Welcome to Magic: The Gathering Arena!

This guide will help you get started on Arena and learn some handy tips and tricks.

If you're new here, Magic: The Gathering is one of the best games in the world. It's a strategy game where you take on the role of a dimension-hopping wizard called a Planeswalker, and battle other players in one-on-one duels by casting spells, summoning creatures, and wielding mystic artifacts.

Magic is a trading card game (TCG), which means you play with a special deck you build from cards you've collected. Players have been shuffling cardboard cards and casting Lightning Bolt at each other since 1993—and now, thanks to MTG Arena, you can play Magic for free online against spellslingers from all over the world. Let's get started!

Downloading and Tutorials

If you haven't already, download MTG Arena. It's available for PC, Mac, and (in the near future) mobile.

The first thing you'll see once you've downloaded the program is this screen:

Click on "Register" to set up a new account.

Once you've registered, you'll be taken into your first game. A little glowing ball named Sparky will guide you through a short game against an AI opponent. This will teach you the basics of the MTG Arena interface as well as some of the fundamental rules of Magic. After this game, you'll have the option to keep playing against AI bots in order to unlock new cards and learn more Magic rules—all while guided by Sparky.

If you want to skip this tutorial, head to Settings > Account > Skip Tutorial.

After you've finished or skipped the tutorial you'll be given five decks to start off with. These will help you complete a series of games against AI opponents during which you'll unlock even more cards.

If you wish to skip these games, go to Settings > Account > Unlock Play Modes > Home. You'll be returned to the main Arena page where you'll see the various play modes available to you.

These tutorials do an excellent job teaching the rules of Magic, but if you want more help, I recommend this video by Magic YouTuber "The Professor."

Basic Play Modes

You're now a proficient spellslinger! Time to jump into the full Arena experience.

There are many different ways to play Magic on MTG Arena, and new game modes are added seasonally. You can view the available game modes by clicking the orange glowing "Play" button in the bottom right.

Here are the game modes you should try out first:

Bot Match
If you're not sick of playing against AI opponents, Sparky is always up for a game. Choose one of your decks, then click the "Play" button again to face off against the friendly orb.

Play
This and all the following game modes pair you against another human player of roughly equal skill. There's no stakes to Play mode—you're just playing for fun.

Play is a "Constructed" mode, which means you play using a deck you've built from cards you own in your account. I cover building your own deck and non-Constructed play modes later in this guide.

Standard Ranked
This works very similarly to Play mode, with two differences. First, it's ranked, which means you're fighting over your placement relative to every other player on Arena—more on that later.

Second, this mode uses the Standard format, which means your deck can only include cards from the most recent sets.

Advanced Play Modes

There are so many other ways to play Magic you can explore!

Historic Ranked
This mode is just like Standard Ranked, except your deck can use any of the cards on Arena. This means the decks tend to be more powerful, so watch out.

Brawl
This format uses the same cardpool as Standard, but the rules of deck construction are different to encourage big, bombastic plays and unpredictable turns. For more information, read this explanation by Wizards of the Coast.

Quick Draft
Draft is a Limited format, which means that instead of playing with a pre-constructed deck, you build a deck from the ground up out of a semi-random assortment of cards. This article from 2017 explains the basics of how to play Draft.

All Draft modes require in-game currency to play, but you keep the cards that you draft. You play until you reach seven wins or three losses (whichever comes first) and you earn additional prizes depending on how many wins you get.

In Quick Draft mode, you draft "against" a computer, and there's no time limit during the drafting.

Premier Draft
This is like Quick Draft, except that you draft against other human players in real time. The cost of entry is higher, but you can also earn more prizes.

Finally, game modes can also be Traditional, which means that instead of playing one game against your opponent, you play a best-out-of-three match. Between games, you may have the option to swap out the cards in your deck with a special set of cards called your sideboard.

If you can't immediately see the play mode you're looking for, try toggling this button:

The Ladder

Game modes can be either ranked or unranked. As you win ranked games, you'll slowly improve your rank and face stronger opponents. The highest ranked players every month have a shot at qualifying for one of Arena's premier-level events, with a chance to earn real-world money!

In descending order, the ranks are:

Mythic
Diamond
Platinum
Gold
Silver
Bronze

Ranks Bronze through Diamond are each further divided into four tiers. Silver 2 is one step higher than Silver 3, which is two steps higher than Bronze 1.

The ranked ladder resets every month. When your rank resets, you'll receive season rewards based on your placement.

