The War Report: Budget Jank EDH

Recently one of the guys in my Friday playgroup decided to build a budget deck. He’s an expecting father and funds have become more tight for him, so he’s thinking a bit outside the box and trying to see what he can do to get the most bang for his buck. Similarly, I’m in a position where with the holidays and having taken some time off of work plus other expenses piling up, I could use a good budget deck myself. So today I’m sharing a new brew with you that was created with a budget of $50 in mind — this is a similar amount to what my friend has used, and it sounded like the only way I could build a deck from scratch and be able to purchase it in one order.

I was actually in the middle of revamping existing decks, finding small tweaks that I could use in order to either lower the mana curve or exploit some combo further. I started thinking about color combinations that I hadn’t tackled yet, and one that came to mind was Abzan; or Black, Green and White. Unfortunately the amount of legendary creatures in this color combination is limited, but I found one that sounded sufficiently janky to build around: Doran, the Siege Tower. I give you:

Impregnable Fortress

As you can see, Doran is a 3 drop 0/5 which sounds like something you would want to avoid. However, his ability is interesting and can be used in a number of ways. My first thought was that he sounded like a good commander for a Wall deck, which actually happens to be a thing. It sounded like the perfect sort of jank I was looking for, and at the same time once I put the thing together I found that most of the cards were under $1! Most of the time when people build budget decks, they tend to have a couple of limiting factors — the total deck price, and the price per card. My friend who built his at the $50 mark said that he didn’t care what the cost of the individual cards were, just that the total was at or close to $50, so I took those same parameters. This particular commander costs about $9 by himself, so that limits the build but we were also considering not counting the commander cost in the budget. Either way, my deck is sitting a few cents above $50 on mtggoldfish.com, even counting Doran. Here are the only cards that cost more than $1 in this particular build, along with my reasoning for their inclusion:

Cards over $1:

Two of the cards are lands, and their inclusion is pretty obvious. I wanted to have some decent dual lands in the landbase, so there ya go. There are four creatures, a couple of artifacts and three spells otherwise, and they ended up being important for a number of reasons. The walls add some utility, and happen to be very good when paired with Doran’s passive. The artifacts are for ramp and card advantage, and there are a couple of decent spells there, one of which helps slow down attackers, another for ramp and the other is a nice boardwipe with added recursion. All felt like good additions.

Win Con:

The main win condition combos with Doran’s passive. There are two enchantments that help with this win condition. The idea of the deck is to play walls early and often, giving you defense to protect against opposing forces. Then, you can use things like Diabolic Tutor or Plea for Guidance to tutor up one or both of the main win-cons, Assault Formation and Rolling Stones. With Doran on the battlefield (or with Assault Formation by itself), your walls can now attack and assign combat damage via their toughness instead of their power, in effect making them */* creatures where * is equal to their toughness. I have added redundancy with cards like Animate wall, Wakestone Gargoyle, and also added cards like Entangler that allow one wall to block all creatures coming my way. As long as my walls can attack, they are huge creatures for low mana investment or in other cases a single wall can block a horde of incoming enemies. There are also cards like Walking Wall, Mobile Fort, and Prison Barricade that can attack for a price.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this deck isn’t going to win tournaments, and it’s probably tier 5 or lower, but it’s a fun/cheap investment and I think Magic should be played in multiple ways to truly enjoy it — why let cards sit and rot when they can be used? You can check my full deck list here, and I’ll be back with more commentary on this once I’ve built and tested it!

Thoughts on Tomb of Annihilation

Tomb of Annihilation is one of the other games I was gifted around my birthday, and I finally got around to trying it this weekend. It released fairly recently and I recall seeing it in my discovery queue on Steam and adding it to my wishlist. That was all I really knew about the title — it was based on a D&D campaign/board game, and it appeared to be fairly standard isometric RPG faire. It turns out that my original assessment was fairly spot on, but I would add that it is a turn-based strategy game, so I’d compare it more closely to something like Final Fantasy Tactics rather than Baldur’s Gate. Instead of freely roaming or clicking to move, you will be restricted to moving within a tile and then passing turn so that new tiles can be discovered. You move more freely as things begin to open up, but some cramped corridors littered with traps can prove to be time consuming. As you begin the game, you’ll pass through a tutorial as with most games.

