Cheap as Chips, Ep. 2: Going Rogue

Last week I discussed the win-win game theory model of budget Magic. This theory posits that you win even if you lose, because moral victories count when your entire deck costs less than your opponents one-drop.

Now let’s look at a deck that manages to roll all of my advice points into one ball of roguishly good fun. (Gameplay videos at the bottom as long as I can figure out how to link them!).

Notorious Rogues

The goal of this deck is to beat your opponent with a fast, unblockable weenie attack that is also (hopefully) forcing specter-style discards. For maximum impact however you need [c]Oona’s Blackguard[/c] on the battlefield and counters on your critters. Really, how often is that gonna happen? Forcing discards is therefore not the primary win condition, because most opponents have enough removal to avoid being spectered to death.

[d title=”Notorious Rogues (Modern)”]


9 Swamp

8 Island

4 Drowned Catacomb

1 Dimir Aqueduct

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Evolving Wilds


3 Earwig Squad

2 Infiltrator Il-Kor

4 Inkfathom Infiltrator

4 Invisible Stalker

4 Oona’s Blackguard

2 Stinkdrinker Bandit


1 Aetherize

2 Dispel

1 Echoing Truth

2 Mana Leak

4 Morsel Theft

3 Notorious Throng

2 Read the Bones

2 Curiosity


2 Aetherize

1 Dispel

1 Echoing Decay

2 Extirpate

2 Geth’s Verdict

2 Murderous Cut

2 Nihil Spellbomb

3 Trickbind


The main battlefield tactic is to swing every turn no matter what your opponent is putting on the board. Don’t stop attacking. Only in later turns should you consider playing a chump blocker to stop an attack or two. Swing even if it looks like death is imminent. If you have [c]Curiosity[/c] down or play [c]Morsel Theft[/c], you may well draw into a win condition. This deck loves come-from-behind victories. Like I said in the intro article, we are not trying to land a Pro tour spot with this deck – we are having fun!

The potential win conditions are [c]Earwig Squad[/c] landing with prowl and removing a key combo piece your opponent needs, or landing [c]Notorious Throng[/c] after a big hit. If you land Notorious Throng for its 6-mana prowl cost, you should win the game. [c]Stinkdrinker Bandit[/c] is another card that can win the game the turn it lands if you already have several hands on deck.

What else? Ah yes, the quicker picker-upper. The ‘defense-wins-games’ win condition is to resolve [c]AEtherize[/c] when your opponent is swinging for their big kill move. It will normally take them two turns to rebuild their army and you win in the meantime. If you don’t think bouncing two 6/7 Goyfs and then killing someone with a couple of 2/1 guys is your idea of fun – well … you and I aren’t gonna be friends.

Some combination of Stinkdrinker Bandit, Earwig Squad, Notorious Throng, and AEtherize is enough to win a surprising number of games with this very fun to play and very cheap to build deck (under four tickets!).

Ideal gameflow

T1 – Play a basic land. Watch your opponent play an expensive fetch land. Be a bit jealous but smile knowingly because you are going to win with a cheap-as-chips deck whereas they are eating tuna out of a can because their deck cost them a month’s rent.

T2 – Play an Infiltrator or Oona’s Blackguard and hope it’s not removed. Hah! Don’t count on it. A safer move is play [c]Invisible Stalker[/c] but that only turns out well if you are holding an Earwig Squad, a Morsel Theft to sneak in more damage, or Curiosity to draw cards with.

T3 – Play Blackguard or Earwig Squad. Your opponent may have an army breathing down your neck already. Don’t panic. If you played a critter on turn two and swing with it this turn, then your ideal play here is Earwig Squad. Resolve it, go get a cup of coffee and take an obnoxiously long time to study your opponent’s entire deck list. Gaze longingly at all the amazing land cards they have. Remove the three most expensive cards in the deck, the ones they are eating tuna because of. Exile them. Make a faux-polite comment like ‘oh i got lucky’ when in fact you want to say ‘ha! eat it sucker!’ (Actual advice: take a key combo piece or their best removal cards, I’m lookin’ at you Abrupt Decay).

T4 – Resolve an Infiltrator. If Blackguard is still there then you swing for 5-ish damage and force one discard. Then play another critter plus Morsel Theft. But you can also play Notorious Throng or leave the mana open for an AEtherize.

T5 – If all the above happened, you are set for the win by turn T6 or 7 latest. The cheap casting cost of your critters means it is possible to lose them all to a sweeper but rebuild and still win. Please play Earwig Squad here if you haven’t already. That should be obvious – never save the big guy for later, always resolve it for prowl cost on T3 or ASAP to remove a combo piece (and also consider what’s not visible in your opponent’s library, because if you only see three Path to Exile, they are likely holding the fourth).

Card analysis

The unblockable guys: [c]Invisible Stalker[/c] is great and there are a few ways to grow him in this deck. Even at 1-power the prowl cost comes online often enough to make him a worthwhile addition. [c]Inkfathom Infiltrator[/c] and [c]Infiltrator il-Kor[/c] are responsible for maybe 70% of the damage inflicted to opponents. They are your bread-and-butter guys. Love and respect them.

[c]Oona’s Blackguard[/c]: A mixed blessing. Weak overall as far as lords go. Potentially awesome when you get some build-your-own specters going. But normally this guy just soaks up removal. Because of that, don’t think of it as your win condition. More likely it’s the card you play to distract your opponent while you are working on your other win conditions. Having said that, if your opponent can’t get rid of this guy after a few turns, you normally win the game.

[c]Earwig Squad[/c]: This guy is a house. Tears up combo decks. I find that the effect is worth the 3-mana prowl cost. Even if you never swing or only chump block once, doesn’t matter. Still worth it.

[c]Stinkdrinker Bandit[/c]: This a new addition to the deck as I played Cloak and Dagger for a while. Bandit is an obvious keeper and combined with the unblockable critters he helps make up for Blackguard being a weak lord. This card makes Invisible Stalker way more playable.

[c]Notorious Throng[/c]: All kinds of awesome. Play this with Blackguard down and you normally win. Play this for its 6-mana prowl cost and you should always win. An extra turn? How do you not win when you have an extra turn? Of course, hard to do in practice which is why I only run 2-3 of them, not a full set.

[c]Morsel Theft[/c]: This card does a ton of work in this deck. I smile every time I draw it. Keeps me in a lot of games I might lose otherwise.

[c]Mana Leak[/c], [c]Dispel[/c]: Utility cards to protect your Blackguard and other critters. I would love to run more counterspells in this deck but I can’t find the space.

[c]Curiosity[/c]: This works fairly well. Best played on Invisible Stalker but I’ll throw it on anything if I can safely draw one card with it and then hope for more. Results in wins if you play it on Invisible Stalker early and they don’t have a sweeper.

[c]Read the Bones[/c]: After experimenting with [c]Dream Salvage[/c] and [c]Distant Melody[/c], I went back to this industry-standard, ISO-20,000 classic. I like Read the Bones better than [c]Foresee[/c] because the name is awesome to say, and that double-eyeball lady on Foresee freaks me out. If you look at the Foresee lady for more than two seconds you’re eyes hurt.


[c]AEtherize[/c]: Ssssh! Don’t tell anyone but I side this in almost every game. It’s a bit slow but believe me it works. I have won many games because of this card. It is so good I almost didn’t want to mention it in this write-up. It’s My Precious and I want to keep it secret. I can hear you saying, ‘yeah but there are lots of sweepers in Modern that destroy everything and they can’t be regenerated.’ Ok fine but those cards are not nearly as fun as giving your opponent back a fistful of cards that they can look at helplessly on their screen while you beat them to death the next turn with some 2-power guys.

[c]Echoing Decay[/c], [c]Murderous Cut[/c], [c]Geth’s Verdict[/c]: Removal is always good.

[c]Extirpate[/c]: Another attempt at a combo-buster, but without Duress or Despise to pick out cards, it’s seems too hopeful that what you need to strip will end up in the graveyard. I may pull this out for one of the alternate cards listed below.

[c]Nihil Spellbomb[/c]: Because emptying your opponent’s graveyard when they need it is almost as much fun as Aetherizing their attack.

Cards to think about: [c]Triton Shorestalker[/c], [c]Frogtosser Banneret[/c], [c]Cloak and Dagger[/c], [c]Specter’s Shroud[/c], [c]Raven’s Crime[/c].

Gameplay Videos


Paupers and Kings, Ep. 4: Blue Tron

platinum angel In its heart lies the secret of immortality.

Hi everyone, and welcome to the fourth episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget.

Part of the idea behind this series is that if you find a list you like to play in one format, you can take that enjoyment and your skill with that list into another format. Using last week as an example, if you love playing and are good with Living End in Modern, I reasoned that you would also enjoy and be good at playing Damned Rats in Pauper.

For my own part, I’ve found this concept to hold true during my play-testing. I enjoy the lists similarly and skills from one transfer across to the other. This week, though, was a little strange. While the lists this week play similarly, I enjoyed playing one much more than the other. Perhaps it was just my own limited experience, the large number of play mistakes I made, and the weird, grindy match-ups I endured, but I had a hard time enjoying Magic playing Rhystic Tron in Pauper. It is slow, finicky, and packs a whopping three win conditions which, hey, better hit or you’re looking at beating your opponent only through sheer force of will and superior patience.

I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, though. I started out this week wanting to build Tron in both formats. I could have done RUG Tron in Pauper and RG Tron in Modern, but the latter is prohibitively expensive for this, an article about building on a budget. Rhystic Tron has been the hot new Tron list in Pauper, so I went with Blue Tron in Modern, and couldn’t be happier with how the two relate. In many ways, they are very similar.

