Tribal Thriftiness #35 – U-Pick

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Thursday, August 7th – Dave’s going to Grand Prix: Denver after all. But with no testing and no time to go out and buy the latest deck, he’s got to rely on the cards that he’s got… and you. It’s up to you to pick Dave’s deck!

When last we left, I was fairly sure that I was going to be skipping Grand Prix: Denver. I had gotten the opportunity to spend some time with family members while they were vacationing in Las Vegas, and it just happened to be the same weekend. No big deal – I don’t exactly have a stellar track record at the Grand Prix tournaments at which I’ve played. But due to encroaching work commitments, I now am unable to take the day off of work that it would take to drive to Vegas – which means that, now, my Saturday and Sunday are free.

A Grand Prix. An hour’s drive away. And, by the time you read this, two days to prepare. And I haven’t picked a deck yet.

Due to the suddenness of my availability, I am getting quite a schooling in budget deckbuilding. Because I will have only had less than a week to prepare for this tournament, I’m not about to drop two hundred bucks on the latest deck or the hot new power cards. So, what I gots is what I gots. I’m not willing to spend more than, say, $40 to pick up extra cards.

So what the heck do I play?

The Elephants in the Room: Faeries and Kithkin

Day 2 in Kobe: 3/4ths of the remaining players were playing either Faeries or Kithkin. So yeah, let’s start there.

Faeries are definitely the first deck any reasonable player should consider. They’re powerful, they interact with your opponent in truly mean-spirited ways, and they reward (to some extent) good play skill. They also don’t seem to have slowed down But At All – all you have to do is look at the recent GP results to see that Faeries are still the top tribe from Lorwyn. The problem? Well, it’s not exactly a cheap deck if you haven’t got the pieces – and due to the interaction between all of the tribal bits, you really do want all of the pieces. Bitterblossom ($30) and Mistbind Clique ($7) and Scion of Oona ($10) and Mutavault ($50) all work off each other (as well as the common Spellstutter Sprite) and are the primary win vehicle; Cryptic Command ($25) and Thoughtseize ($22.50) form the backbone of the disruption suite. And then there’s the manabase.

Unless you’ve got some or most of the pieces through collecting them (and you might have, since Faeries are pretty good in Standard as well), Faeries will cost you a serious slice of dough to play. And I don’t think Faeries is necessarily the kind of deck that you want to pick up and learn two days before a Grand Prix – not if you expect to do halfway-decent. Due to my own interest in the Faeries deck, I have most of the creatures, as well as the Cryptic Commands – and I have “enough” Bitterblossoms thanks to playing Mono-Black Control at Regionals – but I’m slacking on picking up my Shadowmoor and Eventide dual lands, not to mention Reflecting Pools. It’s okay to slack on the manabase in Standard (since you can fall back on, say, Underground Rivers if need be) but I don’t have that option in Block Constructed. Since I’d wager that the Most Important Thing in this deck is to be able to cast Cryptic Command reliably, what sort of manabase can I cobble together that would be able to do that while still supporting the black for early Bitterblossom? I’m afraid that my manabase will look something like this:

2 Mutavault (I know I own exactly 2)
4 Vivid Creek
2 Vivid Marsh
11 Island
6 Swamp

… and yeah. That’s awful. 10 ways to play Bitterblossom on turn 2? Yuuta Takahashi had 15. But playsets of Secluded Glen ($8) and Sunken Ruins ($13) would go far and beyond the $40 limit I’ve set for myself, not to mention leave me with no way to pick up a fourth Scion of Oona should I need one. With the awful manabase, I think I can rule Faeries out.

