Tribal Thriftiness #18 – New in the Dollar Bin

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Thursday, April 10th – Anyone who watches the news knows that the market is a fickle beast – rising and falling at the whims of buyers and sellers. So, too, is the singles market, where cards can rise or fall in price as new decks become popular and old ones lose their shine. So what’s new in the dollar bin?

I’m somewhat at a loss about what to write this week. Shadowmoor previews continue to roll in, but by and large, they’re rares … which is understandable, because who really wants to preview a Limited-filler common or uncommon in their columns? And I think, given the variance of the secondary market, it’s really tricky to try and predict what will turn out to be hot, and what will end up in the dollar-rare bin.

Just to illustrate the wild ebbs and flows of the secondary market: Back on Valentine’s Day, I wrote an article (Tribal Thriftiness #10, for those of you who are interested) that scavenged the Star City Virtual Dollar Bin for cards that could provide interesting Johnny-esque deckbuilding adventures. At that time, there were sixty rares in Lorwyn and Morningtide that cost two dollars or less. Today, there are eighty.

Some of it, I imagine, is due to availability of cards in less-than-perfect condition. Ancient Amphitheater, for instance, is $2.50 new, but only $2 slightly played. Dread is the same way. Some of it is due to the fact that some decks rotate or die (or at least supposedly die), and their signature rares fall in value – Spinerock Knoll, for instance, took a fall as Dragonstorm slipped into the second tier in Standard. And some were probably due correction from format speculations that never really panned out, such as Thorn of Amethyst making a big impact in Vintage.

So, in this column, let’s figure out how to take advantage of these new additions to the dollar bin. Get ‘em while they’re not hot, I always say.

(Which is probably how my wife ended up stuck with me – she took my advice.)

First, We Set Up The Lands

Ancient Amphitheater (SP $2.00, NM $2.50) naturally tends to bend towards a Giant-themed deck, but the fact of the matter is that it’s also a pretty good mana-fixer if you’re playing Red and White, even if you’re not playing Giants. Both Spinerock Knoll (SP $2.00, NM $2.50) and Windbrisk Heights ($1.00) fall into this category too, and if you’ve kept up with anything on this site, you know that Spinerock Knoll was the backbone of a pretty good Storm deck. So why not build a deck designed to trigger both of our Hideaway lands and build into a powerful Storm count?

Ideally, we’d want to generate a number of creature tokens, using cards like Empty the Warrens, Mogg War Marshal, and Hostility ($2.00). Caterwauling Boggart makes sure that a lot of our tokens will get through. Grapeshot is a no-brainer addition with all this Storm, and Release the Ants gives us a reusable source of damage to help set up Spinerock Knoll. The deck finishes off with Rite of Flame for mana acceleration and Storm building, and fills out with enough direct damage to trigger Spinerock Knoll.

Rare Cost Summary:
Hostility ($2.00 x 3 = $6.00)
Windbrisk Heights ($1.00 x 4 = $4.00)
Spinerock Knoll ($2.50 x 3 = $7.50)
Ancient Amphitheater ($2.50 x 3 = $7.50)

Yes, the White is literally there only to support Windbrisk Heights – but when you’re making this many tokens, you’re probably more likely to trigger the Heights than you are to trigger Spinerock Knoll. You’ll need to take care when tucking cards under your Hideaway lands; direct damage stuff is better to tuck under Spinerock Knoll (so you can create Hostility tokens before you attack), while Haze of Rage or the Boggart is a great thing to tuck under the Heights and use as a combat trick.

Rare cards you can include, if you have them: The obvious choice is Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], the associated pain land. Siege-Gang Commander is another source of multiple tokens to power Windbrisk Heights.

And Then We Knock ‘Em Down

When contemplating Thorn of Amethyst’s place in today’s Standard, one has to really pay attention to what’s popular right now. Does Thorn of Amethyst really make a splash when the top decks are mostly creature-based? And how do you play it without having it overly affect you? It’s not like Standard has a Vintage-style Stax deck.

