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Predicting Modern Challenger Decks


The Standard Challenger decks are just around the corner and have generally been pretty successful. They embody a new Wizards of the Coast that is not afraid to reprint expensive cards in a Constructed deck and even include 4 copies of integral cards. With the announcement that Masters sets are being put on hold for the near future there is some speculation as to what new outlets will be used to reprint Modern cards. In this article I want to take a look at what a Modern Challenger deck could be and what I think are likely candidates for a Challenger deck.

While there is no theoretical price point, my gut says that the most reasonable price for a Modern Challenger deck is probably a minimum of $80. It's significantly cheaper than even the most inexpensive Modern deck but not too cheap that it would immediately tank all of the cards inside of it. Other than price, the most important part of the Challenger deck is you need to be able to provide a functional Magic deck. While the Mono-Red Challenger deck didn't have 4 copies of Chandra and Hazoret in it, it did have all of the supporting pieces necessary. There are a few options that could support mostly complete decks and a few decks that could be printed in their entirety with no problem. The focus would be on decks with lower cost rares and largely made from commons and uncommons with a few chase rares to make the whole package worth it. The second most important thing is that the deck is a good introductory deck to Modern. What I mean by this is it should probably be a deck that doesn't have any weird idiosyncrasies that would make for a bad experience for a newer player. Consequently I think "cheap to buy but difficult to play" decks like Dredge are probably unlikely to be included as a Challenger deck. The last thing to consider with a Challenger deck is how much of the deck is included in other decks and will ultimately help the price of the cards. While there aren't a ton of decks with a lot of overlap, there should be some conscious decisions to include cards that can help other decks. As it stands, I think the decks that have the best chance to become Challenger decks are burn, storm, and tron.

Arid Mesa
Burn is a very straight forward deck. Even the most novice pilot can figure out how to have some success. Outside of Arid Mesa and Goblin Guide, the entirety of the deck is quite cheap. This is a good deck to include a new art Lightning Bolt to help bolster some of the value of the deck and bring desirable reprints for other decks. I don't think it's unreasonable to include a few Wooded Foothills, Arid Mesa, and Bloodstained Mire to give it the fetch-shock mana base it needs but also include more mana producing lands so it doesn't include 10 fetches. My expectation would be 2 of each fetch and then some number of Inspiring Vantage, Sacred Foundry, Stomping Ground, and Mountain. I'd expect a full set of Eidolon of the Great Revel and maybe 2 Goblin Guide to accompany 2 Grim Lavamancer and 4 Monastery Swiftspear. Most decks don't play many or any lavamancers in the main deck but they're a reasonable substitute here. As far as burn spells, I would be surprised if any less than 4 copies of Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, Searing Blaze, Lightning Helix, and Boros Charm. The sideboards of many of these decks vary a lot but my expectation would be some number of Destructive Revelry, Ensnaring Bridge, Path to Exile, Skullcrack, Rest in Peace, and Surgical Extraction. At $80 I don't think it's unreasonable to include all of these cards in this list in some capacity.

Storm is not as straightforward as burn but as far as combo decks go in Modern, it's pretty straightforward. If you can count you can probably play Storm. There are two major variations of Storm from a pricing perspective. The fetchless version is about $350 less than the fetch version which hinges a lot on the fact that Scalding Tarn is $90. If Wizards sees this as a good opportunity to reprint Scalding Tarn then they may include some but they're ultimately not necessary for the deck so they may choose not to. After Tarn, the most expensive card in the deck is Manamorphose and will assuredly be included. I don't expect it to include any less than 4 of Sleight of Hand, Serum Visions, Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Gifts Ungiven, Opt, Baral, Chief of Compliance, and Goblin Electromancer. They're all necessary cards for the deck to function. The deck also plays smaller amounts of Past in Flames, Grapeshot, and Empty the Warrens and I expect them to be included as well. Storm sideboards are often a mish mash of cards that aren't particularly expensive so I wouldn't expect a lot of reprint help there. Ultimately I don't think a storm deck would be particularly helpful for anyone not looking to play storm unless it was the fetch version. It remains to be seen if they can figure out a way to use that reprint equity in a constructive way while also delivering a playable deck at a reasonable price point.

Tron is the deck that will probably be the most divisive if it gets printed. I also think it's one of the most likely due to the existence of new art for the Tron lands. Much like the new art we've recently seen for Scapeshift, the Tron lands have been released as Magic Online promos with new art. If you want to get that new art to players, you have to reprint the cards. Outside of this, many of the Tron cards have already been reprinted once. The two most expensive and probably least likely to be included in large numbers are Karn Liberated and Ugin the Spirit Dragon. This is a good place to reprint Chromatic Star, Expedition Map, Relic of Progenitus, and Ancient Stirrings to help ease the price of some popular pauper and Commander cards. I think the Tron deck, due to its excessive base price tag, is the most likely to be a few cards short of "the whole deck". You may need to buy two or more copies of the deck to have all of the pieces to play a full stock list but I'm not sure that's a problem. The Mono-Red Challenger deck didn't include 4 copies of each powerhouse mythic and people still enjoyed playing it a lot.

Ultimately I don't think we're going to get any Modern Challenger decks this year, but if this year's Standard ones are successful I could see some next year. It's a good reprint outlet to help Modern players get decks to play in the absence of Masters sets. Would you be excited to see any of these decks as Challenger decks? If not, what do you think should be a Modern Challenger deck?