Zenidkar Rising is right around the corner, and that means it’s time to take a look at the value of the three MTG Arena expansion products Wizards of the Coast is offering for sale: the Mastery Pass, the Jace Pack Bundle, and the Nahiri Play Bundle.

When we talk about the value, or expected value, of anything you buy on Arena we are almost always going to want to talk in terms of rares acquired versus the gems you’ve spent. Rares are just about the most important asset to acquire whether you’re looking to play competitively or just collect cards.

If you’ve read my free to play guides (one for Zendikar Rising will be out soon) then you know that Duplicate Protection is the driving force behind our ability to collect entire sets of cards on Arena for very little—or even no—money. The goal is efficient use of our gems and coins, and that means applying the same logic when it comes to the Mastery Pass.

Mastery Pass Value

You can check out the full contents of the Zendikar Rising Mastery Pass in this article from Wizards of the Coast. Although the article doesn’t say it, the standard cost for the Mastery Pass has been 3,400 gems.

So our baseline for value is going to be how many rares we could get for 3,400 gems otherwise. According to the Promotional Droprates, a pack on Arena has an approximately 7-in-8 chance of having a rare. That rare has a 1-in-30 chance of being converted to a wildcard, but for the purposes of this discussion a rare wildcard is equivalent to a rare card.

A pack of any set on Arena costs 200 gems. For 3,400 gems you can get 17 packs. Those 17 packs should give you 14.875 rares and 2.125 mythic rares. For the purposes of set collecting we only care about the rares. So our baseline for value is that you’ve spent 228.57 gems for every rare you’ve just acquired.

How does the Mastery Pass compare to that?

Let’s begin by assuming you’re able to complete all 130 levels (yikes) of the Zendikar RIsing Mastery Pass. We’re doing this because we don’t have the level-by-level reward breakdown yet. Right off the bat, you’ll have acquired 1,200 gems, so we can reduce our total cost down to 2,200 gems.

But how many rares will you acquire? It turns out the answer is not very many. The Mastery Pass does award 20 packs, but they’re from older sets, not Zendikar Rising. So if you’re still looking for rares from Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, or Core Set 2021; then you’re getting 20 useful packs.

If you’ve already collected those sets like I have, then you’re getting 20 much less useful packs. Given our 7-in-8 distribution, you’ll pull 17.5 rares, and 0.58 will be a wildcard, so let’s say you get 17 rares you already owned four copies of. Thanks to duplicate protection you’ll receive 20 gems per rare instead, a total of 340 gems.

Our total cost is now down to 1,860 gems, and we have one rare wildcard added to our collection. One rare for 1,860 gems isn’t really a bargain. Are there any more rares in the Mastery Pass? Not directly.

The Mastery Pass comes with 15 Uncommon Individual Card Rewards. Uncommon ICRs usually have a chance to convert to rares, but you don’t have a guarantee that they’ll be from a specific set. At level 131+ you receive an Uncommon ICR at every level with a 5% chance to convert to a rare or mythic rare. That isn’t consistent enough to really consider this as added value.

You also get 10 Mythic Rare ICR’s from the Mastery Pass which is actually pretty sweet; but for those of us trying to maximize efficiency collecting rares, it isn’t that helpful. You’ll almost never need four copies of every single mythic rare in a set, and doing so would get you all the rares anyways, which is why we focus on just the rares. So no value here either.

Another gift of the Mastery Pass is 4,000 coins. That’s essentially the equivalent of 800 gems since either value gets you 4 packs. This is worth 3.5 rares if you buy packs with the coins. So now we have a total of 4.5 rares acquired and we’ve spent 1,860 gems.

This brings us to the last potential source of rares in the Mastery Pass: a single Premium draft token which can be redeemed for a Premier or Traditional Draft, both of which cost 1,500 gems. Because the actual value of a draft is very complicated (see my free to play articles) let’s just knock 1,500 gems off the cost of the Mastery Pass.

So you’re left with 4.5 rares for a cost of 360 gems, a value of 80 gems per rare. That’s actually really good value, if you can get all the way to level 130 and unlock every level of the Mastery Pass.