Modern does have its own UW Tron which utilizes [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c] and also looks like loads of fun but is, again, significantly more expensive. We’ll look at variants in each format as we go.

Let’s take a closer look at our Pauper list this week.

UW Tron in Pauper

Most of the conversation I’ve seen about this list has been over on Reddit. MTGO user d1n0sauR claims credit for the original idea, but Saibod / obZen has seen the most success with it in PCT and Daily play. I chose to use one of Saibod’s lists since I am familiar with his abilities as a brewer and tinkerer and his successes with the list are a good marker of its power.

Rhystic Tron seeks to get Tron online, stay alive with Rhystic Circle, and, eventually, win. Somehow.

It is fairly good at accomplishing the first two goals. RUG Tron is better at getting Tron online (as is RG Tron in Modern), which is part of the reason UW Tron packs Signets in Pauper (and Talismans in Modern). These allow you to ramp up faster than your opponent, regardless of whether or not you get your Tron online.

[d title=”UW Rhystic Tron by Saibod (Pauper)”]
1 Remote Isle
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Haunted Fengraf
1 Quicksand
4 Tranquil Cove
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

4 Expedition Map
4 Azorius Signet
2 Izzet Signet
1 Relic of Progenitus

Win Conditions
2 Ulamog’s Crusher
1 Kaervek’s Torch

Card Draw
4 Compulsive Research
2 Impulse
2 Deep Analysis

2 Fade Away
4 Condescend
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Rhystic Circle

2 Fade Away
4 Earth Rift
2 Gorilla Shaman
2 Hydroblast
1 Capsize
3 Pyroblast
1 Orim’s Thunder [/d]

The win conditions themselves are fine, except for when they’re not. Crusher doesn’t do anything when it hits the board and, as the saying goes, it dies to removal. MBC will never, ever let it live. In fact, they’ll be so happy they get to blow up a creature with all the removal they’ve been sitting on.

Decks with red removal will have a harder time dealing with the 8/8, but those decks are mostly running blue now as well and likely have more counterspells than we do. White lists usually have [c]Journey to Nowhere[/c] and even Affinity can throw down a [c]Doom Blade[/c] or two [c]Galvanic Blast[/c]s. We do have [c]Condescend[/c]s to keep the crushers alive, but they still feel pretty fragile.

Kaervek’s Torch is harder to disrupt, but it can be hard to get around decks with multiple counterspells or too much life gain. As a 1-of, you also run the risk of finding it at the very bottom of your deck, even with all your card draw.

One synergy I really enjoy is [c]Rhystic Circle[/c] and [c]Fade Away[/c]. Since your opponent will likely be tapping a lot of mana to get some damage through on their turn, Fade Away can do some serious work when you cast it on your turn, disrupting their mana and destroying their permanents like nobody’s business. This works best against aggressive creatures strategies, though, which are not at their most popular in Pauper right now.

Ultimately, I feel like Rhystic Tron is focused too much on reacting to what your opponent is doing and not enough on “being the problem.”

RUG Tron is ultimately the stronger deck in Pauper and is much better at being the problem. It’s also about half the cost, since we can cut [c]Hydroblast[/c] and [c]Gorilla Shaman[/c] from the sideboard, as [c]Fangren Marauder[/c] nulls the need for that particular SB tech.

Now let’s take a look at Modern.

Blue Tron in Modern

If you are interested in seeing how successful Mono Blue Tron can be in Modern, you need look no further than Shoktroopa’s daily results. Premier results, too. That’s a whole lot of wins and quite a few are undefeated.

The list I chose to run is inspired by Shoktroopa’s successes and explained in good detail in Jacob Van Lunen’s article on ChannelFireball. The plan here hinges more around: get [c]Platinum Angel[/c] into play, protect [c]Platinum Angel[/c], profit. It’s a classic three-step plan to fame and riches. Here’s the list.

[d title=”Mono Blue Tron – Van Lunen (Modern)”]
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Tolaria West
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Academy Ruins
7 Island
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

3 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Treasure Mage
3 Platinum Angel
1 Wurmcoil Engine

4 Talisman of Dominance
4 Expedition Map
1 Mindslaver

Draw and Control
4 Remand
4 Condescend
3 Repeal
1 Spell Burst
3 Pact of Negation
4 Thirst for Knowledge

1 Tectonic Edge
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Negate
1 Oblivion Stone
2 Dismember
2 Squelch
1 Sundering Titan
1 Aetherize
1 Island
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Bottle Gnomes [/d]

The amount of card draw and scrying in the list help make it very consistent and unlike RG Tron, it’s very resilient against having its Tron pieces removed. Being just one color, mana constraints are easy to get around, and the base itself is very simple. Angel wins against most strategies, especially with ample counter protection. Wurmcoil beats the rest, including Jund, especially with [c]Academy Ruins[/c] in play.

[c]Mindslaver[/c] lock is also a very real win condition but, as Dan reminded me, you need something else in play to actually win with it. Some creature, some card draw, some something. You’re using your draw every turn to get the Mindslaver back, so you don’t get any new cards to work with. You can hope your opponent draws into something interesting that you can use against him, but even then, without some way to do damage, all you can do is stall the game forever. (Edit: poopgobbler69 illuminated me in the comments that since you’re not drawing from your deck anymore – you just keep drawing Mindslaver – you will eventually Mill your opponent out. So the lock is a win-con all on its own!)

I had a blast playing with this list and it felt really powerful. Even though it was mentioned in Van Lunen’s article, I didn’t catch on how good [c]Pact of Negation[/c] is with Platinum Angel in play. It makes [c]Force of Will[/c] look like a bad card. [c]Tolaria West[/c] can transmute for a Pact in a pinch, and you can grab it with a Map, making it pretty easy to secure more counterspell backup in a pinch.

We’re looking at Modern, so let’s talk cost.

The list is already cheap out of the box. Shoktroopa’s list runs just $108 online and proves it is worth every penny. We can cut some costs without sacrificing too much, but some key money cards have to stick around.

One [c]Oblivion Stone[/c] should stay in the 75, as should two [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]s. We can drop Oboro for an island in a pinch, and switch out the [c]Remand[/c]s for [c]Mana Leak[/c]s or possibly [c]Spell Snare[/c]s. Most of the other cards aren’t too spendy, though when you’re adding $1 here and $2 there, it can add up, especially if you’re used to Pauper prices. Still, if the deck appeals to you and you want to break into Modern, you would be hard-pressed to find a deck that packs as much punch for the dollar. And hey, if you can think of one, tell me about it!

On the Play

How did these lists fare in practice? Let’s take a look!


I mixed them up to switch off between Modern and Pauper lists, so you can get a better idea of how each plays. Skip around as you see fit. As I alluded to previously, I had much more fun playing the Modern list than the Pauper list. I did have some weird Pauper match-ups (and difficult ones for this list), so that could have something to do with it. If you have experience with either list and can weigh in on play mistakes or your own experiences, please do share!

Next week on Paupers and Kings

I’ve got some fun Soul Sisters lists lined up for next week’s article. As always, if you have ideas for Pauper / Modern crossovers or favorite lists to share, please do.

Until next week, may your angels always be platinum.


Commander Corner: Volrath the Fallen

Welcome back,

[c]Volrath[/c] was born with the name Vuel on the plane of Dominaria as part of the Jamuraan war clan. During his youth, he was introduced to [c]Gerrard Capashen[/c]. Gerrard eventually joined Vuel’s family, much to Vuel’s contempt. Eventually, though, he got over it and they became the best of friends.

A few years passed since then, and it was time for them to face the rite of passage. This rite of passage was meant to test them, and if they complete this challenge, they will become a full fledged member of the clan. Before they would attempt the rite, they had to get their bodies painted in the traditional war paint. This would be not a problem for Gerrard, but for Vuel, it was a different story. One of the clan members, Starke il-Vec, poisoned his warpaint and caused Vuel to fail the trial. 

Gerrard managed to save him from certain death, but Vuel resented him for it, as he was cast out from the clan for failing the rite of passage. Starke managed to comfort him and take him under his wing. He fueled his ego and lust for revenge, turning him against Gerrard and his former clan. Vuel rallied up the neighboring clans to attack his former clan, slaughtering everybody in their path. Gerrard managed to escape, but Vuel swore his revenge against him.

Vuels ego and lust for power grew with each passing day. He eventually used Starke’s portal and went to Rath, joining the Phyrexians. He was given the name Volrath and the position of evincar. He also became a shapeshifter and the master of flowstone.

After this he started to enact his revenge on Gerrard. He plotted and executed the kidnapping of [c]Captain Sisay[/c] and lured the Weatherlight over to the plane of Rath, where his own ship, the Predator, would ambush them. This plan ended up failing, even though Volrath managed to obtain Karn and the Legacy artifacts.

Gerrard managed to survive a fall down to the Skyshroud Forest. Volrath knew this, and kept his eye on him, watching and waiting for him to come rescue Karn.

Volrath watched over Gerrard as he attacked the Stronghold. He managed to wound Gerrard’s crew-mates until only Starke and Gerrard were left. Volrath then confronted him, having Sisay and Takara under his control. Gerrard managed to kill who he thought was Volrath at the time. Volrath took the form of Takara before he went to confront him and had another shapeshifter take his form in order to trick Gerrard into thinking that he had been slain. Volrath stowed away on the Weatherlight before it left his Stronghold.

After they arrived in Mercadia, Volrath pitted each crew member against one another. Eventually, he took revenge on Starke and killed him. He was then attacked by Gerrard and was bested in combat. Gerrard then left his lifeless body to rot on the plane. Volrath was not dead, and went after the Weatherlight once more. He failed though, and he then retreated back to Rath, avoiding certain death.

