Building_on_a_Budget

Winning in Standard with creatureless control.

Look Ma, No Creatures!

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The letter H!ello everyone, and welcome back to Building on a Budget, the column dedicated to building decks that cost 30 tickets or less using Magic Online prices! Last week, I held a vote to see which Giant deck you wanted me to build, but I said that this week would be an interlude into anti-Legions land, while we tallied the votes using Gleemax-o-matic 3000. And what is an anti-Legions deck? Well, since Legions was the set with 100% creatures, this deck will have no creatures at all!

Back in the day, there was a deck called Prison. Prison was a white-green deck that locked people down by playing Winter Orb, Icy Manipulator, and Armageddon to deny the opponent mana, while using Gaea's Blessing to keep the Prison player from being decked. This, in fact, was the deck I brought to the first Pro Tour–Chicago in 1997. And while Winter Orb and Armageddon don't exist anymore, we do have Boom // Bust as an approximation of Armageddon.

So assuming that the deck is green-red (for Gaea's Blessing and Boom // Bust), what cards would you want in a creatureless deck? This deck was made pre-Shadowmoor (the last one in this column, I swear!), so the available card pool is Tenth Edition, Coldsnap, Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, Lorwyn, and Shadowmoor.

To start, I went through the list of all noncreatures in red, green, lands, and artifacts, and threw all of the cards that looked interesting into one big deck list. This is just like someone taking their collection of cards, pulling out all the cards they are interested in, and whittling the list down to a finely tuned 60-card pile. The next thing I did was look up the ticket cost of these cards—this is Building on a Budget, and there's no sense considering cards that would completely wreck the budget.


Cost (in Tickets)

Beacon of Destruction: 1 ticket
Boom // Bust: 0.5 tickets
Chandra Nalaar: 1 ticket
Coldsteel Heart: 2.5 tickets
Crucible of Worlds: 2.5 tickets
Disintegrate: 0.75 tickets
Gaea's Blessing: 1 ticket
Harmonize: 1.5 tickets
Highland Weald: 2 tickets
Incinerate: 0.4 tickets
Mind Stone: 0.75 tickets
Molten Disaster: 3 tickets
Pyroclasm: 0.2 tickets
Seismic Assault: 0.5 tickets

The first three cuts were Highland Weald, Molten Disaster, and Coldsteel Heart, for budgetary reason. When you're working with a 30 ticket budget, there's no reason to spend a third of that budget on two-mana-cost artifacts, when much more affordable options (Mind Stone, Prismatic Lens) are present. The same goes for Highland Weald, and to a degree Molten Disaster; there are lots of red spells that can wipe the board, and it's not essential that Molten Disaster be in this deck.

Out: 4 Coldsteel Heart, 4 Highland Weald, 4 Molten Disaster

On the second runthrough, I realized that Blaze would be a much cheaper alternative to Disintegrate (even though Disintegrate is strictly better), and I certainly didn't want them as a four-of in a deck designed to blow up all the lands. I also cut one Boom // Bust (since drawing more than one a game is too many), a couple of the Vivid lands each (since I need my lands to generally come into play untapped, so I don't fall behind on the curve), and a Crucible of Worlds.

Out: 2 Vivid Crag, 2 Vivid Grove, 4 Disintegrate, 1 Boom // Bust, 1 Crucible of Worlds
In: 2 Blaze

On the third go-round, I took certain cards to more manageable levels. Since there was a lot of redundancy in direct damage, I took out singletons of Pyroclasm and Sulfurous Blast, plus two of the Beacons of Destruction and all of the Rift Bolts. I also yanked three of the Seismic Assaults—the subtheme of "Boom // Bust, Seismic Assault, and Crucible of Worlds" was very costly, and I didn't think I wanted the deck to go in that direction. I wanted it to be more of a board-control deck! I also killed a Creeping Mold and a Gaea's Blessing, because technically two Blessings is all you need to never be decked, assuming your opponent doesn't have graveyard removal, or key counterspells.

I also added in the basic lands for this deck. This deck was certainly going to be a land-heavy deck, with additional mana coming from artifacts.

Out: 1 Pyroclasm, 1 Sulfurous Blast, 1 Gaea's Blessing, 2 Beacon of Destruction, 4 Rift Bolt, 1 Creeping Mold, 3 Seismic Assault
In: 10 Mountain, 10 Forest

With the addition of the twenty basics, I stood at 75 cards. This left only 15 cards to be cut.


