Tag: budget

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Bruce Gray - March 21, 2016

Budget Modern Naya Blitz

mayorofavabruck
Casual Encounters 
By Bruce Gray

With all the new cards spoiled from Shadows over Innistrad I have been excited to go back and dig up a bunch of my cards from the original Innistrad block and I found a couple of old decks that were still largely intact.  There are a number of cards that I forgotten about and digging them up inspired me to build a deck using many of these cards.

The two biggest incentives are to play Mayor of Avabruck, a werewolf from our first visit to Innistrad who is just a beating. Part Human lord. Part Werewolf lord. All value.  I dug out my playset of the Mayor and was super excited to dust them off.  The second one is a card that I would argue starts to push the bounds of a budget deck. Legion Loyalist has seen his price climb higher and higher in recent weeks to the point where he is north of $10.  For a 1/1 with Haste for 1 mana that seems steep, but I guess he’s slightly more budget than Tarmogoyf. Either way, finding these cards had me assemble a Naya Blitz deck very similar to one played in Standard back a couple of years ago.  Despite the fact that recycling an old deck is not always a great idea this might be a list that could port to Modern and be fairly explosive.

Here’s my list:

 

Modern- Budget Naya Blitz

Burning-Tree-Emissary

Deck Discussion

On the whole, the deck is fairly inexpensive with the exception of Legion Loyalist thanks to the recent spike.  The spells are also cheap to play and readily available without much difficulty.  The only real difficulty is the mana base which, as we all know, is always expensive.  The Wooded Foothills are currently *$25/card and the Shocklands all currently run about *$10/ card making for over *$200 in mana alone.  That doesn’t even include a 4 of Windswept Heath, not because I don’t want to run them but because I don’t actually own a copy.  So, let’s be generous and say that this deck costs less than *$300 ( more like $250) but could scale significantly if you wanted to run it.  In a format where there are decks that can cost far more without even breaking a sweat this could be a budget entry point into Modern that is easier for some players to digest.  

Some fancy upgrades you could make to the deck including putting in Tarmogoyf as the best 2 drop creature Green has to offer.  Scavenging Ooze could be another choice, but it gets a little mana intensive and would be better as a sideboard card to try and gain back some life against particular matchups. Atarka’s Command would be an ideal upgrade and another very flexible card in these colours.  Wild Nacatl would be a powerful addition as well.  I could go on for days listing other powerful Modern staples, but I think you see the point…if you wanted to up the price tag there are lots of options to do so.

The game plan is simple.  Hit the board early and often with fast creatures that pack a mean punch.  Loyalist and the Swiftspear come in with Haste and Flinthoof Boar might join them meaning you could after your opponent’s life total early and often.  The real question is if you can chain Burning-Tree Emissaries together into a Mayor of Avabruck or more Boars to really spread your board out wide and put the pressure on before your opponent is set.  Burning-Tree Shaman is the only creature at the 3 spot, but might be a good choice in this list because it is a 3/4 for 3 mana meaning it survives a Lightning Bolt. I might opt to increase the number of the Shaman and shave something off as I go. Gore-Clan Rampager does double duty as a 4/4 beater but also as a pump spell should you need to extend your reach and smash your opponent harder.  Lastly the Regent might just be good insurance if you need to get a little further into the game.   

The spells are pretty easy.  Boros Charm is just very versatile with every mode having some sort of application in this deck. Do you need to burn out your opponent? You got it.  Save your creature by giving it Indestructible? Okey-Dokey.  Double down on the damage with Double-Strike? Yes Please!  Lightning Bolt is also another no brainer if you’re playing Red.  Giant Growth could be a very powerful option to help push through additional damage.  Mutagenic Growth might be a better option, but since I don’t have any of those Giant Growth will need to do for the present.  Mad Cap Skills is the only card I am unsure of and is very much a holdover from when I played this in Standard.  It is a pretty powerful way to push through damage by granting your creature a form of pseudo evasion.  The problem is that you can find your creature burned out or Pathed easily enough that you set yourself up for a 2 for 1.  It might be the first card I side out every game but as it stands right now I have it in the deck.  The sideboard is very much a work in progress, but the cards I have listed here are a starting point and can be built on depending on your local metagame.

The obvious weakness of the list is that Anger of the Gods and Pyroclasm absolutely wreck it.  Nothing like having your whole deck go up in flames.  You have a few things that can live through the Red board wipes, but the truth is that those just wreck your deck.  I’m not sure if it is fast enough for Burn or for Affinity, but it might have a chance against some of the more Mid-rangey decks.  Regardless, the deck is a bit of a glass cannon and you need to get out to fast start and get them dead fast because once you run out of gas you are in big trouble.

It isn’t a pretty deck and lacks some of the subtly that other decks in the format afford, but as far as a Budget entry point into Modern this looks like it might fit the bill.  The cards aren’t overly expensive and should be accessible as they have seen fairly recent printings meaning most players can assemble the deck.  With some practice and refining of the sideboard this could become a fairly reasonable deck to sit down and sling spells with. Who said you can’t go back home again? 

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a read.  Please be sure to stop in next time for another Casual Encounter.

 

-Bruce Gray

@bgray8791 on Twitter

  

*Editor’s note: All prices discussed in the article are obviously subject to change according to the whims of the multiverse.
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Bruce Gray - January 27, 2015

Brewing a budget modern deck

Eidolon of Blossoms

Casual Encounters: Brewing a Budget Modern deck

By Bruce Gray 

With the banning of Cruise and Dig Through Time I thought I might take a bit of a stab at Modern. The format seems SOOO intimidating because it is just so powerful and with so many truly ridiculous archetypes that even getting into the format seems very challenging.  Now, I don’t have the money to jump into the format with one of the Big Boy decks, so I end up having to brew my own budget deck just so I can play.  Today, I thought I would share with you guys what sort of budget Modern Brew I’ve been working on.

Budget means different things in different formats.  To most of us a budget deck at Standard means that the deck costs less than $100.  At Modern that threshold changes significantly and puts you well into the hundreds of dollars, but considering that some of the Modern decks floating around can cost THOUSANDS of dollars, this still seems like a bargain.  The deck I have for you today costs a couple of hundred dollars and thus falls into this realm and could be a lot of fun to play.

Sometimes there are decks that you brew for one format that you like so much that you keep them together as they roll over into the next format.  That is the case for this deck that I ostensibly built for Standard during Return to Ravnica and Theros Block.  It wasn’t a mainstream deck by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a deck that I liked to play and it could do some awfully powerful things and steal a win out of nowhere. Let’s take a look at the deck list.

 

Bant Enchantress Auras – Modern Budget deck

 

Breakdown

Ok, a number of people are going to look at this list and just scoff because I have things like Plasm Capture…and I agree…but part of the idea behind this build was to do something a little off beat…and I think I’ve got it.  This deck is trying to do a number of things, and that might be its downfall.  It wants to be 1 part control deck, 1 part Hexproof, 1 part Enchantress and looks and feels a bit clunky, but with some streamlining could be really fun. Let’s have a peak at some of the cards.

