This week, I want to talk about Magic 2014 and the budget gems found within. Specifically, I want to talk about cards that I'll be adding to my deck. However, I'd also like to go over other relatively cheap cards that you can add to your decks if you are on a budget.
But first, there is some battling to be done!
The deck in question?
This may sound a little greedy given my budget of only $20, but I really feel the need to upgrade the deck a little bit. Izzet Staticaster is absolutely amazing, and drawing one can lead to free wins in certain matchups. It's absolutely the type of card I'm willing to play too many copies of in my sideboard. I have two. I want four. Against a deck like Naya Humans, it's one of the best cards you can possibly have, and four isn't really enough.
Against a deck like Junk Reanimator, I'm happy to only play a few. It shoots down Arbor Elf and Avacyn's Pilgrim primarily, but also gets Lingering Souls and Sin Collectors for free, then teams up with other cards to take down Angels and Thragtusks. However, four is out of the question there, and I'll only bring in two against Junk Reanimator. Normally, this would lead me to only play 2-3 copies. But since my sideboard space is less valuable given that I'm on a budget, I'd be crazy to pass on a potential game-breaker for $1. I'm buying the final two Izzet Staticasters.
Purchase: 2 Izzet Staticaster - $1.98
Remaining Balance: $18.04
A small update for sure, but potentially a very valuable one.
Armed with our deck, the tournament in question is Friday Night Magic at Epic Loot in Centerville, Ohio. I love Epic Loot, and I think it's one of the best stores I have been to in my dozen years of frequenting gaming stores. If I were voting for the Card Shop Hall of Fame, Epic Loot would definitely get one of my five votes. The only reason I'm not there all the time is that it is in the Dayton area. That is quite the drive from my humble abode in Cincinnati, but it's worth the drive whenever I go. Besides, there is a Hothead Burrito and a Dairy Queen there that I indulge in regularly. If I'm lucky enough, I don't even pay for the Dairy Queen!
Current Balance: $18.04 - $5 tournament entry = $13.04
FNMs at Epic Loot are generally very well attended, to the point where their policy is to run fewer rounds than needed so that everyone gets home on time. This weekend was on the low end of what I've come to expect for Epic Loot, as 35 or so players came out to play (I've played in FNMs with as many as 75 people, and 50 is fairly normal). My four rounds of Swiss broke down as follows:
Round 1 - G/W - Win
Round 2 - Naya Blitz - Win
Round 3 – Bant Hexproof - Win
Round 4 - Jund - Lose
That's not a typo. I beat Bant Hexproof! The best part about it was that his draws were not that bad. Usually, I just assumed that I can't beat a reasonable draw from a Bant Hexproof deck. However, I just have to run perfect in order to compete.
I lost game one in pretty standard fashion. My sideboarding was the following:
My logic is that I don't have time to draw cards, and there is no attrition aspect to this match. Game two went extremely well, with counterspells nabbing his first two hexproof creatures. I used Goblin Electromancer to commit to the board while also protecting myself. My opponent eventually landed a Geist of Saint Traft, but Negate kept it from being courageous, and I raced effectively given my ability to clock him while keeping his board clear.
Game three was epic. His draw was excellent, involving an Invisible Stalker, an Unflinching Courage, and another enchantment to put me on a quick clock. However, my draw was also fantastic, involving a pair of Delver of Secrets on the first two turns as well as a pair of Guttersnipes. Both of my Delvers flipped on the first try, but Simic Charm set me back. Facing lethal damage, I would win if my top card was a much-needed spell (both to flip the recast Delver and trigger the Guttersnipes), but lose if it were not. Thankfully, Thought Scour came to my rescue and I pulled out a crazy game where I had to quickly deal upwards of thirty damage because of the Unflinching Courage.
As for the other matchups, the extra Staticasters were amazing in the first two rounds. Even against a G/W deck with a bunch of heavy-hitting threats like Loxodon Smiter and Sublime Archangel to go with Rancor, Izzet Staticaster claimed an important role of mowing down his one-toughness guys like Avacyn's Pilgrim while also allowing something like Searing Spear to take out a Loxodon Smiter or turning a three-mana Turn (of Turn//Burn fame) into a Terminate.
