Arena Grinding: Ranked Ladder or Constructed Events?
Tyler dives into the world of competitive grinding on MTG: Arena and evaluates the pros and cons of both ways of playing. Learn what style might work best for you.
Different strokes for different folks
Between Constructed Events, Ranked Ladder, Weekend Special Events, Best of One, Best of Three, Premier Draft, Quick Draft, Sealed, Brawl, Historic, Standard, Explorer, Alchemy — There are a lot of different formats and playstyles on MTG Arena and sometimes it’s hard to know which is the best use of your time. Here at PlayingExplorer.com, we obviously recommend Explorer Constructed as the format of choice (since we can’t yet play Pioneer) – and regardless of whether it’s Best of One or Best of Three, you eventually need to decide which is more worth your time: Constructed Events or Ranked Ladder?
Constructed Events are competitive MTG Arena formats with an entry fee of gold or gems. These formats end after a number of wins or losses and reward you based on the results. A recent change with the launch of Streets of New Capenna has now made it so that you can earn Play-In Qualifier points whenever you complete a Constructed Event with a perfect record. You can use 20 of those points to play in Play-In qualifiers for a chance to qualify for the Invitational qualifier at the end of each month. This has made them that much more interesting as of late.
If you are coming from MTGO, Events on MTGA are a lot like leagues, in that there is an entry fee and a set number of games; five in “Traditional” (best-of-three) and seven in best-of-one.
Similar to other modern eSport-style video games, Ranked Ladder play is defined by its seasons that run monthly and categorizes everyone by their record into six tiers (bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond and mythic). This queue type is completely free-to-play. The top 250 Mythic-ranked competitors at the end of a season are invited for a future qualifier event. Players that finish the season in Mythic 251st – 1200th now also qualify for a play-in qualifier (which is similar to a last chance qualifier for paper events) that give you just that – a final opportunity to qualify for the end of season’s pre-determined invitational tournament. Based on where you finish in rankings, you will also be rewarded with an end-of-season prize, though — spoiler alert – they are a little lackluster and don’t vary wildly between the tiers considering the vast difference in time and effort it takes to finish in higher tiers.
These two different ways to play are sometimes debated as to which is the better time-sink and which is more “worth it.” The truth is, I think that the only person that can decide that for you is you. Everyone is going to look at these playstyles differently – and you have to decide which kind of player you are.
When it comes to rewards, Constructed Events have the opportunity to present you with a far better value in prizes if you are an above average player. Going 50% or better in an event will immediately win you your gold investment back – but anything better will net you a surplus of gold. Going 7-0 or 7-1 will provide you with four times your investment and net you a sweet screenshot for your Twitter or Discord so that you can brag to all of your friends about how great you or your deck are! That said, all of these events do cost something – gold or gems. You can’t always win and whenever you lose, you run the risk of actually losing something. These events can dry up your account’s gold and gems rather quickly if you are having a bad day. They don’t give you the same renown that Ranked Ladder might and, unfortunately, if you’re looking to become a better player – the truth is that you likely won’t see as many consistently “skilled players” in these Events as you would at the tops of the Ranked Ladder system. This can be a boon because winning is fun, but it might also hold back your development as a competitive player.
I believe there’s quite a few reasons for you to try the Ranked Ladder system on MTGA. First of all, it’s completely free! Every. Single. Game. Additionally, the Ranked Ladder system has the ability to quickly humble you or completely validate just how great you think you are – spend a month playing your best Magic and see exactly where you stand. No, really, the system will categorize you and/or give you a numbered ranking so that you know exactly where you rank amongst MTG’s elite (even if that’s in the middle of the Bronze tier – oops). If you rank in the top 250 Mythic players, you’ll be invited to compete in an Invitational Qualifier the following month and receive a chance to win some better prizes! Not to mention the recognition. If you’re any kind of MTG content creator, then being able to claim Mythic Status on MTGA has the direct capability to draw more attention towards you which can result in more views, more clicks, more likes, and more confidence! Diamond and Mythic rank both have very consistent/competitive players that will give you the best access to competitive playtesting on the platform – and this information will give you an idea of the format’s true meta, even in paper (at least more so than a Constructed Event will). Unfortunately, however, it is a big time-commitment. Once you pass Gold rank, every win has the same progression as every loss, which means you need to consistently be better than 50% at all times to climb the ladder. This is easier said than done. Especially for that guy in your Discord who is always talking about winning but never sharing any screenshots – you can’t fake it, the client knows! Not to mention that the prize payout for anyone outside of the top 1200 Mythic Players is simply not worth the time you put in. Five packs and a few cosmetics? For one month’s worth of free time? Come on Wizards!
Pros and Cons
Naturally, there are pros and cons to both playstyles. So, let’s take a look at each style with a simple breakdown so I can help you figure out which one is best suited for you.
A Constructed Event player will be more at home if they have come from MTGO or a more traditional Magic background – tournaments, tournaments, tournaments! X-2 is a term every competitive Magic player knows and loves, and this mindset translates directly into Constructed Events.
1. Better prizes
2. Less time to play
3. Similar feel to MTGO Leagues
1. Costs Gold or Gems to play
2. Potential for lower quality competition
3. No status or renown
Ranked Ladder players on the other hand, are often those “spike” competitive grinders that seek glory and celebrity! No matter how you cut it, if you’re looking to be considered a fierce competitor — it seems that playing the Ranked Ladder on MTG Arena is the consensus.
1. Play completely for free
2. Highest accolades/credibility available
3. Highest level of competition
1. Month-long time investment
2. Very poor prize structure
3. Only Top 1200 Mythic players worldwide qualify for what everyone is vying for
I think that if all you’re looking for is to play Magic, have fun and grow your account – then you’re better off playing Constructed Events. If your goal however is to be the best of the best – then knuckle up and grind that ladder. Win big and take everything that comes with it! Just don’t be that guy at the end of the season when you didn’t make it and don’t have many prizes to show for it! If you hit a bad month, remember to take everything in moderation! Don’t quit Arena outright just because you missed the Mythic top cut – instead maybe play a little bit less the following month and grind some Constructed Events! Grow your account and level your head. Your mental health is the most important thing and it’s very hard to grind at that level month after month. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
As always, don’t forget to complete your daily quests! Stack your wildcards and gold as much as possible – and always be fearless in the Arena!