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Maximizing Value on Magic Online

This article is for players who play Draft and Sealed events on Magic Online and want to get more out of their money. This article is not a surefire guide to going "infinite" and never having to put money onto your account again, but it should help you spend a little less or make a little more money on average while enjoying your hobby.

I've outlined five major points below that range from very obvious to very interesting which will all increase your expected value while playing Limited events on Magic Online.

1) Play the right events

I've created a tool for comparing EV for various events and posted it here. I'll be referring to this document for my next few points so go ahead and take a look. There was a website that used to do these calculations, but it has been abandoned for a few months now, so I decided to make my own tool.

The input values are pretty shaky at the moment and will remain so at least until the Dragons of Tarkir Prerelease starts, when we have a better idea of booster prices and rare/mythic buylist prices. If you think you have better input data for the calculations, you can make a copy of the document for your own use and use the details on the Notes tab for maintaining the file.

Prerelease vs Release

On Magic Online, the EV for Prerelease and Release events differ. Prerelease events usually have a lower prize support to cost ratio, but the value for reselling rares is usually higher at this time. You can see the published event entry and prizes information here for Dragons of Tarkir.

According to the document I provided, Prerelease events are generally lower expected value than Release events and are also worse in that the Sealed events require a mandatory $5 purchase from the store for your Prerelease object (seeded pack). The shared disdain for Prerelease events is evidenced in Tweets from Magic pros Sam Pardee and Sam Black, as well as by Magic Online grinders Michael Jacob and Joe Spanier. The Prerelease event entry costs and prize support are exactly the same as for the Fate Reforged Prerelease (which was when these comments were made).

If you decide to wait out the Prerelease, you can use the three days until the Release events to listen to what other people are saying about the format. One way to spend that time is by watching live streams and recorded content of Prerelease events. Letting other people pay the premium for the more expensive events while enjoying them and learning from them is a sweet deal.

Draft vs Sealed

The EV document I created shows that a Sealed Daily offers the best value of any Limited event. Unlike the other options, Dailies events are scheduled and are not auto-firing queues. However, there are many different times that these events start each day so you should be able to find an option that works for you.

While some players prefer Draft over Sealed enough that they would be willing to take a small hit in expected value to play them, the difference between these and normal Drafts are stark enough that players who primarily draft should take note and at least consider playing these Sealed Dailies.

Swiss vs 4-3-2-2 vs 8-4

Most analysis on this subject makes the assumption that your match win percentage is constant across Swiss, 4-3-2-2, and 8-4 queues. We won't be making that assumption here. See the below chart for a list of equivalent win percentages.


Swiss Win % 4-3-2-2 Win % 8-4 Win %
0 0 0
10 13.9 24.5
20 25.8 33.5
30 36.1 40.1
40 45.2 45.4
50 53.3 50.0
60 60.6 54.0
70 67.2 57.7
80 73.4 61.0
90 79.1 64.1
100 84.4 67.0


Let's look at the third-to-last row for an explanation of how to read this chart. You will win the same number of packs on average with each of the three following scenarios: 1) playing Swiss and winning 80% of your matches in those events, 2) playing 4-3-2-2s and winning 73.4% of those matches, and 3) playing 8-4s and winning 61% of those matches. The implication is that if you have an 80% match win percentage in Swiss and a match win percentage above 61% in 8-4s, you would be better off playing 8-4s.

You can input your own calculated or estimated match win percentages in the document I created. This will allow you to determine which queue grants the highest EV for your specific skill level. You will need to make a copy of the document to be able to edit it.

If Swiss has a lower EV for you, it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't play it. Swiss always lets you play three rounds of Magic even if you do poorly, but you're eliminated from a 4-3-2-2 or 8-4 as soon as you lose a match. Players should consider whether they are willing to decrease their EV to have the assurance of being able to play all three rounds of their event.

Phantom vs Real

As you can see in the reference document, the Phantom event listed has a fairly high EV compared to most of the real events. This comes with a couple of drawbacks. The first problem is that it's difficult to go "infinite" profitably with Phantom points because they aren't tradable. If you get a million Phantom points, you can only use them for Phantom events, and only very few Phantom events give non-Phantom prizes (the only one currently up is Legacy Cube Single Elimination) which makes it difficult or impossible to "cash out" your winnings. The second problem is that since you aren't opening actual cards, you can neither grow your collection nor have the chance to get lucky and open valuable mythics that pay for your event.

Phantom events could be the correct choice for someone with a low match win rate who prefers Sealed and doesn't care about growing their Magic Online collection, but that's a very specific subset of players.

2) Know when to sell

Unless you're testing for a Pro Tour, you should be picking expensive cards that you see in Draft. Some people take any card worth more than a ticket while others have a higher tipping point, but I don't know anyone who wouldn't take a foil Tarmogoyf pack 1 pick 1 in a Modern Masters draft.

Obviously you are taking these money cards to sell for tickets to fund future events, but when should you sell? Neither selling everything immediately nor keeping everything forever is going to give you the most tickets for your cards. What you should be doing is monitoring prices, tournament-winning decklists, and hype trains to predict when a card is going to rise or fall in value. If you follow finance experts such as @SaffronOlive (who posts many excellent articles on this site), this should give you an edge and help you get more value out of rares and mythics that you open in draft or your sealed pool. If you don't want to bother with the finance game, you may just be better off selling cards as soon as you get them.

The amount you get out of your cards depends on how much time you spend paying attention to card price histories. If this bores you to death and you ignore card-selling strategy, you may be missing out on extra value you could be getting by selling your rares when they're peaking in value.

3) Don't open packs on Magic Online

This one should be obvious, but let me just state it for those who don't know. The average value of cards opened in a pack is much less than the value of that pack. If you're cracking packs to look for a specific card, stop and go buy a copy of that card from a bot. If you're cracking packs because you're looking for an unhealthy, expensive habit to pass the time, may I suggest getting addicted to caffeine instead? I know where you can get great frappuccinos.

4) Don't buy packs from the Magic Online store

This next one is also obvious, but I'll put the information here for those in the dark. On the Trade tab, bots sell packs for under four tickets almost all of the time. Buy your packs that way every time.

5) File for reimbursement

If you experience a problem that you think may be cause for reimbursement, file for reimbursement. Not doing so is throwing away money, and it doesn't help the Magic Online team identify the issues they need to fix.

There was a reddit thread recently where an individual claimed to be banned for filing too many reimbursement requests even though they were all accepted. This action has since been corrected by the Magic Online staff, and the user has been unbanned according to a tweet from that player. I'd like to encourage you not to be afraid to request compensation when it is justified. If Wizards tries to ban you too, just post about it on reddit. The entire community will get outraged for you, and the Magic Online team should have it fixed for you shortly. I wish I was joking, but this may be the best way to handle this issue.


Whether you learned something new from all five of my suggestions or if you're just going to use my document as a template for your Limited EV calculations, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this article and improve the value you get out of Magic Online. If you have any feedback, reach out to me in the comments below or @JakeStilesMTG on Twitter.

Until next time, may all your EV calculations come out positive.

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