Chris Vincent’s PPTQ articles make you thirst for competition? Want to brew like James Wise but want an even bigger card pool? Love the power of Legacy but don’t love the cost? Penny Dreadful is the format for you!
Penny Dreadful is the ultimate budget format, with legality decided based on cards being worth 0.01 Tix on Magic: the Gathering Online (MTGO), which is $0.01 or about 0.77 pence. You might think that this means the format is just made out of 25 years of draft chaff but this couldn’t be further from the truth, with powerful cards like Cloudpost and Glimmerpost, Recurring Nightmare and Island all available in the current season of the format. Rather than constantly checking if your deck is still legal, rotation takes place with each new Standard set (determining a new season). Any card that has been 0.01 Tix for at least half of the time in the previous week becomes legal. These checks are made every hour, so you know they’re thorough, and on pennydreadfulmagic.com you can even see what it would look like if rotation happened right now.
With price being the arbiter of legality it makes the format self-regulating. For example Demonic Consultation is an incredibly powerful tutor, worth running in basically any deck (from Vampire Aggro to Esper Battle of Wits). The demand for the card has increased the price massively since the start of the season, up to 1.58 Tix at its peak – you don’t often get a 158x increase in your investment! Consequently when rotation comes it’ll be lost until it drops back down again (if it ever does). For a longer term example, four seasons ago Necropotence was legal. Penny Dreadful picked up the card-draw powerhouse and in the year since it was rotated out of the format the price still hasn’t returned to 0.01 Tix.
Deckbuilding is surprisingly easy thanks to the Penny Dreadful website, a very active community on Discord, and also full integration on Scryfall. The website has all league deck lists and archetype grouping for them so it’s easy to get inspiration (or just copy your favourite), as well as a deck checker. You can even look up individual cards and it will display legality, the win % of decks with the card, cards it’s most commonly played with, and then list decks containing it! The Discord is a great place for discussion and has integration for checking card legality. In fact while checking card prices for this article the admin bakert99 (who also works on the website’s code) chimed in and tipped me off to Necropotence. With Scyfall the advanced search lets you filter based on the Penny format, making it easy to rummage through the wealth of available cards for those with effects you’re interested in. Looking up legal White instant speed creature removal has never been easier!
Leagues are all arranged through the website and conducted in the freeform lobby of MTGO, consisting of 5 game runs against different players. The top eight players of each month’s league leaderboard get credit for MTGO Traders, and anyone completing their first ever five match run get 1 free credit as well! As they’re free to enter and constantly running you’ll always be able to find some budget-friendly competition.
I had planned on recording a league run however a mix of unfamiliarity with my matchups and a disturbingly frequent need to mulligan to five got in the way. So, instead, I thought I could find a couple of interesting decks and do some mini deck-techs to show off the diversity of the format!
First up we have good ol’ Red Deck Wins. There’s not much to say about playing cheap creatures and efficient burn spells with a low curve. The best of the scraps that didn’t make it into Modern are available, with some extra recursive spice from Chandra’s Phoenix. The sideboard has a mix of situationally strong cards, a personal favourite of which is Scab-Clan Berserker from Origins for shocking control players into submission.
Like big creatures? Look no further. Ramp with spells like Rampant Growth and mana dorks like Avacyn’s Pilgrim and the too-strong-for-Commander Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary. With your wealth of resources go crazy with behemoth’s such as Sylvan Primordial! Lifegain is dense in the sideboard for your aggressive engagements, Conclave Naturalists give you ways to deal with non-creature nuisances and Autumn’s Veil is a great way to resolve your threats and keep them alive.
For something a little less linear let’s take a look at Orzhov Aristocrats. My preferred win condition is infinite damage with Murderous Redcap, Vizier of Remedies and any sacrifice outlet. When Redcap dies persist brings it back, but the Vizier means no counter is placed so it can be sacrificed indefinitely to deal lethal damage. Alternatively Bloodthrone Vampire lets you swing in and sacrifice your board for huge damage or your wealth of sacrifice fodder can go wide, with anything that would get blocked generating value in either making something else bigger or drawing cards.
Finally we have a traditional control list. Counters, card draw, removal, and Approach of the Second Sun to win the game. The sideboard has Aetherling as an alternate win condition (though many lists just do away with Approach and just run the shapeshifter) as well as land destruction for Cloudpost decks, Gideon’s Intervention for combo and a mix of other cards for particular strategies.
That’s just a few decks from recent league runs, you can head over to the website to have a thorough look at everything that’s seeing play. Whether you want to combo cycling creatures with Living Death, make infinitely huge elves with Seedcradle Witch, Marwyn, the Nurturer and Skyshroud Elf, or destroy lands with Burning of Xinye the format has decks for everyone!
If you’d like more Penny Dreadful content, for example league runs or deck techs, let us know on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter or the comments below!