In the final round, my opponent offered a split, but because the prizes were $40 for a 4-0 record and $15 for a 3-1, we agreed to give $30 and the FNM Promo card (of Izzet Charm) to the winner and $25 to the loser. Based on my previous experience against Jund, I was confident playing the match.
I was soundly defeated.
This was the type of match I feared when I first started this project. My underpowered deck would not be capable of competing with the powerhouses of Standard. Olivia Voldaren in particular was quite unbeatable. I didn't have a Mizzium Mortars right away, then two activations took it out of range of any of my spells. After having played the deck, I now know that these types of games are the exception rather than the norm. However, it is a good reminder that I have to play sharp and that these beatings are indeed possible.
Current Balance: $13.04 + $25 tournament winnings = $38.04
For what it's worth, I think a certain amount of games in Standard are pretty lopsided regardless of the decks. My deck is capable of just getting ahead and never relenting, but in reality my cards won't blow the opponent out of the water on a regular basis. I know that my cards will kill people if left unchecked - very similar to many of the powerhouses in Standard. However, my cards take a touch longer to do so, making it harder to keep up pressure against resistance.
Despite the thrashing at the hands of Olivia Voldaren, this tournament was another success. $25 is incredibly helpful, and I'm starting to feel like I'm turning a corner here. I don't want to spend it right away, as there is something I might want to save up for....
Wizards of the Coast does a great job these days of making new sets, so there is almost never a set that goes by that doesn't change every deck in some way. Even if there isn't a card that is a new weapon for your deck, there is probably a card that you don't want to play against. A good example of this is Unburial Rites strategies. Depending on the build, there may or may not be something you want to add. However, Scavenging Ooze is a huge deal against any graveyard-based deck. Heck, Scavenging Ooze is an awesome card against my U/R Delver deck!
In the order that I'm likely to play them, here are the Magic 2014 cards that I'm interested in, listed with their preorder price here on StarCityGames.com.
Young Pyromancer - $1.99
I'm not sold on that.
What I am sold on is the fact that I want this card in my deck. Now. I firmly believe that this card is amazing and that my first deck post-M14 will have four copies. I'll probably be replacing Talrand, Sky Summoner, as Talrand is a little too expensive a threat for this deck. It simply gives the opponent too much time to get set up before Talrand takes over. When unchecked, Talrand is amazing, but I'd rather get things started much earlier. I'm incredibly excited to play this card, and I hope it brings out some of the aggressive capabilities that I've wanted to unleash. As it currently stands, only Delver of Secrets really allows this deck to be aggressive out of the gates, but hopefully Young Pyromancer serves as a second way to do this.
Burning Earth - $0.99
I'm not super sold on this card, but I think it's in the same range as the Izzet Staticasters in the sideboard. When it's good, it's going to be really good, but has enough of an effect that I think I'm willing to try some out in the sideboard. One of the adorable interactions with this card is that I do not yet own Sulfur Falls, lessening the impact this has on me. To take things a step further, I could potentially see myself making a downgrade from Izzet Guildgate to Terramorphic Expanse in order to prevent some damage from my own Burning Earth. I don't think it's a big deal, but it's something that I might try.
Domestication - $0.49 from M14, $0.25 from Rise of the Eldrazi
I love this card. As Wizards of the Coast has made better and better creatures, the Control Magic effects have gotten much worse, and for good reason. They are really, really good. This one has a pretty serious drawback, and likely a prohibitive one in a world of Rancor and Thragtusk. I've considered Dungeon Geists in the sideboard for when my deck wants to be more value oriented. This is probably a strict upgrade in this sense. However, much like Dungeon Geists, since it is not an Instant or Sorcery it is neither a spell that triggers your enablers nor an enabler working off all of your spells, so I probably won't be playing it. For the record, I think it's awesome that you can take a Kalonian Hydra with it, but can only attack once with it before having to give it back. Sure beats just losing to it, however.