This is pretty straight forward, but the tutorial does a good job of explaining the nuance of the game, which includes a set of phases between each characters’ actions. Villains move during their phase. One of your heroes will move per Hero phase. The Exploration phase happens after you end a turn with a hero, at which time if they are standing next to the edge of the current tile, a new adjacent one will be discovered. Lastly, the Encounter phase is a random dice roll after each turn that will either help or harm you. These can be avoided with Adrenaline or certain spells. You can only perform one move and one action per turn, or move twice the normal distance, so you have to think through your strategy as you go, and it becomes a pattern of rhythmic button clicking similar to the likes of Diablo, though much slower paced. Leveling up happens across all four characters, though you don’t have access to them all immediately. As you level you earn chests and materials to craft new gear for the crew. It’s nothing too drastic, and there isn’t any RMT factored in either, though the DLC packs give a nice chunk of gold and a few legendary items to make the beginning of the game pretty easy going.

After the tutorial you’ll head out on new missions. Some are story related, and others a little side quests. All follow the same fashion, you’ll open up the map piece by piece and complete objectives at which point the mission will end and you will return to the map. You’ll fight bosses along the way and things will get messy. If you don’t have the legendary items boost, I imagine you’ll have some difficulties with certain encounters. Each map comes with separate difficulties, so I imagine later on you’ll want to play them again on harder levels to get increased rewards. The map is fairly big, about two times the size of this photo:

The main quest appears to head south in a straight line, with the side quests (in blue) sprinkled about, though they appear to be completely optional. There seems to be quite a bit of area that isn’t being used, but that means one of two things: There will be some sort of additional content added to the game at a later date, or perhaps more is added later on as you progress. I guess there’s a third option too, where it just is what it is and that’s okay too. I feel like you’ll enjoy the game if you like this sort of turn-based endeavor, are a fan of D&D or simply like slower paced RPGs. If taking your time and strolling through this title doesn’t sound appealing, then maybe look elsewhere. Either way for the money being asked ($16, $12 on sale right now) it’s worth taking a look.

TWR: The Importance of a Win-Con

I don’t believe I’ve covered my Temmet deck yet, and I have been trying to make an effort to talk about each of my EDH creations at some point or another in this column. I recently gave him a bit of a makeover, building upon themes laid out in my initial brew, but I also added another layer that seemed unlikely but has proven to be useful.

When I ripped open my first packs from the then new set Amonkhet, Temmet was one of the first legendary creatures I pulled. I hadn’t built an Azorious colored deck to that point, and I loved the look and flavor of him as a commander. His ability to give token creatures unblockable was the first theme I tried to build upon, finding ways to make large token creatures I could then make unblockable to get free hits in on my opponents. An added benefit is his Embalm ability, where if he dies you can choose to let him hit the graveyard, and later revive him as a token himself. This led me to also include other cards from the set with Embalm to further my unblockable tokens theme. Unfortunately, it seemed that this wasn’t powerful enough, and the deck never really performed the way I wanted it to.

One thought I had was to make it into a semi-voltron deck, where I could get Temmet embalmed into a token, then equip him and make him unblockable, which is still viable, and sort of something I did in the original build. I had added some of the living weapon cards, which are equipments that create a 0/0 creature the equipment attaches to, which in turn can be made unblockable with Temmet. But since I had built Sram into a full on voltron commander, I felt it was redundant to have another. As such, I started thinking about what win-con I could utilize that would make Temmet semi-competitive, at least in my playgroup (where it pretty much always lost). Enter infect.

It seems that blue and white are not the strongest colors to run an infect theme, although they do have a few key cards that I’ve included. I also included many of the artifact creatures with infect, and an equipment which can be attached to a creature to give it +2/+2 and infect as well. Lastly, a nice mind control type spell that also grants the stolen creature infect. These pieces felt like they would do the trick, and upon testing it out, I found that I added just enough to make this win-con work. Here are a couple other cards I added for support:

The conspiracy sets have really added some nice jank to the meta. The Keeper of Keys not only makes you the Monarch (you draw a card at the end of each of your turns) but if you control this guy by the next turn’s upkeep, all of your creatures become unblockable. This means the ability to go-wide is now a threat, and it just fits the theme I was going with. The additional sorcery is some nice spot removal that also gets me a token along with some group hugs for other players. Overall the changes I made have turned the deck into one that can actually compete, and for that I’m happy.

Make sure you have a win-condition that makes sense in each of your decks. Throwing together a bunch of good cards haphazardly might not get it done in the end.

