Ghirapur Guide | Illustration by Scott Murphy
Just getting into Arena and want to know where to start? After you look through the articles in this guide, we'll have you up to speed in no time.
Or if you have a specific part of your game you're looking to improve, jump ahead to the section where you need the most help.
To start with, if you're not using Arena Tutor while you play MTGA, what are you waiting for? You should be.
It's made by Draftsim, is completely free, and comes with tracking capabilities and AI to help you play better. You can download it here.
If you want to win more in MTGA, just get Arena Tutor, okay?
Getting Started With MTGA
Ajani's Welcome | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
The basics: what kind of device do you need and how do you get the software working? How do you use the basic functions, and why play Magic Arena?
Reasons to Get into MTGA
Maybe you flipped through the tokens at your last prerelease and wondered what the Arena code card was all about. Possibly you’d heard that Magic could be played on a phone or tablet – it could be any number of reasons you’re interested in Magic Arena, the important thing is that you’re here.
It is real Magic: The Gathering and there’s a lot to like about the digital form of this amazing card game. How much is it going to cost to play or is it really free? It is free to start, though some would say it is pay to compete in the top tiers since you will need to spend either time or real money to earn the in-game currencies and get more cards.
Before we delve further into digital Magic, did you know there’s Magic Online which has been around longer than Magic Arena and has more cards and formats? Check the differences between MTGO and MTGA for the way you want to play.
What Do I Need In Order to Play Magic Arena?
There are several important settings and tools to prepare before you play Magic Arena. These will enable or greatly improve your experience before you enter an event, are in between games, or press “Play.”
First, you need to download and install MTG Arena. This could depend on your device, but the game is available for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Linux, Android, mobile devices, and not quite PlayStation. As long as your device meets the minimum System Requirements, you keep some operating space, and are frequently updating MTG Arena, you can play more games of Magic than you’ve ever played before.
What Can I Do in MTGA?
You can do a lot to play Magic Arena, we have everything you need to know about your MTGA profile, the decks that Sparky plays (Sparky is your tutor when you first start), and your spark rank. It would take a whole article to explain all 15 settings in MTG Arena. To maximize your digital time, we have the tips to turn you into a power user.
As you browse you’ll learn what comes to your Player Inbox, and how to take, or skip the Color Challenges. Go at your own pace because you can always replay the tutorial. Once you feel introduced to the colors and the feel of a game, why not challenge another person? This is what Starter Deck Duel is for, almost like that first Pokémon battle with your rival at the lab, you pick a starter and go against another person that just selected their starter.
Playing with Friends
You can play against your friends on MTG Arena, the mode you need is Direct Challenge. Since you might have widely different collections on MTGA, you can level the field and play Limited or Draft, just follow along for how to use Draftsim to play draft against your friends or any limited format via the direct challenge. Yes, you can arrange games with those on your friend list, but you can’t make friends with strangers from ranked or other matches.
Make It Personal
Expressing yourself is one of the aspects of Magic that happens whether you choose to play something or not. Some players communicate with all the emotes they can, others want to disable MTGA’s emotes. You make the choice of how you want to play. You know how players choose which sleeves to use for tabletop Magic? Arena lets you set custom sleeves, default card styles, and default basic lands. Speaking of choices, you have a lot of decisions to make when you are building decks. There are 5 reasons why Arena Tutor is the best MTG Arena deck builder.
Almost every time you are building your deck you want to see your creatures and your noncreatures. In trimming your deck you pushed some cards to your sideboard, did you know you can check your sideboard during a match? When brewing, you often remember a match in which you were completely crushed, and that’s when you go looking up deck lists. Thankfully there is a way to import a deck to MTGA and keep the brews coming. Then there are those times when you are smashing victory after victory and want to save or share your deck, you need to know how to copy it out of MTGA by exporting a deck. One quick note about how to fix the “can’t remove card from deck” error, it is rare, but fixable.
Now you’re back to making Magic Arena work for you. You can learn everything about the Arena play blade, there’s an exact way to get your match history, and if you like personal stats such as your win rate, the Arena Tutor is a free tool you should use.
I Need Help with MTGA
You can get stuck on Magic Arena, but rather than ask around your LGS, you need to figure this out on your own. Thankfully, it’s likely been fixed before. Here are 9 reasons why MTG Arena might be crashing.
A common problem is “authentication failed” and you need to know how to fix the authentication failed error. Another completed fix addresses “Error Updating Data” thank goodness there are steps to resolve it. Sometimes your MTGA quests are missing, you have a few things to try to make them reappear. Another common issue you might have is finding out that you have several different versions of MTGA installed.
You need to know if the issue is your internet connection because if not, you’ll want to find out the server status for MTG Arena. If that tracking isn’t enough for you, look through the patch notes and our friendly guide to developer-speak.
Let’s say you’re enjoying your matches, but you get mana flooded, or mana screwed, you might even say something aloud to your device and wonder “What do we know about the MTG Arena BO1 hand smoothing algorithm?” You might ask yourself, is my opponent cheating? Can I report a player? These are important actions you hope you never need.
What Can I Play on MTGA?
Midnight Clock | Illustration by Alexander Forssberg
What can you play and when can you play it? Or what are the different formats in MTG Arena? Learn which cards you'll be playing with and what deck requirements you'll have. Remember, rules make the game fun, and knowing which cards are in the pool will impact your strategy.
