I recently discovered a new format for Magic Online. It is cheap, competitive, and fun while still having a warm and welcoming community. It is called Penny Dreadful, and the name comes from a mixture of the TV show and the core principle of the format: every card must cost only .01 tix.
You might think that there is not a large enough card pool or that the power level will be quite low, but it is in fact the opposite. With nearly 10,000 cards legal in the format, there is plenty of diversity, and despite the cost restriction, you still have access to cards like Mother of Runes, Treasure Cruise, and Dark Ritual.
When I first wanted to learn more about Penny Dreadful, the first results I found were for Reddit. Reddit can be a bit daunting, one never really knowing what kind of community one will find, but I was pleasantly surprised by PennyDreadfulMTG. Right at the top is a post welcoming players and explaining the format for anyone who happened to stop by. Scrolling down the page yields questions and decklists, much like one would find in many other Magic subreddits.
Everyone is very nice and welcoming and the community is very active. They have an open Discord channel that you can join if you are interested or have any questions about Penny Dreadful. I stopped by and was immediately greeted with warmth and everyone was very eager to help me learn. Because the community is still small, growth is important to them and every new person is greatly appreciated.
You can also check out the official website for the format to find lots of information, such as the legal card list. This is a great jumping-off point to access the blog, the subreddit, and other great tools. Make sure to join the Magic Online Clan in order to easily chat with other Penny Dreadful players.
How It Works
Penny Dreadful is much like any other constructed format. You build a 60-card deck with up to 15 cards as a sideboard with no more than four copies of any card, except for basic lands, within a list of legal cards from which to build. The official list of currently legal cards can be found here and has an easy rotation pattern.
Cards do not rotate out of the format in the same way as Standard, where sets have a certain number of months that they can shine and then they are put aside for other new sets. Instead, Penny Dreadful is a self-regulated format that only rotates out cards that have risen in price in order to follow the principal rule.
At each Standard set release, the official legal cards list is updated from MTGGoldfish price data. Any cards at .01 tix on the day of the new set release will be placed on the legal card list and any that have risen in price will be removed. For the next three-month period, the legality of cards will not change, even if cards change in price. The release dates are clear, so you don't have to worry about buying a deck that is banned a few days later.
One great thing about Penny Dreadful is how cheap it is to build and play. The cost of getting a deck should never exceed more than 1 tix, and if a card you have been playing with rotates because it has gone up in price, you can always sell it in order to get multiple cards for a new deck.
If you are new to Magic Online, you can sign up for an account for $10, with which you get several cards and five tix to use. This lets you build more than five Penny Dreadful decks, with which you will be able to play for a long time. Some card sites will offer new player credit to people just joining Magic Online, where you can get a few tix' worth of cards for free just by trying out their service.
MagiDex.com is currently the only search engine that lets you filter by legality in Penny Dreadful. It uses similar syntax to other Magic Search engines so it shouldn't be too hard to navigate. There is currently no ban list outside of the price restrictions, but the creator of the format has said that one will be implemented if necessary. The expectation is that the format will self-regulate based on costs alone.
Once you have built a deck (or found one on tappedout.net), you will need to build it slightly differently from some other decks on Magic Online. Put the deck together under a freeform deck and save it. Then, to play a game, you can go to the "Just for Fun" lobby and host or join a game with Penny Dreadful in the comments. If this format becomes more popular, it may eventually be supported by Wizards of the Coast, but for now it is not an officially sanctioned format.
Penny Dreadful is still a very new format, and as such it hasn't been solved. There are no current Tier 1 decks or even good sideboard plans because you never know what you will face. It's a perfect environment for anyone looking to find the next "best deck." It was described to me as a “brewer's paradise” by some of the players that I spoke to. If a deck ever becomes too popular, and thus a larger part of the metagame, the prices will naturally rise. Because of the fluctuations in price based on popularity, it is likely that the format will never be solved and always need new decks to be built.
I prefer to netdeck, learn a deck well, and then make changes to it on my own. If that is more your style, don't fear! I have some interesting decks from other Penny Dreadful players that may suit your fancy. If none of these are particular interesting to you, check out the subreddit or the Discord channel.
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 2 Guul Draz Assassin
- 4 Indulgent Aristocrat
- 4 Pain Seer
- 2 Sangromancer
- 4 Vampire Lacerator
- 4 Vampire Nighthawk
- 21 Swamp
This is a very aggressive deck with lots of low-costed creatures. It runs Pain Seer and Dark Tutelage to refill your hand and keep pumping out more threats than your opponent can handle. The Vampire tribe theme has some added benefits in Indulgent Aristocrat and Malakir Bloodwitch as well.
With this deck you start by milling yourself and tutoring cards directly into your graveyard with Corpse Churn and Jarad's Orders. Once you have Phyrexian Devourer and Triskelion in your graveyard, the goal is to cast a Necrotic Ooze. You then alternate putting counters on with Phyrexian Devourer's ability and damaging your opponent with Triskelion's ability. This combo is hard to interact with once it is in motion, so try to disrupt their graveyard before Necrotic Ooze enters the battlefield.
This deck runs lots of counterspells and removal and even has a Wrath effect. If you like U/W Control, this is an excellent version. With wonderful finishers in Aetherling, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, and Elixir of Immortality, this deck has everything you could want to control the game.
I would like to take the time to thank Bakert99, Pseudodude, Pandorable, Crapathy, Silasary, ToonBoon, and CrazyBaloth for being so welcoming and helpful when I joined the Discord server. They helped me to get an idea of what the format is like and what to expect moving into it. They may have just been the people online at the time I joined the server, but they were great and gave me great hope for the format and the community around it.
Penny Dreadful sounds very interesting to me and I plan to try it out on my stream this week on Tuesday, so come join me as we explore this new format together! Build (or grab) a deck and let's go see what all of the hype is about! I hope you all have a wonderful week, and as always, happy gaming!