Hi all, I hope you’ve all heard about our fantastic deck designing competition (mtgUK – Design a Deck 2011)! The idea is to show that competitive decks can be built on a budget of only £60 (plus free basic lands) and I think it is certainly possible to do so. As a judge for the competition, I will be on the lookout for decks which have a good plan. What this means is cards which work together synergistically and game-wise towards achieving a win for the good guys, and decks which actually have a chance in what I percieve the current metagame to be. Sometimes good decks aren’t good enough – I wanted Time Sieve to be a playable deck in current Extended but with Cryptic Command and cheap clocks flying around the decks it used to prey on can easily beat it so it’s time to stay away (for now, bwah ah ah).
With this in mind I’m happy to bring you a list of cards I believe you should be looking at for either deck inspiration or simply as great value cards which fill out a bunch of different strategies well. There’s 5 in each colour, plus an extra one for Blue because everybody knows that Blue cards are the best. Without further ado, here you go:
Journey to Nowhere (95p) is a very efficient removal spell which more-or-less permanently removes a creature of your choice from the battlefield. Although it won’t do much against decks looking to move around Sword of Feast and Famine it will attack a Lotus Cobra or Kalastria Highborn well in some popular Standard decks and nobody is really playing cards which kill Enchantments at the moment, with the focus being on destroying Artifacts.
Kor Skyfisher (75p) made the top 8 of a Pro Tour almost immediately upon release due to its ability to return a variety of usefulpermanents to your hand – for example triggering Landfall abilities or cards with a good “enters the battlefield” ability.
Safe Passage (30p) looks poor but is is fact a cheap answer to a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle deck dealing you lethal damage in one turn and can act as a Time Warp in a deck which just needs one more turn to do its thing.
Squadron Hawk (75p) already makes a great case as being one of the strongest cards in Standard, showing up all over the place. The ability to “unmulligan” yourself is very strong as consistency is something most decks strive for, making up for the sub-standard body that comes to you.
Steppe Lynx (80p) plays well with the Kor Skyfisher above as you get to return your lands to continue making the Lynx bigger. Attacking for 4 on turn 2 is no joke and it adds up quickly, putting your opponent under a lot of pressure.
Mana Leak (95p) practically defines Standard already and almost any blue deck will be looking to play 4 of this automatically. Trading your 2 mana and a card for your opponent’s card and the mana they spent on it is a very good trade (which is one of the reasons why cheap counters are better) but its value diminishes as the game goes on. Don’t forget Spell Peers as well!
Deprive (95p) comes with a good upside (costs 2 mana) but a potentially brutal downside (sets you back a land). Few decks actively want to slow down their mana development but perhaps if you just want defence at the top of your curve and are happy to re-use your land drops or wish to loot them into new cards then you can turn this card into all upside?
Foresee (95p) has been tripping people out for a while with its funny picture but the truth is that you really can dig quite deep if you are searching for a particular card. At big events the draft packs are pre-stamped by the judges to help avoid cheating and at nats this year they used a seat number / pack number system and I was able to get myself a 1C, a 2C and a 3C Foresee.
Preordain‘s (95p) value, on the other hand, increases as the game continues due to its ability to very cheaply dig you past cards you don’t want in search of more back-breaking cards. Early on it helps to smooth your draws if you kept an awkward starting 7 and should be automatic in every blue deck.
Sea Gate Oracle (25p) saw play immediately at Pro Tour San Juan and Mr. Lollacle makes it into my Pauper/Peasant decks every time. Not the best guy for Standard at the moment but certainly one to be looking out for.
Shared Discovery (10p), eponymously, is a card I can extoll the virtues of in tokens decks – try it with any card that makes 3/4 creatures by itself and see how efficient this draw 3 becomes.
Disfigure (35p) figures highly as a cheap removal spell and often acts as Shock once did. Killing something that costs 2 mana on the draw means you can untap and do something with your own 2 mana, making for a back-breaking tempo gain.
Vampire Lacerator (80p) exemplifies an aggressive black weenie deck whose goal is to deal 20 as soon as possible. The deck is backed up by some cheap rares and a lot of uncommons – will it fit below
the £60 goal?
Vendetta (25p) has a bone to pick with you for continuing to forget its existence. A scaleable removal spell for a deck which can afford to take the life loss.
Burst Lightning (75p) burst onto the scene with Zendikar and hasn’t looked back since, a nice burn spell with options. 2 damage and 4 damage are very relevant amounts to be dealing at the moment, with everybody building their decks with Lightning Bolt in mind – either not caring about the trade or trying to avoid getting killed.