Formats that Rotate
Look ahead in the MTG Arena calendar and you’ll see lots of events, some for eternal formats and some that rotate. It is always handy to keep track of the Standard Rotation even if it’s just to rule out what you will not be facing.
If you’re thankful there is always a way to Draft on MTGA, you will want Draftsim’s ultimate guide to Draft. Because of your interest in draft, you also might like the ultimate guide to sealed, it’s twice the packs, but no picking or passing.
Trying to find Commander on MTGA? Many say Brawl is like Commander but in Standard, you be the judge and take to social media if you want to sideboard in Brawl. So there are some drawbacks to MTGA, there are also things you simply can not do on paper that can happen in Magic Arena. Take Alchemy for example, with one update, Wizards can change how it works and what the card does. There’s a lot to wrap your brain around so you can find out everything there is to know about Alchemy on MTG Arena.
Yes, there is a limited card pool on MTGA compared to the thousands of different cards that have gone to print. Formats like Pauper and Artisan stretch across rotations, giving us Pauper in Standard and Historic, and Artisan in Standard and Historic. For any that you are missing, check the full list of MTG Arena Formats.
Ah, the flexibility of not having cards rotate out of legality is like putting on that favorite jacket, you know that familiar scent. This is one of the appeals of Arena’s oldest formats like Historic, and Historic Brawl, and newer formats Explorer and Gladiator.
Having a designer pick you out a rack of jackets gets closer to what Cube is like, so there’s no shame in checking out the guide. Cube is a complex collection of curated cards that are drafted in a phantom event (meaning you don’t keep the cards you draft). The design space is huge for cubes since they can be created with any theme in mind.
Market Festival | Illustration by Ryan Barger
Magic can be a money sink and usually helps determine what format you play. Learn how to get the most out of the game and get as much free stuff as possible!
How to Get Cards and In-game Currency
Three free packs. That might be an Arena player’s favorite three-word statement because that means a new set has come out. Don’t leave the valuable MTG Arena Codes on the table. If you are making Arena-only purchases, there are the 4 best places to buy MTG Arena Codes online.
Many of your gold and gem purchases go through the MTG Arena store which is one of the main ways you can get cards in MTGA. Every type of player can find a card bundle or kit they’re interested in. You could learn everything there is to know about cosmetics like all the possible card sleeves and pets.
Once you are shopping, it doesn’t take much to get you asking how do gems work, and how much are they worth? You then start asking yourself, what is there to know about gold in MTGA? Then there are tougher questions like why are there no codes for gems, and why are there no gift cards?
So we come to what you can earn, and generally, by playing Magic, you will earn cards. The more often you play, the more you will earn.
Take the wildcards you earn as you open packs, the daily rewards and quest system, then the weekly rewards, then the seasonal rewards and annual renewal. Each of these intervals rewards you for playing.
Your reward for winning may actually be an individual card reward or ICR. Your progress toward a specific reward can be reset, a bit like daily deals that show up consistently but get refreshed periodically. Learn about the Vault in MTGA and that’ll round out your foundation on Magic Arena’s economy.
How We Play MTGA for Value
Get the most, spend the least – some players live by this motto. You could apply this to the plentiful products provided on Magic Arena which are tailored for players of all levels. One gripe to note is that MTGA needs a dusting system to trade in unused or extra cards.
Sarkhan's Triumph | Illustration by Chris Rahn
What are you playing for? If it is to be the best, then read on for MTGA's tournaments and how to make your way up the MTG Arena ladder in Constructed and Limited.
Find a Match
Your deck is done, now it’s time to duel. Get in a queue and let the matchmaking system work in MTG Arena. There’s some behind-the-scenes magic that makes the ranking system work and will match you up with players of a similar skill level. What kind of match are you looking for? Best of three or best of one can be summarized as traditional play vs. ranked play, and you can literally toggle between these two.
Magic Arena Events
Magic Arena does a great job at organizing events for players. At any given time several types of events are available. Beginners might have been given a token for quick entry to a Jump In! event or a draft which might cost about 1,500 gems or 10,000 gold if you didn’t have the draft token. Jump In! reduces the effort to build and collect a deck and gives you a chance to earn rewards fast.
There are ever-present limited and constructed events that swap in and out every couple of weeks, and most buy-ins are between 1,000 gold and 10,000 gold. The tournaments on MTG Arena are something that separates Magic from other card games. Prizes have gotten bigger over the years and going pro in MTG Arena is tougher than ever.
To understand the playoff picture of this competitive scene you need to understand what play-in points are and how the Mythic Qualifying Weekend, the MTG Arena Open and the Arena Championships are all related.
Community Resources and Tools
Festival of the Guildpact | Illustration by Alex Horley-Orlandelli
Discuss any aspect surrounding Magic Arena tips, noob complaints, and ban rants. See the threads of subreddits for various topics around MTGA. It’s OK to question things like the MTGA Shuffler, especially if it seems broken. Talk about how the game is doing and get some perspective on what Standard in Arena means right now, and you can adjust your game to either go with strategies that work or discover ways to beat them. Get answers for whatever happened to the MTG Arena forums and lots more out there.