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Last updated on February 15, 2022

Rankle, Master of Pranks - Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

Rankle, Master of Pranks | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

When I first started playing Magic at my local game store with no cards but a thirst to play in Friday Night Magic, I bought an event deck. allowed me to sit across from all the weekly regulars and see the difference between kitchen table and a store.

While I didn’t do a lot of winning with this event deck, it was the gateway I needed to fall in love with MTG. Fast forward a few weeks and I upgraded many of the slots it looked something like a real deck. Not quite to the power level of things like Azorius () Delver, but I could hold my own at FNM.

This pattern of a preconstructed “starter” deck that isn’t quite powerful enough to beat tiered decks but acts as a cheap entry point into the game has existed for over a decade. A new brand of decks emerged after Dual and Event Decks were retired in 2015: Challenger decks.

Today I’ll be ranking the existing Challenger decks through a variety of categories to help you pick the precon that best suits you. Let’s get started!

Best for New Players
Best Budget Deck
If Cost is No Object
Top Pick
Best Value and Best Competitive Deck
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
$34.60
$29.98
$86.98
$46.29
Best for New Players
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
$34.60
Best Budget Deck
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
$29.98
If Cost is No Object
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
$86.98
Top Pick
Best Value and Best Competitive Deck
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
$46.29

Best for New Players

Mono Red Burn Pioneer Challenger deck

The best value for new players comes from a combination of playability out of the box and a straightforward play pattern.

The Mono Red Burn Pioneer deck allows for plenty of expressions of skill as you build confidence in your ability. It also doesn’t give you so much freedom that it overwhelms you with constant decision points. Burn allows for a great beginning course in how mana, creatures, spells, and even planeswalkers work along fast games so that you don’t burn out from overplaying right away.

On top of being beginner friendly, this precon ports well into Pioneer’s mono red deck or Boros () Burn. I place a lot of value in being able to play with cards you’ve become attached to early on while still being competitive for new players.

Notable cards include Soul-Scar Mage, Monastery Swiftspear, and Goblin Chainwhirler.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
  • 60-card Pioneer MTG Challenger deck (Red)
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Battle-ready and powerful enough for competitive play
  • Mono Red Burn—Assemble an army and scorch your opponent directly

Best Budget Deck

Orzhov Auras Pioneer Challenger deck

While the older standard Challenger decks are around $10 cheaper than the current Pioneer Challenger decks, I think the long-term use of these decks outweighs that small price jump.

In terms of which deck to get? I suggest the Orzhov Auras Pioneer deck. The deck has some great eternal staples in Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Thoughtseize. It also has a complete set of fast lands and pain lands, making the transition to the tiered version of the deck very manageable. The Pioneer Challenger decks are almost all good value at their current price point, so consider those selections and what style you enjoy since they’re all equally priced.

Notable cards include Thoughtseize, Concealed Courtyard, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
  • 60-card Pioneer MTG Challenger deck (White-Black)
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Battle-ready and powerful enough for competitive play
  • Orzhov Auras— Grow and protect your creatures, then raise them from the grave

Best Competitive Deck

Lotus Field Combo Pioneer Challenger deck

One of the advantages of a combo deck is that you need all the major pieces or the deck doesn’t work. Unlike mono red or Orzhov Auras, there aren’t a lot of clean substitutions for WotC to make in a deck like the Lotus Field Combo Pioneer deck.

This list is close enough to the real list to be semi-competitive and it could also take down a local event without batting an eye, unlike the other lists. While there are some upgrades to make, having the core combo allows this deck to stand above the others in terms of out-of-the-box power level.

I don’t suspect Lotus Field is the best deck to buy long term since it’s fallen out of favor in the meta a bit. That said, this would certainly be my pick if your goal is winning a local Pioneer event.

Notable cards include Dig Through Time, Lotus Field, and Thespian’s Stage.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
  • 60-card Pioneer MTG Challenger deck (Black-Green-Blue)
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Battle-ready and powerful enough for competitive play
  • Lotus Field Combo—Build up your resources, then win the game in a single turn

Best Choice if Cost is no Object

Hazoret Aggro Challenger deck

At a whopping $65, the Hazoret Aggro Challenger deck is the best valued deck if cost is no object. Even though this deck comes from the original set of Challenger decks, many of the cards are still relevant in several formats. Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Soul-Scar Mage, and Hazoret the Fervent have all seen various amounts of Modern and Pioneer play.

While the value primarily stems from rares and mythics, many of the commons and uncommons in this precon are also staples across Pioneer and help to fill out most player’s collections. While it’s hard to say what deck ranks highest in long-term value, this deck provides a great foundation. It almost makes up a complete and competitive deck alongside the mono red Pioneer precon.

Notable cards include Bomat Courier, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Kari Zev, Skyship Raider.

Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
  • Challenger Decks are the quick window into Standard and are intended for players who want to skip deckbuilding and jump into Standard at their local Friday Night Magic right away.

