Squandered Resources: Super Budget Super Series 3
By James Heslip on July 2nd, 2012 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
Three times the charm! Welcome to Super-Budget-Super-Series Part Three. If you've yet to see parts one or two, check them out: both articles introduce five decks costing no more than $100, with some closer to $50. I know you guys want to see some lists so, without further hesitation, lets get rolling--on to the third and final installment of the Super-Budget-Super-Series!
The cheapest, quickest kill in this week's deck list is About Face, a deck based on the card--you guessed it--About Face. Only $45, and you have a chance to kill on turn two! Ten-hut!
Deck Name: About Face
Deck Type: Combo
Daru Spiritualist or Task Force + Nomads en-Kor or Shaman en-Kor + About Face or Inside Out or Condemn
Tireless Tribe + About Face or Inside Out
If you have never seen the Legacy combo deck known as Life.dec, then you are most likely unfamiliar with the interaction that occurs when you combine Daru Spiritualist or Task Force with Nomads en-Kor or Shaman en-Kor. The abilities of the en-Kors do not actually require any damage to activate. Because of this, if you have either Daru Spiritualist or Task Force in play, you can target them as many times as you want with the en-Kors at any time you want. This lets you give either of them as much toughness as you see fit. What's your favorite number? Twenty-six? A billion? It doesn't matter, you can do it. This effectively gives you an indestructible wall of two blockers, as whatever damage the en-Kor takes when it blocks gets moved to the creature with a quadrillion toughness.
Now, you can probably see where all of this is going. About Face and its cousin Inside Out let you switch a creatures' power and toughness. Attack with either Daru Spiritualist or Task Force, target them a million times with Nomads en-Kor or Shaman en-Kor, and then cast About Face. It is around this time that your opponent will die. This is not the only way to "win" in the deck either. Through the same infinite target combo, you can use Condemn on your own creature to gain infinite life. Since there are only a handful of decks that can beat an opponent whose life total that is larger than the number of letters in this article, this play will usually result in your opponent scooping.
These interactions can only be done as early as turn three, so what about that turn-two kill? Please welcome Tireless Tribe to the stage! Play Tribe turn one, un-tap for turn two, and attack. Even if there is a blocker present, your opponent likely will not see what is coming and let the tribe through. Cast About Face on the Tribe and then pump him up with his own ability in response. Five cards plus the Tribe's one power results in 21 damage to your opponent. Think about it. You open with Tireless Tribe. Your opponent sets a land and taps it to play Noble Hierarch. If you have About Face or Inside Out in your hand, you likely just won the game.
Lightning Bolt allows you to try and get rid of blockers, but can also be used to hit your opponent should the need arise. Because this is a creature-based combo, removal is always a threat. That's where Benevolent Bodyguard comes into play. At his best the Bodyguard stops removal from killing your combo, and at his worst, he gives your attacker piece protection from the color of your opponent's blockers, letting you walk right through them. Emerge Unscathed more or less plays the same role. This is probably a good time to point out that if you combo out to the point that About Face gets cast, your opponent can't Swords to Plowshares because doing so would result in you gaining as much life as you put into your attacker.
One argument against this deck lies in its inability to filter its draws or search for combo pieces. About Face is a deck that minimizes such weaknesses by concentrating on the redundancy factor, not on spending time searching for cards. There are six to eight of each combo piece in the deck, which means you have a 55-65% chance to have any of them in your opening hand, depending on which card you are looking at. Combine this with the side combos like Tireless Tribe and Condemn, and you can argue that such "weaknesses" are minimal at best.
The deck has its limitations, but it's got a speed-and-surprise factor that you just can't beat. And it teaches foes to fear an attacking Tireless Tribe.
Deck Name: Twisted Image
Deck Type: Combo
Twisted Image combo is basically the same deck as About Face, except that it uses blue instead of red. This allows for a different set of options in the deck.
Daru Spiritualist + Nomads en-Kor + Twisted Image or Inside Out or Condemn
Tireless Tribe + Twisted Image or Inside Out
Twisted Image uses the same interaction as About Face, combining Daru Spiritualist and Nomads en-Kor to give the Spiritualist infinite toughness. From here you simply cast Twisted Image or Inside Out and attack, or Condemn and gain infinite life. The major difference between this version and the one above is the inclusion of Ponder and Preordain, which add to the consistency of the deck. The redundancy factor has thus been replaced. To make room for the cantrips, both Task Force and Shaman en-Kor have been removed. This decision makes the deck more consistent.
Veil of Secrecy is one neat bonus that comes from splashing blue instead of red. With red you may have to Bolt away blockers, leaving you with issues if there are multiples. Not so with blue. Veil of Secrecy acts as a removal deterrent and a path-maker. Just keep your mana freed up on the turn you want to go lethal.