To put this in perspective, if you enter a premier draft for 1,500 gems, end up with five rares in your pool, and finish with a 3-3 record you’ll receive 1,000 gems and 2 packs. That’s a total of 6.75 rares for 500 gems which is about 75 gems per rare.

All of this is to say that the value of the Mastery Pass, in my opinion, is roughly on par with the value a mediocre player (50% win-rate) would get from rare-drafting a premier draft. However, in addition to getting a handful of rares at a decent rate, you’re also picking up all the extra bells and whistles the Mastery Pass has like card styles, sleeves, those Mythic Rare ICR’s, and more.

At the end of the day, if you’re an above-average limited player looking to maximize the efficiency of your money spent, then I would recommend you spend your gems on Premier Drafting and not the Mastery Pass. However, if you’re a mediocre or below-average limited player, then you’re actually getting decent value from the Mastery Pass in terms of the gems you’ll spend and the rares you’ll acquire.

Obviously the value is going to vary greatly depending on many factors including your ability to reach higher levels on the track, your ability to win games in draft, and your enjoyment of the aesthetic rewards that are bundled into the Mastery Pass.

The Jace Pack Bundle

For those of you who do have disposable income to spend on Arena, I want to go over the two bundles that Wizards of the Coast is selling. The first of these is the Jace Pack Bundle which comes with 50 packs of Zendikar Rising, a copy of Jace, Mirror Mage, a card style for Jace, Mirror Mage, and a Mind Mage sleeve.

The bundle costs $49.99, which is the equivalent of 9,200 gems. At the normal rate of 200 gems per pack, you’d be able to get 46 packs at that price; so you’re getting four free packs plus a mythic rare, a mythic rare style, and the sleeve. 50 packs is approximately 44 rares, so you’re getting a value of about 209 gems per rare.

So if you’re not really interested in the Jace aesthetic stuff, odds are you would be better off buying 9,200 gems in the store and using them for drafts (which as shown above have an EV of under 100 gems per rare, depending on your skill level).

That said, I normally buy this bundle because collecting full sets is a long grind, and in order to save myself some time I like getting the four free packs and the free mythic rare. The EV isn’t as great as if I drafted six times with that money, but I don’t always have time for another six drafts.

The Nahiri Play Bundle

This bundle is also $49.99 and comes with a bunch of stuff that’s more about playing than collecting. You get the Mastery Pass (value: 3,400 gems), three Player Draft tokens (value: 4,500 gems), one Sealed token (value: 2,000 gems), and a copy of Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients, the associated card style, and sleeve.

As said above, $49.99 gets you 9,200 gems normally, and this pack gives you 9,900 gems worth of stuff. Since we already determined above that the Mastery Pass is decent value for anyone who is a mediocre or better drafter, I strongly recommend getting the Nahiri Play bundle if you have the disposable income to spare.

Should You Buy Them

There’s a lot of talk that the value of the Mastery Pass has gone down from previous sets. I haven’t done this kind of analysis for older sets so I can’t say for sure that this is the case. I will say that the value of each Mastery Pass on its own is very dependent on how well you perform in the free draft event.

Anecdotally I do recall some of the earliest Mastery Passes had more packs or maybe more gems, but they didn’t come with the free draft and maybe there were fewer Mythic Rare ICR’s. The strategy of giving away free drafts is very interesting. It creates variable returns on investment for the Mastery Pass and the Play Bundle.

Like most things Wizards of the Coast does, they’re trying to cast a wide net with these offerings. The Pack Bundle is for people who want a bit of a jump start on collecting a full set. The Play Bundle is for people who plan to draft a bunch anyways. The Mastery Pass is for people who plan to grind out matches on Arena for experience every week.

You can obviously be all three of those things, like I am, in which case the Pack and Play bundle (with a bonus Hedron pet this time) is great value. You can also be none of these things, especially if you’re not into the aesthetic throw-ins. In that case it isn’t surprising to see some people have complaints about the value of these products.

I think the analysis is clear, that if you’re an above-average limited player with no desire for the cosmetic bonuses, your gems are better spent on drafting almost every time. But for the average player who is mediocre at best when it comes to limited play, the value of the Mastery Pass is worth the 3,400 gems compared to drafting or buying packs.

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