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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
May 28 2013 1:01am
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 I’ve been on Magic Online for close to a year now, but I’ve only really been active on it for the past couple of months.  Coming from paper Magic, I thought the idea of being able to play for as much as I wanted online sounded pretty sweet, after all, playing Magic is fun right?  However, after doing a couple of drafts I felt like I wasn’t having any fun at all, additionally, I felt I was wasting money because I wasn’t having fun.  This sounds like a weird thing to say, since playing Magic is mostly negative EV when it comes financially, but I feel that’s largely irrelevant if I’m personally getting something out of it, ie: entertainment.  

So, where do you find the entertainment?  First of all, I had to figure out why I wasn’t having fun.  A large part of it is because there isn’t much of a human interaction to playing Magic Online.  When you sit down in a 2 man queue, 8 man queue, draft pod, Daily Event, etc. your main goal is to win and get positive value, not to have fun.  You might be thinking, “Isn’t your goal in paper Magic the same?  Shouldn’t your goal be to win?”.  Now, of course my goal is win, I don’t like to lose, but I also know I’m going to have fun.  Just being able to interact with someone makes Magic enjoyable because it gives you a face to put with the stories you invariably get from playing Magic.  Most of us begin playing Magic with friends, and those memories help cement the foundation on how we view Magic, which is that it’s fun.

Now then, where to find the fun?  For me, I’ve found the fun in Player Run Events (PRE).  They’re free events to play in, most of which have some sort of restriction in card legality.  They do also offer prize support, mostly in bot credits or event tickets.  Being that these are free events, the prize support isn’t incredibly big, but for a free event, any prize support is more than what you’d expect.  The fact that it’s a free event is huge because it does 1 very important thing:

It takes the pressure off of winning.

The difference between going 0-4 and going 4-0 is going to be an average of 2 dollars.  I’m no worse off by going 0-4 than I was before the event, so I lose nothing by losing all my rounds.  Not only do I not lose anything, I can actually interact with my opponent if I want to!  Normally, the chat in the match consists of "Hello and good luck." and "Good Game.".  That's not interaction at all!  Heck, we don't even have to type that if we want, we can just right-click and click the phrase we want.  So in PRE's we have the option to:

We can actually interact with our opponent.

Now that we can actually interact, we can communicate about lots of things, including deck ideas that you normally wouldn't consider.  With that, you can actually have some fun by being able to do the following:

You can brew to your heart's content.

Isn’t it nice to be able to walk into an event, play your sweet homebrew and no one laugh at you?  I’ve seen a fellow player base his deck around Crackling Perimeter and it was actually pretty sweet!  As an artist, I take very closely to heart the saying: “Restriction breeds creativity”.  Generally, it's very easy to just jam a bunch of rares and mythic rares and call that a deck, but with restrictions, you actually have to pay attention to what cards are legal and how you want to construct your deck.  In PRE’s, most formats have restrictions, some based on price and others based on rarity.  So with that in mind, the following statement is mostly true:

The best deck will not be the most expensive deck.*

Isn’t it great when you know you won’t have to play against net decks?  I don’t know about you, but that feels amazing!  It’s quite refreshing to know that your opponent doesn’t have Sphinx's Revelation, Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, Geist of Saint Traft, Boros Reckoner, etc and that you can actually play a fair game of Magic.   

So, you want to play in PRE’s, but where do you begin?  I would advise you start out by going to  With events happening almost every day, you can find out what’s happening by scrolling to the right-hand side and viewing the Upcoming Events.  There is also a link to leading you to the PRE forums in case you want to check those out.  The 3 formats I’d advise a newer player to start out with are Standard Silverblack, Standard Heirloom and Modern Silverblack.

Standard Silverblack

Standard Silverblack is a format where only commons and uncommons from the Standard format are legal for tournament play.  Mostly, you’ll end up running with what most people consider being Limited bombs but not Constructed worthy.  It’s a healthy format in which you can basically play any type of strategy and do reasonably well with it.  As a starting point, let's take a look at some of the winning decks, what they try to do, and how much they cost.