TWR: My First Pre-Release (Ixalan)

This past weekend saw the Pre-Release events for Ixalan take place at LGS’s around the world. Despite having returned to the game about a year ago, and having played plenty in years past, I had never taken part in a single game at a store versus strangers, nor in a sanctioned event. It was something that had been on my mind since returning, but I just hadn’t managed to go yet. The guys in my playgroup have gone to a few that I know of, so they had filled me in on how things go and I was still intrigued. A while back we purchased pre-release kits off of Amazon when Amonkhet released, creating our own makeshift pre-release event. Finally, this weekend I made it to my first official event, and got to see how it works first hand.

Ixalan officially releases on Friday, but at a pre-release you get your hands on a few packs of the new set, get to build a 40 card deck and play several rounds (best of threes) against whoever happens to show up. My friends and I went to the 1 pm event on Sunday and it was pretty fun. I enjoyed having the experience, though I understand that I am more of a constructed player, so I wasn’t going into the thing expecting to win all of my games. I have kept up on spoilers so I knew some of the cards that I was looking for, and did end up getting a few (though none of the good vampires I want for my Edgar Markov deck, boo). Another special treat for attending is a sealed foil rare card that has the pre-release dates printed on it. Sort of a cool way to commemorate things, though it’s random so sometimes you get something less desirable. I ended up with this guy:

He’s not bad, though sort of expensive. I think he would have worked fairly well in an EDH dinosaur deck, but a bit expensive when it comes to a more standard-like format. I think I played him once in all of my games. When we arrived at the store, it was just about start time, so we paid for our kits and went about cracking packs and building our decks. I finished fairly quickly, because after I pulled my best cards from the packs, I had to clear build arounds:

Pirates don’t seem all that interesting to me, but again, I play from the standpoint of wanting to build new EDH decks or add cards to my existing ones. I’m not currently playing standard or modern, so if it isn’t going somewhere EDH related then I’m pretty much over it. It seems that there are more pirates from previous sets than there are dinosaurs (they technically didn’t exist until now, though they did some errata on a dozen or so cards to make them part of the tribe) but I don’t really like the theme. They tend to center around stealing stuff or creating treasure artifact tokens that can be sacrificed for mana. This is similar to the Clue mechanic, but those artifact tokens were sacrificed to draw cards. Regardless, these mechanics don’t seem all that great, and I just built a Grixis commander in Marchesa, so I didn’t want to do the same colors again. I feel like Gishath is a great commander idea, but unfortunately the tribe support isn’t really there just yet — trust me, I already tried to figure one out and it seems to fall flat. I think we’ll have to wait for the second block of Ixalan to get enough dinos to really make a deck. I assume by then there might be some better pirate options as well. But I’m getting off topic.

I pulled the cards above out of my packs and looked through the rest of my cards. I ended up feeling like I had a decent deck formed around Dinosaurs so of course I ran the Avatar as well. I only managed to play him once, and still lost that game, but he’s a fun card nonetheless and more exploitable in EDH. Can’t wait to see if he can be a thing someday. As our rounds started, I played through four separate opponents before the event was done. I didn’t have the best day, but I managed to get a win in the final round. My overall scoring went like so:

  • Round 1: Went 1-2 (loss)
  • Round 2: Went 0-2 (loss)
  • Round 3: Went 1-2 (loss)
  • Round 4: Went 2-1 (win)

Individually the only round that was attrocious was the second. I couldn’t get all three colors of mana out and ended up being killed quickly. In the first two rounds I played against mirror decks, though only one of those players had a Gishath in the deck, they were both playing 3-color dinos. The 3rd round was played against the only guy in the store that was clearly older than us, and he had an Orzhov vampire deck (exactly what I wanted to play but lacked the cards to do so). I managed to win the first game but then lost the second and in the third I should have won but a well timed land destruction spell kept me from being able to play Gishath for the win. In the final round I played against this gentleman’s daughter who had a rough day like myself. She surprised me with a mill strategy for the first win (this is the only game I played Gishath and still lost) but I managed to tie things up and we were amid our third game when the time for the round ran out. Officially there are only a few turns left after that, but since we were the last game still going, the shopkeep let us finish it up. I finally scored my win, and was given a participation pack, along with another pack for it being my first event.

Overall it was a fun experience but I really only was in it for the cards. I think perhaps another time I’ll try again but for now I’m cool with the limited format. What I’d like to do now is go to a random Commander night and see what other sorts of decks are out there. So it looks like Ixalan has some cool cards in it, but overall it’s another set where I’ll buy a few packs and then buy up the desired singles and call it a day.

