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Upgrading the 2020 Challenger Decks

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A little over a week ago, Wizards announced the release of the 2020 Challenger Decks! For those that aren't familiar, Challenger Decks are a Standard-based product that come with 75 cards - a 60-card maindeck and a 15-card sideboard - and are meant to be competitive right out of the box. There are going to be four decks in this year's release, dropping on April 3rd and available here at coolstuffinc.com, and today I want to take a look at them and let you know how you can upgrade them for a reasonable cost, to be more in line with their Standard counterparts! Our goal is to make competitive changes to these decks for under $100. Let's see if we can get there!

Allied Fires


Fires of Invention
This deck is the obvious take on the popular Fires of Invention archetype, and it comes pretty close. The deck has a surprising 22 rares and one mythic in the form of Kenrith, the Returned King, which has been one of the more popular Buy-a-Box promos. This version of the deck is interesting as it seems to utilize Sarkhan the Masterless, along with 10 other planeswalkers, as the main win condition. I think this is actually a pretty solid idea for the Challenger Deck and takes us in a different direction than previous iterations of the Fires archetype.

One thing to mention is that one of the main additions we could make to these decks is improving the mana base. I'm going to assume this goes for all of the decks. For cost considerations, we're probably not going to try and perfect the mana base, but part of our budget will go toward that.

The things I would suggest adding to the deck would be as follows:

That brings the total improvement cost of the deck to $86.92.

Not bad! Again, while most of these improve our ability to cast our spells, bringing us up to two of each shock land (cards that you will continue to use and retain value for a long time), the other additions are cards that grant our creatures haste. One of the main problems I see is that when you cast Sarkhan, you want to be able to attack with it immediately. Or if you put two planeswalkers into play with Fires of Invention, you want to be able to attack with those immediately. Cavalier of Flames and Kenrith, the Returned King both allow you to do this!

I also did take out one land, because I don't think you need 27 for this deck to function. 26 lands seems fine for a deck that tops out at a single six-mana spell and gets to play their cards for free with one of their key Enchantments.

One of the cards we unfortunately couldn't consider was Teferi, Time Raveler, which is kind of a staple in the deck. The problem is that a playset of Teferi runs us about the $100 by himself.

Final Adventure


Lucky Clover
This deck is a take on the bg Adventure deck. This one contains an impressive 23 rares and, again a single mythic rare in the form of Vraska, Golgari Queen. As a two-color deck, however, this one's mana base should be much easier to improve upon. Our curve in this deck is very low, and unlike traditional bg Adventure decks, this one is highly focused on the adventure component, even going so far as to play four Lucky Clovers. I don't really want to change that about the deck, so when it comes time for cuts, I think cards like Knight of the Ebon Legion and Blacklance Paragon, cards that don't really fit that theme, can be the first to go.

I like the idea of adding a couple of copies of Questing Beast ($15.99), but he would be the only four mana card in the deck other than our single Vraska, and maybe we want to keep our costs low. Instead I think we just up the count of Vraska to two, seeing as she's a great way to draw cards and destroy some permanents.

This brings our total changes to $79.91. This one was a bit harder, because adding cards like Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Questing Beast might change the direction of the deck a little too much, and right now, you really want to focus on the Adventure package, adding two more Adventure cards, and shoring up our mana base so we can actually cast our double Black cards.

This deck is actually pretty close to the competitive Standard version, so I wouldn't be too surprised to see it holding its own! I'm trying to mostly add cards that I think you will get value out of in other decks or in the long term, and I think we've been doing okay so far. Let's keep going!

Cavalcade Charge


Cavalcade of Calamity
Remember how we've been trying to tighten up all these multicolored mana bases? Well, this Mono-Red deck doesn't really need much help there! This is your "typical" Cavalcade of Calamity deck, where cards like Cavalcade itself, along with cards like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Scorch Spitter end up doing a ton of work. Unlike some of the other decks, this one actually has an impressive 25 rares, with the customary single mythic in Embercleave.

This deck actually seems pretty easy to adjust. In fact, most of the Cavalcade decks don't really even play Embercleave, presumably because their average creature's power is so low. The deck should definitely be playing the fourth copy of Castle Embereth, and Anax, Hardened in the Forge has become a staple in this archetype for his ability to make at least a 1/1 on his way out. Grim Initiate is another popular 1-drop that not only triggers Cavalcade, but gives us two bodies as well. Finally, I would definitely add the final copy of Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. That leaves us with the following:

This deck was by far the closest one to its competitive counterpart, and as such, didn't require many changes. This brought our change total to only $8.77! That's pretty crazy. I think the only reason they actually included the Embercleave in the deck is because the card is a little over $20 now, and they needed a Red card that would give the deck some value. There also aren't really any other Red mythics that you could include, so that's the only explanation I can think of.

Either way, adding only $10 to get a competitive Standard deck seems like a great deal, even if it is a Red deck, which I'm not often quick to recommend. No matter what my preferred play style, I will definitely admit that the Cavalcade deck can 100% hold its own in the metagame. We added an extra land, because 21 seems low when we have four copies of a four-drop. I also don't see Bonecrusher Giant in many lists, because it doesn't actually go well with Cavalcade. Similarly, while Rimrock Knight is a cute pump spell, it also doesn't work well with Cavalcade. We really want to maximize our Cavalcade triggers here, especially with four copies of Torbran!

Finally, the last deck.

Flash of Ferocity


Brazen Borrower
Another deck in Standard right now that's actually somewhat cheap to create is the ug Flash deck. It doesn't have a ton of expensive cards in it, other than Brazen Borrower, who has basically become the new Oko in terms of chase mythics from the set since the latter was banned. In this deck we're looking at only 19 rares and one Brazen Borrower as our mythic.

The funny thing about the ug Flash deck is that it's kind of evolved. The deck doesn't really exist in the metagame anymore; the decks that have replaced it are closer to a ug Midrange deck, with things like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Hydroid Krasis, or a deck like Temur Reclamation, which basically just doubles down on the "casting things at instant speed" theme.

Unfortunately, adding things like Uro or Krasis would go over our budget far too quickly, but you're welcome to do so if you'd like! This is still really close to the original ug Flash deck, and I'm much more interested in making it a little closer to that list.

These upgrades total out at $83.16. This deck has a ton of uu and gg requirements, including a creature that is literallyuugg. As such, it is vital that we have at least a couple Breeding Pools. The cards that are really bottlenecking us here are Brazen Borrower and Breeding Pool, as we ideally want four of both, but they're also about $25 each. As such, we can likely make do with two and two for now, but that's a good upgrade to consider moving forward. This is also the first deck that I upgraded with a sideboard card, but I think Mystical Dispute is just that good right now.

It's not surprising that this deck is close to the highest total in upgrades, because Blue and Green cards have been at bonkers prices for ages in Standard. In a perfect world we would add a couple more, but I do think this deck looks great as is.

Guys, that's all four of the Challenger Decks, and some awesome upgrades you can make to them, all for under $100, that can make them even more competitive! And I'll be honest, these actually surprised me with how close they were to their metagame counterparts. These seem good, and the upgrades should allow you to sleeve up and throw down at FNM without much trouble. They're not going to be perfect, but I was definitely impressed; I wasn't expecting an average of 21 rares or so in each deck. That's a good amount!

Either way, I would love to hear what you think. Let me know in the comments what you think of the Challenger Decks, and what you think of the upgrades I've proposed! I'd love to hear your thoughts down below. As always, love you guys, use promo code FRANK5 for 5% off - especially if you're picking up any of the Challenger Decks or their suggested upgrades - and I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore

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