Tribal Thriftiness #48 – Rares, Who Needs ‘Em

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard open Comes to Philadelphia!
Tuesday, November 18th – Dave used up every penny of his Author Rare Budget Account in last week’s article, so this week, he’s presenting decks without any rares at all – and all with potential to actually do well at your local Friday Night Magic.

In the forums after last week’s article, it was pointed out that the column wasn’t really very pocketbook-friendly; hundreds of dollars in tiny 1/1 creatures and mana fixers isn’t really on anyone’s weekly shopping list. While I enjoy having the ability to stray off-topic every once in a while, the point was taken – and so this week, I’m going to the other extreme opposite: decks that are playable in Standard with literally NO rares.

I Probably Already Sang “Ebony and Ivory”

One of the decks that interested me, coming out of States, was the Black and White deck that I played against in the first round. The concept was pretty straightforward: Take a fairly straightforward white weenie creature base, max out the lifelink, and play as many Black/White spells as you could to make Nightsky Mimic as aggressive as possible. The weenie creature base mimicked the Kithkin creature base to some extent, which meant that it could make decent-sized creatures quickly to race against Faeries, but the added Lifelink often pulls them out of the range of the burn spells in RDW.

If you were here last week, you know by now that I lost to this deck at States. I don’t have the exact decklist, but I thought I could recreate it. As it focuses on the Black/White hybrids from Eventide, it should be able to be a very cheap build.

Eventide Hybrids: The creature base definitely includes Nip Gwyllion, both for its hybrid status and its built-in lifelink, as well as the aforementioned Nightsky Mimic and another big Lifelinker, Voracious Hatchling. The deck packed plenty of “double-dippers” to pull Voracious Hatchling up to 6/6 quickly. On the spell side, you should include Unmake, obviously, as well as Edge of the Divinity, as it acts as the “pump” that you lack by not running Figure of Destiny. A first-turn Nip Gwyllion followed by a second turn Edge of the Divinity makes a 4/4 Lifelink and puts your opponent on notice that he’s going to have to deal with your creatures, or even the small ones might steal the game for you. My States opponent used Beckon Apparition to continue the “double-dipping”, make more possible Edge targets, and also to trigger Deathbringer Liege, which you could add in if you had them – but I wouldn’t go out of my way to acquire for this deck, as I think they’re really overkill.

Alara Black/White Golds: There’s only the one, but I think Tidehollow Sculler certainly merits a mention. A 2/2 body for 2 mana sits pretty well in the mana curve, and the ability to rob your opponent of a mass-removal spell or a problem creature can give you a long enough window to put him down.

Other Possible Non-Golds: Continuing on the Lifelink theme, Knight of Meadowgrain is good enough to play even without any Kithkin shenanigans to bulk him up. He still gets a nice boost from Edge of the Divinity, and again, the Lifelink comes built in. Other Kithkin standbys like Spectral Procession or other creatures with built-in Lifelink like Changeling Hero could be considered. On the spell side, Black removal spells like Nameless Inversion or Terror make nice supplements to Unmake.

I think it could be too many comes-into-play-tapped lands to make sure you can hit a turn 1 Nip Gwyllion when you want it, so there are two options: One, swap in four of the three-color CIPT lands from Alara (Arcane Sanctum) in and bump the basic lands up to 10/8; or fall back on the fact that you could, really, cast Every Single Spell using only Plains or Swamps and make it a “mono-color” two-color deck. You’d lose the Tidehollow Scullers for sure, but that’s not the end of the world – in fact, I’d say losing Knight of Meadowgrain might be worse.

Now bear with me on this one. I know that it’s hardly any mana, but the top of your curve is Voracious Hatchling, and pretty much everything else is one or two casting cost. This decklist adds in Mistmeadow Skulk to continue the Lifelink theme, and then adds in the standard Kithkin deck creatures of Goldmeadow Stalwart and Wizened Cenn, seeing as you have plenty of Kithkin to pump up now. The deck still has roughly the same amount of cards to turn on Nightsky Mimic (losing only Tidehollow Sculler) and should still have plenty of options when Voracious Hatchling is on the board.