Goblin Bushwhacker (75p) also combined with the Steppe Lynx and Kor Skyfisher in white to provide an extremely aggressive deck. Latterly it has been powering up the next card in the list in very aggressive cheap red decks for which I expect to see more than a few entries into this competition.
">Kudoltha Rebirth (25p) gobbles opponents up quickly, often providing 3 power of creature on turn 1. This wild deal has been seen before but, as with Spectral Procession any global pump spells work wonders (see the aforementioned Goblin Bushwhacker.
Lightning Bolt (£1.95) – efficiency of burn incarnate. 3 damage to any target for 1 mana is about as good a deal as one can get in the game of Magic and I wouldn’t expect to see it continually reprinted so play it now while you still can. On more than one occasion has this card been almost the entire reason for me to want to splash red in my otherwise good-coloured decks. Not the cheapest of the commons in this list, but certainly one you’ll be wanting to play due to the sheer power level of it.
Searing Blaze (45p) completes the blazin’ squad of burn spells here and all see play in Extended red decks, so to have them available to you at common makes you a lucky thing indeed. Count yourself lucky and give yourself a pat on the back… go on, I’ll wait… I’m doing it too :).
Llanowar Elves (75p) taps for 1, either mana or damage. A classic card throughout the history of Magic – it has been proven an above-average card time and time again and any green deck which has a lot of cheap spells it wants to cast quickly, or which wants to make a 3 mana card on turn 2 reliably should be looking to this welshman. By the way, does anyone else think that (Llanowar Mox – 1 colourless mana – enters the battlefield tapped, tap: add 1 to your mana pool) would be fair?
Cultivate (75p) reaches through your deck for the lands you require and puts one into play for you, making it nearly as good as Divination but in a colour which desperately craves card draw (anyone remember how good Harmonize (sic) was? Anyone looking for lots of mana or a variety of colours should be tempted by this one.
Explore (40p) is one of my favourite cards in Standard, giving me the feel of playing an infi-cantrip Dominion deck. Certainly more attractive than Rampant Growth for a lot of decks, this won’t help you if you kept a speculative/bad opening hand but will reward players for their strategic planning.
Nest Invader (45p) isn’t as threatening as it was in the arcade machines during the 80’s but this creature is deceptively good. A reasonably aggressive creature with a bonus for anyone looking for a one-off mana boost or simply having more creatures in play (o hai Shared Discovery!) can get in queue behind me for this card.
Sylvok Replica‘s (10p) credentials as a green card for this list don’t need justification as an expensive Naturalize effect but people often forget about him. Anyone looking at bad Extended decks might want to notice that he has the Shaman creature type.
Perilous Myr (25p) sees play at the moment in the sideboard of Red decks who want to fight Kor Firewalker. Generally speaking, an answer card should be proactive (e.g. Stigma Lasher over Leyline of Punishment) and this guy is always at least getting in for 2 damage to something.
Prophetic Prism (25p) ranks highly for me as well due to fixing your mana and drawing you a card. Time Sieve decks wanted this last summer and at the moment it’s in Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas‘s address book, but that might be a bit beyond the scope of this competition – do you have any uses for it that make it better than Ichor Wellspring?
Sylvok Lifestaff (10p) disappeared as quickly as it appeared in Caw-Go decks but is one to remember if Hero of Oxid Ridge is running rampant at your FNM and you want to upgrade your Squadron Hawks for some sweet, sweet value.
Ulamog’s Crusher (30p) is very far from seeing play in Standard but is the go-to fatty for crushing in Magic Online’s Pauper decks. The format is not ready for this guy at the moment, but maybe you can make it work in a quick ramp deck?
Halimar Depths (45p), because casting Ponder is too much effort. Seriously good if you want to find your good cards. Especially excellent with any card that shuffles your deck, the above two cards for example.
Khalni Garden (45p) gives you a free 0/1. What can you do with having an extra creature in play? Up to you (see article name for more ideas).
Soaring Seacliff (20p) won somebody a Grand Prix, do you have anything you want to give evasion to for one big turn?
Teetering Peaks (40p) peeks out of every burn-oriented Red decklist as a free Shock. Lands which are also spells means more of your deck “does something” while still churning through consistently. A very good option for anyone who wants to get damage in.
So there we go, most of these cards are pretty obvious but also surprisingly cheap – had any inspiration for your budget decklist? Best of luck with your entries, I’ll be looking forward to reading them – make them good and make them competitive!