The Hexproof package is the Aqueous Forms, Ethereal Armor, and Unflinching Courage and the game plan is pretty easy.  Suit up a Witchstalker and go nuts. The Lone Revenant was something I found in a janky binder and tossed in just in case I needed another target because I wrathed away the board…and the additional card draw is kind of a sleeper addition to the deck. Ajani is in here for his 2nd ability, to give a Witchstalker flying and double strike and it can well and truly end a game in a hurry.

The control package is the trio if Plasm Capture and Render Silent along with the Supreme Verdicts.  This is pretty straight forward in terms of concept but the choices I made are pretty unusual.  Counterspell and Plasm Capture are both likely too slow for Modern, but if there is going to be a 3 mana counter spell to run, Render Silent feels like a good option because it is Counterspell  and a Silence stapled together.  Plasm Capture is just a greedy spell that gets passed over, but even nabbing one spell with one is a huge tempo swing.  This package could no doubt be streamlined, but they provide for some interesting options and are spells your opponents would NEVER expect to contend with. Sphinx’s Revelation is just a powerful card draw spell that can’t be overlooked and some number larger than 0 felt like the right call.

The Enchantress package is powered by the ever popular Eidolon of Blossoms. I took one look at the large number of enchantments, particularly Auras, and decided that nothing makes an Aura based deck run better, and ruin more opponents, than cantripping into your other spells.  So, in went the Eidolon to abuse all those enchantments and off I went.

A few other pieces that are useful in here don’t fit with any real theme, but are versatile utility creatures.  Qasali Pridemage is great example as he wrecks other enchantments and can provide a meaningful boost to a solo attacker.  The original interaction of this deck had Fleecemane Lions but with those still being played heavily in Standard I made a suitable substitution.  Courser of Kruphix is another useful card that jives well with the Enchantress theme, but would likely get run anyway because it just provides so much value.  Thassa, the Charioteers, and the Bow of Nylea all offer similar utility for differing reasons, but all could be replaced without much trouble.

 

Substitutions

At Modern the Shocklands paired with Fetchlands are indeed the way to go so the mana base is most of the way there.  The Scry lands aren’t ideal and the “buddy” lands would be preferable…particularly the Hinterland Harbour and Glacial Fortress.  However, those are fairly modest adjustments to the mana base.

Render Silent and Plasm Capture are both targets for an upgrade provided you have a suitable option.  Mana Leak, Spell Pierce, Remand all come to mind, but some of those are more expensive. The permission shell has room for improvement and there are a number of possible ways to go.

I could run Slippery Boggle and Gladecover Scout as Hexproof one drops instead of the bulkier Witchstalker, but I like how the stalker could be used to punish Black and Blue decks who want to play on your turn.  Those +1/+1 counters accelerate the clock in a suitable way for sure. It might mean that the deck is too slow, but I’ll need to test it out and see.

Obviously the Aura package could stand to be improved with Hyena and Spider Umbra’s to help my Hexproof dudes have a little resilience as I wash away my opponent’s threats with Supreme Verdict.

The Lone Revenant is likely FAR too expensive…but I think he’s a funny card and something that could be an interesting solo threat.

Well, that’s my deck…it may not be much good and could most certainly be streamlined with a bunch of other options, but it is a fun and interesting deck.

 

Thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.

Regards.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
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Bruce Gray - August 23, 2014

Something Old and Something New

lavinia of the tenth commander

Something Old and Something New

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

Today I’m going back to my roots…and going someplace new…all in the same article.  One of my favorite parts of Magic is building new decks.  I enjoy building a new deck as a creative enterprise that could also see the light of day if the deck is half decent.  I usually make a conscious effort to build decks that are budget conscious because we all play within some sort of limitations.  Some have deeper pockets than others, but there is always a limitation.  And, I build when something gets me started.

 

Something old

I have long maintained that I like playing 60 card casual multiplayer games and as a result that is usually where I focus my energies.  60 card decks reduce the amount of variance of your deck because you usually have a higher number of copies of each spell that you want to cast. This is not news, but the difficulty in a multiplayer game is that your 60 card deck doesn’t have answers to EVERYTHING…just the things you face most often.  So long as you understand that trade off, you should be all good.  So, I’ve gone back to those 60 card decks and brewed one up that is fun, super cheap, and basically can blow out an unsuspecting opponent quite easily.

 

The inspiration for this deck came from two places.  The first was watching the draft coverage of Pro Tour Magic 2015.  I watched in amazement as one of the players attacked with his Sungrace Pegasus.  Easy enough…and a cute little 1 point life gain with the Lifelink.  Then, he cast Living Totem that dumped an extra +1/+1 counter on the Pegasus.  THEN he cast Hunt the Weak on it giving it another counter.  Now he had a 3/4 lifelinking Pegasus, which is pretty solid.  Now, this isn’t a hard feat to reproduce, but I want to create a creature with +1/+1 counters faster and better than this…and then I remembered a couple of cards.  Common Bond and Reap What is Sown act very similarly, but are worded a little differently, but both place additional +1/+1 counters on creatures.  Mix in a few Heroic creatures and some combat tricks and you have all the makings for a nasty little deck that will make life miserable for the unsuspecting.  Let’s see that list.

 

Selesnya Counters –  GW Casual decklist

Replace the 2 x Seraph of Dawn to make the deck standard legal.

 

Strategy

The game plan is pretty aggressive and straight forward with a host of flying creatures and  growing them with a Reap what is Sown or a Common Bond.  The Akroan Skyguard is a perfect target because it quickly gets huge and just rains down pain.  The Sungrace Pegasus and the Seraph of Dawn pack Lifelink to push our life total out of danger and make you extra difficult to put away.  While I’m on the topic of Seraph of Dawn, this could easily be Dawnbringer Charioteer if you wanted to play a Standard legal version of this deck instead because they are almost identical, but I had a couple of Seraph’s lying around and am a little low on Charioteer’s right now.  Chronicler of Heroes digs you deeper with extra cards and Sunblade Elf is just a blow out waiting to happen with his activated ability.  The REAL blow out happens when you, out of nowhere, slam Brave the Elements giving all your White creatures (which is basically ALL of them) protection from the colour of your choice…and then back it up with Sanctified charge.  The damage in those two cards can be absolutely explosive even if you are packing just a bunch of little fliers.  So, the deck is nothing fancy, but it’s quick, it’s cheap to build, and can clobber an unsuspecting opponent very quickly. Those who have some Temple of PlentyTemple Gardens and/or Mana confluence should replace some of the Forest with them.

