Last updated on October 4, 2021

Rankle, Master of Pranks - Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

Rankle, Master of Pranks | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

Standard’s meta is a constantly shifting entity, and it can be hard for new players to find their way into Magic’s most turbulent format. That said, the shifting battlegrounds are what make Standard one of the most fun formats to play.

With each new set, the dominant decks will either change how they play or fall out of place entirely only to be replaced by a new strategy. One that often highlights the key mechanics of the most recent sets. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to observe this shift in strategy via the Challenger decks.

Challenger decks are a product made by WotC that act as a gateway into the Standard format for newer players. They’re built to be competitive at a local level, able to compete in Friday Night Magic and similar events. Each year, a new set of decks are released, each reflecting a powerful and established strategy in the Standard meta at the time.

Today I want to discuss more about these decks and look at current and past releases to figure out which one really stands at the top. In multiple categories, of course. I’ll still pick an overall best, but we’ve got to start somewhere. We’ll decide on a definitively “best” option for new players, highest power level, best card value, and a few other categories.

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get right into it!

Best for New Players
Best Overall
Best Competitive
Most Power
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
$22.76
$39.45
$26.99
Best for New Players
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
$22.76
Best Overall
Best Competitive
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
$39.45
Most Power
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
$26.99

Best For New Players

Fervent Champion MTG card art by Steve Argyle

Fervent Champion | Illustration by Steve Argyle

Where else would we start but here? The winner of the “Best for New Players” category is… Mono Red Aggro! The one is from the 2021 Challenger decks. While it’s true that no Challenger deck release has been without this archetype option, 2021’s is the best option for new players.

Here’s the deck:

This list takes first place for two reasons. The deck is powerful and simple. Your main goal is to get creatures onto the field and smash your opponent’s face as fast as possible. It’s straightforward and easy-to-use for all skill levels, as mono red has always had a high skill ceiling for the dedicated competitive fanatic and a low skill floor for the curious newbie. The deck doesn’t have too many decisions to be made throughout the course of a game, lending itself to a welcoming design with a satisfying win condition.

The other reason that this deck takes the cake is because it’s still in rotation. While rotation is coming up soon, players that want to get into the game can pick this deck up and get right into their local game store to play in a small-scale event without having to add anything or make any tweaks. If you want to upgrade the list, though, the only difficult card to get would be the pricey Embercleave.

Sale
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
  • 60-card battle-ready MTG deck + 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens, 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Burn everything that moves. Overwhelm with an army.
  • Competitive and playable right out of the box

Second Place

Garruk, Unleashed - Illustration by Lie Setiawan

Garruk, Unleashed | Illustration by Lie Setiawan

New players should also keep an eye out for Mono Green Stompy. This list is also quite simple, with a very similar game plan to its competition. Check it out:

The deck’s large creatures and heavy-hitting combat potential grant it fantastic leverage against the other decks, but it loses out by being slightly more complicated than mono red at a base level. Both of these decks are very close in simplicity and potential, but mono red has always been an archetype in the Standard metagame, and that doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.

It’s become a landmark of new player territory in the last few years and just barely beats out Mono Green in this competition thanks to its consistency.

Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Green Stompy
  • 60-card battle-ready MTG deck + 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens, 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Play big creatures. Smash face and win.
  • Competitive and playable right out of the box

Honorable Mentions

The other mono red decks from past years are a great place to look if you’re not worried about a deck’s ability to compete in current events. Some of them even have cards you could use to work up to other formats like Pioneer or Modern.

Cavalcade Charge (2020 collection), (2019 precons), and Hazoret Aggro (2018 decks) take the honorable mentions slot in this category.

Best on a Budget

Goblin Chainwhirler - Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Goblin Chainwhirler | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

While you can find a lot of these decks online for some pretty low prices, there may come a time when you can’t grab one off the shelves or online. Should that ever happen, look no further than the winner of this category: !

Coming in at just around $22, it’s already cheaper than the initial MSRP for the product when it released. For those who might be playing MTGO, it’s literally less than $5 to pick up these cards. That’s pretty much a steal for a deck that ran as a well-oiled engine during its time in Standard back in 2019.

