Draft or Sealed – Which Gives Better Value in MTG Arena?

We’ve been saying this since day one – Quick Draft is the best free way to grow your MTG Arena card collection. If you haven’t read our article, it’s the best for new players because it can be entered with Gold, the game’s free currency. That cannot be said for the other Limited format – Sealed. That said, many experienced players have claimed Sealed offers better returns.

So Draft or Sealed – which offers the best value for the average MTG player, to build your Arena card collection? That’s what we’re here to find out.

If money wasn’t a factor, then clearly the best way to grow the Arena card collection is just to buy unlimited booster packs. In this study we will not have money as a limiting factor. Assuming we have just the right amount of Gold or Gems to enter either a Draft or Sealed event, which would yield the better rewards?

Our second major assumption is that the player (you) is the typical casual and average Magic player, with a little less than 50% win rate. Be it Draft or Sealed, we will assume a constant 3 wins for each event. By keeping the win rate constant, we can then fairly compare the rewards-to-cost ratio and analyse the data better.

Sealed – More Packs, More Randomisation

In Sealed, you build a deck with 6 regular booster packs. Since there is no “drafting” process, we find it’s harder to build a more refined deck than in Draft where you are planning your strategy every step of the way. That said, hitting that 3 wins is still a reasonable target since everyone else in the Sealed pool will encounter the same randomisation.

Assuming you finished the Sealed event with 3 wins, you’ll earn 1200 Gems and 3 packs. That 1200 Gems can essentially buy you 6 packs at the store. Add that to the 6 packs you originally got to build the deck, that means you received a total of 15 packs. That’s pretty amazing!

Do bear in mind though that a Sealed event’s entry fee is 2000 Gems (equal to 10 packs or 10000 Gold), about 2.6 times more than Quick Draft, and exactly the same as Premier Draft.

Quick Draft – Safe, Slow and Steady

In Quick Draft, all its features are nicely tailored for new players. It has a reasonable entry fee with the free currency (Gold), and you are drafting against computer bots, meaning there’s a fairly good chance you’ll see more Rares passed over than in Premier Draft.

Cheap entry fees also lead to more gameplay time which also cannot be discounted in a player’s experience. But how does it fare in building your card collection?

Draft or Sealed? We compare rewards to costs ratios and find out which is better for the average MTG player.

Again let’s assume a player achieves 3 wins before dropping out. He/she receives 300 Gems and 1 pack (26% chance for 2 but we’ll leave it at 1). That 300 Gems can be converted to another 1.5 booster packs, and in addition to the 3 packs during the Draft process, that means the player nets 4.5 booster packs.

Since the 5000 Gold entry fee is also equivalent to buying 5 booster packs, the player is actually at a loss of 0.5 packs. Perfectly acceptable price for playing 6 games (winning 3 and losing 3), but ultimately still not a profit. In this debate between Draft or Sealed, it might not be enough to tip the scales.

Premier Draft – High Stakes

Think of Premier Draft as a souped up Quick Draft. When you’re tired of the slow gains through Quick Draft, then tackling the bigger boy might be just the thing for you. Before we get into the payoffs, let’s look at the downsides of Premier Draft. It costs 10,000 Gold, so it’s open to free-to-play players but at double the entry cost as Quick Draft.

The next problem is a big one, especially for newer players. Premier Draft is played against real people, and because of that there is a rather short timer during the drafting process. If you haven’t done any research or find it hard to spot card synergy, Premier Draft could turn out to be a disaster. As you can guess by now, Premier Draft is generally harder to succeed than in Quick Draft.

Draft or Sealed? We compare rewards to costs ratios and find out which is better for the average MTG player.

The rewards, though, are rightly much higher than in Quick Draft. At our standardised 3 wins, the player will receive 1000 Gems and 2 packs. Since 1000 Gems can be used to buy 5 packs, then the accumulated payout will be 10 booster packs (3 from the Draft, 5 from Gems and 2 from the rewards).

