Building Standard On A Budget

AJ Kerrigan provides you with a number of options if you’re looking to build a deck for less than 100 dollars (some much cheaper than others). These may not be super competitive, but they can get you the win at an FNM or Game Day.

Welcome back! Today, I want to talk about decks you can build on a budget in Standard (if the title didn’t already imply that). During the tyranny of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I was one of the many who just could not afford Jaces. I borrowed them when I could, but I usually avoided blue decks because they needed Jace to work. I played an array of decks throughout Standard during that time including B/R Vampires, U/W Jace Beleren Control, U/R Splinter Twin (with borrowed Jace, the Mind Sculptors; thank you, Garret), and many others.

I was always a brewer at heart though. I’m not much of a “good” deckbuilder, but I do just like brewing random decks in the middle of math class. I want to present some of my more budget-oriented brews to you today. By no means are these decks ready to win all the SCG Opens, but these are meant to take down your local FNM and be enjoyable to play. One or two of these decks can potentially take down a tournament with some more money and testing, but right now they are in the budget, “take down an FNM” phase. The first deck…drum roll please:

This deck is my personal favorite out of all of the lists I will post in this article. My friend Shawn and I built this deck at the M12 Midnight Release event. He threw me a Lord of the Unreal and told me we needed to do this.

The main game plan of this deck is to throw out a bunch of Illusion creatures, then put down a Lord of the Unreal or an array of other lords. To be completely honest, this deck doesn’t really have much game against Red Deck Wins with all their burn spells plus Grim Lavamancer, but a lot of decks only have spot removal as their cards that target, which would kill creatures anyway.

Just to make note, even with Spellskite, your guys still die when targeted, even if you redirect to Spellskite; however it still protects your lords. Another cool play is to copy your Lord of the Unreal with Phantasmal Image. If you read Lord of the Unreal, the wording is that Illusions get hexproof, not “other” Illusions. So if you copy it with Phantasmal Image, even if the original dies, Phantasmal Image still gives himself hexproof.

This deck is very enjoyable to play, and against certain control decks, you just win the game with enough Illusions. The alternate game plan is simple, Wurmcoil Engine. The sideboard is mainly to answer Red Deck Wins and to give us a better chance against control decks.

I really hope you give this deck a try because it can take down FNM with ease if played correctly (and you avoid playing against Red Deck Wins every round). The next deck I will present has the ability to place well in a major tournament, unlike some of the others. This is it:

GOBLINS! This is a very aggressive deck. The printing of Goblin Grenade in M12 gave this deck a lot of reach and can end the game at least one earlier. This deck can win on turn 4 and turn 5 consistently through interaction, and on the play you can even race Splinter Twin with a good draw, especially if they want to wait a turn so they don’t get their Deceiver Exarch killed by Goblin Grenade.

This deck might want to splash another color, probably black, for more removal, but that might just slow you down. This deck can compete because it is fast, and non-burn removal will clog the deck, though it does give you late-game against certain decks. Playing this deck with some amount of tuning, you have the potential to win a tournament larger than FNM, and you can almost definitely take down FNM with this.

If you want to make the deck non-budget, there isn’t much to change. The only thing you could really do is to replace some Mountains with Arid Mesas and Scalding Tarns. I don’t have a sideboard for it yet, but you probably want to go with a normal Red Deck Wins sideboard of four Combust, plus other Splinter Twin hate like Dismember (good against other things as well). You might also want some Shrine of Burning Rage for the control matchup. I realized from playing Valakut that Splinter Twin has a lot of trouble answering Combust. Their only real way around it is by drawing it out with multiple Deceiver Exarchs. Some lists play Mutagenic Growth, but that is not very common. Speak of the devil:

This deck probably has the most competitive potential in this article, and even though it is not 100% budget, it is cheaper than most decks you can play. You can make this deck more expensive by adding Scalding Tarns (which make your Ponders much better), and you can make it cheaper by cutting Jace Beleren, but then you lose a lot of the edge in a larger tournament setting.

For those unaware of how the Splinter Twin combo works, it goes like this: Play Deceiver Exarch (end your opponent’s turn usually) and tap or untap what you see fit. On your turn, enchant Exarch with Splinter Twin. Tap the Twinned up Exarch and make a copy. Use the copy’s trigger to untap the original Deceiver Exarch. Rinse and repeat. In this version, you basically just cast a whole bunch of card draw spells like Ponder looking for the combo and protection like Dispel. Then you combo off with protection spells for backup. This is a very potent two-card combo and can win many games very quickly. Against certain decks that tap out on turn 3, you can just win the game on your turn 4.

One thing to keep in mind is that Deceiver Exarch does not have haste. This means that you can’t play it and enchant it in the same turn and plan to win the game that turn. This may seem simple to more experienced players, but I have seen and even played in games where players thought they could win the game that turn and unfortunately lost a game they probably could’ve won because of it.

The sideboard is very high up in the air, but it will probably just have a lot of protection spells in it, including Mutagenic Growth to combat Combust and Dismember. Only testing will reveal the problems you need to fix in the sideboard.  On to the final deck we go:

This is the final deck of the night and definitely the fastest as well. This deck wins on turn 3 very consistently and has potential to end games before they even know what hit them. The point is to throw down an infect creature, preferably Glistener Elf since it comes down turn 1, and then pump it up with a lot of pump spells like Giant Growth and Groundswell. For safety, the deck plays Apostle’s Blessing to protect from removal like Dismember and Lightning Bolt. Tap your mana wisely, as you want to be able to protect your creature so that you don’t waste your pump spells to a well-timed Lightning Bolt.

This deck might want a second color, either red or black, but I’ve put it as mono-green for now to give you options and figure out what you want to do. Red gives you Assault Strobe, which gives you the ability to win on turn 2, and burn spells to clear away blockers. You also get Smoldering Spires as an additional Panic Spellbomb effect in the form of a land.

Black gives you access to other pump like Virulent Wound and Vampire’s Bite, plus a removal package to clear away blockers and problem creatures. You never know who will be packing that random sideboard Melira, Sylvok Outcast just for you. That probably won’t happen, but you never know.

This deck is very fun to play, especially if you like ending games quickly and having time in between rounds to do other stuff like trade and eat. This deck might not be as competitive in a Red Deck Wins—filled world, but if that tones down, you can get competitive with this deck. Out of the sideboard, you want cards like Obstinate Baloth (for Red Deck Wins), Creeping Corrosion (for Tempered Steel and Puresteel Paladin decks), and Nature’s Claim (for Splinter Twin).

All in all, I hope you enjoyed this article. These decks are all very fun to play, and with the exception of Splinter Twin (and maybe Goblins), you can come into a tournament with the element of surprise. These decks should be able to be built for less than 100 dollars and are good alternatives to the more expensive decks you can play. The decks listed can definitely take down your local FNM, and with the exception of maybe Mono-U Illusions (but hey you never know), you can even place well in a larger tournament.

Please feel free to leave comments on the article and the decks in general, and I’ll do my best to read the comments you post and give a good reply. This all started at an M12 release events, which are some of the more fun tournaments you can play in. I may or may not be at the StarCityGames.com Open in Pittsburgh this weekend, and if I am, feel free to stop in and say hi.

Until next time,
AJ Kerrigan