Is Trial of the Planes for You?
Is Trial of the Planes for You?
Many of you would have noticed the event Trial of the Planes (TotP) which appears on weekdays and is restricted to only one colour for each day. You will also have noticed that it has a 60 Crystal entry fee and may wonder whether the rewards are worth the entry fee. This guide will work out the math for you.
(For the side question of whether Across Ixalan is worth joining, see this post)
What is Trial of the Planes?
TotP was an event introduced shortly after the introduction of Mana Jewels to the game. Mana Jewels are the currency designated by the developers for end-game players to have an easier path to pursue the Mythics and Masterpieces available in-game. They are used mainly for purchasing packs from the Masterpiece Collection although there are occasionally special offers available for purchase in Jewels as well.
The event consists of 4 nodes, each with 3 charges. Winning in the first node unlocks the second node, winning in the second unlocks the third, and winning in the third unlocks the fourth and final node. There are no secondary objectives for the nodes; just aim to win. Unlike the other events, you are allowed to change your planeswalker for each node in-between matches and you can use the same planeswalker for multiple nodes if you wish.
Each node except the first will also have their own special rules making the matches more challenging than normal. The special rules benefit the AI player only. The effects for each node are:
Second Node (Hard Node): Opponent is Enraged (deals double damage to you) after 5 rounds.
Third Node (Heroic Node): Opponent is Supercharged (mana gains before mana bonuses are doubled) after 5 rounds.
Fourth Node (Legendary Node): Opponent is Enraged, Supercharged and draws 2 cards per turn after 3 rounds.
Each win earns you 5 points whereas Progression caps out at 40 points and there are no Ranking rewards. So at 4 nodes of 3 charges each, you have a buffer of 4 games to earn maximum rewards in each Trial of the Planes event. If you manage to lose 1 game or less, you can avoid the Legendary node entirely and still hit maximum Progression.
TotP was introduced as an avenue for players to have a regular means of earning Jewels (though at the expense of a Crystal entry fee). TotP hence is the best non-coalition event to partake in if one wants to earn Jewels quickly. But bear in mind that is a separate issue from whether TotP is worth joining for you at your current stage of MTGPQ. To evaluate that, we first need to determine the extent of one’s card collection.
Stages of Card Collection
Fresh: These are players who have barely
collected any cards in a particular set. For simplicity's sake we will assume
that most Bronze and some Silver players fall into this category until late
into the set's life.
Intermediate: These are players who have the majority of the Commons and Uncommons, some of the Rares and maybe a handful of Mythics. We will assume that some Silver, Gold and Platinum players will fall into this category until the next set comes along.
Incomplete: There are players who have essentially all the Commons, Uncommons and possibly even Rares and are primarily hunting the Mythics (and masterpieces if applicable) in a set. We will assume that many Platinum players fall in this category along with some high-performing Gold players.
At all levels of the game, a major appeal of MTGPQ to players is getting new cards.
When you have no or few cards in a set, the best way to get new cards is
through opening new Premium Packs. This is because you stand the chance to loot
new cards from all rarities: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Mythic, and Masterpiece (if
the set has Masterpieces). When a new set is released, it is the same situation
for everyone. However, as a player collects a greater and greater percentage of
the set, the odds of getting a new card decreases. Nothing surprising.
At some point, the player gets such a high rate of duplicates (ie. such a low rate of procuring new cards) that it is no longer ideal to keep spending Crystals on Premium Packs. That point is where Jewels are supposed to come in. With the different rarities, inevitably the bulk of the yet unobtained cards will be from the Mythic (and/or Masterpiece) rarity. So let’s see whether TotP helps one to have a higher chance of looting new cards.
Reward Structure for TotP
|5||5-card booster||5-card booster||5-card booster||5-card booster|
|10||250 Runes||500 Runes||750 Runes||2 Jewels|
|15||500 Runes||750 Runes||1 Jewel||3 Jewels|
|20||750 Runes||1 Jewel||2 Jewels||4 Jewels|
|25||1 Jewel||2 Jewels||3 Jewels||5 Jewels|
|30||2 Jewels||3 Jewels||4 Jewels||6 Jewels|
|40||3 Jewels||4 Jewels||5 Jewels||30 Crystals|
Opportunity Costs – TotP vs Premium Pack vs Weekly Bundle
In order to simplify our calculations, we will assume that the player will always achieve maximum Progression rewards. As TotP has an entry fee in Crystals, we will compare it against the two best options for spending Crystals on for obtaining cards: the Premium Pack and the Weekly Bundle. The Weekly Bundle is a once-per-week purchase for 600 Crystals giving 2 Premium Packs of the latest set and a 5-card Colour Pack, and can be found under the Specials tab of the Vault. For parity in cost (300 Crystals), we will compare playing a week of Trial of Planes to a Premium Pack or half a Weekly Bundle.
This helps us to figure out the opportunity cost of participating in TotP. What could one otherwise have spent the Crystals on? We aren’t comparing to purchasing planeswalkers for Crystals as the decision to spend Crystals on cards or planeswalkers should already have been made before moving on to decide which option to spend on to procure more cards.
