Due to the COVID-19 quarantine going on in the USA and around the world, and most game stores closing their doors to public events during this time, many of us have nowhere to go to play for Friday Night Magic (FNM).
Entering stage left is WotC, who stepped up to keep all of us Magic players entertained on our weekends. Over the next 3 weeks, they are hosting a new event on Arena to cater to the Friday night crowd. These events are free to enter, and have rewards. What's more, these events actually look interesting!
Prizes so far include 2 random rares for completing 2 wins, and then if you post a screen shot of your event screen to your WPN associated Local Game Store's (LGS) social media outlets, they are supposedly going to message you back a code for digital sleeves in Arena. They state quantities are limited. We'll see how this goes. I am skeptical.
You can see all 3 of the sleeves here: MTG Arena Sleeves Gallery
I have about a dozen LGSs in my area, so I picked the one that I frequent the most, which is Cool Stuff Games in Waterford Lakes, the local brick and mortar store for CoolStuffInc.com.
The first event for March 27, 2020 is the Challenger Deck event. In this event, you get to play with each of the 4 2020 Challenger decks, as much as you like, until the event ends. I won't go into a review of each deck, that has been done many times over on other sites, so I will instead just give my experience of the one deck I played with.
I was excited for this event, as I was considering picking up the Cavalcade Charge deck. It includes some highly played cards for RDW, all in an affordable package.
Unfortunately I realized very quickly how broken this deck was, and I don't mean broken in a good way. Right away I found that they jammed the Cavalcade shell from the Eldraine era together with the RDW shell from the Theros Beyond Death era. This makes no sense.
Sure, Bone Crusher Giant, Rimrock Knight, Runaway Steamkin and Embercleave are highly played cards, but not in Cavalcade. Meanwhile when you do get Cavalcade of Calamity down, good luck getting 1/1 haste creatures out when all you have in your hand is everything that is not a 1/1. What good are the above mentioned cards with Cavalcade of Calamity? Steamkin rarely stays a 1/1, and equipping any 1/1 with Embercleave makes Cavalcade not trigger anymore.
I was a Cavalcade player all through Throne of Eldraine, and then I switched to RDW after drafting all the needed cards during Theros Beyond Death. I know both decks very well, and I enjoy them both very much. This new Challenger deck is trying to do two things at once, and it does not work very well.
The designers appeared to be taking the win-cons from both games and only putting in the best of those cards from each deck. You are then left with a weak deck that doesn't finish as quickly as it could. I was left feeling pretty disappointed.
You can see in the above screenshot from my MTGAHelper logs how much slower this deck is. The top 5 games are my daily Win-4 regiment. I am using the current THB RDW shell without Steamkins (I use Grim's instead). It's a much faster game. The bottom 4 games are the Challenger Event games. You can see how much longer the games take to close out. Granted, this is a very small sample size, and opponents were figuring out what they were doing, as was I, but they took twice as long to play out.
While I do enjoy long drawn out games, I don't enjoy them when playing a deck that is supposed to be a fast deck. They've managed to turn it into a mid-range deck as you are waiting for enough pieces to put one of two win-cons together, rather than just assembling your one single win-con.
While I still had fun playing, I was frustrated with my opening hand options and my card draws. This is a deck I would buy, then split it in half and build each respective deck as they should be. Maybe that's WotCs intention? If so, that's both good and bad. It's good in that I now have two pools of cards that I can fill in with missing cards for 2 full popular decks that I really enjoy playing. It's also bad in that off the shelf, this is not going to be as competitive as it should be. It's too slow.
...Update: I went ahead and pre-ordered this deck from my LGS, CoolStuffInc. The value is excellent and I have enough other parts to finish both decks with.
I don't know how the other decks will play out, I ran into Simic Flash, Golgari Adventures and the Fires deck while playing. I pretty much knew what to expect from each one already, so I was quickly trying to figure out how to salvage this broken RDW deck to compete against them.
My two rare ICRs were Soul Diviner and Temple of Silence.
I hope you all enjoy this event. I feel this is an excellent marketing move for WotC to make this event free, using off-the-shelf products that will be available next week in stores. If you like what you see, these are retailing for about $25-$30 per deck in their pre-order state right now.
You can get them here: 2020 Challenger Decks