Update: After an earlier technical mistake, the spreadsheet links below should now be visible and readers should be able to make their own copies of the spreadsheet.

Update: With the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the links to the tracker spreadsheet have been updated to the latest version.

Theros Beyond Death will arrive on MTG Arena tomorrow, which means it’s time to review how you, yes you, can collect every single rare from Magic’s latest expansion without spending a penny more than you want to. That’s right, collect every rare (that’s available in booster packs), not just in THB but all of MTG Arena (practically) for free!

All of this is thanks to a little feature of MTG Arena known as duplicate protection. Basically, until you own four copies of every rare in a set, every (non-limited) 8-card booster pack that you open will contain a rare you don’t already have four copies of. The same is true for mythic rares. If you would open a rare or mythic rare that you already have four copies of, the server will replace it with a new rare or mythic rare respectively. Once you have four copies of each rare, if you open a rare you’ll get gems, and the same is true of mythic rares (fifth and further copies of uncommons will contribute to vault progress).

So how does it work? It’s actually quite simple, and you just have to follow four easy steps:

  1. Track your collection including packs and singles using this spreadsheet.
  2. Use all of your gold (and gems if you desire) to draft.
  3. Pick any and all rares/mythic rares you don’t already have four copies of.

[For those of you who are already using a previous version of the spreadsheet, the new edition has a changelog. You should be able to just copy the new/changed tabs over to your personal spreadsheet. I recommend copying the Introduction, THB, and HA1 tabs at a minimum. You can delete the Instructions tab from the old version if you’d like.]

If you follow those instructions, then the spreadsheet will tell you when you have enough unopened packs to finish your collection for a set. Basically, when the spreadsheet says “0 Drafts to Collect Rares” you can open all of your packs, at once, and you will end up with a full set of four copies of every single rare. You can continue to draft normally at that point, though if you want to also collect Mythic Rares you can continue to use the spreadsheet to know when you have enough packs again to collect them.

I cannot stress this enough: in order to collect your set for free (or as close to free as you’d like) you must not open your packs until math says its okay to do so. I can sympathize with the desire to get rid of that stupid glowing dot under the word “Packs” on the home screen of the Arena client but I implore you, for your sake and the sake of your bank account, don’t do it. Save your packs. Open them all when the time is right.

[Note: I first wrote about this topic when Throne of Eldraine came to MTG Arena, and if you’re interested in the detailed math equations I recommend reading the article I wrote at the time. This article also has much more detailed instructions on how to properly use the tracking spreadsheet.]

At this point people usually have two big questions: Why rare drafting and how much is this actually going to cost? The answer to both depends on how much time and how much money you want to put into your MTG Arena collection.

Theros Beyond Death has 53 rares, so you need to open 212 rares in total to complete your collection, allowing you to build basically any Standard deck you want. Every 8-card booster pack you open outside of a limited event has an 80.2% chance of containing a rare. 12.5% of the time it will contain a mythic rare and 8.3% of the time it will contain a wildcard. So, to collect 212 rares, you need to open roughly 264 packs.

If you want to spend money and skip all the drafting required then I’m not going to stop you. Packs from the store are $1 apiece so $264 dollars later you’ll be all set to start playing with your expanded collection. That’s not a bad price compared to what decks cost. You’ll essentially spend just over a grand a year to play standard (plus another $120 if you want to play Brawl but that’s a story for another article).

But what if you, like most people, don’t have a grand to spend on digital Magic cards every year? Enter rare drafting.

Wizards gives out a lot of gold coins for free on MTG Arena. You can get 500 or 750 a day from your daily quest, up to 750 from daily wins, and a bunch more from the mastery pass (another topic for another day). Even if you just pick up 1,000 gold a day, you need to figure out how to spend it. A pack on its own costs 1,000 gold in the store, so if you only average 1,000 gold daily, you’re looking at 256 days of grinding to complete sets that come out roughly every 90 days. That’s not a good plan.

Rare drafting is the answer to your prayers. For 5,000 gold you’re guaranteed at least three rares and/or mythic rares from the packs you open, at least 1.2 more packs (0.9624 rares) from your prizes, and 50 gems from your prizes (0.50 packs or 0.401 rares). So that’s at least 4.363 rares. If you opened five packs for 5,000 gold you’re only getting 4.02 rares. 0.343 rares may not seem like a big gap, but this is if you somehow manage to lose every single match of Magic you play.

If you win three matches, on average, you’ll get your three rares from the draft, 1.26 prize packs, and 300 gems (1.5 packs). But you can also then start converting every 750 gems (3.75 packs) into another draft worth 4.26 packs. Hopefully you’re starting to understand the big picture here. To summarize:

  1. Track your collection including packs and singles using this spreadsheet.
  2. Use all of your gold (and gems if you desire) to draft.
  3. Pick any and all rares/mythic rares you don’t already have four copies of.

The spreadsheet can be confusing, so I encourage you to reach out to me on social media, ideally on Twitter @RichStein13 with any questions you have. In the meantime I look forward to hearing all of your stories of being able to freely build your collections on MTG Arena and enjoy Magic the way it was intended (which is to say it was never intended to require a second mortgage to build a deck).

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