Once I started reading through the comments section of my article last week, it became abundantly clear that there was some kind of disconnect, and because I fancy myself a writer of the people, I will take the blame entirely.
After a voting process a few weeks ago, Jeskai Aggro was picked for my FNM Hero deck by an extremely wide margin.
Since the deck had just been showcased at New Jersey, I was able to pick up around 95% of it from the fine folks at The Game Academy in Orlando for slightly under my allocated budget. I thought this was awesome! I'd be able to start my journey with a Tier One deck! From there, these were my goals:
- Win at FNMs!
- Use the credit to start a collection.
- Ask the readers on a weekly basis what I should be investing in.
- Build decks based on your votes.
- Get rich or die trying.
I thought this plan was super clever and would get people interested.
Oh boy was I stupid.
It seems that there were two camps of people that I encountered last week. On one hand there were the people who thought what I was doing was totally neat and they were happy to go along on the ride with me. In the other seemingly more vocal group, people were pretty pissed off. They felt like the spirit of FNM Hero had been defeated by starting with a deck that, as of a few weeks after I purchased it, doubled in the price I initially paid.
One reader made a very good point, and I immediately was obliged to take his advice: "start over, because this deck is already the climax."
I found it refreshing that a great deal of people had positive input on what I should do, and although there are always the typical trolls who come out to play and say "SCREW YOU MARK THIS ISN'T WHAT I WANTED YOU SUCK!!!!" it worried me far more to disappoint you all than the glowering of a few people who were never taught manners as a child.
The best advice I got was "pretend you're a new player." To me that might be where I went off the rails. I bought things cheap because I knew they'd be good, I gravitated towards the Jeskai deck, and I spent most of my budget on just the deck.
An interesting occurrence took place when I messaged a friend over Facebook regarding his FNM Hero adventure. He told me the hardest thing was to go to every FNM and "turn off," meaning winning wasn't the point, going big wasn't the point, and putting yourself in a completely unfamiliar mentality was what you had to do in order to be successful. This is what 99% of players face every week. Don't take it seriously and have a blast with your budget deck. I could get behind this.
So to make amends, I hereby scrap the Jeskai Aggro deck that I previously introduced and am happy to announce the rebooting my deck choice!
First and foremost, the deck that people have recommended most is this little baby.
- 4 Akroan Crusader
- 1 Arena Athlete
- 4 Firedrinker Satyr
- 4 Foundry Street Denizen
- 3 Frenzied Goblin
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 18 Mountain
I stick to my theory that Tom Ross is a robot. The last time I saw him I spent the majority of the tournament following him around in the shadows to see if he plugged himself into any wall outlets. I'll keep that information to myself.
Boss Sligh might be the perfect deck for an FNM Hero start.
Without a doubt this is the kind of deck I could go out and buy and have a ball with. Stoke the Flames is pretty much the most expensive card in the deck, but other than that the entire build is extremely cheap and powerful. Eidolon of the Great Revel feels pretty necessary and at $40 would eat up a fifth of the budget.
Why this deck might be perfect for FNM Hero: This is something a new player could pick up and do really well with. Tom Ross is an outrageous aggro player, and if you've ever battled against him it's like watching a painter artfully work on a canvas. However, one of the more forgiving aspects of a Mono Red deck is that sometimes you can just burn someone out without much thought. Your opponent can falter and that's deadly, and no other deck out there can capitalize on a stumble better than Boss Sligh.
Why this deck might NOT be perfect for FNM Hero: The format right now is a lot of Abzan decks. Courser of Kruphix is a bad, bad man, and Siege Rhino is the new Avarax of Standard, meaning once they cast one they search their library for the other three and put them in their hand. (I am watching Round 9 of the Open Series in Worcester and Sean Singer has three of them in play as I type this.) It doesn't mulligan extremely well, and going forward with our journey this deck seems pretty tough to customize.
Do you want to see me jam eighteen matching Euro Mountains?
Next on the list is a pretty awesome deck that our own Gerry T posted about on his Daily Digest.
Now I was skeptical that this kind of deck would be very good, but a local player named Fred Lomangino that frequents my favorite game store in the world, 2 Drop Games, decided to battle with a budget version of U/R Ensoul Artifact. Our FNM had a pretty solid turnout with around 35 players, and Fred walked right into the Top 4 before they decided to split.