One other bonus of this color combination is a stronger mana base. There is no Scars of Mirrodin dual land that taps for red and white, making Clifftop Retreat the deck's only other budget option. The problem with Retreat is that it prevents a turn one play on occasion and comes into play tapped if you have only a Battlefield Forge in play. Not so for the blue white color combination. Seachrome Coast is a very powerful color-fixing land that does not have any of the limitations that Battlefield Forge does.
As with its cousin, this deck is much more powerful than its price tag would lead you to believe. The possibility for a turn-two kill is still present and, if anything, the main combo is much easier to assemble and protect. Which version you choose is really up to you--but either way, this unorthodox strategy will likely turn some heads.
Deck Name: Green Infect
Deck Type: Aggro
Third on the list this week brings us once again into the color green, this time with infect aggro!
Crop Rotation + Inkmoth Nexus or Pendelhaven
The strategy of this deck should be pretty straightforward. Simply attack your opponent with infect creatures and pump them up with the free pump spells Invigorate and Mutagenic Growth, as well as the many cost efficient pumps that litter the list. Because it only takes ten infect counters to kill someone, every pump in this deck essentially has two times the effect. One mana for a +8 +8 pump looks a lot better than +4 +4, doesn't it? It is this interaction that makes infect fast enough to compete in the format.
Speaking of being as fast as a combo deck, Elvish Spirit Guide and Lotus Petal both work to make sure this is even more possible. Surge out your infect-bearing creature as soon as possible, and use any extra mana to pump them up. Vines of Vastwood is great because it pumps your creatures and protects them from removal. Rancor provides trample, which makes blocking much less of an option for your opponent. Revenge of the Hunted adds a little spice to the deck, giving the potential for some epically explosive attacks. Using two in the deck means you can shake any major fears of drawing it in your opening seven, but still play with the realistic expectation to draw it at least once in a match.
The most elusive major interaction in the deck is that between Crop Rotation and the two non-basic lands of the deck. Both Inkmoth Nexus and Pendelhaven can be searched up by Crop Rotation for whatever situation you may want them for. Inkmoth Nexus is probably one of your most powerful beaters, simply because of its flying. Even if your only pump is Rancor, you really needn't fear using it on Inkmoth, because once it turns back into a normal land Rancor goes to your hand to be used again next turn.
Green Sun's Zenith is an enticing option for the deck for two reasons. One is that it gives the deck the option to run some miser silver bullets, to be searched up in specific situations. Options included are Sylvan Messenger, Loaming Shaman, Xantid Swarm, Vexing Shusher
, Viridian Corrupter, and even Spore Frog. On the other end, the Zenith can also act as a tool to find you your best infect creatures, improving your consistency factor.
Deck Type: Aggro
It took a while, but you really just can't avoid some kind of white weenie variant when you talk about budget decks.
This deck is almost card-for-card an exact replica of the deck Tsuyoshi Fujita took to 6th place at the Japan Legacy Championship in 2009. This placement was out of 95 people and is a testament to just how powerful some of these decks are. The only difference between the list given here and his list are two Mutavault and four Windbrisk Heights being replaced by Plains, and the addition of two Goldmeadow Harriers.
The deck is nothing new to Magic as far as its strategy goes. Play a bunch of small white creatures, buff them and keep your opponent's threats down with removal. Spectral Procession makes actually swarming the field much easier and also improves the efficiency and power level of Honor of the Pure and Ajani Goldmane. Cloudgoat Ranger more or less provides the same effect, as the more creatures you have to pump, the more powerful your global pumps are.
Goldmeadow Harrier lessens threats that you normally wouldn't be able to answer. (Take note that it can actually keep an Emrakul at bay.) Ranger of Eos acts as a search for the Harrier, but it can also find Figure of Destiny, one of your most efficient beaters.
What else can I say but "try it out"? The deck is relatively simple to play, and it's been proven to be powerful, so when you put it together, you know you're getting bang for your buck.
Deck Name: Mister Green Storm
Deck Type: Combo
Here we are. Fourteen decks down and one left to go. Don't worry though, in terms of being powerful, fun, and unique, I have saved the best for last. In the first article of this series, I started with a mono-green deck based on enchantments. Therefore it is only logical that we should end in the same fashion. This is Mister Green Storm, and he is really cool.
Rofellos's Gift + Gaea's Touch or Elephant Grass
Utopia Sprawl or Wild Growth + Early Harvest
Green Sun's Zenith + Argothian Enchantress
The first incarnation of this deck was piloted by Julien Luczak to a third place finish in a small tournament back in January of this year. It is to him I give all the credit for the engine on which the deck runs. Simply put, this deck is what you get when you take the semi-popular Enchantress decks of Legacy and attempt to combine them with a storm deck.
