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By: ArchGenius, Marcus Rehnberg
Nov 03 2009 12:37pm
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One of the nice things about Magic Online is that there is no shortage of playable formats.  While the Lion's share of constructed tournaments are taken up by Pauper, Standard, and Block Constructed, it's really not that difficult to get a casual game or a 2-man queue started in any of the other formats.  So, what format do you want to play?  That's a decision based on several factors, but the main three factors are as follows. 

1. Can you afford to play in a format?  Most players have at least some kind of budget, and therefore don't have access to 4 copies of every card released online.  Affordability is one of the main reasons Pauper is popular.  

I'm going to include some rough estimates for the cost of the decks in various formats but that doesn't really show the whole picture.  If you're going to stay competitive in standard, you're going to need to buy $40-$100 worth of cards every time a new expansion comes out.  Also most of the cards you buy have a limited lifetime until they rotate out of standard.  Eternal formats like 100 Singleton, Classic, and Pauper don't have either of these problems.  So once you assemble a deck in one of these formats, it is most likely going to last a lot longer than a standard deck.

2. Is this format fun to play?  We all have different ideas of what is fun and what isn't fun to play.  While those ideas will tend to differ from player to player, there is at least one quality that is fairly universal.  Fun formats usually have a lot of variety of decks and decktypes.  It's generally not fun if there is only one dominant deck or decktype and everyone ends up playing the mirror match all the time. 

3. Is there room for originality?  Some formats are so thoroughly played, tested, and refined that natural deckbuilders don't have the room to come up with something that is both competitive and original.  This is one of the advantages of the singleton formats.  There is still a lot of room for deckbuilders to make unique choices.

4. Is there room for player skill?  If the format is so random that games are decided by a flip of a coin, some players will avoid that format like the plague.  I know some players didn't like Alara Block because of how much luck was involved with the cascade mechanic.

Now, let's look at some of the numbers.  I've scoured over the decklists from the prize-winning tournament decks from the week of 10/29/09 to see what the masters are playing after Zendikar was unleashed online.

Most of my data are from this link. 


Deck Type Frequency Example Link Example Cost Example Deck Creator
Jund 121 Jund $174.54  GKFATIKE
WG Aggro 17 WG Aggro $278.23  Archer
Vampire 16 Vampire $103.43  BeepBeepimajeep
Bushwacker Boros 15 Bushwacker Boros $117.92  Gambatte
Lightning Burn 12 Lightning Burn $109.49  _Batutinha_
WUr Control 11 WU Control $275.25  Judah
Naya  10 Naya $326.72  Yemeth
Bant 9 Bant $360.17  tmbscrws
Eldrazi Nissa 6 Nissa $87.35  Pedestrian
Esper 4      Found in Event 633298
Valakut Hellkite 3      Found in Event 634448
Reliquary Nixilis 2      Found in Event 633300
RB Blightning 2      Found in Event 634450
Hedro Crab 2      Found in Event 636527
Grixis 2      Found in Event 636532
Mono-White Control 1      Found in Event 631224
Black Nyxathid 1      Found in Event 636527
5 Color Control 1      Found in Event 636537
White Weenie 1      Found in Event 636537



Format: Classic   Date: 10/18/09    
Deck Type Frequency Example Link Example Deck Cost Example Deck Creator
WGR Zoo - Isochron 1   WGR Isochron  $608.47 Bazaar of Baghdad, 4-0
Charbelcher - Warrens 1  Charbelcher  $673.51 vpgorman, 4-0
Elves 1  Elves  $88.09 Walaoumpa, 3-1
Merfolk 1  Merfolk  $287.41 Calavera, 3-1
Dredge 1  Dredge  $177.65 dunkle_stille, 3-1
GB Rock 1  GB Rock  $521.81 Szach, 3-1


Core Set Constructed

Format: Core Set Constructed   Date: 10/17/09 - 10/24/09    
Deck Type Frequency Example Link Example Deck Cost Example Deck Creator
WU Control  5  WU Control  $256.24 cpage01, 1st Place
UR Magnivore 4  UR Magnivore  $12.54 dsts22, 6th Place
White Weenie 2  White Weenie  $41.38 chobo13, 2nd Place
Ensnaring Bridge Red 1  Ensnaring Bridge Red  $30.02 CharToYourFace, 6th Place
UG Opposition 2  UG Opposition  $56.75 ceobry01, 7th Place
GR Plow Under 1  GR Plow Under  $92.66 el_fake, 8th Place
Mono Black Corrupt Rats 1  Mono Black Corrupt Rats  $43.34 intherain, 3rd Place


100 Singleton

Format: 100 Singleton   Date: 10/24/09    
Deck Type # of Decks Example Link Example Deck Cost Example Deck Creator
U Based Control 3  UBW Control  $397.54 Samwise_GeeGee, 1st Place
Mono Red Burn 2  Goblin Burn  $239.68 E. Hustle, 2nd Place
Multi-Color Reanimation 2  4 Color Reanimator


slug360, 3rd Place
Naya-Geddon 1  Naya-Geddon  $408.65 so many trolls, 6th Place


Standard Singleton



Format: Standard Singleton   Date: 10/18/09    
Deck Type Frequency Example Link Example Deck Cost Example Deck Creator
WGR - Naya - Aggro 2  WGR Naya  $169.48 eddie112, 1st Place
BUW - Esper -Control 1  BUW Esper  $113.44 Kikiijiki, 3rd Place
UWG - Bant - Aggro 2  UWG Bant  $134.59 Gainsay, 6th Place
BRG - Jund - Aggro 1  BRG Jund  $68.44 Auroradragon, 5th Place
5 - Color - Control  1  5 Color Control  $72.38 Zwick, 7th Place




