Playing MTG Arena and Magic Online on a Budget

MTG is an expensive hobby. It gets even worse when trying to maintain multiple collections across paper play, Magic Arena, and Magic Online. Here on ChannelFireball.com, we’re working on expanding our content for players working with budget constraints. In this piece, I’ll offer general tips for being successful on Arena and Magic Online without breaking the bank.



Header - Tips for MTGA and MTGO

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Having some sort of online presence is a good idea for any Magic player, so that you can practice, compete and access opponents on your own schedule, from the comfort of your own home. That said, you don’t need to be everywhere all at once. 

You may want to choose between either Magic Arena or Magic Online as a starting point. How to choose? Well, Magic Online is the place to play older formats including Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Pioneer and Pauper. If you’re not specifically a lover of these older cards, then Arena is generally more popular and accessible.

Even within the same digital client, playing more formats and building more decks requires more resources. If you can stick with a single strategy for a while, you’ll save money and might even start to hone your craft on a deeper level.

Play Limited

Everyone tends to be in a hurry to get to Constructed, but you should stop and smell the flowers a little when it comes to Limited MTG. Limited means Sealed Deck and Booster Draft, and it’s the best way to build your collection. It’s also incredibly fun. 

Imperial Oath

Personally, I play more Constructed due to my professional obligations as a competitor and content creator. However, I cherish the times when I get to Draft because it’s a great way to play the game, and every match feels fun and different. 

Use your in-game resources to enter Limited events, and that way you’ll accumulate cards as you play. When you run out of resources, you can turn back to Constructed and grind a little more until you’re ready to repeat the process.

Limited is challenging, but if you feel intimidated to jump in, there are tons of great resources to help you. Limited Resources is an awesome podcast and 17lands provides statistics about Limited that you can use to inform your game. 

Play with Quality

If you’ve paid in-game resources to enter a match or event, give it your full attention. Don’t play while distracted, tired, drunk or otherwise unable to put forth your best game. Don’t fire a match on mobile if your internet is likely to cut out or if you’re not going to have time to finish. 

Stay Monocolor

Okay, you’re ready to build a Constructed deck. Note that a huge cost in any deck comes from the mana base. Being competitive with multiple colors will require four copies each of a bunch of different dual lands, which are usually rares. If you can stay monocolor, you avoid this huge expenditure and can use your resources obtaining key spells instead of dual lands. 

Snow-Covered Mountain (282)Den of the BugbearKumano Faces Kakkazan // Etching of Kumano

Timing with Set Releases

The best decks and cards change frequently in Magic. Avoid making big investments directly before a new set is released. You never know if new printings might invalidate your strategy. Or to look at things in a more positive light, there might be a sweet new card that you want to invest in instead!


Header - Magic Arena

Magic Arena can be quite expensive if you dive straight into the deep end. It can be quite affordable if you use it strategically. It can even be free to play for players who are patient enough.

Start with Standard

You’ve played a lot of Limited, and you’re ready to move to Constructed on Magic Arena. Arena has three main Constructed formats: Standard, Alchemy and Historic. Standard has the smallest card pool, while Historic has the largest. 

Standard is essentially the last two years of normal set releases. Building one competitive Standard deck is an achievable goal. (Especially if you stick to monocolor). 

Luminarch AspirantEsika's ChariotGoldspan Dragon

Jumping straight into Alchemy or Historic will be prohibitively expensive. These formats have special set releases that you’ll need to keep up with and spend additional wildcards on. 

Quests & Codes

Do your daily quests to accumulate gold, which you can eventually use to buy packs (or much better, enter a Limited event). You’ll find the quests on the bottom of your Arena home screen, requiring you to achieve various benchmarks to earn either 500 or 750 gold. You can reroll one quest per day. So if there’s one you know you’re not going to accomplish (like casting blue spells when you’re playing a white deck), you can reroll that one. If they all look reasonable, you can reroll a 500 gold quest and try to spike a 750!

Additionally, be on the lookout for codes and promotions to use in the Arena store. There’s a code with every new set in the template of: “PLAYXXX” where the X’s represent a three-letter code corresponding to the set’s name. 

Once in a while, there will be “free” gold in the Arena store, where you get a one-time chance to pay 50 gold to buy 550.

Revel in Riches

Finally, you can keep your eyes peeled for other opportunities connected to big events, offered by streamers, or anywhere else they might show up. 

Ladder Isn’t Necessary

It’s easy to become obsessed with ladder play. It’s fun to watch your rank go up and see how high you can climb each month. But that’s not the only way to engage with Arena, and it’s not the best economically.

The upside is that it’s free to join a ladder match, so it’s a good way to get some games and finish your daily quests. The downside is that the rewards only come once a month, and are pretty negligible at that. 

If you have enough resources to enter an event, and if you’re in a spot where you can give it your full attention and play with quality, that’s often a better choice. Limited events are always good. Constructed is good if you’re happy with how competitive your deck is. 


Header - Magic Online

Magic Online has a higher barrier to entry and cannot be free to play. There’s a small fee for creating a new account, and the client has its own economy where you’ll trade for (or buy) cards and tickets. 


You’ll have to learn how to trade pretty quickly after getting into Magic Online. You’ll click on the trading tab, and trade with other human players or, more likely, bots. I use “Cardbots” and “Goatbots,” but there’s no shortage of options. 

You’ll make sure to set your wares for trade by creating a trade “binder” and putting them in. My typical trading goes something like this:

Treasure chests for event tickets. Tickets for singles and event entries. Hopefully those event entries result in winning more treasure chests!

Another tip concerns chase singles – cards which are either very expensive or very scarce. There’s often a bit of a difference between the buy price and the sell price that bots use for these cards. So if you find yourself wanting to sell one of these chase cards – maybe you drafted one, opened it in a treasure chest, or took apart a deck you no longer like – you can create your own trade listing somewhere between those two numbers. 

Hidetsugu Consumes All // Vessel of the All-Consuming

For example, at the time of writing, Hidetsugu Consumes All is being bought for 25 tickets and sold for 28 tickets. So if I wanted to sell one, I could create a listing that said “Human selling Hidetsugu Consumes All for 27.” Now if someone searches for Hidetsugu Consumes all, they’ll find my listing, see that it’s cheaper than the alternatives, and send me a private message. 

Unfortunately, you have one disadvantage, which is that bots can keep track of fractions of tickets, while human traders cannot. 

Pay Attention to Events

Just like on Arena, scheduled events on Magic Online often have desirable prizes. I particularly like Preliminary Events, which are four rounds and give you nice prizes for going 3-1 or 4-0. Additionally, you can look for weekend premier events that aren’t pulling a lot of players. You might wind up in a 65-player event that pays out the top 32!

Rental Services

It’s extremely expensive to start a Magic Online collection from scratch. This is particularly true if you want to play multiple decks across multiple formats without spending time playing Limited first. As an alternative, there are card rental services out there which might be a good fit for certain players based on their goals and resources. 


Header - Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a brand new player or you’ve been at it for some time, I hope you’ve found something helpful in this piece. Please be encouraged to comment with any additional tips that new players might find helpful.


1 thought on “Playing MTG Arena and Magic Online on a Budget”

  1. I think that a must recommendation por Arena is this: Always, every single day do the 4 wins. Another one is that one should open their packs once he’s done with limited, but never before that. For constructed ladder I would say that you should play untill Platinum (it’s extremely easy for the highest mayority) and then leave it. For a solid collection, if you have a decent win rate and have experience in draft, rare picking is a must. I’m free to play and have like 90 % at least of all arena cards. Yes, patience is paramount.

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