Last updated on December 21, 2023

Astral Arena - Illustration by Sam Burley

Astral Arena | Illustration by Sam Burley

There are tons of different ways to play Magic. From casual kitchen table games to the competitive circuit and everything in between, there’s definitely no shortage of options if you’re getting bored of the same old format. But what about MTG Arena?

The digital platform has less wealth of options than paper Magic and even its long-lost twin, Magic Online. But there isn't a total lack of choices.

If you’re wondering what kind of formats and Play modes you can find in Arena, worry not! I’ve got the answers for you here today.

What Are the MTG Arena Play Modes?

MTG Arena Home tab

“Play modes” on MTG Arena refers to the different formats and events that you can play. They go by a few different names, like “game modes” and even just “Arena formats.” You can access all the different game modes and events in the “Play blade,” which you get to by clicking on the “Play” button on the Home tab.

There’s a wealth of options available to you at this point with BO1 and BO3 queues for just about every way to play, ranked and casual modes, and one-time events on occasion alongside the evergreen ones you can play at any time. Here’s a full quick-and-dirty list of every single way you can play Magic on Arena, aside from the special events that pop up every now and then:

Ranked Modes

  • BO1 Standard
  • BO3 Standard
  • BO1 Alchemy
  • BO3 Alchemy
  • BO1 Historic
  • BO3 Historic
  • BO1 Explorer
  • BO3 Explorer

Play Modes

  • BO1 Standard
  • BO3 Standard
  • BO1 Alchemy
  • BO3 Alchemy
  • BO1 Historic
  • BO3 Historic
  • BO1 Explorer
  • BO3 Explorer
  • Bot Match

Brawl Modes

  • Standard Brawl
  • Historic Brawl

Evergreen Events

  • Color Challenge
  • Premier Draft
  • Traditional Draft
  • Quick Draft
  • Jump In!
  • Alchemy Event
  • Traditional Alchemy Event
  • Explorer Event
  • Traditional Explorer Event
  • Historic Event
  • Traditional Historic Event
  • Standard Event
  • Traditional Standard Event

Ranked Play Modes

MTG Arena BO1 Historic Ranked Play screen

If you’re interested in climbing the ladder in Constructed, this is where you want to play. The Ranked play modes allow you to play either BO1 or BO3 matches of Standard, Alchemy, Historic, or Explorer. You’d also definitely benefit from Arena Tutor to help track your match history, help with deckbuilding, and offer insightful stats and data after matches.

You’ll be matched against a player at a similar ranking to you. The game also takes a few other factors into consideration when setting up matches, like your and your potential opponent’s deck, win rates, etc.

Play Modes

Regular Play

MTG Arena BO1 Alchemy Play screen

Competitive Magic not really your thing? Fear not, there are plenty of casual modes for you to choose from! Here you can play BO1 or BO3 Standard, Alchemy, Historic, or Explorer matches just like in Ranked Play modes, except it’s not ranked. Go figure.

You’re still playing against a real person; there just aren’t really any stakes other than your own time and enjoyment. These modes are also great if you’re just looking to burn through your daily and weekly quests without worrying about your Season ranking.

And if you want some extra fun (and bragging rights), Arena Tutor offers unique achievements for, well, achieving unique things!

Bot Match

MTG Arena Bot Match Play screen

Maybe you’re new to Arena or even Magic in general, or you just want to test out a new deck or fun combo. Sparky is up to the challenge! Prep your best deck (or worst, depending on how you look at it) to go up against Sparky’s sometimes-questionable AI.

Brawl Play Modes

MTG Arena Standard Brawl Play screen

Commander isn’t available on Arena because the digital platform doesn’t have anywhere near the full card pool for the beloved format. Luckily for all you EDH-loving Arena players out there, you have another option! Brawl and Historic Brawl have similar rules and are the closest you’ll get to the commander-led format on MTGA (for now, at least…).

Evergreen Events

There are tons of evergreen events that stick around year-round if Constructed isn’t your thing. This is where you want to look if Limited is more your style or if you’re just looking to earn a little more bang your buck.

Aside from the New Player-oriented Color Challenges, all events have an entry cost but also offer rewards depending on how many wins you get.

Color Challenges

MTG Arena Color Challenges snapshot

The Color Challenges are part of the New Player Experience, an “event” that guides you through the mechanics and cards of the game, one color at a time. You play through five matches for each color, facing off against the planeswalkers that represent each other color and the Mysterious Figure. You’re then rewarded with a card style and the mono-colored starter deck for that color.

