Three weeks ago I began with the Charge Of The Boros preconstructed deck, slowly evolving it into a fun, respectable, budget deck. Two weeks ago I continued that evolution, feeling my way through some double strike cards and other combat triggers. Here is where I left off:
Unlike previous evolutions, I haven't had a clear goal in mind with this deck. Instead, I've been adding cards that I like, getting rid of cards I don't like, and letting the deck grow organically. This approach has a couple of consequences. First, it means that(more than ever) you might not agree with my choices, since where I'm headed isn't evident (even to me). Second, it means that I've been mining your feedback for ideas more carefully than ever.
Thankfully, you've given me a lot to mine. In response to both articles, you all flooded the Message Boards with suggestions, reactions, and insights. Here are some of the big headlines I picked up from your response to version 1.5, along with some running commentary from me:
The argument for Boros Recruit's retention was more persuasive. I had said last time that I would be dropping Boros Recruit, and many folks rallied to the little guy's defense. All of the benefits I'm giving to Bushi Tenderfoot look even better on Boros Recruit, they argued, a creature that comes with first strike built-in. I'm also sympathetic to the fact that Boros Recruit is so easy to cast in a multicolor budget deck at a time when I've been bemoaning the number of gold cards in my deck.
For me, these two pieces of feedback are intrinsically linked, since I believe the decision is whether to keep Bushi Tenderfoot or Boros Recruit. I don't particularly want seven or eight one-mana critters in my deck, especially when I don't consider myself making an all-out aggro deck. So it's one or the other. When I ended last week, I was sure I would keep Bushi Tenderfoot through to the end. Now I'm less sure and will make a decision over my next round of games.
Fix my mana!
After several rounds of changes, my deck was adding more and more White and less and less Red, yet the land stayed constant. This is obviously a problem, and something I definitely should have addressed before ending the last article. The reason I didn't make adjustments is because I still wasn't sure how White and Red my deck was going to be (another consequence of me feeling my way this time around), and it seemed annoying to constantly be tweaking my land base before the non-land cards were set. A corollary to people's concern about my mana brought up another big request...
Don't lose Red!
I can see where folks would get concerned that I was morphing my way into a White Weenie deck, clinging to Red solely for the mightiness of Lightning Helix. Rest assured, I'm committed to the deck remaining White/Red. The reason is partly because I want this deck to feel like a Boros Legion deck but mostly because I love Boros Swiftblade and want to make sure I reliably have the mana to cast it on the second turn. Looking back, I'm realizing that my deck definitely needs a Red kick in the pants, so thanks for the reminder.
Add Loxodon Warhammer!
Add Flame Fusillade!
The third suggestion was Rabble-Rouser, a card that looks great in a deck with Vulshok Morningstar, Sunforger, and Kabuto Moth. I like the spirit behind Rabble-Rouser more than I suspect I would like the application of it. My guess is that it would be too slow and fragile to help my overall game-plan, and it would also want me to start making this an “untap deck” with To Arms! and Rally the Righteous. Still, it's a very cool option from Guildpact to consider, and if I had more time, I might very well try it out in my deck.
The final suggestion came late, but it's a good one. People noted that with Veteran Armorer and Kabuto Moth, Mannichi, the Fevered Dream starts to look really attractive. Some people started getting excited and suggesting cards like Kami of Old Stone, which would definitely make a fun deck. The problem is twofold. First, I've already made a Mannichi deck relatively recently and am not all that interested in doing it again. Second, including Mannichi would require quite a few more changes to the deck. This is my last article (and plenty long as it is), so the amount I can change the deck is limited. Still, a fun idea.
The deck has no character!
On the Boards, phcarson said, “this deck is lacking character. Despite the statements to the contrary, this deck is looking like a fairly vanilla W/r beatdown deck.” I agree. The deck feels like it's on the verge of something, but it hasn't yet arrived wherever it seems to be going. I'll see if I can spice it up before signing off today, understanding as I said that my time is limited. Today will involve some major shifts, but nothing out of left field. People want (and some expect) me to go crazy during my last BOAB article, to end with a bang. It's not going to happen, folks. Who do you think I am... Gottlieb?
Okay, here's a crazy moment for you. Enjoy.
Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiigggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Boogaboogabooga! Booga! Booga Booga! Boo! Ga! Booga! Boo! Ga! Boo...
