As most of you know, this column is dedicated to building decks that cost thirty or fewer tickets using Magic Online. I've built decks mainly in Standard and Extended. My decks tend to run more heavily towards uncommons and commons, though I am not gunshy about adding rares to my deck if A) they fit the budget and B) they have a place in the deck. The problem a budget player faces with buying rares is that some rares tend to be heavily specialized. What do I mean by this? Let me give you an example.
Let's say I acquire a play set of Harmonize online. Harmonize is a card that almost any green deck can run—a simple effect of "pay four mana, draw three cards." It's neat, it's simple, and most green decks can benefit from a late-game hand size boost. Now, contrast this to Wild Pair. Wild Pair has a very powerful effect—but one that requires a deck built around it. You can't just throw Wild Pair in any old green deck you have. It wouldn't work well in a weenie deck where you're trying to kill your opponent before turn six is up. It's not great in a deck filled with creatures of different power / toughness totals. You wouldn't want to run it when your deck is very light on creatures to begin with. If you get a play set of Wild Pair, you're going to be using it almost exclusively in a Wild Pair deck. If you get a play set of Harmonize, you'll be using it your green-black control deck, your midrange green creature deck, your weenie deck (as the top end of the curve to refill your hand) or any other number of green-based decks.
Enough explanation! Let's take a look at the best budget commons and uncommons that Lorwyn has to offer, shall we? Each section will be divided up by color, and I'll give an explanation about each card I choose for this list. Keep in mind—this list is for the Lorwyn commons and uncommons that I feel are powerful and have utility usage across multiple decks. These are the cards you should be trying to get for your toolbox to build any number of decks, because these are the cards that you build the foundation of multiple decks upon!
Eyeblight's Ending: Eyeblight's Ending has a big advantage over Terror, in that it can kill black and artifact creatures. This makes it very similar to Rend Flesh, which saw a lot of budget play back during the Kamigawa era. The larger the card pool of your format, the less chance Eyeblight's Ending will have a drawback, since there will be fewer Elves in Standard than in Block, and fewer still in Extended over Standard. A very solid creature kill spell.
Final Revels: If you've read Building on a Budget for any amount of time, you'll know that I've complained about the lack of a good board-sweeping budget card for black for some time. Final Revels fills that hole, by taking the place of cards like Massacre, Infest, and Hideous Laughter. Final Revels is the worst of these four as a creature kill spell, because it is a sorcery, it costs five, and it doesn't lower power. However, it does have additional utility as a way to give all your offensive creatures +2/+0 (though it does also boost the power of your opponent's creatures). Even though it is weaker than some of the older alternatives, it is the strongest option available on a budget for mono-black decks to sweep weenies right now.
Marsh Flitter: The card I'd most compare this to is Patagia Viper, except mono-black. Instead of a 2/1 flyer and two 1/1 creatures, you get a 1/1 flyer (that can become 3/3) and two 1/1 Goblins. This still makes for three power of creatures for four mana, with the ability to make one of them 3/3 twice. That's not a bad deal at all, especially if you need to put multiple creatures to the board at once.
Nameless Inversion: The replacement for Last Gasp, and one that combos with any tribe because it is a changeling. This also lets you set up a soft lock with Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, since it's a Knight. You can simply give creatures +3/-3 for every you have available. In a pinch, unlike Last Gasp, this can also allow you to pump up your own guys that have higher-than-four toughness.
Shriekmaw: One of the crown jewels of this set, and an uncommon that will probably be trading for a ticket to a ticket and a half online. It's well worth the investment—this is great creature kill that can go in any deck that plays black mana. Early in the game, you have a sorcery speed Terror. Later in the game, you get a 3/2 Nekrataal with fear. It's the versatility that makes this guy work so well.
In addition, Shriekmaw and his evoke friends have a great interaction with Saffi Eriksdotter and Momentary Blink. The "sacrifice this" ability of Shriekmaw goes on the stack, just like any other triggered ability. If you have a Momentary Blink (or a Saffi), you can save your creature from dying and get a second effect out of it.
Let's say your opponent has two Call of the Herd Elephant tokens in play. You evoke Shriekmaw. When it comes into play, its "destroy target non-black non-artifact" ability goes on the stack (targeting one of the Elephant tokens) and its "sacrifice Shriekmaw if you paid the evoke cost" ability goes on the stack. In response, you play Momentary Blink on Shriekmaw. When its comes back into play, its "destroy target non-black, non-artifact creature" ability goes on the stack again, but the "sacrifice Shriekmaw" ability does not, since Blinking him is not playing him with evoke. The Momentary Blink makes you treat Shriekmaw as a new copy of the card aside from the one that was pre-Blinked, so you do not have to sacrifice it to the first Evoke trigger. The end result? Your opponent has two dead Elephants, you have a live Shriekmaw, and Momentary Blink is in your graveyard for another go around!
Broken Ambitions: The successor to the Power Sink / Condescend line of spells, except that clash effectively lets both players scry 1. The milling is just a side benefit—you're mainly going to use this as an early (or late) Counterspell.
Faerie Trickery: See Eyeblight's Ending. The less chance you have of facing Faeries, the better this is than Cancel. Removing cards from the game is generally better than putting them in the graveyard, if you have a choice, due to reanimation effects.
Familiar's Ruse: A hard counterspell, but with the drawback (?) of returning a creature to your hand. And when I say drawback, I mean that you can return Mystic Snake, Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, or any number of creatures with beneficial comes-into-play effects to your hand with Familiar's Ruse.
Mulldrifter: A fantastic draw spell, which also can be abused a lot with Momentary Blink. At the worst, Mulldrifter is Counsel of the Soratami. At the best, you are getting a 2/2 flyer and two cards for five mana, which is not a bad deal.
