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Can Golden Packs Fix the Magic Arena Economy?


As you probably know if you’ve followed the channel for any amount of time, I’ve been very critical of Magic Arena's economy more or less from its inception. The list of odd or downright bad decisions is long, and even when there is good news about the economy that makes it more friendly for players, the news is almost always countered by some other change that nerfs rewards so the economy doesn’t actually improve. But last week, Wizards made an announcement about the Arena economy that is not only positive but wholly positive, in the addition of Golden Packs.

If you missed the news, here’s how Golden Packs work: for every 10 packs of The Brothers’ War you buy from the store, you’ll get a golden pack for free. Each pack you buy fills the Golden Pack meter until you reach 10, and then you get the pack. While this doesn't include packs you get for free from drafts or other rewards, it does include packs that you buy from the store with gold or gems, so this helps free-to-play players and whales alike. Getting one free pack for every 10 you buy might not sound all that exciting, but because of what comes in a Golden Pack, they are way, way more impactful than they look at first glance.

Golden Packs contain six cards: one is a mythic for sure, and the other five are normally rares, but each rare has a one in eight chance of upgrading to a mythic, which means a typical Golden Pack will contain two mythics and four rares. At least two of the cards will be from The Brothers’ War, and the other four can be from any Standard-legal set. Most importantly, all of these cards are both duplicate and set protected (meaning that if you have a complete set of The Brothers’ War, for example, you won’t get gems in that slot but a rare or mythic from another set). The only way to get the pity gems from a Golden Pack is to literally have a complete rare or mythic set of all Standard, and if you get to that point, you don’t need to be buying packs anyway. 

While you can’t open wildcards in Golden Packs, they do help fill the wildcard meter, which is another nice little bonus.

When you consider that rares and mythics are far more valuable than commons and uncommons are, which are pretty easy for everyone to access, in practice, this means that for every pack of The Brothers’ War you buy (assuming you eventually buy 10 to get the Golden Pack), you are essentially getting 1.6 packs worth of value, making Golden Packs perhaps the most generous improvement to the Arena economy ever. 

One thing that is pretty well known about the Arena economy is that drafting is the best way to build a collection to play constructed or put together a Standard deck. If you are decent at limited and enjoy playing it, the Arena economy is already pretty good for you. If you’re a limited-only player, this change shouldn’t really have a meaningful impact on you at all.

On the other hand, if you are bad at drafting or don’t enjoy it (or, like me, don’t have time to draft for a few weeks before playing constructed when a new set comes out), the addition of Golden Packs greatly changes the equation. 

Someone on Reddit did all the math and found that with the addition of Golden Packs, simply spending your gold (or gems) on packs from the store and opening them is basically just as good as using your resources to draft at a 50% win rate. As such, when someone asks the best way to build an Arena collection, the old default answer of “draft, draft, draft” is no longer necessarily true. If you have a high limited win rate and enjoy drafting, it’s still a great way to build a collection, but if you’re bad at or uninterested in limited, there is now a just-as-good (or perhaps even better) way of building a collection to play constructed: simply by spending your gold or gems from packs at the store.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Apart from simply giving players more cards more quickly, which is awesome in and of itself, I’m also hopeful that this change will, in a roundabout way, actually improve the gameplay and meta on Arena. Since it takes so much time or money to build a constructed deck on Arena, it’s really difficult to spend your resources on janky, fun decks and brews. Instead, the “right” way to play Arena is to build a top-tier constructed deck built with the best cards in the format so you can grind out more wins, earn more rewards, and eventually build another deck. While many players will still choose to build tier decks, the free cards from Golden Packs and the overall decrease in the cost of playing constructed on Arena might free more players to build fun decks or rogue brews since the risk building a deck that isn't successful is much lower since building a second deck should be much cheaper or less time consuming. 

Most importantly, as far as we can tell, Wizards didn’t do anything to nerf the economy alongside adding Golden Packs. Every bit of information we have suggests that these packs are just pure upside for players, which is the kind of positive economy change the community has been begging Wizards for for years but that hadn’t happened until now. All in all, Golden Packs are very likely the biggest economy improvement the game has ever seen, which I know isn’t a very high bar to get over but is still impressive.

Some people have questioned whether it is right to praise Wizards for adding Golden Packs to Arena after Wizards has made so many negative decisions in the past, and I think the answer is clearly yes for one super-huge reason: Wizards has only promised Golden Packs for The Brothers’ War. If we want this overwhelmingly positive change to continue for future sets or possibly even be added retroactively to older sets to support formats like Pioneer, Explorer and Historic, we need to let Wizards know that we think the change is a positive. 

The cynicism makes perfect sense—Magic Arena’s economy has trained most of us to be cynical—but don’t let that get in the way of praising positive change. Is the Arena economy fixed? Of course not. Are there still more changes to be made? For sure. But Golden Packs are a meaningful step toward making the Arena economy more player friendly, and Wizards deserves a lot of credit for this, despite all of their failings in the past.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think of Golden Packs on Arena? Let us know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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