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Well, after a long dry spell exacerbated by server failure and family crises, I’m back in the Deck Garage. I do apologize for such a long absence, but to be honest, it’s not looking good for the next week or two either. I’ll be returning to college, after all.
In the meantime, you may remember my inquiry as to whether or not anyone was interested in seeing some “extra-budget” decks based on 10th Edition. I got one reply, and since I was predisposed towards building them anyway, I decided to go for it.
The only trouble is, in order to satisfy the criteria of “budget restricted”, I set out to use only common cards. As you may have noticed, Xth Edition has no common artifacts, and since it seemed appropriate to build one deck in each color, that means that the commons in 10th would have to supply five decks. And to be honest, there just aren’t enough good commons in 10th to build five decks, much less five decks with a strategy. Because, believe it or not, a “red deck” or a “blue deck” doesn’t count as a strategy. So, instead of limiting myself to the Core Set, I decided to branch out into Time Spiral block as well. I stuck to commons, so almost everyone should be able to go out and buy the cards to build one of these decks, and they’ll be Standard-legal for a while. Lorwyn will give us all new cards that could go in, but until we know for sure, these are the deck I built.
Let’s start with white, since it’s traditionally first on the “color wheel”. In almost every Standard format of the last few years, a “white weenie” deck inevitably crops up. White excels at cheap, efficient creatures, and so a fast white deck always exists to be built, even if you can’t afford a playset of Wrath of God. And in this deck, I doubt you’d even want them with all these creatures.
4 Ghost Warden
4 Suntail Hawk
4 Steadfast Guard
4 Blade of the Sixth Pride
4 Amrou Scout
4 Skyhunter Prowler
4 Marshaling Cry
The basic strategy is simple: drop creatures at a rate of at least one a turn, and attack for the win ASAP. This deck should not allow the game to go on for seven turns. Use Fortify and Marshaling Cry to pump up all your creatures, and Pacifism to keep your opponent from blocking. All the creatures here have impressive stats for their cheap cost, except Ghost Warden who can make for very troublesome combat math. Since Steadfast Guard and Blade of the Sixth Pride are Rebels anyway, Amrou Scout found its way in. Don’t be afraid to cycle a Marshaling Cry early if you need to, since it retains its functionality in the graveyard. And don’t be afraid to use Fortify to save your guys from Pyroclasm or the like if necessary. With Marshaling Cry being usable twice, you’ve got 12 chances to go for a global pump into a lethal alpha strike, so it’s okay to burn one or two. Also, Amrou Scout is great for searching up Rebels, but don’t spend all your mana doing that if you’ve got spells in your hand you want to play. Amrou Scout also attacks for two, after all.
Overall, this deck would probably set you back about $15. That’s the same as a cup of coffee a day for about a week. If you’ve got more to spend, there are other cards you could add in here. The first that comes to mind is Knight of the Holy Nimbus. Glorious Anthem makes a good add as well. You could also spring for Paladin en-Vec, especially if you face a lot of Rakdos players. But you don’t really need those cards to put up a good showing with this build.
Next, the blue deck. This one was difficult, as the blue commons of 10th didn’t really suggest a strategy. There was card draw, some bounce, a few mediocre counterspells, but nothing that jumped out at me. In the end, I decided to try for a basic control deck.
4 Merfolk Looter
4 Errant Ephemeron
3 Shaper Parasite
3 Aquamorph Entity
2 Fathom Seer
4 Logic Knot
This one probably came out the most tenuous of the five, but it does a good job at highlighting everything blue is known for. Use Boomerang, Logic Knot, and Cancel to keep your opponent’s strategy from coming to fruition, while drawing extra cards with the Looter, Foresee, and Peek. Peek isn’t great, but it works well with a counterspell strategy since it gives you advance notice of what needs to be countered. It also works well with Logic Knot, since you can burn it off first turn and Delve it away later. Merfolk Looter also helps feed the Logic Knots. Errant Ephemeron is your win condition: you’ll want to save a counterspell in hand on the turn it unsuspends so you can protect it. Your various Morphs also provide card drawing, combat tricks, and your choice of a 1/5 wall or a 5/1 beater, as well as letting you play the shell game of sorts, bluffing all sorts of things. Feel free to attack with a face down 2/2 and trick your opponent into pulling out all the stops to kill it. It makes it that much harder for them to kill the real threats. But until you’ve neutralized a lot of their threats, you’ll want to play defense.
If you can afford more expensive cards, you could easily add Vesuvan Shapeshifter to compliment to Morph subtheme, or simply to become a copy of anything nice your opponent plays. Lorwyn block will probably give us a better counterspell as well, seeing as how Standard is a bit shy of playable ones right now.
Let’s move on to Black. I had a little trouble deciding what theme to use here, but then it hit me: the people who most want cheap decks are people just starting out, wo don’t have enough stake in the game to justify shelling out big money for cards. And newer players are disproportionately fond of life gain; it’s been proven over and over. So at least one of my decks here should be a life gain deck, and what color does life gain better than black?
