Battle Royale Round 7 – Cheap

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Evan beat me last week, so badly that I couldn’t muster the energy to write my follow-up article. I mean, he even recorded my humiliation… this week, he leaps into the fray with a cheap Red burn deck that plays eighteen land. An excellent deck and article, accompanied by an entertaining video…

[The following is a transcript of the video, which you really should check out.]

Hello everybody, this is Evan Erwin. It is September 3rd, 2006, what’s going on.

In the world of Battle Royale, I currently reign supreme. Yes, even you may one day create a deck that provides that unfortunate little 20% matchup for the opposing deck. You know the one. Solar Flare versus Heartbeat (pow!), Zoo versus their mana base…

Anyway, today I want to talk about being cheap. Specifically, I want to harken back to the days of old…

… you remember, those hazy dreams of Lightning Bolt, Hypnotic Specter off that delicious first turn Dark Ritual. Few things were as sweet.

Well, that and Hymn to Tourach and Drain Life and the most brokenly brokenest of Oh-Em-Gee brokenocity… Necropotence! (Kneel before Zod!)

Yes, there are things that are better than this little combination, the whole Dark Ritual, Draw A Bunch of Cards, Own A Bunch Of Tournaments and Pro Tours… but you know? In today’s world it’s all about the tempo.

The Remand. The Condemn. The First Turn Isamaru (Ruff Ruff!). No business like show business, amIright? Your first and second turns in Type 2 are ridiculously telling of what kind of game plan you’re going for. In casual this is a little different due to the budgetary constraints, but Llanowar Elves are perfectly acceptable — preferred, even.

No, my deck today wants the burn (sizzle). It wants the heat. The fire. The temptation, the damage that can only be brought by the Red mana you know and love!

Did you know Incinerate is coming back? Seriously. Next summer it’s going to get stupid up in this here Type 2. Troll Ascetic versus Paladin En-Vec versus Platinum Angel versus crazy Time Spiral stuff?

C’mon now, how is this not the most ridiculously insane land search of all time? Are we really so spoiled in the power level department? Rampant Growth was good before, except now it’s free! (Skip your land drop, terms and conditions apply)

Oh, yes… back to the deck. You see this deck is cheap. And I don’t mean “I so brokes all I gots is eight cents and a cheeseburger,” I mean like unfair. Silly. Kinda…mean, almost.

Think cheap like “cheap shot.” Like a sucker punch. Because I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those are 18 lands, four of which are Karoos, and four other mana sources via the Signets. I played with a dangerous manabase before with The Second Coming, and I’m playing dangerously here.

No guts, no glory, right?

Let’s take a look at the raw, delicious chunks of burn we have here:

We feature no less than triplets of Char. Char is the premier burn spell. Yes, you will pay four bucks a piece for these. You’re a Magic player .You’re hooked on the sauce. Give in a little. You’re paying twenty-five bucks for a Battle Royale deck experience, don’t short yourself and just throw in Shocks. There is only one spell who matches the three-mana-four-damage formula and that is…

Flames of the Blood Hand of course. I mean, look at that ugly mother. Some people spend their whole budget on Loxodon Hierarchs. Others work in equipment. Me? I just kill people.

Lava Spike is your basic cheese spell. It comes drizzled in the finest cheddar, ready to whet your appetite and get them closer to death.

Seal of Fire is there for pesky things like Ninjas, annoyances like first-turn-mana-sources, and should generally be used to clear the way for your beatsticks.

Volcanic Hammer is cheap burn and removal. Aim towards head, watch it sizzle, swing.

Lightning Helix deserves no introduction but is getting one anyway. It’s life-swingin’ burn-me-on-the-backside double shot is just what the doctor ordered, even if I did move a singleton to the sideboard. (The thinking was this: Volcanic Hammer versus Lightning Helix: one has an easier casting cost requirement, both normally go to the dome.)

The secret to this cheap deck is Howling Mine. I’m sure Mister Moreno will be bringing in his Naturalizes quickly for these, but in game 1 they should be a blast. These just let you draw burn, since you run a mere thirty percent lands (typical is forty percent or more).

Howling Mine, as you may know, has a long history with Magic. It has been printed in every basic set since the existence of the game! (And personally, I prefer the original picture – dig those teeth.)

We only run three creatures in this deck, and they’re for utilitarian, economic and beatstick purposes. They perform their tasks very well, and I’ll show you how.

Skyknight Legionnaire is a stick of the beat. He flies in, rocks their world, flies out. Usually dies to something horrible. We don’t speak of it.

Frostling has been a favorite whipping boy of mine ever since I began playing with him. This sort of neutered Mogg Fanatic (which is coming back in X’th edition, yeah!) has been taking down 2/2’s and Dark Confidants and Birds of Paradise since he was first cracked at the prerelease. And he does no different there. Frostling gets in the beats, few people wish to block him, and doubling up he can destroy 4/4’s and up.

Scorched Rusalka however… wow, what a wonderful creature. The best one-drop Red creature in Type 2… other than that silly ape fella (who needs Forests to be awesome, so is he really a “Red” creature?). Regardless, Scorched Rusalka provides what I like to call guaranteed damage.

No matter what happens, if she resolves, she’s trading one point of damage to the dome (mana providing, of course). Better yet, the Frostlings that may be at a standoff suddenly become guaranteed damage as well.

Please note: If guaranteed damage is a Trademarked Poker Term, my apologies to the great Geordie Tait.

So, where were we: With an empty board, Scorched Rusalka provides its own damage, your other creatures damage, and one additional damage for each creature you control. Of course you can’t tap down the wrong mana, else you risk being Faith’s Fettered into oblivion.

