Squandered Resources: Super Budget Super Series 1
By James Heslip on June 14th, 2012 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
Hello and welcome back to Squandered Resources! After taking a break to dream about Conflux, I think it’s time to get back to the roots of this series, and plunge headfirst into budgeting. The inspiration for this article came from you guys; since starting to write my series I have had a few messages concerning the price ceiling of the decks I present. Some people feel that the $250 dollar price ceiling I put on the decks I have shown in the past just isn’t quite budget enough. Fair enough; $250 dollars is a lot of money no matter how you slice it. Fear not! After extensive searching, testing, and drinking, I have come up with not one, not two, not even ten, but 15 budget decks for your greedy eyes to behold... all at under $100!
View with awe these killer decks; I present them to you in three articles, with five decks in each one. I'll lay it down for you the same way I have in the past, presenting them from lowest cost to highest--with the exception that, this time, you don't have to be afraid of the last deck in the list, because even that one squeaks in at under a 100 bucks. In fact, many of the decks you will be reading about cost under $50. Exciting, I know. And, finally, on each deck I will offer you a discussion on its strategies and key interactions. So, let’s get started!
Deck Name:Aura Aggro
Deck Type: Aggro
First on the list is the one that started it all, Aura Aggro, also known as Aura Gnarly.
Silhana Ledgewalker + Ancestral Mask
Canopy Cover + Yavimaya Enchantress or Aura Gnarlid
The list and strategy should be pretty straightforward. Every creature in the deck benefits from the number of auras or enchantments you control, save for Silhana Ledgewalker, who exists in the deck as a safe place to drop your Rancor or Ancestral Mask without fear of Swords to Plowshares. Drop some early Wild Growths or Utopia Sprawls for mana acceleration on your first few turns and watch the magic happen. Enchanting your lands allows you to play your three drops faster, as well as more auras and enchantments per turn in the later parts of the game. The beautiful thing being that, in the mid and late game, each Wild Growth becomes a pseudo-Capashen Standard for all your dudes--without even trying!
Canopy Cover, and its strictly-worse-but-still-good cousin Aspect of Mongoose, keep your Gnarlids and Enchantresses from biting the dust to a removal, while at the same time beefing most of them. Your biggest bomb by far is Ancestral Mask; dropping this thing on a Ledgewalker or Canopy Covered Aura Gnarlid usually wins you the game (as any bomb should when dropped on something). And then you have Rancor. Rancor is probably the best aura ever printed, and Rancor knows this, and Rancor insisted to be included in this deck. We listen to Rancor.
In addition, I have been looking into the card Keen Sense, which could provide this deck with some serious card-advantage while it buffs your creatures. If included, it would replace Spider Umbra, which has proven to be the weakest link of the Aura Gnarly deck. The card warrants testing, but seems very promising, as the deck does have the issue of running out of gas from time to time.
Aura Gnarly’s main weakness comes from its inability to answer threats. Because there is no removal in the list your only method of victory against every strategy is exactly the same. Play more threats faster than they can, make them bigger and carry out the beat-face race. Luckily, the deck does this well; I mean, you can't have a giant badger on your team and not be good at beating faces. I feel like that's something you learn that in the Boy Scouts.
Still, the giant badger can't save you from everything, but don't let the deck's weakness discourage you from trying it. Overall Aura Gnarly is very powerful for its ridiculously cheap price tag of $20. Don’t take the provided list lightly, as I have played it victoriously against both U/W Blade and Maverick in times past. With such a low price you really don’t have much to lose for at least giving it a whirl.
(Just stay out of the badger's way.)
Deck Name: Fangorn Forest
Deck Type: Aggro
The mean green machine is a pretty good scene, so to carry on with this theme...*cough*... we have a deck based on our good old friend Dungrove Elder.
Veteran Explorer + Primal Growth
Treefolk Harbinger + Forest or Lignify or Dungrove Elder or Woodfall Primus Silhana Ledgewalker + Blanchwood Armor
Fangorn Forest is another mono-green beat-down-style deck like any other--except this one has a fetish for forests. This is one of the only decks you will ever play that wants to top-deck lands as often as it does other spells, as everything in the deck gets stronger based on the number of forests in play. The Hexproof-touting Treebeard-wannabe known as Dungrove Elder serves as your main beat-stick while Silhana Ledgewalker carries Blanchwood Armor and Primal Bellow to victory without fear of removal.