“Wait, what?” I can hear you thinking. White is the color known for life gain, not Black. Well, white has a lot more cards that gain life than black, but white’s life gaint ends to be reactive and ineffiient. Sacred Nectar is a one-time shot that fails to do anything against the 2/2 creature that keeps attacking you and caused you to lose the life you’re gaining back. Life gain is only worth playing when it’s a dirt-cheap repeatable effect (Ghost-Lit Redeemer or Tanglebloom) or attached to another effect that actually helps win the game (Loxodon Warhammer or Faith’s Fetters) or both (Firemane Angel). And black’s life gain is all life drain. Black can gain life only by sucking it out of your opponent, with cards like Essence Drain. Essence Drain can recover the hit you took from the 3/3 as well as kill the 3/3 outright, thus effectively “gaining” you even more life by stopping all the damage that 3/3 would’ve dealt. To that end, I built this:
4 Highway Robber
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Augur of Skulls
4 Mass of Ghouls
4 Essence Drain
4 Vampiric Link
4 Midnight Charm
4 Tendrils of Corruption
My only problem with this deck is that the creature base didn’t come out as strong as I’d hoped. However, with 12 spells designed to kill a creature (Midnight Charm may need help with that though), you should hopefully be able to punch through with Mass of Ghouls enough to at least bring the opponent within Essence Drain range. Augur of Skulls makes a good blocker and a better discard spell, and Phyrexian Rager helps demonstrate how that extra life you’re gaining can be put to good use. Recover is to help you get double duty out of your Highway Robbers or just to recycle a creature while drawing an extra card.
If I were less restricted here, I’d probably want a few Graveborn Muse to fully flesh out the theme of “gain life and trade it for cards”. Soul Feast and Consume Spirit also feel like they should come in, and my self-imposed restriction on only 10th and Time Spiral is the only reason I left out Feast of Flesh. I’d also like a better finisher than Mass of Ghouls. Sengir Nosferatu looks good, but using his ability would ironically make Vampiric Link fall off. Something with flying or evasion would be ideal though. If only Moroii were monoblack....
But anyway, on to Red. It was once said that it’s been consistently impossible to built a functioning mono-Red control deck. Rather than fight conventional wisdom by trying, I decided to go with an aggro deck. What fun is Red if you can’t burn it all down?
The Red Menace
4 Bogardan Lancer
4 Blazing Blade Askari
4 Grinning Ignus
4 Coal Stoker
4 Empty the Warrens
4 Rift Bolt
4 Brute Force
4 Spitting Earth
Empty the Warrens makes almost every deck better, so why not try a Storm deck? The only thing here that costs more than three mana is Coal Stoker, which gives you the mana back, and Warrens itself. Rift Bolt need not take up any of your mana on the turn you play it, so if you can suspend a Rift Bolt (or two), and then next turn drop a Coal Stoker and Warrens, you’ve got eight 1/1’s. A Storm count of as low as 3 turns Warrens into six 1/1’s for four mana, a powerful spell when you compare it to Scatter the Seeds. You could try hoarding cards in hand in preparation for the Emptying, or you could just go for a quick kill with burn and your Knights. If you want to dedicate this deck more towards Storm, perhaps Bogardan Lancer would work better as Ętherflame Wall to let you wait until you can fire off a lot of little spells. And I can’t remember: are Storm Entity and Haze of Rage common?
If they’re not, then you could add them anyway if you’ve got that much more to spend. I also would think Rite of Flame could enhance the Storm theme. If you don’t like Storm, a few Spark Elementals, Blood Knights, and maybe a few Beacons of Destruction could replace the theme and turn this into full-on burn.
And that leaves us with the Green deck. Green is historically all about its creatures. They’re the meat-and-potatoes of Green. Monogreen decks rarely are able to win with anything but combat damage, so I decided to make the most of that for this deck.
The Green Monster
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Civic Wayfinder
4 Elvish Berserker
4 Essence Warden
4 Llanowar Empath
4 Thornweald Archer
4 Citanul Woodreaders
4 Commune with Nature
4 Giant Growth
This one has many more creatures than the other four, for good reason. Llanowar Elves and Civic Wayfinder help you accelerate mana, while Llanowar Empath and Citanul Woodreaders help you draw more creatures to play. With a high creature count like this, Essence Warden looks very helpful, and the other two are just solid beatdown guys. Commune with Nature further increases your capacity to draw creatures, and Giant Growth is really just the best G you can spend at common. Other cards I thought about including were Strength in Numbers, Llanowar Sentinel, Sprout Swarm, and Evolution Charm. Your results may vary, so you may consider adding in some of those.
If you do play this deck as is, be aware: this deck will roll over and die to Wrath of God, Molten Disaster, et al. If your opponent plays those, your best alternative is to slow roll. Don’t play any more creatures than you need to. All you really need is one more creature than your opponent has, and try to hold a few back in your hand. That way, after the board gets wiped, you can start filling it up again as quickly as possible. The same goes for Commune with Nature; best played at EOT after a Wrath.
After I built the deck, I realized that all the creatures but Citanul Woodreaders were Elves. And since Lorwyn will be a tribal block, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that some good, common alternatives to Elvish Champion will be printed. If so, then I almost regret writing this article before then, but we can’t just sit around waiting for perfect information, now can we?
I have to admit, it seems a bit silly building decks with only 10th and Time Spiral block, since technically that format doesn’t exist. Standard will include Ravnica as well for another month or so, and then it will include Lorwyn. So why exclude those cards? Because for some people, these formats do exist. Those are the people who can afford booster packs of Time Spiral or Ravnica, but not both. The people who only obtain cards in drafts, because they can’t justify buying cards unless they’re getting an evening’s entertainment out of it. For those people, I just want to say: I’m here for you.
Until next time,
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