Ta-dah, now you’re ready to start your Arena journey in earnest and get your hands on the dual-colored starter decks! Exciting!

Sealed

MTG Arena Traditional Sealed ONE event

Sealed is a popular Limited format where you open six packs and then build a deck from the cards you open. This event is always for the current Standard set and resets when a new one is released.

The Sealed event has an entry cost of 2,000 gems. You get to keep all the cards you open, as well as up to 2,200 gems and three packs if you reach the max number of wins (seven for BO1 and four for Traditional) before the max number of losses (three for BO1 and two for Traditional).

Premier Draft

MTG Arena Premier Draft ONE event

Premier Draft is a BO1-ranked player Draft event. The entry cost is 1,500 gems or 10,000 gold, and you can win up to 2,200 gems and six packs if you get to seven wins before three losses.

Traditional Draft

MTG Arena Traditional Draft ONE event

Traditional Draft is the only unranked Draft event. It’s a BO3 event where you draft against other players just like Premier Draft. The entry cost is 1,500 gems or 10,000 gold, where you play three matches and earn rewards based on how many of the matches you win (up to 2,500 gems, six packs, and two Play-In points).

Quick Draft

MTG Arena Quick Draft ONE event

Quick Draft is the only bot draft event on Arena (hence the name). It’s also ranked, with BO3 matches and a win/loss ratio of seven and three just like Premier Draft. The entry cost is 750 gems or 5,000 gold, and the max reward for seven wins is 950 gems and two packs.

Jump In!

MTG Arena Jump In! event

Jump In! is an event that runs where Jumpstart walked. You get to pick two 20-card packets to mix together and form your deck, and you get to keep all the cards from the packets you choose.

This is a very fun-focused and casual event, with an entry cost of 200 gems or 1,000 gold and an uncommon ICR as a reward if you win your match.

Format Events

MTG Arena Alchemy event

There are four different format events (Alchemy, Explorer, Historic, and Standard) that each follow the same structure:

  • Format: BO1
  • Entry cost: 375 gems or 2,500 gold
  • Wins/losses: 7/3
  • Max rewards: 500 gems, 3 packs, and 1 Play-In point

Traditional Format Events

MTG Arena Traditional Standard event

The Traditional format events, much like the BO1 format events, are available for each of Arena’s four main formats (Alchemy, Explorer, Historic, and Standard) and have the same structure:

  • Format: BO3
  • Entry cost: 750 gems or 5.000 gold
  • Wins/losses: 5 matches regardless of record
  • Max rewards: 1,000 gems, 3 packs, and 4 Play-In points

How Do You Unlock All Play Modes in MTG Arena?

As soon as you’re done with (or have skipped) the New Player Experience tutorial, you’ll have access to all game modes and events in the Play blade. You used to start your digital journey locked out of the full breadth of Play modes on Arena, but that’s no longer the case.

What Game Mode Is Best for Beginners in MTG Arena?

The best game mode for beginners on MTGA depends on how new you are to the game.

Do you understand Magic’s basic mechanics and don’t see yourself struggling with Arena’s interface? Then I’d suggest playing your preferred format in the unranked Play modes. They’re casual queues so there’s no real pressure and all you’re spending is your own time. BO1 vs. BO3 depends on how you feel about sideboarding, but you may as well give BO3 a try if you’re playing in the casual queues for practice anyway.

On the other hand, are you completely green and don’t know anything about MTG, and maybe you’re worried that you’ll get lost in the game’s UI? Make sure you don’t skip the Color Challenges, and you can even try Sparky’s bot matches if you still don’t feel confident enough to try the real-player queues after finishing the tutorial.

No matter where you’re at in your Magic and Arena journey, everyone can benefit from Arena Tutor to help track your games and improve your skills.

Wrap Up

Phyrexian Arena - Illustration by Martina Fackova

Phyrexian Arena | Illustration by Martina Fackova

And that’s all she wrote!

MTG Arena has come a long way from offering only Standard and not-Standard, with Pioneer remasters getting us ever closer to the format and, eventually, Commander! But four formats are a far cry from paper’s veritable wealth of options. Still, it’s something at least.

What’s your favorite way to play on Arena? Are you a competitive player, battling your way to Mythic? Are you a collector, grinding away on dailies and weeklies and maxing your Mastery Level every set? I’m dying to know, so make sure to let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s official Twitter.

Wait, before you head out! It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this: Arena Tutor, a powerful MTGA deck tracker and Draft helper with Draftsim's signature AI built right in.

… okay, that’s it. You can go now. Bye!

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