14, Feb, 21

Are The 2021 Challenger Decks Worth It?

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Article at a Glance

Wizards of the Coast, through Senior Designer of Magic: the Gathering Gavin Verhey, just announced the latest edition of Challenger Decks. Challenger Decks, first released in 2018, are ready-to-play, 75-card Standard decks intended for newer or returning competitive players who want to battle at Friday Night Magic without having to own a ton of cards. You can read more about the product reveal and the new deck lists here.

In sharp contrast to other ready-to-play Magic products, Challenger Decks are chock full of Rare playsets and even a Mythic Rare or two. The decks released in the past have been modeled after top tier competitive lists, minus some of the most expensive Mythics and dual lands.

This year, Wizards is releasing four decks with the following archetypes: Mono Red Aggro, Blue-White Control, Mono Green Stompy, and Blue-Black Rogues. With these decks selling for between $20-30, it’s important to answer the question, are they worth your money?

Are the Challenger Decks Competitive?

As I mentioned earlier, these decks are intended to be played straight out of the box at Friday Night Magic or a casual Standard game night. Of course, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic, and countries have implemented various levels of lockdowns and restrictions on large gatherings.

So, to even begin to answer the question, you need to ask yourself, how are you planning to play these paper decks? If you are able to go to your LGS and battle with your Challenger deck, then great! If not, then you’d have to consider other ways to play on paper. Apps like Spelltable and Discord make it much easier to find people to play with over webcam and/or a voice call.

So, now you know how you’re going to play your shiny new Challenger Deck! But are you going to win? That really depends.


Straight out of the box, it looks like the Dimir Rogues deck is the most competitive. It contains a lot of the key Rares played in the fully-powered deck, including Zareth San, the Trickster and Thieves’ Guild Enforcer. The sideboard options are pretty good, lining up especially well with the game plans of the other Challenger Decks. Convenient!

Next up, I think the Mono Red Aggro and Mono Green Stompy Decks are pretty similar in power level. Red Deck Wins is always a great archetype, and this list has that crucial copy of Embercleave you need to break board stalls. Mono Green looks pretty weak at first glance, but the combination of huge trampling monsters and fight spells like Ram Through and Primal Might can win games out of nowhere.

Sadly for control mages, it looks like the Azorius Control deck got the short end of the stick. I suspect that this deck will only be truly competitive with heavy upgrades, up to including a third color! Azorius hasn’t been very competitive for a few months now; Esper is much more solid and has better removal options.

Are Challenger Decks Value for Money?

If you look at the retail prices of the individual cards in these four decks, then yes! The cards in each deck are worth to around two or three times the potential retail price of these Challenger Decks.

Of course, looking at card prices right now is kind of misleading. First of all, it’s reasonable to assume that people are buying fewer cards right now, while many LGS continue to observe restrictions. Second, I expect the prices of a lot of these Mythics and chase Rares to drop, adjusting for their reprinting in this product.


Notably, none of these decks contain the cool Pathway dual lands and Triome tri-lands from Kaldheim, Zendikar Rising, and Ikoria. I understand WotC’s motivation to try and get players to upgrade their decks with better lands, but it would have been a really nice gesture to include one Rare land in each deck.

The value in these decks is instead concentrated in Embercleave, currently over $10, Rankle, Master of Pranks, hovering around $12, and Shark Typhoon at around $12 as well.


In the end, I think that these decks are good value for money if you are able to play them in paper. In addition, many of these cards will survive rotation. So, if you purchase these decks for your collection and we all get to play paper Magic soon, you’ll have an instant pool of cards to build future decks!

One more cool thing about this product is that WotC is debuting what they call “near plastic-free” packaging. Basically, the box the deck comes in is fully recyclable. The only plastic in the product is the protective wrapping for the cards inside the box.

Do you think the Challenger Decks for 2021 are worth it? Let us know what you think!

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