Rares You Could Add, if You Had Them: The first thing that comes to my mind is Glorious Anthem ($4), as that’s a pretty standard White Weenie card, working double-action in both the early game in getting your opponent down to low health levels, as well as making mid-game and late-game creatures into threats all on their own. Ajani Goldmane ($7) offers some of the same resilience, and also sticks with the lifegain theme. Deathbringer Liege ($5), as mentioned earlier, is an option in the black/white version, giving you creature pump and turning your hybrid spells into removal. The black/white deck also could use any rare lands in those colors, like Fetid Heath ($6) or Caves of Koilos ($5).

But Did I Sing “Fire and Ice”?

What? It’s a real song. I have it on my iPod. I don’t know. Some Cinderella album from the 80’s? Yes, I have hair metal on my iPod. Well, I grew up in the 80’s, so sue me.

I remember when I started playing during Tempest block, that one of the prevalent decktypes was CounterPhoenix. This Red/Blue deck used countermagic, the Capsize/Disk trick, and Red burn to control the board, and would recur Shard Phoenix to act as a win condition.

Granted, Standard had a lot better options when it came to countermagic back then – Counterspell, Mana Leak, and Forbid – but we have a pretty good selection of burn nowadays, so it may be possible to recreate the deck. Assuming, that is, we can find some sort of recurring win condition.

Countermagic: The “gold standard” in today’s Standard for countermagic is really more of a “fool’s gold standard” – Cancel is a full turn slower than Counterspell was, but it’s what we got. Negate and Remove Soul both see some play in Standard, as there are always creatures to counter and… uh… well, non-creatures to counter. They’re hard counters, provided that you can match them up to their respective target. Broken Ambitions has also seen play, especially in Faeries. Unused cards I’m going to suggest is Put Away, which would allow us to fetch back a burn spell (albeit into the deck), and Familiar’s Ruse, which may be useful depending on which creatures we end up putting into the deck.

Burn Spells: There’s no dearth of selections in today’s Standard when it comes to burn spells: Flame Javelin, Incinerate, and Magma Spray are the start of most burn suites, and there’s still Puncture Blast and Tarfire, which saw play during Block Constructed season. You’ll also need something to act as mass removal in place of Nevinyrral’s Disk: Pyroclasm comes immediately to mind, as does Firespout – although this deck doesn’t have the Green mana to really take advantage of it.

Anything Else? : The best creature to act as our “recurring win condition” is probably Nucklavee, which gets us both countermagic and burn spells (presuming we run some sorcery-speed burn), and also pairs nicely with Familiar’s Ruse as a sort of “soft lock.” Including Nucklavee means we need to look at the sorcery-speed burn, and cards like Blaze, Cone of Flame, or Lava Axe might be included just because of their interaction with Nucklavee. And every good blue deck needs card drawing – Oona’s Grace, Ponder, and Tidings should all be considered.

Rares You Could Add, if You Had Them: The deck really needs a win condition with a recurrence of its own, so the first thing I’d consider adding would be either Titan’s Revenge ($0.50), just as a continuous Fireball effect at your opponent’s face, or Beacon of Destruction ($2), which will put itself back into your library to be found again later. And of course, you could always up the cost of the manabase, adding in Cascade Bluffs ($5) or Shivan Reef ($5).

What’s funny is, I remember playing against the deck back when it was around in Standard, and it was pretty much the only deck that used Reflecting Pool the first time around – nowadays, during Reflecting Pool’s second go-through, it seems like every deck uses it. Call of the Herd and Psionic Blast – pretty much the opposite. Weird.

Rareless And Lovin’ It

It is still possible to build rareless decks with real potential in today’s Standard – and this doesn’t take into consideration decks with mostly-rareless builds, like Kithkin or BantCrasher or, heck, maybe even Elves. I saw an attempt this past week at FNM to translate the Extended Elves! deck that everyone seems to be talking about – it’s not quite as fast without Glimpse of Nature (and has to rely on Primal Command ($5) rather than Summoner’s Pact), but it’s still effective around turn four or so, and only really runs the cheap Regal Force ($1) and Predator Dragon ($2.50) as its other rares.

Next week, a look at the five pre-constructed decks from Shards, and how they might translate over to Standard. Ahem, sorry, Intro Packs.

Until next week!