 

 

Something New

Now, I have never really gotten into playing EDH, but you can’t escape the interest in the Magic community. Everywhere you go someone is talking about EDH.  Many of the Local Game Stores support it as a format with regular game nights and highly attended events meaning that someone must be enjoying the format.  While I’ve never really got into EDH I’ve been intrigued by the format…because who doesn’t want to play all the coolest spells from the history of Magic?  Now, I don’t think I have a set philosophy for building an EDH deck the way I do for a 60 card deck, but I do feel like an EDH deck ought to be made of things you already own.  It feels bizarre to me to think that people are rushing out to buy loads of cards for EDH decks and prompting what effectively amounts to an arms race for a format that is intended to be casual, relatively inexpensive and fun. Don’t get me wrong, trading and finding the cards you want is part of the game, but I hate to think people are rushing around dropping tons of money on EDH decks so that they can “keep up with the Jones’”. To someone who is still on the outside looking in at the format, well, that feels not quite right and against the spirit of the format.  Maybe I’m wrong and I’d love to hear from the EDH community out there (and there are lots of people in that community), but that’s my early impression of how the format is.

 

So, as a first attempt at an EDH deck I thought I would take a deck that I have and adapt it to EDH play.  This feels like a natural evolution of deck building and when the deck already has a couple of Legendary creatures floating around inside it, I have a built in general of two I can access.  I have a W/U deck that looks to exploit the Detain mechanic from Return to Ravnica and have mixed in some of my other cards to produce a 60 card deck that can fare very well in a multi-player game because it can answer just about every sort of threat.  It packs a splash of removal, counter magic, artifact and enchantment destruction, and spells that just play havoc with combat.  All in all, the early makings for an EDH deck.  So, with some adaptation, the deck can be built to make a move to the more robust world of EDH play.  Let’s see what I’ve brewed up.

 

Lavinia of the Tenth Commander Decklist

 

This feels like a pretty straight forward build that is looking to defend itself by seriously slowing down an opponent with the detain ability or “freezing” the opponents creatures.  It has a little bit of everything in terms of counter magic, creature destruction and other useful tidbits.  The piece that floored me was the number of mass removal effects that I had in my binder and box of spares.  Between just plain destroying everything and mass bounce spells, there are plenty of cards that make life miserable for my opponents. The last thing is the ability to break a dead lock.  I feel like EDH can stall out a little bit, particularly if all the players have the mana they need and their life is relatively stable, that you need some sort of way to break open the board stall.  This is where Whispersilk Cloak and the Rogue’s Passage come in handy (and the Aetherling just for kicks) to allow something you control to sneak by and bash without fear of being blocked.  This may not be enough, but it’s a concession to the fact that I could be in for a grindy game and will need a way to close it down.

 

So, there we have something old, and something new.  What do you think?  For my first attempt at an EDH deck, how have I done?  Have I forgotten something or overlooked a card you think needs to be included in the list? As someone who is new to building an EDH deck, the feedback would be amazing and something I would really appreciate from our terrific readers here on Three Kings Loot.

 

Thanks for reading again this week and until next time Keep it Fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

 

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter.

 

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Bruce Gray - July 30, 2014

UWR American Bulk [Budget standard decks]

Daxos of Meletis - UWR American Bulk rares [Budget standard decks]

UWR American Bulk rares [Budget standard decks]

 by Bruce Gray – Casual Encouters

Here’s a situation we all face in this game.  Magic is a collectible card game.  As such, you are always collecting the cards and looking for the next card you want and need to add to your collection. Some of those cards you want for a new deck, others you want because of the cool art, or because they are foils, and other cards are just cool to collect.  Along the way you accumulate all sorts of other cards.  Many of these cards are commons and uncommons that seem to multiply in short order. Others are chase rare cards that you REALLY want to add to your collection.  Others are still rare, but aren’t very good…in fact, many of them are terrible.  These are called Bulk rares.  They are called “Bulk” because you can find them in the “bulk” bin at your LGS (Local Game Shop) and just sitting there doing nothing.

 

What to do with these bulk rares?  For many they sit in a binder and just…be.  They don’t get played.  They hardly get LOOKED at.  They just sit in their sleeve.  No one will actually trade for them.  Few stores will take them off your hands with their buylist.  No…these are truly cast away cards.  Even commons get more of a lease on life with Pauper formats.  However, Bulk rares just sit and do NOTHING.

 

Well, this is where I come along.  I’m always looking for some way to brew up a new deck without costing myself much in the way of money.  Let’s be real here…I have BOXES of stuff that I’m not playing.  That’s thousands of cards that are just sitting there and not getting played.  Surely, somewhere in amongst all those cards there are 60 cards that I can eke out into a deck.  Well, today I think I’ve managed to make it work…and surprise…I think I even found a way to slide in a couple of M15 beauties.  I call this Casual Masterpiece…American Bulk (rares)…BEHOLD!

 

American Bulk [Budget Standard decks]

 

 

This deck is actually very simple in terms of game plan.  Play a dude…suit him up with Bestow creatures.  Smash.  There are some of the best Bestow creatures in Hopeful Eidolon, Everflame Eidolon, Ghostbalde Eidolon and Thassa’s and Purphoros’s Emissaries that can all make combat just miserable.  Fencing Ace is another unheralded critter with Double-strike that can just make an opponent cry if he gets suited up.  The Ordeals have long been good, and Purphoros’s ordeal is a perfect fit. No, generally the game plan is very straight forward and not unlike the plan from many a Draft deck, however, mix in some bulk rares for variety’s sake and we can make for a spicy game with some interesting twists and turns.

 

The first piece of wonky deck-tech is Daxos.  This guy is so close to being good…he can let you play your opponents cards, has a form of quasi evasion and a 2/2 for 3 mana is just a shade under the curve meaning he’s playable…sort of…but just not quite. However, suit him up with a Bestow creature and suddenly he becomes far more interesting and more of a nuisance.  He can outclass 2 drops meaning your opponent will need to block with multiple creatures (which always feels bad) or have you start nabbing stuff off the top of their deck.  Perhaps it says something about the sort of player I am, but I really, really, REALLY enjoy beating up my opponent with their own creatures and spells.

 

The second piece of truly bizarre deck choice is Fated Retribution.  7 mana board wipes are completely unplayable in 60 card decks right?  Well, I for one am willing to give this one another lease of life.  It’s actually a very powerful spell, and at Instant speed could really be back breaking. I’m willing to give this a try and see whether or not it can cut it.

 

Perplexing Chimera is another odd choice, but there’s no mistaking that the ability to switch owners of a spell is intriguing and the fact that it sits there as a threat, waiting to de-rail a spell is enough for me.  I think this is a very funny card and really can shake things up as your opponent attempts to play around it.

 

Silent Sentinel is yet another odd choice but when you consider the context of the deck it quickly becomes apparent why he’s in this little build.  Whenever he attacks you get to return an enchantment from your graveyard to your hand.  This is quite a powerful ability when the bulk of the creatures in the deck are enchantment creatures.   A 4/6 flier is also pretty handy even though he’s a greedy mana sync, but as a one of is quite reasonable.