In bronze, silver, and gold, any wins you earn will give you twice the "pips" toward moving onto the next tier, i.e. if you win a match in best-of-three, you'll get four pips. If you win a best-of-one game you'll get two, and if you lose a best-of-three match in gold, you only lose two pips. Once you enter platinum, this will no longer be the case.

Once you enter a rank, you cannot fall out of it. You can move between platinum tier 3 and 4, however, you cannot fall from platinum back into gold.

When you reach mythic, chances are you'll enter as a percentage. Wins will help you move from the percentages to having a numeric rank, while losses will likely lower your percentage.

In-Game Currencies

By now you probably want more cards to play with. You can buy cards using Arena's in-game currencies, which you either earn by playing the game or buy with real-world money.

In the top right-hand corner of Arena, you'll see how many wildcards, Gold, and Gems you have. I'll start by covering Gold and Gems.

Gold
You can use Gold to enter events, or to purchase some cosmetics or individual packs of cards from the Store tab. You earn Gold by playing games and finishing daily and weekly achievements—the missions at the bottom of the Home tab.

Gems
You can use Gems to enter events or to purchase bundles, card packs, or cosmetics from the store. You can also use Gems to purchase the Mastery Pass and to accelerate your progress through it, earning more cards and currency.

There are two main ways to get Gems. The most reliable ways is to just by them from the Store tab with real-world money. Your other option is to earn Gems as a reward for winning games in a Draft game mode.

In this image, you can see that achieving five wins in this Premier Draft gets you 1600 Gems and 4 packs. Because you get to keep what you draft, if you reach five wins, you're effectively spending 10000 Gold for 7 packs and 100 Gems. Considering you can't convert Gold into Gems outside of drafting, that's a good deal—assuming you can get enough wins.

Wildcards
You can permanently convert a wildcard into any card you want.

Each wildcard corresponds to one of the four rarities in Magic: common, uncommon, rare, and mythic. One wildcard can turn into any card of the corresponding rarity. They're not interchangeable, so mythic wildcards cannot be used to craft rare cards.

Because trading in a wildcard (called "crafting") is permanent, think carefully before you decide what to turn them into. Wildcards don't expire, and there's no limit to how many you can have.

You can't purchase wildcards directly through the store. However, you can purchase packs which help you get wildcards. In the Packs tab you'll see this in the top right-hand corner:

Each pack you open gets you one-sixth of the way closer to a rare and uncommon wildcard. After you open six packs, you'll get a rare wildcard and then have the option to progress toward a mythic wildcard.

You can also open wildcards in packs, as you can see here—my pack contained an uncommon wildcard in place of a card:

If a card you've crafted becomes banned from play, you'll be reimbursed the wildcards for it. I owned four copies of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath when it was banned in Standard, so I was reimbursed four mythic wildcards. However, because it is still legal in Historic, I still have my four copies of Uro that I can use in Historic.

Once you've collected all the cards from a set, if you open any packs from that set you'll receive Gems or wildcards instead of cards.

Tokens
If you have any tokens available, they'll appear next to the wildcard option.

This token allows you to enter one draft without paying the 1500 Gem or 10000 Gold entry fee.

You can occasionally purchase tokens through the store. Otherwise, they usually come with the Mastery Pass—more on that later.

The Vault
The vault rewards players for collecting more than four copies of an uncommon or common. Instead of opening the fifth copy of a rare or mythic, you'll instead open one you haven't fully collected yet. If this happens when drafting, you'll receive Gems to compensate.

You'll get one point for each fifth copy of a common and three points for uncommons. Once you reach 1000 points your vault can be opened.

When a Vault is opened, you receive three uncommon wildcards, two rare wildcards and one mythic wildcard.

How to Build a Deck

Arena gives you a few starter decks as you play through the tutorials. But nothing's more fun than besting opponents with a strategy you invented yourself, so it won't be long before you decide to build your own decks.

The Decks tab lets you build and modify your decks.

To view a deck you already have, double-click on it. You'll see your deck on the right and your collection on the left. You can drag cards between the two areas, or double click on one to add or remove it.

To build your own deck from cards you own, click on the big plus sign:

You can search for cards or filter through your collection using these buttons:

For a more refined search, click the Advanced Filter button, which is furthest to the right. You can even look through cards that aren't already in your collection.

