one you don’t have when you open a pack.
If you have all the rares/mythics from a set, you’ll receive gems instead. 20 gems for a rare and 40 gems for a mythic.
Does Duplicate Protection Apply to Drafts and ICRs?
Backdraft Hellkite | Illustration by Rudy Siswanto
For drafts and sealed, yes in that you receive gems if you already have a playset of the card. You’ll receive the gems for rares/mythics when you enter deckbuilding mode for the event. You still can use these “duplicate” cards from your pool during the event.
ICRs are individual card rewards. The single card rewards you receive for some quests you complete and for meeting certain milestones of the Mastery Pass. When you already have a playset, these are replaced akin to draft where you get gems for your rares and mythics instead of a different card of the same rarity.
How Does Duplicate Protection Work in Alchemy?
Duplicate protection works a bit differently in Alchemy. First, the pack will give you the digital-only cards that come from its set. Once you’ve already collected all the digital-only cards from a set (which may very well happen, since these sets are quite small), you will be given cards from the Alchemy pack’s adjacent Standard set. For example, if you open a pack from Alchemy: Innistrad and you’ve collected all the digital-only cards from that set, you will instead receive cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow. And, if you’ve already collected all the cards from those sets as well, regular duplicate protection comes in.
What About Reprints? Are they Protected?
You have some reprint duplicate protection. This protection only applies to rare and mythic cards that are “fully reprinted.” A fully reprinted card is a card that’s printed in a new set that has both the same name and the same art as a card that already exists on MTG Arena.
For example, the “scry lands” like Temple of Epiphany that were reprinted with Core Set 2021 count as fully reprinted since they already existed on Arena with the same names and art in Core Set 2020. In this scenario, if you already had a play set of one of these cards from M20, you would be protected from opening another one in M21 until you collected all other rare and mythic cards from M21. And then you’d just get gems.
This doesn’t apply to cards being printed in new sets that have the same name but have been given a makeover in the form of new art. In this scenario, you’d open these cards as normal and would not be protected until you had a play set of that card with that specific art.
How to Get the Most out of Your Duplicates
Collector Ouphe | Illustration by Filip Burburan
If you’re drafting to build your collection, there’s a way to get the most out of your packs. Instead of opening your packs as you receive them, save them. Continue drafting and building your collection that way.
When you think you’re more or less done drafting that set, then open those packs. This gives your packs less cards to potentially open, getting you closer to acquiring all the cards from that set.
There aren’t really any super effective ways to exploit the duplicate system. Overall, it’s pretty straight forward and not very rewarding.
It’s Not a Perfect System
The system has improved with changes from WotC, but it’s definitely not perfect. The replacement for these duplicates feels very unimpactful. It was most relevant in a set like Jumpstart. That set had a lot of rares that were already in MTG Arena. But since they weren’t “fully reprinted” cards, you could still open them in packs even if you already had a play set.
Many people disappointed to find themselves staring at 8 copies of an underpowered draft rare.
Collecting a Conclusion
Perfected Form | Illustration by Nils Hamm
It’s better than not getting anything for these duplicate cards, but it still doesn’t feel reciprocal. It’s nice that we do get small paybacks, build vault progress, and there are replacements for fifth copies. Maybe we need a trading system or an in-game market to transfer unwanted cards/wildcards into stuff we want. In the end, you’re still putting a lot of time and/or money into MTG Arena to get just glimpses of these effects.
That’s all there is to it, though. Feel free to hop in the comments down there if you have any thoughts on this system. And if you enjoy our content and want to help support us in making more of it, maybe check out our Patreon. I’ll see you next time!