 

Boonweaver Giant and Spectra Ward are my latest discoveries.  This pair from M15 just scream “PUT ME IN AN ENCHANTMENT DECK!”.  So I did.  The absolute best part about this combo is that if you cast Boonweaver Giant you can tutor up Spectra Ward from almost ANYWHERE! Graveyard? Sure thing. How about in my hand? No Sweat! What about in my library?  Go nuts! Then, once you get Boonweaver all paired up with Spectra Ward you have a 6/6 creature with protection from basically everything.  It’s actually gross. Now people say “but it costs 7 mana!”…and I simply respond “it sure does…but when I’m digging up a 5 mana aura to attach to it, it’s like I’m casting 12 mana worth of spells and really only spending 7.  That’s a bargain if I’ve ever heard one”.  Besides, there are very few things that actually outclass a 6/6 creature with protection from EVERYTHING, 7 mana or not.

 

The last piece of truly bizarre deck-tech is the choice to run Pyxis of Pandemonium.  This is usually a terrible card and something that you don’t really want to play…unless you’re simply using it as disruption to throw your opponent off their game plan.  Many decks are developed to play a certain way and with a large number of Scry abilities want to set up their draw steps very carefully to maximize each and every time they draw.  However, slide this card into your deck and just start screwing with their scrying and exile the top card of their library.  You have no idea what you just exiled from their deck, but I bet they probably wanted it.  As for this deck, with 28 permanents and 24 lands you don’t really care what gets exiled because when you sacrifice the Pyxis you’re reasonably assured to get most of it back.  Besides, you’re playing a souped up draft deck with some bulk rares…who CARES what you exile…it can likely be replaced by something.  I just think this card makes for a hilarious random game and just puts such a monkey wrench in the game plan of so many decks that I just need to find it a slot.

 

How does this deck fair?  Well, as it is fairly experimental I haven’t had a chance to play it against too many people.  I had one of my friends stop by to play one evening and the deck fared very well.  The life gain that can be achieved by Bestowing a Hopeful Eidolon on something can really push a game and make it very difficult to dispatch this deck.  Attach the Eidolon to something with Double Strike and things get even better.  Also, the flexibility of having Bestow creatures actually lowers the curve where you can get out and play a number of smaller threats early and then later in the game, as you draw others, allows you to suit up one as you ready for the kill. Sea God’s Revenge is just a blow out waiting to happen and Voyage’s End is just a very versatile way of holding off an aggressive opponent.  Is it a finely polished deck ready to take down a PTQ?  No way…but as a cheap and fun casual brew I think it fits the bill and can do some funny things to keep things interesting.

 

Well, there we have yet another funny Casual Brew for you to test out at home.  Give it a whirl…I’d love to know if you have the same success I’ve had.  Also, go ahead and flip through that binder and see if there are any bulk rares you can use to spice up a deck.  No one said that every deck you make HAS to be tier 1 competitive ready…sometimes brewing fun Casual decks like this can be just as fun.

 

Well thanks for reading and until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

 

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encouters
@bgray8791

 

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Bruce Gray - July 20, 2014

Brewing on a Budget MTG Standard

Laboratory Maniac - Brewing on a Budget MTG

Brewing on a Budget MTG

by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

 

Since I started writing for Three Kings Loot back in February I’ve highlighted a fair number of decks.  The one thing that most of these decks have in common is that I would describe them all as being “budget” decks. This means that I am interested in trying to find a relatively inexpensive way to build a deck that is still powerful and presents a number of problems for my opponents.  These decks aren’t usually Tier 1 competitive decks, but they can surprise someone who underestimates what the deck can do.  Today, I’m going to showcase some budget substitutions that will allow you to build your own budget deck and help you to keep your cost down.  We’ll look at land, creatures, and lastly other spells in an effort to briefly touch on all the key elements of your very own budget deck.

 

Lands

If you routinely stop by here on The Bag of Loot you know that I have a thing for land.  Basically Magic is entirely dependent on the land you draw.  I don’t care how many awesome spells you have in your library, if you don’t have the land to cast them you are likely sunk (unless you’re playing Legacy/Vintage in which it seems possible to play with no land).  Without access to the correct land it doesn’t matter what spells you have, you’re likely to lose.  As a result, this is one of the few areas where you really can’t skimp too much.  You can use things like Guildgates and Life Gain lands from Zendikar if you aren’t fussy on format, but most people want to play Standard.  If you want to play Standard you need the lands.  It becomes even MORE apparent in the realm of Modern where Fetches and such are super expensive. Bottom line, unless you play Casually and you and your friends don’t mind you mixing in different things, you’re probably on the hook for having the “right” land for your deck.  Temples. Shocks. Mana Confluence. Nykthos. Guildgates. Pain Lands.  There is a large variety of lands available, some more expensive than others, but if you want to play you need to get the right ones for you and your deck and cheaping out and just running basics just won’t cut it usually.

 

Creatures

While you can’t cut corners on your land, you most certainly can make up ground with the suite of creatures you opt to run.  Basically, at almost each and every converted mana cost along the curve you can run a variety of choices. Now, the creatures that are very expensive in a given format are expensive because they are the optimal creature for that converted mana cost in that colour.  That doesn’t mean that alternatives don’t exist.  These alternatives are typically much cheaper and can help keep your cost down.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at a few examples.

 

Let’s start with Stormbreath Dragon.  4/4 flying for 5 mana and has haste, protection from white, and a Monstrosity ability.  There’s no doubt this is a premium creature and well worth the $15 a card you’ll pay as a single.  However, there are other options available to you if you really wanted to run a creature at the 5 spot that was more inexpensive.  Hypersonic Dragon is the same 4/4 with haste and 5 mana (although a blue and red are part of its casting) meaning it could fit the bill.  Scourge of Valkas from M14 fits those stats pretty well too and is still a dragon.  Both of these options are red, can fill the same hole in your deck and cost you significantly less in terms of money to pick up.

 

Blood Baron of Vizkopa is another 5 mana creature, this one is 4/4 with protection from white and black, lifelink,  and can trigger some ridiculous bonus if you have enough life, or your opponent is running low on  life.  Some other options at 5 cmc are Serra Angel (which is unexciting, but still perfectly viable), Keepsake Gorgon, and Celestial Archon.  These are all very playable at five and are even in Black and White so they can hold a spot in your deck.  Don’t let me fool you…Blood Baron is the optimal choice, but if you’re budget is tight, these guys are viable options.

 

Polukranos a 4 mana for 5/5 hydra with a ridiculous Monstrosity ability.  This one is tough to replace because 5/5 for 4 mana AND has an ability is pretty ridiculous.  However, there are a few options available like Deadbridge Goliath. This is probably the closest from a statistical standpoint, and isn’t a bad card and makes a suitable alternative.  If you can splash another colour, Reaper of the Wilds is another solid option and much cheaper as well.  A 4/5 for 4 mana is pretty close and the abilities on it make it a tricky critter to deal with…and costs a fraction of what Polukranos costs.