Lastly, Threaten is just amazing. Threaten is a card which allows this deck to beat my previous creation. Take for example this saucy play:

You have a Scorched Rusalka in play, they have a Tidespout Tyrant and a Blazing Archon. You have a total of five mana. Here’s what you do.

Threaten target Tidespout Tyrant. Play the Seal of Fire in your hand and bounce the Blazing Archon (did I mention you had a Seal in hand?). Swing with Scorched Rusalka and Tidespout Tyrant. At end of combat, pay a Red mana and sacrifice Tidespout Tyrant to do one to the dome .

Hopefully you’ve won by that point. I guesstimate you’ll see anywhere between twelve and sixteen damage in your hand by turn 3.

The sideboard is pretty vague, but I’ll give it a whirl: Pyroclasm is for the weenies, which of course kills your own but you should know how not to screw yourself there, and the additional Flames of the Blood Hand is for those decks that may be running life gain. Threaten comes in against the big beef, and Yamabushi’s Flame? Well… my momma said never leave the house without a little extra burn in my back pocket. Just in case.

Now you’ve seen the deck. You know how it’s like Timmy circa 1996. You’re kinda smiling, thinking to yourself, “Man, this is some sad stuff.” And you may very well be right.

But let’s get serious for a second. This deck is very much based on the Philosophy of Fire. Props to Mr. Flores for being the one who put down the immortal words, cards equal damage equal win. And the original Philosophy of Fire had much better creatures such as Flametongue Kavu and Skizzik, and the idea was that each card was worth X damage. X damage equaled the number of damage it could do per game.

While Frostling only appears to be a 1/1, it can do up to four damage all by itself. A few turns of no blocking gets me close to my goal. Therefore Frostling could be replaced with Shock if it only averaged two damage per game, as I would be investing the same amount of mana for the same result – two damage.

However, as Frostling solves a lot of problems and deals damage and chump blocks, it’s worth it to me to keep it around even if it may only average 1-2 damage per game.

Meanwhile, this deck runs 22 burn spells, that, combined, could deal 12… 12… 12… 12… 9… 6… 63 damage. That’s not even counting Blaze, nor the damage provided by Scorched Rusalka or Threaten.

All in all, good shape, right? Let’s see how it did in the test games in the Casual Room on MTGO.

Going second, I get a solid opener with Seal of Fire, Mountains, and Howling Mine. I pull Boros Garrison as well. I then notice something – he didn’t play a land. He completely skipped his turn.

Then, he did it again.

I then have a short conversation about setting stops, and finding his turned off. Meanwhile, I’m playing the Garrison and loving it.

Then he says he kept a no-land hand. Ahem. Let’s just end this quickly…

Skyknight Legionnaire

Skyknight Legionnaire

Lava Spike you…

Beat face…

He takes himself to five from Yavimaya Coast, and with Helix and Seal of Fire the game is over. Turn six, by the way. Total damage done by burn spells? Eight. Total damage done by three turns of no land? Priceless.

The next game I won the die roll and decide to keep a one-lander with Lava Spike and Seal of Fire. Respectable if nothing else.

I rip the needed mountain and get the Howling Mine shenanigans in full force. He drops a 2/3 Ape and Green Genju while I begin to work on his life total. I Lava Spike him, then drop Boros Garrison and pass the turn.

He activates the Genju and swings, taking me to fourteen.

Meanwhile I rip Lava Spike and Char and figure out how many turns he has to live. I take him to 14 via the ‘Spike and pass the turn. I have both Char and Helix as an option.

He, as predicted, merely activates Genju and swings again, taking me to eight. But I’ve got this match as long as he doesn’t have Shock or any burn. He drops a Frenzied Goblin and I weigh my options.

I Char him at the end of his turn, taking him to ten life.

As long as I get to untap one more turn, I’ll win.

I Volcanic Hammer him to seven, leaving me with Lightning Helix mana and Seal of Fire on the board (he’s theoretically at 2 from this). With Blaze in my hand, I merely need to survive to my next turn.

After killing my Howling Mine with Tin Street Hooligan he makes a mistake—failing to attack with Genju, but with the Helix it doesn’t matter. At the end of his turn I take him to four, and on my turn I simply Seal and Blaze him to death. Again on turn 6.

That’s all the time I have for today. Be sure to show up at the allotted time and watch this deck succeed or fail spectacularly. Either way, I’ll be there with camera on and microphone at the ready.

As usual, you’ve been a lovely audience.


The one aspect of the deck not spoken of was the budget. Let’s discuss:

The Budget: 25 Tickets

The total:

Commons (Free):
4 Frostling
2 Skyknight Legionnaire
4 Lava Spike
4 Volcanic Hammer
4 Boros Signet
3 Seal of Fire
All Lands

4 Scorched Rusalka
2 Threaten
2 Blaze
4 Lightning Helix
4 Flames of the Blood Hand
4 Threaten
4 Pyroclasm
Total: 2-3 Tickets

4 Howling Mine = 10-11 Tickets
3 Char = 11-12 Tickets

Tips for those on a budget: Hang out in the Auction room (you get to it by typing /join auction in the chat area). These prices are negotiable, depending on what lots are offered. You could also brave the Marketplace, but it’s a jungle out there.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written, Recorded, and Edited in my bedroom. Scary, ain’t it.

PS — Demonfire you.

[The battle takes place on Sunday 10th September, at 8pm EST, in the Anything Goes room of Magic Online… Be there! — Craig.]