Tribal Thriftiness #93 – Reducing Costs in Standard

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Tuesday, December 8th – It seems like every deck in Standard nowadays starts out with a hundred-dollar manabase, and just keeps going upwards from there. Is it possible to play one of Standard’s successful decks while avoiding the hefty price tag? Dave takes a look at two high-finishing Worlds decks and tries to cut the costs.

I was in a discussion at Friday Night Magic this week about decks in Standard and the cost to purchase them. The conversation primarily centered around Jund’s manabase (a hundred and fifty bucks? Really?) and the increasing cost of the Eldrazi deck (Eldrazi Monument cost WHAT now?), but it did make me wonder: is there a low-cost, competitive deck right now rolling around in Standard? With States having just occurred, what’s out there that’s a decent deck at a decent price?


Hello, giant elephant in the room. You would think that Jund would be, in general, a fairly cheap deck to put together. Most of the creatures are commons and uncommons, and so are most of the spells. Broodmate Dragons aren’t that expensive at five bucks a pop, and Master of the Wild Hunt, who is turning up more and more, is only eight bucks. Even Garruk Wildspeaker, thanks to being reprinted in M10, is reasonable at twelve-fifty – at least compared to other Planeswalkers that see play. The real cost is in the Maelstrom Pulses and the manabase.

Rare Cost Summary:
Broodmate Dragon ($4.99 x 2 = $9.98)
Master of the Wild Hunt ($7.99 x 2 = $15.98)
Garruk Wildspeaker ($12.49 x 2 = $24.98)
Maelstrom Pulse ($22.49 x 3 = $67.47)
Dragonskull Summit ($12.49 x 3 = $37.47)
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)
Rootbound Crag ($9.99 x 4 = $39.96)
Verdant Catacombs ($17.99 x 4 = $71.96)

(For this exercise, I’m just concentrating on maindeck lists; sideboards are fluid things that can be dependent on the tournament.)

First – the Pulses. While all the top decks from Worlds agree that Pulses should be included, they varied in number from two (Paulo Vitor) to four (Remi Fortier). They are critical in handling any problematic non-creature threat (such as Eldrazi Monument, opposing Planeswalkers, and fringe cards like Howling Mine and Oblivion Ring) … but also continue the two-for-one theme that gives the Jund deck all its power. There are cards we can look at as replacements, but the real stumbling block is the three casting cost, since most of the options I am looking at are in the five-mana range. If we stick with David’s list and look to replace the three Maelstrom Pulses, I’d start with bringing in the fourth Bituminous Blast. While costing five mana, this at least contains the two (or potentially more) for one trade-off that Pulse would like to be making. To handle problematic non-creature permanents, I’m thinking the last two slots could become Acidic Slimes, which gives the deck an option against Emeria, the Sky Ruin or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle while not trading off Maelstrom Pulse’s ability to handle Eldrazi Monument or other artifacts and enchantments.

Second – the manabase. Obviously we’re going to be looking at a manabase heavily concentrated in basic lands. Oran-Rief is a fine investment if you like playing Green, and I’d like to keep those and (obviously) the Savage Lands. Terramorphic Expanse has been “good enough” for me recently in terms of a fetchland replacement, but I noticed at least one list from Worlds running Jund Panorama as a “fifth” fetchland, and in Jund that may actually be the better option – you can easily crack it early on to fetch the color you need, and then on turns 4-6, when you are good on colors and just need an untapped land to cast Bloodbraid Elf, it provides the colorless mana to do so. It also may be worthwhile to explore further the impact of the Borderland Ranger / Rampant Growth inclusion in the deck. This will probably push us closer to the Japanese version of the deck that ran Siege-Gang Commanders ($3.99) instead of Master of the Wild Hunt.

Rare Cost Summary:
Broodmate Dragon ($4.99 x 4 = $19.96)
Siege-Gang Commander ($3.99 x 3 = $11.97)
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)

Acidic Slime seems a much better fit in the Japanese version of the deck, which is already looking at plenty of five- and six-mana cards in the midgame, and is ramping into casting them early thanks to Rampant Growth. Oran-Rief may not be fabulous in this deck; the Japanese version Tomoharu Saito played in Worlds didn’t have them. I guess when you aren’t making Beast tokens or Wolf tokens, it’s not “just good enough” pumping the actual guys on your team. In that case, it may be worth exploring replacing Siege-Gang Commander with Ant Queen ($2.49), which made some rumored appearances in States Jund decks.

There are a lot of decks nowadays where the easiest way to cut costs is to replace the fetchlands with some cheaper land — Vampires and Boros and Red Deck Wins, to name a few. I’d like to also look at a non-aggro option …

Planeswalker Control

Philipp Summereder and Benjamin Rozmon played the same 75 cards at Worlds, and both finished 5-1.

