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Should you play in the Draft Challenge? A guide to help decide.

I didn't expect to be back so soon after my article analyzing the Sealed Arena Open, but I don't think anyone expected Wizards to offer a Draft Challenge for Strixhaven from May 22nd-25th. They've only offered one Draft Challenge ever, it was 6 months ago and they haven't mentioned it since, and it was for a remastered set, not a standard one. So this is a first, and I personally hope it'll be a trend moving forward - every new set gets a Sealed Open and a Draft Challenge.

Comparing the Challenges

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The prize structure for this new Draft Challenge is completely different, though the tournament structure is the same as before: 6 wins before 2 losses, Best of 3 (aka Traditional) Draft. Check out the table below to compare them.

Wins OLD Challenge NEW Challenge
6  20000 gold, 40 packs 4 Player Draft Tokens, 20 packs
5 15000 gold, 30 packs 3 Player Draft tokens, 15 packs
4 10000 gold, 20 packs 3 Player Draft tokens, 10 packs
3 7500 gold, 12 packs 2 Player Draft tokens, 6 packs
2 4000 gold, 6 packs 1 Player Draft token, 3 packs
1 2000 gold, 3 packs 1 Player Draft token
0 Nuthin' Nuthin'
Entry 15000 gold or 3000 gems 20000 gold or 3000 gems

That's, uh, pretty different rewards. How best to compare these two? You want to get everything in terms of gems. Unlike the Open there's no currency involved so we don't need to worry about tax rates. Here's my assumptions:

  • Convert all the gold rewards to gems at a ratio of 6.666 to 1, and then convert the player draft tokens to 1500 gems. It's a given that you'll eventually be able use all your Player draft tokens.
  • I assume the perspective of a drafter who plans on completing the rare set (both normal and archives), so I count each reward pack as 20 gems.
  • I ignore the other benefits from reward packs (extra wildcards, extra vault, extra progress on wildcard track) as they don't contribute to you doing more drafts. Also, all three things just end up as more wildcards, and if you're a serious drafter, wildcards have little value to you - either you don't play constructed or you already have plenty.
  • I count build packs (the packs you draft) as 20 gems. Mainly, this is so we can accurately compare Sealed events with Draft events, but it's a good approximation. You'll always have the chance to take at least 3 Rares/Mythics, and most drafts you'll end up with a few. Sometimes more than 3, sometimes less, but it should average out to 3 unless you're rare-drafting more heavily than everyone else, which you should definitely NOT do in a Draft Challenge.
  • I don't worry about the 1/8th of the time you open a mythic or the 1/15 of the time you open a R/M wildcard (only in reward packs). They're small corrections that are complicated to include. I just assume all packs are worth 20 gems. All players should be happy to spend 20 gems to get a random new set mythic, and most are fine spending 20 gems to get a R/M wildcard, so they probably have at least that much value.
  • For the old Challenge, the entry fee is actually 2250 gems, since you can pay with gold at 5 to 1 instead of 6.666 to 1. The fact you can't enter with 15K gold (only 20K) is one of the few drawbacks to the new Challenge.

Let's take another look at those rewards where everything is converted into gem value with the above assumptions.

Wins OLD Challenge NEW Challenge
6 3860 gems 6460 gems
5 2910 gems 4860 gems
4 1960 gems 4760 gems
3 1425 gems 3180 gems
2 780 gems 1620 gems
1 420 gems 1560 gems
0 60 gems 60 gems
Entry 2250 gems 3000 gems

You can tell immediately without looking at a chart that the NEW Challenge has drastically improved rewards. But, you know, here's a chart anyway.

If you've read any of my other analysis articles, you should be pretty familiar with these kinds of charts. The horizontal axis is your Game Win %. The vertical axis is your expected value, your average net gain or loss of gems each draft. If you're a drafter who wins 40% of your games, then you can expect on average to lose ~1740 gems every challenge draft. A lot of the time, you would lose 3000 gems, but sometimes you'd win a few matches. It would average out to 1740 gems lost.

On the other hand, if you're a drafter who wins 65% of their games (which is very reasonable), you'll on average generate ~1090 gems every time you draft this Challenge. That's huge! A traditional draft (the next highest EV event, apart from the Open which you can only do once per set) would only generate ~190 gems at that win rate. That's more than 5x as many gems!

Challenge Draft vs Everything Else

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Speaking of the EV of other limited events on MTG Arena, here's the only table you'll ever need (split into two for legibility.)

The new Draft Challenge is the ONLY event that has positive EV below 60%. And it just gets better from there.

If you have a high but reasonable 68% game win rate, on average the Draft Challenge earns you 1.5 times your entry fee every time you enter. That's kind of incredible! Just glance at the numbers above and you can see how much the Draft Challenge outpaces everything else.

Explore the numbers yourself!

As usual, if you want to take a look at the numbers yourself or change my assumptions about the value of build packs or reward packs, you're welcome to do so.


This should open a folder on my g-drive. Click on the Google sheet named "Arena EV Calculator_v1.0" in this folder and right-click. Select "Make a Copy". Now you should have a copy on your g-drive that you can mess around with to your heart's content. (It does require you to have a Google account of some kind, sorry.)

The Downsides

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There aren't that many downsides to the new Draft Challenge, but there are a few worth discussing.

  • It does cost more to enter than other limited events, there's no discount for using gold this time, and you can't use the Player Draft tokens to re-enter. If you're very strict F2P, this event might not be for you.
  • The EV drops off sharply below 58% (when it becomes positive). If you're a 55% or lower drafter, Quick drafts are actually the best EV play for you. The Draft Challenge is comparable to Premier and Traditional Drafts down to 53%, so if you were going to do one of those anyway, you might want to try a Draft Challenge or two to see if you get lucky with a much higher ceiling on rewards.
  • It takes quite a bit longer to complete a run. That's calculated by comparing average games played on the bottom section of each chart. You're going to end up playing ~80% more games than a Premier, Traditional, or Quick draft. Not quite twice as long, but certainly in the ballpark. Plus, there's sideboarding time. And it being Bo3 matches means it's harder to divide over multiple sittings - though many go quite fast, each round theoretically requires up to 50 minutes.
  • Because you can't re-enter with the rewards, this might necessitate you buying gems or spending gold at the blah 6.666 to 1 rate. I recommend having 90K gold in the bank 3 months from now for the next presumable Arena Open, so you can enter Day 1 at least 4 times. If you spend all but ~10K of your gold now, and save up gold every day after this event, that should be sufficient.

The Bottom Line

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So, should you play in the new Draft Challenge? If your win rate is 58%+, the answer is a resounding yes! This new version of the Draft Challenge is an excellent way to both build up value on your Arena account and collect more Strixhaven. In almost every way, it's the best-limited event we've ever seen on Arena, apart from the single-entry-per-set day 2 of a Sealed Open. If you're reasonably sure you're a 58%+ drafter, you're doing yourself a disservice by not playing in this event as often as you have time.

'Til next time! (Which will likely be a while unless Wizards surprises us with another high EV limited event in 2 weeks...)

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