Tree of Tales – Lowering the Price of Progress

Welcome back to the Tree, have a sit and we can begin. This week, I decided to delve into a different trove than I usually do, the Budget deck build. We recently saw the release of several products, all of which were quite solid. However, for now we will focus on the New Phyrexia Event deck, War of Attrition. This gives a very solid basis for a new player getting into the game, as this deck has several great cards, not the least of which are Stoneforge Mystic and Puresteel Paladin. Both of these cards are simply amazing, especially in conjunction with each other.

When looking at the cards in the deck, many of them are functional as they stand. Mirran Crusader, Porcelain Legionnaire, and Flayer Husk are all creatures that fit in with the theme, and are good in and of themselves. I decided that I would limit the budget on this build to $200, or two event decks and about $145 worth of other cards. I ended up near that limit, and was quite happy with the end product.

Here’s what I came up with:

Lands (20)
17 Plains
Contested War Zone

Artifacts (10)
Mox Opal
Flayer Husk
Sword of Body and Mind
Sword of Vengeance

Creatures (26)
Signal Pest
Vault Skirge
Stoneforge Mystic
Puresteel Paladin
Porcelain Legionnaire
Mirran Crusader

Instants (4)
Sideboard (15)
Kor Firewalker
Revoke Existence
Leonin Relic Warder

The additions were:

+3 Contested War Zone

+2 Mox Opal

+1 Batterskull

+1 Sword of Body and Mind

+4 Memnite

+4 Signal Pest

+4 Vault Skirge

+2 Puresteel Paladin

+4 Dispatch

This is somewhere in the realm of $130, plus the cost of 2 Event decks, which is roughly $55. Pretty cheap, and I felt comfortable that the deck was something that could get there in the right circumstances. I pulled some hands, liked what I saw, and decided to take it to the next step for a new player, Friday Night Magic. I went to Samurai Comics central, as it is near my house and I got in from Tucson late in the day. After registering and talking with some people, I finally sat down to my first round.

Round 1 vs. AlexMono-Black Infect-Proliferate

We sat down, and as we shuffled he informed me that he was playing what he was playing, since we had talked prior to the tournament and I had described what I was trying to accomplish, as well as my deck. It seemed like a very respectable move to me, which is always nice. His deck was quite impressive, and seemed like it had removal everywhere. He played Virulent Wound several times to good effect, but I had legions of creatures and eventually made it to the 20 I needed to end the game. I didn’t see any awful lot of his deck, so I based my sideboarding on the assumption of the usual infect decks I had played against, which turned out to be a bad idea.

Sideboarding: -4 Memnite, +4 Dismember

Game 2 was a strange affair, with him drawing copious amounts of land and seemingly nothing else. He played a Septic Rats at one point, which I dismembered. It turns out that the only creatures in his deck were 4 Septic Rats and 4 Inkmoth Nexus, which made my sideboarding plan pretty ineffective. Despite this, I took the game due to his hideous draw.

1-0, 2-0

Round 2 vs. JaredU/W Puresteel

Another of my opponents decides to tell me what he’s playing before we start, and suddenly I realize that we’re at an FNM. People are here for fun, at least some of them, and it’s actually about the interaction between the players and the game being played, not the prize at the end. Pretty refreshing for a player like me, who always seems to be playing for stakes. Anyhow, game 1 was a sordid affair, with both of us hitting Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull. I Dispatch his Stoneforge, then plop my Batterskull into play. He responds with a Divine Offering on his turn, then gets his Batterskull into play a turn later. With no main deck Artifact removal, I end up losing a slow laborious battle.

Sideboarding: -4 Memnite, -3 Porcelain Legionnaire, +4 Revoke Existence, +3 Leonin Relic Warder

I honestly don’t remember an awful lot about games 2 and 3, just that I went for Sword of Body and Mind both games, and got there with my flying squadron. Lots of artifact disruption and flying beats ended the games. I believe that game 3 he was completely mana-screwed.

2-0, 4-1

Round 3 vs. VuCaw Blade

I won’t go into this match, other than to say that he crushed me, mostly because I kept amazingly greedy hands. I actually kept a 1 land hand in game 1, and didn’t see another till turn 5. Greedy, what can I say? Anyhow, he mowed me hard, and I took it.  This doesn’t feel like a good match-up anyway, and game 2 he drew 3 Dismember, 2 Oust and a Day of Judgment, which flat out beats me.

2-1, 4-3

Round 4 vs. Draw

We drew into the top 8, since it was a relatively small tournament. It gave me a little time to get a drink and relax, which was nice.

2-1-1, 4-3

Top 8 vs. AlexStill Infect

Since I had already played this match-up, I had a much better idea of how to sideboard and play. Game 1 I got there on the eventual back of a Mirran Crusader, which tends to blank basically everything but Black Sun’s Zenith. I boarded just like I did in round 2, and lost game 2. I was just a little behind on land, and it gave him the tempo he needed to push the poison across. Game 3 he seemed to have more draw issues, with nothing but swamps coming off the top of his deck, and I capitalized.

3-1-1, 6-4

We decided to split the top 4 so we could get out of there, and we each took our 4 packs and left. I was quite happy with the results I had garnered, especially given the nature of the experiment. Obviously there are other factors, such as play skill and luck, that affect things, but from a base standpoint I can say that a $200 deck can play competitively at an FNM, which is all a new player should really be looking for. Does that mean this list will be competitive with the upper tier of decks that cost significantly more? Probably not, but it is a good starting point

While I was in Tucson I attended Cube League at Amazing Discoveries. I ended up in pod 2, which was the Blue Cube. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time, and the decks we ended up drafting were all sorts of weird. I had a good mana curve, decent “removal” and several good counterspells, including Thwart. Nothing quite like free counterspells in limited huh? Anyway, I ended up going 3-0, which was the best record on the day. Many thanks to to all of them down there, including my friend Chris Zaborowski, who guided things along nicely.

There have been many speculations of late regarding the state of Standard, and there have been strong rumors of an emergency banning very soon. I’m going to reserve my public comment on this by merely saying that I would be strongly in favor of such an action. I have felt for quite some time that Jace 2.0 is strictly too powerful, and due to his cost it was very unfair to players who couldn’t afford the budget that playing him requires. Couple that with the fact that he is a central figure in the most dominant decks of the last year, and it begins to become pretty clear that he is, and has been, a problem. I will also say, however, that merely banning Jace will not improve anything. It will simply shift the format in the direction of decks like Grixis Twin and Valakut. That being said, a broad banning is the only sure way to improve the stagnancy of our current format, and Wizards may be hesitant to perform such an action, despite the fact that it makes sense in many ways.

That’s about it for this week. Until next time.