Today I’ll be deviating from my normal fare of Extended chatter and instead focus on the request I’ve gotten from several people to talk about the cheap competitive decks in Extended. Normally, I think budget talk for any format that doesn’t include Force of Will or the original dual lands is a bit ludicrous, especially for competitive players. For this season, however, we’ve seen such variety in decks that it’s actually possible to be thrifty and get a viable deck. For those who do have access to everything, you’d do well to at least skim and see what many of your less fortunate competition could possibly be armed with.
This is a deck I keep ending up dragging into my articles just because you see it so much in the first few rounds of a tournament. In this case though, Burn has actually lost a little popularity since the beginning of the season, despite the deck becoming even cheaper and more effective. I believe part of this is due to more decks boarding life-gain effects and the uptick in strategies that just devastate Burn like Martyr or quick combo decks that coin flip it like Hive Mind or Dredge. In addition, if you actually play a dozen creatures or more, I think it’s law now that you need 3 Umezawa’s Jitte somewhere in your deck-list, if not the full set.
Unfortunately, due to the linear nature of being the “40 Bolt 20 Mountain deck”, you really don’t have a lot of room to grow or for innovation. The spot you have the most control over is the sideboard and figuring out exactly what cards are worth running in conjunction with all your burn. The front-runners for me are Everlasting Torment, Cryoclasm, Smash to Smithereens, Pithing Needle and Ghost Quarter. Some form of grave-hate would also be nice, but really the graveyard decks are probably going to just beat the crap out of you more often than not even if you run hate.
As far as cost goes, the deck is 20 bucks or less in real life or online if you don’t run the Blinkmoth Nexus / Shrapnel Blast builds. If you do, then the cost shoots up to about 60 online (Thanks a bunch Affinity players!) and 35ish in paper.
2010 San Juan PTQ: Seattle
Yeah, another Red deck; what can I say? Again, if you don’t know what this deck’s strategy is or have otherwise been living under a rock: AIR wants to drop a Blood Moon + threat to disrupt you and kill you around turn 4. Alternatively, it will settle for just playing some huge threat like Deus of Calamity or an Empty the Warrens for ten on turn one and asking to see the answer. There are only a few relevant decisions for you to make and this is generally a very frustrating deck to play against when it’s firing on all cylinders.
There’s been practically zero innovation to this deck from last year, with the exception of one or two board cards that now see play. Lich’s Mirror is an interesting thought experiment somebody put together and one that I’ve actually witnessed success against Scapeshift with*. Simply put, if you land the mirror they can no longer win via Valakut damage and have to either bounce it first or beat you to death after they combo off. Otherwise, all Scapeshift accomplishes is setting you back to a turn one state, a clean board state and seven cards in hand.which is the state the deck is designed to play from in the first place.
*Boy, this deck just has issues with all sorts of niche cards from linear strategies. First Dredge’s milling plan and now this.
Probably the most interesting thing upcoming for the deck is one Worldwake spoiler which could finally fill the crappy Demigod of Revenge slot as a big threat on turn one that does something useful. Lodestone Golem is a godsend to Aggro Workshop decks in Vintage and possible a few Legacy decks, but didn’t seem to have much of a place in ‘normal’ formats. For AIR though, this guy seems to fit pretty well. He only costs four mana, comes with the requisite five power to be a four-turn clock and effectively blanks every other deck’s first turn.
Sure, aggro strategies can still get to him with a Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile on turn two, but this means they’ve done no board development over their first two turns and are starting at 15 life. Plus, due to the Golem’s cheaper cost, it becomes more likely that AIR can hit the six mana threshold to lay a Chalice of the Void @ 1 or Blood Moon to help out the new and improved Juggernaut. Against slower Control and Combo strategies though, the effect can just be devastating. Other than Path to Exile on turn two, what effective answer does a deck like Thopter Combo have against the Golem until turn five? What about Faeries or Hive Mind? Most of the decks can’t even hope to touch him until turn three and this is assuming they have the answer in hand to begin with, god forbid they were planning on trying to draw or search for an answer.
Budget-wise this deck is higher on the chain than most due to the price of Chrome Mox, but the rest of the deck can be found at a pretty reasonable price. Online you’ll have to deal with rougher prices than the paper version; Blood Moon costs 6, Chalice of the Void hits 8-10 and Chrome Mox is almost 20. Thankfully the rest of the deck is dirt-cheap to make up for those three, and should cost between 130-150tix depending on what deals you can get.
