Welcome to the latest installment in our series of MTG Arena Free to Play guides! If you’re new here, welcome! I’ll be going over how to build your collection on MTG Arena in the most efficient way possible, maximizing your fun and minimizing the money you have to spend. If you’re returning or already familiar you may want to check out the new sections of the guide as well as the updating information. Scroll down to “Premier Drafting versus Quick Drafting” and be on your merry way! Now, for the important part:

The most efficient way to collect every rare in a set is to save up your coins until you can enter a draft and then pick every rare and mythic rare you open/get passed along the way that you don’t already have four copies of! If you do this, all you have to do is not open any of your packs until you have enough to immediately complete your set!

For the rest of you, lets talk about Duplicate Protection. When you open a normal 8-card booster on MTG Arena the rare slot will contain one of four things:

  1. A rare card
  2. A mythic rare care (Approx. 1:8 Chance)
  3. A rare wildcard (Approx. 1:30 Chance)
  4. A mythic rare wildcard (Approx. 1:30 Chance)

Additionally you need to understand what I call Card Categories. There are, currently, for our purposes in this discussion, three relevant categories of cards in MTG Arena:

  • Standard Banned: Cards that are banned in standard
  • Fully Reprinted: Cards that have been printed in multiple sets with the same artwork
  • New Standard: Cards that do not fall into either of the other two categories

So when you open a pack, Arena decides if you’re getting a rare, a mythic rare, or a wildcard in your rare slot. Then, if its a rare or a mythic rare you are guaranteed to get a New Standard or Fully Reprinted card that you do not already have four copies of in your collection. If you already have four copies of every fully reprinted card, then you can only get new standard cards.

Once you have four copies of every New Standard and Fully Reprinted card you will start getting Fully Reprinted cards that you already have four copies of in your collection and you can also start opening cards that are banned in Standard. Lastly, once you have four copies of every single card for this rarity in this specific set, you will start getting gems instead (20 gems for a rare and 40 for a mythic rare).

And that’s Duplicate (and Reprint) Protection! But what does it all mean?

The Part With the Math

Thanks to duplicate protection we know the approximate number of packs of a set you need to open to collect every single rare. Magic Core Set 2021, for example, has 53 rares, which means that if you opened 212 packs and every pack had a rare in it, you would get exactly four copies of every rare in the set.

In reality though, because of mythic rares and wildcards, you actually only open a rare in approximately 81.5% of your packs. That means to get 212 rares to complete a set, you need to open roughly 261 packs (depending on your specific results). Since packs on MTG Arena cost roughly a dollar, that means you could collect an entire set for somewhere in the ballpark of $250.

At this point you may say to yourself, wow, for $1,000 a year I can basically play every Standard deck? The answer is yes, you can in fact. If you have the disposable income to spend on gaming, then by all means feel free to close this article, buy 250 packs from the store on Arena, and crack every single one of them.

But maybe you don’t have that money. Let’s continue.

Rare Drafting

Duplicate and Reprint protection do not apply to the packs you open in draft or sealed deck events. Let’s talk about a quick draft real quick.

Quick drafts cost 5,000 gold to enter which means you are sacrificing five booster packs by entering a draft. Remember that those five packs will yield, on average, 4.075 rare cards towards our goal of 212. If you finish with zero wins and three losses you get, at a minimum, the following:

  • 3 Rares or Mythic Rares that you opened
  • 50 Gems (0.5 packs or 1/15th of another draft)
  • 1 Pack (20% chance for another pack)

That pack has 0.815 rares in it, so the three rares you opened plus the pack have a value of 3.815 rares, compared to 4.075 rares you would have opened in five packs. Those 50 gems are worth 1/15th of another draft which, at a value of 3.815 rares per draft, is also worth 0.25 rares. 3.815 + 0.25 = 4.065.

Yes, the difference between quick drafting and just opening five packs is virtually the same even if you never win a single match in your draft and even if no one ever passes you another rare.

The most efficient way to collect every rare in a set is to save up your coins until you can enter a draft and then pick every rare and mythic rare you open/get passed along the way that you don’t already have four copies of! If you do this, all you have to do is not open any of your packs until you have enough to immediately complete your set!

Introducing the Spreadsheet

So what now? We’ve created a spreadsheet that you can use to help track your collection! First thing you should do is make a copy of the sheet, because you can’t edit it yourself. Make your own copy and then you’ll be able to edit it with your own collection stats!

This is the introduction page. It has some instructions, a list of every expansion color-coded by Standard rotation, and some features I’m hoping to add in the future. This image may be a bit out-of-date but the gist is the same.

