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Introducing... Penny Dreadful (Season 19)


Hello there! Welcome to Introducing Penny Dreadful, the premier MTGGoldfish guide to all things about the ‘ultra-budget’ Magic Online format! I’m Ays, or ‘Sushi’ for those who want to call me so, and this piece is the first in the Introducing… series, where I explore some of the lesser known formats in the Magic-sphere!

Today, we’re gonna take a look at the Penny Dreadful format—a format which I’ve loved for quite some time. Penny Dreadful was the first format in which I was able to start creating my own content, and the first Magic Online format I got into. So it holds a special place in my heart! It’s really a unique corner in the world of Magic, and I’m really pumped to be talking about it!

With that being said, let’s crack on!

The Format

So, what is Penny Dreadful? Why is it the ‘ultra-budget’ format? What makes it so unique? Essentially, it’s an eternal format (like Legacy and Vintage), but…

  • The only cards that are legal are cards that are 0.02 tix or under on Magic Online.
  • Due to this restriction, it’s a Magic Online only format—possibly the only of its kind.
  • Penny Dreadful marks legality using a ‘rotation’ period during each set release.
  • There is no banlist.

The fact that there’s no banlist means that the format is filled with brewing options, making it a self proclaimed ‘brewer’s paradise’, as well as being cheap enough to be entry level for newer Magic Online players. The format is, however, unsanctioned - games are played in the ‘Freeform’ queues, and are tracked by a Magic Online bot called ‘PDBot’.

Penny Dreadful used to have a price restriction of 0.01 tix, but this was raised at the inception of the Pioneer format, due to price spikes making the format’s card pool too small. However, this change now means that the card pool is now a staggering 11,000–14,000 cards each season, which is of near equivalence to Modern’s card pool of 14,390 (as of 10/02/2021).

Some of the most ‘busted’ cards of Penny Dreadful’s history have been the likes of Dark Ritual, Channel, and Necropotence, and Season 19 (Kaldheim) is very much similar, with Treasure Cruise, Gitaxian Probe, and Hermit Druid all making appearances.

Rotation

Penny Dreadful’s ‘rotation’ is a week-long event, in which cards are checked for legality within the format for the next season. This occurs for the seven days prior to a new Standard set releasing, and each season lasts between standard set releases.

The Penny Dreadful site checks the price for each card, and marks it down a total of 168 times (once every hour for seven days). As soon as a card is checked as 0.02 tix or less 84 times, it becomes ‘Legal’. If it fails the check 84 times, it  becomes ‘Not Legal’. These legalities are used for the whole season, allowing for the meta to stay fresh, whilst also providing consistent legalities (as just checking the current price wouldn’t work due to fluctuation).

You can view the rotation here, and look at the percentages of checks passed for each card rendered legal or not legal. It also shows cards new to the format, and heavily played staples, to make brewing easier! The page used to show unconfirmed cards, but due to people buying out cards to force them out of legality and influence the format, they’ve been hidden.

Playing Penny Dreadful

The format is played in the aforementioned ‘Tournament Practice’ queues on Magic Online, and are organized using either the Penny Dreadful website or Gatherling (for tournaments). 

To play, you will need:

And that’s it! There’s honestly not much else to it! If you’re unable to open a Cardhoarder loan account, you will also need a single Magic Online event ticket!

Leagues

Leagues are the easiest, on demand way to play Penny Dreadful. They’re also the main way to play decks, because they’re unlimited, free of charge and full of players!

The official explanation of leagues is:

  • Leagues last for roughly a month. You may enter any number of times but only one deck at a time.
  • You play five matches per run. You can join the league at any time.
  • Top 8 finishers on each month's league leaderboard win credit with MTGO Traders.
  • When you complete a five match league run for the first time ever you will get 1 tik credit with MTGO Traders (at the end of the month).

To play in a league:

Step 1: Register your deck on pennydreadfulmagic.com, after logging in with your Discord account and linking your MTGO Username.

Step 2: Create a game in the ‘Freeform Tournament Practice’ section of Magic named ‘PD League’ and wait for someone to join.

Step 3: Play Magic!

That’s how easy it is, and you can drop, change your deck around and sign up again! You don’t even need to report your results, because PDBot records them automatically. 

It’s really simple, and allows for you to be able to change decks and try a ton of new ideas with ease.

Tournaments

Tournaments are run through Gatherling. The easiest way to get involved is to sign up to Gatherling, then check which tournaments are happening when on the event schedule! Make sure to join the discord for easy communication!

The events usually payout Event Tickets through Cardhoarder, or other bot services.

Resources

Due to the popularity and the community spirit surrounding Penny Dreadful, a lot of information on it is available publicly—either through their site or through other places on the internet! 

Metagame and Decklists

So, MTGGoldfish actually has a page dedicated to Penny Dreadful decks and metagame statistics, which is updated fairly regularly with league results, tournament results and such.

Other than that, almost everything (even the PDBot itself) is open source and available to view either in the discord server or at pennydreadfulmagic.com; it’s really refreshing to see so much transparency in a Magic format, especially with the recent abundance of radio silence from Wizards regarding official formats.

Scryfall

Scryfall actually tracks Penny Dreadful in its search engine. All you have to do is search for a card, and bingo! Scryfall will tell you if it’s legal in Penny Dreadful or not! This feature makes brewing incredibly quick and simple, as you can just type “f:pd” in the search bar to make sure your search is only inclusive of cards legal in Penny Dreadful.

