Several weeks ago I solicited readers for their budget Legacy decks and I received several interesting lists to go from. This week we'll be taking a walk down the more casual side of Legacy and in the process I'll be helping readers find inexpensive options to improve their decks. Many Legacy players enjoy the format completely outside of the tournament setting; while I often focus in my articles on how to be tourney-ready I also want to write to the readers who play weekly casual games at their local store or want to get into the format that their buddies play. Building on a budget in Legacy is especially challenging as many decks push budget boundaries due to their manabase alone!
Let's start with this email that I got from Andy Pechin:
I'm trying to sleeve up a standard Burn deck but I don't have access to Chain Lightnings or Grim Lavamancers or Price of Progress. Do you have any suggestions on what I could replace those with and still be a good contender?
So far I'm looking at a list like the following:
4 Keldon Marauders
3 Grim Lavamancer*
3 Hellspark Elemental
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
3 Price of Progress*
4 Chain Lightning*
1 Volcanic Fallout
2 Barbarian Ring
* = Said Cards
Is there anything you might suggest taking out to begin with myself being a new Legacy player and all? Most of these cards I have so I just need a few more things and I'll be done but Chain Lightning and Grim Lavamancer only go into Zoo as another option really and not much else. I'm still trying to look for these cards I'm missing but I thought I would run the list by you first.
First burn is a great option for casual and budget players since it's cheap to build and can be competitive as well. In smaller playgroups you might end up being the target of dedicated hate if you end up beating your friends too often. If you play in small store tournaments you might even get hit if people know you as "the burn guy." I know I've brought Warmths to small store events before!
Andy's concern in the end of the email is one that a lot of budget players face - you can get some cards but they should be able to go as far as possible. Chain Lightning would make the deck better for example but it doesn't go into many other decks and locks one basically into playing burn or starting from scratch assembling other decks.
Without Price of Progress Burn loses out on a very efficient damage source for the mana. We want something else that can cause six or more damage for two mana (one mana three damage being the gold standard). After some searching around and rereading my article on Burn I found what I was looking for - Ankh of Mishra. It can really hose fetchlands as well as just making life painful for the opponent in general. If you have some Shrapnel Blasts and Great Furnaces sitting around the Ankhs can serve as good ammo for the instant. They're inexpensive and though they don't slot into other decks very well they give the deck a good deal of efficient damage sources.
Replacing the Chain Lightning can be done by swapping in Shard Volley another good burn spell that's also easy to find. Though it isn't as painless as the Legends sorcery it also won't break the bank. Running four can make your Fireblasts a bit less good so I'd start with three to begin with. Incinerate can be a good fill-in as well and I'd run some number to fill in for the Grim Lavamancers. Often players will have a copy or two of some more expensive or rare cards so if you have Isochron Scepter Sensei's Divining Top Flamebreak or Cursed Scroll they'd be good to fit in too.
Next I got this email from Akio Mitsunaga:
I noticed that you said you were giving input on budget decks and I would like to show you my version of Mono-Black Pox. Wait - don't delete the email after reading that sentence it's been surprisingly successful against quite a large percentage of the legitimate Legacy metagame. I love it because I love Mono-Black Control (Pox is most definitely not MBC but it is Mono-Black and it is control) and decks that still perform while creating a screwy game state. It's an unparalleled topdeck machine it is scarily consistent and it has all sorts of neat interactions: fetchlands / Top Crucible / Wasteland etc. Here's the list:
3 Duress (pretend these are Thoughtseizes I can't quite afford them at the moment...)
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Wretched Banquet
1 Raven's Crime
2 Nether Spirit
3 Chimeric Idol
3 Sensei's Divining Top
3 Crucible of Worlds
Akio went on to explain some of his more curious card choices. Terramorphic Expanse was much better than Bloodstained Mire in his testing and the full set of Urborgs allowed for consistent Black mana even with Wasteland. It's an interesting list indeed. Pox is a fine choice for beginning or budget Legacy players because the deck is quite cheap and the Poxes in the deck can give a lot of game against more powerful strategies. Pox the spell can take out six or more cards from an opponent so it's a powerful card to build a deck around.
