Tribal Thriftiness #45 – Inexpensive Options in Standard

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Tuesday, October 28th – Even with the inordinate number of cards that just rotated out of Standard, we still live in a day and age where Magic card prices can put some decks out of contention. With States right around the corner, Dave looks at two decks that have reasonable price tags – and reasonable chances at winning.

Ah, the call of competition! The allure of the attack phase! The triumphant trumpet of time-tested turbulent turpitude! Yeah, I stretched my luck with that last one. In any case, STATES! Coming soon to a location near you, I’m assuming, that is, if you live in one of the United States of America. Ahem. Getting off to a rough start this morning!

So, right. States. Usually a breeding pool for aggro decks, it seems that this year we actually have something of a metagame established. Due to the forced scheduling of States by a conglomerate of Tournament Organizers rather than Wizards, a number of high-profile Standard tournaments have had time to show up, make their results known, and shape the metagame to some extent. Not to mention, we already had some very interesting options thanks to a robust Block Constructed Season.

The problem is, decks like Faeries and Quick n’ Toast rely on rares with big price tags (Bitterblossom, Thoughtseize, Cryptic Command, Reflecting Pool) and can easily price themselves out for the thrifty gamer. But don’t let those price tags keep you from participating in your local State Championships! I mean, the prize is free tournaments for a year — what better prize for someone with limitations on their wallet?

In this column, I’m going to explore some cheaper options that still have the potential to do well at States.

Demigod Red

4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Stigma Lasher
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Ashenmoor Gouger

4 Flame Javelin
4 Incinerate
4 Shock

4 Ghitu Encampment
20 Mountain

Rare Cost Summary:
Demigod of Revenge ($12.50 x 4 = $50.00)
Figure of Destiny ($17.50 x 4 = $70.00)
Stigma Lasher ($6.00 x 4 = $24.00)

By now, this deck should be no surprise. It’s time-tested, built up a following during Lorwyn Block Constructed, received the Grandmother’s Seal of Beatdown Approval, the whole nine yards. It lost nothing in the switch to the new Standard, instead actually picking up an early drop and an arguably more efficient burn suite.

If you picked up the Demigods and Figures for Block Constructed season, as I did, then this is still a good choice of a deck to play for States. If you want to try and modify this deck to fit your pocketbook, you’ve got two options: One, you can swap out the expensive rares for creatures that fit the curve; or two, you can forego the creatures altogether and just add more juice, seeing as how there’s plenty to go around.

Option One: Dudes: Since there’s already been debate about which is the better one-casting-cost accoutrement to Figure of Destiny, I say go ahead and run both Mogg Fanatic and Tattermunge Maniac. The Maniac might not do as much damage in the long run as Figure of Destiny, but you should still be able to get a good 4-6 damage out of him before he gets trumped by the bigger beasties on defense. Unfortunately, replacing Demigod of Revenge isn’t so easy. In the interest of presenting a high-power creature with an immediate impact on the game, I’m going to suggest Spitebellows. He’s been in the sideboard, hanging out on the bench, waiting for a chance to get in the game. Put him in, coach! He’s flexible enough to use in both the early game or the late game, and you never have to worry about whether he’ll sit in your hand while you’re on four mana. (Just sayin’.)

Option Two: Burn: I’ve been trying to tell everyone and their little sister that I think Magma Spray should replace Shock as the de facto one mana burn spell in the deck — sure, it doesn’t smack people around the temples, but it does take out Kitchen Finks, as well as mess up things for decks that want to recur stuff out of the graveyard, like Reveillark or Kelpie. But I’ve just recently become of the opinion that Puncture Blast is better than Incinerate in this deck. There aren’t enough creatures that are regenerating in Standard nowadays, and very few things that you want to burn out on turn 2 that have that magical three toughness. Puncture Blast “deals with” some of the 4-toughness creatures that you’ll be seeing — Rhox War Monk, Stoic Angel — and makes Chameleon Colossus a lot less threatening. We ran it in Block Constructed because we had to — but I think it’s about time to include it again. Luckily, in a burn-heavy deck, you don’t have to choose between these options — you can just play them all.

Option Three: Both: Of course, when faced with options like these, it might be best to smoosh them together and reap the benefits of both sides.

I left out Magma Spray because you already have one card that can only damage creatures, Spitebellows, and I’d worry that you’d get an opponent down to one or two life and not be able to close the deal because you keep drawing Spitebellows and Magma Spray. Probably not a realistic concern, but one that should at least be tested out.

Bant Aggro

Recently I’ve been the one responsible for playing the “Bant Control” deck in playtesting. It’s all fine and dandy, but I get a little tired of having no action day in and day out. Counter this, ooh. Wrath away, whoop dee doo. I want to be in the proverbial red zone! I want to be smashing face too! So when I heard rumblings about a Bant Aggro deck starring, of all things, Shorecrasher Mimic, I had to find a decklist.

Unfortunately, no one seems to be able to agree about what should be in it short of the obvious, so we’re left with the exercise of making the deck ourselves.

The Obvious Inclusions: Since the deck is designed to make Shorecrasher Mimic a 5/3 trampler as much as humanly possible, we should be at least looking at every G/U card in Standard right now. Guys like Rhox War Monk and Bant Charm are easy to include. Snakeform, Jhessian Infiltrator, and Stoic Angel ($7.50) also seem like they are easy to consider highly for inclusion.

The Questionables: I personally really like Wistful Selkie, and am surprised she hasn’t popped up in more decklists. Cold-Eyed Selkie ($2.50) is another possibility for the creature base, with good evasion and a relevant ability, and a price tag that certainly is stomachable.

The Also-Rans: No, I’m not playing Gilder Bairn. Or Slippery Boggle. But they deserve to have their moment in the linked-to-a-card-page sunshine, don’t they? And I’m leaving Rafiq of the Many ($12.50) out, most likely, because of his high price tag.

I went with Nettle Sentinel as the one-drop because, in most cases, you’re going to want to be casting a Blue/Green spell every turn before combat anyways in order to power up any Shorecrasher Mimics you have. Broken Ambitions (as an early tempo counterspell) and Oblivion Ring (to handle… well, everything problematic) finish out the deck. The manabase is a little harsh, with nine comes-into-play-tapped lands and four Panoramas, which is too bad, because I’d love to be able to fit in some man-lands but I think that would push it a little too far.

Rares You Could Add, If You Had Them: I like Rafiq a lot, in case you didn’t know, and I actually own one, so I might try and squeeze him in. I’ve seen lists with four; I guess he dies a lot. I don’t think personally I’d go with more than two. He’s not going to be the one attacking, so you get around Condemn, so really it’s burn spells and Wrath. I don’t think he’s quite as dead as one might think, so having them clog up your hand would stink. As mentioned earlier, Stoic Angel is another good choice, especially with Nettle Sentinel helping to get around her “setback.” Of course, if you have any of the appropriate painlands (or Reflecting Pool), those should find a home in the deck.

A Quick Aside About Vivid Lands

I used to be of the opinion that people just played Vivid lands because they powered up Reflecting Pool. I mean, otherwise, they’re just limited-use Gemstone Mines that come into play tapped but still tap for a random color when you’re done with the mining counters. Now, after having had a chance to play with them in actual decks, I’ve changed my mind. I think that they’re fine color-fixers in and of themselves, and are pretty good at helping a two-color deck maintain its color balance without too much impact, and even help in splashing a third color. Granted, they make Reflecting Pools a lot better, but I think they’re good mana-fixers for budget players all on their own.

Next Week

It’s ten days until State Championships. What are YOU playing? By next week, I should have decided myself, one would hope. Plus, more CCCP!

Until next week!