Format: Pauper   Dates: 10/17/09 to 10/25/09    
Deck Type Frequency Example Link Example Deck Cost Example Deck Creator
UB Teachings 4  UB Teachings  $24.84 Pherra, 1st Place
UWR Blink 2  UWR Blink  $23.39 XaneHavenstar, 2nd Place
Goblin Burn 5  Goblin Burn  $11.31 Numdiar, 3rd Place
Bu Control 2  Bu Control  $37.89 rainin6, 4th Place
WG Slivers 2  WG Slivers  $17.04 Fantabio, 2nd Place
Affinity 1  Affinity  $32.33 Hydravatar, 8th Place



Well, I hope this information is helpful to you if you are planning on trying out a constructed format.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages.  If you want to learn more about any of the formats that I've briefly discussed here, search the archives.  There is a wealth of information that is just waiting to be found.   

- Marcus - Shuyin Knight of Zanarkand on Magic Online



Oooh you found a big purple by Paul Leicht at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 16:03
Paul Leicht's picture

Oooh you found a big purple (violet?) button to click! Nice :) I was just thinking youd use the ole <button onclick='doSomething()'> tag that is par for the course but that works too. :D And holy moly Batman! Thats a lot of decks! Nice analyses without getting too into depth in any one. Sharing top 8 decks is always a good starting point for discussion on how the format works. I feel like you missed some formats (extended, tribal wars, etc) but I understand you only have so much time in a given day to write these articles. :) As far as I can tell from reading it you had no typos! (I wish I could say the same for my latest which I am waiting to get back from submission for a revision or 3.)

I worked with all of the by ArchGenius at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 16:33
ArchGenius's picture

I worked with all of the Magic Online Post-Zendikar constructed decklists that have been posted.

The formats that are missing are most likely not there because they didn't have a tournament a medium to large tournament with posted results that I could find.

I'm planning to look at Zendikar Block as soon as I can get some data on it.

extended and tribal wars by johan80 (not verified) at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 16:11
johan80's picture

extended and tribal wars doesnt get enpough people to fire atm though, so no lists posted
on wizards site.

The purple buttons: by Lord Erman at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 16:53
Lord Erman's picture

The purple buttons: Excellent. In fact, they look gorgeous.
Charts: Excellent.
Decks: The deck editor still doesn't recognize MED3 and ZEN cards and therefore some are very confusing.
The general look: Very clean and neat.
Overall: Perfect.

A question: I wanted to check that Mono White Standard deck and clicked the link you provided but there I saw no such deck. Something's wrong?


I probably transposed a by ArchGenius at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 17:16
ArchGenius's picture

I probably transposed a tournament number or something like that. I'll try to find the link and get back to you.

Here's the Mono-White by ArchGenius at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 20:09
ArchGenius's picture

Here's the Mono-White Deck

jongsuklee, 4-0

2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Gargoyle Castle
20 Plains
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 White Knight

1 Ajani Goldmane
2 Conqueror's Pledge
3 Day of Judgment
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Harm's Way
4 Honor of the Pure
2 Martial Coup
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Path to Exile

2 Brave the Elements
4 Celestial Purge
4 Devout Lightcaster
4 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Harm's Way

fantastic by Anonymous (not verified) at Tue, 11/03/2009 - 18:41
Anonymous's picture

Great article I found it incredibly helpful/informative

Mono-white by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 11/04/2009 - 01:31
Anonymous's picture

good article. i think jund and vampires are clearly the best two decks in standard, but if you're going to play mono white, then you're going to need the fourth copy of Path to Exile, even when playing serious board sweepers like Day of Judgement or Martial Coupe. They need to be in hand when Vampire Nocturnous hits the board and there's very few threats in standard that can't be solved with it. Also, Soul Warden and that exalted one drop solider are both good tutor targets for Ranger of Eos, i'm surprised they don't see more play- even as one of's in a toolbox.

Does belcher really costs 670 by Wickedrh (not verified) at Wed, 11/04/2009 - 05:09
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Does belcher really costs 670 or is it a typo?

That valakut hellkite deck is by StealthBadger at Wed, 11/04/2009 - 06:43
StealthBadger's picture

That valakut hellkite deck is very very similar to the deck I've been testing with. I must admit, I didn't think of it as remotely competitive until I randomly took it for a few games in the tp room. The problem is, people keep conceding when you drop a panorama, saying "i don't want to test against budget decks", or the like. There's something very satisfying about being dead next turn, then randomly topdecking harrow and burning them out for 18!

You caught another one of my by ArchGenius at Wed, 11/04/2009 - 09:22
ArchGenius's picture

You caught another one of my mistakes. I mixed up the prices for merfolk and Charbelcher. Charbelcher is only $287 and Merfolk with dual lands and a full set of Force of Wills is $673

Regarding the Standard WR Bushwhacker Decklist... by mysticknight232 (not verified) at Wed, 11/04/2009 - 11:12
mysticknight232's picture

It runs Hellspark Elemental over Plated Geopede...that's a pretty ballsy play imo. You're essentially guaranteeing 6 points of dmg because of trample and most people won't waste a bolt or burst on it cause it goes away after each use anyway. But wouldn't the standard Geopede still be better cause it has the potential to deal more dmg? Just thinking out loud here and curious on others thoughts.

Um..that decklist has Plated by Metalman (not verified) at Wed, 11/04/2009 - 17:55
Metalman's picture

Um..that decklist has Plated Geopede in it. Just the lists are screwed up with how the "Creatures" and "Non-Creatures" are seperated out.