That said building around Pox can be challenging. Since the Pox will take out your creatures and cards as well as theirs you want cards that can survive the sorcery. Since it doesn't hit artifacts Pox can get an advantage by playing many artifacts and recurring creatures. Akio's list runs Chimeric Idols and Nether Spirit for this reason. Similarly Crucible of Worlds allows the deck to pull back lands that it discarded.
Akio's list is pretty well decked out in good cards and I certainly wouldn't be suggesting Crucibles for real budget players! If you want to build this on a real budget you can cut out the Crucibles and Wastelands to make a little more space in the deck. For a general fill-in card Night's Whisper or Sign in Blood can be decent draw that can get you to the business cards faster. I think it's a wise move to bite the bullet and pick up Tombstalkers since they're all-around useful but Epochrasite is a fine fill-in and doesn't die very easily. Nether Spirit is full-on great since you can discard it to Smallpox and get it right back but the deck can function decently without them. One critical deckbuilding factor with Pox is being able to take advantage of the Pox and attack with big guys to exploit the temporary disruption. Pox isn't trying to lock the opponent out as much as make them stumble and be unable to deal with a later Tombstalker.
One can also splash White for Vindicate and Swords to Plowshares to replace the Wretched Banquet. If you're considering other cards that work like Banquet there's also Innocent Blood Vendetta Snuff Out and Ghastly Demise. I'm inclined to put the last in that list into this Pox list instead of Wretched Banquet. It doesn't kill a Goblin Lackey but it can take out the biggest threat from opponents who run multiple creatures.
Pox can be a fun deck to play and expand upon; it helps hone playskills (as well as fractions!) and the namesake card is easy to come by. Pox can sometimes take a game in the fourth turn only to lose later to an opponent clawing their way back but it can also have dream-hands that ramp disruption into a killer Pox that opens the way for a Chimeric Idol later. It's a premier deck for people who want to play a non-aggro deck on the cheap in Legacy.
Next I got the following PM from conelead on the SCG forums:
I was building a budget legacy deck a while back and had varying degrees of success with it. The issue was draw consistency. It had stupid awesome draws then draws that did nothing but initial results were encouraging. I didn't really work on it more since I started working on a Rector-Survival list. Perhaps you can do something with it.
As an additional note I'm on the fence about Coffers/Shade/Drain. If I don't end up with them those slots probably just go to Tombstalker and the 4th Edict. If you cut coffers going down to 1 Urborg is probably correct.
Mono-Black Aggro draws on a long history of Suicide-style decks utilizing cheap disruptive creatures and great discard spells. This deck is somewhat in between aggro and Mono-Black Control as it has some fast-attack options but also runs the ponderously slow Cabal Coffers engine. I would first pick the angle I was going for and I think a more aggressive strategy is in order here. Conelead mentions that he had problems with draw consistency. This makes me think that the deck would want either Sensei's Divining Top which sucks up a lot of mana over several turns or Phyrexian Arena one of the long-forgotten drawing powerhouses in Legacy. I like the Arena since it's just about the best thing one can do with a Dark Ritual on the first turn and one can play multiples of them without the possible lifeloss that Dark Confidant can deal.
Sadly this deck seems to suck up a lot of a player's life all on its own; I don't know if I'd have enough life to go around with Bitterblossom in the mix. The Warhammer and Jittes go a long way towards getting a player out of the danger zone though and I'd look to adding an additional copy of either card. The Thoughtseizes are great but very expensive right now and can be swapped out for Hymn to Touarch which is suspiciously missing in this list.
If I were taking the deck even further towards aggro I might even consider Skittering Skirge which can be a total pain in the tuchus to deal with and has a downside that won't come up often in the deck. If one were to cut the Nantuko Shades these would be a good replacement. If one wanted to support Tombstalker in the deck cutting some number of Dark Confidants and replacing them with Arenas would be a good way to accomplish that. I like that Bitterblossom is in here since some sort of flier makes all the equipment in the deck that much better.
Like Mono-Black Control Mono-Black Aggro is very popular with casual players and can be a good stepping-stone to competitive Legacy decks. Dark Ritual is a really fun card to play with and gives people a sense of what one can do with lots of mana and some of the best Black cards in the game.