Standard Silverblack Legal - arekdahl
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Augur of Bolas
2 Mist Raven
3 Tandem Lookout
2 Wingcrafter
19 cards

Other Spells
2 Dissipate
4 Think Twice
2 Butcher's Cleaver
4 Essence Scatter
2 Sleep
4 Unsummon
2 AEtherize
20 cards
4 Haunted Fengraf
17 Island
21 cards

2 Dissipate
3 Blazing Torch
4 Stormbound Geist
4 Negate
1 Sleep
14 cards
Delver of Secrets


This list is a bit different from usual Delver of Secrets decks in that it doesn't really rely on Delver to take over the game.  This deck just wants to put a threat on the table, have it hold a Butcher's Cleaver and protect the threat while trying to shut down key parts of the opponent's game plan with bounce effects and counterspells.  With Tandem Lookout and an evasive threat, this deck can get the beatdowns going while gaining card advantage, and with enough hits and card draw, this deck can pull itself so far ahead that the opponent might not be able to catch up.  While this is personally not my style of deck, it's not a bad choice to start off with if you like playing with Islands

Total cost: ~4 tix

Not Gruul? Then Die!
Standard Silverblack Legal - MarcosPMA
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
3 Rakdos Cackler
3 Firefist Striker
3 Experiment One
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Lightning Mauler
29 cards

Other Spells
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear
8 cards
2 Evolving Wilds
10 Mountain
11 Forest
23 cards

Burning-Tree Emissary


This is a pretty basic R/G Aggro deck focused on abusing Burning-Tree Emissary as much as possible.  This deck can get some incredible fast starts that can leave your opponent at 10 life by the time you end your 3rd turn.  With Ghor-Clan Rampager, Searing Spear, and Brimstone Volley as combat tricks, combat is really hard for your opponent and making a profitable block will be extremely difficult for them to accomplish.  If you like to turn your cards sideways turn after turn, this strategy is for you.

Total cost: ~9 tix (w/ Rancor), ~7 tix (w/o Rancor)


As a member of the Orzhov guild, I love how this deck works, even though it beats up on my beloved R/G Aggro.  This deck is very synergistic, making use of the interaction of Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, and Falkenrath Noble to deal massive amounts of damage by using sacrifice outlets to make the Aristocrat basically unblockable while draining you at the same time.  This deck can be defensive and offensive in using its sacrifice outlets, allowing itself to recover from the early assault of aggro decks by draining life, then taking over the game with the threat of Blood Artist and sac outlets to take away massive amounts of life from the opponent turn after turn.

Total cost: ~7 tix (w/ Lingering Souls), ~4 tix (w/o Lingering Souls)

Standard Heirloom

Standard Heirloom is a format that uses card prices to determine which Standard cards are legal for tournament play.  The pricing is as follows:

Mythic: 0.01 - 1.00

Rare: 0.01 - 0.40

Uncommon: 0.01 - 0.20

Common: 0.01 - 0.10

This way of making cards legal essentially tries to make the power level across cards within a single rarity more balanced, not to mention keeping the overall power level of any particular deck in check by any other deck.  While it's not always the case, there are sometimes powerful uncommons that have Standard decks built around them (here's looking at you Burning-Tree Emissary and Invisible Stalker).  Cards like that would probably be too strong in a format that has the overall power level of cards reduced, so the format can preemptively prevent that just by having the card banned once it reaches a certain price.


First up we have an aggressive Boros Humans deck that just recently won the last Standard Heirloom event, dropping only 1 game on the way to the win.  The beats start early and often with a curve that ends at 3 CMC in the maindeck and has an average CMC of 2.  With Bonds of Faith acting both as removal/pump, and Brimstone Volley in conjunction with Kessig Malcontents, this deck has no trouble hitting you for all 20 points of damage in a short amount of time.  If you like taking an aggressive start to games and punishing control players for not having access to Sphinx's Revelation and Supreme Verdict, this is the deck for you.