When he went back to Rath, Volrath found that his throne as the evincar was being contested by Greven, Ertai, and Crovax. With the aid of Ertai, Crovax ended up beating Volrath in combat and took his place as evincar. During Corvax’s ceremony, he was given the honor to kill Volrath, who was now stripped of his Phyrexian name and augments. Crovax injected him with a vial of flowstone, which destroyed him from the inside out. The last thing he saw was the sky of his home plane of Dominaria.

Volrath’s card perfectly encapsulates him at his peak of power. His ability to discard a creature to give him +X/+X, where X is the creatures CMC, is really powerful. This allows you to one shot any opponent with “general” damage. He is an extremely powerful general and is a great discard outlet for you to fuel your graveyard with fatties and bring them back with reanimation spells. Let’s take a look at what we can do with this shapeshifting master.


I wonder what his life would have been like if Starke didn’t poison him.

[d title=”Volrath, Master of Death (EDH)”]


1 Volrath the Fallen


1 Cabal Coffers

1 Crypt of Agadeem

1 Everglades

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Lake of the Dead

1 Myriad Landscape

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

28 Snow-Covered Swamp

1 Terramorphic Expanse

1 Volrath’s Stronghold[/d]



1 Avatar of Woe

1 Bloodghast

1 Bloodsoaked Champion

1 Champion of Stray Souls

1 Doomed Necromancer

1 Draco

1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief

1 Duplicant

1 Geth, Lord of the Vault

1 Grave Titan

1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel

1 Hell’s Caretaker

1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

1 It that Betrays

1 Lord of the Void

1 Magus of the Coffers

1 Massacre Wurm

1 Nirkana Revenant

1 Overseer of the Damned

1 Pack Rat

1 Platinum Emperion

1 Rune-Scarred Demon

1 Sepulchral Primordial

1 Sheoldred, Whispering One

1 Solemn Simulacrum[/d]



1 Betrayal of Flesh

1 Doom Blade

1 Entomb

1 Go for the Throat

1 Hero’s Downfall

1 Insidious Dreams

1 Malicious Affliction

1 Murderous Cut

1 Reckless Spite

1 Shallow Grave

1 Slaughter Pact

1 Tendrils of Corruption


1 Buried Alive

1 Chainer’s Edict

1 Damnation

1 Dread Return

1 Exhume

1 Living Death

1 Night’s Whisper

1 Reanimate

1 Sign in Blood

1 Zombify[/d]



1 Animate Dead

1 Dance of the Dead

1 Necromancy

1 Oversold Cemetery

1 Phyrexian Reclamation


1 Caged Sun

1 Extraplanar Lens

1 Gauntlet of Power

1 Gilded Lotus

1 Grimoire of the Dead

1 Lightning Greaves

1 Sol Ring

1 Thran Dynamo

1 Whip of Erebos


1 Liliana Vess


This deck is here to play with the grave. It can power out an [c]It that Betrays[/c] as soon as turn two, and can start hard casting these large monsters later in the game with the myriad of ways to double our mana generation. It pulls no punches and will shut any player down immediately if need be. This deck is all about raw power and doesn’t care for much else. Your opponent is going to die whether they like it or not.

The main win condition for this deck of course is Volrath. With a hand full of large creatures, Volrath turns into a must-answer threat. Your opponent will be met with a swift demise if he goes unchecked. Being able to discard a [c]Draco[/c] to kill an opponent on the spot with general damage is great. You can also get your creatures back if you decide to go all in with Volrath with [c]Phyrexian Reclamation[/c]. This card pairs so well with him since you’re able to reload your hand with fatties to go after the next player. If any player gets out of hand at the table, you can shut them up right then and there with a one hit KO.

Outside of winning via general damage, we have what you would expect out of a reanimator deck. We have our ways to get our fatties into the grave such as [c]Pack Rat[/c], [c]Insidious Dreams[/c], [c]Entomb[/c], and [c]Buried Alive[/c]. [c]Pack Rat[/c] is especially effective. If somebody decides to nuke our grave with a [c]Rest in Peace[/c], we can just go on with the [c]Pack Rat[/c] plan. We can bring back our monsters via [c]Reanimate[/c], [c] Animate Dead[/c], [c]Dance of the Dead[/c], and a few others. These will allow us to threaten our opponent with a titan out of nowhere and immediately change the board state in our favor.

The biggest issue with this deck is the same with any graveyard-based deck. If somebody decides to deal with the grave with [c]Rest in Peace[/c] or [c]Grafdigger’s Cage[/c], its going to be a lot harder for us to win. We will either have to lean a lot more on Volrath getting there, or just start hard casting these titans. Its a good thing that we have many ways to accelerate our mana with [c]Cabal Coffers[/c], [c]Extraplanar Lens[/c], [c]Gauntlet of Power[/c], and a few others.

This deck has been a powerhouse in testing. I honestly don’t think I dropped a single game while working on it. It’s ridiculously powerful and really fun to play if you like utilizing your graveyard. For any player looking to play with the grave or just kill people in one fell swoop, this is the deck for you.

Thank you for checking out this weeks Commander Corner. If you have any suggestions, like always, please let me know in the comments below.

Next week, we slay the world. See you soon my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

Technical Play: Analysis of a Turn

While Standard and Modern are taking shape with the recent bans and the addition of Fate Reforged, I decided to write an article about technical plays and how you should walk through a turn with multiple choices. I will use as an example a turn that I believe is challenging in terms of decisions but also really easy to analyze, and I will show you the pact that I (should) use during a game of magic.

The situation is taken from my last daily recorded for this website. Check out the video below.


Around the 19-minute mark this is how things are going.

In the previous turn I got my courser threatened by [c]Act of Treason[/c], he saw a land, played it off the top, and there’s another land on top of the deck so we know at least that he will draw a blank next turn. So how should we play? To answer this question we need to proceed in 4 steps.


Step 1: What do we want to do?

This is the base, the beginning of our thought process. Understanding our role in a matchup or a given situation is really important, it sets how we evaluate our priorities and motivates our plays. It’s probably the least mechanical of all the steps and comes down on a experience / intuition level. The more you are accurate in this phase the easier it will be make a decision in the end. If you want to go deep on this path I suggest you read one of the most important article in magic theory ever written, Who’s the Beatdown.

In this case, though, what we are trying to accomplish is simple as a concept: staying alive in the best shape possible at the end of his turn.

Step 2: Considering all you options

Caught in the moment I have to admit that I’m usually a very hasty player, I base my plays on intuition and this is mostly bad. There are great players in the game that use intuition as a driving force for their tournaments (for that I know LSV is one of those) but I still think that a slowly analytic approach is far better if you are not a mastermind of this game.

This step is, for the most part, easy. We have to consider every line of play that we can make.

Here we have substantially four possibilities since we can’t play more than one spell: whip a courser, whip a satyr, whip an eidolon, play an eidolon. We have also an attack phase in which we must consider if it’s worth attacking with a courser; so we end up with 8 scenarios.

We can swipe away a couple of those, though: whipping a courser is significantly worse than whipping an eidolon since we don’t have any lands to play. This holds true, as well, for playing the one in our hand. We can clearly cut these two options and we are facing now only 4 possibilities.

We should go a little deep though and ask ourselves what are the consequences of whipping one or the other creature: in the deck we have still 4 [c]Jungle Hollow[/c] and 1 [c]Radiant Fountain[/c] so we might consider the possibility of netting more than 1 life with a single land drop.

Here are our life points considering the situation in which we attack or not with courser. This will come in handy when we will need to analyze which play is the best.


Step 3: What our opponent can play

Now we focus on what our opponent might play next turn. First of all we start having in mind a stock list of mono red aggro. The cards that we might face are these:

[c]Stoke the Flames[/c]
[c]Lightning Strike[/c]
[c]Titan’s Strength[/c]
[c]Coordinated Assault[/c]
[c]Act of Treason[/c] (looks like it)
[c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c]
[c]Searing Blood[/c]
[c]Wild Slash[/c]
[c]Mardu Scout[/c]

or a one mana non-haste creature.

Even in this case we can eliminate some options: since he played the land off the top thanks to our courser and passed with one mana up we are pretty sure there’s no CMC1 spell in his hand.

The remaining cards are these:


Substantially [c]Mardu Scout[/c] and [c]Searing Blood[/c] are worse [c]Lightning Strike[/c]s so I won’t consider them.

Step 4: Making a decision

Now that we have analyzed what we can do, what our opponent can do, and in which perspective we should act, it’s time to make a decision. Eidolon or Satyr? Let’s see:

2-4/3-5 life: We are dead to both [c]Act of Treason[/c] and [c]Lightning Strike[/c] (and of course [c]Stoke the Flames[/c]) – this is not the best scenario.

4-6 life: We can stay alive if our opponent is on [c]Lightning Strike[/c] or [c]Act of Treason[/c] but not [c]Stoke the Flames[/c]. The problem is that we also have to chose if we attack with courser or not; attacking will let us survive if he has Act but we’ll be dead if he has Strike (and vice versa if we don’t attack). I will put more on my opponent having Strike (that is a 4-of) rather than Act so I’m not inclined to attack.

5-7/6-8 life: We are alive no matter what our opponent does.

Basically, now we want to go for the play that gives us the best odds of reaching 4-6 life for further scenarios. Unfortunately, we are not machines. It’s pretty hard for me to make this calculation now, writing this article and with all the time in the world. Much harder when we are mid-game, so I won’t present my results.