2 Beacon = 2 tickets
3 Boom // Bust = 1.5 tickets
4 Chandra Nalaar = 4 tickets
3 Crucible of Worlds = 7.5 tickets
3 Gaea's Blessing = 3 tickets
4 Harmonize = 6 tickets
4 Incinerate = 1.6 tickets
3 Pyroclasm = 0.6 tickets
1 Seismic Assault = 0.5 tickets
Total: 27.2 tickets

At this point, I decided to completely kill the "Crucible with Boom // Bust" plan. I needed to streamline the deck to be more effective, and that sort of cute trick wasn't going to cut it. I also took myself down to a single Blaze—if I was to truly use Boom // Bust to lock down the game, I wouldn't be able to Blaze effectively —but it couldn't hurt to try one in there, just because A) I have so many lands, and B) I'm not going to be able to play Boom // Bust every single game. I take out two Creeping Molds, as it was there just as a utility spell (and I want to keep one in just to see how it does, when I draw it), plus a Beacon of Destruction, a Pyroclasm, a Sulfurous Blast, and an Arc Blade. Last, I go down to six two-drop artifacts by killing double Prismatic Lens, finish off Chandra as a three-of, and go down to the two Gaea's Blessings that I mentioned above. Below is the deck I started playtesting!

Out: 3 Crucible of Worlds, 1 Pyroclasm, 1 Blaze, 2 Creeping Mold, 1 Gaea's Blessing, 1 Beacon of Destruction, 1 Chandra Nalaar, 2 Prismatic Lens, 1 Sulfurous Blast, 1 Arc Blade, 1 Vivid Grove

Look Ma, No Legions!


In this deck, the goal is to build up mana (both lands and artifacts) and control the board via direct damage. Arc Blades are a recurring source of damage, as is Chandra, and both are key, because the goal is to blow up the world with Boom // Bust, leaving me with multiple ways to kill/neutralize creatures (Arc Blade, Chandra Nalaar, Icy Manipulator) and my opponents hopeless while I slowly take away their life. Gaea's Blessing lets me recur threats, and keep myself from being decked in the case that the game comes down to a sheer lockdown with no point of return for either me or my opponent. How did the deck perform? Let's see!

Game 1: Goetia (Mono-Red Burn)

Goetia aims double Tarfire and Rift Bolt at my head, and follows it with Browbeat (I eat the 5 life rather than let Goetia draw three cards), leaving me at 8. I kill a Soulbright Flamekin with Incinerate, suspend Arc Blade, and put Chandra Nalaar on the board. Goetia concedes when I get Chandra up to nine counters.

Record: 1-0

Game 2: Lordpenguin4 (Black-Red Land Destruction)

I get a Mind Stone and a Prismatic Lens early, which is good, because Lordpenguin4 leads with triple(!) Rain of Tears and follows up with Shivan Wumpus. I get Icy Manipulator and lock down his creature, and LordPenguin4 plays Boom // Bust, leaving his board empty, and me with two artifact mana, and the Icy. I get more lands and start to play Harmonize to build my hand. Eventually, he gets two lands in play, and I play Boom // Bust. This leaves him with a perpetual eight cards in hand, and I am able to suspend two Arc Blades, which slowly chip away at his life total. He starts building up lands again, and I play Gaea's Blessing twice, putting Boom // Bust back into my library and drawing a copy again. After a long, twenty-six-turn game, I kill him with seven Arc Blades, an Incinerate, and a Beacon of Destruction.

Record: 2-0

Game 3: mykbuckley (White-Green Aggro)

Mykbuckley leads with Safehold Elite, and then Llanowar Elves and Wilt-Leaf Liege. I kill the Liege with Chandra (which, in turn, is killed by Safehold Elite), and then blow up his world with Pyroclasm. He gets Medicine Runner to put his Safehold Elite back to full strength, and then puts Gaddock Teeg down. I kill Teeg with Incinerate and then drop another Chandra, taking down the Medeicine Runner. He plays Spectral Procession, and I play Gaea's Blessing, putting Pyroclasm, my first Chandra, and Incinerate back, drawing another Clasm to blow up the board. He drops Old Ghastbark, and I put Icy Manipulator down, and finally finish off his Elite. Chandra dies keeping various smaller Elves out of play, and I drop a third Chandra, and then play Mind Stone and Boom // Bust to lock down the board with a fully charged Chandra. He concedes.

Record: 3-0

At this point, I've drawn Seismic Assault in two games, and it's been pretty bad in both of them. That's because this deck wants to hold (and/or play) every land it gets, either to ramp up to Boom // Bust or to have mana available after Boom // Bust. Either way, Seismic Assault needed to go.

I also took a lot of early damage from the aggressive decks, and I don't want cards in the deck that will hurt me further while sweeping the board. I take out a pair of Sulfurous Blasts for the much more life-friendly Pyroclasm. If I were playing with Shadowmoor, I would find a way to include four copies of Firespout, as it is very suited for this deck.

