Welcome to the latest and greatest Hipsters of the Coast Official Free-to-Play Guide to Magic the Gathering Arena, a.k.a. MTG Arena! In this first chapter we’ll answer some important questions like, “What Garbage Did Wizards Put in my Starting Collection,” “How Bad are the Free Decks They Give Us,” and “How Do I Make Better Decks?” But first, some important meta-information about the guide itself:

More specifically, in this chapter we’ll cover your starting collection (15 decks), how to find the top decks in the game, and how to go about building up your collection to get those decks. Effectively using your resources to craft cards is essentially the foundation of being a free-to-play Planeswalker in MTG Arena. If you’ve already read this chapter or want to check out something else, then feel free to use the table of contents below to jump to another chapter.

Full Guide Table of Contents

Your Starting Collection

When you’re first dropped into MTG Arena you’ll play through a short tutorial followed by five days of quests. This is known as the New Player Experience. At the end of the tutorial you unlock five mono-colored decks. At the end of the five days of quests you unlock ten dual-colored decks. These 15 decks, plus a handful of packs you’ll pick up in the first week of game play will constitute your beginning collection.

I recommend checking out the deck lists on the Wiki linked above and getting to know them since you’ll be seeing a lot of them in your early rungs of the competitive ladder. Also we’ll want to begin the process of upgrading some of these decks into Tier One decks to use in competitive events.

It’s important to know that not all of these decks are great but none of them are really garbage. The UG Merfolk deck is probably the best of the bunch without making changes thanks to its very aggressive strategy with counter-magic backup. The white, black, and green mono-colored decks are also great for starting out with just the basics.

Top Decks

There are two above-and-beyond resources in the community to use to find top decks in the format. The first is www.mtgtop8.com and the second is www.mtggoldfish.com. The former will give you a breakdown of the most-played cards in a format as well as the most-played decks at recent events in that format. For example, the most played card in Standard as of this update is Lightning Strike. The latter provides a metagame analysis for the format along with solid deck lists you can use as guides for building your decks.

What to Craft?

Now we’re going to take a look at a handful of the current top decks in the meta and use them as a guide for how to build your collection going forwards. It’s okay if you already spent some of your wildcards on other things. For now, just relax and be comfortable knowing you’re back on the right track as a free-to-play planeswalker.

Presented below is a plan to build three of the top decks in the format right now, Mono-Red Aggro, Selesnya Tokens, and Dimir Control. This covers all five colors and gives you an array of game-play options as well. You’ll want to tackle your collection growth by rarity, since it depends entirely on the acquisition of wildcards. Here is some advice for crafting at each rarity, followed by the top-tier deck plan.

Commons: Start with the cards in the plan below and then follow the mtgtop8.com list of most-played commons. Or, you can just save up your common wildcards for experimenting with different deck strategies or for building decks in the less-usual formats like Pauper and Singleton.

Uncommons: Once again, start with the cards below and then follow up with the top-played cards. You can also save these up for building Singleton decks (though obviously not Pauper). You’ll amass quite a large collection of uncommons through event prizes and just by opening enough packs so I wouldn’t fret too much about them.

Rares: There are a lot of paths you can go down with your Rare wildcards and they will likely be the most valuable to you because there will be far more rares you want to collect than mythic rares. For starters, only two of the five guilds in Guilds of Ravnica are represented in the plan below, so when should you craft the remaining three guild’s shock lands? What about the M10/Innistrad cycle of dual lands?

If you want to start out by crafting all 40 currently available dual lands then by all means be my guest. I can’t fault that logic and you can likely find replacements for all the other rares in the decks below. If you want to experiment with different decks then you’ll want to smooth out your mana base and fix your draws anyways so acquiring these cards isn’t a bad idea.

Another path you can go down with rare wildcards is the Singleton path. Obviously this path allows you to get a bit more diversity for your money because you only need one copy of each rare that you need. There’s no mtgtop8 or mtggoldfish tracking Singleton yet so you’ll have to check out the forums or Reddit for decklists.

Mythic Rare: Last but not least, just craft whatever you feel like for the most part. If you want a solid plan, I’d start with crafting a second copy of Redkindling Phoenix (you start with one) and then three copies of History of Benalia and four copies of March of the Multitudes and finally four copies of Doom Whisperer. The lists below also call for two copies of Trostrani Discordant and Dream Eater so those can be last. That’s 13 mythic wildcards so it should take you up until the next expansion comes out to acquire.

Free to Play Top-Tier Deck Crafting Plan

I debated two ways to approach this guide. The first was to take all fifteen starter decks and explain how to upgrade them to be competitive. That might be fun, but it’s a huge waste of resources mostly because only three of those decks will come close to being successful in the current metagame. If you want to play Merfolk competitively don’t let me stop you, and I may even put that guide together someday soon, but for now I went with the second approach, which is to quickly build three top competitive decks.