What is important is the method used to reach what we assume is the right play. Just for reference I went for Eidolon because I thought it might gave the best odds of reaching a higher life total. My opponent scooped. To be honest, Satyr might be a correct play also because we are around 90% chance to hit a land and play Hornet queen the turn after.

Wrap Up

This is how, in my opinion, we should elaborate and process information during every turn of a game. Of course sometimes we do that without being conscious of the fact, but learning how to proceed faster during these four steps will definitely improve your game. I would love to say that I’m doing this myself, every time, but sadly I haven’t quite reachd that level yet.

Hope you enjoyed the article and found it useful!

Until next time,


The Standard Pauper Show, Issue 32

Section 1: This week in Standard Pauper

Section 2: Player run events

This is an off week so no PDCMagic this week!

This week I will be discussing other budget magic.

We will be returning to our regularly scheduled programming next week!

Section 3: Can Tiny Leaders have a tiny budget?

In the show you saw this crazy expensive list:

[d title=”$410 Hanna Pillow Fort (Tiny Leaders)”]
Tiny Leader
1 Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
1 Drift of Phantasms
1 Trinket Mage

1 Jace Beleren

1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Forbid
1 Muddle the Mixture
1 Mystical Tutor

1 Fabricate
1 Idyllic Tutor
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Prosperity
1 Anvil of Bogardan
1 Azorius Signet
1 Claws of Gix
1 Expedition Map
1 Howling Mine
1 Iron Maiden
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Static Orb
1 Winter Orb

1 Arcane Laboratory
1 Luminarch Ascension
1 Overburden
1 Propaganda
1 Rhystic Study
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Solitary Confinement
1 Standstill
1 Academy Ruins
1 Buried Ruin
1 Celestial Colonnade
1 Command Tower
1 Flooded Strand
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
1 Kor Haven
1 Mystic Gate
1 Phyrexia’s Core
3 Plains
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Seachrome Coast
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Tolaria West
1 Tundra
1 Aura of Silence
1 Cleansing Meditation
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Minds Aglow
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Web of Inertia
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Valorous Stance
1 Celestial Flare

By making some sacrifices, we got it down to the manageable size of $89

[d title=”Hanna on a Budget (Tiny Leaders)”]
Tiny Leader
1 Hanna, Ship’s Navigator

1 Drift of Phantasms
1 Trinket Mage

1 Jace Beleren

1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Forbid
1 Impulse
1 Long-Term Plans
1 Muddle the Mixture
1 Mystical Tutor

1 Fabricate
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Prosperity
1 Anvil of Bogardan
1 Azorius Signet
1 Claws of Gix
1 Expedition Map
1 Howling Mine
1 Iron Maiden
1 Crystal ball
1 Static Orb
1 Winter Orb

1 Arcane Laboratory
1 Luminarch Ascension
1 Overburden
1 Propaganda
1 Rhystic Study
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Personal Sanctuary
1 Standstill
1 Adarkar Wastes
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Buried Ruin
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forbidding Watchtower
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Halimar Depths
2 Island
1 Mystifying Maze
1 Phyrexia’s Core
3 Plains
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Seachrome Coast
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Tolaria West
1 Tranquil Cove
1 Aura of Silence
1 Celestial Flare
1 Cleansing Meditation
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
1 Minds Aglow
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Valorous Stance
1 Web of Inertia

I am afraid that what Tiny Leaders has done is take all the most expensive cards in Magic and made a format for them.

Now, for even more budget friendliness you can look at my Lin Sivvi deck:

[d title=”Lin Sivvi and her Budget Rebels $70 (Tiny Leaders)”]
Tiny Leader
1 Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero

1 Amrou Scout
1 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Children of Korlis
1 Defiant Falcon
1 Defiant Vanguard
1 Lawbringer
1 Lightbringer
1 Mirror Entity
1 Ramosian Captain
1 Ramosian Lieutenant
1 Ramosian Sergeant
1 Shield Dancer
1 Steadfast Guard
1 Thermal Glider
1 Condemn
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Martial Coup
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Hall of Triumph
1 Hero’s Blade
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Worn Powerstone

1 Bound in Silence
1 Glorious Anthem
1 Honor of the Pure
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Shared Triumph

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
17 Plains
1 Champion’s Helm
1 Dawn Charm
1 Extraplanar Lens
1 Oblation
1 Rule of Law
1 Stonecloaker
1 Unexpectedly Absent
1 Whipcorder
1 Expedition Map
1 Sword of Vengeance

If you replace [c]Enlightened Tutor[/c] with [c]Quest for the Holy Relic[/c] and [c]Lightning Greaves[/c] with [c]Whispersilk Cloak[/c], you shave another $20 off the list!

But does that make this a budget-friendly format? I think you would have to consider what playing this format means to you. Are you just trying to jam as many quick games as you can? Maybe this works. Are you trying to have a full evening of competition with your friends? Maybe this works. If you all want to sit around the same table and BS while playing, stick with Commander. If you want to run a mini-tournament in your house for some “prize”, this may work out pretty well.

Do you have any budget friendly non competition legal decks? Lets hear about it!

[twitter name=”@cyruleansayshi”]

The Standard Pauper Show, Ep 35

It’s a down week on the show as Standard Pauper is reloading for the new season. The guys take this chance to get caught up, and to talk about fun budget variants they enjoy. Plus Brennon breaks down a not budget Tiny Leaders build, and Dan makes an announcement! Its the Standard Pauper show, thanks for listening.

google +:

An open letter: The failings of MTGO’s trading system, and how to fix them.

Note: This article is courtesy of SirGog and is duplicated from his post on the official MTGO forums with his permission. Since it is an excellent post and really an issue that deserves more attention, I wanted to do my part to help get more eyes on it. I’ve done some format editing to improve readability, but the content remains untouched. -The Editor

Disclaimer: This thread was posted in late September 2014. It references some card values that may no longer be even close to accurate if you are reading this at a later date. Such is the nature of #MTGOFinance.

An open letter: The failings of MTGO’s trading system, and how to fix them.

Rather than explaining why I think the trading system in MTGO is the most serious ‘big problem’ with the client right now, I want to open by encouraging MTGO players to carry out a small experiment.

Over the next week, play as you normally would, and record how long you spend logged into the MTGO client. Don’t count extended AFK time, just the time you are mostly paying attention to the client.

Record how long you spend actually playing games of Magic or other related activities like building draft decks, and how much total downtime you have (time between tournament rounds, or time spent acquiring the [c]Mox Emerald[/c] your Vintage deck needs, or the time spent trying to sell the [c]Garruk, Apex Predator[/c] and the foil [c]Stoke the Flames[/c] you just drafted).

I believe that if you play either Limited or competitive Constructed much at all, you will find that collection management related downtime – selling unwanted cards, and seeking out desired ones – dramatically cuts into your Magic playing time.

Collection management is a big part of paper MTG, but like cards becoming accidentally damaged, or incorrect judge calls, it is something that the digital version of the game can do differently and can do better than paper.

This letter is about my proposals to decrease the time wasted on collection management by players, so that we can spend more time on the parts of MTGO that we actually enjoy – competitive-minded decision making in a world of incomplete information and nearly unlimited possibilities.

A bit on trade history:

This is background info and can be skipped, but may interest some.

MTGO player-to-player trading was originally designed, like many other parts of the game, to mirror paper trading fairly closely. Players can either stick their currently unneeded cards into trade binders (making them visible to prospective trade partners) or they can keep certain cards in reserve. (For example, I might own four [c]City of Traitors[/c] that I don’t put in my trade binder, but if you have a [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] I want I might be willing to make them visible then). All transactions are direct player-to-player trades.

Early on, before I started playing on MTGO, the Event Ticket became THE established currency of trading. It could have been packs instead, but for various reasons related to prize support, liquidity of certain boosters, and tickets being a cheaper object than packs, tickets made more sense as a currency. Tix being a trade currency has been given ‘official’ approval by WotC in many an article since then, for example in articles that focus on budget decks.

Early in MTGO, card liquidity* was low, until around the era of Betrayers of Kamigawa, when human dealers were phased out in favor of bots. Early bots didn’t handle the whole trade, they just spammed a trade message in various channels over and over alerting you to the offers the human behind the bot was offering, but soon the fully automated bots appeared and then became common.
Owning a trade bot was initially extremely lucrative and their coding was a guarded secret, but in time they became widespread and margins became lower. Now, it is effectively impossible to be a dealer on MTGO without running multiple bots 24/7, the human element of trading from MTGO’s early days is completely gone, and there is third party bot software available to ‘buy’ a license for in exchange for a fee.

This isn’t an attempt at nostalgia for the old days. I think the automation of trading has been a good thing in general – drafters can offload undesired cards with less effort than before, Constructed players (competitive or casual) can assemble decks more easily and at a lower price, and price speculators can quickly acquire 200 copies of the card they expect to be the Next Big Thing. In short, liquidity in the market has increased, and this is a good thing.

However, there are problems as it stands.

* – For those without economics knowledge, ‘liquidity’ means how easily something can be traded. Increased liquidity generally reduces the gap between buy and sell prices. You can see this in paper Magic, where many dealers will offer a higher percentage of their sell price for highly-in-demand Standard cards they can move quickly than they offer for hard-to-sell cards like a Japanese foil [c]Goblin Welder[/c] (even though the latter will command a high price if you find the right buyer).

Problems with the current system:

Firstly, event tickets are indivisible, meaning that players cannot trade for low value cards without trusting a bot that has a partial ticket accounting system or finding a mutually acceptable low value trade item. This is not a good system at all as more than 95% of the cards opened in booster packs have a value well south of one ticket.

