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Is Magic: The Gathering Arena Really Free? A Complete Guide

The short answer is yes, Magic: The Gathering Arena is a free-to-play digital card game. You can download and start playing without spending any money. However, while the core game is free, building a substantial card collection and competing at high levels requires in-game purchases. So MTG Arena strikes a balance between being freely accessible to new players, while incentivizing spending money to unlock greater progression and competitive play.

As a long-time player of both digital and paper Magic, I‘ve experienced first-hand the pros and cons of Arena‘s free-to-play model. In this complete guide, I‘ll give you an in-depth look at what you can expect as a free player, what types of in-game purchases are offered, how viable free play is long-term, and tips to maximize your enjoyment.

Downloading and Starting Magic Arena

The first thing to know is that downloading Magic Arena and creating an account is 100% free. Wizards of the Coast makes the game client available on PC and Mobile without any upfront cost. This makes MTG Arena much more accessible than Magic Online, which requires purchasing digital cards before you can even start playing.

Once you complete the tutorial, you‘ll be given a starting collection of basic lands and common cards from the latest Standard legal sets. This will allow you to complete some daily quests, play against the AI, and do some introductory deckbuilding. Consider it a bit of a teaser to get you hooked!

Of course this small starter collection isn‘t enough to build competitive decks for events and ranked play. But it lets you kick the tires for free before deciding if you want to invest more into the game. And any cards you acquire carry forward indefinitely since MTG Arena has no rotation on your personal collection.

Evaluating MTG Arena as a Free-to-Play Experience

While downloading and playing MTG Arena is free, making significant progress long-term realistically requires spending some amount of money. I evaluate free-to-play viability based on two factors:

  1. Having Fun – Can you enjoy playing daily for free with basic decks?
  2. Competing – Can you build top tier meta decks and rank up without spending money?

Based on my experience, MTG Arena nails the fun factor for casual free players but falls short on letting free players compete at the highest levels:

  • You‘ll have fun playing daily for free with the cards you collect over time. Daily quests and rewards give you goals.
  • The free Mastery Pass track also provides cosmetics and packs that add value without spending.
  • But if you want to play the top meta decks in Standard or Alchemy, you‘ll need to pay for packs to collect the right rare and mythic cards.
  • Building competitive decks as a free player is unrealistic unless you can master Limited formats to slowly grow your collection.

So overall, MTG Arena strikes a great balance in being fun for casual free players, while incentivizing spending for more invested players who care about competition. Many free players do happily stick to casual play indefinitely. But expect limitations if you care about rankings and high-level events.

What Kinds of In-Game Purchases Are Offered?

Since MTG Arena uses a free-to-play model, there are a range of in-game purchases that provide additional value at the cost of real money. These are all optional, but give paying players access to more content and accelerated collection building. Here are the major categories:

Card Packs

  • Packs that contain random cards are the bread and butter of building your collection. They contain basic lands, commons, uncommons, rares, and mythic rares.
  • You can buy individual packs for 1,000 gold or 200 gems. There are also bundle deals that give you discounted packs.
  • Core Set, Standard legal set, Alchemy, and Jump In! packs are available. Pick packs aligned with the cards you need.

Limited Entry Fees

  • Playing Sealed and Draft events requires an entry fee, but you keep the cards you pick and can win prizes.
  • Entry fees range from 5,000 gold to 2,000 gems depending on format and event type.
  • With skill, Limited is one of the best ways to expand your collection as free-to-play.


  • Wildcards allow you to redeem a card of the matching rarity from any set. Very useful for acquiring key rares/mythics.
  • Available in the in-game store for a premium cost aimed at paying players looking to complete decks.
  • Also earned slowly through opening packs and set mastery rewards on the free track.


  • Cosmetics like card sleeves, pets, avatars, and bling provide visual customization. They don‘t affect gameplay.
  • The main cosmetic rewards come from the Mastery Pass, which has both a free and premium paid track.
  • There is also a store with individual cosmetic items available only for gems.