Out: Seismic Assault, 2 Sulfurous Blast
In: Arc Blade, 2 Pyroclasm

Look Ma, No Legions! 2

Game 4: MuseOfMors (Mono-Black Fling)

MuseOfMors drops Nantuko Husk, which I kill with Pyroclasm. He then drops double Sootstoke Kindler, which I kill with a second Pyroclasm. His fourth creature of the game (in as many turns) is a Waning Wurm. I have the perfect answer in Icy Manipulator, but even though I tap down his 7/6 Wurm, I eat a 7-point Rite of Consumption during his turn. I then drop a second Icy and a Chandra Nalaar, and start locking down the board. MuseOfMors drops a pair of Whispersilk Cloaks, but I draw and immediately play Boom // Bust, locking down the entire opposing board. I have more lands in hand, and start drawing artifact mana, all the while activating Chandra every turn (including her 10-point special). Eventually, after reaching eight cards in hand, MuseofMors concedes.

Record: 4-0

Game 5: chessmack (Mono-Red Burn)

Chessmack burns me down quickly with Shard Volley, Shock, double Sulfurous Blast, and Keldon Marauders. I get down Chandra to keep his board clear and use an Arc Blade to kill an Emberwilde Augur. I then start chipping away at him little by little with Chandra and Arc Blade, with his own Sulfurous Blasts taking him to 14 to start out. I drop double Incinerate on his head and win the game at 4 life.

Record: 5-0

Game 6: Rhiox (Red-Green Warriors)

Rhiox drops a Bramblewood Paragon, and I kill it with Incinerate. He drops a second, and that one eats a Pyroclasm. He then drops Brighthearth Banneret and Evolution Charm, bringing back one of the Paragons. I make them both eat consecutive Arc Blades, which is a fine meal of red hot magma! I then play Chandra and two Icy Manipulators, tap down both his sources of red mana for several turns, and eventually kill him thanks to double Arc Blade plus Chandra's ultimate ability.

Record: 6-0

Boom/Bust

Game 7: Prana (Stuffy Doll)

Prana opens with Ancestral Visions on the first turn, and I build up a lot of artifact mana. Prana plays Stuffy Doll and then plays Cryptic Command to counter an Arc Blade. He drops Phyrexian Ironfoot, and I kill it with Chandra. He then drops another Ironfoot, and I kill it with Creeping Mold. He then plays triple Skred on his Stuffy Doll, killing me.

Record: 6-1

I really want to draw Boom // Bust in every game, and the math behind adding a fourth copy to my deck is strong; the need to draw at least one Boom // Bust outweighs the possibility of drawing two over the course of one game. And to be honest, there have been games where I want to play Boom // Bust twice! I add in Boom // Bust in favor of Blaze and bring in a second Creeping Mold (which has been decent for killing artifact mana or spot-removing lands) in favor of the fourth Arc Blade I had brought in previously.

Out: 1 Arc Blade, 1 Blaze
In: 1 Boom // Bust, 1 Creeping Mold

Look Ma, No Legions! 3


Game 8: IAMQBA (B/R -1/-1 Counters)

IAMQBA gets a couple of Swamps and a Mountain, and I Creeping Mold the Mountain and then drop Chandra. He gets Midnight Banshee, and I drop Icy and keep the 5/5 under control. Kulrath Knight joins the fray, just in time for Chandra to blow up the world. I throw an Incinerate at IMQBA's head, add a Beacon of Destruction, and that's all she wrote (three Chandra activations, Chandra's ultimate, and 8 points of burn).

Record: 7-1

Game 9: vicious beastie (Red-green Burn)

I start the game with a double-mulligan, and vicious beastie starts with Mogg Fanatic, follows it with Keldon Marauders, and finishes off the trio with Tattermunge Duo. I hit the Duo with an Incinerate, and she follows it with Boggart Ram-Gang (which I take to the face). She then drops Boartusk Liege, drawing a second Incinerate from my hand (in response) to kill the Ram-Gang. Vicious beastie misclicks and kills her own Mogg Fanatic by accident, and I play Chandra to take out the 3/4 pumper. Vicious beastie plays consecutive Giantbaitings, one of which I take out with Beacon of Destruction. With Chandra at seven counters, vicious beastie finally draws two burns spells and finishes me off.