This rewards unscrupulous bot owners (closing one bot and reopening a new account can result in you stealing up to 99 cents from each of a LARGE number of players, this really adds up). It also has nonmonetary effects – it feels much worse to trade for obscure cards. Consider a card like [c]Clone[/c] – making a trade of one event ticket for four copies of [c]Clone[/c] feels really bad, even when there is the promise of future credit. (At the time of writing, M14 Clone’s price was 0.03 tickets on the first bot I checked).

This negative feeling extends even to people who value their time – I don’t mind spending USD 0.88 for the convenience of quickly finding four copies of a desired card, but I do feel bad about hitting ‘confirm’ on a trade where I’m getting only 12% of the value of what I am trading away.

Secondly, if you want a card, there is no easy way to find someone that has the card you want. You can go to the message boards and find someone that claims to have the card you want, but due to the messageboard reflecting only what people claim to have and a limited amount of characters that can be typed into a message, it will not necessarily be accurate.

For example, take two cards at opposite ends of the desirability spectrum, [c]Clone[/c] and [c]Cryptic Command[/c]. (At the time of writing, the first bot I checked is buying a Modern Masters Cryptic Command at 21.01 tickets and selling at 23.49, there may be better deals out there but I will use those prices to make a point).

A search in the client for the text string ‘Cryptic’ will find a selection of bots that claim to have Cryptic Command in stock at a certain price. This can be misleading. Often what they mean is ‘The last time I updated this message I was selling Cryptic Command at 23.49 tickets, but since then I sold my last copy’, or ‘The last time I updated this message I was selling Cryptic Command at 23.49 tickets, but since then I decided to up the price to 24.99 tickets and I hope you don’t notice or don’t mind’. Your search will also find bots that are offering to buy Cryptic Command at various prices, as well as people that are trading Cryptic Commands but will not disclose their prices.

A search for ‘Command’ or ‘Cryptic Command’ will work but will show less results, as people familiar with Magic lingo often abbreviate this card as just ‘Cryptic’ and those search terms will not connect with this abbreviation. A player unfamiliar with the nuances of MTGO trading and card nicknames may be disheartened to see only a small number of people claiming to deal with this card.

It’s worse again if you want a specific edition of the card. Try to find someone – anyone – that will sell you the fourth foil Alara Reborn [c]Maelstrom Pulse[/c] you want in order to complete a playset where every card is identical, or an ME4 [c]Tundra[/c].

A search for ‘Clone’ on the other hand will show very few results, as while a large number of players have the card and are happy to trade it, they do not consider this fact worth advertising.
Thirdly (and this has already been shown above), there is no requirement that players honour their publicly advertised prices. This is a major timewaster for people that are trying to source a card. Many of the larger bot chains have algorithms written into them that actually dynamically increase card prices as you try to buy more copies of it. So buying one [c]Cryptic Command[/c] might cost you 23.49 tickets, but buying two might cost you 23.79 tickets each, and four might cost 24.49 each.

Fourth, the trade system generally requires people using it to have at least a basic grasp of English (or more specifically, for two trade partners to share a language, but in practice that means English as all bots I’ve ever seen are in English). My suggestions would overcome that barrier, allowing me (a person who speaks only English) to trade to a player that speaks only Japanese. It would also improve the experience of trading with a person who speaks French as a first language alongside just a few words of English.

Fifth, and most importantly, trades require both partners to be online. This dramatically favours bots over human dealers, to the point that human dealers basically no longer exist, and many dealers that sell items bots do not handle well (such as complete sets) often post a classified ad and have a bot auto-reply saying “Hey, thanks for the interest, I’m AFK, try again at 6.30pm Pacific Standard Time”.

Finally, the trade system as it stands does not support large trades. About a year ago, I traded a very large number of tickets (500 at the time, that was a fair price then although it would not be now) for four sets of Return to Ravnica, and had to talk the set seller through a way to do the trade that didn’t expose either of us to potential fraud. Otherwise, I could have let them take 400 tickets in one trade and taken all the mythics and rares, and then blocked them, effectively stealing nearly 100 tickets. This could be much worse with 4x foil sets or other huge transactions, such as trades for a foil [c]Black Lotus[/c]. Whilst I believe WotC would take a hard line against using deception in trades, it would be better if the system simply did not allow it.

My suggestions:

Firstly, eliminate event tickets and replace them with an account balance that is used to enter tournaments, purchase digital MTGO products from the store and can be used as a currency to conduct trades (but never withdrawn for cash).

If there are legal reasons (gambling laws) and/or credit card fraud reasons that prevent this being done, instead introduce a new digital object, the ‘chip’, which represents one-thousandth of an event ticket. Allow event tickets to be ‘opened’ like boosters (becoming 1000 chips), and phase out Event Tickets, using chips as the new way to pay tournament entry fees. So you could enter a 2 ticket Constructed 1v1 queue by paying 2 Event Tickets, or alternately by paying 2000 chips.

Either of these would solve problem 1 outright. Low value cards would immediately become readily tradeable, as the vast majority of cards still hold a value of at least one-tenth of a cent.
Secondly, keep the person-to-person trading interface that exists now, but create and heavily promote a new trading system that mirrors the broker-based market in the MMO EVE Online (and consider paying CCP, the makers of EVE, to help you implement it into MTGO). Copy that system exactly, except do not include any equivalent of EVE’s Margin Trading (require a 100% escrow under all circumstances) and do not respect distance/location in the way EVE does. Here’s how it would work:

Suggestion #1 – Sell Orders:

This is basically a buyout-only ‘auction house’.

A ‘sell order’ is a pledge to sell a card for a certain price, if a buyer can be found in a given timeframe. The card in question is removed from your collection and placed in escrow for the duration of the sell order. If a buyer is found, the card is delivered from escrow to that buyer immediately, and the tickets/chips/account balance is transferred to the seller. If the sell order does not fill, the card is returned from escrow to the seller at the end of the time period.

I see no reason to augment the sell order option with an ‘auction house’ or ‘best offer’ options when you have…

Suggestion #2 – Buy Orders:

A ‘buy order is the reverse – a pledge to buy a card for a given price, if a seller can be found in the relevant timeframe. The entire price of the cards in question is deducted from your account balance and put in escrow (alternately, tix and chips are put in escrow).

If a seller is found you get the cards and they get the escrow; if no seller is found, you get the currency back when the order expires.

Buy and sell orders can be cancelled at any time if you change your mind, and in the event of the announcement of a card being banned or unbanned in any format, all outstanding buy/sell orders up for that card are immediately suspended until the player next logs on, at which point they will receive a message “The card [c]Show and Tell[/c] has been banned in the Legacy format, do you still want to offer 105.003 tickets for each of four copies of Urza’s Saga foil [c]Show and Tell[/c]?”

Buy and sell orders would be anonymous, and would treat different versions of a card as totally different objects. (Example: a Mercadian Masques [c]Counterspell[/c] would be treated as a different item to a Tempest [c]Counterspell[/c], even though many players would consider them interchangeable, however a text search for [c]Counterspell[/c] would show both, as well as their foil versions, and the various other printings of the card from 7E, Master’s Edition sets, preconstructed decks, promos and other products).

Players could look at their objects in escrow, buy orders and sell orders at any time, cancel orders at any time, and modify an individual buy or sell order once per hour. (Once per hour prevents 0.001 ticket price wars being won by bots that are programmed to check if they have been undercut or outbid every minute).

An example in practice:

– I want to acquire three copies of the card [c]Voice of Resurgence[/c]. Being a little vain, I want my Voices to be shiny. (At the time of writing, the first bot I checked is buying foil Voice of Resurgence for 33.42 and selling for 40.49, so ‘fair price’ is around 36-37 tickets.)

– I browse the sell orders and see a total four foil Voices for sale, at 36.999, 37.000, 41.000 and 236.000 tickets.

– I decide to buy the two cheaper copies of the card, but feel 41 is more than I’m prepared to pay (and I sure as hell am not paying 236). Without me ever knowing who I am trading with, I select ‘buy’ on the first two. My account balance drops by $73.999 (tracked to a tenth of a cent), the two foil Voices are transferred from escrow into my account, and the account balance of my two trading partners is increased by $36.999 and $37 respectively.

– I then decide to post my own buy order to try to get the third one more cheaply than 41.000. Looking at the buy orders up currently, I see four at 24.777, 28.599, 30.600 and 30.602. I consider offering 30.603, but then think that I will get the card more quickly if I offer a little more, and so I offer 35.000 and set a duration of 72 hours on my offer. My account balance goes down by $35, and this store credit goes into escrow. For the next three days, if anyone wants to sell a foil Voice for 35 tickets, even if I am offline, they can sell it to my order.

– Before anyone fills my order, the DCI shocks everyone by emergency banning Voice of Resurgence in Legacy. (Don’t make banned/restricted list announcements drunk, folks). I don’t care, as I wanted the card for a Modern deck. My order now goes into stasis until I log on and confirm ‘yes, I still want the card at that price’ at which point the three day period begins again (or alternately, I could elect to cancel the order and offer it again at a lower price).

A second example:

I play an M15 draft, and one of the cards I acquire is an [c]In Garruk’s Wake[/c]. It is my ninth copy. I do not want this card, I don’t want any of the nine, but I cannot be bothered posting a sell order to try to get top dollar for it. I just want them gone.

I right click it in the collection and a list of buy orders for the card appears on my screen. The first person is offering 0.032 tickets for (M15 non-foil) In Garruk’s Wake but is only buying four copies. The second person (presumably a dealer) is offering 0.027 tickets for the card but is willing to buy as many as 233 copies.