You'll see the number of copies you have of a card by looking at the shapes above it. Below, you can see I have three copies of Anointed Chorister and one copy of Archpriest of Iona:

Once you've built your deck, click on the graph to the right of the deck name to see a breakdown of its composition:

To edit a deck's name, click on the existing name and type over it. You can also do this from the main "Decks" tab.

You can also customize the appearance of your deck. To change the art on your deck's box, take the card with art you want, add that card to the deck, then click and drag the card in front of the deck box.

You can select sleeves for your deck by clicking on the card back behind the deck box and choosing from the options you have unlocked.

You can see the basic lands you've collected by clicking on this image:

To apply any cosmetics you have, click "Apply Styles."

To save your deck building process, click "Done."

Importing Decks and More

Inventing your own deck is fun, but if you want to climb the ranked ladder quickly, your best bet is to start with a tournament-winning deck and tune it as you go. For example, this deck did well at a recent event:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Red Aggro by Gerard Van Leeuwen

'Mono-Red Aggro' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Gerard Van Leeuwen

Event: Week of Wings Entry Event Tuesday Flight 2

Rank: 4-0

Standard

Market Price: $65.39

Cards

Rimrock Knight // Boulder Rush

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199534_200w.jpg

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Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.68

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199556_200w.jpg

If a red source you control would deal damage to an opponent or a permanent an opponent controls, it deals that much damage plus 2 instead.

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Castle Embereth

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.35

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199286_200w.jpg

Castle Embereth enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Mountain.
{T}: Add {R}.
{1}{R}{R}, {T}: Creatures you control get +1/+0 until end of turn.

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Shock

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215884_200w.jpg

Shock deals 2 damage to any target.

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Phoenix of Ash

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206851_200w.jpg

Flying, haste
{2}{R}: Phoenix of Ash gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
Escape—{2}{R}{R}, Exile three other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Phoenix of Ash escapes with a +1/+1 counter on it.

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Roiling Vortex

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.40

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221923_200w.jpg

At the beginning of each player's upkeep, Roiling Vortex deals 1 damage to them.
Whenever a player casts a spell, if no mana was spent to cast that spell, Roiling Vortex deals 5 damage to that player.
{R}: Your opponents can't gain life this turn.

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Scorching Dragonfire

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.03

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215894_200w.jpg

Scorching Dragonfire deals 3 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If that creature or planeswalker would die this turn, exile it instead.

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Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198550_200w.jpg

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Robber of the Rich

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.84

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198777_200w.jpg

Reach, haste
Whenever Robber of the Rich attacks, if defending player has more cards in hand than you, exile the top card of their library. During any turn you attacked with a Rogue, you may cast that card and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any color to cast that spell.

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Akoum Hellhound

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221880_200w.jpg

Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Akoum Hellhound gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

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Shatterskull Smashing

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $3.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222030_200w.jpg

Shatterskull Smashing deals X damage divided as you choose among up to two target creatures and/or planeswalkers. If X is 6 or more, Shatterskull Smashing deals twice X damage divided as you choose among them instead.

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Ox of Agonas

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $2.76

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206651_200w.jpg

When Ox of Agonas enters the battlefield, discard your hand, then draw three cards.
Escape—{R}{R}, Exile eight other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Ox of Agonas escapes with a +1/+1 counter on it.

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Fervent Champion

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198973_200w.jpg

First strike, haste
Whenever Fervent Champion attacks, another target attacking Knight you control gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
Equip abilities you activate that target Fervent Champion cost {3} less to activate.

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Kargan Intimidator

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222036_200w.jpg

Cowards can't block Warriors.
{1}: Choose one that hasn't been chosen this turn —
• Kargan Intimidator gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
• Target creature becomes a Coward until end of turn.
• Target Warrior gains trample until end of turn.

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Redcap Melee

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199300_200w.jpg

Redcap Melee deals 4 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If a nonred permanent is dealt damage this way, you sacrifice a land.

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Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199035_200w.jpg

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/throne-of-eldraine/bonecrusher-giant

Embercleave

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $5.76

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198755_200w.jpg

Flash
This spell costs {1} less to cast for each attacking creature you control.
When Embercleave enters the battlefield, attach it to target creature you control.
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and has double strike and trample.
Equip {3}

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Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196580_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/196580/magic-commander-2019-mountain-298

Anax, Hardened in the Forge

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206843_200w.jpg

Anax's power is equal to your devotion to red. (Each {R} in the mana costs of permanents you control counts toward your devotion to red.)
Whenever Anax or another nontoken creature you control dies, create a 1/1 red Satyr creature token with "This creature can't block." If the creature had power 4 or greater, create two of those tokens instead.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/206843/magic-theros-beyond-death-anax-hardened-in-the-forge

You can build this deck in Arena in seconds. First, click the Arena logo at the top of this decklist, and copy the contents of the TXT file to your clipboard with CTRL-C (PC) or Command-C (MAC).

