Last updated on September 25, 2020

Zendikar Rising Mastery Pass purchase screen

Quick note: We’re working on getting the details for the Zendikar Rising Mastery Pass as we speak. Stay tuned for those!

The Mastery System. It can be a bit of a contentious topic, for a variety of reasons. We talked about it a bit in our Win Resets and XP article, but we wanted to go a bit more in-depth. So, here we are! If you’re new to MTG Arena, the Mastery System might not mean much to you. On the other hand, if you’ve been around since beta, it probably means all too much. And not necessarily in a good way.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s go over what the Mastery System even is. Basically, it’s an experience track that rewards you with stuff every time you level up, which happens every 1,000 XP. You earn XP by completing daily quests and winning games. There’s a free version that everyone gets called “Set Mastery,” and then a paid version that requires you to purchase an MTG Arena “Mastery Pass” to access. This Mastery Pass is the equivalent of a “Battle Pass” in other games. But it wasn’t always like this.

Back when Core Set 2020 was released in July 2019, MTGA players were treated to a complete overhaul of the XP and reward system. Before that, you could get five packs a week even if you only played one day, you just needed to get the wins. Obviously, the Mastery System completely changed that.

MTG Arena Ikoria Mastery

At first you only got XP for the first three wins each day and there were super strict daily caps, which basically meant you had to play every single day, buy the Mastery Pass, or get barely anything at all for your time. Eventually, WotC returned the weekly reset system and made some adjustments over time. And they’ve continued to do so with each new set, changing the rewards for both Set Mastery and the Mastery Pass each time.

So, what does it look like now?

Is the MTG Arena Mastery Pass Worth It?

Zendikar Rising Mastery Pass in store

All right, now on to the Mastery Pass. As I mentioned, Wizards has tweaked what you can get with the Mastery Pass every time they release a new one since Core Set 2020. It’s obvious that they’re trying to find a balance between not giving too much while still giving enough to entice players to spring for the Mastery Pass without feeling like they’re being cheated.

This can leave us non-whale players in a… weird spot. So, they knocked down the rewards without shaving anything off the price tag, but does the money spent still cover the rewards offered? It can be hard to ignore the frustration (not entirely misplaced, mind you) with WotC and focus purely on the bottom line, which is why we’re going to go over each Mastery Pass starting with Theros: Beyond Death to see if the math makes sense, or if you should just skip it this time around.

Yay… more math. Why do I always get these articles?

What’s In It For You

Listen, I could go off on how Wizards are a bunch of greedy corporate gremlins that don’t care about their F2P players and just want to bleed us all for everything we’re worth… Wait, what was my point again? Anyway.

All jokes aside, we all know that WotC can push our buttons. If reddit is anything to go by, it seems like everything they do riles someone up. And the Mastery Pass is no different, so let’s just skip the exposition and jump into what you get, shall we?

Zendikar Rising Mastery Tree

Quick note: Mastery Orbs can be redeemed for card styles on the Set Mastery Tree. That is all, carry on.

Zendikar Rising Mastery

Zendikar Rising Mastery track

ZNR Master goes up to level 130. Remember that each level is 1,000 XP. Here’s the breakdown for each level and beyond:

Set Mastery (Free)

If you don’t purchase the Mastery Pass, you can get up to 57 Zendikar Rising packs and five Mastery Orbs. You receive rewards up to level 114.

Mastery Pass

If you do purchase the Mastery Pass, you can also get:

  • 10 customizable text emotes
  • 5 customizable sticker emotes
  • 5 Elemental-themed swappable pets
  • Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients avatar
  • Zendikar Rising card sleeve
  • Lithoform Engine Exquisite card sleeve
  • 1,200 gems
  • 4,000 gold
  • 20 booster packs (x5 ELD, x5 THB, x5 IKO, x5 M21)
  • 35 card styles (x15 common, x10 uncommon, x10 rare)
  • 25 Mastery Orbs
  • 15 uncommon ICRs
  • 10 mythic rare ICRs
  • Premium Draft token
  • Level 131 and beyond: uncommon ICR (1:20 upgrade rate)

Core Set 2021 Mastery

Core Set 2021 Mastery track

M21 Mastery went up to level 90.