Building the three decks below will cost you a total of 18 Common WC’s, 29 Uncommon WC’s, 49 Rare WC’s (!), and 16 Mythic WC’s. Each list is broken down by rarity. The number in parenthesis is the number you’ll get from unlocking the starter decks, so don’t craft these until you know you need them. For example, you’ll get three copies of Lightning Strike when you unlock the RG deck, so don’t waste more than one WC on it.

Building Mono-Red Aggro

Common: 4x Fanatical Firebrand, 4x Ghitu Lavarunner (3), 4x Lightning Strike (3), 4x Shock (3), 4x Viashino Pyromancer (2)
Uncommon: 4x Wizard’s Lightning
Rare: 2x Experimental Frenzy, 4x Goblin Chainwhirler, 2x Risk Factor, 4x Runaway Steam-Kin
Mythic: 2x Rekindling Phoenix (1)

This is not only the most commonly played deck in the format today, but Mono-Red Aggro is pretty easy to build on MTG Arena, requiring only 9 Common WCs, 4 Uncommon WC’s, 12 Rare WC’s, and 1 Mythic WC. You’ll be able to put together about 50/60 cards pretty quickly and use modest replacements until you can afford all the rares needed.

Building Selesnya Tokens

Common: 4x Saproling Migration (3)
Uncommon: 4x Conclave Tribunal, 2x District Guide, 4x Flower // Flourish
Rare: 1x Arch of Orazca, 4x Emmara, Soul of the Accord, 4x Legion’s Landing, 2x Shalai, Voice of Plenty (1), 4x Sunpetal Grove (1), 4x Temple Garden, 4x Venerated Loxodon
Mythic: 4x History of Benalia (1), 4x March of the Multitudes, 2x Trostrani Discordant

While you’re jamming away quick matches with your red deck, you’ll be able to start collecting the Uncommons and Mythic Rares needed to build Selesnya. You’ll once again find yourself scrounging for Rare WC’s but that’s how it goes with MTG Arena. This deck is a solid mid-range/aggro deck which will serve you well and also add History of Benalia, a highly-played Mythic Rare to your collection.

Building Dimir Control

Common: 1x Dead Weight, 2x Dimir Guildgate, 3x Essence Scatter, 2x Moment of Craving
Uncommon: 2x Cast Down, 2x Discovery // Dispersal, 4x Disinformation Campaign, 2x Field of Ruin, 1x The Eldest Reborn, 4x Thought Erasure
Rare: 1x Arguel’s Blood Fast, 4x Drowned Catacomb (1), 4x Ritual of Soot, 1x Search for Azcanta, 4x Vraska’s Contempt (1), 4x Watery Grave
Mythic: 2x Dream Eater, 4x Doom Whisperer

Last, but not least, we enter the world of control decks with a Dimir control shell. If this deck isn’t quite your style you can modify it to one of the many varieties of control decks in the format provided by MTG Goldfish. Conversely, if you’re not into control at all, you can replace this deck entirely with Golgari Midrange or Abzan Midrange depending on your preference.

Appendix I: Wildcard Craft Order Checklist

Your First 18 Common WC’s:

  1. 4x Fanatical Firebrand
  2. 1x Ghitu Lavarunner
  3. 2x Viashino Pyromancer
  4. 1x Lightning Strike
  5. 1x Shock (Red Deck Complete)
  6. 1x Saproling Migration (Selesnya Deck Complete)
  7. 3x Essence Scatter
  8. 1x Dead Weight
  9. 2x Moment of Craving
  10. 2x Dimir Guildgate (Dimir Deck Complete)

Your First 29 Uncommon WCs:

  1. 4x Wizard’s Lightning (Red Deck Complete)
  2. 4x Conclave Tribunal
  3. 4x Flower // Flourish
  4. 2x District Guide (Selesnya Deck Complete)
  5. 2x Field of Ruin
  6. 2x Cast Down
  7. 4x Thought Erasure
  8. 4x Disinformation Campaign
  9. 2x Discovery // Dispersal
  10. 1x The Eldest Reborn (Dimir Deck Complete)

Your First 49 Rare WCs:

  1. 4x Goblin Chainwhirler
  2. 4x Runaway Steam-Kin
  3. 2x Experimental Frenzy
  4. 2x Risk Factor (Red Deck Complete)
  5. 4x Emmara, Soul of the Accord
  6. 4x Legion’s Landing
  7. 4x Venerated Loxodon
  8. 1x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
  9. 1x Arch or Orazca
  10. 4x Temple Garden
  11. 3x Sunpetal Grove (Selesnya Deck Complete)
  12. 3x Vraska’s Contempt
  13. 4x Ritual of Soot
  14. 1x Arguel’s Blood Fast
  15. 1x Search for Azcanta
  16. 4x Watery Grave
  17. 3x Drowned Catacomb (Dimir Deck Complete)

Your First 16 Mythic WCs:

  1. 1x Rekindling Phoenix (Red Deck Complete)
  2. 3x History of Benalia
  3. 4x March of the Multitudes
  4. 2x Trostrani Discordant (Selesnya Deck Complete)
  5. 4x Doom Whisperer
  6. 2x Dream Eater (Dimir Deck Complete)

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