Which Draft is for You? (MTGO)

Hey everyone! If you are reading this, you have come to MTGDeckTechs.com, then you must be looking for some of that sweet, sweet MTG value! Well I plan to deliver for you today! Sorta. Today I’m taking a quick look at the value that can be obtained  on MTG Online before you even click on “Join League.”


If you’re a MTGO grinder, knowing how to get the most bang your buck is important. Throwing tickets and play points out the window eventually equals throwing money out the window. I’m a big fan of not wasting my dollars, so when I started playing MTGO on the regular I did some research on how to best spend my precious (and various) forms of currency. The information was fairly unanimous: play competitive leagues. Yes, you spend more. Yes, you have to end with a better record than friendly to prize. And yes, the competition is steeper. However, if you want as high of an EV as possible, then you need to play competitive. By the way, EV is short for “estimated/expected value,” which you’ll hear occasionally in the MTG community and it means the average result of a certain course of action. I know most of you probably know this but I like to help those starting out! If you don’t know what MTG stands for; well….

I have been on a limited kick recently because this format is awesome and I highly recommend it to everyone. I can’t stop drafting right now. By default, I started playing competitive draft leagues, but I soon realized that there was a major difference between the draft version and the constructed: they were single elimination.


Single elimination makes a lot of sense. If you go to your LGS (Local game store), draft, and lose in the first round, you’re done. Go sign up for another draft. I’ve heard of some stores doing swiss, but those seem to be few and far between. MTGO mimicking this environment seems like a good practice.


I had a question though: does the single elim throw off prizing for the league? In competitive constructed, if you lose the first round you can still rattle off four wins and prize. In draft, no such luck. So I decided to run the numbers to see which type of draft league you should be playing in.

Below you will see some list/chart thingys. On the left you’ll see the results (LLW for example), and on the right you’ll see a number which will represent total tickets won. These events pay out in booster packs and play points, but I just equated them to tickets because that’s the most sought after currency. 10 Play Points = 1 Event Ticket (Tix). 1 Booster = 3 Tixs (actually it’s somewhere between 2.7 and 3.2, but I picked the easy number).


Comp League     (W)=hypothetical win/loss

WWW            33

WWL             24  

WL(W)          0

W(L)(L)         0

L(W)(W)       0

L(W)(L)         0

L(L)(W)         0

L(L)(L)           0


Average        7.125 Tixs


You’ll notice that even though there are two situations where you went 2-1 in the draft, you still would end up with nothing by virtue of already being knocked out. Not let’s look at the friendly or “intermediate” league:


Intermediate League

WWW    18

WWL      6

WLW      6

WLL       0

LWW      6

LWL        0

LLW        0

LLL         0


Average       4.5 Tixs


I expected Competitive to be higher still, but not by THAT much. That’s almost three whole tickets. Granted, competitive has a higher entry fee (15 tixs versus 12), so we should compensate for that:

7.125 X 0.8 = 5.7 Adjusted Average

Still higher. Moral of the story: PLAY COMPETITIVE!!!


There are still plenty of reasons to play friendly though. If you still feel new to drafting or you’re still getting your feet wet in a new format, friendly may be more your speed at the moment. Also, if you want to be guaranteed three rounds of limited magic, friendly is the way to go. Full disclosure: As of the time of me writing this I am currently in a friendly league for modern because I blew all my Play Points drafting and I only had 80 left (two bad drafts in a row will do that to ya). There are different leagues for a reason, so you can play whatever you want. But if you want the highest EV possible, play competitive.


But what about the league that copied off of Hearthsto… er, sorry, Single-Game Leagues? What’s the EV there? You may be surprised….

7 Wins (Max) 12

6    10

5    8

4    4

3    2

2    1

1    0

0   0


Average    4.625 Tickets


It should be noted that for Single-Game, all rewards are Play Points only. That being said though, I was VERY surprised to see that the EV for them was higher than friendly leagues. While I am sure these leagues are fun, I want to strongly advise people against playing them too often. If you only ever draft for fun and on MTGO, sure, knock yourself out with these. If you play in paper or competitively, however, single-game matches after a draft could lead to some not-so-best practices. Using picks to pick strong side board options is a skill you need in drafting (especially in the current set with the defeat cycle), and this style completely ignores that and sideboarding entirely. Sideboarding in limited is an underappreciated practice, and if you play a league that eliminates that entirely, you do leave some helpful practice out your draft experience. While the EV may be higher in these leagues than friendly, I’d still draft friendly over these.


Real quick side note: If you want to get Qualifier Points (QPs), then always do competitive. You have to 3-0 a friendly to even get one QP, in competitive you get two for 3-0 and one for 2-1. Single-game leagues offer no QPs.


Before I wrap this up, I want to express one concern that I hope Wizards will look into: I strongly believe that competitive draft leagues should not be single elimination. Single elimination is the most common form of draft, yes, and a competitive single elimination draft is what occurs in the top 8 of PPTQs, RPTQs and Grand Prixs. There is one place though that does not do single elimination drafts: the Pro Tour. The Pro Tour is arguably the biggest stage for competitive Magic, and the lack of single elimination drafts there leads me to be in the camp of them not being on MTGO either. Furthermore, I like to get my three matches in with my decks. Sometimes you really don’t get the full feel for how your deck was after one match, especially if there was mana flood or screw on either side. I am honestly quite curious to hear all of your opinions on this topic, so please reach out @CloudRunner172.


That’s all I got this week. Not sure what I’ll be writing about next week, but I’ll try to have something involving less math for everyone. If you have questions or requests, please let me know. Thanks everyone!


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