Pestermite: A 2/1 flyer with Twiddle attached, at an affordable three-mana price. This guy can spell the difference between winning and losing a combat race, since it can tap an attacker / blocker and then attack / block itself.
Ponder: A great card-selection spell. Do you want to play this over Telling Time? Well, Blue generally has a lot more to do at two mana than at one mana, so putting Ponder in the early draw slow (previously filled by Sleight of Hand) seems like a really good idea.
Briarhorn: This guy is a decent body for four mana, but if it were just a 3/3 for four with flash, it'd still be nothing to write home about. Now, as a Giant Growth that gives you a 3/3 creature as well, that makes it a good man. Want a 6/6 surprise blocker? Briarhorn for the win! Need to get in 3 extra damage with your other creature? Briarhorn for the win!
Changeling Titan: Sometimes size just matters the most. There aren't many creatures that are going to be bigger than 7/7 for five mana. This guy is huge, and can be played in any deck that runs both creatures and green mana sources.
Elvish Harbinger: This is the only of the Harbinger cards from Lorwyn on this list, as the other Harbingers are generally narrow—they have a great use in a deck that is focused on their tribe, but don't have general utility. Elvish Harbinger also has a line of text at the bottom: Tap to add any color of mana to your mana pool. This is like Birds of Paradise and Utopia Tree, so it's good for acceleration or color fixing.
Fertile Ground: You probably already have these from Eighth Edition or Invasion, but if you don't , pick them up now. An old standby that lets you get multiple colors of mana, early, with acceleration included.
Lignify: A way for green to shut down large creatures it might not ordinarily be able to handle. Some of your creatures might have trouble getting around a four-toughness wall. Is that a big deal if you're bringing Akroma crashing down to earth? I don't think so!
Rootgrapple: Creeping Mold, except that it can also kill planeswalkers. This is one of the few Standard cards available which can just directly kill a planeswalker, and it can do so at instant speed. It's also more splashable than Creeping Mold. This is a great utility spell for green.
Woodland Changeling: A cheap changeling (2/2 for two) that can sub in for any tribal creature in any tribal deck, from Elves to Slivers to Knights to Goblins.
Blades of Velis Vel: Four damage for two mana on your attacking creatures, plus it's a changeling to boot. Might be a little silly with Haakon, but it might not be silly when you drop your red aggressive creatures of choice in turns one and two, and then tack on 4 extra damage on turn three.
Changeling Berserker: A hasted Juggernaut, and one that can work with any deck that has creatures and access to red mana. I'm not sure that this is as strong as some of the other cards on this list (it's a little more focused on a red burn strategy), but it might be good in multiple red decks that achieve victory through attacking (versus just working in Goblins, or Elementals).
Inner-Flame Acolyte: At worst, Inner-Flame Acolyte is a 4/2 haste creature for three mana. At best, it's also an Elemental, and one that can give one of your other creatures a one-shot boost of +2/+0 and haste.
Cloudgoat Ranger: Six power worth of creatures for five mana. I was all over this guy in last week's column, and likely I'll be all over him in next week's—three Kithkin and a 3/3 giant for five mana is just too good a deal to pass up!
Crib Swap: Takes care of any creature, no questions asked. Removes that creature from the game, which is important for reanimation and recursion purposes. Your opponent gets a 1/1 dude, but it's a 1/1 dude that most of the time won't have a relevant ability (changeling).
Knight of Meadowgrain: A 2/2 first strike lifelink guy is a guy who will swing the damage race in your favor. Good in both control and aggro, because it gains you life, and early. I'd expect this to become the most-seen White Weenie creature online almost immediately, and it is that good.
Oblivion Ring: A removal spell that can pretty much take care of anything, with a drawback similar to Faceless Butcher's. Still, people run a lot less enchantment removal than they do creature removal, meaning that Oblivion Ring has a much better chance of sticking to the board for the whole game. Plus, I'm going to be using the heck out of this card in my deck "The Joke's On You" right after the Kithkin evolution.
Wispmare: A more versatile Cloudchaser Kestrel—one that can be played either as a sorcery speed Demystify, or as a 1/3 flyer for three. Just like with Ingot Chewer, you want to play this guy if you're expecting to face a lot of enchantments.
Moonglove Extract: Seal of Fire. Sure, it costs three mana instead of one. However, it's playable in any deck—blue, green and white don't get many direct damage spells (Psionic Blast raises its hand). I used to run Aeolipile in my black decks as a way to kill protection from black creatures in the early game. This would give a blue deck an easy way to kill Scryb Ranger, for instance, or white a way to kill Blood Knight.
Wanderer's Twig: Lay of the Land for any color. If you need to make sure you get certain colors of mana early, or want to thin your deck out of lands and you're not playing green, this is a good alternative.
Vivid Crag / Vivid Creek / Vivid Grove / Vivid Marsh / Vivid Meadow: Budget versions of Gemstone Mine, with some benefits. In exchange for coming into play tapped and having two counters instead of three, each of these can tap for a specific color of mana without having to remove a counter, and each stays in play after its counters are gone.
I hope that this article has given everyone some ideas for decks for these cards, or ideas for these cards in their preexisting decks! Was this column helpful to you as a deck builder? Is this the type of column you want to see between the physical and online release of future sets? I want to know!
See you all next week when we dive straight into the Kithkin Militia Theme Deck with the following poll results in mind:
|How should Ben evolve the Kithkin Militia Deck?|
|Straight Kithkin, with no sub-theme.||2902||33.8%|
|Kithkin and Giants. Giants like helping their little friends!||2654||30.9%|
|Kithkin / Soldiers. Let's see how big those guys can get!||2364||27.5%|
|Kithkin and Rebels. This would reallllly gut the Kithkin Theme deck though!||669||7.8%|
See you then!