MTG Arena Beginners Guide - What you need to know starting off

Guide MTGA 
By: andreliverod - 26 Sep 2019

There is a lot to discover in the MTG Arena client. In this guide, we will focus on the client and not gameplay, how the events are built up, some tips for both beginners and experienced MTG Players on how to navigate through the client. 


The Tutorial

The first thing you will be presented with when you start up the game is the tutorial. This is very important to play through as a new player, right after it is done you have the option to join the battlefield with other players. Completing the tutorial and knowing the basics of the game is very important. By playing through it you also earn starter decks in each of the five colors.

For players familiar with the game, you can skip the tutorial but it might be a good idea to play through it to get familiar with the game client. Skipping the tutorial will still give you all the deck rewards. You do this by opening the game options pressing the cogwheel in the top right corner, selecting "View Account" from the menu and then selecting Skip tutorial.

Selecting your starter deck

There are five starter decks, each in one of the colors of Magic. Their content will vary throughout the game's lifespan, as cards rotate out and the decks will change. So depending on when you start your account you will receive different decks to play with. Therefore we will talk a bit about the different core concepts each color represents:

White: The color of Justice (Plains)
White spellcasters use superior tactics, efficient creatures, and the power of righteousness against their foes.

Blue: The color of Wisdom (Island)
Blue mages focus on using superior knowledge to gain control of a battle and slowly gain the upper hand.

Black: The color of Ambition (Swamp)
Black sorcerers are willing to do whatever it takes to win a battle, even if it means sacrificing everything to do so.

Red: The color of Chaos (Mountain)
Red conjurers try to win as quickly and dramatically as possible, smashing and burning their way to a quick victory.

Green: The color of Nature (Forest)
Green shamans win duels through the brute force of mother nature, summoning giant creatures to squash their enemies.

It is recommended to try out all the colors, knowing how they all play is one of the key points to mastering Magic: The Gathering. Knowing how your opponent wants to win is just as important as knowing your own gameplan. Green is a great color to start out with, these decks are heavily creature based and pretty straight forward to play. While not having access to a lot of combat tricks they make up for it with big and powerful creatures. Explore the archetypes in your own pace.


Game Modes

The modes in MTG Arena is probably the most confusing part of the game, there are many modes and even experienced players won't know immediately what each of these modes is without reading into them. One thing to note is that you can find all the modes by clicking the orange play button in the bottom right, not all of the modes can be found in the middle of the screen on the big image tiles. There is also a button that hides all Play modes, to display the full list click this little button. 

We recommend new players to stick to the Basic events first before venturing into all the modes. There are two main ways to play MTG Arena;

Game modes that are Best of three matches, which is the classic way to play Magic: The Gathering where you sideboard between matches. Sideboarding is selecting from a card pool of 15 cards that you are allowed to have and swap out cards in your main deck to improve your chances against a specific matchup.

The other game mode is Best of one matches. These are quick matches that do not use sideboards between matches. They are what most people play in MTGA even though they have more random-factors than the classic game mode.

BO1 = Best of One
BO3 = Best of Three

Event = Events consists of a series of matches you can play at your own pace, usually comes with an event fee
Match = Starts one match against another player

Game mode Mode Type Description
Play BO1 Match Matches you against an opponent using a deck with the same deck power you use
Bot Match BO1 Match Play vs one of the AI decks - Only rewards Account Mastery XP
Ranked BO1 Match Play against opponents of similar Constructed rank. Resets monthly 
Ranked Drafts BO1 Event Play against opponents of similar Draft rank. Resets monthly 
Traditional Play BO3 Match Play against a random player in the Best of three Constructed mode
Traditional Ranked BO3 Match Play against opponents of similar Constructed rank. Resets monthly 
Traditional Draft BO3 Event Play against a random player in the Best of three Draft mode
Constructed Event BO1 Event Play in an event rewarding you for the number of wins you manage to get
Traditional Constructed BO3 Event Play in an event rewarding you for the number of wins you manage to get
Sealed BO1 Event Receive 6 Limited Booster packs, build a deck and get rewards based on number of wins


As a new player, sticking to the Play mode is the best as this will match you against opponents with a deck that matches the strength of the deck you are using. While downloading a tier 1 meta decklist is tempting you will also be matched against the best decks and often these are piloted by players with a lot more experience than you. Ranked is also a good place to play, note that from silver and onwards is where you will meet the more experienced players.


Rewards and currencies

MTG Arena has two currencies, Gold and Gems. You can look at them as a basic and premium currency, where you have to pay money to earn gems. MTG Arena is a bit of an exception to this rule and it is what makes it a really great free to play experience. Not only are many items available for gold, but you can also win the premium currency Gems in events as rewards. There are multiple ways to earn gold, one is completing daily quests that are given to you, these can stack up to a maximum of three. You also get the opportunity to renew one of these once every day. There are two types, 500 and 750 gold quests. Logging in every now and then to try and rotate them to 750 gold quests is a good idea.

Daily rewards are another way to earn gold, every day your 15 first wins earns you a reward which is either cards or gold:


Wins Reward
1 250 gold
2 100 gold
3 100 gold
4 100 gold
5 Card
6 50 gold
7 Card
8 50 gold
9 Card
10 50 gold
11 Card
12 50 gold
13 Card
14 50 gold
15 Card


For a full list of the Gold-quests check: MTG Arena Quest List 

Some events also reward you with gold and in some of these, you can also earn Gems if you do good enough. Making it possible to convert gold into the premium gem currency. Both Gems and gold can be used for buying card packs, however, some events are locked behind a gem-only entry fee, these are events like Best of three Drafts and Sealed events. 


