How Buying Cards Works In Magic: The Gathering Arena

How Buying Cards Works In Magic: The Gathering Arena

Wizards of the Coast’s Hearthstone-ish Magic: The Gathering Arena is a fresh take on digitising the venerable TCG, but it’s still a game about spending money, virtual or otherwise, to collect trading cards. Here’s our first look at how Arena is handling its in-game economy.

Magic: The Gathering Arena

How the economy plays out in Magic: The Gathering Arena is every bit as important as how the game itself plays. In an age where players are rebelling against the loot box concept, making players feel good about purchasing virtual trading card game booster packs – the original loot boxes – is tricky business.

In a blog post showing up later today on the Magic: The Gathering Arena website, principal game designer Chris Clay outlines how spending money and collecting cards will work. We got an early look at the post, so here’s the skinny.

In-Game Currency

Magic: The Gathering Arena players will have two types of in-game currency to choose from.

  • Coins: The game’s basic currency, which players earn by completing quests, winning matches and participating in special events.
  • Gems: Premium currency, purchased with real cash money.

The idea here is that both currencies are equally useful. Both gems and coins can be used to purchase new cards and unlock special events. Gems are offered as a way for players to “bypass earning gold to speed up gameplay”. While there may be exclusive cosmetic items that can only be purchased with gems, the plan is to not have any gameplay content that cannot be accessed with coins.

Collecting Cards

The key to building a successful Magic: The Gathering deck is, of course, buying as many card packs as possible and hoping for the best. Arena features several different ways to amass a pile of virtual cardstock.

  • Booster packs will be eight-card boosters containing five commons, two uncommons, and one rare or mythic rare. The cost of purchasing boosters with gems purchased with real-world money is still being determined, but the developers say it will not be tied to real-world booster pack prices.
  • Draft packs will contain 14 cards mirroring tabletop drafts (the basic land has been removed). Drafting will also add cards to your collection, as any card you draft will be automatically added to your collection.
  • Individual cards will also be earnable through play. Devs are testing a system where for every match win, players will receive one card in MTG Arena, up to 30 per day.
  • Wildcards are special cards that have a chance to appear in the place of each card at any rarity in every booster players open. Wildcards have their own rarity of common, uncommon, rare and mythic rare. Players will be able to swap Wildcards for a card of their choosing of the same rarity.
  • The Vault is a special mechanic that rewards players for opening boosters, as well as an interesting way to deal with duplicate cards. Every time the player opens a booster pack or collects what would be the fifth copy of a card in their collection, it feeds a Vault meter. Once full, players will be able to open the Vault for a reward – currently Wildcards. It’s a simple way of avoiding the dusting and crafting system seen in similar digital card games.

Other means of scoring cards currently being tested include earning cards for every won match (up to 30 per day), a system to reward players with three or four booster packs a week and the Keeper Draft, which players enter using in-game currency, adding all drafted cards to their collection.

Note that there’s no trading cards with other players in Magic: The Gathering Arena. The developers discussed trading at length, eventually deciding that giving players mechanics such as Wildcards and the Vault in order to score specific cards would “create a better experience”.

Note that all of this is currently in testing, and it will be implemented in the game’s closed beta starting tomorrow. To sign up for the closed beta and learn more, hit up the game’s official website. For more on the game’s economy, tune in to the Magic: The Gathering Arena Twitch channel today at 9AM AEDT.


  • All I can say is fuck standard at the moment with the state that it is in. Better sticking to Modern in my opinion.

      • I can safely say that the expense of Standard and Modern are pretty much equal atm. Without buying into a top competitive deck with all shock lands or fetch lands you can safely purchase a semi competitive mono coloured or dual coloured deck for around $250 dollars. Take into consideration that pre current bannings Temur energy deck lists were up in the $350 mark or so, now take into consideration that the bannings now have happened, if you were unlucky enough to purchase an energy deck it is now pretty much a non competitive shell and need to purchase some new cards for a new deck. I did some research and put together a decklist I thought would be pretty competitive and just upgrades, it was going to set me back $175. So pretty sure with that added up, a Standard deck that will only last 2 years if your lucky and no other upgrades come up in other sets will set you back around $525 and my Modern Goblins deck only set me back $175 which is legit pretty darn competitive. So don’t tell me modern costs a fortune, it costs how much you want to spend. Just food for thought anyway.

  • Magic Origins was great about duplicates. Once you had the legal maximum of a card it was removed from booster pool. So every booster pack consisted entirely of cards you needed to complete you collection. They weren’t stingy with the currency either. If I remember correctly it took about two and a half days of doing the three daily quests to unlock a booster. Playing online capped out, but it was after you unlocked like a booster and a half.

    Hopefully Arena will have the same gateway attitude.

  • Note that there’s no trading cards with other players in Magic: The Gathering Arena. The developers discussed trading at length, eventually deciding that giving players mechanics such as Wildcards and the Vault in order to score specific cards would “create a better experience”.

    Utter bullshit. They decided that if players could trade amongst themselves, they’d be cutting the publisher out of potential booster sales.

    • Plus, if they allow players to trade then they allow a marketplace to establish relative prices of one card to the other. Once they do that, people can determine that cards are actually worth a specific amount in real world dollars. That makes it one step too close to literal gambling as now it’s “I paid $5 for a booster pack and got $100 of cards out of it” and that causes a whole host of issues.

    • depending on how the closed beta goes, the wild card/ vault mechanic might have more potential to complete sets without ever having to spend any real world money, hopefully it doenst get dragged into unrealistic playtime lengths though. stupid codww2… new crates, increased armory costs compared to launch *grumble

      • Hopefully rare cards can’t be obtained too easily, because then players wouldn’t feel any sense of pride and accomplishment!

        • I think it would be safe to say that rares would have a higher drop in the premium currency packs. That way played will feel that sense of accomplishment.

        • Actually what am I thinking. If it is anything like the cardboard game you have a rare in every pack with a chance at a rare foil and what ever else.

        • Was that sarcasm? =P I can’t tell anymore..

          Rares and Mythics are only as useful as the deck you want to make out from them. There’s no actual “sense of pride” and accomplishment from getting one. In fact getting one for a play style you don’t do pretty much amplifies the “duped item drop” rage from a “bad” rare drop xD

  • I’m going to have to honestly thank WotC for putting “bad rares” on boosters when I used to play MtG back in the good old days..

    It completely turned me off from the concept of boosters and any “joy” I felt getting that occasional Rare card I really wanted was pretty much off set by the plethora of Rares I didn’t care for or worse just “bad” rares (I’m looking at you 7th Ed Okk!! Getting him twice was what broke the camels back for me!)… and by that extension Loot Boxes and Gacha =P

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