Now that you have an idea where my head is at (booga!), let's get to the Casual Decks room of Magic Online and start playing. As always, the winning/losing in these games is less important than how the deck plays and where its weaknesses or holes might lie. Here we go...
Game 26: Blue/Red/Green Control
Game 27: Black/Blue Dimir Control
I played carefully in this game, anticipating both Last Gasp and Hideous Laughter. It turns out that neither appeared, but it was nice to know I was prepared for them. Anyway, I had an early Kabuto Moth, then Skyknight Legionnaire to combat his Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. He tried to kill my Legionnaire with Douse in Gloom but apparently forgot about my Moth. After that, I had an active Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion and he was forced to block my flier. When he tapped out for card-drawing, I played two Veteran Armorers. Cruel Edict nabbed my Legionnaire, but one Armorer grabbed Sunforger while the other grabbed a Vulshok Morningstar. I now had my super creatures, and they blew through my opponent's Mortivore on the way to killing him with one big double-striking party.
Game 28: Blue/Green Enchantress
His deck was cool, but never quite got off the ground. He started out with Leyline of Singularity and two Islands while I had Bushi Tenderfoot swinging a Vulshok Morningstar. I hit four mana and tried a Boros Swiftblade, half expecting it to be countered. When it wasn't, I equipped my Swiftblade and put my opponent on a serious clock. He missed a land drop, then finally drew a Forest. Yavimaya Enchantress showed up, but I killed it with Lightning Helix and that was game.
Game 29: Black/Green Golgari Spirits
He had a quick Ghost-Lit Stalker and Umezawa's Jitte while I had two Bushi Tenderfeet and two Veteran Armorers. For some reason he chose to cast Shambling Shell instead of equipping his Stalker with the Fork of Doom, then he allowed me to hit him with my Bushi unblocked. He equipped his Shell and attacked, then I cast two 2/6 Sunhome Enforcers in a row. Skyknight Legionnaire and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion padded my offense, and despite his Thief of Hope, second Stalker, and Stinkweed Imp, I was able to mow through his forces for the victory and survive all of his Jitte tricks. I can hardly believe that I beat a second-turn Jitte fair and square, but there you go.
Game 30: Mono-Green Control
I had to mulligan to five cards and kept a three-land hand. Still, I managed a second-turn Boros Swiftblade and a third-turn Skyknight Legionnaire. My opponent played two Forests, then Sensei's Divining Top. A turn later Civic Wayfinder showed up to staunch the bleeding. I attacked with my Legionnaire twice, then played Sunforger. I equipped my Swiftblade, wiped out his Wayfinder, and no amount of Top-spinning could save my opponent.
Okay, the deck is going fine. Despite the wonky manabase, despite the weird mix of fast and slow cards, I'm pretty much dominating my Casual Decks opponents. Of those last five games, I ended each game at twenty life or over. If I was focused solely on competitiveness, I would jump over to the Tournament Decks room and work on shoring up whatever weaknesses I found there.
I'm not a Tournament Decks kind of guy, though. No, for me the aesthetics of the game - those squishy elements of fun and style - are as important as the win-loss ratio. As a result, I feel like this deck needs a lot of work. Remember the Boards posters: The deck lacks character. The trick is to find a card or two that fits my deck while not demanding a whole series of other changes. Let's see what I can do...
OUT: 1 Sunforger
Put simply, I just don't have enough Instants in my deck to justify Sunforger's cost. I know it's a cool card, I know that searching for Lightning Helix is awesome, and I know a lot of people hoped I would again dip into making a “toolbox” deck by emphasizing Sunforger. There are a lot of cards vying for very few spaces though, and my deck doesn't feel like it does a good job of maximizing Sunforger's potential at all. If you look at the four reader suggestions above - Loxodon Warhammer, Flame Fusillade, Rabble-Rouser, and Mannichi - all of them seem to better fit my deck. Sunforger will clearly have a place in a variety of decks, just not this one.
OUT: 4 Skyknight Legionnaire
Skyknight Legionnaire, as I said in a previous article, makes me happy. I like the art, and I like the whole 2/2-flier-for-three-mana package. The problems with the Legionnaire are twofold. First, it's a mana annoyance since it requires both colors and wants to get played as early as possible. Second, it is probably the key card pushing this deck to be aggressive when I want to be slowing things down. There's nothing wrong with Boros Aggro looking to thwap opponents in the face as quickly as possible, but I'm not particularly interested in this sort of deck right now. As a result, I need to drop some solid cards in order to force a different strategy. I had hoped that Skyknight Legionnaire would be a strong filler of a card - neither adding nor detracting from the overall feel of the deck, yet always performing well - but it's clear to me now that it is one of the cards most pushing my games into a speed race.