Kithkin, on the other hand, are fairly straightforward in terms of their game plan. Make a bunch of little guys, Mirrorweave a Wizened Cenn, and turn your little attack into a HYOOGE attack. The Kithkin deck is fairly rare-light – outside of the aforementioned Mirrorweaves ($10) and the Eventide-provided Figure of Destiny ($15), the rest of the rares show up in the manabase. I could probably obtain the Figures for the tournament (or, at the very least, replace them with another 1cc spell that got the boot for the Figures recently), but I’m left wondering how many of the rares are really necessary in the manabase of a mono-colored deck? Mutavault is a no-brainer – you want those few extra Kithkin that survive mass removal, plus (I guess) you want the ability to play Stupid Mirrorweave Tricks with your opponent’s blockers. The Windbrisk Heights ($3) and the Rustic Clachans ($2.50) are the “chump change” in the rares and I could just acquire them, but are they really necessary to the deck’s winning attitude? And if I’m running more of a “Plains only” manabase, do I really need 25+ lands for what is, essentially a weenie deck?

4 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
4 Wizened Cenn
3 Thistledown Liege

4 Spectral Procession
3 Crib Swap
3 Unmake
3 Surge of Thoughtweft
2 Mirrorweave

2 Mutavault
20 Plains

Rare Cost Summary:
Thistledown Liege ($7.00 x 3 = $21.00)
Mirrorweave ($10.00 x 2 = $20.00)
Mutavault ($50.00 x 2 = $100.00 … but I already have these.)

A possibility. At $41, that’s close enough to the limit I’m setting for myself that I’d be okay spending the extra buck. I’m sure there will actually be some fluctuation in the total cost because I’m not sure I actually have four Cloudgoat Rangers either; time will no doubt be spent rummaging through half-opened boxes of Lorwyn looking for Kithkin-making Giants.

The Second Tier: Elementals, Merfolk, and Little Kid

Elementals (the deck) is often hailed as the third tent post in Lorwyn Block Constructed. I will be honest; I don’t understand the deck. I know I make a bunch of Elementals via the power of Smokebraider with the eventual goal of playing Stupid Reveillark Tricks, but as Reveillark never appealed to me in Standard, I’d probably have to start by pricing out a set of those (one is $7 … not bad) and then Cloudthresher (I traded all mine off when Faeries got popular; they’re $10 apiece) and Fulminator Mage ($10) and then start looking at the manabase. It seems, on the surface, to be too much of an investment for a deck that would be harder for me to pick up than Faeries would be. I’m going to pass on Elementals.

Merfolk still pop up in Top 8’s here and there, almost a straight transition from Standard – the only problem being the exclusion of Lord of Atlantis from the card pool, which singlehandedly cuts the Power of the Fish in about half. If you instead focus on the cost-reducing power of Stonybrook Banneret, though, you open yourself up to playing sorcery-speed (gasp! I know!) Faeries like Sower of Temptation ($11) and Vendilion Clique ($3.50) on the cheap. I already have Sowers and Cliques, which again leaves me with the manabase.

Merfolk, played by Benjamin Costrell at a PTQ in Wichita, Kansas, July 19

4 Cursecatcher
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Stonybrook Banneret
3 Sower of Temptation
3 Vendilion Clique
2 Sygg, River Guide
2 Oona, Queen of the Fae

4 Cryptic Command
4 Sage’s Dousing
3 Ponder

13 Island
4 Mystic Gate
4 Wanderwine Hub

2 Mutavault

Rare Cost Summary:
Sower of Temptation ($11.00 x 3 = $33.00)
Vendilion Clique ($3.50 x 3 = $10.50)
Sygg, River Guide ($2.50 x 2 = $5.00)
Oona, Queen of the Fae ($6.00 x 2 = $12.00)
Cryptic Command ($25.00 x 4 = $100.00)
Mystic Gate ($12.50 x 4 = $50.00)
Wanderwine Hub ($6.50 x 4 = $26.00)
Mutavault ($50.00 x 2 = $100.00)

I have all of the monsters and the Mutavaults, as well as the Cryptic Commands, which means that I’d need to pick up the lands, or restructure the manabase. Since I’m not grossly worried about having the White mana for much, I think I’d be okay with swapping the Mystic Gates with Vivid Creeks, which keeps my sources of Blue at the same level and still gives me the option to use the White mana when I need it (and on turn 2, although by giving up my one-drop) – and cuts down my investment by fifty bucks. Of all the decks with manabase issues so far, it seems like Merfolk seem the most adaptable to the changes I would need to make to not break the bank. I could even potentially take out Sygg altogether, holding on to the White mana for the Wispmares in the sideboard. Merfolk is definitely an option, and a good one for someone who has played Aggro-Control decks like UG Madness in the past.