If your opponent allows you to get to the magic number of seven lands while he's busy navigating through all of your forests, you can drop the wolf-laden bomb Howl of the Night Pack on him and unleash a can of furry vengeance that even Liam Neeson couldn't deal with. And with this deck, getting to seven forests isn't even hard. The crazy Veteran Explorer + Primal Growth interaction gets you four forests for four mana. Throw in a multitude of other land-searching cards, and you'll be sprouting tress so fast even Johnny Appleseed would be proud.
Treefolk Harbinger serves to make sure that you either have a Treebeard to threaten people with, or enough forests to make him an actual threat. He can also tutor for Lignify to answer a problem creature. If your walnuts are big enough--and lord knows you will have enough trees to grow them on--then you can also find and hard-cast the miser Woodfall Primus for some serious cool points.
Deck Name: Martyrdom Goblins AKA WTF Tuk Tuk
Deck Type: Aggro
Moving away from the color green for a bit brings us to one of the most popular tribes in magic: Goblins!
Goblin Grenade + Tuktuk the Explorer or Goblin Arsonist or Mogg War Marshal
Warren Instigator + Goblin Chieftain or Goblin Wardriver
This budget version of an old Legacy favorite works a little differently from the other goblin decks you may be used to. While the general strategy of swarming your opponent with little green men is still here, there are a few interactions unique to this version that are birthed from the inclusion of an old Fallen Empires card called Goblin Grenade. Turning Tuktuk the Explorer into a saboteur results in a 5/5 golem taking his place. Pretty cool if you ask me, especially considering that the golem is also a goblin, which means Goblin Chieftain makes him bigger. It also means that you can sacrifice him to Goblin Grenade as well, if you really need to.
While less awesome, but still cool, you can also use Goblin Grenade in combination with Goblin Arsonist for a bit of an extra effect. This is nice if you want to hit your opponent in the dome but also need to kill a creature threat. Still less awesome, but still kind of cool, is Mogg War Marshal, who replaces himself after exploding into what I can only assume is five pieces, one for each point of damage that results.
Beyond the cool interactions that come from killing your own guys, you have Warren Instigator. Now, in case you didn't know, Doublestrike on Goblin Lackey is pretty darn cool. One hit to your opponent is actually two, which results in a goblin spawning effect that I like to call The "Warren Instigator makes lots of goblins appear" effect. Hey, I never claimed to be creative. Coupled with this is the fact that Doublestrike means that this guy does double the damage of everyone else. If Goblin Chieftain shares the field with Instigator then you can count on him hitting for a respectable four damage. Add in Goblin Wardriver and you have a six-power creature for two mana.
Overall the deck carries some nice surprises. Five damage for one mana is certainly nothing to scoff at, as it is a full quarter of your opponent's life. Getting a 5/5 golem out of it as well is just the exquisitely tasty icing on the cake. I would say that for just $60 this is all pretty nifty, especially for a bunch of suicidal Dobby clones. (I don't care what you say, that guy is not an elf....)
Deck Name: Transmuter Combo
Deck Type: Combo/Aggro
With our fourth deck we are starting to see more expensive and more powerful strategies. This one happens to be our first combo deck of the series, and you know how I feel about combo decks.
