Battle Royale Round Six — Bloom in the Room

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In the last round of the Battle Royale, I beat Talen Lee and his mana-heavy Rome deck. My cheap Glare deck drew everything it needed, while Talen drew land after land, game after game. For this round, against Evan Erwin, I wanted to play the same deck… but I couldn’t.

In the last round of the Battle Royale, I beat Talen Lee and his mana-heavy Rome deck. My cheap Glare deck drew everything it needed, while Talen drew land after land, game after game.

For this round, against Evan Erwin, I wanted to play the same deck.

Yeah, I told everyone in my wrap-up article that I’d be building a new deck around a powerful Ravnica rare, such as Char or Dark Confidant, but I wasn’t actually going to do it.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, I’ll admit. Truth be told, I’m a pretty busy guy, what with updating the site and life and everything. I also had a PTQ to attend, trying to weave my way to Pro Tour: Kobe — my Magical days were concentrated on Limited, especially triple Coldsnap Draft.

A new deck for the Battle? No time, my friends.

However, after I successfully qualified for PT: Kobe at the weekend — largely thanks to a pack 1 pick 2 Rimescale Dragon — I changed my mind. After all, the Battle Royale is supposed to be fun, and what fun is rolling up with the same old Hierarchs, the same old Forests and Plains? I might as well grab a playset of Murray, the Skeletal Vampire, and go to town.

So, fun… where do I go from there?

Perhaps the most “fun” deck in the current Standard metagame is Snakes. Well, that and Reanimator, but the graveyard is for wimps. Thing is, Snakes has been done before. Not once, but twice. So where else could I go?

Let’s have a look at the playas in the current metagame:

This one should be easy enough. I mean, what am I paying for here? Vores, Wildfires? Tidings? I could knock up a Vore deck well within the budget of the Battle Royale — 25 tickets is a goldmine when the rares are cheap and the deck is packed with commons. Sure, I’d miss out on the Steam Vents and Shivan Reefs, but that’s an acceptable loss… every Battler faces the same dilemma.

But Land Destruction? I don’t play that sh**.

Fun? About as fun as having your testicles clawed by angry kittens.

There are many flavors of Black/White, and they can fit the “fun to play” build. They need a few key cards: Dark Confidant, Mortify, maybe a Ghost Council or two… and once they’re stocked with the basics, they can personalize and go to town. I could Husk it up (though Promise of Bunrei may prove costly), or go the aggro beats with Hands of various sizes. I could try to go the discard route, with Cry of Contrition and Ravenous Rats. Or I could even try a few controlling builds, with Hideous Laughters and the Dimir House Guard tutor engine.

Or I could do what I eventually did, and abandoned the whole B/W idea.

B/W is powerful, yes… but it’s boring. The control build may have merit, but I don’t fancy shelling out for one Wrath of God, one Cranial Extraction, one Persecute. And let’s face it, I’d need a number of Kokusho and a number of Angels of Despair. The aggro decks lose a great deal without access to the finance-crippling Paladin En-Vec and Umezawa’s Jitte, and Ghost Dad is a bandwagon I largely avoided.

As for discard… see Vore, above. No. Fun.

So, no Black/White. Next!

I like Tron. I don’t know why, as I’ve never actually played it. The nearest I’ve come is Tooth and Nail, and that didn’t go well. I’ve played against it many times, of course… and have been roundly spanked by accelerated dragons in the majority of the games.

The thing is… it’s expensive.

When I’m paying out for twelve colorless lands, there’s something amiss. The deck is powerful, yes… but liable to suffer from color issues even before we remove the Steam Vents and Shivan Reefs. And multiple Keigas, Melokus, and Simic Sky Swallowers? Too rich for my blood.

Now this is more like it!


It’s quite cheap, too. Only the Giant Solifuges and the Burning-Tree Shamans make a real dent… oh, and the Chars, of course.

But do I really wanna be the guy making a monkey and swinging for two? That’s so old hat… I’ll do it in a PTQ or PT — you’ve gotta play to your strengths, and I know where mine lie — but for the Battle Royale, I want something more. There’d also need to be some sacrifices, and an unhoned aggro deck is just, well… crap.

Nope. The beatdown stays at home this week.

German Ninjas
Ninjas are fun! And of course, by “fun” I mean totally sweet.

Let’s have a look at the list…

Ornithopters? Cheap as chips!
Funky Lands? Balls to ‘em!
Birds of Paradise…? Hmm, may be worth splurging there…
Higure, the Still Wind? Yeah, he can’t be too expensive.


Seven bloody tickets?!


After viewing these options, I felt a little down. Was there nothing that tickled my fancy, no deck I could take and tweak and budget-up?

Apparently not.

Then, from out of nowhere, a shining light…

Billy Moreno.

On Monday, in the first of his promising article series, he shared his latest Standard creation… Summer Boom Boom. For reference, and for the cheap seats, here is the decklist he posted:

Okay, so at first glance it doesn’t look cheap. A full house of Meloku, some Kiega, Jittes, Simic Sky Swallowers… and a couple of funky lands. Plus other rares, like Vinelasher Kudzu; Demonfire; and Azusa, Lost But Seeking.

Didn’t I say I’d avoided Tron because of the Keiga/Meloku/SSS problem? Could I really budget this deck under twenty-five tickets…?

Why the hell not?

1) I’d need a full four of Vinelasher Kudzu and Azusa, Lost But Seeking.
Vinelasher sells for two, or even 1.5 if you trawl the boards… that’s not too bad. Azusa? Well, he generally sells for one apiece. However, if you shop around — which I did — you can pick him up for slightly cheaper. More on this later.