Set Mastery (Free)

If you didn’t purchase the Mastery Pass, you could get up to 36 Core Set 2021 packs and five Mastery Orbs. You received rewards up to level 72.

Mastery Pass

If you did purchase the Mastery Pass, you could also get:

  • 5 dog-themed pet variants
  • Ugin, the Spirit Dragon avatar
  • Best Friend basic card sleeve
  • 1,200 gems
  • 4,000 gold
  • 20 packs (x5 ELD, x5 THB, x5 IKO, x5 M21)
  • 15 common card styles
  • 10 uncommon card styles
  • 25 Mastery Orbs
  • 10 mythic ICRs
  • Player Draft token
  • Level 85: Ugin Exquisite card sleeve
  • Level 91 and beyond: uncommon ICR (1:20 upgrade rate)

Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Mastery

MTG Arena Ikoria Mastery

Ikoria Mastery went up to level 80.

Set Mastery (Free)

If you didn’t purchase the Mastery Pass, you could get up to 30 Ikoria packs and five Mastery Orbs. You received rewards up to level 60.

Mastery Pass

If you did purchase the Mastery Pass, you could also get:

  • Regal Cub, Leosaur Cub, Nightmare Cub, Frost Cub, and Skycat Cub pets
  • Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast avatar
  • Greatshark card sleeve
  • 800 gems
  • 4,000 gold
  • 20 packs (x4 GRN, x4 RNA, x2 WAR, x3 M20, x3 ELD, x3 THB)
  • 25 card styles
  • 25 Mastery Orbs
  • 10 mythic ICRs
  • Draft token
  • Exquisite card sleeve
  • Level 81 and beyond: uncommon ICR (1:20 upgrade rate)

Theros: Beyond Death Mastery

MTG Arena Theros Mastery track

Theros Mastery went up to level 90.

Set Mastery (Free)

If you didn’t purchase the Mastery Pass, you could get up to 39 Theros packs and five Mastery Orbs. You received rewards up to level 78.

Mastery Pass

If you did purchase the Mastery Pass, you could also get:

  • Common Nyx Owl pet + uncommon and rare visual upgrades
  • Elspeth avatar
  • Elspeth’s Nightmare card sleeve
  • 1,800 gems
  • 4,000 gold
  • 20 packs (x4 GRN, x4 RNA, x4 WAR, x4 M20, x4 ELD)
  • THB Ranked Draft token
  • 25 card styles
  • 25 Mastery Orbs
  • 10 mythic ICRs
  • 3 rare ICRs (1:8 upgrade rate)
  • Ashiok Exquisite card sleeve
  • Level 91 and beyond: uncommon ICR (1:20 upgrade rate)

Dollars, Gems, and Gold

Oh, look, it’s time for my favorite thing. The Maths™. Let’s get this over with…

Thankfully I’ve already done the first thing that we need: how much gems and packs are worth. Packs are simple since they’re just worth 1,000 gold or 200 gems. Gems, on their end, are worth (an average) of $0.0058264167 USD per gem. Which then makes packs worth about $1.16528334 USD, and each gold equals $0.00116528334 USD. Fun!

MTG Arena store gems

For both your and my own sanity, I’m going to round up to the thousandths (the third decimal) so that we’re not looking at crazy-long numbers anymore. It won’t be the exact numbers, but we’ll be close enough to get what we’re looking for.

So, rounded up, gems are worth $0.006, packs are worth $1.165, and gold is worth $0.001. Fascinating.

MTG Arena store ZNR packs

We’re gonna keep this even more simple, because when I first typed this out it was way too long and even I got bored. I’m gonna skip the “show your work” part and just get to the numbers. If you’re curious, we can have a math-off in the comments. I’m also gonna give you two numbers: “cosmetics-ain’t-sh*t” vs “cosmetics-are-valuable.”