I then am given the option ‘Sell four copies for 0.032 tickets each?’ which I click. After a confirmation window, 0.128 tickets leaves the first buyer’s escrow and is credited to my account balance. Then I right-click the In Garruk’s Wakes again, and have the option ‘Sell 5 copies for 0.027 tickets each?’ Again I accept, and the IGWs go to the dealer, and $0.135 is added to my store balance.

Of my six complaints about the trade system, this proposed overhaul would address five. The only one not covered is the availability of obscure cards, as many human players will not bother posting them. However, it is likely that dealers (human or bots) will fill that void, making sure that there is still liquidity in the [c]Chimney Imp[/c] market – and more relevantly, in the market for low (non-zero) demand, low supply cards like foil [c]Massacre[/c].

Monetizing the Trade System:

WotC are a business, and implementing this system so far looks like a lot of cost for no revenue gain. There’d be customer goodwill (which is meaningful) and also perhaps some people drafting a little more often as they can sell their cards more quickly (which is revenue even if those players are ‘infinite’ and never personally spend money at the MTGO store, as every 8-4 draft of ‘normal’ sets consumes 12 packs net and 16 tickets, netting WotC USD 63.88 in revenue). But there are other ways they could get more out of the system without undermining customer goodwill. Taking a cut from each trade (even a 0.5% cut) would cost this goodwill, and I don’t even think it’s the best way to monetize the system either.

Presently, a moderate number of players pay third parties for licenses to use their trading bot software. WotC should have a goal: to get this money in their pockets instead.

A concrete suggestion:

Firstly, there should be a limit of buy orders and sell orders active at any time for a given account. Something like 8 buy orders and 8 sell orders, with buy orders capped at 4 copies of the card (no limit for sell orders), and order duration capped at 72 hours, would be a good starting point. Or alternately, a limit of having 100 total orders (with multiple copies of a card counting multiple times, so ‘Want to Buy: 3 Wasteland’ would take up 3 of your 100 orders).

That is enough to post buy orders for most of a Constructed deck at once, especially when you consider that you’d be buying many cards directly from other people’s sell orders, but it is not enough to run an online dealership or to build sets at bargain prices for redemption purposes.

Secondly, players would have the option to pay USD6 per month (by credit card, or by event tickets/account balance/chips) to have these restrictions almost entirely removed. USD6 is a fairly arbitrary estimate at being a price that seems reasonable but generates real, ongoing revenue. Accounts that pay this charge would have a limit of 500 buy orders, 500 sell orders, and a cap of 12 copies of a card per order and 7 day time limits. Effectively, paying this $6 per month gets you all of the benefits of running a single bot now, but the money goes to WotC, not a third party bot coder.

Finally, players would have the option to pay USD50 per month to have the restrictions entirely removed. This expensive option would give you the benefits currently reserved for people that run trade bots on a dozen accounts or more.

Players with one of the premium trading options would pay in advance, and be automatically downgraded to a free account if they do not trade at all for a month (so as to avoid the customer relations nightmare of ‘oops, I forgot to downgrade my account before going on a cruise for six months’). At the time of downgrading, excess orders would not be automatically cancelled, instead the player would be unable to post new ones until they fall under their new maximum.

A second option to monetize the system is to require a deposit on sell order listings and buy order listings, that is refunded in full if the order fills. This would dramatically cut down the number of ‘nuisance’ listings where someone posts a ridiculous lowball price such as ‘Buying foil FUT Tarmogoyf, 12 tix’ in the hopes that someone misreads that as 120 tix. This deposit could be as high as 1% of the order amount, and it would serve as a tax on dealers much more than a tax on the Limited and Constructed players that generate WotC revenue.

In summary:

The only people that speak highly of MTGO’s current trading system are the dealers that make a living (or at least heavily subsidize their hobby) from being the middleman between buyers and sellers that cannot find each other.

The prevalence of third party bots available for license is a necessary evil right now, but poses major risks to MTGO’s integrity. There has already been at least one incident where a ‘trading bot’ program had trojans built into it that allowed the bot owners to potentially steal cards from those running the bot. If this happened on a big scale, it would be both a public relations nightmare for Wizards, and a financial risk too (as undoubtedly, some people who had had their accounts cleaned out by a thief would file chargebacks against anything they had recently purchased from Wizards).

In addition, it’s hard to know how much strain bot chains put on the server currently, but it must be significant, given that there seem to be over a thousand bot accounts logged on at any time, they usually have large numbers of cards for trade, and opening trade with a bot would query the server ‘How many of each card does this player have for trade?’ every time.
There’s two more advantages WotC gain before even considering possible revenue from the trading system.

Firstly, by speeding up collection management, players that draft a lot will spend less time on collection management, potentially allowing them to fit in one more draft here and there.
Secondly, by having supply and demand driven broad price guidelines publicly available in-client, WotC aren’t intervening in the secondary market, but they still manage to minimize the number of times a new player goes through the horrible experience of being badly ripped off in a trade. Even if it’s only a small amount, it leaves a foul taste in your mouth when you realize that the [c]Flusterstorm[/c] you just sold thinking it was a useless card actually is worth something. This might improve new player retention.

For these reasons, I feel replacing the present trade system with a buy order/sell order system should be the next ‘big project’ undertaken by MTGO management after the completion of leagues (which I personally don’t enjoy much but am looking forward to seeing as I know a lot of people have wanted them and it is good to see their voices heard). If done well, it will make customers happy, entice them to spend more, and assist in retention and growth – a trifecta that can only be good for MTGO and WotC.

On The Bandwagon, Sort Of: Abzan Delve

Hi all,

Modern continues to exist well outside the eye of the tornado, and the recent Pro Tour tournament is proof. The big number from the weekend is 28. If you read any coverage of the event, then you saw that Abzan was at 28%. Of course, for many, this meant that the sky was falling, and that bans were, of course, necessary.

Fortunately, once the jar of dust is settled, we can see that within that big number of decks with Forests, Swamps, and Plains, we see quite a variety of decks. We expected the [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c] and [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] lists to be successful, but since then I’d have to say that Jacob Wilson’s Selesnya hate-bears deck with a splash of black for [c]Lingering Souls[/c], [c]Siege Rhino[/c], and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] has to be the deck with the largest groundswell.

Within the 28% we even saw the card [c]Abzan Ascendancy[/c] in a deck which really had me reading a lot of cards.

Today, I’d like to offer you an Abzan deck of a different sort.

Within these colors, we have some of the more exciting key words in recent times: Delve and Dredge. [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] was waiting for a home in Modern, and he certainly found it in Pat Chapin’s Esper build. Despite his crash and burn, we still see cards like [c]Mishra’s Bauble[/c] spiking in price because, hey, it’s a new brew by a pro. [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] has great synergy with a lot of other cards, including [c]Grisly Salvage[/c], and once we put those two together, it’s hard not to throw in some more Timmy, Power Gamer effects.

First, let’s get to the list.

[d title=”Abzan Delve (Modern)”]
1 Godless Shrine
2 Marsh Flats
4 Mosswort Bridge
1 Murmuring Bosk
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windbrisk Heights

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Bloodghast
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
3 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Gravecrawler
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Lotleth Troll
2 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
4 Vengevine

Other Spells
4 Grisly Salvage
2 Lingering Souls
2 Unburial Rites

2 Abrupt Decay
1 Blood Crypt
3 Ancient Grudge
1 Darkblast
3 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Golgari Charm
2 Ray of Revelation[/d]

There are so many interactions here that I am scared to attempt to list them all. Let’s start with the lands.


[c]Murmuring Bosk[/c] – We operate on few lands for most of the game, and this helps smooth out the mana. We never want to see more than one in a game, though, and our [c]Verdant Catacombs[/c] can fetch them out.

[c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] – This deck is perhaps the most reliable at activating [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] because of the combination of [c]Bloodghast[/c], [c]Gravecrawler[/c], and [c]Lingering Souls[/c]. It would be nice to have a bit more meat available to cast for free with the activation, but even a [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] or large [c]Golgari Grave-Troll[/c] is acceptable. My favorite is to have [c]Unburial Rites[/c] hidden away even if it is not relevant on turn one. Some good target will appear by the time you can activate it.

Many players often attack with [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] for a cost:benefit ratio that is favorable. In this deck, there is very little cost because you are attacking with creatures that will come back after death.

[c]Mosswort Bridge[/c] – We play recurring 2/1 and 4/3 creatures and [c]Gurmag Angler[/c], so the 10 power is an easy obstacle to overcome.

Remember that [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] and [c]Mosswort Bridge[/c] actually cast the creature spells if you’re playing paper and have [c]Vengevine[/c] in your graveyard.

Moving on, we have our …


4 [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] – These are surprisingly the glue that holds the deck together, and I don’t think they can be removed. I am even tempted to add [c]Noble Hierarch[/c] for extra copies. You will even be impressed with how often “flying” is relevant with [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] and [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c]. If nothing else, they help trigger [c]Vengevine[/c]. Remember to attack with [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] for zero if it means you can activate [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c].

4 [c]Bloodghast[/c] – These are the weakest and least reliable of the recurring creatures, but they help us to activate our hideaway lands and provide a reasonable clock at no expense.

4 [c]Gravecrawler[/c] – This guy was made a little better by [c]Gurmag Angler[/c], the Zombie Fish (who knew?), as long as you aren’t removing [c]Gravecrawler[/c] in the process. The benefit of the zombie over the vampire is that you are casting [c]Gravecrawler[/c] and therefore triggering [c]Vengevine[/c].

1 [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c], [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] – These two finish the game handily. They come out from [c]Unburial Rites[/c] or a hideaway activation and very rarely disappoint.

3 [c]Golgari Grave-Troll[/c] – In the early stages of the game, he fuels your yard with critical things like recurring creatures, [c]Lingering Souls[/c], and [c]Unburial Rites[/c] plus the fatties to reanimate. Beyond that, he is a sweet reanimation target himself or card to hide away because he will get large in the midgame.