Master Transmuter + Any fatty
Master Transmuter + Herself
Master Transmuter + Seat of the Synod
Vedalken Engineer or Grand Architect + Copper Gnomes or Steel Hellkite
The little cousin of the more established artifact-based combo deck Metalworker, Transmuter Combo works to cheat large artifact creatures into play as early as possible and use them to beat down your opponent. This is done mainly by casting Master Transmuter and then using her ability to bounce herself or another artifact back to your hand, replacing it with a much more frightening machine. The interactions don't stop there, as the bouncing cost of Transmuter makes for some pretty cool plays. For instance, Seat of the Synod acts as a free artifact to bounce, which effectively means you can turn your lands into giant artifact monsters for little effort. Also, Transmuter does not specify that the artifact you bounce must be something other than herself. While this is nice in and of itself as far as cheating guys into play, another cool interaction comes from this. As long as Transmuter has no summoning sickness, she is immune to removal. If your opponent tries to target her with anything, you simply bounce her in response and play her again with her own ability. This works due to the wording of the ability, which states that you return her first, then choose something in your hand to put into play. Because you bounce her as a cost of her own ability, she exists in your hand as a choice. Pretty neat, huh? Also, I hear that being able to replay Myr Battlesphere over and over again to produce tokens can get pretty annoying for whomever is sitting across from you.
This interaction of being able to play and replay the same Transmuter, as well as the ability to generate large amounts of mana, makes Riddlesmith an interesting option. If you find yourself needing a fatty, or just a few extra cards on the board, being able to cast and recast your Transmuter to trigger the Riddlesmith draw is an interesting play. While I am not sure just how strong it is, it warrants its fair share of testing.
Speaking of needing to have the fatty in your hand, such a worry simply does not exist with this deck. The deck runs nine colossal killers as well as three Fabricate and eight cantrips--e.g. Ponder and Preordain--to find you exactly what you need. The targets of the searching don't even need to be fatties, as Grand Architect, Copper Gnomes, and Transmuter herself can all be found with Fabricate. If things really look bad for you and you find yourself really itching for that fourth land, use Fabricate to search up a Seat of the Synod.
Your two Copper Gnomes serve as Transmuters numbers Five and Six; they also don't need to survive through summoning sickness to cheat something into play. When combined with Etherium Sculptor, Vedalken Engineer, and Grand Architect, getting Copper Gnomes into play and activating his ability both become a walk in the park. He is actually the only spell in the deck that can be cast for free if you find yourself with two Etherium Sculptors in play. In addition, Vedalken Engineerand Grand Architect both work wonders in combination with Steel Hellkite. Being able to pump six or more mana into this steel dragon's abilities makes for some very powerful swings, and even a couple of board wipes.
One beautiful thing about this deck is the fact that it really doesn't need the Gnomes or Transmuter in order to get its fatties into play. The cost-reduction of Etherium Sculptor in combination with the mana acceleration of Vedalken Engineer, Grand Architect, and Crystal Vein allows you to reach enough mana to hard-cast any of the deck's big beaters--easily. Finally, if worse comes to worse, Grand Architect pumps up all of your creatures. This makes for some great elf-deck impressions that would make Elvish Archdruid proud. Accelerate your mana production, kick a bunch of small guys onto the battlefield, beef them with lords, and swarm your opponent--all in a day's work. Sometimes you kill someone with a giant robot, and sometimes you kill them with the engineer that made it. Either way, he's just as dead, and Transmuter Combo made it possible.
Deck Name: Contamination Pox
Deck Type: Control
In our final deck of the week we have a familiar control deck with a relatively unfamiliar twist.
Contamination + Nether Spirit or Creakwood Liege or Bitterblossom
Tragic Slip + Innocent Blood or Contamination
Dakmor Salvage + Syphon Life or Raven's Crime
Dakmor Salvage or Darkblast + Nether Spirit or Syphon Life or Raven's Crime
The Pox archetype should be nothing new to most of you, especially after its surge in popularity a few months back thanks to Reid Duke. His performance at SCG Charlotte skyrocketed the deck's popularity and made Liliana of the Veil the card it is today. However, this version of the grinding mono-black control deck is a little different from most lists out there. The deck does perform in a similar fashion to the more common lists in its play style. It works on a simple level; you disrupt the opponent through discard, keep the field clean of creature threats, and grind your opponent out of his life points. The difference from this list and those that are more conventional is the deck's namesake card: Contamination. Notice the place where this card says, "If a land is tapped for mana...." This is no mere Blood Moon where its only are targets nonbasic lands. Oh no--this card hits everything. If you resolve a Contamination and your opponent is not playing mono-black, they are going to have some serious problems actually playing the rest of the game.