OUT: 4 Bushi Tenderfoot
IN: 1 Boros Recruit
Surprise! Although there is no way when I ended the last Boros article that I thought Bushi Tenderfoot was leaving my deck, I've been convinced that Boros Recruit is better. Partly I've realized that I didn't see Kenzo the Heardhearted in a single game out of thirty, which makes it a little less rewarding. Mostly, though, I thought people were very articulate on the Boards about why Boros Recruit belonged in my deck. I'm no longer worrying about unblockability (which is why I'm not adding Lantern Kami, Frenzied Goblin, et al) so much as building up a powerhouse creature from humble roots. The fact that a Boros Recruit wielding a Morningstar or riding a Moth makes such good defense is as appealing to me as its offense. The way I'm seeing this deck, I hope to set up in the early turns and then blast an opponent with a creature they simply can't handle. Boros Recruit should, given the support cards in the deck, often be this creature.
IN: 4 Orcish Artillery
I'm surprised that more people didn't jump on this suggestion when camipco offered it. I certainly did. I love the idea of using my extra life (remember that Games 25-30 all ended with me over twenty life) to fuel Orcish Artillery, and it only makes combat math more of a nightmare for my opponent. I don't know how much of a problem the in the casting cost will be, but this at least gives me an excuse to keep the Red in the deck alive and well.
IN: 2 Loxodon Warhammer
I'm less enamored by camipco's suggestion of Spirit Link because I don't think that my deck can take advantage of it as well as, for example, a Warmonger deck. Sure, Spirit Link on Orcish Artillery looks cool, but Spirit Link on Boros Recruit just looks like card disadvantage waiting to happen.
Enter Loxodon Warhammer, which has essentially the same effect as Spirit Link while also helping me build a super-creature's power. Trample is a wonderful ability when coupled with Boros Swiftblade, much better than Spirit Link would be. Add in the fact that as a piece of equipment I can move around to various creatures and you have what I consider to be a huge winner. I wish I could add more than two copies into the deck, but there's that problem again of too many cards vying for too few spots. The overall cost of both casting and equipping a Warhammer makes me want to keep the numbers down as well.
IN: 2 Faith's Fetters
So, what does my deck need now? Flame Fusillade is a lot less cool without Bushi Tenderfoot prowling on the table. Rabble-Rouser is still a neat idea, but it's mostly redundant with a lot of the other cards in my deck. Mannichi, the Fevered Dream is too far afield. Red burn is a good idea since my deck had a weakness to Hand of Cruelty, but I've mostly solved this problem with Orcish Artillery.
Instead, a huge hole in my deck is against non-creature cards generally and Umezawa's Jitte specifically. Yes, I beat a Jitte-wielding deck recently, but that felt pretty lucky, and more about my opponent's play skill than anything. I was acutely aware that one wrong move on my part would dig me a hole out of which I couldn't climb. Since on a budget I can't use my own Jitte as an anti-Jitte card, Faith's Fetters at least gives me a fighting chance. One of the wonderful aspects of the Fetters, too, is how wide its application is. For my deck in particular it is yet another source of extra life points with which to spend on artillery shells.
With a set of non-land cards I like, it's time to focus my attention on the deck's mana.
OUT: 2 Boros Garrison
IN: 1 Mountain
IN: 1 Plains
Although my deck has a pretty middling mana curve, I have never been thrilled with the acceleration provided by Boros Garrison. Even worse, I have been absolutely annoyed when having to discard a card on the second turn because of it. One option is to drop the Garrisons for two Boros Signet, an idea that certainly deserves some testing. Since my time is limited, though, I'll go the more basic route and add regular old land. Note that I'm keeping the colors balanced thanks to the inclusion of Boros Recruit (taking away the pressure of a first-turn Plains) and Orcish Artillery. I'm also treating Sunhome Enforcer as a more Red card than White because of its activation cost.
