With a new set of starter cards, I’ve updated the lists in a new article with the most up-to-date card pool available for new players!
If you couldn’t tell from previous articles I’ve written, I love singleton formats. I also love brewing new decks. Recently, a new format came to my attention that helps scratch both that singleton itch and my love of brewing decks in a new environment: Gladiator.
Gladiator is a brand new competitive singleton format that uses every card available on Magic the Gathering: Arena – that means standard and historic cards.
However, getting started in any new format can be difficult, especially when you can’t easily just buy the cards you want. Being a new format, it also means that there is no settled “meta” yet. If you’re dealing with limited resources spending your wild cards (especially those rare and mythics) can feel like a big step.
Thankfully, the new player experience provides quite a wealth of cards to starting players. In this article we’ll be looking at five Gladiator decklists that you can build from that free pool without ever spending a wild card.
There are a few caveats to these lists. The entire free card pool won’t be available on the first day you create your account. When you first start, there are two tutorial sections you’ll need to complete.
The first covers the basic mechanics of Magic and getting to know the UI of Arena, and must be completed before moving into the program proper. The next hurdle is a series of color challenges that fully unlock the five mono-colored starter decks in Magic Arena – each challenge consists of five steps, including a final game against a human opponent. Once you’ve completed the final color challenge, the waiting begins. Each day after you complete the color challenge, you’ll be given a quest that unlocks one of ten dual-colored decks (one full deck for each color pair). That means, at minimum, it will take 11 days to unlock all the free decks available in MTGA.
While that may feel like a long time, you don’t have to spend the entire time just sitting on your hands – while you’re waiting to open up all the available decks, you can continue to play normally (perhaps by using these Standard decks made using only the cards from completing the color Challenges), completing quests for gold and opening packs or participating in drafts to help build up your collection.
While these are complete decklists that will win you some games against your friends, they are by no means fully competitive (but they are fun). In a future article, we’ll look at options for upgrading some of the decks and the different directions you can take their basic shells with a minimal wild card investment.
Temur Spells and Monsters
Temur can be a strong color set for a number of different things. While this could be an aggressive deck, it insteads focuses more heavily on a spells and card draw sub-theme. The goal of the deck is to control the board and chip in with damage long enough to finish with either Inescapable Blaze, a large Explosion or Electrodominance, or by taking over your opponents board via Mass Manipulation. There are several other top-end creature haymakers in the deck, like Niz-Mizzet, Parun and Ravager Wurm to help you either close out games when Plan A fails, or stall for enough time to find the pieces you need.
Bant Skies and Lifegain
Bant is a great, flexible color scheme that tends towards control, but can also move into a wide or tall creature theme with control backup. This free to play version focuses winning through building a formidable air force or large ground token board and killing your opponent with a pump spell like Flourish or End-Raze Forerunners. Card draw and lifegain sub-themes help keep you alive and cycling through your deck long enough to help fulfill your goal, while cards like Hydroid Krasis, Mass Manipulation, and Voracious Hydra can help you spend all your mana and end the game.
This Mardu deck focuses on a very limited version of one of my favorite archetypes – aristocrats! The base of the deck focuses on using death triggers to damage or drain your opponent. The deck also has an aggro sub-theme, helping you push up your clock with a fast early game that can transition to a mid/late-game in which you slowly grind your opponent out.
Esper Control the Skies
Esper tends to be the color of control, and this deck doesn’t disappoint. While the free to play card pool is light on counterspells, there are still plenty of options for controlling the board – including two board wipes. Like the previous Bant deck, this deck focuses on drawing through the deck to build a strong air force that can finish off your opponent. The deck also features a small surveil and lifegain subtheme that can help you find cards like Bolas’s Citadel for an alternate way to close out the game.
Jund is, traditionally, a fairly aggressive creature-based strategy. While some versions of this deck might look to trend a little bit more on the aggressive side, there isn’t quite enough of a density to fully commit to that strategy here. Instead, this deck looks to curve out and fairly chip away at the opponents health before they can find their own win conditions, or build up a large enough board and use End-Raze Forerunners to finish out the game.
So where do you go from here?
These deck lists provide a great starting point to insert cards you open from packs to refine the straegies and increase the power level of these decks. You can also keep an eye out on the community discord to discover new deck lists that you can work towards while using these decks to have fun with friends exploring this new format.
Next week, we’ll take a closer look at one of these lists and explore some easy additions using minimal wild cards to focus them more on a specific strategy and improve the power level. Have a particular list you want me to look at upgrading first? Let me know!
I’ll see you in the arena.