Best Value

Lotus Field Combo Pioneer Challenger deck

When looking at the best overall value, I’m looking at the highest value in card cost versus product cost and playability.

In terms of best value, Hazoret Aggro, the Azorius Spirits Pioneer deck, and Lotus Field Combo all have a value of over $70. Unfortunately, Hazoret Aggro costs around $70 because the supply is sparse compared to the new Pioneer decks.

I’d place the Lotus Field Combo Pioneer deck just above the Spirits deck in terms of playability out of the box. While both decks need upgrades to reach peak condition, Bant () is the Spirits deck that sees most play which has multiple sets of shocklands, Collected Company, and other expensive cards that are missing from the precon.

Notable cards include Omniscience, Lotus Field, Spell Queller, and Brazen Borrower.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
  • 60-card Pioneer MTG Challenger deck (Black-Green-Blue)
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Battle-ready and powerful enough for competitive play
  • Lotus Field Combo—Build up your resources, then win the game in a single turn

Best Bundle

For Building a Collection

Challenger deck bundle

The original Challenger decks were aimed at instant competitive play. While some of the lists aren’t optimized, they all have a lot of high-power cards from across that Standard environment. These cards are diverse in the sets they’re from unlike the Throne of Eldraine era Challenger precons.

Each deck has good value and a strong set of rares and mythics and many are still playable in Pioneer or Modern today. The original bundle is the best value for building a collection. But I’d look at a different bundle if you want instant playability since the decks are based on a rotated Standard.

ALL 4 MTG Magic Challenger Decks: Hazoret Aggro Vehicle Rush Control Counter
  • Challenger Decks are intended for players who want to skip deckbuilding & jump right into their local Standard events!
  • Each Challenger Deck comes with a complete sixty-card main deck and a fifteen-card sideboard and is intended to be playable and competitive at a local level right out of the box. All cards will have been previously printed in Standard and are Standard-legal.
  • These decks are a great purchase for newer players looking to get into Standard but can also appeal to veteran players thanks to the powerful cards in each deck.
  • This listing includes all 4 decks: Counter Surge, Second Sun Control, Vehicle Rush, Hazoret Aggro. 75 cards per deck.
  • Release Date: April 06 2018

For Playability

Pioneer Challenger deck bundle

For playability, the Pioneer Challenger deck bundle is cheaper than the original line, is closer to current playability, and holds value better over time. I’m obviously a fan of Pioneer, but it is hard to find a better product than these four decks if you’re looking for the best value for competition rather than for collection value.

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 Bundle | All 4 Decks | Azorius Spirits + Orzhov Auras + Mono Red Burn + Lotus Field Combo
  • Bundle of 4 Decks – Azorius Spirits (White-Blue), Orzhov Auras (White-Black), Mono Red Burn (Red), Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
  • Azorius Spirits—Summon spirits and a flock of fliers to bring your opponent down.
  • Orzhov Auras— Grow and protect your creatures, then raise them from the grave.
  • Mono Red Burn—Assemble an army and scorch your opponent directly.
  • Lotus Field Combo—Build up your resources, then win the game in a single turn.

Best Overall

Lotus Field Combo Pioneer Challenger deck

It shouldn’t be a shock given how often Lotus Field Combo has shown up that it would be my pick for best overall Challenger deck. It’s semi-competitive right out of the box, offers good value, and it’s fun to pilot. What’s not to love?

Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
  • 60-card Pioneer MTG Challenger deck (Black-Green-Blue)
  • 15-card sideboard
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Battle-ready and powerful enough for competitive play
  • Lotus Field Combo—Build up your resources, then win the game in a single turn

Wrap Up

Lotus Field - Illustration by John Avon

Lotus Field | Illustration by John Avon

Much like with my original event deck, there’s something special about being able to show up to your local game store, buy one product, and battle. I hope that WotC continues to make products like Challenger decks. One of the hardest challenges to overcome in terms of growth for Magic is card availability. We’ve seen the effects of things like the Reserved List on formats like Legacy and Vintage for years.

Best for New Players
Best Budget Deck
If Cost is No Object
Top Pick
Best Value and Best Competitive Deck
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
$34.60
$29.98
$86.98
$46.29
Best for New Players
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Mono Red Burn (Red)
$34.60
Best Budget Deck
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Decks 2021 – Orzhov Auras (White-Black)
$29.98
If Cost is No Object
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck: Hazoret Aggro (Red) WOCC54800000-Aggro
$86.98
Top Pick
Best Value and Best Competitive Deck
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
Magic: The Gathering Pioneer Challenger Deck 2021 – Lotus Field Combo (Black-Green-Blue)
$46.29

Along with increasing prices in formats like Modern, there aren’t many places for new players to find a footing into the game, especially for constructed. Decks like Lotus Field give players a direct line into competitive Magic and let them experience the benefits of FNM easier than trying to build a deck from scratch.

What are your thoughts on these precons? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below or find us on Twitter if that’s more your thing.

That’s all I have for you today. I’ll see you in the next one!

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