That leaves me here, at the infamous “version 1.6” level where my deck is usually complete:
I played ten games with this deck and went 7-3. It was my intention to play about twenty games total, but something started to - pardon the pun - bug me. As a result, I made these changes:
OUT: 4 Kabuto Moth
With the dilution of double strike as a theme, Kabuto Moth feels less than ideal in my deck. I still like the “super creature” vibe of getting an active Moth while a Boros Recruit swings his Morningstar around willy-nilly, but I can't help but feel that this slot could be better used elsewhere. For a little while I toyed with the idea of dropping a single Moth for a third Faith's Fetters or Loxodon Warhammer, but I don't love the idea of dropping the creature count. It also doesn't solve the problem of Kabuto Moth suddenly feeling “meh” in my deck when previously I had been so happy to draw it. As a result, I went for the drastic measure and pulled it out entirely.
IN: 4 Mourning Thrull
Is this the right choice? I honestly don't know. More on this observation in a minute.
OUT: 1 Mountain
In my last ten games, I wasn't quite drawing Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion enough to satisfy me. Although adding a third copy makes my chances slightly higher of not being able to cast a quick Boros Recruit or Boros Swiftblade, this is balanced by the fun I have giving double strike to Mourning Thrull, Sunhome Enforcer, or anything wielding a Loxodon Warhammer. This may be an obvious statement, but the game totally changes once I have Sunhome and four additional mana available. I'm hoping that I can get away with one less Mountain as a result.
Here, then, is what I'm considering my final decklist. I'll slap a name on it, too, since today is my last article.
A final thought about this deck:
As I've said repeatedly over the three weeks of this evolution, I never had an end-state envisioned for this deck. It would have been easy to say “I'm going to make a Searing Meditation deck,” or an “aggro deck” or “a Soldier deck.” This is my usual inclination, to limit myself in scope and theme before making serious changes to a deck. I can usually get away with culling some of the chaff from a preconstructed deck without a clear vision, but after that it's the vision and games that combine to inform what cards I'll take out and what cards I'll add. In many ways, then, this last evolution was an experiment for me to see what happens when I bumble my way along. If ever I felt myself compelled to grab a vision and run with it, I pulled back mentally and continued to tinker. It was a fun experience for me, albeit uncomfortable.
Here's the lesson I learned: Deckbuilding without a clear vision in mind is hard. I probably knew this intuitively, but now I've experienced it firsthand. I'm pleased with my final deck, but I also felt unsettled throughout the three weeks. How can I know if I'm “there” if I never had a destination in mind? The deck definitely passes my “fun, respectable, budget” scorecard, yet somehow I still want to play a lot more games and keep tweaking it. Since I'm out of time, I encourage you to do the tweaking for me, and if you come up with something you love please post it on the Message Boards.
Speculative Sideboard Time!
Even though I've said that my decks aren't designed for tournament play, I certainly wouldn't begrudge someone taking a deck like this to a Friday Night Magic or challenging a friend to a best-of-three match. If I were to take my newly-dubbed Double Duty deck (alliteration anyone?) to FNM, here is the sideboard I would assemble. Keep in mind that sideboards are dependent upon what decks you think you're likely to face, so this is just a jumping-off point to get you thinking.
Sideboard: 4 Kami of Ancient Law
If you haven't noticed, enchantments are becoming a lot more pesky than artifacts these days. Right now my deck has exactly zero ways maindeck to deal with cards like Glare of Subdual, Phyrexian Arena, Searing Meditation, Faith's Fetters, Grave Pact, Night of Souls' Betrayal, Greater Good, Heartbeat of Spring, Annex, Glorious Anthem, Form of the Dragon, Debtors' Knell, Story Circle, Honden, Genju, Auras, and on and on. Thankfully, White has a creature that fits my deck nicely in Kami of Ancient Law. The Kami can pick up a Morningstar if needed as well as banish any pesky enchantments your opponent feels the need to play.
Sideboard: 3 Guerrilla Tactics
Sideboard: 3 Blood Moon
I hate putting rares into the sideboard of a budget deck, but I figure that thus far I've only sprung for two copies of Loxodon Warhammer in the maindeck. The fact is that decks like Zoo are only the beginning of the craziness inherent in today's Standard. If people have access to good multicolor lands, they can make almost any strategy come to life. Blood Moon is the great equalizer for budget deckbuilders. That it shuts down my own Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion is a small price to pay for effectively negating my opponents' fancy-shmancy manabase.
Sideboard: 3 Manriki-Gusari
As long as Umezawa's Jitte can be played in the Casual Decks room, I will complain about it. Actually, as long as Umezawa's Jitte can be played by anyone within a fifty-foot radius of me, I will complain about it. I'm not saying that it should be banned, but I am saying that playing a creature deck against it makes me want to gouge out my own eyes with a fork. Thankfully, Magic R&D has given the budget deckbuilder a few ways to combat the Jitte. Manriki-Gusari isn't as testosterone laden as Vulshok Morningstar, but it certainly replaces three copies of the Morningstar against anyone playing opposing equipment.