So, the Mastery Pass costs 3,400 gems, which means you’re essentially spending $19.81 for it. Which then begs the question: do the rewards measure up? Let’s talk bullet point about that:

Cosmetics-ain’t-sh*t

  • 1,200 gems = $6.99
  • 4,000 gold = $4.66
  • 20 packs = $23.40
  • Draft token = $8.74
  • 25 ICRs: $4.13

I’m not counting the uncommon ICR’s beyond level 90 because there’s no limit to how many you could earn. Theoretical infinity doesn’t play well with Maths™. Grand total time!

Without the avatar, Exquisite card sleeve, or crazy-overpriced card styles factored in, you’re looking at a value of around $47.92 (mind you, this total is rounded so it’s a couple cents off, but you get the point). Not bad! Even if you don’t value cosmetics, it looks pretty good so far.

But if you do?

Cosmetics-are-valuable

  • 35 card styles = $135.80
  • 25 Mastery Orbs = $116.50
  • Avatar = $2.91
  • Card sleeve = $3.50
  • Exquisite card sleeve = $6.99

I’m not touching the pets or emotes either. I’m sure you get the point without them anyway. Adding these numbers to our previous total brings it to a horribly inflated $313.62, but let’s not talk about that.

Zendikar Rising Mastery track

So, this way-too-long Maths™ nonsense shows up that if you complete the entire Mastery pass and max out at level 130, yes, it is worth it. But that’s not necessarily reality, is it?

Some Nuances to Consider: Play Time, Experience, $$, and Competitiveness

Let’s say you’re like me. I don’t play ranked 99% of the time ‘cause I make too much jank to ever climb anywhere decent and I don’t really draft ‘cause I’m not very good at it. I spend just about all my time in the Standard Play queue, play a couple days a week, sometimes hit my 15 weekly wins, sometimes hit four daily wins, and skip daily quests on the regular. I spend most of my gold and gems on cosmetics with some events splashed in here and there. I also buy stuff—usually cosmetics or a cool bundle—every once in a while.

I finished Ikoria Mastery at level 46. I landed around the same place for M21’s Mastery. So, if you’re anything like me, where do you land on ZNR’s “is it worth it” scale?

The good news is that, even if you don’t get very far in Mastery levels and you don’t value cosmetics at all, you’ll hit the “break-even” point pretty early on. Level 31 is pretty good, and totally accomplishable even if you don’t play that often.

Zendikar Rising Mastery track

If you are getting the short end of the stick, though, how do you make the best of the Pass and have it be worth it? So many questions, so little time.

When is the End Date for the Mastery Pass? How Long Does it Last?

According to Wizards of the Coast:

Set Masteries are available for the most recent Standard set, starting on the day the set is released and ending when the next set is released.

So this means that for Core Set 2021, your set mastery pass would have expired on September 17, 2020, the date Zendikar Rising came out on MTG Arena. At that point, Set Mastery will start for Zendikar Rising instead.

Making the Best of the Pass

All right. You have to optimize your time if you want to get as many Mastery levels as you can, and I’m sure you don’t like to waste your time. I get that, I don’t like to waste my time either. Yet here I am doing all this Maths™.

Saying that you need to play to your strengths is one thing, but what about Arena’s built-in options for optimization? The Mastery system is built to reward you in certain ways, so let’s talk about playing to those strengths.

Optimizing Your Blood, Sweat, and Tears

MTG Arena daily and weekly quests

Daily quests, daily wins, and weekly wins. This is the literal and figurative gold mine. We talked about these over here, so I’ll spare you the dirty little details and keep it simple.

Either finish one quest everyday or finish all three quests every three days. Re-roll the 500-gold quests you get (once a day) but don’t re-roll the 750-gold ones. The first four wins of the day reward the most gold, but you get Mastery XP up to the first 10 daily wins. Try to max your weekly wins (these reset every Sunday).

