Getting Started

In my last article, I wanted to focus on explaining why you should want to play Gladiator. Today, I want to take the next step, and provide a quick and dirty guide on how to get from “I want to try this” to jamming games on the Discord server as quickly as possible. Of course, the easiest way to get a deck together is to go on the Discord, grab a list from a league or weekly tournament, and try it out. However, this may take you a large amount of wild cards, or even worse, gems. If you have the inclination and resources to do that, by all means go for it, and you should be slinging cards in as little as 5 minutes. However, a how-to guide on importing decklists into Arena would be a pretty dry (though mercifully brief) read, so I am presenting this so that you can dive right in with my favorite easy brewing technique. I call it…

Two Color Rare Binder

So, you want to get off to the races, but don’t want to read through hundreds of Discord posts, and you want to get the satisfaction that comes from piloting a brew of your own. It’s easy. Pick two colors, and a macro-archetype (Aggro, Control, Combo, or Midrange). For today, I will avoid talking about Combo, because that is more about specific card interactions. Let’s brew an archetype I have been wanting to try, but haven’t made a list for: Black Red (Rakdos) aggro. We want all the hasty creatures, the best single target removal and damage spells, the best hand attack, and our overall strategy is to get our opponent’s life total to zero as quickly as possible. Black has a little more attrition available to it than some other colors that pair well with Red aggro (notably white and green), so let’s see what payoffs we get.

Just open your MTG Arena client, create a deck, go to the Advanced Settings and select your colors, and filter it down to Rare and Mythic only:

Looking at the pile of cards, I think I need to narrow down my options. I am playing Aggro, so I am assuming I will want 40-50 creatures, low on the curve, so let’s filter it down to just creatures and take a look at all the 1-3 CMC Rares and Mythics. Don’t forget to set your deck’s legality to “Direct Game” since the client defaults to you building a Standard deck.

After that I have a pile of Rare and Mythic creatures. Next I’ll go look at the Uncommons, because I know I am missing Ahn-Crop Crasher. Then I’ll go pull the absolute best instants and sorceries (Lightning Bolt, Thoughtseize, etc). Add the absolute powerhouse aggro 4 and 5 drops, sprinkle in a Gonti, Lord of Luxury because it is a personal favorite card with the high-roll potential to completely hose a combo deck, and an Embercleave, and Bam! You have something that looks like an aggro deck. I added some dual lands, avoiding the tapped duals except for the scry land, the snow dual, and the triome, so that I could maximize speed over fixing.

Let’s take it for a test drive!

Ok, so I went 1-2 against Gruul aggro after literally throwing away the win by misplaying with that Ahn-Crop Crasher mentioned above (always take your time with Exert creatures), but I still feel like it was a reasonable match. Looking back on the game, my mana was a little hard and I might add 1-2 lands, but overall, I felt that I was definitely playing an aggro deck.

In match two the deck went 2-1 against a  4 Color Combo deck, lost game 2 to Solemnity/Nine Lives combo, but managed to eek out a win game 3 on just two lands, so now I am feeling pretty good.

Why does this work?

It’s a 100 card singleton format my friends. Rares and Mythics are powerful cards, and let’s look at what sets are in the format (as of the writing of this article).

There are 1,697 Rares and Mythics on Arena right now, and that’s 34.5% of all the cards. With the Rares added in from the Historic Anthology, Jumpstart, and Mystical Archive, that’s some serious power. The reprint sets bring in Rares from older formats (or powerful commons and uncommons, some of which are upshifted to Rare), and Standard cards printed since Dominaria are, by almost all measures, absurdly powerful. Look at Magic commentary from the last two years, and you will see a ton of articles about “Power Creep” and “Standard bannings.” These cards are insane. Put them in your decks!

I recommend starting with the cards you already have, putting them into your deck, and then checking the “Uncrafted” toggle to see what else could go in your deck. Make changes that you think you need, or that you just want to try. Then take it to the #looking-for-games channel, test it out, and have another look at it. Cut the cards that are under-performing, and keep testing it out.

That’s the real secret, to get started you need to get playing. 100 card singleton is a high variance format, and the meta-game is incredibly diverse, so just get your feet wet. The Rare Binder method isn’t the best way to make hyper tuned decks, but you will get a playable deck that you can start to tinker with. Think about what type of deck you like to play, and assemble those cards. Remember, you probably want to shoot for 38-40 lands, and stick to your game plan.