Arena: Packs vs Drafts Debate
An ongoing debate in MTG Arena is how to spend your gold in order to build your card collection. There are opposing sides on the best way to achieve the most glorious collection: Open a bunch of booster packs or do a bunch of ranked drafts.
This is a debate that both sides have feverishly argued over. Up until now, only the draft side has had any solid information to back their side. I decided I wanted to help inject more date into this debate by showing both sides using a small sample size.
So, without further adieu, here is what the data shows so far:
How data was collected
Draft data was collected while I performed my own ranked drafts. As I made each and every pick from each and every pack, I recorded what I picked. This took many hours and a large and complicated spreadsheet to calculate all of this data.
Arena booster pack data was collected much in the same way. After opening each Arena booster pack, I recorded which cards were in each pack. I also recorded all wild cards found in each individual pack as well as tracking the wild cards gained from the wheel.
A user on Reddit contacted me and stated he would share his pack openings with me once he got to 100 booster packs of the current set, which is THB as of this writing. He then videoed himself opening each of these 100 packs one at a time. I was able to capture data from every card in every pack, pack wild cards as well as the wheel wild cards. I really appreciate this individual reaching out, as I would not have been able to open 100 packs on my own due to cost.
Below is a breakdown of where these booster packs and drafts came from.
All of my own gathered data was hand written into a spreadsheet, then double checked using MTGAHelper for accuracy.
While this sample size is extremely small, this data will still tell us something useful.
If you have data you would like to share, please let me know and I will give you details of exactly what is needed so that we can start increasing our sample size.
50 Booster Packs
This data shows what spending 50K gold, or $50 on a pre-release bundle, will get you when opening 50 Arena booster packs.
As we can see, these numbers are close enough that we can get a good idea of what to expect if you open 50 booster packs from a particular set.
Data set 2 is just pure RNG luck with the extra mythics. I would just average these out into the rares from the other two data sets for a more accurate idea of what you can expect from 50 booster packs.
The data shown here is completely stand-alone, having been recorded by hand and calculated in a spreadsheet. Each set of 50 was opened with and without various amounts of drafting that may or may not have taken place before the booster packs were opened. The only reason this is mentioned is that it may effect the number of unique rares and mythics shown due to duplicate protection. This amount of booster packs opened will in no way come close to duplicate protection with gems. Vault progress is stand-alone in that it was calculated via spreadsheet and not viewed from within Arena. You can confidently use these numbers as a good indicator of what to expect when opening 50 Arena booster packs.
100 Booster Packs
This data shows what spending 100K gold will get you when opening 100 Arena booster packs.
Again, these 100 Arena booster packs were opened after doing 20 drafts, but is completely stand alone data.
10 Ranked Drafts and 12 Booster Packs
For those looking to spend 50K gold on ranked draft for collection building, this data will show you what you might expect from your efforts.
I did not play any of the draft games. I collected my cards, quit and started the next draft. I have an article explaining this process for those that don't enjoy playing draft, but want to build their collections using the ranked draft method.
The 12 booster packs are calculated based on the 20% chance of getting 2 packs when you complete a draft after 0 wins. This % chance will increase with the more games you win per individual draft.
20 Ranked Drafts and 24 Booster Packs
For those that saved 100K gold to spend on ranked draft for collection building, this will give you a good idea of what to expect for your efforts.
The 24 booster packs are calculated based on the 20% chance of getting 2 packs when you complete a draft after 0 wins. This % chance will increase with the more games you win per individual draft.
Lets compare the two methods against each other.
I broke these down into 50K and 100K gold sections for an easier way to compare each method of spending your gold.
The numbers highlighted in yellow are the highest numbers of each method. From this we can make a simple comparison between them.
The only real positive from opening packs instead of drafting is that you acquire a lot more wild cards. But, what if you already had all of the previous sets, and you were going to use these wild cards to make up for the fewer cards you got from opening packs?
In the data below, I added in each wild card to each rarity to show what they make up for this particular set.
This data tells a slightly different story depending how much you spend.
For 50K gold we can see this change
For 100K gold we can see this change
Interestingly enough, we have the same number of total Rares with this sample size.
What does this all mean?
What this shows us is that if you want a larger collection, especially at the uncommon rarity, ranked draft is the better method.
If you want gems, ranked draft is the only option.
If you want wild cards you can use for sets other than the set you just opened packs or drafted for, then only opening booster packs is the better method.
The amount of wild cards gained from only opening booster packs does not make up for the large deficit of missing cards from that particular you just opened packs for.
To make the packs-only method worth your while, you will want to be using your wild cards for sets other than the set you just opened packs for. You will also need to be OK with the lack of uncommons you received. Keep in mind you will most likely need to spend some of these wild cards on this particular set for the missing uncommons, should you need those. Doing so brings your total usable wild cards to a lower number to use for other sets since you ended up spending them on this set.
Now, all of that said, uncommon wild cards are the most bountiful and easy to receive of the 4 card rarities. They not only show up at a faster random rate when opening packs, but you receive one from the wheel for every 6 packs you open. If you only open booster packs, this may make up for the deficit of uncommons for your specific needs and you may be OK with this.
I hope you found this data interesting and insightful.
I am not swaying any particular method of spending your gold to build a collection. I will leave it up to you to make your own conclusions on what you want out of the gold you spend.
What I generally see is that if you do roughly 20-22 ranked drafts, you end up obtaining nearly 100% of the entire common and uncommon playset. After this, you will want to spend all remaining gold on opening booster packs if you still seek more rares and mythics.
Personally, I prefer the draft method. I find that most of the interesting cards are at lower rarities anyway, and I can do far more brewing with these cards than with many of the rares and mythics. That is just my opinion for my play style and what I want out of my collection.
Remember that having more rares is not always a good thing, but having the right rares is.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
5/26/2021 10:35:38 pm
Thanks for the article! You mentioned on the draft data set that you didn't play, you just quit...so does this mean that your dataset assumes a 0% win-rate...where as something more normalized like 33-66% would sway the data towards draft even more so given the potential reward packs and gems?
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