Making the jump from the kitchen table to competitive play in Magic: the Gathering is daunting. It can be prohibitively expensive and experienced players can crush you with strategies you've never seen.
Wizards of the Coast are introducing new Challenger decks to make that jump a little easier.
Building a deck is part of the fun of Magic. You find some cards you like, find some cards that work with them together and fine tune it until you've got something that works.
When you're playing casually this isn't too difficult. You and your friends are often on an equal footing and can happily piece together decks from booster packs and trades. Moving to a more competitive environment, like Friday Night Magic, makes deckbuilding a little more daunting.
Cracking packs isn't going to get you the cards you need to keep up with other players. You could buy the cards individually from the secondary market but that path can be prohibitively expensive. Especially if you're trying to play Standard - a rotating format that only allows cards from the most recent sets.
Enter the Challenger decks. Four pre-constructed Magic: the Gathering decks designed to give you a start in Standard.
This isn't the first time that Wizards of the Coast have released pre-constructed decks for players to use. The old Event decks were also designed for people to get people into Standard but due to long product lead times and other issues, they just weren't up to the job.
"Traditionally, pre-built decks like these are made well in advance, but we certainly wanted to consider the metagame, rotation and even bans when making these," said Gavin Verhey, Senior Game Designer Magic: The Gathering.
"Our main learning from past designs such as Event decks ties into that, as well: designing so far in advance meant that decks and metagames wouldn’t look like what players were actually playing upon release. Considering all that, we altered the standard process for these so that they could be built much closer to release. "
The Challenger decks aren't on the cutting edge of the metagame but they're a great starting point for people wanting to play in Friday Night Magic or Standard Showdowns at their friendly local game store.
The four decks cover a range of strategies, from highly aggressive beatdown to a slow control deck, so there's something to suit most tastes. Each deck contains 75 cards (60 card main deck, 15 card sideboard) and is ready to go right out of the box.
"The design intent for these was to make some of the most powerful strategies in standard more readily available on local game store shelves. A key goal was to appeal to a broad audience of players and ensure that every player has a deck for them – this is why they feature a range of playstyles and colours."
Most importantly the decks follow good deckbuilding principles. There's four copies of the important cards to ensure consistency and these cards aren't draft chaff either. They're highly sought after cards like Heart of Kiran, so there's quite a lot of value.
Even if you'd prefer to build your own deck, the Challenger decks are a good starting point to learn some of the strategies in the current metagame.
Challenger decks will be available from April 6 for $44.95. You can view the current decklists here.