Rare Cost Summary:
Arid Mesa ($15.99 x 4 = $63.96)
Glacial Fortress ($9.99 x 4 = $39.96)
Scalding Tarn ($15.99 x 4 = $63.96)
Sphinx of Jwar Isle ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)
Ajani Vengeant ($7.99 x 3 = $23.97)
Day of Judgment ($14.99 x 2 = $29.98)
Earthquake ($2.49 x 3 = $7.47)
Jace Beleren ($9.99 x 3 = $29.97)
Mind Spring ($0.75 x 2 = $1.50)

Maindeck Flashfreeze? Well, I ran maindeck Celestial Purge in the last big Standard tournament I went to, and I guess it’s not much different – I was expecting Jund and Vampires, and the modern metagame is probably Jund and Boros Bushwhacker, so having a card that’s a hard counter against those two (plus Eldrazi Green in most cases) seems pretty solid.

So, again, there are two primary factors in the cost of this deck – the manabase, and the Wraths. Sorry, “Days.” Ultimately the goal of this deck is to control the board through singleton removal and sweepers until you can protect an Ajani or get a Sphinx going. The Planeswalkers (surprisingly) aren’t as expensive as I expected; I guess being a promo and getting reprinted are good motivators for a price drop. Maybe I should go back and rescind my earlier Garruk comment, since $12.50 now is looking pricey by comparison.

We will want to keep five sweepers if humanly possible. A fourth Earthquake can be added to take the place of one of the Wraths, but what other options are available? Martial Coup provides another win condition, but the cost of sweeping the board is at least seven, which seems expensive. Volcanic Fallout stopped being decent once every creature in Jund started wearing a ‘3’ on their backside – and Boros Bushwhacker should be able to protect their landfall guys as well. (Yes, I’m aware Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos have two toughness – it’s poetic license.) And you DEFINITELY don’t want Planar Cleansing or Scourglass, since both of those destroy all your sources of card advantage. I guess Martial Coup is the best of the possible choices – and since it will be a one-of replacement, we’ll be happy to draw it around turn 10 and cast it for profit. I hope.

Terramorphic Expanse is definitely the budget fetchland of choice for this deck, since none of the Panoramas fit and you really want to be able to grab whichever color you’re missing. Rupture Spire may actually be a necessity as well, although having that plus Expanse and Sejiri Refuge will really slow down the deck. That’s probably okay in the early turns, but you definitely want to be able to cast Earthquake or Ajani on turn 4, so we can’t rely on too many enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands. With the heavy focus on basic lands, I’d like to add Traumatic Visions or Expedition Map as another land fetch – probably Traumatic Visions, because (a) it has use in the late game and (b) we aren’t going to use Expedition Map to fetch up any cool non-basic lands.

Rare Cost Summary:
Sphinx of Jwar Isle ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)
Ajani Vengeant ($7.99 x 4 = $31.96)
Earthquake ($2.49 x 4 = $9.96)
Jace Beleren ($9.99 x 2 = $19.98)
Mind Spring ($0.75 x 3 = $2.25)
Martial Coup ($4.99 x 1 = $4.99)

I’ve had numerous people comment about how Path to Exile, at five bucks, actually prices above half of the rares in most decks – and this is definitely the case in this deck. Since we have Lightning Bolt, sweepers, and the always useful Oblivion Ring, I felt good cutting them to provide the space for Traumatic Visions. Rupture Spire made it into the mana base, but as a two-of – the red mana is just to critical to too many things to rely on just the basic land fetching. I increased the number of Ajani Vengeants, swapped a Jace for a Mind Spring, and bumped up the number of Walls to provide extra protection while you’re setting up your manabase. And hey, they don’t die to Earthquake, nice!

It didn’t turn out quite as inexpensive as the Budget Jund deck, but when you’re building a deck focused on the raw power of Planeswalkers, the first thing you gotta do is include the Planeswalkers, and those are the bulk of the cost in this deck.

The Most Expensive Standard Ever?

I think it’s possible that this is the most expensive it’s ever been to really get into the competitive decks. Between the fetchlands, upper-tier Planeswalkers like Elspeth, must-have cards like Maelstrom Pulse and Day of Judgment, it seems like every deck starts out around a hundred bucks and progresses upwards from there – and I haven’t even mentioned the giant pricey elephant in the room, the sixty-dollar Baneslayer Angel. But I hope that this column has at least shown you that you can take the framework of these successful decks and tune them to match your own budget.

Until next week…


dave dot massive at gmail and davemassive at facebook and twitter