Now the opportunity cost is different for players from each category due to the differing expected gains from a Premium Pack as well as the different rewards for different Mastery Tiers. Let's look at Incomplete players for the most straightforward example. All calculations will be based on octal9's data as it is the largest database currently available.
Expected Returns Comparison - Incomplete Category
Premium Pack: This yields 25 cards giving you approximately a 21% of drawing 1 or more Mythics, which probably means a 10 - 20% chance of drawing one or more new cards. Plus a guaranteed Rare which is likely to be a duplicate. To get a 50% chance of drawing a Mythic, you need to open 3 Premium Packs (50.7%) and that's with the chance of getting a duplicate. In short, Premium Packs are terrible value for Incomplete players.
Half a Weekly Bundle: The only difference between this option and a Premium Pack is that you gain 2.5 more cards from half a Colour Pack which increases the chance of a Mythic to approximately 22.5%.
Trial of the Planes: This gives you the same number of cards as a Premium Pack, hence giving you the same odds for drawing a Mythic or new card as a Premium Pack. So, the difference is the guaranteed Rare versus the other rewards which for 5 x Trial of Planes are:
Platinum: 100 Jewels & 150 Crystals
This is 25% of a Mythic+ Pack from the Masterpiece Collection and a 50% rebate on the Crystal cost. Not only do you double your chances of drawing a Mythic (bearing in mind you are getting a 21% chance of a Mythic or more from the 5 packs from TotP and 25% of a Mythic+ Pack in Jewels), you halve the price of your purchase with the Crystal rebate. All this at the expense of losing a guaranteed Rare which is at a high chance of being a duplicate for an Incomplete player anyway.
Gold: 75 Jewels & 3,750 Runes
This is 18.8% of a Mythic+ Pack and a negligible amount of Runes. So your chance of drawing a Mythic or new card almost doubles. You’ll be devoting somewhere in the range of 3 to 5 hours each week to earning this advantage. Being also in the Incomplete category, your trade-off is the loss of a guaranteed Rare which was likely to be a duplicate anyway.
All in all, TotP is a great option for Incomplete players. It is the best option for Platinum players and a viable option for Gold players who seek to spend more time and effort on the game to get a better chance of rewards.
Expected Returns Comparison - Fresh Category
Premium Pack: A Premium Pack is likely to give a Fresh player 5+ to double digits of new cards. So lots of new cards and a guaranteed Rare too.
Half a Weekly Bundle: An additional 2.5 more cards opened over the Premium Pack option. Even better.
Trial of the Planes: Bear in mind that this gives the player an equal number of packs and hence an equal number of new cards as the Premium Pack excluding the guaranteed rare. The additional benefits reaped are:
Silver: 50 Jewels & 6,250 Runes
As a Fresh player, a chance to loot Rares matters still. So we look at the Rare+ Pack for which 50 Jewels is 41.7%. Those proportions aren't exactly close to the guaranteed Rare from the Premium Pack (and the 2.5 bonus cards from the Weekly Bundle). 50 Jewels is also 12.5% of a Mythic+ Pack which put another way is sacrificing 8 Rare draws for a single Mythic/Masterpiece. That translates to a two-month wait to accumulate enough Jewels for a Mythic+ pack solely from TotP, in which time additional new Rares could have helped to round out a player’s collection and possibly improve their Event performances for greater rewards.
Bronze: 30 Jewels & 7,500 Runes
For a Fresh player in Bronze, the numbers become 25% of a Rare+ Pack or 7.5% of a Mythic+ Pack. It’s a sacrifice of 13 Rare draws for a single Mythic/Masterpiece which is a three-month wait to accumulate enough Jewels for a Mythic+ pack solely from TotP. So the effect is magnified.
As for the Runes, they are actually negligible because the player has to win 40 matches of TotP to obtain all the Progression rewards for 5 TotP events. With 100 Runes per win, that's 11,500 Runes for the Bronze player and 10,250 Runes for the Silver player. If the player instead chose to play and win 40 matches in Story Mode - Heroic Encounters, they would earn, at 250 Runes per win, 10,000 Runes at no risk. That additional 1,500/250 Runes from picking TotP hardly matters.
Hence TotP doesn’t look too good for a Fresh player unless they are desperate to earn more Jewels for some reason.
Expected Returns Comparison - Intermediate Category
The main difference between this category and the previous ones is really that the Intermediate player still has decent chances of looting new cards from opening typical packs and still has some chance of the guaranteed Rare from Premium Packs and Weekly Bundles being a new card.
While this does not change the conclusion for Intermediate players in Silver or Bronze and Platinum, Intermediate players in Gold have to think whether the gradual build-up to a guaranteed Mythic/Masterpiece is worth the trade-off of looting less guaranteed Rares and the bonus cards from the Weekly Bundle.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Once in a while, the developers may have a special discounted week of Trial of the Planes going at a 30 Crystal entry fee. Under this special case, TotP is worth playing for all tiers. Even for Bronze, 150 Crystals for 5 x 5-card packs is a good discount on a Premium Pack at the expense of a guaranteed Rare. Any additional wins are just a bonus.
Newbie Guide: Setting Expectations for MTG:PQ
Is Trial of the Planes for You?