Mastery Pass

  • The Mastery Pass has a free track with gold, packs, cosmetics and more. Great baseline value.
  • The premium track costs 3,400 gems and accelerates rewards with more packs, cosmetics, wildcards, gold, and gems.

So in summary, you have lots of options to spend money to accelerate your collection and bling out the visuals. But none are mandatory to play. Packs and Limited events are the best values for card acquisition if you do decide to spend.

How Does MTG Arena‘s Economy Compare to Other CCGs?

To give more perspective, it‘s useful to compare how MTG Arena‘s free-to-play model stacks up against other popular digital CCGs:


  • Very accessible for new free players with steady gold income from daily quests.
  • But their outdated dusting system and costly card crafting makes collecting all cards prohibitively expensive.
  • MTG Arena is less generous upfront but has better long-term collection building.

Legends of Runeterra

  • Extremely generous free rewards let you collect full playsets of cards needed for top decks without spending.
  • But lack of rotation and power creep has limited the card pool depth and meta diversity for invested players.
  • MTG Arena strikes a better balance between F2P accessibility and incentivizing spending for deeper gameplay.

Magic Online

  • Requires purchasing cards so has no free option, but lets you buy singles to build the decks you want.
  • Client is outdated but has every Magic card ever printed and robust tournament system.
  • MTG Arena only has Standard but is way more accessible as a free introduction to competitive Magic.

Pokemon TCG Online

  • Lets you earn tradable packs through gameplay to trade or sell for the cards you need.
  • But earning packs is very slow as free-to-play so buying code cards is almost mandatory.
  • MTG Arena is more rewarding for free grinders, though no trading option.

So compared to other big CCGs, I think Magic Arena strikes a great balance with its economy. There‘s a clear on-ramp for free players while still encouraging spending for more invested players. And the gameplay depth and community make it rewarding compared to alternatives.

Tips to Progress As Free-to-Play

While I believe investing in MTG Arena gives you the most enjoyment long-term, you can still have plenty of fun as free-to-play. Here are my top tips:

  • Master Limited formats like Draft and Sealed. With the right skills, you can slowly but steadily build your collection through winning cards and packs from Limited. This is by far the best path for free players.

  • Optimize daily and weekly quests and rewards. Reroll 500 gold quests in hopes of 750 gold ones. Make sure to get your Daily Win rewards each day. Do events needed for weekly packs. This slowly adds up!

  • Save Wildcards to fill key deck needs. Be wise with Wildcards since they are scarce as free-to-play. Use them to fill a gap holding your deck back rather than spending them randomly.

  • Focus on 1 or 2 color budget decks. Playing a budget monocolor or two color deck maximizes your chances with a limited card pool. Draft chaff rares can even shine in the right build.

  • Have a long-term mentality. Your collection grows slowly over many months as free-to-play. But you‘ll get there eventually! Play at your own pace and avoid burnout.

The most important tip is having fun! Magic is an amazing game even when playing janky budget brews made from limited card collections. Enjoy the journey!

Wrapping Up: Is MTG Arena Truly Free?

To summarize my complete guide:

Yes, MTG Arena is a free-to-play game that anyone can download and start playing without spending money. The entry point is extremely accessible.

You can have a lot of fun playing casually as free-to-play with basic decks and slowly accumulating more cards over time from quest rewards.

But unlocking all the depth MTG Arena offers requires investing in cards through pack purchases and Limited events. So competitive play is gated behind spending to acquire the best deck components.

Compared to alternatives like Hearthstone or Runeterra, Magic Arena strikes a great balance between F2P accessibility and incentivizing spending for greater enjoyment and progression.

With the right expectations and focus on enjoyment over competition, you can have a blast playing MTG Arena for free. But investing some money helps speed up progression and competitive viability as you get more engaged with the game.

Either way, I highly recommend trying out MTG Arena since it offers a best-in-class digital Magic experience. Start playing for free and go from there based on your appetite. There‘s years of fun gameplay ahead!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.