Hello and welcome to the latest installment in our MTG Arena Free to Play guide series, this time with the latest expansion set to make you feel like you never left college: Strixhaven! This guide is structured into three parts. First, we’ll go over the general philosophy for efficiently collecting Strixhaven cards. Next, we’ll review the spreadsheet I’ve created to help you track your progress. Lastly, we’ll talk about Mystical Archives and how they may or may not affect your process.

Thanks to the way duplicate protection works on Arena, and the various costs of packs and different events, the best EV (expected value) in Arena is drafting. I’m not going to get into too much detail on the actual mechanics because you can check that out in the Free to Play Guide for Zendikar Rising. My general plan is to provide an in-depth walkthrough of the process only once a year when Standard rotates, because its the best time to get started. For the remainder of the year I will provide incremental updates and refer back to the older articles.

I’ve used this method successfully going back to Throne of Eldraine. Since I can afford it, I always buy the two bundles before a set releases. This gives me a nice head start thanks to the free drafts and the mastery pass packs. For Zendikar Rising it took me about three weeks to collect the entire set starting with just the $100 (+tax) I spent on the bundles and then playing about 20 premier drafts.

The Zendikar Rising article covers this in much more depth, but you will need to do your own calculations to determine if you’d be better off doing premier or quick drafting. The general idea however is that you are taking a risk when you premier draft because you can end up in negative value territory if you average fewer than three wins. In quick draft there is only positive value (the rares you acquire will always be cheaper than if you bought packs) but the ceiling on that value is much lower.

Before we get into the spreadsheet itself, one of the most frequently asked questions is, I already opened a bunch of packs from this set, can I start following this method now? This depends on how many rares you already have. If you’ve opened 30% of the rares already then your odds of breaking even of draft are no longer going to be very good. For Strixhaven, this means if you have already opened about 100 rares, unless you’re very good at drafting, you’ll be running a risk of finishing with negative value. In that case, you’d be better off buying packs from the store instead of drafting.

The Spreadsheet

Now, here’s a link to the latest version of the tracking spreadsheet.

If you’re new to this, then click on that link, and then Make a Copy. I know some of you aren’t listening and will try to edit the sheet even though it’s locked. This will fill my inbox up with requests for access but that’s okay because it just reminds me how much you all love me.

If you already have a previous version of the sheet, I think how you want to incorporate this into your own existing sheets is entirely up to you. You can either copy the Introduction, STX, HA4, and STA tabs from the new sheet and add them to your existing sheet, or make a copy of the new sheet and just copy your tabs for other sets you’re tracking into it.

Note that this spreadsheet is not a complete representation of the cards available on MTG Arena. Here’s a list of what’s missing:

  • Any card that couldn’t be opened in a booster pack
  • Cards from Jumpstart because collecting that set is a unique process
  • Cards from Kaladesh Remastered because I haven’t had time to add it in

For more detailed instructions on how the spreadsheet works make sure to refer back to the older articles linked above.

Strixhaven Mystical Archives

According to Wizards of the Coast, every pack will have a card from the Archives in it. I’ve added them to the spreadsheet in their own tab because they are not Standard-legal. While they do have duplicate protection, and thus can also be efficiently collected using this method, the spreadsheets are generally separated into Standard/Historic-legal sections.

My advice is that, if your goal is to be able to play any deck in Standard/Brawl, then don’t worry about the Mystical Archives and just continue to draft every Strixhaven rare card that you see. This will still guarantee the most efficient path to collecting every Standard-legal rare from Strixhaven that is available in packs.

Of course, the obvious question is what to do if you play Historic/Historic Brawl. My advice here is to stay the course. Collecting all of Strixhaven’s rare cards efficiently will also net you a tidy pile of wildcards which you can then use to craft the cards you need for Historic. The reason I say this is because collecting cards in Historic is inherently inefficient. Between remastered editions, Historic Anthologies, and Jumpstart, collecting every single card in Historic is not a reasonable proposition the way it is for Standard. Similar to paper formats like Modern and Legacy, you’re better served by focusing on the decks you enjoy playing and investing directly in them.

Lastly, of course, is the trade-off between taking a mediocre rare and a bomb from the archives. This problem already existed when rare drafting, when you’d be presented with an off-color rare or an on-color uncommon removal spell, for example. However, it is generally easy enough to make up for those occasions through the rest of the draft.

However, the Mystical Archives turns that problem all the way up to eleven when the cards you’re competing with could be Demonic Tutor, or Swords to Plowshares, Time Warp. It can be hard to pass up the opportunity to take a card that is almost always going to win you games. In these scenarios I say to use your best judgment based on the cards you already have in your deck.

That said, I do expect a lot of players to be picking Mystical Archives over rare cards so it will be interesting to see if the average number of rare cards you pick in a draft goes up from previous sets.

Good luck, and feel free to tag me on Twitter if you have any questions!

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated after erroneously claiming that Strixhaven Mystical Archives do not have duplicate protection. That was incorrect and the article now reflects that.

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