If you love singleton formats as much as I do, then you’re probably already playing Gladiator – the community-driven singleton historic format on Magic: the Gathering Arena.
But if you’re just getting started in Arena, or trying to introduce friends to this awesome format, then the number of available cards (and the number of possible decks you could build towards) will probably seem a little daunting.
Not to worry — you can start playing Gladiator without ever spending a wildcard with these decks built exclusively with Arena’s 2021 New Player Experience cards and dual-color starter decks. Here are five decklists to help you experience Gladiator on a budget.
But first, there are a few caveats to these lists (yes, I know, it’s a bit of a tease). The entirety of the free card pool won’t be available the moment you download the program and create an account.
All said and done, it will take about 10-11 days to fully unlock every card – generally, one day to complete the tutorial and color challenges, and then one quest per day after that to unlock each dual-color deck.
This lag time, while annoying, is also a great opportunity to start opening free packs, earning gold/gems, and generally getting used to the client. By the time you’ve got all the free cards/decks, you should have a small collection you can use to upgrade these decks right out the gate!
So, without further ado, let’s get to those decklists!
While all the decks should be considered midrange just by virtue of the card pool, this free Boros deck is the most aggressive of the five. The deck looks to go fast and go wide to overwhelm your opponent before they can get their gameplan off the ground. The larger creatures and spells will either act as threats you need to close out the game, or help you compete when the game goes long.
Upgrading this deck can lead down a few possible paths: embrace the aggro side of things and lower the curve down enough with smaller, more fierce creatures to quickly kill your opponent or embrace the “big” natures of white and red to kill your opponent with flights of angels and dragons.
While Dimir is often considered a hard control color pairing, this deck focuses more heavily on early and mid-game removal to survive until the heavy draw theme finds your game ending threats. Ultimately, this deck is all about value and board control.
There are two clear paths (among many) to upgrading this deck – embrace the control theme and add in counterspells and other efficient removal spells (including more board wipes) or move more into a discard and graveyard focused deck that looks to fill both player’s graveyards and eventually bring out your threats from there.
Ramping into space is often the main goal of simic decks, and this free-to-play variant is no exception. In the early game, you want to focus on getting more mana while using a variety of tempo options to keep your opponent off-kilter. Once you transition to the mid-game, your goal is to resolve big threats and trample over your opponent’s life total for the win.
Upgrading this deck can be as simple as embracing the theme of BIG and upgrading the ramp packages and creature payoffs, or you can push into a mutate or counters theme to take your smaller threats and turn them into big ones.
If Simic was all about ramping into big threats, this Golgari deck is more about killing and milling your way into them. This deck features two, complementary plans to win the game – early threats that grow as you control the board and late-game threats that can either pop up unexpectedly from your graveyard or simply hit the table hard once you’ve run your opponent out of resources.
This deck most naturally wants to become a graveyard deck by filling the yard more quickly and adding in more reanimation spells. On the other side of the fence, it can quite easily also embrace a big control variant with black’s creature and planewalker removal teaming up with green’s enchantment and artifact removal to keep things under control until your large threats can come down to end the game.
Last but not least, we have the popular Izzet archetype! This deck cares about spells and has the creatures that prove it, while also featuring big threats in the form of creatures and powerful, fun enchantments.
More than some of the others, this deck straddles the line between a tempo-style creature deck and a big spells-matter style deck. To upgrade it, I recommend deciding which style you like most and embracing it to its fullest!
Where Do I Go From Here?
These decks provide great bases for finding a way into your preferred playstyle. Upgrading these decks (and creating your own versions) is a fun way to engage with the Gladiator format, but if you’re looking for more decklists make sure you join the Gladiator Discord. Not only will you find more guidance towards creating some truly powerful decks, but you can also find tournaments, ongoing leagues, or just ask around to find more casual games.
I hope you enjoy these decks, and I can’t wait to see what you do with them!
See you in the Arena.