Record: 7-2

Game 10: Barnaby_Jones (Black-Red)

Barnaby_Jones gets Door of Destinies naming Elementals and drops Ashenmoor Cohort. I Creeping Mold his Door, and kill the Cohort with Chandra. He kills Chandra with Murderous Redcap, and I kill the Redcap plus a 4/3 with Pyroclasm and Arc Blade, taking down the Redcap on the return of the Blade. He plays Kulrath Knight and another 4/3, and I kill the 4/3 with the Blade, plus a second Blade. He then drops a Blistering Dieflyn, with eight lands in play. I can draw any burn spell, Boom // Bust, or Chandra to stabilize, but I draw two consecutive lands, and die to a 3/3 flyer and an 8/1 flyer.

Record: 7-3

So far, none of the games I've played have come ANYWHERE close to going to a decking! This makes the existence of Gaea's Blessing in the deck pretty moot. I'm not so hard up for recursion that I need to have them, and they are best in a long game. I also think that I have not wanted to play the last Sulfurous Blast in this deck every time I've drawn it, so out it goes as well. Instead, I bring in the fourth Chandra Nalaar (which has just been absolutely fantastic so far), and a Lash Out. 3 is the magic toughness (no pun intended) for most creature-based decks I've faced, and so Lash Out best approximates Incinerate out of the remaining cards in Standard. Consider it the fifth Incinerate in this deck.

Out: 2 Gaea's Blessing, 1 Sulfurous Blast
In: 1 Chandra Nalaar, 1 Lash Out

Look Ma, No Legions! 4

Main Deck

60 cards

10  Forest
10  Mountain
Vivid Crag
Vivid Grove

23 lands


0 creatures

Arc Blade
Beacon of Destruction
Boom // Bust
Chandra Nalaar
Creeping Mold
Harmonize
Icy Manipulator
Incinerate
Lash Out
Mind Stone
Prismatic Lens
Pyroclasm

37 other spells


Game 11: inkslinger7 (Black-Red Goblins)

Inkslinger7 plays double Boggart Harbinger, tutoring first for Wort, Boggart Auntie and second for Boggart Shenanigans. I Lash Out the first Harbinger, drop and use Chandra to kill the second one, and then Incinerate Wort. When he plays the Shenanigans, I play Boom // Bust to leave the board at Chandra with six counters, a Prismatic Lens (on my side) and the Shenanigans. Chandra then proceeds to pick away as his life one at a time until her ultimate is online, at which point inkslinger7 conceeds.

Record: 8-3

Game 12: Goatsfoot (Mono-Green Elves)

I start by suspending Arc Blade. Goatsfoot leads with Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, and throws Blanchwood Armor on them, hitting me for seven! I kill the Armor with Creeping Mold, and he responds with Elvish Harbinger, fetching Wren's Run Vanquisher. I drop Chandra and kill Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. He swings with his 1/2, brings Chandra down to one counter, and drops the Vanquisher. I kill Elvish Harbinger with Arc Blade, nail Wren's Run Vanquisher with Incinerate, and start building up Chandra. He gets Elvish Euologist, but I clear it with Chandra (taking Chandra back down to one counter) and drop some artifact mana. When Goatsfoot has no play on the following turn, I play Boom // Bust to leave his board entirely empty, and to leave my board with two artifacts, a Chandra, and a land (that I've just played from my hand).

Over the new few turns, I drop more lands, play triple Harmonize, drop double Icy Manipulator, keep all of his lands tapped down as he plays them, and hit him with another Arc Blade. After eight turns of this, Chandra is back up to eight counters and is active, so I kill Goatsfoot with Chandra's ultimate ability!

Record: 9-3

Overall, a decent record and a fun deck to play. To a degree, land destruction is frowned upon in the casual room, but I think there's a difference between "Turn one Llanowar Elves / turn two Stone Rain / turn three Avalance Riders / turn four Plow Under" and "Play a control deck until it's time to just blow up all the lands at once." The first is just a mana denial strategy. The second encourages people to play better Magic. Too many people get in the habit of just blindly laying down their lands the second they draw those lands, and that's bad for multiple reason: the fewer cards you have in hand, the less chance you have of bluffing your opponent, the more open you are to losing key spells late-game to discard, and (in this case), the less chance you have of recovering if your opponent suddenly decides to blow up the world.

Poll Results

Hey hey, it's a poll about Giants!

Which Giant deck do you want to see evolved in this column?
Big Guys, Big Discounts 1357 25.7%
When Warriors Attack! 1108 21.0%
Control of the Court 1004 19.0%
Stonehewer's Many Arms of Many Arms 975 18.5%
Ajani and his Mighty Troops 832 15.8%
Total 5276 100.0%

They are large, they are in charge, and if you buy one, you don't get one free, cause WHOO MAMA GIANTS ARE EXPENSIVE! But either way, next week I'll be breaking back into your red (and white) zone with guys whose power is likely hitting the double-digits!

Ben

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