New Challenger Deck Makes Magic More Accessible

Hazoret the Fervent Image: Wizards of the Coast

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.


    Ah, it's an Egyptian styles wolf mask, not a great white shark priestess.

    would these decks be a good entry point for a beginner?

      I am going to jump the gun and say yes. That is unless your local Magic community is super competitive and are a bunch of dicks, but most cases they are new player friendly.
      To give you and idea aswell, that red aggro decklist was basically the top 8 deck for a while.

      Last edited 23/03/18 8:13 am

      The entire point of them is that they are the basis for a tournament-quality deck which is completely made up of cards that are valid in the Standard format (Standard pulls from the most recent blocks of expansions only).

      I'd say yes, but the decks might be harder for a beginner to grasp how to play - they're more designed for players that want to get into current Standard so they have cards relevant to the current meta. Not sure if they'll come with a beginner's guide to the game or anything.

      WotC also makes "planeswalker" decks which are more noob-oriented. These come with a preconstructed deck, a how to play guide, and there are two boosters inside as well. They're also quite a bit cheaper (the Challenger decks have guaranteed Mythic Rare cards so are more expensive, and will probably be hard to obtain cheaply close to launch)

      If you don't want a preconstructed deck and want to build your own, they also make what's called a 'Bundle' (previously a 'Fat Pack'). Each major expansion set has a Bundle/Fat Pack available. This contains 10 booster packs (9 prior to Amonkhet), a set of 80 land cards (16 of each type) a 20-sided spindown die used for tracking your life total, and a how-to-play booklet. It's the most expensive entry product but it's also a great way to get started. In particular having a stock of Land cards is helpful when you're first building a deck, and you'll get enough cards of each color from the boosters that you can definitely put something together. This is probably the best option if you've got another player that can teach you how to play.

      The most recent sets are Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan, but if the more Egyptian theme of Amonkhet / Hour of Devastation appeals to you keep an eye out for those. I wouldn't go any earlier than that as the older sets are going to roll out of Standard very soon. Your other option would be to wait a few weeks and pick up one of the Planeswalker decks or the Bundle from the new set Dominaria, which releases in May.

      Either way, I'd encourage you to look around a few Friendly Local Games Stores. Most of them will have a regular Magic crew. Friday Night Magic is often a thing, and they also sometimes have pre-arranged beginner's events and so on. There are usually people that are happy to teach newcomers. Even if your local stores don't run anything themselves they can probably point you toward places that do. This will also give you the chance, once you know the basics, to participate in Limited format games - Booster Drafts (groups open packs together, pick a card and pass the remainder to the next player) and Sealed (you get a small number of packs to open, build a deck and play) are both extremely fun formats especially when you're starting out and don't have a massive library of expensive rare cards to make a tournament deck from. IMO Limited is the most fun way to play the game.

    These decks are actually pretty solid, from a standard point of view. A great starting point for anyone coming back to standard or a beginner.

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