Here’s the list of cards you’ll need to get if you’re looking to play this deck:

It’s just as simple as its brethren from years past and present: make creatures and smash face. This time the strategy is supplemented with a few damage spells to speed the process up or remove any obstacles along the way. Experimental Frenzy coupled with Runaway Steam-Kin is a fun flurry of cards that finishes games off fast. And you’re sure to do tons of damage once you get the ball rolling with tons of low-cost spells.

Second Place

Adanto Vanguard - Illustration by Anna Steinbauer

Adanto Vanguard | Illustration by Anna Steinbauer

Second place is a pretty easy one here, and it goes to none other than United Assault for being only a few dollars more in price compared to Lightning Aggro. It’s chock full of resilient creatures and ways to keep evading your opponent’s beasties. The deck is super low to the ground and applies pressure early on, and it doesn’t let up without a fight. Take a look:

Magic the Gathering MTG 2019 Challenger Set of All 4 Decks
  • Forged from some of the most powerful strategies in Standard, these decks are geared to jump right into the hottest Standard play at Friday Night Magic or other high level events!
  • This listing includes all four different decks, English version.
  • Release Date: April 12, 2019

Honorable Mentions (Spoiler: Just Get the Other Ones)

I honestly can’t in good conscience recommend any other decks as an honorable mention. You can find a lot of the past decks, and even current ones, on marketplaces like TCGPlayer and CardKingdom for less than their original price.

While Second Sun Control and Mono Green Stompy total up to less than $40 each, it’d still be cheaper to buy the sealed product from an online marketplace.

Best Competitive Deck

Drown in the Loch (Secret Lair) - Illustration by Anato Finnstark

Drown in the Loch (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Anato Finnstark

I won’t even do a fancy intro for this one. It’s Dimir Rogues. If you’ve been on MTG Arena at any point between the release of Zendikar Rising and now, you likely know that rogues has dominated the meta to some capacity for a while now. Its powerful milling effects and cheap creatures make it a strong, consistent, and scary force to face off against. It even comes with removal and counterspells, so you’re never short of answers.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the list:

This deck is nasty and effective, and I can’t recommend it more if you want to bring a powerhouse to the playing field when you next walk into your LGS to play Standard. Sure, maybe it won’t quite beat out some of the more optimized lists you might run into, but it’ll surely disrupt their groove.

Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
  • 60-card battle-ready MTG deck + 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens, 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Get an edge by milling your foes. Finish the job with sneaky legends.
  • Competitive and playable right out of the box

Second Place

Opt (Ixalan) - Illustration by Craig J. Spearing

Opt (Ixalan) | Illustration by Craig J. Spearing

Second place goes to a much more enjoyable deck: Flash of Ferocity. It ran rampant while it was in rotation in 2020 as a powerful reactive deck. It starts out playing passive aggressive as you play on your own turn as little as possible, only acting on your opponent’s. The sideboard is solid as it can help you pivot from being very creature-centric into a slower control build.

It’s this exact versatility that makes it an easy second place. If it was still in rotation, it might even give rogues a run for their money.

Flash of Ferocity Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 |Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
  • Untap, draw, and pass the turn—then thwart your opponent’s every move with powerful counterspells and flash in your army of creatures at instant speed. The Flash of Ferocity deck has everything you need to beat opponents on their own turn.
  • The Flash of Ferocity deck is tournament-ready, with 60 cards, plus a 15-card sideboard you can use to fine-tune your strategy between games.
  • The decklist for Flash of Ferocity is based on a top-tier strategy, so it’s the perfect springboard if you’re looking to get back into Magic: The Gathering (MTG).
  • A Challenger Deck makes a great Magic: The Gathering (MTG) starter deck, powerful enough to jump right into the competition at Friday Night Magic.
  • Contents: 60-card ready-to-play deck, 15-card sideboard, 5 double-sided tokens, 1 deck box

Honorable Mention

Only one honorable mention here, and it’s Second Sun Control. Approach of the Second Sun is a card that literally says, “you win the game.” Unlike some control decks that try to win with Castle Ardenvale, this deck has a goal in mind and a shell built to sustain that goal with plenty of counterspells and removal. You’re just trying to draw cards until you hit the win button.