At the bottom of the Decks tab, you'll see these options:


Click the "Import" button, and Arena will build the deck you just copied.

The TCGplayer Infinite deck page updates with new top-performing Standard decks every week, so you always have something new to play.

Once you've imported a deck, there's a chance you won't own all the cards in it. If this is the case, Arena will give you the option to craft the cards you don't own using your wildcards. Click "craft all" to bulk craft whatever you're missing:

In this case, I'm required to have three common wildcards to complete the deck. You'll be asked to confirm before the wildcards are redeemed. Remember, once crafted this cannot be undone, and the cards can't be turned into anything else.

Here's what the other buttons on this tab do: 

Export
If you click on a deck and hit export, it'll copy the decklist to your clipboard, allowing you to share it with friends or paste it into one of the many online MTG deck builders.

Collection
This allows you to browse your full collection.

Clone
This allows you to create a copy of a deck you have. It'll appear as [Deck Name] and [Deck Name (2)]. You typically use this if you want to modify a deck slightly, while keeping the original intact.

Delete
This deletes your deck. Simply click once on the deck you want to delete and hit delete. You'll be asked to confirm, since this can't be undone.

Favorite
If you click on a deck and click favorite it'll be pushed to the top of your decks. This is handy if you have a lot of decks built. To unfavorite a deck, click on the deck and click "unfavorite."

Friend List

Adding someone as a friend makes it easier to challenge them to a game, or play against them in a tournament. While it isn't necessary to be friends with someone to play against them, it makes things a lot easier if you're doing it more than once.

At the bottom left of the screen in any tab, you can click on the silhouette to open your friend list. To add a friend, click on this plus sign:

An incoming friend request will appear like this:

To block incoming friend requests, go to Settings > Account and check "block incoming friend requests."

At the bottom of the friends tab, you can click on the three dots to change your status to busy, online, or offline.

Direct Challenge
You can Direct Challenge your friends by clicking on the crossed swords next to their name.

This will allow you to play against them in the format of your choice.

The Store Tab

The store is where you purchase Gems, packs, and cosmetics and view daily deals.

You can purchase Gems using real money (all prices in USD):

To purchase Gems, you'll need to add a payment option. You can do this through the store by clicking the "change payment method." Currently, the game accepts PayPal and credit/debit cards for payment.

One of the best purchases is the Welcome Bundle. This is a one time purchase where $4.99 gets you 2500 Gems and 5 packs. There are a few other one-time purchase bundles that pop up, but this is my most recommended.

Once you have Gems or Gold, you can then purchase packs, bundles, avatars, sleeves, pets, whatever is in the featured tab and also daily deals.

Every day the Store tab refreshes with new daily deals. Daily deals range from discounted cosmetics to discounted Gold, Gems, and packs. These are worth checking out even if you never intend to spend real money on Arena—past deals have included giveaways like a one-time purchase of 550 Gold for 50 Gold.

In the top right corner, you can redeem any promotional codes you have. There are free codes at the bottom of this article, so try them out!

Mastery Pass

As you play Arena, you'll naturally earn experience (XP), which gives you rewards at certain thresholds. You can earn more rewards at each threshold if you buy a Mastery Pass from the Mastery Tab.

The best way to earn XP is from daily and weekly quests, which appear at the bottom of the Home tab. Every 1000 XP you'll advance to the next level and unlock rewards from the Mastery pass. This includes packs, cards, emotes, Gems, tokens, Gold, and orbs which can unlock cosmetic changes to cards.

Mastery Passes cost Gems, and are tied to the most recent Magic set. When the next set comes out, you won't be able to advance along your old Mastery Pass anymore. For these reasons, it's usually best to buy a Mastery Pass at the start of a season, right when a new set comes out.

Settings and Advanced Play Tips

Once you're comfortable with the basic controls, it's a good idea to adjust your settings and hotkeys. These will make playing the game feel smoother.

Auto Tap
Auto Tap is a feature in Arena that will automatically tap your lands whenever you try and cast a spell.