And this is the tracker for a specific expansion. The top section contains statistics. Don’t edit any of the boxes here except for the blue box next to # Packs Owned. This should be updated with the number of packs in your collection currently. Any time you obtain packs, whether its as an event prize or a promo code or from the season pass, update this number.

Now turn your attention to # Drafts to Collect Rares. This number is calculated from your personal draft statistics (based on the number of rares you pull and packs you obtain) to tell you when its safe to open all your packs. Remember, you should not be opening any packs yet. But, once the number here goes to 0 (or negative) its time to open them! My advice is to open them when you can collect all the rares. If you’re really ambitious and want to collect all the Mythic Rares this way too go for it, but I’m not that dedicated.

The bottom-left section is where you enter how many copies of a card you own. Every time you open or otherwise acquire one of these (e.g. an ICR or from season pass) then add it here. Rares and Mythic Rares are in the far-left. Uncommons are next. You don’t have to track Uncommons. There’s no duplicate or reprint protection for them.

Note that M21 has six Fully Reprinted rare cards. When you first start tracking your M21 collection, you should check for copies of those in your collection already, and update your M21 sheet with the total number in your entire collection. These cards are Fabled Passage plus the five Temples.

The bottom-right section is where you track your drafts. This helps build the stats in the top section which helps figure out how many more drafts you need to do. Here’s a column-by-column explanation:

  • Deck – The archetype your drafted (e.g. Selesnya)
  • Start R’s – The number of rares in your collection at the start of the draft (fill this out once at the top and then it auto-populates)
  • End R’s – The number of rares in your collection at the end of the draft (fill this out at the end of each draft. You can see it in the top section easily to copy)
  • #R’s – This is calculated and tells you how many Rares you picked
  • Start M’s, End M’s, #M’s – Same as the previous three but for Mythic Rares
  • Packs – Enter the number of packs you won at the end of the event
  • Wins / Losses – Self-Explanatory
  • Net Gems – This column calculates how many gems you won/lost but its only based on playing a Quick Draft for 750 gems. If you’re savvy you can edit this for your play choice or just ignore it. I’ll be enhancing it in the future.

Premier Drafting versus Quick Drafting

I wrote a whole article on this topic! To summarize it, the risks of Premier Drafting are higher but the rewards are greater. The main difference is that you’ll get passed way more rares in Premier Drafts. In my experience the bots almost never pass rares in Quick Draft but you can usually pick up at least one extra rare per pack in Premier Drafts.

But, the three extra rares doesn’t really make up for the increased cost of entry if you can’t win more than two matches. If you’re good at drafting, try out Premiere and see how it goes. Honestly the difference may not be too significant but do be warned, if you consistently finish Premier Drafts with one or no wins, and you don’t get passed too many rares, you will be performing worse than if you just opened packs.

What if I Already Opened a Bunch of Packs

If you’re coming into this method but you already opened a lot of packs of the set you’ll need to figure out if this method is worth your time. The idea is that with no rares in our collection, rare drafting is going to always get us cards we don’t have. If you aren’t pulling at least 3 rares every time you quick draft, you’re not maximizing your efficiency in spending coins.

To figure out if this is still worthwhile you need to consider two things:

  • How much of the set did you already collect?
  • How many wins do you usually get?

If you’ve already collected a third of the set (71 rares) then you need to consistently win 3 matches. If you’ve already collected two-thirds of the set (142 rares), you’d need to consistently win 7 matches. These numbers mostly hold true for Premier Drafts as well. In these cases you can use the spreadsheet to calculate how many packs you need in order to open them all at once, but rare drafting won’t build your collection more efficiently than just opening packs.

How to Update Your Existing Tracker

If you were already using version 1.3 of the tracking spreadsheet, then you’ll likely want to add the new M21 and HA3 tabs without having to mess with all of your existing data. You can also copy the Introduction tab to update it as well. Other than that no other changes are required. If you were using version 1.2 (meaning you skipped Ikoria or updated it yourself) check out the instructions in the Ikoria F2P guide.

On A Personal Note

I want to thank each and every person who’s reached out to me with feedback and offering help with this project. The last few months since Ikoria came out have been very difficult for everyone. I have not had the time or energy I hoped I would to reply to everyone or to take everyone’s feedback into consideration.

I will be trying to setup a space on Discord for people to discuss and help plan out the future for this tracker. I know a lot of folks have had tremendous success with it and I want to help expand our reach and look forward to seeing what we can come up with in the future.

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