Finally I got this email from Jake Mills:
There are a few decks I would like to have a look at through your eyes:
Elves (combo and survival and aggro... whatever takes your fancy)
Mono Black Control
Mono Blue Control
Enchantress (a couple duals... while I am saying that the manabase is an issue... people should still step into it gradually and not cut themselves off from these powerful decks like thresh).
Jake set out a nice list of budget decks so I'll give a little space to each one.
Affinity has a lot of inherent power and has been improved recently by Master of Etherium. However it's vulnerable to Krosan Grip one of the most common cards in the entire format. Further Affinity cannot make up for being disrupted in the early game since Thoughtcast is its only real draw and it has few options if it cannot land an Arcbound Ravager or make a Disciple of the Vault particularly painful. Berserk helps the deck immensely and I've enjoyed the Green instant when I've played Affinity in events. However you didn't want to hear that - we're building with a budget in mind! Fling and Atog are both worthy cards in the Affinity deck giving it a good deal of reach and making it faster than other aggro decks. I think Affinity is a fine budget deck to play if you already have most of the cards for it but I don't know that I would invest in it otherwise.
Elves are mad fun to play since you can start a turn with three permanents and end it with twenty-six. I think that Elves surprises some Legacy players since it's a bit more powerful than most give it credit for. If I were choosing between combo Survival of the Fittest and just aggro Elves I'd run combo Elves. It's the only deck in the list that can realistically play unfairly and aside from the Glimpse of Nature is quite inexpensive to make. Much of the time though you're playing overcosted or underpowered creatures and to win you must be good at both applying pressure and avoiding overextending into Engineered Explosives and the like.
Mono-Black Control is okay but I think it walks a fine line between being too disruptive or too focused on winning with clunky cards. Cabal Coffers is the prime example of this. If you can activate it for value you'll probably do well in that game. Until that point though you're stuck with a card that doesn't make Black mana and spells like Consume Spirit that rely on having a good Coffers setup already in play. Both The Abyss and Grim Tutor would make Mono-Black a lot stronger but they're hardly budget cards! That said Mono-Black Control can be a fine deck for the kitchen table or casual store events.
Mono-Blue Control suffers as a budget deck primarily because it needs Force of Will or it is unplayable. I'm a little unsure of what the draw engine for the deck would be but Jace and Forbid make for a nice pair. The best MUC lists I've seen nominally support other colors for Engineered Explosives but to build with limited resources you're looking at cards like Propaganda instead. It's unrealistic to build MUC on a budget but it could potentially do well if a player were dedicated to tricking the deck out. In the end it would probably be running green for Tarmogoyf and look a lot like NLU variants.
Enchantress is a great budget deck because it can run so many hoser cards that can steal games. This means that the deck can even the playing field a bit and like Elves it's fun to end the turn with several dozen permanents in play. However some elements of Enchantress are randomly very expensive. For example Exploration is very pricey though the deck can run fine without it. Argothian Enchantress is probably the most expensive must-have though the other components like Sterling Grove can run a few bucks as well. The deck wants to see Windswept Heaths and at least one Savannah to make the mana work so I think that pushes the deck a little beyond true budget decks.
I'd like to thank everyone who sent me lists and topics to talk about! Legacy decks can be scaled up slowly and for the most part cards for one deck can translate to another. It's sometimes difficult to decide whether to stock up on the cards for most of a deck or pick up two dual lands. I'd like to point out that SCG has just increased its store credit for trading cards in on their buylist so you might be able to exchange in some cards you don't play with for a whole stack that you'll use frequently. If you're buying on a budget I encourage you to look at the mileage you'll get out of the cards you're picking up before you go for them. For example Argothian Enchantress isn't as useful as Dark Confidant if you want to play several decks. That said the best goal is to play what you like and have fun with Legacy!
Finally speaking of having fun with Legacy I was unable to make it to this year's GenCon and I'm sorry I missed out on the good times there. I was dead broke my closest friend was back in town from the Navy and there was a demolition derby involving school buses in town that weekend too so I had to put some real life ahead of slingin' cards. Next week I'm doing a GenCon Top 8 rundown (if I can even get all the lists no thanks to Wizards' poor GenCon coverage) and I'd like readers to write in and let me know about their experiences at the event!
Until next week…
legacysallure at gmail dot com