Since the entry fee is double that of Quick Draft, then in essence you would be getting 5 booster packs (10/2 = 5) if you want to compare them side by side. This is slightly better than Quick Draft’s payout, but at higher risk and starting cost.

So before we summarise the debate between Draft or Sealed, perhaps the other big question you’ll need to ask yourself is if you would rather do Quick or Premier Draft. Quick Drafts are safer, but slower, and Premier offers higher level experience, coupled with higher costs and rewards.

Draft or Sealed – Which is Better for the Average Player?

FORMATPACKS GIVENCOST (PACKS)3-WIN REWARDS (PACKS)TOTAL PACKS
GAINED
PACKS-TO-COST RATIO
Sealed62000 Gems (10)1200 Gems, 3 Packs (9)151.5
Quick Draft35000 Gold (5)300 Gems, 1 Pack (2.5)5.51.1
Premier Draft310000 Gold (10)1000 Gems, 2 Packs (7)101
Reward-to-Cost Ratio if you achieve 3 wins in each event.

Was it a surprise that Sealed has the best reward-to-cost ratio? Well, it is the most randomised iteration of Limited formats, plus you need to have Gems for the entry fee. The randomisation also generally makes Sealed harder to win, thus you are getting better rewards for your time and effort.

It’s again important to remember the assumptions we’d made – 1) entry fee cost isn’t an issue, and 2) you’re able to hit a reasonable 3 wins in the event. Getting lesser or higher wins will lead to different reward-to-cost ratios, and here we’ll analyse the worst and best case scenarios.

Draft or Sealed – Which is Better for the Complete Beginner?

FORMATPACKS GIVENCOST (PACKS)0-WIN REWARDS (PACKS)TOTAL PACKS
GAINED
GAINS-TO-COST RATIO
Sealed62000 Gems (10)200 Gems, 3 Packs (4)101
Quick Draft35000 Gold (5)50 Gems, 1 Pack (1.25)4.250.85
Premier Draft310000 Gold (10)50 Gems, 1 Packs (1.25)4.250.425
Reward-to-Cost Ratio if you achieve 0 wins in each event.

If it’s a crappy day and you end up with 0 wins and 3 losses, between Draft or Sealed, Sealed actually gives you the best return with a Gains-to-Cost ratio of 1. That means you’re getting back the same value in packs if you were to have just used those Gems to buy packs from the store at their regular price (200 Gems per pack). Quick Draft is the next best at 0.85, and Premier Draft the worst where you net less than half of what you put in, no thanks to its high cost.

Draft or Sealed – Which is Better for a Top Player?

FORMATPACKS GIVENCOST (PACKS)7-WIN REWARDS (PACKS)TOTAL PACKS
GAINED
GAINS-TO-COST RATIO
Sealed62000 Gems (10)2200 Gems, 3 Packs (14)202
Quick Draft35000 Gold (5)950 Gems, 2 Packs (6.75)9.751.95
Premier Draft310000 Gold (10)2200 Gems, 6 Packs (17)202
Reward-to-Cost Ratio if you achieve 7 wins in each event.

For players who fight all the way to the top of 7 wins, there’s virtually no difference in the Gains-to-Cost ratio. In all three formats, Draft or Sealed, a clean sweep will net you twice what you paid for. Again, in normal circumstances, the limited factor would be entry fees, and since Quick Draft has the lowest entry fees, then it would be wiser to stick to Quick Draft.

End Step

The numbers don’t lie, and as long as we assume entry fees and costs are not a stumbling block, between Draft or Sealed, Sealed actually offers the best gains-to-cost ratio for an average or new player. That becomes less true as you strike up more wins (which gives positive gains in all formats). Also remember that Sealed can be harder and more unpredictable to play than Draft, hence the lure of better returns.

See what suits your game, and if you have feedback or personal thoughts on what works for you as a newer player, please let us know at let@tapandsac.com!

Ted

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

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