Magic: The Gathering’s 2019 Challenger Decks Deconstructed

Challenger Decks, Magic, MtG, Tips and Tricks -

Magic: The Gathering’s 2019 Challenger Decks Deconstructed

We’ve seen a fantastic surge of new players in the store, and when a player wants to start heading to a Friday Night Magic it is very easy for them to be overwhelmed by the sheer speed and power of a constructed format. Having a preconstructed deck that people can pick up and play out of the box and it be powerful enough to compete is a fantastic boon to stores running events. These were extremely successful last year and I’m glad that Wizards of the Coast have seen the value in making these decks again.

What I’m planning to do here is to break down the decks, show the pros and cons of each and give my suggestions on how to improve the deck. First I’ll suggest what the first four cards I’d add would be if there was no budget, then I’ll say how I would improve the deck with a budget in mind.

United Assault

Mono white decks have been a favourite of top pro teams ever since Benalish Marshal was printed and have been represented by a host of famous Magic players. Here's a slight variation on the deck that did so well in Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, piloted by several players that made it to the top 8, including one of Magic's all time great players Luis Scott Vargas (LSV). I mention him because this is closer to his deck than any other that made the top 8 that day.

It's pros are that it is extremely aggressive, mono-coloured, and will punish any opponent looking to durdle. It can also race other aggro decks extremely well with the amount of life gain the deck has.

The cons are that once you run out of gas the deck doesn't have any reach that other aggressive decks have.

Everything's going to be all white
Creature (29) Instant (3) Enchantment (7) Land (21)
  • 21 Plains

Sideboard (15)

Top tips for improving the deck: Add 2 History of Benalia, 1 Legion's Landing and 1 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants.

Budget tips for improving the deck: Add Tithe Taker, Unbreakable Formation, Venerated Loxodon and Snubhorn Sentry and take out the life gain sub-theme. It makes the deck more resilient and consistent at the cost of a tiny bit of synergy.

Lightning Aggro

Last year's mono red entry to the challenger decks was by far the most popular, giving players access to a Hazoret and a Chandra, Torch of Defiance. And whilst this years entry doesn't quite have the same hype about value, it actually more closely resembles a fully competitive deck. At least the main deck, anyway.

The pros of this deck are similar to the United Assault deck discussed earlier. It's aggressive, mono-coloured, and punishes slow decks, and it has a lot of reach that the mono white deck doesn't with 32 points of damage at instant speed, incidental damage on creatures like Viashino Pyromancer and Goblin Chainwhirler add to that and you can win a game of Magic without event attacking. Anyone who's seen Runaway Steam-Kin and Experimental Frenzy on the same board can attest to how much reach this deck has.

The cons are that you aren't quite is quick as the mono white deck, and a lot of your opponents will have life gain in their main deck and even more in their sideboard. Your opponent gaining 9 or 12 life in a game makes little difference to the go wide strategy of mono white, it probably amounts to 1 more turn of attacking, whereas it takes much longer to recuperate that tempo loss in mono red. Also the sideboard is a shambles and it looks like they stuck 15 cards in as placeholders and forgot to change them.

Burn baby burn
Creature (21) Sorcery (3) Instant (12) Enchantment (2) Land (22)
  • 22 Mountain
Sideboard (15)

Top tips for improving the deck: 2 Experimental Frenzy, 2 Treasure Map for the sideboard. But the most important thing, honestly, is completely rebuilding the sideboard.

Budget tips for improving the deck: Light Up the Stage is incredibly powerful and I've seen lists that run them instead of Frenzy alongside a Risk Factor or two.

Deadly Discovery

This deck. Wow. So let me start out that whilst the most played deck in the format by statistics is Sultai (black, blue and green) aggro, and of the two ways that I've seen this list built, most have one single blue card in the main, 3 or 4 Hydroid Krasis, and has some blue support from the sideboard. The rest of the deck looks incredibly similar to this list and the shell is certainly almost identical.

The pros are that you have so much staying power and card selection. The Jadelight Ranger, Merfolk Brachwalker, Wildgrowth Walker package can take over games on their own, especially against aggressive strategies. Your deck is also chock full of value plays, with Ravenous Chupacabra And The Eldest Reborn backed up by the incredibly powerful Find//Finality. Also it comes with a shock land.

The cons are that this shell has been proven now to work best in the Sultai package. And upgrading this deck to become the Sultai deck is going to take a lot of your hard earned cash. Hydroid Krasis and a whole host of land that enable you to be in three colours (Breeding Pool, Hinterland Harbor etc) are some of the more expensive cards in standard. And whilst this deck is not a bad deck, and I fully expect that a player could win an FNM with it, it seems to be need more money invested in it than the others to make it truly top tier.

Explore your inner Golgari mage
Planeswalker (1) Creature (27) Sorcery (2) Instant (4) Enchantment (3) Land (23)

Sideboard (15)

Top tips for improving the deck: 2 Jadelight Ranger and 2 Vraska's Contempt.

Budget tips for improving the deck: Midnight Reaper and Thrashing Brontodon (sideboard) do a lot of work in a lot of matches, and upgrading the Golden Demise to Cry of the Carnarium means that those pesky X/1s and X/2s stay dead.

Arcane Tempo

This deck is the one that will sell out first everywhere. At the time of announcement there were $120 value of cards in a $29.99 MSRP set. Does that mean that this is the best deck out of the box, though? Well, the answer is yes and no, and it completely depends on what you want from your sealed product.

A lot of the discussion is going to around the Arclight Phoenix, a card that is currently being played heavily in eternal formats. If you're looking for a deck to play at your local game store on a Friday night in standard then I would say that the other decks would be better. Firstly because the deck complexity is much higher in this than the others, and it is a product aimed at players who don't have competitive decks. Secondly because, similar to the discussion on the Deadly Discovery deck, it will take a lot of cash to upgrade the deck (at the time of writing) because if you want to play a Phoenix deck you need 4 of them. Their value is definitely going to come down a little, but don't be surprised if it doesn't stay there for too long after these products sell out.

If you are a player who likes value, though, then this is undoubtedly the best product. Of all the mythic rare cards in the challenger decks this year, Arclight Phoenix is the only one that doesn't rotate out at the next rotation, and the deck has a lot of premium uncommon cards with Chart a Course and Lava Coil both demanding roughly the same price as the boosters they came in.

Anyway, the deck, it looks like it lands somewhere in between two very similar top tier decks. The Izzet Phoenix deck that this is supposed to resemble, and Izzet Drakes. With Goblin Electromancer typically in the Phoenix decks and Dive Down lending itself to the Drakes strategy.

Gone in the blink of an eye
Creature (13) Sorcery (9) Instant (15)
Enchantment (1) Land (22) Sideboard (15)

Top tips for improving the deck: 3 Arclight Phoenix and 1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy.

Budget tips for improving the deck: Sell the Arclight Phoenix to fund as many Steam Vents as possible and add Enigma Drakes and Pteramanders to make it an Izzet Drakes deck


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