Building Standard on a Budget
This week I want to talk budget deck building, and how you can get into Standard for a lot cheaper than you might think.
The first thing that most players realize when trying to break into Standard is that deck centre pieces tend to be a little on the expensive side. Take Hazoret the Fervent, for example. She is a whopping $25.00 a piece. As someone who tends to play on quite an extreme budget, I simply don't have that kind of money for a play-set of one card.
There are two solutions to this: the first is to get inventive with your deck choice, something we will dive into later. But the easier is to find alternatives to these expensive cards.
Start by assessing what's good about the card you are looking to replace. Why is it so valuable to your archetype? Staying with Hazoret, she provides reach on a clogged up board state, is hard to answer, and provides a fast clock on her own. Immediately two cards stand out as a replacement, Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer.
The Phoenix in particular does everything Hazoret does. It's hard to remove, provides a fast clock, and it flies over any clogged up boards. If you are willing to push the curve up a little then Glorybringer is just as good. Sure it's easier to remove, but it can't be Fatal Pushed. Plus, the Haste certainly makes up for the extra mana.
These options don't exist just for Hazoret, here's a few more budget replacements in the Standard Meta
Now the second option is to get inventive with deck archetypes. Look away from the Top 8 decklists and get creative. It'll seem daunting at first but it's not as hard as it might seem.
The first step is to find a card that is ridiculously powerful but still cheap. Sram, Senior Edificer and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar are great examples. Both of these don't do impressions of anything else, but are very good at their respective roles. You are looking for a card that can win games, no matter how good your opponent's deck is.
The second step is to build a shell around them, and it's often quite easy to see the basics. Sram wants any of the card types stated on him and Gishath wants big Dinosaurs.
Now this is where the tough decisions come in. You want to build the deck so that it's not entirely dependent on your centre piece. Red Aggro can win without Hazoret. A Gishath deck needs to be able to play a midrange game, reliably deploying threats and casting removal. Sram decks need to be replacing themselves as they go, not just relying on Sram to prevent card disadvantage. A Sram deck will run Auras that have ETB effects whilst Gishath will have a high density of ramp, allowing us to cast the big Dinosaurs without getting them for free.
The only time this is ever not true is if you are building a budget combo deck, say Paradox Engine. At this point you need to ensure that you either are prepared to mulligan aggressively, or have other ways to find your key piece. Tutors or lots of card draw, for example.
Next we need to talk removal. Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you don't need to answer your opponent. In fact it's often the opposite. If their cards are better than ours then we either want to stop them, or have more. This is why removal is so crucial. It doesn't need to be Fatal Push either. Moment of Craving and Lightning Strike are two removal spells that are very good.
If you can't get the Baffling End for the Sram deck try Revoke Privileges, or any other Pacifism effect. Fight effects are great in Dinos, but Lightning Strike or Bombard will make the cut if you have them laying about. Don't frown at these Draft all-stars quite so easily, they were good in Draft for a reason. Plus, it's really nice to ruin a Vehicles deck or leave a Rekindling Phoenix on board but unable to do anything with something cheap and simple.
Finally we need to talk Mana-bases.
Firstly I want to say that there is nothing wrong with Tap Lands. Sure, you don't get the mana that turn, but you'd be surprised how often your expensive duals come in tapped. If I don't have the budget for anything else, I'm more than happy to play a Foul Orchard or two. Another thing to note is that in three colour or more decks Evolving Wilds is a very good Magic card. It has seen top tier play before and it will do again. Evolving Wilds is a card I've grown to love, and with a little play you'll realize how good it really is.
Moving onto slightly more advanced techniques, we have to consider the curve. If we are running Tap Lands we want to minimise their damage to us. To do this we need to adjust our curve to make space for these. Run an excessively high number of cards at one spot and less at the next. If I have no one drops, I can guarantee a Tap Land without hurting our curve on turn one. If I have a lot of two cost spells, I can play one of them and use a Tap Land on turn three. You have to consider these lands as one mana plays, then they'll fit into your deck seamlessly. Small adjustments like this really help to mitigate the budget restraint you could be under.
Using all of this advice here are two super cheap decks that you can pick up right now, without a second thought.
Super Budget UW Sram
Super Budget Gishath and Friends
This week I want to give a shout out to Bogles in Modern. For those of you who don't know, the deck uses Slippery Bogle and other Hexproof guys and suits them up with Auras for tonnes of damage. For a long time this was an entry level, budget Magic deck. It was taken as joke by a lot of Pros. But recently it has been putting up some serious results, and it preys on the meta beautifully. I thought I'd give it a shout out because it's the perfect example of where the creativity forced by building on a budget can take you. Stick with it. Sure money helps in Magic, but you don't need it to win GP's