Events are the next key part. Some events reward Mastery XP, so it pays to keep an eye on these so that you know what to jump on. The Workshop event series started rewarding players with the “Haversack of Favor” on their first win after the first three events finished, which was basically just a fancy way of saying “we randomized the three possible reward options so you get either 500 XP, 500 gold, or an ICR.” Some other notable events of the past that rewarded XP were the Worlds Showcase, the Planeswalker Momir event back in January, and Standard Shakeup in December.

MTG Arena Worlds XXVI showcase event

If you’re competitive, you’ll have a much better time and likely max out, just because to be competitive you generally have to win on the regular which levels you up. You’ll also probably complete daily quests on a daily basis if not closer to it. You can still max out without being a competitive player, it just takes more effort, especially if you’re not playing as often. You kind of have to maximize your time, which isn’t always the most fun thing to do. F2P faces similar “problems,” if you can call them that. But since the break-even point is so low, even F2P casual players can turn a profit with the Mastery Pass.

Some other good news is that you don’t have to buy the Mastery Pass before you know whether or not it’ll end up being worth it for you. If you’re in no rush, you can wait until you’ve hit whatever milestone you want to hit before you get the Pass, and you’ll get all of the rewards up to the level you’re at when you do. Because there’s a free Set Mastery track set up alongside the Mastery Pass track, your level reflects both.

You can (theoretically) wait until the very last second before the next Set Mastery comes out to get Ikoria’s Mastery Pass, and you won’t miss out on anything. I’d suggest not playing it that close, though. Maybe get it the day before.

Time Limits and Time Travel

Time Wipe MTG card art by Svetlin Velinov

Time Wipe | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

I kinda touched on it already, but let’s talk about how long the Ikoria Mastery will be around. Each set’s Mastery lasts until the next set is released on Arena. And, in case you didn’t know, each set is released on Arena a little bit earlier than it’s released for paper.

Make sure you don’t wait too long to get the Pass if that’s your game, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s no way to get more rewards from a previous set’s Mastery once it’s finished, you only get the stuff up to your level from either the Set Mastery or the Mastery Pass, depending on whether or not you bought the Pass.

Mastery Orbs

I’ve mentioned these above, but they merit their own section here. Mastery orbs are digital items that are redeemable for cosmetic card styles in MTGA. When you get mastery orbs, you’ll see a little notification in the “Mastery” section on the menu in your game screen.

Zendikar Rising Mastery Tree

You can use these to upgrade certain card styles, with a little bit of choice about what cards you want the fancy versions of. It’s a “mastery tree” because you’re supposed to grow or branch out from the basic or more common cards as you get more orbs, getting rarer and mythic-er card styles as you progress.

Mastery Orbs are a little more forgiving than the other items you get with the mastery pass, in a sense. If you have any unspent Orbs from the previous set when the new one moves in, you have until that  Set Mastery is over to spend them. For example, while you can’t earn any more Theros Mastery XP or rewards, you can still spend any unspent Mastery Orbs that you had already earned up until Core Set 2021 releases on MTGA. Conversely, you’re no longer able to earn XP or redeem orbs for Throne of Eldraine (or any older Set Masteries).

More good news time! Rewards don’t go away when a new set Mastery comes along. You keep all the stuff that you earned. Also, draft tokens don’t expire. I’ve seen a couple questions about that since we got a Traditional Draft token from Theros and we’re getting Draft tokens for Ikoria. In theory, you’ll have those tokens forever if you don’t use them.

Mastery Pass Who’s Who

All right, now it’s time to wrap this sucker up in a nice pretty bow. Who is it worth it for? Who’s going to get the most out of the Mastery Pass? And where do you fall on that scale, probably most importantly?

This World Belongs to Me MTG card art by Min Yum

This World Belongs to Me | Illustration by Min Yum

As much as it sucks that the Mastery Pass rewards are “shrinking,” that doesn’t change the fact that it is still worth what you pay for it. Yes, not as much as it used to be, and I won’t argue that the smaller rewards don’t suck, but at the end of the day we’re still in a good spot in terms of F2P being viable.