This deck loses out to Flash of Ferocity because when Flash pivots to play slower, it’s capable of fending off counterspells and removal with its own counters and smart spell placement.

Best Deck for Big Spenders

Narset, Parter of Veils - Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Narset, Parter of Veils | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

This is a tough category to rank, but I’ll start by saying that Allied Fires is the clear winner. Hear me out; while the deck’s price is on par with Vehicle Rush or Hazoret Aggro, Fires has something special going for it.

Take a look:

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, here’s the answer: Fires of Invention. This card is powerful when compared to the competition in this category. It easily answers all of the other decks with its gameplan and it’s hard to stop once it starts. Getting to cast two spells for free each turn, regardless of restrictions, is huge. Plus, the superfriends theme that backs everything up means you’ll constantly have powerful effects going off at all times.

Second Place

Pia Nalaar | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson

Second place is claimed by Vehicle Rush, simply because I feel like it fizzles and misses it’s mark more often than Fires does. Sure, it’s fast and brutal out the gate, but once Fires is online it’s just pure gas. Rush gets answered more often, plain and simple.

Vehicle Rush MTG Magic The Gathering Challenger Deck – 75 cards
  • 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.

Honorable Mentions

Simply put, Hazoret Aggro sits around the same price range as the other two in this category. While the world is never short on mono red aggro builds, they’re not hard to shut down if the deck misses a couple of necessary draws. Expensive as it may be, it pales in comparison to the eccentricity of the other decks that have the potential to be more consistent.

Hidden Gem of Resale Value

Nissa, Who Shakes the World MTG card art by Chris Rallis

Nissa, Who Shakes the World | Illustration by Chris Rallis

All right, this is a bit of a doozy. There’s no second place for this category, only first place and honorable mentions. The gap is that large, trust me.

The winner of this category is Awakening Earth from the 2019 Japanese exclusive Challenger decks. The deck’s value comes out to roughly $120, mostly contributed to by Hydroid Krasis, Veil of Summer, Breeding Pool, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Voracious Hydra. If you were to buy this deck unopened and sell those cards alone, you’d easily almost double what you spent. Depending on where you got it.

The only problem with this deck is that it’s not as easily available as the other ones are. So if you have an opportunity to get it, that’s fantastic. If not, please refer to the honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

I wish I could surprise you with more deck names, but that’s sadly not the case. It’s actually still just Allied Fires, Vehicle Rush, and Hazoret Aggro. They each sport some pretty decent money cards, notably the three copies of Soul-Scar Mage in Hazoret or Steam Vents in Fires. These three decks have the most value in cards that I’ve found, but I can honestly say that nearly every Challenger deck has some card in it that’s got a decent value.

The only decks that wouldn’t turn a profit would be the budget category, namely Lightning Aggro and United Assault. They’ll still turn around for about $20 each, so if you can find them cheaper than that and want to make that full value back for a slight profit, be my guest.

The Grand Prize Winner and Wrap Up

Thieves' Guild Enforcer - Illustration by Evyn Fong

Thieves’ Guild Enforcer | Illustration by Evyn Fong

If I had to pick the best overall deck, I’d have to go with Dimir Rogues. It’s got a pretty decent value in the cards and is a solid shell to upgrade for further use in the current meta, plus it’s just powerful. So, so very powerful. Who knows, maybe I’m biased as a blue player?

Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
  • 60-card battle-ready MTG deck + 15-card sideboard
  • 5 double-sided tokens, 6 helper cards
  • 1 deck box (holds 75 sleeved Magic cards)
  • Get an edge by milling your foes. Finish the job with sneaky legends.
  • Competitive and playable right out of the box

On that note, what do you think? What would your pick be for each category? Do you think I’m wrong anywhere or that I judged improperly? Please, feel free to open up debate in the comments or hop over to our Discord.

Best for New Players
Best Overall
Best Competitive
Most Power
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
$22.76
$39.45
$26.99
Best for New Players
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Mono Red Aggro
$22.76
Best Overall
Best Competitive
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
Magic The Gathering 2021 Challenger Deck – Dimir Rogues (Blue-Black)
$39.45
Most Power
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
Allied Fires Deck | Magic: The Gathering Challenger Deck 2020 | Tournament-Ready | 75 Cards + Tokens
$26.99

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