If you hover over a spell, you can see which lands auto tap intends to use and you can manually tap your lands to float mana before casting it if you disagree with what is highlighted. I highly recommend carefully looking at what lands it's going to tap if you intend on casting multiple spells or activating abilities.

To turn auto tapper on or off, go to Settings > Gameplay and select/deselect auto tap.

Gameplay Settings
By going to Settings > Gameplay you're able to browse various Arena shortcuts as well as rebind any keys:

Auto order triggered abilities
I would recommend deselecting this option so that you're able to select the order triggered abilities resolve in.

Gameplay warnings
In most matches, a chess timer will be in use for each player. You'll start with 30 minutes and zero time outs. If you end the turn without hitting the rope, you'll earn a timeout.

The timeout is similar to a timebank. When you take enough time in a turn to trigger the rope and the rope runs out, you either pass through the turn or use one of the timeouts if you have them.

These settings also allow you to choose whether you see cosmetics and emotes.

Below this, you'll see these settings:

Advice for Experienced Magic Players

Best-of-One Hand Smoothing Algorithm
In order to reduce variance in best-of-one games, WotC introduced a hand smoothing algorithm that effectively draws an opening hand from each of two separate copies of the deck and shows you the one with the best mix of spells and lands relative to your deck's lands-to-spells ratio. This does not help with color fixing.

This means that if you're looking to test for best-of-three matches, you'll need to be playing in Traditional modes to get the genuine experience.

The algorithm can also impact your lands to spells ratio since you can potentially play fewer lands. For more details, check out this explanation by Ryan Spain.

Full Control
Full control allows you to respond whenever you should have priority, which isn't something that you'll always get. Without full control, Arena will simply waive priority if you have nothing to do. Occasionally, even if you're able to respond by activating a (mana) ability it will not give you priority. In these cases, having full control is essential.

You should also go into full control whenever you wish to hold priority.

If you have full control on, you'll see this in the bottom right corner:

Full control also allows you to bluff and makes it appear like you have a response, even if you don't.

To turn full control off, simply hit ctrl again.

To do the opposite of full control, hold down shift+enter. This will pass your turn regardless of whether or not you have a response. If you choose to do this, you'll still be given the option to block, however, you'll pass through your own attack step and won't be able to declare attackers.

If you want to pass priority, let a spell resolve or try and move into the next phase of the turn, you can click the orange button that appears or your space bar. These will do the same thing.

In MTG Arena, the color orange means "you," and blue is for your opponent.

In the image below, you can see it's my opponent's turn, however, there is a spell on the stack and I have priority:

Phases
You'll need to set your stops in advance, or while you still have priority otherwise Arena can just blow past them. Example: If you wish to activate Castle Vantress during your upkeep, set the stop as soon as possible because if you activate it in their end step when you don't have priority, you may not get the option to stop.

To set stops in specific phases, you need to click on the appropriate stop either next to your avatar or your opponents:

To show the phases above the "Next" button, click "L" on your keyboard and they'll appear like this:

The first button is to put a stop in the next upkeep, if you wish to stop in a draw step, you set the same stop here and click once to move from upkeep to draw step.

The second button is to set a stop before the beginning of the next combat step. You typically use this stop to do something at the beginning of combat, like tap an opponent's creature before it can attack you.

The third button is to stop at the next combat.

The fourth button is to stop at the end of turn.

The fifth button is to stop after this turn.

During combat, more options will appear:

In order, these buttons are stop after attackers, stop after blockers, and stop after damage.

More Resources

Official Events
MTG Arena occasionally runs special events and official tournaments that have entry fees and award more prizes.

Other Tournaments
If you want more events to compete in, the best place to find them is MTGMelee, which most organizers use to run their events.

Decklists
You can find top-performing Standard and Historic decklists here on TCGplayer Infinite.

Drop Rates and Reward Distribution
For more information on drop rates and reward distribution, check out this official breakdown.

Extensions
When you're playing games on Arena, you have the option to use extensions that function as an overlay or game companion.

These can help you track what you've drawn from your deck, how likely you are to draw a land or specific spell as well as track your win/loss data across the ladder and direct challenge. While drafting it can also show you card rankings from external sites or how many copies of a card you've collected.

I personally recommend the extension Untapped, but you can find other options online.

Redeemable Codes
Enter these codes in the Store tab on Arena for free goodies!

Booster Packs:

Experience:

Cosmetics:

* * *

There's so much more to discover about MTG Arena—and now, you have the tools to jump in and explore the game yourself. Enjoy!