The Mastery Pass is, unsurprisingly, the most worth it for people who play everyday, complete their daily quests, and finish with at least four wins each day. These are the people who will get lots of the 81+ level ICRs.

For the average person who plays once a week on average, it’s probably not worth it. Even if you value the cosmetics, you might be better off saving up your gold and gems for packs, cosmetics from the store’s daily deals, or (even better) events to make you even more gold or gems.

Deal Broker MTG card art by Cliff Childs

Deal Broker | Illustration by Cliff Childs

And then, lying in the middle, are players like me. Do you play every few days, sometimes everyday, but not usually for very long? Your daily quests don’t get to top off at three too often but sometimes they do, and you sometimes finish your first four daily wins and all 15 weekly wins. If you fall here, the Mastery Pass is probably worth it. You may want to hold off until near the end of the Mastery to see what level you land at just in case. I have no self control so I don’t do that, but that’s me and along with being bad at math I’m also not good with my money. It’s a winning combo, really.

Level Up and Out

And that’s just about it. That’s all I’ve got for ya! Hopefully, I was able to shed some light on Set Mastery and the Mastery Pass and you know more now than you did before. What’s your take on how the rewards are heading? Are you mad about it, or do you think that people are overreacting? Drop us a comment down there and let us know!

You know the drill by now. We appreciate your support, no matter what form it comes in. Comments? Heck yeah! Sharing your favorite articles? Awesome! Becoming a Patron or checking out Arena Tutor? I won’t say no!

Don’t forget to stay safe out there.

Sphere of Safety MTG card art by Slawomir Maniak

Sphere of Safety | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

21 Comments

  • Avatar
    Joji April 23, 2020 5:03 pm

    Thank you for the write-up – perfect amount of maths and analysis. Now I don’t have to go hunting through Reddit! 5 ⭐

    • Nikki
      Nikki April 27, 2020 9:36 am

      Haha you’re welcome, and thank you! I’m glad you found it useful 🙂

  • Avatar
    Mr. Brandon May 1, 2020 10:50 am

    As a new player to Arena specifically but not the paper game, I found this article extremely useful on whether or not to pull the trigger on purchasing the Ikoria Mastery Pass or not.

    Great to know that even if you do not value cosmetics (I do), you’re still getting more than your money’s worth if you get to level 80 and beyond.

    Cheers!

    • Nikki
      Nikki May 12, 2020 7:50 am

      I’m glad I was able to help 🙂
      Happy Magic-ing!

      • Avatar
        Mr BadDragon September 3, 2020 1:53 am

        I never considered about waiting to buy the pass until later in the season. A good insight

  • Avatar
    Aaron May 10, 2020 7:41 pm

    One thing worth noting is that of the 20 packs that you get as rewards from the Mastery Pass, 13 of them are falling out of Standard in September or October. That may not matter to everyone, but it somewhat devalues them to me. This late into the year, I won’t be spending any of my coins or gems on packs from those sets (unless they’re a daily deal), so I don’t necessarily consider them to be equivalent to 1000 coins or 200 gems. The ICRs also have the potential to be from those sets.

    I’ll likely still buy the pass, but I just thought it was worth pointing out because not all packs are equal in everyone’s eyes.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha May 11, 2020 8:29 am

      Quality comment. I agree those factors could definitely affect your decision.

  • Avatar
    Chris May 11, 2020 7:44 pm

    Thank you! I hope you do one of these for each set because I had to dig through a lot of Throne/Theros calculations to see if Ikoria was worth it

    • Nikki
      Nikki May 12, 2020 8:01 am

      You’re welcome! And you’re in luck then 🙂 I’ll be updating this article each set with a table like what Ikoria’s got now so you’ll be able to see what new Masteries chalk up to, level by level (or 5 levels, I guess). Until they stop changing them, that is! Fingers crossed it’s sooner rather than later haha

  • Avatar
    Luke May 23, 2020 2:14 am

    Appreciated the analysis! I’m in the mind of paper vs MTGA, so it’s probably in the range of 5-7 packs price which ain’t too difficult to decide…but your article put the Math(tm) to the test! Thanks aplenty!