 

Soldier of the Pantheon– The aggro decks out there are not immune from having some pricey cards too.  Soldier of the Pantheon is a $2 card that is a 2/1 for 1 mana.  There is no doubt that they are an optimal 1 drop to kick start your beatdown with an aggro deck, but $8 for four 1 mana creatures leaves me scratching my head and my wallet empty.  You could opt instead to run Favoured Hoplite or Satyr Hoplite, both 1 drops that can lead the beat down band wagon for you in place of the Soldier.  They need a little more work than the Soldier, but with their Heroic triggers might give you a bigger beat stick with which to bring the pain.  If you really wanted the 2/1 for 1 you can instead turn to RTR block and grab the Dryad Militant as an inexpensive option.

 

Boon Satyr – This super awesome 4/2 for 3 mana is a staple in Green decks, but can also Bestow for a very reasonable 5 mana…oh…and has flash.  There is really nothing else that approaches this level of versatility, explosive damage, and just being down right nasty to play against.  No wonder it’s $1.50 a card.  However, you could run Feral Invocation if you were looking for the Flash aura effect.  If you wanted the Flash effect on a creature, Briarpack Alpha probably comes closest as a 3/3 for 4 mana and a fun Enter the Battlefield trigger.

 

Brimaz, King of Oreskos– King Kitty is a huge threat at 3 mana and the abilities packed on him are just full on value…no wonder he’s $20 a card.  However, if you wanted a card with just about as much devastating punch, Fabled Hero runs you about a $1 and packs double strike and heroic.  Things can get out of control very quickly with our Hero…and the extra money you saved will bring a smile to your face as well.

 

Now, these are just some suggestions for substitutes in your deck to help keep the cost down.  All the substitutions have significant drawbacks compared to the optimal creatures in the deck.  I fully admit that a Serra Angel doesn’t stack up with Blood Baron very well, and that Fabled Hero is a poor substitute for King Kitty.  However, if you’re wallet can’t handle the $80 to pick up a playset of Brimaz, Fabled Hero can do in a pinch.

 

Spells

Spells are a little tougher to replace.  The super expensive spells and staples of a format are that way because they don’t have a substitute…or at least not exactly.  The thing is spells don’t leave behind a body that can be utilized after they have been cast, so you need the impact of the spell itself to be pretty terrific.  However, there are a few options for some of the spells.

 

Thoughtseize– This Legacy playable piece of hand disruption just crushes decks by stripping away all the most important pieces of your opponent’s hand.  It really is crippling…and it is going to be in rotation for another 14 months! Yikes.  However, at $20 a card is a little steep.  Duress is probably the closest option and is regularly reprinted.  It is a little more limited in terms of what it hits, but let’s be honest, you are almost always going to take an instant or sorcery spell from your opponent because you can find other answers in your deck to deal with creatures and planeswalkers.  So, Duress is a reasonable substitute.  Brain Maggot is another possible route, and it even gives you a body.  Sin Collector is the last option, but for 3 mana is significantly slower and not as optimal.

 

Supreme Verdict- Premium 4 mana wrath effects are always key to a control player’s strategy.  Supreme Verdict really has no equal because it also can’t be countered…meaning that you hit it and your opponent cries every time as they watch their board disappear.  However, at $8 a card this can burn a hole pretty quickly in your wallet.  The only REAL option is Planar Cleansing…but it’s a 6 mana sorcery…which feels kind of yucky.  Fated Retribution is another option…but it’s 7 mana (although thankfully at instant speed).  These can do in a pinch if you really want to play the control game, but you may have to alter you game strategy because you’ll need to get to at least 6 mana to have either of those spells come online.

 

Sphinx’s Revelation- Ok, there is no equal to this card.  Mass card draw AND life gain is a Control player’s dream come true.  However, the most important piece is always the card draw because it gives you access to more resources.  Divination is the cleanest way to get access to some of the card drawing power of Sphinx’s Revelation, but Jace’s Ingenuity from M15 will be another option that draws 3 cards for 5 mana at least at instant speed meaning you can jam it on your opponent’s turn. After that, you can play poorer spells like Inspiration, or the more expensive Opportunity, but you’re still longing to get a Sphinx’s Revelation and run it.

 

Hero’s Downfall- Instant speed spot removal of creatures AND Planeswalkers is huge.  However, Black has lots of good removal right now ranging from Ultimate Price to Bile Blight to Doom blade.  This means that Black decks should have no issue dealing with creatures…pick your removal spell of choice and go to work. Planeswalkers are tougher, but you can always resort to fighting them directly which always gives you at least one option.

 

Planeswalkers- I have no substitute for a Planeswalker.  Honestly, they represent 3 (or 4) potential different spells and abilities that you just can’t replace in your deck.  You can try but prioritizing which of the abilities are most pertinent to you and your deck and substituting for cards that recreate that effect, but you still need to pay for it while the Planeswalker can replicate that effect for free turn after turn.  No, there’s no real option to playing these guys if you want to emulate a Tier 1 deck, but lots of decks can also run just fine without a Planeswalker (just look at Mono-Black Devotion decks that typically run no Planeswalkers).

 

Well, there we have some options to help limit the damage done to your bank account while still allowing you to play and have fun with some solid decks.  Of course the options available go up significantly when you start shifting formats from Standard to Modern, but so do the price tags on the optimal cards.  I hope this was helpful to you guys and that it gives you a few options to go out and brew some of your own decks using some of these alternative pieces.

 

Thanks for reading and until next time Keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

 

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791
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Bruce Gray - July 7, 2014

About Planeswalkers in Casual Magic

Planeswalkers Pantheon

About Planeswalkers in casual Magic

by Bruce Gray -Casual encounters

Magic is an amazing game.  I can think of very few games that allow you to do the sort of things Magic can do.  No, I don’t mean cast spells and have minotaurs and dragons do battle.  What I have in mind is that you can play a large number of different games, all with the same bunch of cards, and still have it be called Magic.  That’s very unique.  Think about it…how many different games can you play with Monopoly? Clue? Stratego?  These games have 1 way of playing the game…but Magic has a number. In addition, the way to play Magic and what each player is seeking from the game experience differs greatly making the way for countless reasons and ways to play.  That is what I love about Magic…every game is fresh, fun, and with a new outcome based on how and why you decide to play.

 

So, when someone says they play Casual Magic it can be very tricky to pin down how and why people play and this is why there can be a certain amount of disagreement over the cards that are acceptable to play.  Recently I had a discussion with a friend of mine who was complaining that he didn’t feel that there was any place in our Casual Magic environment for Planeswalkers.  I had heard a similar argument raised a couple of weeks ago on a podcast and paused.  I looked at my friend and was really interested in hearing about his thoughts on Planeswalkers.

 

The arguments

My friend started making the argument that initially, when Magic was created, there was no need for additional Planeswalkers because the players themselves were serving that role.  In fact, he argued, there really isn’t any place for MORE Planeswalkers than the players themselves because they represent something that is not “created” by the player in terms of spells in his library.  How can you cast a spell and summon an entirely different person?  It doesn’t make sense and it spoils Magic. He continued on in his diatribe by saying that Planeswalkers represent the creep of competitive Magic into the Casual community because everyone wants to play to most powerful cards and many of the Planeswalkers are exactly that.  They spoil the fun of the game because they are such powerful cards that they drain the fun from the game and warp the board state for all the other players. You need to either immediately eliminate the Planeswalker or cast one of your own…so fight it…or join it.  Needless to say, my friend was clearly the sort of person who was not overly interested in seeing Planeswalkers in our decks.