I think the best way to look at Thorn of Amethyst is probably to think of it in a similar way to how Winter Orb was played in Stompy and Merfolk decks back in, uh, geez, 1999? In other words, use it as a source of disruption secondary to your main plan. In Stompy’s case, it was to beat down with creatures that could conceivably be cast by only getting to untap one land. In our case, it’s going to be as a supplement to land destruction.

Now obviously we don’t want to be stuck having to pay four mana for our Cryoclasms, so instead we’ll focus on using creature-based land destruction: Avalanche Riders, Faultgrinder, and Stingmoggie. The Thorn won’t cause us to pay extra for Faultgrinder’s Evoke ability either, which is nice. We’ll also use Boom/Bust (NM $2.50, SP $2.00), as an early land destruction spell (or, alternately, one that’s still reasonably-priced under a Thorn) and possibly as a “nail in the coffin” once we have board control.

Rare Cost Summary:
Detritivore ($1.50 x 2 = $3.00)
Thorn of Amethyst ($2.50 x 4 = $10.00)
Boom/Bust ($2.50 x 4 = $10.00)

The deck is probably overkill on the land destruction, but I’m not usually a land destruction player, so the makeup of the deck is a little foreign to me. I feel, though, that since our land destruction “spells” have secondary uses (being creatures and all), that they won’t feel like dead draws in the middle of a game where you need a win condition more than another land destruction spell. Keeping in mind that I was going to be blowing up my own land with Boom/Bust, I wanted to give myself ample artifact mana sources. Both Mind Stone and Foriysian Totem come into play untapped, so if you do have a Thorn out, you’ll effectively gain the extra mana right back. The eight accelerants also help get you into your creature base, which is considerably more expensive than most current creature bases.

Once Shadowmoor comes around, the deck could benefit from adding Rosheen Wanderer and an X-spell of choice:

Rosheen Wanderer – 3{RG}
Legendary Creature – Giant Shaman (R)
T: Add 4 to your mana pool. Spend this mana only on costs that contain X.
Night after night, Rosheen babbled about a bygone sunlit world, her every word dismissed as a madwoman’s ravings.

I think this might be useful because Thorn of Amethyst’s cost-increase has a scale of effect. If you’re casting a one-casting-cost cantrip like Ponder, and the Thorn makes it cost two, then you’ve just paid double for your spell. However, when you’re already going to the bank for fifteen mana for an X-spell like Titan’s Revenge (featured in our last dollar-bin column!), you aren’t going to care that your effect is going to be for one less point of damage. Having Rosheen to power up your X-spell effectively overrides the Thorn.

I Dread This Last One

Some of the Lorwyn Incarnations saw play here and there – Guile had a whole deck built around him, and Hostility saw some play as well before being featured in my Storm combo deck above. Har! But why, in this day and age of creature-based decks, has Dread not seen much play? Untargeted, unremitting destruction of anything that hits you? I’ll take that. Sure, you have to let them hit you first, but if I recall correctly, Black is okay at gaining that life back.

This will probably be the most straightforward of the decks, simply because I’ve wanted to try my hand at mono-Black control again. Dread seems like the perfect finisher for a deck like this – evasion, a big body, and the ability to continually reappear in your deck.

Rare Cost Summary:
Dread ($2.50 x 4 = $10.00)
Soul Spike ($1.00 x 4 = $4.00)

Yes, it’s true, the deck contains the card with the single ugliest, most cringeworthy artwork I have ever seen: Pulling Teeth. I wanted to put Stupor in, but for a card that was an uncommon the first time around, it’s still priced at $3.50 apiece! Yow. So I went with the Teeth. In all likelihood, with the high casting costs in this deck, you will win Clashes – which will be good for the Teeth but not so much for the Hoarder’s Greed. That being said, the deck needs some way to draw cards, and there’s a good likelihood that you will draw a lifegainer in your Hoarder’s Greed draw to make up for the life you lose.

Rares you can include if you have them: Black is the current color of twenty-dollar rares, isn’t it? Obviously Damnation would be helpful, but somewhat counterproductive to letting Dread do all the work. Thoughtseize is a pretty good discard card, and the artwork is infinitely better than Pulling Teeth.

And with that, we close up another trip into the Star City Dollar Bin. I hope these decks inspire you to give some of your own “junk rares” a second look, and see if they can’t be brought back into your decks.