Little Kid, the Green/White deck that aims to make a big guy and then turn him into a flying, indestructible DEATHMACHINE MUA HA HA has kind of fallen under the radar. I guess people are excited about Red/Blue Little Noggle now instead. The biggest investment I can see coming out of this one would be the Wilt-Leaf Lieges ($12.50) … without him or the Shield of the Oversoul, the deck just makes a lot of guys that die to Firespout. Poor Gaddock Teeg – what did he do to deserve that? I think if I’m looking for a beatdown deck, I’ll probably stick with the tried-and-true Kithkin… although I wonder how Gaddock Teeg would fit in with that? Nah, you need Mirrorweave too much in that deck. That’s crazy thinkin’.

The Fringe: Doran and the Red Deck

Also present in Kobe’s Top 8 were the powerful Standard crossover Doran, now even more reliable to cast on turn 3 thanks to the addition of Twilight Mire, and an aggressive Red/Black deck sporting Demigod of Revenge at the top of the food chain. Hey, I love me some Demigods.

Doran is another Standard crossover that I picked up key cards for without worrying about the manabase. The Doran listings from Kobe also have the side benefit of having no rare monsters besides Doran ($8) himself and Chameleon Colossus ($15), both of which I have already, and Leaf-Crowned Elder ($3.50), which doesn’t hurt to pick up – at least not as much as those manabases. Doran (as a deck) suffers even more from the “rare land” problem that I had with Faeries; I have no Reflecting Pools, and probably not a full set of Murmuring Bosks either. As a deck that wants to cast Doran on turn 3 whenever possible, I think tampering with the manabase would probably prove fatal. Sorry, Doran. Maybe next year.

The final deck to consider is this Red/Black beatdown deck that’s cropped up. I first saw it in the coverage from GP: Kobe, but I guess it’s been hovering around the periphery for a bit now? Hiroshi Yoshida played it into the Top 8 there, and it looks like it’s primarily a burn deck with some Bitterblossom control in the form of Festercreep and Soul Snuffers. The curve starts with that ever-present one-drop, Figure of Destiny, and ends up at Demigod of Revenge, and is punctuated with a suite of burn. Here’s the deck:

Rare Cost Summary:
Demigod of Revenge ($10.00 x 4 = $40.00)
Figure of Destiny ($15.00 x 4 = $60.00)
Stigma Lasher ($6.00 x 4 = $24.00)
Vexing Shusher ($7.00 x 3 = $21.00)
Ashling the Pilgrim ($1.25 x 1 = $1.25)
Auntie’s Hovel ($5.00 x 4 = $20.00)
Graven Cairns ($5.00 x 4 = $20.00)
Reflecting Pool ($20.00 x 4 = $80.00)

The Reflecting Pools are right out. (I really should have picked up the Tempest ones before Shadowmoor came out, while the rumors were running rampant – they were HALF that price!) But I have the Graven Cairns already, and at least a couple of Auntie’s Hovels, and I feel like that could be enough. I have most of the monsters, except for the Figures. Makes me wish I had traveled to a Release Party and picked up at least one. In any event, the deck is the type of deck that I like – big, mean, and aggressive, the kind of deck that’s easy to pick up the week before the GP and play well. It might need some tweaks, but it’s a candidate.

U-Pick: What Do I Play?

After a quick look at what I’d need to trade for or buy in order to play these top decks, it seems my choices are narrowed down to three: Kithkin, Merfolk, or The Red Deck. And so now that I’ve whittled it down to three, I’m putting it into your hands, my loyal readers. You’ve got until tomorrow. Put your opinion in the comments section and help me decide which deck to play!

And then wish me luck.