He told me that this deck was performing really well and that some of the more expensive cards in it felt completely unnecessary. After a short discussion he sent me the following changes:
And his sideboard is:
The manabase is going to need a little work since Mana Confluence is a very pricey card right now, clocking in at around $80 for the set. Luckily the rest of the deck isn't expensive at all.
Why this deck might be perfect for FNM Hero: U/R Ensoul Artifact can do some absurdly powerful things with very little mana. Shrapnel Blast is a card I remember very fondly from my halcyon days of Magic that steals games unlike any other card out there, and this deck takes full advantage of an extremely potent burn package.
Why this deck might not be perfect for FNM Hero: Is this something a new player would gravitate towards? Although it has some excellent synergies, if the deck draws awkwardly it feels like it can't even come close to winning, and a card like Jeskai Charm, which is played quite heavily at the moment, is an absolute blowout for this deck when it removes your Ensoul Artifact and puts a possibly meaningless artifact on top of your deck.
Next is a deck that was recommended to me as a way to make the Jeskai experiment feel a little less spike-ish.
While I really dig Jeskai Aggro, maybe it's still possible to play the deck with some serious changes? This was suggested by reader Tim Clermont.
Tim threw this deck together, and after pricing it out it weighs in at a little less than $100. The manabase, as you can see, is made up of the tri-lands and each offers two colors save for Mystic Monastery, which is your best land.
Why this deck might be perfect for FNM Hero: Sometimes your deck casts two Mantis Riders by turn 4 and follows them up with some burns spells. That kind of power surpasses budgets and kills your opponent without so much as blinking an eye. Hushwing Gryff is a fantastic tool against Siege Rhino, and the best part about it is that you can flash it into play on turn 3 and just start attacking with almost complete impunity. A lot of the power rests in that your sideboard as well, since Disdainful Stroke is amazing right now, and Negate acts as the other catch-all. Also if I wanted to pump a little more money into it, I could procure the painlands to make the mana a little less harsh. Also this deck pretty much embodies what I think you folks want: taking a budget concept and spinning it into gold eventually.
Why this deck might not be perfect for FNM Hero: The land situation with this deck is pretty drunk. A lot of the time your spells won't be cast on time, and being a turn behind in this format is a total no-no. While it's possible to steal a lot of games, without Dig Through Time to keep fueling the fire, running out of gas in the midgame is going to be a real possibility. Steam Augury can do a nice job imitating the powerful instant, but Dig is too hard to replace.
The last deck I found on the internet clocks in at around $160, but it is one of the cooler ones I think this challenge has seen! I'm kind of excited about it because it plays a few cards I've always wanted to do battle with. This list is brought to you by a gentleman named Nicholas Watson who Top 8'd a reasonably sized tournament in my home state of Pennsylvania.
- 4 Dakra Mystic
- 4 Disciple of Deceit
- 4 Siren of the Silent Song
- 4 Wall of Frost
- 3 King Macar, the Gold-Cursed
- 3 Phenax, God of Deception
Why this deck might be perfect for FNM Hero: For obvious reasons milling people is sweet. This deck also has a lot of room to grow over the weeks. U/B Control was a potent strategy at the Pro Tour, and if modified a little bit it could have shades of that deck while still maintaining the power of Phenax. King Macar is a pretty nifty answer to cards like Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider, and if left unchecked for a turn, he can eat up plenty of creatures. This build might be rough, but a better working one isn't too far off.
Why this deck might not be perfect for FNM Hero: Well…it's a mill deck. It doesn't seem possible for this deck to beat something like Boss Sligh unless you have multiple Wall of Frosts or the power of some deity watching over you and guiding your deck to victory. With how popular Boss Sligh is and will be after the performance it put up at Grand Prix Los Angeles as well as in the Open Series in Worcester, this strategy might be setting me up for failure before the challenge even begins.
So far the toughest part of this experiment has been finding a deck that doesn't play Stoke the Flames and Lightning Strike that can also do reasonably well at the FNM Hero level. After churning through a few other budget lists, it would seem that this is the world I'm going to live in over the next few months if I want the deck to be competitive enough to embark on this journey, but at least U/B showed up to make things interesting.
I hope you all have fun picking this deck and that you feel it's more in line with the FNM Hero spirit than it was before. It is my sincerest wish to not disappoint my readers.
Have fun with this and remember--all suggestions are welcome.
Next week I'll unveil the new and improved FNM Hero deck, complete with revisions to the list as well as other fun topics like why my Steelers can't play defense and why my editor won't let me live this down.