Total cost: ~5 tix

Drownyard Misery
Standard Heirloom Legal - MarcosPMA
0 cards

Other Spells
2 Dissipate
2 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Think Twice
3 Dead Weight
2 Sever the Bloodline
3 Victim of Night
2 Barter in Blood
4 Murder
3 Syncopate
2 Ultimate Price
3 Dimir Charm
4 Psychic Strike
34 cards
4 Nephalia Drownyard
11 Island
11 Swamp
26 cards

Nephalia Drownyard


Speaking of punishing control players, Nephalia Drownyard seems to be the control deck of the format, and probably the most miserable to play against.  I've played it in all but 1 Standard Heirloom event and it consistently puts up a good result, while at the same time making me feel miserable by playing it.  I'm not a control player, so playing long grindy games don't appeal to me very well, and the only reason I haven't changed is because Burning-Tree Emissary is still banned.  Essentially what this deck wants to do is kill every relevant threat that gets resolved, counter anything that might kill you, and slowly drown your opponent with Nephalia Drownyard.

Total cost: ~4.5 tix


This deck seems like the kind that just wants to hit a turn 2 Farseek every single game.  With no creatures below 2 CMC, this deck wants to get to the midgame as soon as possible so its big threats can take over the game quickly.  Vampire Nighthawk and Bloodline Keeper are cards that can just take over a game if left unchecked, while Borderland Ranger and Farseek help you hit your land drops and enable a huge Clan Defiance and/or Devil's Play.  Bloodgift Demon allows for some needed card advantage while Kessig Wolf Run and Rubblehulk and just end games on the stop given enough mana.

Total cost: ~4.5 tix

Modern Silverblack

Modern Silverblack is a format that uses only the uncommons and commons in the Modern format.**  With the exception of a few decks, there are no combo decks in the format, which in my opinion, makes it much more playable than the actual Modern format.  The decks in this format are more expensive than the ones in Standard Silverblack/Heirloom, but that's because of premium Modern cards at uncommon such as Inquisition of Kozilek, Kitchen Finks, and Path to Exile.  This being said, the decks are nowhere near expensive as actual Modern decks, so your wallet won't take a hit if you want to start in Modern Silverblack.


First deck up shows how powerful Isochron Scepter can be if you're unable to untap with it for turn after turn.  While you risk getting 2 for 1'ed if you cast it on turn 2 or 3, if you're able to use it after turn 2, you're so far ahead that you can just sit on the Scepter and not commit anything else to the board and just win.  Isochron Scepter on Lightning Helix is absolutely devastating, essentially wrecking any aggressive deck with the dual usage of removal and lifegain, or provide a huge clock against control decks trying to win using Urza's Factory.  Calciderm and Kitchen Finks can be used as efficient attackers/blockers while your suite of removal/burn/lifegain close the game out.  If you like doing unfair things with really efficient spells, this is a deck for you.

Total cost: ~32.5 tix

Modern Silverblack Legal - MrJolly
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Hellspark Elemental
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Incinerate
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
3 Volcanic Fallout
4 Searing Blaze
4 Searing Spear
4 Skullcrack
31 cards
21 Mountain
21 cards

Lightning Bolt


Of course, if you're looking for a cheaper option, you can always elect to run Mono-Red Burn.  The basic game plan is to point your burn spells upstairs turn after turn and praying they can't gain life.  This is a deck that would prefer to work on just 2 land, sometimes 3-4 to get Landfall for Searing Blaze or to be able to cast Volcanic Fallout.  A fairly straightforward linear deck, if you like burning your opponent out before they can get their game plan online and do unfair things, this is a deck for you.

Total cost: ~8.5 tix


Speaking of unfair things, next up is Tron!  While the deck is not as powerful as it normally is, it can still use the enormous amounts of mana to pump out an Artisan of Kozilek or make multiple tokens via Urza's Factory, or for those who love X spells, Fireball for the win is also a way to go.  It has a very good gameplan against aggressive decks with Firespout and Flame Slash, and can beat control by getting to Urza's Factory tokens much faster than the control deck.  In the mirror, Acidic Slime and Reap and Sow do a lot of work keeping the opponent off of Tron while enabling yours at the same time.  If you like ramping into huge amounts of mana, this is a deck for you.