Of course, there is that one little bit about having to sacrifice a creature every turn in order to keep Contamination in play; dead bodies are, after all, essential to keeping your pollution good and stable. This is where some of the more powerful cards in the deck bubble up to the surface: Nether Spirit, Creakwood Liege, and Bitterblossom all either produce creatures or recur every turn. This makes keeping everything nice and contaminated is a walk in the swamp. (Heh, get it?) Simply pay the cost of the contamination every turn through one of these methods while you wait to draw a threat. No need to worry about taking too long; your opponent won't be doing anything. Also, Creakwood Liege powers all of your Bitterblossom tokens, making them 2/2 fliers instead of 1/1's and doubling your clock.
This combo is very strong, as once your opponent is forced into playing only Swamps it becomes very difficult to disrupt it. There are very few cards in magic that can both destroy Contamination and be played with only black mana. Even fewer, if any, are played on any competitive level. Should you ever resolve a Contamination with this deck, you can expect a goodly lot of foes to swipe up their cards and get the heck outta the muck.
There's a downside to everything, however, and Contamination is no different. The card's weakness is that it doesn't stop Delver of Secrets or any other creature from attacking you. If you land the lock when your opponent has a full board of threats you can't really expect them to feel any amount of pain. This is where the removal comes into play. The deck runs a total of 11 removal cards to make sure the board stays clear of creature threats, keeping you alive long enough to land your lock. Tragic Slip is one that I am particularly proud of, as it combos well with both Innocent Blood and Contamination.
The deck also protects itself through a 13-card discard suite. This includes both Duress and Hymn to Tourach, which are some of the most iconic and powerful spells in Magic. There are few plays in Legacy that can frustrate an opponent better than a turn-one Dark Ritual followed by Duress and Hymn. Such an opening play has the potential to win games, and has done so on many occasions.
Raven's Crime is one discard spell in particular that deserves some of its own attention. As the game moves into its later portions, it can and very likely will become very attrition-based. Raven's Crime allows you to turn this attrition battle in your favor by turning extra lands into discard spells. Combine it with Dakmor Salvage, and you have yourself a discard spell every turn. By dredging the land back to your hand every turn you can be sure to never run out of fuel for the retrace. One other card that Dakmor Salvage combos with is Syphon Life, which gives you not only a recurring and un-blockable source of damage, but also life gain. This can be very relevant in a deck that relies heavily on Bitterblossom and, to a smaller extent, Smallpox. Simply retrace every turn and you never have to worry about losing life to one or even two faerie generators.
Speaking of dredging, Nether Spirit, Syphon Life, and Raven's Crime can all come back from the graveyard in one way or another. This makes dredging back Darkblast for recurring removal, or Dakmor Salvage for retrace tricks, a powerful couple of plays.
At almost $100 this is one of the most costly of the decks I will be presenting in this series. That being said, it is also one of the most powerful, and it still costs much less than any top-tier deck in the format. All in all, If you are willing to play very long and grinding games of Magic while your opponent can only watch with glazed eyes, then this is a very strong option to consider. Just bring an air freshener or something... all those dead bodies start to smell after a while.
That's all for this week. Five decks, all under $100 and all with a respectable amount of power and competitiveness. I would like to end this article by stating that I very much enjoyed coming up with the decks in these articles. Being given the $100 price ceiling really forced me to be as creative as possible, which made this all a ton of fun. I worked and searched for hours at a time to come up with some of these lists. That being said, I am nowhere near naive enough to think that I have exhausted the world of the super budget. If you know of any decks that I did not include in this or my other articles that you think should be included I would love to hear about them. If I ever end up writing something like this again you can be sure I will give credit where credit is due. With that being said, Be sure to look for the next article in the series sometime in the next week. If you have any questions or comments feel free to message me or comment in the section designated for this article. I would love to hear your guy's opinions on what I have presented so far!
Next week we will take a look at a deck based on Aphetto Alchemist, our first foray into the color white, as well as a $35 list that performed surprisingly well at a recent Underground Sea Legacy event! Stop on by next week to check them out!
By James Heslip on June 14th, 2012 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now