 

Now, I admit, I paraphrased somewhat on behalf of my friend…in part for expediencies sake, and partly because he used some rather “colourful” language is his complain, but the crux of the matter is that he clearly feels that Casual Magic is not the place for Planeswalkers. Now, on my end, I feel slightly differently about the state of Planeswalkers and I wanted to share my thoughts with you today.

 

Fundamentally, I have no issue with playing Planeswalkers in Casual decks or in Casual games in general and I have a number of reasons why.  My friend started his argument with the inception of the game back in 1993 to justify why there was no place for Planeswalkers.  They didn’t start the game with Planeswalkers…so we don’t need them now. This is an argument founded on the reluctance to change.  Human being don’t like change and the older we get the more reticent we are to changing.  Think about it…why do you do certain things the way you do? Why do you follow a certain path when you’re out walking the dog? Why do have a “favorite” when you order pizza?  Why do you buy the same model of shoes when you need a new pair?  Your brain craves things that don’t change and change scares it…so when you change a game like Magic by adding Planeswalkers there are some players who are unwilling to accept this change.  So, when I heard this argument from my friend it was clear to me that he didn’t like the change.

 

Now, some of you will say “Ummm…Planeswalkers have been around for ages…what gives?” but the truth is that they were released in 2007 in Lorwyn which is only 7 years ago.  That means for 13 years there were exactly zero Planeswalker cards, so for the bulk of the existence of Magic Planeswalkers just weren’t cards to play with.  That makes them, on the whole, relatively new to the scene.  Also, add in the idea that many players leave the game and then return to it (much like myself).  Now, these returning players, who may not be familiar with Planeswalkers because they didn’t exist when they last played, are suddenly facing this new card type that is a major force to be dealt with in the game.  No, I get the argument and understand the feelings of my friend.

 

However, there is also a part of the brain that craves new experiences and craves to learn.  Why do we travel to new places?  Why do we try bungee jumping or para-gliding? Why do we try new foods?  Our brain, which is scared of too much change craves a certain amount of change and innovation or else it goes stale.  My feeling is that Planeswalkers are one of those changes to Casual magic which is healthy for the game and the players involved.  Now, like anything, moderation is the key, so integrating some Planeswalkers into your Casual games can be fun and refreshing.  Of course, you can always go back to playing games without them…that isn’t a issue…but trying something kind of new and different for you is positive, so I feel like Planeswalkers can survive that ordeal and still be played.

 

The second half of his argument is essentially that Planeswalkers are too powerful. Essentially in Casual Magic there is a “Social Contract” and that Planeswalkers violate this contract.  Now, by “social contract” I mean there are a number of nebulous rules about how to play the game in order to make the game experience fun for everyone.  You hear about this most often with EDH, but the same sort of thing applies to Casual Magic.  In essence, you don’t want to play cards that are so powerful that they spoil the experience for others, or play in such a way as to spoil the game for others.  This means no rough combos, no “broken” cards, and no Planeswalkers.

 

But power is cool…

Ok, so that can work depending on your playgroup, but I always respond to this sort of argument like this: What’s fundamentally wrong with letting someone play with a busted combo once in a while?  So long as he swaps the deck out after he Painter’s Servant/Grindstones you to death what’s the harm?  I agree, it is no fun to play the same grossly over powered deck time and again, but once in a while there is nothing wrong with it.  In fact, I WANT to see that combo…it’s how I learn! It is highly unlikely I will ever piece that combo together myself, so if I can see it once in a while that’s COOL.  Sure, we all groan and scoop, but the fact is we just watched a premier combo slice and dice.  That’s pretty neat to see…and it’s even MORE fun if you can beat it. So, in your playgroup, there is no reason you can’t play some busted combos, or absolutely degenerate cards, or Planeswalkers, so long as you are prepared to mix it up and play some different decks that give everyone the chance to play and have fun.

 

Which brings me to learning…part of the interesting part of playing Magic is learning.  You learn by watching other people play.  The decks they build. The cards they value over others. How they decide to play and the interactions they create.  To rob yourself of the chance to learn something just because you don’t like it or you feel it spoils the fun seems a little short sighted to me.  Sure, you don’t want to play against the things you don’t like or the overpowered cards every game, and so moderation and variety needs to be mixed in, but there is nothing wrong with players running Planeswalkers in a Casual game. Just be sure you learn from the experience so you know how to interact with that situation in the future.

 

Answers to Planeswalkers

My last point in terms of allowing Planeswalkers into Casual play is much more “nuts and bolts” way in the sense that increasingly Wizards is printing cards that specifically target Planeswalkers so that you have more tools to manage them.  Think about it, in the last 2 years they have printed things like Dreadbore, Abrupt Decay, Hero’s Downfall, Fated Retribution, and Fated Conflagration all of which can target Planeswalkers giving you a number of options to deal with Planeswalkers.  So, if you don’t like them you at least now have an option with which to fight them.

My verdict

No, I see no good reason to NOT allow Planeswalkers in Casual games of Magic, but they do require a little more careful consideration. You and the people in your playgroup need to have a discussion if there are players who are genuinely upset by Planeswalkers.  Perhaps you can work out some sort of a compromise to allow everyone to play the decks they build.  This is the beauty of the “social contract”…it can be amended and changed.  However, maybe your playgroup is 100% okay with Planeswalkers, in which case keep calm and carry on.

 

At the end of the day the criticism of Planeswalkers in Casual Magic probably has far less to do with the actual cards and more to do with the fact that some players have stronger decks and win more frequently.  If that is the case, limiting Planeswalkers is one potential way to even the playing field, but the more important factor is building decks that match the overall skill and power level in your playgroup.  The complaints against Planeswalkers are likely more symptomatic of a problem than the actual cause.  So, there is nothing wrong with having decks that emulate tier 1 decks in various constructed formats, but there is also a time and place for other fun and less powerful decks to keep you playgroup fun and fresh.

 

Thanks very much for reading guys and if you have any ideas or thoughts on Planeswalkers or Casual Magic in general, I’m all ears.  Just shoot me off a tweet at @bgray8791 because I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Until next time, Keep it fun, Keep it safe…keep it Casual.

 

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

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Bruce Gray - June 16, 2014

It’s all about the MTG Lands baby! -Casual Encounters

MTG Lands- Zendikar Lands montage

 

It’s all about the MTG Lands baby!

by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters

Regardless if you play Standard, Legacy, Vintage, Limited…or you just play on a Saturday night with some buddies around the kitchen table, lands are by far and away the most crucial component to any deck.  If you don’t have the right mana you can’t cast your spells.  Everyone can play with basic lands of whatever colour, but in some instances that still leaves you stuck looking for just the right land to cast your awesome spell or activate that cool ability that you want to trigger.  What can a guy do?