4 [c]Gurmag Angler[/c] and 1 [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c] – These essentially are five of the same guy. There are plenty of pieces of chaff in your graveyard that while these seem in opposition to your reanimation and recur strategy, it rarely plays out that way. They’re cheap, they’re cast, and they have a lot of power for [c]Mosswort Bridge[/c]. It’s really nice to open with a bird and play [c]Grisly Salvage[/c], 5/5 on turn 2, also taking your choice of creature or land.

4 [c]Lotleth Troll[/c] and 2 [c]Satyr Wayfinder[/c] – These are engine pieces of the deck, placing critical cards in the graveyard and triggering all the things that need to be triggered.

4 [c]Vengevine[/c] – Dies to bolt. Kills opponent the next turn. Easily brought back onto the battlefield, the elemental wraps up games in short order and activates [c]Mosswort Bridge[/c].

Finally, let’s look at the spells.

4 [c]Grisly Salvage[/c] – Feed brains, get sweet cards.

2 [c]Lingering Souls[/c] – Here is the breakout card of the Pro Tour. It will help us block and buy time, it will give attackers for [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c], finishers for [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c] and [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c], and extra value from cards like [c]Grisly Salvage[/c] and [c]Satyr Wayfinder[/c], netting us extra cards.

2 [c]Unburial Rites[/c] – Again we have a key card to the strategy that isn’t lost forever when we are dredging and playing [c]Satyr Wayfinder[/c] and [c]Grisly Salvage[/c]. Instead, the cogs work together to build quite the clock for your opponent.

After [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] was banned, Abzan became the real deal. [c]Golgari Grave-Troll[/c] hasn’t yet joined the party, but I think this archetype can bring the color combination and the keyword that never was to the top tables and cash events.


Paupers and Kings, Ep. 3: Living End

Hi everyone, and welcome to the third episode of Paupers & Kings, my series on porting Pauper decks into the Modern format while staying on a budget.

This week I’m doing something a little bit different. Where I usually find a Pauper deck and port it into Modern, this time around I’ve gone the other way. Today we’re starting with a budget Modern list, and finding its corollary in Pauper. And to add a bit of complexity, the Modern list we’re looking at is Living End, with its signature rare card sitting in the center of the deck’s strategy. But fear not, we will find budget lists in both formats that, if not identical, play in a similar fashion and use many of the same cards.

Living End in Modern

We’ll start with our Modern list, Living End by Travis Woo. Travis updated his list in an article just this month, so the version we’re looking at is fresh as it gets. Check out his original list in the article and my slightly more budget version below. Aside from the mana base, the only difference you’ll notice is [c]Avalanche Riders[/c] instead of [c]Fulminator Mage[/c].

[d title=”Living End by Travis Woo (Modern)”]
4 Savage Lands
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
3 Mountain
3 Swamp
1 Plains

3 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Street Wraith
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Deadshot Minotaur
2 Shriekmaw
4 Jungle Weaver
4 Pale Recluse
4 Avalanche Riders

2 Beast Within
4 Demonic Dread
4 Violent Outburst
3 Living End

2 Shriekmaw
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence
2 Slaughter Games
1 Ricochet Trap
1 Kataki, War’s Wage [/d]

If you’re not familiar with Living End, I will (again) point you to Travis’s article. The basic gist, though, is that you cycle a bunch of guys for 2-3 turns, and then cascade into a Living End. With 8 cascade spells that can only hit Living End, you’re bound to find one early, especially with all the cycling you are doing. Once you hit End, you clear your opponent’s board, bring back a bunch of beefy guys on your side, and proceed to beat face. Of course, we’re playing Modern, so it is rarely that simple or that broken. Even so, it’s remarkably consistent.

As a secondary strategy we’re happy to use Living End as a Plague Wind against our opponent and start hard-casting beefy creatures in the mid-game. The spiders, which Woo swears by, are often larger than anything our opponents are playing, and they have the added benefit of blocking Delver and other flying pests.

The interesting thing about this list is that, for its strong power level, it’s mostly running commons, especially in the creature slots. In fact, aside from [c]Avalanche Riders[/c], every single creature / cycler in this list is a common! All the other spells and most of the sideboard are not, of course, but an all-common cast of creatures plus cheaping out on land leaves us with an inexpensive start to a strong list.

I spent about $17 to put this list together, not counting some cards I already owned. I think that’s the cheapest “real” Modern list I’ve built to date. The land base could be improved for as little as another $16, but I enjoy playing a list before I decide how much to invest in it, and we can play this list just fine with this practically free mana base. Now let’s check out our Pauper list.

Living End in Pauper?

Obviously we don’t get [c]Living End[/c] itself in Pauper, so we can’t build an identical list. It turns out, though, that Pauper does have a list that fills a similar niche and uses many of the same cycling creatures. It’s a list that goes by a few names but I’m going to call it by the interaction that makes up its wincon, Damned Rats.

I’m largely aware of this list because it has had a champion for as long as I’ve followed Pauper, and that is Tom the Scud. There is plenty of other good development around this idea, but we’re using Tom’s list this week, as found over in MTG Salvation.

[d title=”Damned Rats by Tom the Scud (Pauper)”]
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Island
8 Swamp
5 Forest

4 Architects of Will
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Street Wraith
1 Blood Celebrant
2 Mnemonic Wall
3 Pit Keeper
4 Stinkweed Imp
3 Crypt Rats

3 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Songs of the Damned
2 Commune with the Gods
4 Tortured Existence

3 Chainer’s Edict
1 Crypt Rats
3 Duress
1 Festercreep
2 Fume Spitter
1 Gnaw to the Bone
2 Moment’s Peace
2 Spore Frog [/d]

Where LE runs 20 cycling creatures, this list packs 16, but also has [c]Stinkweed Imp[/c] and his Dredge 5, which is really the main way to fill the yard. Based on the name, you may have guessed, but the wincon here is to cast [c]Songs of the Damned[/c] for tons of mana and kill your opponent with a massive [c]Crypt Rats[/c] activation. [c]Gnaw to the Bone[/c] is there to keep you alive until that can happen and, just as importantly, to make sure you can kill your opponent with the rats without killing yourself.

[c]Mnemonic Wall[/c] provides some inevitibility, ensuring you can bring back the Songs when you need it. The deck is good at getting creatures back from the yard thanks to Pit Keeper and Tortured Existence; it’s poor at getting non-creatures back, though. The [c]Blood Celebrant[/c] enables your blue mana if you happen to dredge your 1x Island into the yard.

The list is fun to play and surprisingly powerful. Creature strategies have few ways to interact with you, and between your Imps killing their guys and your Gnaws gaining you life, they will be hard-pressed to win unless they finish you off quickly. Counterspells can be a pain, but since the Imps always come back, and we get to cast all the Gnaws twice, our opponents will usually run out of counters before we run out of gas.

Graveyard disruption is definitely a problem, though, and with [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and Familiars out there demanding to be answered, most opponents will be packing some in the sideboard. Black decks are running [c]Bojuka Bog[/c] and everyone has a [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] or two to cause us problems. Aside from [c]Duress[/c] we have no way to stop a relic from hosing us, so until we have a card in Pauper that shuffles the yard back into our library, we’re wide open to being hated out.

Luckily, just as Living End can play a good midgame by hard casting its creatures, Rats can do the same. We’re not dead if our yard goes away, we’ve still got plenty of decently -sized creatures we can cast, but the game gets a lot more difficult.

On the Play

So how do these decks look in play? I took each of them out for some test matches. Check ’em out below.


The land destruction package can be surprisingly effective in Modern. Otherwise, both lists require a lot of practice to play well, and if they didn’t show as well as they could, here, it’s likely because of my poor play. Even so, we saw some good competition in both formats, and both lists held their own quite well.

Most importantly, each deck is unique in its format. If you like doing something different and playing with unique wincons, I strongly recommend checking out both these lists.

Next Week on Paupers & Kings

Three weeks in, what’s next? I’ll be covering Tron next week, so if you would like to pitch your favorite lists, please do so in the comments. Have other archetypes you want to see crossover in Pauper and Modern? Let me know!

Until next week, may your end always be living and your songs, damned.


Cheap as Chips, Ep. 1: Fun Modern Lists for Under $5

With over one zillion cards to chose from, the game of Modern Magic should be almost completely unpredictable. Every deck you face should boast a unique strategy and reveal card combinations you’ve never pondered. Sounds exciting!

Alas, reality creeps in.

The Magic online playrooms are stuffed full of net-decked lists that look and play the same. The same tier 1 and 2 decks that cost an arm and a leg, over and over again. I sometimes get bored of that. I don’t begrudge people for wanting to win, and there are only a few archetypes in Modern that will reliably pile up victories. But I aspire to a higher calling. Maybe it’s a fresh take on an old mechanic, a unique twist on an established archetype, or playing a card with a really cool name and great art.

Also, I’m cheap. Really cheap. How cheap you ask? How about three tickets to build a deck that can crush people’s dreams and spit on their world-view? No? Well I’m up for scaling that mountain even if I slip and fall two steps from the peak. My mommy told me to dream big.

Ergo, this series will highlight the mental and financial health benefits of uber-budget brewing for Modern Magic.

Can you brew a competitive deck for under five tickets? Yes you can! Can you win tournaments and make the Pro tour with a five-ticket deck? No you can’t! But as long as you manage your expectations, you may find that brewing and playing your sub-five-ticket deck will unlock the childlike fun and wonder that Magic the Gathering is intended to generate.