  • Avatar
    Lucas May 31, 2020 10:57 pm

    Hey!

    Nice article. I climbed quite high on the Mastery list for the Ikoria set, and I am now wondering; if I get the Mastery Pass, (at level 42), will I then recieve all the rewards on the mastery track level 1-42?

    Thanks so much.
    /Lucas

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha June 1, 2020 1:41 pm

      Lucas – if you’re asking what I think you’re asking, yes you can wait until you’ve hit whatever milestone you want to hit before you get the Pass, and you’ll get all of the rewards up to the level you’re at when you buy it.

  • Avatar
    CSZ June 4, 2020 11:04 pm

    For players like myself who play really much esp. limited the packs are practically worthless. At the moment i have all rares in the game x4 and all playable mytics as well as 61 / 23 wildcards and 5 vaults ready to open.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha June 5, 2020 7:50 am

      Now that is impressive!

      • Avatar
        Steve June 8, 2020 1:54 pm

        I’m pretty close to the same built up currency. Based on the math, even if the packs are mostly dusting for you, I still worked out the value of the pass to be worth your 3400 gems but maybe only by a few dollars, and it’s mainly because of the draft token being worth 1500 gems. If that value was excluded, and you’re not opening value from the packs, I think the mastery pass becomes a net negative.

        • Avatar
          Ohmslyce#48687 June 19, 2020 6:08 am

          I feel like not all people (me included) are on that competitive level you are and something like this outlier shouldn’t affect the decision for the general player to purchase the pass. Good for you, though, with all your success! I just started the digital version after having not played since the original Ravnica cycle and lets just say new mechanics abound!

  • Avatar
    Jeff July 6, 2020 2:33 pm

    Hi Nikki,

    I did much of the math itself so MATH OFF!! Just kidding.

    I think it’s a solid analysis, so thanks for crunching it out.

    How my analysis differs is I feel packs aren’t worth their price tag. You can get lots of them for free just playing so I’ve never bought them. They do add some to my collection and/or save a few wildcards but I’d consider them to be about 1/2 of your valuation. Another questionable valuation is the premier ticket. If you love this format, give it full value. If you want best bang for your buck, this format is overpriced and you should consider discounting it a little.

    I generally complete pass progression and so to me the pass still has value but it’s pretty close to break even.

    • Nikki
      Nikki July 6, 2020 3:11 pm

      Hey Jeff!

      You just about gave me a heart attack there haha thank you, and you’re welcome!

      Yeah I get you for the packs being under their “sell-for” price in terms of practical value. I don’t think many people actually buy packs, myself included. Similar for the premier ticket- I don’t really draft, so it doesn’t really mean much to me.

      Once they pick a “formula” for the Mastery Pass I definitely wanna do an overhaul of the math and the way this is laid out to give a better picture of whether or not it’s worth it, taking things like how much you might value the different rewards into account as opposed to their literal worth in Arena’s store. There’s just so much variation there that trying to redo the math each set with the new level rewards would be a nightmare haha

  • Avatar
    Zyke85 August 26, 2020 7:44 am

    Exelente articulo, ¿ sabes cuando anuncia que traerá el mastery pass de zendikar? Te deseo mucho exito y espero mas articulos de calidad como edte. Adios

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha August 26, 2020 8:35 am

      Thanks 🙂 The Zendikar Rising mastery pass will start as soon as the set is released on Arena (which I think should be September 11). But the details of the mastery pass probably won’t be announced by Wizards until a week before that (or less), I would guess.

  • Avatar
    SilentPhoenix#97044 November 12, 2020 9:01 am

    Separate comment because I’m not sure the mods will allow this (although I’m pretty certain they won’t/shouldn’t):

    Your friends at mtgazone made a pretty cool Mastery Pass calculator that helps you estimate what Mastery level you can expect to achieve based on your play pattern.
    https://mtgazone.com/mastery-calculator/

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