TWR: My Love it is a Black Rose

A week or so ago my girlfriend was at Target and picked me up another of the Commander 2017 preconstructed decks, this time it was Arcane Wizardy, and I was really unsure what to do with it. I played it once and it felt severely underpowered compared to some of the other precons from the set. I sat and thought about it long and hard — I didn’t want to play it with Enalla at the helm, but some of the other legendary creatures in the deck that were still Grixis seemed much more interesting to play.

I had narrowed things down to building a deck around either Kess, Mairsil, or Marchesa. As I looked around on EDHREC and other resources, it seemed that the latter, Marchesa, was most suited to my playstyle and after putting together an initial decklist, I felt satisfied with using her to lead the troops. It helped that one of the guys in my playgroup had an integral piece needed to build the deck, and he was interested in doing a trade. So I ended up with a very cool card that will help the deck out, and he gained Mairsil, whom he would like to build a deck around. I ended up cutting out a large chunk of what came with the precon, so let’s look at that list and see what I got rid of:

1 Kess, Dissident Mage
1 Mairsil, the Pretender
1 Galecaster Colossus
1 Magus of the Mind
1 Portal Mage
1 Vindictive Lich
1 Izzet Chemister
1 Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand
1 Havengul Lich
1 Marchesa, the Black Rose
1 Vela the Night-Clad
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Body Double
1 Harbinger of the Tides
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Apprentice Necromancer
1 Magus of the Abyss
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Archaeomancer
1 Merchant of Secrets
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Corpse Augur
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Kindred Dominance
1 Clone Legion
1 Spelltwine
1 Decree of Pain
1 Necromantic Selection
1 Comet Storm
1 Polymorphist’s Jest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Memory Plunder
1 Silumgar’s Command
1 Into the Roil
1 Opportunity
1 Reality Shift
1 Go for the Throat
1 Cauldron Dance
1 Crosis’s Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Terminate
1 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Mirror of the Forebears
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Shifting Shadow
1 Curse of Verbosity
1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Curse of Opulence

As you can see, there wasn’t much left after I pulled out most of the wizards and many of the spells. That curse series in C17 is pretty much garbage, so those were taken out instantly. I removed most of the wizards because the tribal theme isn’t necessary for this deck. Marchesa wants to focus on getting +1/+1 counters on her minions so that when they die, they come right back onto the battlefield.  As such, most of the deck is focused around cards that have nice enter the battlefield effects, or that give/benefit from the counters. Let’s take a look at what I’ve added.

Creatures:

Not a huge amount of fuckery, as Grixis can be known for, but there are still some key elements here. Mikeaus is the card I traded Mairsil for, mainly because he grants undying to all other creatures. Between Marchesa’s Dethrone global and this, it going to be tough for my creatures to go down, as they either come back to the battlefield at end of turn due to Marchesa (if they have counters on them), or come back due to Mikeaus’s Undying (if they don’t have counters on them) thereby giving them the counters so that later Marchesa can save them again. I’m looking at trying to overload the battlefield with creatures and not letting them be taken out by boardwipes or the like. Onward to spells!

Spells:

This was pretty straightforward. I added some card draw and counterspells, along with a couple interesting cards in Press into Service and Tezzeret’s Gambit. The former has a rare keyword called Support, which allows you to distribute two +1/+1 counters as you see fit. The latter has the keyword Proliferate, which allows you to add additional counters to things that already have counters on them. I figured these spells and effects would be helpful for the theme. Onward to the other bits!

Artifacts/Enchatments:

I tried to stay on theme, so things like Unspeakable Symbol and Dragon Blood allow me to generate +1/+1 counters. I also added in some card draw with Phyrexian Arena and Greed. I’ve also tried to add some sacrifice outlets, since being able to sacrifice a creature and get it back the same turn seems like great value. Cards like Ashnod’s altar can be instrumental in getting out other high CMC cards out quickly, and enchantments like Attrition allow me to sac a creature to destroy a high threat target. Overall I think the deck looks pretty good, though I may have to tune it a bit after the fact. I know I don’t have anything to protect Marchesa (like hexproof or shroud) though I have ways to add that to the deck if needbe. I know that lately my commanders have been targeted to the point where I couldn’t actually get anything going, so that’s a potential weakness of the deck. I also may have gone a little too spell heavy in a creature oriented deck, but testing will tell. Anyway, that’s all for this time, happy gaming everyone!