The deck works like this. Resolve one or more Argothian Enchantress or Enchantress's Presence in the early turns of the game (the former being drawn into or searched with Green Sun's Zenith, which then shuffles back into your deck to be used again). From here, start playing enchantments and drawing cards. As you chain enchantments and draws, you systematically gain mana from your Wild Growth-type cards and storm as well. The crazy interaction of Rofellos's Gift and Gaea's Touch fuels your draws over and over again, providing mana to cast more enchantments as well as another neat little trick: the extra land drop ability of Gaea's Touch works for every separate instance of the card. This means that you can play another land not only for every copy of it that hits the field, but also for every time any of them hit the field again. By playing the card, sacrificing it, recurring it with Gift and replaying it, you give yourself nearly infinite lands drops. This means even if you draw a large amount of lands from your enchantress effects, you needn't worry about your hand getting clogged. This also gives you more targets for your Wild Growth effects as you combo off, and more mana in general to continue the chain. Eventually you run into either Tendrils of Agony or Grapeshot, and use the mana fixing from Abundant Growth or Utopia Sprawl to cast them for lethal. Which win condition you run and the number of it used are both up to the pilot, but really either of them work. For variety's sake I have included both in the list but running two copies of either would not hurt the deck much and could prove to be a stronger option depending on how you play it.
Elephant Grass is another card that works well with Gift as you can recur it if it ever gets too costly to keep on the field. The card acts as a decent aggro deterrent if needed and at the very least is a one drop that can draw you cards while you chain your enchantments. The recursion play is also nice when you combo, as you can recur copies that have been sacrificed in the past to keep your chain of spells going.
Early Harvest ensures that you can keep the train going by untapping all of your Wild Growth enchanted lands. The card is really one of the most powerful spells in the deck and I am seriously considering bumping up the count to a full four. You can see it as the card that holds the deck together, as it prevents fizzles more than any other card in the deck. The recent printing of Abundant Growth, while not nearly as effective, gave us another strong addition.
Multani's Presence is a nice little gem to drop that acts as a cheap enchantment that deters your opponent from countering your key spells. Not that such a thing is ever a major issue, as Rofellos's Gift also acts as a great counter spell deterrent. If a Presence, or Gaea's Touch, is ever countered, you simply use Rofellos's Gift and try again, forcing them to waste more counters and mana on you. Beyond this, the threat density of the deck is also nothing to scoff at. Once those enchantress cards hit the field, it will be very hard for your opponent to keep up.
Mister Green Storm seems to have a powerfully consistent turn-four win in practice, and is a ton of fun to play.
We may be finished with these fifteen super-budget decks, but that doesn't mean we are done with budget decks altogether! While working on these three articles I went through quite a few deck and strategy ideas, some that I kept and some that I swapped out for stronger ones. However, just because some ideas were not included does not mean you don't get to see them! Here are a few interactions and combos that, at one point or another, were considered for these articles. Maybe one of you will be able to use some or all of them in budget decks in ways that I could not see or do. If something works out for you, let me know! I would love to hear about it.
Interaction: Solitary Confinement plus Squee, Goblin Nabob
This one is pretty easy to understand. After resolving Solitary Confinement, one can use Squee, Goblin Nabob to keep it out an infinite amount of time. This was not used in my articles because in mono-color it simply was not consistent enough. If another color was added, and perhaps if Enlightened Tutor was thrown in, I'm sure the deck could see some kind of play.
Interaction: Goblin Charbelcher plus Mana Severance
Another easy-to-figure-out combo, this one comes from a long-lost combo deck called Severance Belcher. Simply resolve Belcher, use Severance to get rid of all the lands in your deck, and then activate the big cannon for the kill. The deck was not included because even though it can be built in mono-color, the cost of the combo was just too much mana-wise. Four mana for the Belcher and five more to cast Severence and activate the Belcher was just too much to do realistically before you died, while still keeping it protected with your budget counter magic.
Interaction: Joiner Adept or Orochi Leafcaller or Prismatic Omen
The idea here was to use a mono-green deck with a combination of the cards you see above. With any of them on the field you instantly have access to every color mana in the game. Sadly, most of the cards you would use in combination with this just are not powerful enough, or have too high of a casting cost to be used realistically. Sad, because I really liked this one.
Interaction: Incandescent Soulstoke plus Liege of the Tangle or Supreme Exemplar
The problem with this one is the color of its main piece. Red does not really give very many options when it comes to searching for the combo and protecting it. Being able to get a Liege of the Tangle out--therefore turning all of your lands into 8/8s--is a really powerful move and usually wins you the game. The problem is that you just can't do it consistently while keeping the $100 budget. Also, the combo relies on Incandescent Soulstoke losing summoning sickness, something that is not very realistic when you can't protect him.
And that's that. Fifteen decks, all at $100 or less and all very powerful in their own right. Competitive Magic is all about doing the most broken things you can with the resources you have, and these lists make good examples. I would like to end this series by saying that I really had a ton of fun doing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading about these decks as much as I enjoyed creating and writing about them. Because of this, and because there are still many more decks to be made that I don't know about, I can tell you that this is not the end of the Super Budget Super Series. But fifteen decks later, it's no wonder I need a break!
Next week we will be back to the normal $250 budget with an article on the darkest color in magic. Until then, keep on playing and keep on saving!
By James Heslip on July 2nd, 2012 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now