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By: TheWolf, Shane Garvey
Apr 17 2019 6:59pm
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Last year, Wizards of the Coast released four Challenger Decks designed to be competitive at FNM. They were preconstructed decks, each with a fifteen card sideboard, and were there for casual players to have a decent chance of winning a game at their local store. They were a hit, and now Wizards are releasing four more. Like last year, I will go through each of these, one per week, to give you an idea of what to expect with them. And while these decks are designed for FNM, they are also excellent budget decks for Magic Online.

This week I am looking at Lightning Aggro. This is a mono-red aggro deck, designed to attack with cheap creatures then use direct damage spells to finish the opponent off (or remove blockers). Here is the deck list:



Like United Assault from last time, this deck only costs a few dollars, so is great if you are looking to get into Magic Online. Also like last time, the game plan here is similar - play out creatures to deal early damage, and use your burn spells to either clear away blockers or finish the opponent off. You really want to be able to curve out with this deck; spending all of your mana each turn is a good way to win the game.

Let's put the deck through some matches to see how it performs. These matches were played in a friendly league on Magic Online; the Challenger Decks are designed for FNM, and this is the closest thing I can think of to it.

Match 1 - vs  Mono White Aggro

This match started off the league in a fairly negative way, with a 0-2 loss. I was forced to mulligan to 6 in both games, and both games also highlighted a problem I thought this deck might have - it has too many lands. I flooded in both games and was very quickly overrun by my opponent's horde of creatures.

Match 2 - vs Jeskai Control

I lost game one badly, after again flooding out. My opponent landed a Karn, Scion of Urza and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria while I drew three land in a row. For sideboarding, I dropped a couple of lands and bought in the Lightning Mares. The deck performed much better after this, and I went on to win the match 2-1.

Match 3 - vs Izzet Drakes

This was a match I won 2-0. To be honest I got lucky; my opponent didn't hit their land drops in both games and despite a valiant effort by them in game 1 to hold off my creatures, once I landed Experimental Frenzy, it was all over.

Match 4 - vs Temur Reclamation

By the end of game one, I didn't even know what my opponent was actually playing, apart from Temur something (I suspected it was a Wilderness Reclamation deck). I kept a one-land hand that had three copies of Ghitu Lavarunner in it and, thankfully, my opponent never got to 4 mana as I was just to fast. Once again, with sideboarding, I took out some land and bought in the Lightning Mares. I managed to get my opponent down to 1 life before they wiped my board with Fiery Cannonade; luckily for me, I drew two Lightning Strikes in a row and, with patience, waited for my opponent to over commit to their spells before casting one (which my opponent tapped out to counter) then responding with the second, to take the match 2-0.

Match 5 - vs Sultai Midrange

I, yet again, flooded in game one and was unable to deal with my opponent playing a Carnage Tyrant. After sideboarding out land and bringing in Fight with Fire, I was able to win game 2 by making sure I dealt with my opponents Wildgrowth Walkers. For the deciding game, I had to mulligan to 6 and keep a hand that still wasn't great. With my opponent on the play, they cast Wildgrowth Walker on turn 2 and followed up with Jadelight Ranger on turn 3, which pretty much ended the game there and then. I went on to lose the match 1-2.

Overall, it was a 3-2 record for the deck which, despite it having some flaws, was still a good showing for this deck.

Upgrade Options

The first thing I would do is cut two Mountains from the deck. 22 land is far too many for it, and the deck performed much better when I went down to 20. I would then look at adding more Experimental Frenzy, Light up the Stage and some copies of Skewer the Critics. This will get you very close to what the current mono red aggro decks look like in Standard right now.

I'll be back again soon with a look at the next Challenger Deck!