TL:DR:

  1. Duplication Protection facilitates this entire process
  2. We can calculate how many packs we need to open to collect a set
  3. We can calculate how many drafts we need to do to win those packs
  4. You will need to track your collection and performance in this spreadsheet
  5. This process will be the quickest way to complete a set
  6. You’ll have all your wildcards leftover to craft cards from other sets

You can’t trade cards on Magic the Gathering Arena. You also can’t “dust” your cards, a term borrowed from Hearthstone which describes the action of destroying cards in your collection for a special currency that allows you to craft cards. The only way to gain cards is from opening packs plus some in-game rewards.

In order to play a variety of decks, a requirement not just for playing competitively but also for completing events and daily quests, you need to collect more cards. If you have the money to spend you can just buy enough packs to open up pretty much whatever you need. But if you don’t have the money, or you just like the challenge, you can actually complete sets almost for free.

Duplication Protection

This guide is all thanks to a feature that Wizards of the Coast introduced called Duplicate Protection. In short, when you open a “normal” booster pack you are guaranteed to open a rare or mythic rare you don’t already own four copies of in your collection. Packs you open during a limited event (draft or sealed) do not have this protection.

How Many Packs Do You Need?

Thanks to the Duplicate Protection rule, the number of packs you need to open in order to collect four copies of every rare a set can be calculated. We’ll need a few formulas along the way starting with the number of rares you are missing from your collection:

In this equation, we solve for the number of rares we are missing (Rm) based on the number of rares in the set (Rs), the number of actual rares we already own (Ro), and the number of packs we already own (Po).

The constants refer to the number of copies of each rare we want in a pack (4), the number of rares in every pack (7/8), and the rate at which we open rares instead of wildcards (11/12). You can also use this calculation for mythic rares by replacing the 7/8 constant with 1/8 (the 11/12 remains the same).

Assuming you need some more rares, you’ll need to start acquiring more packs.

How Do I Acquire More Packs?

You’ll get packs for free from several sources. Wizards gives a few away via promo code when a set first comes out. The Season Pass awards a bunch of packs on both the free and premium tracks. You can buy them for 1,000 gold coins apiece. And you can win them from limited events. 

Right now you might be saying to yourself, “what if I don’t want to play in drafts, I’m terrible at drafting anyways I’d rather just buy packs from the store.” I hear you, and I’m going to ask you to please bear with me because I’ll address this point soon.

Packs in a draft, as mentioned above, don’t have duplicate protection. When you open these packs you’re taking a risk of opening a rare you already have four copies of. Since our goal is to minimize the amount of in-game currency we spend on building our full set, we’ll want to acquire as many rares from limited packs as possible before we open our normal packs.

Doing this will minimize the number of packs we need to open, but it will require great discipline to deny yourself the joy of opening your packs when you receive them. You’ll also need to be dedicated enough to draft every single rare (and mythic rare) you see instead of cards that may be better for your deck.

How Many Drafts Do I Need to Do?

Up above we calculated how many rares we’re missing based on the number of rares and packs in our collection. Next, we need a formula to calculate the number of rares we expect to receive in a draft as a combination of rares acquired and packs acquired.

Here we solve for the number of rares we receive from a draft (Rr) by taking the number of rares we add to our pool on average (Ra) and adding to it the number of packs we win from the draft on average (Pa) multiplied by our constants (explained above) that tell us how many rares are in every pack).

Now that we have the number of rares we need, and the number of rares we expect to receive from a draft, we can calculate the number of drafts we need to do to finish our collection!

That’s a lot to remember! That’s why we created this handy-dandy spreadsheet which will allow you to track your collection, track your limited performance, and tell you when it’s okay to open all of your packs! Just follow these steps:

  • Make a copy of the spreadsheet
  • Add your collection to the spreadsheet
  • Stop opening your packs
  • Whenever you draft take every rare and mythic rare that you don’t already have four copies of (the spreadsheet will highlight cards you already have four copies of)
  • Add your draft results to the spreadsheet
  • Once the spreadsheet says you no longer need to rare draft, open all your packs

The benefits of this system are pretty straightforward. The spreadsheet allows you to track rares, mythic rares, and uncommons (if you don’t have a full set of commons at that point I don’t know what to tell you, don’t play the lottery). You’ll also manage to complete your collection without spending any of your wildcards. That means you can use those wildcards to craft cards when new sets release that you need to use for constructed play, or you can save them for historic sets that you’ll likely never get enough packs of at this point.

Either way, we hope this helps you finish your collections and enjoy Magic the Gathering Arena without having to break the bank.

Remember above when I said I’d address those of you who don’t want to play in a limited event? Let’s do that right now! If you take the 5,000 gold coins you would spend on a draft you can buy five booster packs. Every seven packs contains a rare, while the eighth pack contains a mythic rare. Every 24 packs contains a rare wildcard as well as a mythic rare wildcard. Altogether a single pack contains 0.80 rares, so our 5,000 coins will always earn us 4.0 rares and one mythic rare/rare wildcard/mythic rare wildcard.

If we draft, even if we finish 0-3, we will have the three limited packs we opened and the 1.2 normal packs that we win plus 50 gems, which is equal to 0.25 packs (200 gems = 1 pack). Limited packs have rares at the 7/8 rate because there are no wildcards, so three packs nets us 2.625 rares. As we established above, a normal booster pack contains 0.80 rares, so the 1.45 packs we won (including the gems) nets us 1.16 rares. So in total we earned 3.785 rares, just a fraction below the 4.0 rares we got just from spending money.

A single win gets you an addition 0.27 packs, which is 0.216 rares. That pushes us up to 4.001 rares for the exact same price we paid for 4 rares. So, if you average one win per draft, not a big ask, you’ll do at least as well as you would buying packs from the store. Not to mention that the gems you win are actually worth even more if you reinvest them into more drafts.

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