2) I can’t afford the big guys.
Meloku, Keiga, SSS… all expensive. How could I modify this? Well, I’m pretty sure I’d like at least one Meloku — after all, the land returning function is super-sweet with Sakura-Tribe Scouts and Azusa. Could I stretch to one Simic Sky Swallower and one Kiega?

With the Vinelashers and Azusas, probably not.

So, back-up plan. Keiga is a 5/5 guy for six mana. He flies and costs five tickets. Mahamoti Djinn, on the other hand, is a 5/6 guy for six mana. He also flies, but he only costs 0.5 tickets! He’ll do the job. (In fact, when searching for deals, I found this guy for sale on a 3-for-1 bot… after I’d just bought some at the higher price. D’oh!)

That’s the Keiga dilemma dealt with… what could I do about the rest? I’d bought my single copy of Meloku, but seeing a one-of reliably is tricky. If only I could tutor him up somehow…


Time of Need.

With the Time of Need engine in there, I splurged on some cheaper Legends to round out the numbers… and one more expensive guy that fills an important role.

3) What do I do about Demonfire?
Yeah, you all know the answer to this one. Blaze seems a fair replacement.

Now, without further ado, I present my decklist:

How about them onions!

A note on some of the cards…

Soramaro, First to Dream
He’s cheap, and he can be huge in this deck. So much land, and returning said land is hardly a drawback. Plus, he’s fun! And he draws cards! And he beats down! Rarg!

Godo plus Tatsumasa
Ruining people’s dreams via combat since 1746 (or something). Tatsumasa is a house. Mahamoti Djinn plus Tatsumasa? A ten-point hit.

The sideboard
This had to be cheap, as I was running close to the limit of 25 tickets. Aggro matches can be hard, hence the Repeal and the Volcanic Hammer. Fliers can be tough early game… I had planned to use Trophy Hunter here, but he’s uncommon and therefore not free. The Sniper should be fine. Plus, the all-too-often irrelevant Naturalize, just in case Evan rolls up with a Form of the Dragon deck (like that’d be a problem with my fliers and burn, lolzorz).

Now it’s time to move onto the important price guide… just how much did I massage the numbers this week?

9 Forest — free of charge
3 Mountain — free of charge
2 Island — free of charge

4 Simic Growth Chamber — free of charge
4 Izzet Boilerworks — free of charge
2 Dimir Aqueduct — free of charge

4 Sakura-Tribe Scout — free of charge
4 Compulsive Research — free of charge
3 Train of Thought — free of charge

3 Blaze — 8-for-1 ticket
3 Time of Need — 8-for-1 ticket
2 Summer Bloom — 8-for-1 ticket (1)

4 Azusa, Lost But Seeking — 0.5 tickets apiece (2)
4 Vinelasher Kudzu — 2 tickets apiece (8)
3 Mahamoti Djinn — 0.5 tickets apiece (1.5)
1 Godo, Bandit Warlord — 1 ticket (1)
1 Soramaro, First to Dream — 0.5 tickets apiece (0.5)
1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang — 0.5 tickets apiece (0.5)
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror — 5 tickets apiece (5)
1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder — 4 tickets apiece (4)
1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi — 0.5 tickets apiece (0.5)

4 Matsu-Tribe Sniper — free of charge
4 Volcanic Hammer — free of charge
3 Naturalize — free of charge
4 Repeal — free of charge

Total cost: 24 tickets

Now, I could add a single copy of the following lands, in place of a basic land of the appropriate color:

Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

Both of these can be bought for 0.5 tickets apiece. Why didn’t I? Because I feel I’m being rather lucky with the ticket prices as it is.

The main bone of contention is the price of 0.5 tickets for Azusa.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking generally sells for one ticket apiece. However, if you search the boards you can find them cheaper. At least, you could. I found three bots selling Azusa as a 2-for-1, and snapped up their entire stock (i.e. four). And that took me ages.

Maybe I should list them at one ticket apiece… after all, that’s more realistic. However, I put in the work to get ‘em cheap, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to use them at that price. Also, I found at least three people selling the Vinelasher Kudzu for 1.5 apiece, which frees up two tickets… but I’m listing him as a two-ticket rare as that’s what he’s generally selling for (and I didn’t actually need to buy these, as I already owned them).

If you’re looking to cheapen this deck further in order to feel good about the Azusa dilemma, feel free to remove the four-ticket Arashi and replace him with a bargain basement legend instead. That’ll keep the cost down. Don’t remove the Meloku, however… he is that good.

I’ve tested the deck a few times, against a number of decks in the Casual Room of MTGO. It’s a gas. Don’t get me wrong, there are some deficiencies — indeed, some serious flaws — but I’m not going back now. I’ll tell you more about them in the aftermath article, same time next week. I don’t wanna give away my secrets before the battle…

At the time of writing this, I’ve no clue as to what Evan is playing. Actually, that’s not entirely true… we had the following cagey exchange on AIM the other night, while trying to scope each other out for tech:

Me: I’ve splashed out on some one-of high-cost rares.
Evan: Me too, I spent six tickets on one damn card.
Me: Six tickets… hmm… SSS?
Evan: I hate you.

Simic Sky Swallower is scary, of course. The Snipers in the sideboard do little to contain that particular bad boy. Even so, I fancy my chances. After all, my deck is so much fun. It’s powerful, of course… but that’s a secondary pleasure.

The battle will take place in the Anything Goes room on MTGO, at 8pm EST, on Monday 28th August. Be there!

I’ll try not to be late this time.

Until then,

Thanks for listening.

Craig Stevenson
[email protected]
Scouseboy on MTGO