First, let’s set some expectation-managed goals.

We are not trying to make the Pro tour here. So what are we trying to accomplish?

1) Win over half our games.
2) Be competitive in the half we don’t win.
3) Rarely suffer ‘blow-out’ losses.

If ‘winning half’ sounds like ‘losing’ to you, I can understand that. But as the great military strategist Sun-Tzu once wrote, if you win 50.5% of your battles, you will eventually win the war.

Ok, I made that up.

So why would we actually play such mediocre lists?

Let’s use a French word:

Raisons d’être:
1) Save more money for your education, or your children’s education.
2) Have fun, be social, enjoy the game and the Magic Online community (no really).
3) David vs Goliath. Joe vs the Volcano. The Alimo. Any of my decks vs Splinter Twin. Write your own chapter in the ongoing saga of the hero’s journey.
4) Be original, unique and special. Again, think of what your mother would want.

Point two above is not a joke. If you play an original list, your opponents may actually say more to you than just ‘hi, gl’. They may say ‘cool deck’ and start an actual human-to-human interaction with fully spelled-out words. In this era of bots, Siri, and pre-recorded messages, I feel any human contact is to be treasured and promoted. If you disagree, play Jund.

So, how are we going to build decks for under five tickets?

You should, to be sure, ask a Magic expert. But here’s what I would say:

1) ‘Win more‘ – Troy Drinkard has already told the MagicGatheringStrat faithful how to win, and his articles top my recommended reading list, right after James C. Scott’s Weapons of the Weak. In a nutshell – play small, fast creatures that can grow. This is obviously a budget friendly approach as well. There are lots of good weenie options out there.

2) Tribal – The fastest, easiest, cheapest (but least creative) way to build a budget deck is to stick to a tribal theme (elves, goblins, zombies, soldiers, faeries, etc). The built-in synergy of a tribe makes this easy and solid – although a really good elves or goblins deck is still an expensive proposition. My advice: the Lorwyn block had the best built-in tribal decks in budget Magicland. Cheap to build and fun to play. Not super powerful but a good place to start and they can get new players thinking about interactions not based on a tribe. Experienced players don’t really need the help a tribal theme offers. You all know how to advanced search your way to cool interactions among unrelated cards.

3) Pick a theme – Your deck, even if not tribal, should have a secondary theme beyond the ‘win more with weenies’ approach. Whether it’s gaining life, ramping mana, drawing extra cards – whatever synergizes best with your creature base. But be consistent, because it’s hard to build a life-gaining, poison-infecting discard deck. Pick a theme, not three. My advice – forcing discards and disrupting your opponent’s hand is easy to do on a budget, and if combined with a decent weenie attack it can win you games you would otherwise lose. Go ahead and put your opponent’s expensive cards straight into their graveyard or out of the game, it’s fun! They key part here, please make note, is that you already have a weenie attack going.

4) Counterspells – Always a powerful choice, and countering your opponent’s juiciest cards is a great budget-friendly way to stay in a game. The very best counters are expensive, but lots of good budget options exist. Mana Leak and Dispel are the industry standards, but there are others that offer interesting additional benefits at no extra cost – I’m thinking of Soul Manipulation, Hindering Light, Render Silent, Trickbind… there’s quite a few counter spells that support particular gameplans. Search them out.

5) Strippers – Eh, strippers you say? Yes, and by this I mean extreme hand disruption cards that pull an entire playset out of your opponent’s Fortune-500 deck. Extirpate, Quash, Earwig Squad, Memoricide, Shimian Specter and Slaughter Games are all budget-friendly cards that offer lots of combo-destroying potential. They are typically slow to enact, however, so they fall mainly into the sideboard category. Even then you don’t just throw them into a deck blindly. Integrate them into a coherent plan. My experience with Earwig Squad has been nothing short of dreamy. Loads of people (rage) quit when on turn three you take a crucial combo piece or remove 3x Liliana of the Veil and then Mana Leak the fourth the next turn. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve ruined someone’s day.

6) Removal – I’m always searching for a quicker picker-upper. Should you pack loads of kill spells? No, this is probably not the best approach for most budget decks. Lots of the top decks in Modern can protect or recur their creatures, so piling on the budget Doom Blades and Murderous Cuts is perhaps not the best choice in most cases. It’s a one-for-one that will end in favour of the more powerful deck. But the right sweeper can keep a budget deck going the one or two extra turns needed to end a game. My advice… I can’t tell you. That would be killing the goose to feed the gander.

Now, let’s get started!

For my first trick, I will wave my Magic brewing wand and… Poof! Presto! Shazam! A 4-ticket tribal list that hits fast, disrupts what it doesn’t counter and strips anything that’s still left, before it wipes the deck with the quickest picker-upper of them all! I’m sure you’re dying to know what it is.

So check back soon for the first Cheap-as-Chips deck tech (and hopefully some gameplay videos).

Legacy on Mondays: Cheapy Tezzerey

Welcome Back!

Last week’s list was a total failure. My Magic brain went blah, and thanks to Reddit my errors were revealed. I have scrapped that list entirely. It’s always a little discouraging to see a creation fail, but hey. That is the name of the brewing game. I am no master brewer by any stretch of the imagination. Thanks to redditors TheScynic, random_bananas, and rrrOuta for commenting and giving their advice.

So, rather than trying to re-vamp some concept in a stupid way, let’s do it in a more classic fashion by budgeting an unpopular yet super sweet Legacy deck called Tezzeret. For those of you who do not know, Tezzeret is an artifact-based strategy that wins games usually through either the arguably two best planeswalkers in Legacy, [c]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/c], and [c]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/c], or the Thopter-Sword combo.

Here is a sample list:

[d title=”Tezzeret, Unknown List Creator”]
4 Baleful Strix
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Dimir Signet
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Ratchet Bomb
2 Sword of the Meek
3 Talisman of Dominance
2 Thopter Foundry
Instants & Sorceries
4 Force of Will
2 Transmute Artifact
2 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Island
1 Swamp
4 Ancient Tomb
3 City of Traitors
3 Darkslick Shores
3 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
1 Academy Ruins
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Meekstone
1 Pithing Needle
1 Trinisphere
1 Notion Thief
2 Vendilion Clique
2 Damnation
2 Duress
2 Perish[/d]

If you know of this list’s origin, please post a comment below so that I can give the creator credit.

Wow, those are some expensive cards, as is typical of Legacy decks. Tezzeret has seen little-to-no tournament play recently. This is likely because Delver Tempo decks have become more popular, especially UR Delver, and Tezzeret does not match up well to these. However, in a Control, Aggro, or Combo metagame, Tezzeret usually does well.

If you enjoy playing combo-control decks, this is a very good one to start with in the format, as it is playing the two most busted colors in the game, and is fun to play as well as powerful. Here is a list that is more budget-minded, yet still retains the Thopter-Sword combo and a plethora of powerful planeswalkers to punish your opponent.

[d title=”Budget Tezzeret by Peyton”]
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
3 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Instants & Sorceries
3 Muddle the Mixture
4 Ponder
3 Spell Pierce
2 Duress
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Go for the Throat
1 Swan Song
2 Ensnaring Bridge
4 Sword of the Meek
4 Thopter Foundry
1 Time Sieve
4 Talisman of Dominance
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Academy Ruins
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Island
4 Seat of the Synod
1 Swamp
3 Underground River
3 Vault of Whispers
1 Darkwater Catacombs
2 Engineered Plague
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Counterspell
1 Cursed Totem
1 Trinisphere
2 Chalice of the Void
2 Pithing Needle
1 Perish
2 Extirpate

This deck definitely focuses more on assembling the combo and controlling the opponent through instants and sorceries. A wide variety of counterspells, discard, and creature control elements will ensure that the combo can be achieved quickly and in relative safety. Yes, there are some odd numbers. Why is there a [c]Swan Song[/c]? I like it as a 1-of as a hard counter that can deal with [c]Counterbalance[/c] as well as most other non-creature threats, that’s downside is nullified by cards like [c]Ensnaring Bridge[/c] or Thopter tokens.

Other than the standard disruption elements, the deck is focused on getting the combo together ASAP. [c]Muddle the Mixture[/c] is a great way to protect the combo while also transmuting to find [c]Thopter Foundry[/c] or [c]Sword of the Meek[/c]. Typically, a card like [c]Transmute Artifact[/c] would be used to do this, but Transmute is a pretty expensive card and is not necessarily superior to Muddle. [c]Ponder[/c] also digs to find combo pieces or disruption, whichever may be more relevant to any given game state.

My choices for ‘walkers may seem a bit odd. I have gone for a 3-1 split between Agent of Bolas and [c]Tezzeret the Seeker[/c]. This is a budget deck, so no Jace, but why the split? Both cards have their ups and downs for the deck. Both act as win conditions on their own with enough board presence of artifacts, and both can find combo pieces. I prefer Agent of Bolas a bit more than the Seeker because he costs less mana, protects himself immediately, and with the high density of combo pieces, his [c]Impulse[/c] ability is almost equally likely to find one as the guarantee of the Seeker’s tutor ability. That being said, the Seeker can find artifact lands if mana is tight, he can create mana with artifact lands and Talismans, and sometimes if an infinite-turn combo with [c]Time Sieve[/c] is not possible or the 1/1 Thopters are not doing the job, he can just make them all 5/5’s and smash the opponent to death.

The sideboard is very diverse. I have filled it with a lot of 1 and 2-ofs to help the deck perform better in certain situations without diluting the deck too much. The sideboard should, of course, be tweaked based on one’s metagame, but this one is not bad for an all-rounder based on averages and bad matchups.

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions or comments, post them below!

Thanks for reading!