Deadshot Minotaur.dec (Aka: Living End Cascade)
Joao_Andrade 2nd MODO PTQ 1/17
Now, this is fresh and interesting compared to the other decks I’ve listed thus far. For those who haven’t seen the list, the strategy really is as simple as it looks. You cycle a bunch of cheap cycling creatures that look better suited for a Limited deck than anything Constructed-worthy, and then resolve a Cascade spell into Living End to clear the board and bring them all back. Throw in a few Evoke creatures to take care of various annoyances, like Ingot Chewer to take care of Relic of Progenitus and Shriekmaw to blow up Meddling Mage, and you have a deck.
Seems simple enough, right?
This deck has effectively replaced Hypergenesis in the metagame, and with good reason; Living End is just better. Not only is it far easier to find your Cascade spells, you don’t have to deal with a garbage mana base and you never get hands where sometimes your stuck all-in on a turn three Progenitus. Plus, Living End runs ways to actually interact with opponent before the deck attempts to combo off. Utilizing a mana-disruption plan that Hypergenesis was incapable of doing, it has Blood Moon, Fulminator Mage, Goblin Ruinblaster and Avalanche Riders to choose from and really put a hurting on many decks fragile mana bases. Meanwhile, the deck itself runs 12 or more basics, 12 cyclers that cost 1cc or less and landcyclers to help get to three mana of any of its colors without disruption.
The one big issue the deck faces is splash damage from all the people still running Dredge hate for no good reason. Even if you run ways to blow up artifacts and LD and such, it’s still very possible to get into situations where you can’t Living End until you find a specific answer card and it could be too late by the time you do. Certain strategies can also be very obnoxious for the deck to effectively counter, Martyr being a big one. It’s effectively immune to heavy mana disruption, many of the online builds run Cranial Extraction in the sideboard and the deck can just gain so much life sometimes it doesn’t matter how many stupid donks you bring back. It also requires a little more subtlety than many are used to, because if you go ahead and throw out Living End early, you may only be able to bring back 2-3 guys and if the opponent then drops a Baneslayer Angel, you just lose.
This is one of the cheapest decks in the field, with Blood Moon being the most expensive card on MODO at 6 tix and the rest of the cards generally ranging from 1 to 4. All and all, you could probably build the deck for less than 50. In real life, the fetch prices are higher and it could be harder to find some of the cards, but it’ll still run you less than 100 if you own absolutely none of it.
Gavin Verhey, 5th place Online PTQ
Deja Vu, the best deck from last season is back with vengeance! This year’s model isn’t quite as fast or resilient as the old one, but then again, every deck isn’t aiming to beat it this time around. This deck has two modes of play, the first being what you remember from last year: comboing to infinity and beyond and eventually killing via Akroma’s Memorial or Grapeshot. The second is to dump 7-10 Elves on the table and swing at the opponent twice, which is a pretty reasonable plan game one against just about anything not packing Wrath of God.
Elves has a lot of subtleties to it when you aren’t trying to goldfish with it, and the only good way to learn with it is a lot of testing. In addition, there are a lot of times where you’ll fizzle halfway through the combo if you draw too many lands. You have to be prepared to lose games to just running out steam even when you’ve been running well. Always double check how much mana you have available and how much you’ll be able to make with your next move. Finally, be prepared to use Summoner’s Pact and Weird Harvest in non-combo roles. Sometimes you just have to buy time and go off later, or even fall back on the trips Archdruid beatdown plan. Alternatively, if you go the Van Lunen route, be careful to not deck yourself when you pull off an ‘infinite’ combo with Cloudstone Curio. You can read Lachmann’s decklist and report here.
Total cost of the mono-Green version of the deck is around 35tix, 85ix if you add Stomping Ground and Blood Moon, although I expect that to rise rapidly as many of those cards can be difficult to find at major bot chains. The Lachmann / Van Lunen version costs a bit more with additional rares, but is roughly the same.
Hate to say it, but I’ve barely played this deck. I’ve gotten to play against it a bit online and it seems like a legitimate turn three / four kill deck. As I have nothing to really say on this point, I’ll just mention that it isn’t a joke deck and actually can beat a lot of decks you’d expect it to fold to, largely on the back of Pact of Negation. The price of the deck is reasonable though, with Steam Vents being the one killer, though it dropped in price to about 15-17. Pact of Negation are the next highest rating between 7-9 and the remaining rares are all 1-2. All the non-Vents and non-Pact rares are pretty cheap and easy to pick up; total cost of the deck should be about 80 tix.
That comes to the end of the truly budget decks, although if you just want cheap stuff, then you really can’t go wrong with Faeries or Affinity either for just a bit more cash. This is especially true of Magic Online due to many of the rares having deflated prices, with only a few key cards being really expensive and the mana bases of both decks being very reasonable. All of these decks are at least viable on some level and many have PTQ wins or near-misses, so even if you don’t plan on playing them, keep a look out for them!
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom