Building_on_a_Budget

What happens when you take 35 random rares from the color blue and attempt to build a deck? Ben Bleiweiss shows us...

The Final Four: Blue!

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The letter H!ello, and welcome back to Building on a Budget! This is the column dedicated to building decks that cost 30 tickets or less using Magic Online. I'm Ben Bleiweiss, and this is part two of my series in which I pick a color (in this case, blue), consult my handy-dandy list of rares that cost half-a-ticket or less using Magic Online prices, randomly put 35 of them in a deck, and playtest it to see what fits, and what does not. Before we get to this week's deck, I have an announcement to make.

Many have speculated about why I've titled this series "The Final X" (last installment was five - this installment is four). And I'm here with the truth - I'm pregnant. That's right, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior, I've inseminated myself with an experimental process that will make me the first man to give birth! How else would you explain my gut?

What's that?

Oh, I'm not eating healthy. Frown!

Seriously though, these are my final five columns - I will be hanging up my Building on a Budget quills to concentrate on my Insider Trading column at StarCityGames.com. It's a project that I've wanted to work on for a long time - a column dedicated to discussing the financials and values of Magic cards. I've spent six years working with this end of the industry (I am the General Manager at StarCityGames.com, and am responsible for pricing all of the cards on that website), so I hope that I can shed some insight into a part of the industry that isn't really discussed much!

Yes yes, I will be sad to leave, and yes yes, I will miss you all. I cry myself a river, and that's not just a clever segue to this week's deck evolution. Ok, it is a clever segue. Here's the list of the blue random rares that are currently available for Extended-format use in Magic Online:

Acquire Equilibrium Mistform Skyreaver Sky Swallower
Alter Reality Evacuation Mistform Ultimus Soramaro, First to Dream
Ambassador Laquatus Eye of the Storm Moonlace Spawnbroker
Amugaba Faces of the Past Myojin of Seeing Winds Spectral Shift
Ancestral Memories False Memories Nix Spellshift
Arcanis the Omnipotent Fatespinner Notorious Throng Spellweaver Volute
Archivist Fathom Trawl Novijen Sages Sprite Noble
Arcum Dagsson Fleeting Image Parallel Thoughts Standardize
Artificial Evolution Forced Fruition Part the Veil Sunken Hope
Azami, Lady of Scrolls Future Sight Patron of the Moon Supreme Exemplar
Balance of Power Ghastlord of Fugue Pedantic Learning Supreme Inquisitor
Benthic Behemoth Govern the Guildless Peer Pressure Surgespanner
Biomantic Mastery Grozoth Plagiarize Sway of the Stars
Braids, Conjurer Adept Guile Planar Overlay Swirl the Mists
Breaking Wave Hatching Plans Polymorph Synod Artificer
Callous Oppressor Heidar, Rimewind Master Possessed Aven Take Possession
Cemetery Puca Hisoka, Minamo Sensei Psionic Sliver Telekinetic Bonds
Cephalid Constable Hoverguard Sweepers Psychic Battle Temporal Adept
Cephalid Shrine Hunted Phantasm Psychic Possession Temporal Cascade
Cephalid Vandal Ice Cave Psychic Trance Temporal Distortion
Cerulean Sphinx Imaginary Pet Puca's Mischief The Unspeakable
Chisei, Heart of Oceans Isleback Spawn Pulse of the Grid Thought Devourer
Chromescale Drake Ixidor, Reality Sculptor Quicken Thought Reflection
Chromeshell Crab Ixidron Quicksilver Dragon Tidal Kraken
Cloudhoof Kirin Jokulmorder Quicksilver Elemental Tidespout Tyrant
Coastal Piracy Jushi Apprentice Read the Runes Time Stop
Cognivore Kaho, Minamo Historian Reduce to Dreams Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar
Copy Enchantment Keeper of the Nine Gales Retraced Image Trade Routes
Counterbore Knacksaw Clique Reweave Trade Secrets
Cowardice Knowledge Exploitation Rimefeather Owl Trickbind
Crystal Spray Last Word Riptide Director Tunnel Vision
Cultural Exchange Leyline of Singularity Riptide Mangler Turbulent Dreams
Cytoplast Manipulator Linessa, Zephyr Mage River Kelpie Unifying Theory
Daring Apprentice Lumengrid Augur Rootwater Matriarch Uyo, Silent Prophet
Day of the Dragons Maelstrom Djinn Sage of Lat-Nam Vizzerdrix
Declaration of Naught Magus of the Bazaar Sapphire Leech Walk the Aeons
Deep-Sea Kraken Magus of the Future Savor the Moment Wall of Wonder
Deflection Magus of the Jar Scalpelexis Wanderwine Prophets
Delusions of Mediocrity Mahamoti Djinn Serendib Sorcerer Waterspout Elemental
Denizen of the Deep Mana Maze Serra Sphinx Weaver of Lies
Dermoplasm Mawcor Shadow of Doubt Well-Laid Plans
Dichotomancy Meishin, the Mind Cage Shapesharer Whirlpool Warrior
Dire Undercurrents Memory Plunder Shapeshifter's Marrow Words of Wind
Disrupting Shoal Metathran Aerostat Shared Fate Worldpurge
Djinn Illuminatus Mimeofacture Shifting Sky Wormfang Behemoth
Draining Whelk Mind Bend Shifty Doppelganger Wormfang Manta
Dream Leash Mischievous Quanar Sigil Tracer Zur's Weirding

Once again, I used the random number generator from random.org to generate 35 random numbers from 2 to 193 (The #1 column is the color header on my copy of the spreadsheet) and added in 25 basic Islands. Here's what I came up with:

2: Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor
8: Arcanis the Omnipotent
17: Breaking Wave
30: Copy Enchantment
33: Crystal Spray
35: Cytoplast Manipulator
40: Deflection
41: Delusions of Mediocrity
42: Denizen of the Deep
45: Dire Undercurrents
46: Disrupting Shoal
56: Fathom Trawl
62: Govern the Guildless
63: Grozoth
65: Hatching Plans
73: Ixidor, Reality Sculptor
82: Leyline of Singularity
85: Maelstrom Djinn
87: Magus of the Future
93: Memory Plunder
96: Mind Bend
98 (x2): Mist of Stagnation
101: Moonlace
102: Myojin of Seeing Winds
105: Novijen Sages
112: Planar Overlay
130: Riptide Mangler
139: Shadow of Doubt
140: Shapesharer
153: Sprite Noble
165: Temporal Cascade
167: The Unspeakable
170: Tidal Kraken
175: Trade Secrets

For the one duplicate, I selected another card at random.

Reroll:
169: Thought Reflection


An interesting mix of cards!

Game 1: rocketeer88 (Bears!)

Leyline of Singularity
Singular indeed.
Rocketeer88 starts with Grizzly Bears, Overgrowth, Bearscape and Coat of Arms. I start with Leyline of Singularity in play, and proceed to use Copy Enchantment to kill the Overgrowth (thanks to the Leyline). I drop a morph (which is Maelstrom Djinn), and my opponent casts Nourish, and makes a bear at end of turn. An Alpha Status on Grizzly Bears lets it swing as a 5/5 - but I block and morph with my Djinn.

Surprise!

But rocketeer casts Giant Growth! Thankfully, I have Deflection and make my Djinn an 8/9, saving it. I then drop Cytoplast Manipulator and Shapesharer (which can kill any creature an opponent drops, thanks to the Leyline), winning me the game.

Record: 1-0

Keys to the game: Leyline of Singularity. Man, the wheels are turning here - blue has a lot of strengths as a color: card drawing, flying creatures, stealing, and, of course, copying things. What happens when copying goes from getting equal time to what an opponent has to playing massive creature removal? That'd be a question for a Leyline of Singularity deck, and an intriguing one at that!

Game 2: PrincessScratchyBeard (Black-Blue-Green Mill & Vulture)

Vulturous Zombie
(Flying) Brrraaaiiiinnnssss...
I seem to have all the answers in this long, drawn-out game. I answer a second-turn sacrificed Sakura-Tribe Elder with Shadow of Doubt. PrincessScratchyBeard has out an Island, two Forests and a Swamp when I drop my fifth land and cast Planar Overlay, sending three lands back to their hand. I then drop Dire Undercurrents, Thought Reflection and Delusions of Mediocrity, and start throwing any random creature I draw to the board - many of which eat Rend Flesh or Putrefy. My opponent finally sticks a Vulturous Zombie, and then casts Haunting Echoes on me - which is virtually useless except for the Mists of Stagnation in my hand. I drop Ixidor and Maelstrom Djinn, chump block, and drop Tidal Kraken and Grozoth to the board. ScratchyBeard drops a second Vulturous Zombie, and I Copy Enchantment the Delusions of Mediocrity so that I don't die in a single swing. My opponent then casts Traumatize, but I have Breaking Wave to tap down both of the opposing Vulturous Zombies, and then I swing with my team of monsters to win the game!

Record: 2-0

Keys to the game: card advantage, life gain. I drew about double the number of cards that PrincessScratchyBeard drew, which let me have just what I needed at several points in the game. Moreover, the Vulturous Zombies grew huge early on, but my large army of creatures kept my opponent from being able to attack without being counterattacked for lethal, in part aided by my (eventual) doubling of Delusions of Mediocrity. Blue isn't known for life gain, but that 20 life kept me from losing.

Game 3: makoreactor (Elfball)

My hand is Arcanis, Hatching Plans, Grozoth, and Magus of the Future. Makoreactor plays Heritage Druid, Elvish Harbinger, Wirewood Channeler, Wirewood Lodge, Oracle of Nectars and Mirror Entity by turn four, and swings in with multiple large creatures, drawing my concession.

Record: 2-1

Keys to the game: Every card in my hand was either useless on its own (Hatching Plans) or cost too much to mount an early defense. I was quickly run over by weenie creatures without any chance to make a defense.

Game 4: gob of spit (Yore-Tiller Nephilim)

I was facing a turn-four Yore-Tiller Nephilim, aided by a Signet. I get down Cytoplast Manipulator, and then gob evokes Faultgrinder, killing two of my lands (one on the evoke, and one on returning it to play with the Nephilim). I graft on the second attempt, and wait for my opponent to untap to try to steal it. A Momentary Blink targeting the 4/4 takes out a third land of mine. I cast a morphed Djinn which is removed with Faceless Butcher. That merits my concession.

Record: 2-2

Keys to the game: Same as the game before - everything costs too much, and there's not enough of a focus in my deck. Time to make the first round of cuts!

Hunted Phantasm
When is a downside an upside?
I was really enamored with the idea of a Leyline of Singularity deck - and while I didn't immediately want to go straight for Hunting Phantasm (a typical partner of this particular Leyline), I wasn't averse to ending up in that situation. To begin though, I wanted to bring in a lot of cards that would make my spells double as removal. To this effect, I added in three Leylines of Singularity, three Shapesharers (which could become any other creature on the fly!), and four Clones.

I also wanted to toy around with Hatching Plans in this deck - with Leyline of Singularity out, two Hatching Plans equals six cards (since they kill each other). While these wouldn't be fantastic odds in a sixty-card deck on their own, I also added in three copies of Copy Enchantment, so that I'd effectively have more copies of Hatching Plans once a Leyline was in play.

The cards I took out were ones that didn't really fit this theme, or that overall weren't good utility blue monsters.

In: 3x Leyline of Singularity, 4x Clone, 3x Copy Enchantment, 3x Hatching Plans, 3x Shapesharer
Out: Breaking Wave, Crystal Spray, Govern the Guildless, Grozoth, Ixidor Reality Sculptor, Mind Bend, Mists of Stagnation, Moonlace, Myojin of Seeing Winds, The Unspeakable, Sprite Noble, Temporal Cascade, Trade Secrets, Tidal Kraken, Denizen of the Deep, Novijen Sages


Game 5: b3koo4 (2003 Mirrodin Block Mono-Red Burn)

I was hit with a turn-two Magma Jet, Seething Song into Arc-Slogger on turn three, Molten Rain on me turn four, and then got slogged four times with a Flamebreak on the untap to win.

Record: 2-3

Keys to the game: Party like it's 2003! I saw 52 cards out of this deck thanks to the multiple Arc-Slogger activations, and this was a copy of the Big Red decks that were popular during Mirrodin Block Constructed season.

Game 6: grubbaboom (Power Conduit)

I get down Leyline of Singularity to start the game. Grubbaboom starts with Safehold Elite and Glen Elendra Liege. I get Riptide Mangler and Shapesharer, which eats a Torture. I then put down Cytoplast Manipulator, which grabs Mephidross Vampire. My opponent's attempt to play Power Conduit is hit with my Disrupting Shoal. Grubba then drops another persister, and I play Maelstrom Djinn face down, only to turn it face up in time to eat the Glen Elendra Liege. This makes the Djinn 6/7 and allows me to fly over quickly for the win.

Record: 3-3

Keys to the game: Shapesharer, which wisely died so that it couldn't take out any creature at random. Cytoplast Manipulator, because it's awwwwwfully good against a deck that wants to play around with +1/+1 counters to begin with.

Game 7: stixdww (White Weenie Equipment)

I start with Leyline of Singularity in play, and drop a second turn Shapesharer. Stixdww drops Lightning Greaves and Leonin Shikari, making it so that I can never successfully target anything on my opponent's board! I then get stuck at two lands anyhow, and end up losing the game pretty quickly to a cacophony of creatures and equipment (Leonin Skyhunter, Sword of Light and Shadow, and so on and so forth).

Record: 3-4

Clone
Clone doesn't target.
Keys to the game: Lightning Greaves plus Leonin Shikari. That just shuts down any sort of targeting spell, and this entire deck is based around being able to target. The only out I had was Clone, since Clone does not target, but unfortunately I couldn't get to four mana. Still - important to note - Clone doesn't target. Good to know, in case this comes up again.

Game 8: SpookiQ (Power Conduit)

SpookiQ is playing a deck based around getting counters off of Dark Depths, using cards like Aether Snap and Power Conduit. I drop an early Shapesharer and two Hatching Plans, while Spooki gets a ton of mana acceleration (Into the North, Kodama's Reaches for all!) along with Dark Depths. I draw and play Leyline of Singularity, drawing me six cards. I follow it with Arcanis, and SpookiQ pops the Dark Depths. I kill the Marit Lage token with my Shapesharer, and SpookiQ returns Dark Depths with Petrified Field and plays it immediately with Aether Snap. I drop another Shapesharer and kill it again. My opponent plays a third one, and I drop Riptide Mangler and Aboshan. When the Dark Depths is popped a third time, I make my Mangler 20/3, copy it, and then drop a third Shapesharer and kill Marit Lage again. SpookiQ casts Moment's Peace on my attack, and then drops a fourth Marit Lage. I kill this one with Clone, swing through, and kill my opponent a turn later.

Record: 4-4

It's a squid! It's an octopus! It's... *gurgle, munch, gulp*
Keys to the game: Leyline of Singularity, because man, there's not many other ways that I can deal with a 20/20 indestructible creature other than by killing it as a state-based effect thanks to the legends rule.

Ok, time for some more cuts - I'm ready to get in Hunted Phantasm, and I want some early board reaction. Echoing Truth is a fine card to bring in with the Phantasm, because I'm going to necessarily have Leyline of Singularity in my opening hand every game. It's a great bounce spell that has a lot of utility against token creatures, so I'm happy to add it. I also bring in a quartet of Counterspell - yes, the original Counterspell Counterspell. I don't want this to be a counter-heavy deck, but I think it's fair to play one playset of Counterspell as a way to stop the most devastating of spells from resolving. Think of this as adding Terror in black, Incinerate in red, Disenchant in white, and Krosan Grip in green - it's just a universal spell that plays to the strengths of the color against the weakness your deck might have.

Out: Deflection, Cytoplast Manipulator, Delusions of Mediocrity, Dire Undercurrents, Disrupting Shoal, Maelstrom Djinn, Memory Plunder, Planar Overlay, Thought Reflection, Shadow of Doubt, Riptide Mangler, 1x Clone
In: 4 Hunted Phantasm, 4 Echoing Truth, 4 Counterspell

Game 9: Cashmere (Blue-Green Elves/Swords)

I start with Leyline of Singularity in play while Cashmere leads with Silhana Ledgewalker. When there's an attempt to ninjutsu out Ninja of the Deep Hours on turn three, I use Echoing Truth to set my opponent's board back to three lands and nothing else. I then Counterspell the re-played Silhana Ledgewalker which lets me play Magus of the Future on turn five without interruption. Cashmere replays the Ninja, and then drops Sword of Fire and Ice the following turn, making it a 4/4 protection-from-my deck powerhouse! I keep playing lands and get double Hatching Plans to move my deck along, allowing me to drop Shapesharer. My opponent meanwhile drops Sword of Light and Shadow, and attacks me to 4. I get Echoing Truth, remove the Sword of Fire and Ice from the board, and Shapesharer the Ninja, clearing my adversary's board again.

Cashmere drops Wellwisher and Silhana Ledgewalker, but I draw and play Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor with nine mana out, allowing me to use his UUU ability to tap down all of my opponent's attackers. I drop Hunted Phantasm and a second Leyline of Singularity, allowing me to start playing multiple Shapesharers to the board. Since they count as Cephalids, I am able to start tapping down Cashmere's lands and creatures with Aboshan, and then copy Hunted Phantasm to make multiple unblockable 4/6 beaters. Cashmere delays the inevitable with Moment's Peace, but eventually I lock it down and go on to win the game.

Record: 5-4

Keys to the game: Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor. Man, this guy was a house! With Shapesharer, I was able to tap all my opponent's blue mana during their upkeep, effectively denying Cashmere a color of mana - and then I was able to tap UUU to keep all my opponent's creatures from attacking. However, this deck doesn't have a ton of threats, and because of Leyline of Singularity, I want to keep them varied - I'd rather draw a Magus of the Future and an Aboshan in a game rather than two Aboshans (never mind that he's already legendary on his own).

Game 10: Linnear (White-Black Cycling)

Shapesharer
A sharer of many shapes.
Linnear starts by cycling a ton of cards, like Secluded Steppe, Barren Moor, and Renewed Faith. I drop two Shapesharers, and start swinging. An attempt from my opponent to kill them by cycling Decree of Pain a few turns in is nullified when I save them both with Echoing Truth. I re-play a Shapesharer, and Linnear then drops Glorious Anthem and Solemn Simulacrum, which I Clone and chump block with. After that my adversary drops Silver Seraph, and I drop Leyline of Singularity, Clone the Solemn Simulacrum (killing them both) and Shapesharer the Silver Seraph. The next challenge comes in the form of a Death Match and Phyrexian Arena, and I use Copy Enchantment to kill the Match, allowing me to safely drop Hunted Phantasm.

I start swinging for six a turn (one from the Shapesharer, four from Phantasm, and one from my opponent's own Arena), but decide I'd rather not worry about Linnear drawing two cards a turn after an attempt to hard-cast Decree of Pain (which I Counterspell), so I Copy Enchantment the Arena, killing it. My opponent tries to cast Faith's Fetters on my Phantasm, but I Echoing Truth my 4/6 and replay it the following turn. Linnear then kills my Leyline with Terashi's Grasp, and attempts to cycle Decree of Justice for six - but I have another Echoing Truth, returning all the tokens, and allowing me to swing for 8 (now that I can safely copy my own Hunted Phantasm). I Counterspell another Decree, allowing Linnear to hard-cast Renewed Faith to stay alive. My opponent draws and plays Faith's Fetters on my Phantasm, netting some breathing room by boosting their life total to 5. I copy the Phantasm with my Shapesharer, and then copy Linnear's Glorious Anthem with another Copy Enchantment. This allows me to swing for the last 5, and Linnear reveals a hand of double Raise the Alarm and a second Decree of Justice.

Record: 6-4

Keys to the game: Leyline of Singularity, which is a house against any deck running a token-generation strategy. As long as I had Leyline out, my opponent couldn't effectively cast Raise the Alarm (the tokens would kill each other), Decree of Justice (for more than one Angel or one Soldier), and it allowed me to turn all of my Copy Enchantments into removal spells, which was key against an enchantment-heavy deck such as Linnear's.

So from the humble beginnings of a blue deck of random rares, Leyline of Singularity emerged with Shapesharer to form a deck based around killing your opponent's board with the sincerest form of flattery - imitation. When I return for next week's column, we'll see what comes out of the jungles of green to become our next bulk rare champion! See you in seven!

- Ben

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