Opportunity - $0.49
I don't think I'll be playing this one, but I might try it out instead of Thoughtflare. I often have to wait on five mana (four with Electromancer), and I'm not sure I'm willing to wait for an additional mana, even if discarding two cards to Thoughtflare can occasionally be tough. I simply wanted to mention it.
Chandra, Pyromaster - $24.99If this price comes down, I'm all over it. I think this card functions very similarly to Izzet Staticaster, but is much better at setting you up for an attrition game. I think this card is quite excellent, as 0: Draw a card is very strong. If you're willing to play Bonfire of the Damned (a card that you often end up casting when you're not ready for it), then being forced to play your random card off the top is not bad at all. It's poor when your opponent has an attacking force that the +1 won't take care of, but it's very good if the rest of deck can handle those types of situations. At $24.99, I can't remotely afford it... yet.
Vial of Poison - $0.25
I'm not sure what my exact post-M14 list will look like, but that's it for my deck for now. However, Magic 2014 has plenty of other cards for plenty of other decks, and many of them are cheap! Starting with the most appealing, here are my picks for top commons and uncommons that aren't currently Standard-legal. Remember, your deck may demand something that most other decks don't want. Keep this in mind when building your decks!
Elvish Mystic - $0.49
Probably one of the five most important cards in the set. This really does change a ton. Arbor Elf is a little too unreliable, while not every green deck can take advantage of the white mana provided by Avacyn's Pilgrim. There may not be many of those decks currently in Standard, but that's because Elvish Mystic does not yet exist. Trust me, be prepared for some new green decks, including ones that play all twelve...
Doom Blade - $0.49
The best spot removal in Standard. It's the type of card that makes black creatures better again, just because they will dodge the best straight-up removal spell in Standard. You'll probably still want Tragic Slip in your Aristocrats decks, but everyone else probably wants Doom Blade.
Brave the Elements - $0.49
Seeing this as a reprint reminds me one of my favorite decks I never got to play in a big tournament. Basically, it was a monowhite deck that used Adventuring Gear to pump the likes of Kor Duelist and friends [Editor's Note: We call that the Craig Wescoe Special, Adam]. Brave the Elements was amazing in the deck, and one of the reasons I loved playing against Jund with it. Anyway, the card is back and Brave the Elements is just as powerful, if not more. I've been incredibly happy with Faith's Shield, and this is just much stronger if the cards you want to protect are white creatures. Being able to act as both a Falter effect and a protection effect is amazing. Any monowhite aggressive deck should have four.
Banisher Priest - $0.99
Fiend Hunter goes in a small subset of decks currently. Basically just non-aggressive decks that want a bunch of creatures in them. If you want a non-creature, Oblivion Ring is likely better. If you're aggressive, a 1/3 is not what you're looking for. Banisher Priest takes away the non-aggressive part. Firefist Striker has shown us that two power on a removal creature is worthwhile, and actually killing the creature (as opposed to hindering their ability to block) is absolutely worth it. I expect four copies in any aggressive white deck (sensing a theme here...).
Celestial Flare - $0.25
This is not the be-all and end-all against Bant Hexproof, but it's a tool. They'll have more hexproof creatures, and you'll often have to get clever with your blocks. Keep in mind that you can block and kill some lesser creatures and then kill the big one at the end of combat (you'll have to take damage from the creatures in this case). It sure beats my current anti-Hexproof plan.
Goblin Shortcutter - $0.15
This card is not that bad. There are many times that I wish Firefist Striker was this card. Now it could be!
Angelic Accord - $0.49
Rarely do build-around-me cards check in at uncommon. It might be tough to gain four life repeatedly (especially if your budget doesn't include Thragtusk), but keep an eye on this. Maybe Bubbling Cauldron is a place to start?
Those are my picks for cheap cards to build around. There are some rares that can be picked up relatively inexpensively as well, but I wanted to focus on commons and uncommons. After all, they are the lifeblood of any deck being built on a budget.
Thanks for reading,