A Close Look at the New Standard Challenger Decks

Today, Wizards announced a new product intended to help new players get into Standard for the bargain price of $30. It’s been a long time since the Event Decks, and they’re finally back.

People were getting discouraged with Standard after yet another B&R that saw four cards banned, though Wizards is appears to be taking the issue much more seriously, after hiring several pros to test the format and ensure that sets like Kaladesh won’t happen ever again.

These Challenger Decks are a gesture toward new players, who now can get into the format with an inexpensive, competitive deck you could reasonably play at an FNM or PPTQ.

Let’s take a look at them:

Hazoret Aggro

Mono-Red Aggro is one of the tier 1 decks of the current Standard, a linear deck that involves plenty of combat, and burn spells to finish your opponent off.

The most recent B&R eliminated Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon, justified by the fact that while apparently Mono-Red was an underdog vs. Temur Energy, it was the best deck against anything else. I support this thesis. In Team Unified Standard at the 2017 World Magic Cup, Adriano Moscato, the Italian Mono-Red player, went 7-1, losing only a mirror match, in a format where Temur Energy was impossible to build.

Wizards chose not to ban Hazoret the Fervent to keep the archetype alive, and very much powerful, a wise move that I really liked.

Marcio Carvalho took down the recent MOCS Playoff, piloting Mono-Red. Despite the banning, it remains one of the best decks you can play in this format.

To improve the list, you can add 4 Earthshaker Khenra and more Hazorets—the deck’s most problematic card.

From a monetary perspective, Hazoret Aggro is a great deal! Chandra, Torch of Defiance is $32 and Hazoret the Fervent $24. And you’ll have both plus numerous rares and uncommons for just $30!

Vehicle Rush

Mardu Vehicles is another top deck that’s been around for more than a year. Toolcraft Exemplar into Heart of Kiran isn’t an easy curve to beat for any deck.

The mana base is where this deck struggles the most, but Unlicensed Disintegration is one of the best removal spell that you can have in your aggressive deck.

You get a great deal here, too! Heart of Kiran is $7.50, and just with the 4 copies of those, you get your money back!

To make this deck better, I’d advise again that you pick up at least a pair of Hazorets, a great card in any aggressive deck that wants to curve out and have a burn plan B.

Second Sun Control

U/W Control has always been viable, and Approach of the Second Sun is definitely the way to build it here. Counters and removal spells get you to the late game where you’ll reign supreme.

From a monetary perspective, this deck is worth less than the previous two, but it’s also the closest to being a complete tier 1 list.

To improve it, I’d add some Search for Azcanta and Settle the Wreckage, the first is the best engine for control decks, and the second is necessary in a world of The Scarab God and Rekindling Phoenix.

Counter Surge

B/G Snake has been a popular archetype since Winding Constrictor was printed, and gets better every time a new counter-related card is released.

The dream curve Winding Constrictor plus Rishkar, Peema Renegade never gets old.

Captain America himself, Reid Duke, played this deck at the latest MOCS Playoff, but added some explore cards such as Jadelight Ranger, Merfolk Branchwalker, and Seekers’ Squire. I’m not sure which version I like better. I’m addicted to Glint-Sleeve Siphoner so I would stick to the energy mechanic.

If you want to make the deck better, I’d advise picking up some copies of Fatal Push and Walking Ballista, since you want to combo off as much as possible with your counters strategy.

From a monetary perspective, this deck is another great deal. An infinite number of rares to start your Standard experience at just $30.

This was a great move by Wizards to reinvigorate enthusiasm for Standard in stores. Buying a deck and seeing it banned is the biggest fear for every Magic player, and the bans of the past year made it a reality.

I’m sure Wizards won’t make any of those mistakes again, and I’m positive that we’ll have some great, diverse, and interactive Standard formats—and now, thanks to these Challenger decks, players can get started right away!

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