MTG cards have four rarities as listed above, these tell you how rare a card ranging from the lowest Common and up to Mythic cards. Wildcards can be used to redeem any card in its matching rarity, for example, 1 rare wildcard can be redeemed into any rare card in the game. These are very useful for acquiring the cards you need. There is no way to destroy your collected cards and turn them into resources to make other cards in MTG Arena. It is a design choice made as they want to avoid the feel-bad of having to destroy cards and later regret that decision. Wildcards can be found in booster packs, a wildcard progress wheel can be seen when you open a pack to show you when the next wildcard will appear.


Duplicate protection and the Vault

An important thing to note when you buy normal booster packs is that Mythic and Rare cards have duplication protection. This means that if you own 4 of a rare or mythic card which is the maximum, you will not open this card in a booster pack. This does of course not work in Draft events, where you use Limited Booster packs containing 15 cards.

So what happens with Common and Uncommon cards since they are not protected by the duplication system? When you open your 5th and onward copy of any of these cards a hidden mechanism is triggered called the Vault system. The Vault is a hidden treasure box that fills itself slowly when you get 5th+ copies of a card. When you draft and pick 5th copies of any card rarity, these also go towards the Vault progress.

Then it reaches 100% you will see a treasure chest at the top of your screen inviting you to open it, inside of it you will find 1 Mythic, 2 Rare and 3 Uncommon Wildcards.

The Vault is hidden from the game and the progress can not be seen unless you use an external tracker software, read the local logs or use a trick where you do not open the Vault once it reaches 100% and instead wait until it reaches 200% and then open it. This will make the Vault always be displayed.


XP - Experience

Which we will cover in the next section is the last reward mechanism, XP can be earned through doing the weekly quests which also provide you with gold. Whether the gold quest is worth 500 or 750 gold, completing it will reward the player with 500XP.

There is also weekly reward track that resets every Sunday where it counts up to 15 wins, for each win you are rewarded 250XP. This levels up your Set Mastery, every level is 1000XP and every other level up until level 72 rewards you with a booster pack.

But wait, there is more to explore with experience. But to understand this we need to talk about the Mastery System!


Mastering the Masteries

  • Account Mastery
  • Set Mastery
  • Mastery Pass

These are the three types of Masteries in the game. The first one called Account Mastery is what players refer to as "The New Player experience". It is meant for beginners of the game to earn rewards powering up their starter decks and earning more decks. Represented as a grid with nodes you select every time you level up. You unlock the color nodes by using a deck containing that color. The XP you earn for the Account Mastery is not based on wins but takes into account games played and the length of the games. Playing a match where your opponent immediately concedes gives you less XP than playing a longer match in which you lose.

Playing bot matches also gives you Account Mastery XP, but it will not give you XP for the other Masteries.

Set Mastery is a reward ladder that is reset each time a new set comes out. For each other level, you are rewarded a booster of the current set. These go up all the way to level 72 providing you with a total of 36 boosters each season. While the level system goes up all the way to level 100 the Base Set Mastery do not provide any rewards for reaching the higher levels.

The Mastery Pass is the premium track that goes hand in hand with the Set Mastery providing additional rewards for each level you reach all the way up to level 100. The Mastery pass can be acquired for 3.400 gems and provides players with a nice extra reward track depending on how much they play.

For a deeper analysis of how it works, what the rewards are and if it is worth it, check out MTG Arena Mastery Pass Detailed Guide


Hotkeys and hidden features

We will keep gameplay and tips on how to play the game outside of the scope of this guide, but we want to show some of the key bindings you can use during gameplay and some not so obvious tricks to make your life easier in the game. 

Description Hotkey
Show Phases L
Full Control Ctrl
Hold Full Control Shift + Ctrl
Pass Until Response Enter
Pass Turn Shift + Enter
Undo Z
Pass Priority Space


Manually tap lands
The game will auto-tap lands for you if you cast a spell if you want to prevent this then tap the lands before casting the spell


Easily divide attackers on Planeswalkers and Opponent
Want to attack a Planeswalker with three creatures and the opponent with two, keeping a couple of blockers behind? You do not have to click a creature, assign it then click the next. Simply click the three creatures you want to attack the planeswalker with selecting them as a group and then declare where you want them to attack.


Group select blockers
Same can be done when you are on blocking duty, select multiple creatures and assign them as a group as blockers.


Mass attack with one click without attacking with all creatures
In token decks where you sometimes have a group of 10x of one creature, you can declare all of those 10 as attacking by just clicking the 10x symbol beside the card group. This will declare that group as attackers leaving your other creatures in the same position.


Mass block with a group
The same method works the other way. Your opponent attacks with a group of 10x of the same creature, you also have a group of 15x of the same creatures you want to block with. Click your 15x group and then click your opponents 10x icon to auto mass block.


More guides

Other guides you might want to check out:

All MTG Arena Codes - Free packs and card styles

MTG Arena Hidden Advanced deck builder options

MTG Arena Mastery Pass Detailed Guide

About andreliverod:

Founder and CEO of, he likes to play with fire and also has a Twitter account he posts his stuff on. If you are interested in supporting him on Patreon you will also receive an premium subscription!

"Nuts & Bolts Spike spends his energy looking within. He tries to understand his own internal flaws and works to improve them"


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