 

In its original form Magic had dual lands.  They were just like any other land except they produced mana of both colours.  As time has passed these lands have been revealed to be tremendous assets and greatly increase the consistency of decks and thus have climbed in value to the point that only the most ardent of collector or the most competitive of players are prepared to pick them up.  Other dual lands of varying nature have been printed, all with differing drawbacks, but yet these too have seen their value climb.  Players want access to both colours of mana and modest tradeoffs are perfectly acceptable.

As a casual player, I fully appreciate the need for access to the right mana and dual lands are certainly the way to go.  However, the price tag on these lands can be staggering.  If you were to review the mana base for many top tier decks, the value of the lands that are being run in the deck are often the most prohibitive part of replicating the deck yourself, or of brewing up something that is just as competitive.  So, how do you balance the need to have access to the correct lands without putting a hole in your pocket?  Today I will go through some of the options that a casual player can use without mortgaging your home (again) but can still make your decks fun and relatively competitive when you sit down to play.

Guildgates

The cheapest and easiest dual lands is the guildgates from the Return to Ravnica. The nice thing is that all 10 colour combinations have access to a guildgate making them very versatile and readily accessible for decks looking to access the mana of both colours.  Each guildgate enters play tapped which is a dilemma if you are looking to have untapped lands, but played strategically can be a nice addition to a deck. Each guildgate runs for about $0.25 on Three Kings Loot but can often be found in boxes at game shops for a dime.  This makes them eminently affordable and can help greatly to smooth out the mana hiccups.

Core Set buddy lands

For a number of years Core Sets had a series of lands affectionately called“Buddy Lands”.  These were lands of typical allied colours (W/U, R/G, B/U, G/W, B/R) and came into play tapped unless you controlled a basic land of the required colours.  These lands balanced the need for access to both colour mana and had a suitable drawback without making them undesirable to play such that they were extremely popular.  The other nice thing is that since they saw a number of print runs the cost of picking them up can be quite a bit lower than other dual lands.  Three Kings Loot has them listed for anywhere from $1.99 to $5.99 a card.  These can add up quickly to a costly investment, but their versatility and ability to come into play untapped may make these appealing.  Since these have rotated out of Standard there is likely no rush to pick them up, so unless you suddenly get the urge to test out your latest deck at a Modern event you should be just fine to gradually collect these to help defray the cost over a period of time.

Zendikar Life Gain lands

Another cycle of inexpensive dual lands that is a little older are the Zendikar “Life Gain” lands.  Again, these were allied colour combinations (G/W, W/U, B/U, R/G, B/R) where the land came into play tapped.  What sets these a little bit ahead of a guildgate is the fact that when the land enters play you can gain a life.  This may sound like a minor benefit, but any benefit is better than simply coming into play tapped.  Also, in a deck where you may be running 4 or more of these lands in your multi-coloured deck you may fine yourself with a 20-30% increase in you life total, which is actually very sizable. It is even possible to recur these lands and gain the benefit a second time with creatures such as Kor Skyfisher or Emancipation Angel making for a little extra benefit from these lands.  These lands run for approximately $0.75 a piece on Three Kings Loot but can be found at local game shops for about $0.50 a card, making them very inexpensive and perfect for a casual player.

 

Mirage Fetch lands

When people think of fetch lands everyone immediately thinks of the Zendikar fetch lands (Arid Mesa, etc).  These cards are extremely pricey and not typically something someone on a tight budget can afford. However, Mirage had a very reasonable set of fetch lands.  Flood plain, Bad River, Grasslands, Mountain Valley, and Rocky Tar Pit enter play tapped, but can then be sacrificed to fetch a basic land of either type of land type.  This is extremely valuable because it allows you to effectively thin your deck out for land and still let you get the land you require to cast your spells.  Is it as desirable as the Zendikar lands that let you play them untapped?  Absolutely not, but when you compare the difference in cost, a casual player may be willing to accept this tradeoff.  The Mirage fetch lands are listed on Three Kings Loot for $0.50 a card and are roughly the same at the local game shop near my home.  Arid Mesa is about $40 a card.  I could pick up a play set of all 5 Mirage fetch lands for $10.  If I’m looking to stretch my dollar I know what I’m looking to get.

 

Ice Age pain lands

The Ice Age “pain” lands are another option for those looking to pick up lands that produce both types of mana.  Unlike the “buddy lands” or the “life gain” lands, “pain” lands come into play untapped and can be used for a colourless mana with no drawback.  However, if the land is tapped for a coloured source it deals 1 damage to you.  As your deck initially kicks off at the start of the game you may be willing to accept this drawback in favour of getting off to a quick start.  The option to then use them as colourless mana is appealing to limit the damage you take, but still leaves you open to options.  These Ice Age lands were initially in the Allied colours, but a similar set of Enemy dual lands was printed in Apocalypse, giving the “pain” lands a full complement of colour options. These lands usually run for about $1.99 a card, making them somewhat more expensive but not outside the realm of possibility.

 

Other ways to facilitate mana fixing

There are other ways to go about fixing up your mana situation without needing dual lands or fetches.  There is always the option of artifacts that allow you fetch your lands. The cheapest and easiest to put into practice is Traveler’s Amulet as it was printed in Innistrad block and again in Theros.  Traveler’s Amulet allows you to fetch a basic land and put it into your hand and is very useful to get out of a jam.  Along the same vein, Expedition Map grants you a similar ability.  The activation cost to sacrifice it a tad more, but you can fetch ANY land including a non-basic.  There are also countless spells and creatures that allow you to fetch lands of varying sorts and all of these are viable as well.

 

The problem with having these different mana fixing tools in your deck, whether you play at a kitchen table or commander, or some other variant, is that all these cards take spots in your deck.  Some players may not mind running a 61 or 62 card deck, but every additional card limits the chance to draw what you really need. Conversly, if you stick to 60 cards you are sacrificing spots in your deck for creatures, removal, or other spells in favour of mana fixing.  In Commander, with only 99 spots, you may find yourself unable to squeeze in the required mana fixing into your deck.  As a result, these options are not optimal and having access to the correct mana is vastly preferred.

So, as you look to diversify the mana in your casual decks in time for your next kitchen table game, take a moment and consider if access to the correct lands is in your best interest.  Instead of getting bogged down with the prohibitive cost of playing the newest and most expensive dual lands, explore some of the other options available to you to help keep you competitive without drying up your bank account.  Remember, Casual Encounters are the perfect place to give these older, and often overlooked, cards a chance to shine once again, and great way to help keep your game of Magic fresh and interesting.

Until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…and keep it casual.

Bruce Gray
@bgray8791
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Bruce Gray - June 9, 2014

L’eggo my Aggro – Gruul aggro budget

Fanatic of Xenagos

L’eggo my Aggro

by Bruce Gray -Casual Encounters

I like to sit down and try my hand at brewing all sorts of formats.  Pauper, sure…I love it. Modern…of course (although I don’t think I’m all that good at it!).  Casual Tribal. You bet! Standard.  Yes, sometimes I like to try and brew Standard, but with a budget twist.  Today I have a “budget” deck list that isn’t as budget as usual.  Flipping through my boxes of Standard goodies I came across a number of spicy cards that will make the deck a little pricier than normal…but I’ll suggest some alternatives to try and make some substitutions if you are playing on a tighter budget than this deck would normally allow.