Cardhoarder

Cardhoarder now provides free 5 tix loans, meaning that you can play Penny Dreadful for free, other than the initial cost of buying into Magic Online. This also allows you to build a number of decks, and lets you change cards on the fly—rather than you having to buy them!

Season 19

The current season of Penny Dreadful is Season 19, which started on 02/12/2021 and will end on 04/23/2021, when Strixhaven releases. So, what is this season all about? 

Well, to get you updated…

With last season’s oppressive cantrip base of Ponder and Brainstorm out of the way, Izzet Delver no longer seems like a dominant force in the format. Nor does Dimir Tendrils, a deck which has been prevalent for the past few seasons, as Tendrils of Agony has also been crunched out of the format. Also, Affinity has lost Cranial Plating, so time will tell if it has staying power.

On top of this, Storm and Reanimate both lost out on Cabal Ritual, with the latter losing out on Animate Dead also. As well as the all star cantrips, Dimir Control had both Cling to Dust and Drown in the Loch taken away, meaning the deck lost quite a lot.

Other notable cards that didn’t make the cut that were Season 18 staples include Deafening Silence, Lodestone Golem, Mystic Sanctuary, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, and Tormod's Crypt. That means that Season 19 is shaping up to be a pretty interesting season, with some cards that were omnipresent beforehand gone.

With that being said, let’s take a look at what’s brewing!

The Card Kingdom

Even though powerhouses such as Brainstorm, Animate Dead, and Tendrils of Agony are gone, there are still a huge amount of cards that are making a wave in the format! 

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On the opening night of the format, the top two most played cards (other than basic lands) are Nihil Spellbomb and Duress, followed by Heartless Act, Hymn to Tourach and Opt. In fact, the whole top ten nonland cards are filled with Dimir Control cards, in Counterspell, Gitaxian Probe and Spell Pierce.

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However, a lot of these cards have a win rate below 50%, with Counterspell dropping towards 36% and Gitaxian Probe even lower (34.3%). This isn’t necessarily representative of how many decks are playing Dimir Control, however (that will be explored later). Rather, how many of these powerful cards are being used in decks across the format, and how successful those decks are.

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This doesn’t mean a lot, as the card with the highest win rate at the time of writing is Chandra, Fire Artisan by having only played five leagues in the format, in some Fires of Invention decks. It’s more so interesting to see what cards people are gravitating towards, especially past the usual suspects (Duress and Nihil Spellbomb being flexible cards as they are).

A-deck-ted to the Grind

There’s already a few decks making a wave in the format, so let’s take a look at the few of the best and most interesting ones from the opening weekend!

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Oops! All Spells / Breakfast has been dominating the format, with a win rate of 106-40, due to its ability to go off with Hermit Druid as well as Undercity Informer and Balustrade Spy, To win, the deck casts Dread Return, targeting Angel of Glory's Rise, to put Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Laboratory Maniac onto the field, winning the game with the draw trigger. 

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‘Mardu Hero’ is a great midrange deck, being able to be an early aggressor with Figure of Destiny and Dreadhorde Butcher, as well as being able to grind out games using token effects such as Hero of Precinct One and Lingering Souls, to eventually take the game with cards like Olivia Voldaren. This deck, piloted by 'Wizzernius', was the first to take a league 5-0 this season, so I figured I’d mention it!

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Azorius Wave is the second most popular deck in the format, with a few 5-0s and a record of 41-14. It’s a deck that gains value out of blinking, a lot like Soulherder decks in Modern or Blink decks in Pauper, and Parallax Wave is incredible as both a value tool and control tool.

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Of course, every format has its red deck. This one seems pretty decent, with a good amount of aggressive creatures and a three-damage burn spell in Chain Lightning.

Personal Musings

I’m currently 7th on the leaderboard on the opening weekend, so I feel pretty strong coming into this season!

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Currently, I’m playing Grixis Infect, inspired by Sam Black’s version of the deck that got Blazing Shoal banned. I think the deck has really strong legs, and is able to go up against all of the decks listed above pretty well (the deck currently has a 57% win rate, but I’ve been tuning it from the ground up).

Of course, Blazing Shoal is powerful, but the card that really makes the deck function like butter is Plunge into Darkness. Another amazing card in the deck is Postmortem Lunge, which allows you to win the game on turn three against a Doom Blade effect on turn two.

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I did 4-1 with a version of the deck, but I don’t really like that version. It’s got a few things that are inefficient, and hasn’t got much staying power. Plus, the sideboard is a lot worse than the newer iteration.

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However, I did also end up 5-0ing with a version of Eggs which is incredibly similar to the Modern version. It's basically one of the most busted things in the format, and I'm shocked there's only two players trying it including myself! It'll be interesting to see whether people pick it up or shy away from it due to its complexity.

Closing Time

That’s all from me today, I hope you enjoyed today’s dive into Penny Dreadful! If you did, and would like to see more content based around the format, please do let us know!

If you want to feedback, or just chat, you can find me on Twitter, Twitch, and on Discord (my username is sushiske#0001), and can talk to me on the MTGGoldfish, Magic Set Editor, and Penny Dreadful servers!

As always, have a good one!



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