Magic: The Gathering unveiled its latest line of Challenger Decks today, releasing a full decklist for each of the four variations that will go on sale April 12, 2019. The decks mark a noticeable increase in power and card quality over previous iterations, and will certainly become a hot item for players looking to break into the game's paper Standard format without spending too much money.
Magic Arena has launched its esports program to great success thus far thanks to a combination of a $10 million prize pool for 2019 and an uptick in notable streamers broadcasting Wizards of the Coast's online offering. That, coupled with the game's polish and ease of access thanks to a free-to-play system, has also generated a lot of interested in Magic: The Gathering's more traditional tabletop offering. Just recently, a set of Magic: The Gathering cards helped raise close to $300,000 at auction, while another sale of just one Black Lotus card generated over $150,000.
While those cards represent one end of Magic's collectability spectrum, the new 2019 Challenger Decks represent the other: aggressively-priced, competitive decks meant to get players into the Standard format with a fighting chance and some money still left in their wallet. The 2019 Challenger Decks are easily the most competitive Wizards of the Coast has ever released, and will offer players a chance to enter local tournaments and compete for $29.99 USD per deck. Each of the four decks being released - United Assault, Lightning Aggro, Deadly Discovery, and Arcane Tempo - are based on existing competitive decks, with a few imaginative replacements for some of the more expensive cards on the secondary market.
The Challenger Decks aren't being shy about reprints, though. The 2019 offerings will reprint cards like History of Benalia, Arclight Phoenix, Jadelight Ranger, and more, all of which have accumulated fairly high prices on the secondary market and represented sticking points for players trying to compete on a budget. If the 2019 Challenger Decks are meant to welcome players to paper Standard, especially those coming from Magic Arena, then making access to it as cheap as possible without upsetting investors is the way to do it.
Magic Arena has clearly captured the imagination of a much wider demographic than tabletop Magic: The Gathering could reach. The games complement each other quite nicely, too: Arena is cheap and has a limited number of formats, but introduces players to the game, who will then explore other options as they grow. Tabletop Magic is more expensive, but it has more on offer in general, including a much more powerful card catalogue. Bridging the gap between these two styles will almost certainly remain a priority for Wizards of the Coast, and the 2019 Challenger Decks are a remarkably good first crack at it. Expect this to be just the beginning of some aggressively marketed tabletop Standard offerings in 2019.
Source: Magic: The Gathering