 

I’ve been keen to see how the format has changed with the influx of Journey into Nyx cards and I’ll be honest…I’m a little disappointed.  Journey into Nyx has afforded a few new tricks into some of the meaner and leaner decks, but most of the decks running around are the same old archetypes that have been dominant for months now.  Mono-Black. Esper Control.  Boros Burn. All of these decks are everywhere in Standard and they all have something in common.  Can you see the common thread?

 

The common thread between all the decks is that are all packed with a gross amount of removal.  Mono-Black and Esper can draw on Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, Ultimate Price, Doom Blade and on and on and on.  Basically these two archetypes are packed with all the best removal and if they see a creature, they kill it on sight.  To make matters worse, if Esper really gets in a jam, out comes a Supreme Verdict to clean up the mess.  No, these decks are for sure the two main boogeymen on the scene.  Boros Burn or R/W Burn, whatever you prefer to call it this week, is also jammed full of removal but of a different sort.  Anger of the Gods, Magma Jet, Magma Spray, Lightning Strike, Warleader’s Helix are all viable in the Burn Deck and can burn out creatures with alarming speed and then turn their sights on you.  Essentially the removal package of all three decks is what makes them so viable in the format. It’s tough to lose a game when your opponent can’t keep his or her creatures on the table.  Now, there are a few decks that are capable of fighting through this barrage of death, namely the Monsters variants and sometimes Mono-Blue, but it’s a tough uphill battle for these deck on most nights. So, how can you top decks that can turn so many creatures into flaming ash?  Hmmm…

 

One option is to play no creatures.  This is why Burn decks are experiencing a relative degree of success right now.  They have little to no creatures to target with removal and so Mono-Black and Esper both have a number of dead cards in game 1 before side-boarding.  You could go the route of playing Planeswalkers…notably Elsbeth because she alone can produce more creatures than most decks can handle.  Ashiok is another viable alternative to completely mill out your opponent and deny them the chance to play their spells by having them land in the poubelle .  These strategies work…but they aren’t everyone’s style.

 

The other alternative is to try and out aggro them by just giving them SO many aggressive targets that they are overloaded and can’t cope.  This strategy is dicey at best because the format is so removal heavy from our top three contenders, so the aggro decks need to have a really strong way to punish these decks (and fast) if they hope to succeed…thus why Monsters is able to pull it all together because leaving one Polukranos or Strombreath unchecked will basically cost you the game.  However, I feel like the deck I have here could sneak in and surprise a few of the big boys by overwhelming their removal suite and then making blocking near impossible.  Let’s see what I’ve got.

Gruul Aggro Budget:

 

There’s nothing earth shattering in this list.  We have a number of aggressive 1 drops in Dryad Militant and Slitherhead and some ramp with the Elvish Mystic.  At 2 we have Brushstrider, Kalonian Tusker, and Burning-Tree Emissary.  At three we have Fanatic of Xenagos.  All of these creatures are designed to put significant early pressure on your opponent and can then turn the table and smack them if they can’t deal with them quickly.  Going up we have 1 Rubblebelt Raiders.  This guy is actually a fun little treat that can get pretty nasty if you can get him to attack with some buddies, or give him haste with Ogre Battledriver.  Ghor-Clan Rampager is a solid 4 drop, but it can also be used to pile through and give you extra reach with the trample.  Finally, Savageborn Hydra is that mythic rare that everyone has forgotten about.  His double strike ability is off the charts powerful and the ability to sink extra mana into him to do extra damage is key.  To think, you can put 2 mana into him and up his damage by 2 points every time! Load him up with some evasion and you have a winning formula. Finally, Xenagos, God of Revels, is in here because his ability to grant something haste and boost the damage done is ridiculous.

 

Some would argue, why no Experiment one?  I opted to replace the Expriments with Slitherhead for the simple reason that they would be a useful resource to me even if they got killed.  An experiment one with 1 counter on it is still a dead experiment one, where a Slitherhead in my graveyard means something else can be bigger next turn. Also,  Fanatic of Xenagos is a terrific little addition at the three slot because it comes with trample and can either be a 4/4 or a 3/3 with haste and +1/+1 until end of turn.  In either scenario, I’m just fine with this card and am happy to run it.

 

The spells are also pretty straight forward.  4 Madcap skills make blocking an early threat near impossible and can really take a bite out of your opponent.  Turn 1 Dryad Militant into Turn 2 Madcap skills and swing for 5 is stiff.  They’ll need to burn early removal spells or risk ending up in big trouble. Giant Growth is in here to add some extra reach if they opt not to block thinking they are safe for a turn.  Armed // Dangerous can be devastating at the right time to lure your opponent to block a patsy while the rest of your team slices and dices.  Finally, as a concession to the fact that we want to be attacking lots and other aggro decks may be looking to take advantage, a single copy of Fog could very well spell the end for them.

 

The strategy for this deck is simple: Attack.  Attack all the time because you don’t have the spell suite to sit and posture.  You are banking that if you get out early and apply a bunch of early pressure that they will need to expend a lot of removal resources on your game plan instead of establishing their own…and in the process give you the chance to top deck into one of your monstrous threats to close out the game.  Now, that’s the game, but let’s be real, many of these top decks have seen this game plan before and I fully prepared for it.  So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself down and out to these top tier decks.  However, if they draw below average, or you play a deck that DOESN’T pack as much removal you might be in good shape. We can talk about the psychology of losing, but to keep it simple, this is deck premised on an old tried and true strategy that the top tier decks in the format come prepared to deal with.  You might lose out, but if you surprise them or they draw poorly you’ll make them pay…and really with a budget deck isn’t that the best part?  Smashing apart a finely tuned deck with a budget deck brings great joy to my life…how about you?

 

Now, as I said, you may not call this a true budget deck, but most of the value is in the mana base.  Stomping grounds are steep.  Temple of Abandon also cost a pretty penny.  However, you can sub out the mana for Gruul Guildgates and basic lands if you need to without much difficulty.  The other high priced item on this list is Xenagos, God of Revels as he could run you somewhere near the $6 range depending on where you are looking.  This is usually more than I want to spend on a single creature in a deck, so I could replace him with Gruul War Chant to make blocking totally ridiculous and near impossible if I wanted to give this more of a true budget feel.  Otherwise everything else on the list is somewhere shy of $2 a piece meaning the deck is generally pretty affordable and packs a pretty mean bite.

 

So, before you head off to your next FNM and want to give something a little different a try…something that seems like it’s missing from the Standard Meta as the big boys all eye up each other, you might want to give this Gruul Aggro Budget a try and see if you can surprise a few of them. I know that I can hardly wait to try it out.

 

Thanks for reading and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

 

Bruce Gray
 
@bgray8791

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