Total cost: ~8 tix

Gruul Aggro
Modern Silverblack Legal - ChrisMH77
4 Kird Ape
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
2 Strangleroot Geist
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Experiment One
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rancor
12 cards
4 Kazandu Refuge
9 Mountain
9 Forest
22 cards

Burning-Tree Emissary


Lastly, we have R/G Aggro.  Most of it is still the same from the Standard Silverblack deck, but it gains 3 powerful spells in Boggart Ram-Gang, Lightning Bolt, and Kird Ape, with Kird Ape being the most important one.  The deck is much faster in Modern due to the haste creature at 3 and a great 1 drop in Kird Ape.  Experiment One also gets a bit better because going Experiment One into 2 Kird Apes will make it a 3/3 instead of just a 2/2.  The deck does do somewhat well against Pyroclasm, but is horrible against Firespout, so you'll have to play around that if you can.  If you want to turn your creatures sideways and deal massive amounts of damage very quickly, this is a strategy for you.

Total cost: ~15 tix


I do hope that this article has given you some cause to at least consider playing in your first PRE soon.  If you do, let me know!  I'll be happy to lend out cards if you need to borrow them***, or help you test your deck in any of the formats I've mentioned above.  As always, if you have any comments or suggestions let me know in the comments below!

MarcosPMA on MTGO


*This will be true for most events, but there are some that do not have price/rarity restrictions.  I would advise you read up on the specific event and know its ban list before deciding to play in it.

**Expedition Map and Intangible Virtue are banned as well as the regular Modern ban list.


***I can't guarantee that I'll have everything though!


Euro time zone by MagicGatheringStrat at Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:34
MagicGatheringStrat's picture

Are there any PRE on Euro-friendly hours anywhere? I just checked pdcmagic and could only find middle-of-the-night tournaments. I would love to play some PREs. In the best of worlds, I would love some tournaments that took place during office hours GMT+1

There are lots of Europe by romellos at Tue, 05/28/2013 - 11:18
romellos's picture

There are lots of Europe friendly PREs during every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can check these following tournaments at the Gatherling; Friday Night Standard EU (Friday), Standard Heirloom (Friday), Eurodrive! (Saturday), Tribal Apocalypse (Saturday), Rotating Block Heirloom (Saturday), Sunday Commander (Sunday), WAFTT (Sunday), Classic heirloom (Sunday)... I'm sure that I'm missing some others suitable for EU zone.

Euro-Friendly PRE's by Dabil at Thu, 05/30/2013 - 13:33
Dabil's picture

I run where most of the mentioned PRE's here are held. If you want a Euro-friendly PRE, I would suggest creating one. I would be happy to set you up in and would explain to you how to get prize support etc for your event. Leave me an offline message on MTGO if you are interested.

The biggest reason why there aren't as many Euro-friendly PRE's is because there aren't as many Euro-players who are willing to host them.

Woah, don't forget about Legacy Silverblack by ztrman at Tue, 05/28/2013 - 22:14
ztrman's picture

Perhaps not the cheapest but still awesome, definitely should be on the list.

I didn't forget about it, but by MarcosPMA at Tue, 05/28/2013 - 22:42
MarcosPMA's picture

I didn't forget about it, but I wrote this with a newer player in mind, so cost was a factor when choosing formats. With that said, I probably should've said something about Standard Pauper, but I don't know enough about that format to suggest decks. But yes, everyone should check out Legacy Silverblack!

Standard Pauper by MagicGatheringStrat at Wed, 05/29/2013 - 04:55
MagicGatheringStrat's picture

Here is a good suggestion for a Standard Pauper deck that we have been brewing:

I can't normally play during weekends. but that would suit the other Europeans quite well. What I am really looking for is office-hours GMT+1 PREs (and perhaps Euro evenings on weekdays as well). I realize that is a pretty dead time interval on MTGO so I can understand why there are no PRE's then. But if there were, I would do some videos on them for sure

I agree wholeheartedly. PRE's by Quick at Wed, 05/29/2013 - 21:40
Quick's picture

I agree wholeheartedly. PRE's are a great way to build up a collection, as there is no entry fee, and still prizes. It's also a way to hone your deckbuilding skills, since it forces you to be creative with a limited set of cards usually.

Monday pauper Deck Challenge by gwyned at Thu, 05/30/2013 - 09:07
gwyned's picture

Monday pauper Deck Challenge is a Standard Pauper PRE at a Euro friendly time. Get the details in the Standard forum of