Sideboard: 2 Faith's Fetters
A second budgetary answer to Umezawa's Jitte is Faith's Fetters, a card that I've already said has terrific synergy with my deck. The extra two copies were a complete no-brainer as I thought about a sideboard for my deck, since they're useful against Jitte, Dragons, Meloku, Teysa, and much more.
Adding Money To The Deck
Of course, not everyone's budget is equally constrained. Even for those whose budget is tight, it's sometimes possible to nab a sweet trade or invest in a few rare staples. If you have access to any of the cards below, feel free to try them out.
I still stand by my statement that the first rares you should invest in are good multilands, period. Especially in a deck packed with lifegain, I would replace four Plains and four Mountains with four Sacred Foundry and four Battlefield Forge in a heartbeat if I owned them.
I mentioned when I added Vulshok Morningstar to the deck that Umezawa's Jitte is obviously a superior choice. This isn't a knock on the Morningstar, but more of a testament to the overwhelming awesomeness of Umezawa's Jitte. I get Swiftblade shivers just thinking about it. If you have Jitte and your friends won't disown you for playing it, use it.
Char is good, solid burn for any Red deck. It's even better for a deck with lifegain like mine. In fact, I love the idea of the lifegain inherent in my deck making cards like Orcish Artillery and Char possible.
Those four rares: Sacred Foundry, Battlefield Forge, Umezawa's Jitte, and Char are the four rares that I think clearly deserve a place in my deck (and in that order). Here are three more to think about:
I'm not sure if Paladin en-Vec is so good that it belongs in the maindeck or whether it's best as a sideboard card. I do know that a lot of Red, Black, and Red/Black decks simply curl into a little ball and die against Paladin en-Vec. For this reason alone, it makes for a great Vulshok Morningstar and Loxodon Warhammer target. The mana cost is annoying - especially if you aren't using multilands - but it's worth trying to see if the added mana requirements are worth the added games you'll win.
Whenever you say “lifegain theme” in the same sentence with “Red/White,” you must consider Searing Meditation. The Meditation turns the deck into much more of a slow, controllish feel and it certainly dictates some of your other card choices. In other words, it sort of feels like a different deck with Searing Meditation added to the deck. That said, my deck has Lightning Helix, Mourning Thrull, Loxodon Warhammer, Sunhome Enforcer, and Faith's Fetters. Searing Meditation might very well be awesome in my deck even if it doesn't become the feature card.
That's the deck. As always, pipe up on the Message Boards to voice your opinions, and feel free to post Boros decklists that have worked for you that might look a bit different. I particularly encourage you to do so this week, since I'm not going to provide a “Paths Not Taken” section. Put simply, I think there is a lot of fertile ground to be plowed for Boros decks, and to explore them would take an entire article.
For me, the life of a weekly columnist has come to an end. I can honestly say that “Building On A Budget” was the most fun I had as a Magic writer. One huge reason is that reader participation has been consistently excellent. In fact, it seems to me that BOAB is second only to Making Magic in terms of the volume of Boards posts, which is a great sign that you all were engaged in what I was trying to do. Thank you.
Some people think that the preconstructed focus of this column as well as the “three week series, one week interlude” format was somehow forced on me by Wizards management. Nope. Scott Johns has always given me a lot of latitude to shape this column, and both the focus and format have been my babies. I feel strongly that preconstructed decks are terrific gateways into Constructed deckbuilding for both beginner and budget deckbuilders alike. I was just starting to find the right balance between precons as a focus and other deckbuilding topics, but I'm pretty sure that precons would always be a strong part of any budget column I wrote.
The three-week/one-week format served two valuable purposes. First, it allowed me to talk about the budget deckbuilding process instead of just budget decklists. Based on the e-mail I've received, this filled a void for a lot of people and inspired folks to make their own decks. Inspiring deckbuilding has, I'd like to think, always been my raison d'etre as a writer. The second purpose for the column's format is less obvious - it kept me from burning out. By pacing myself, I was able to happily pour every ounce of energy I had into Building On A Budget. I honestly think that if my non-Magic life had stayed stable, I could have written BOAB for years without needing a break.
Anyway, it's been fun. Thank you for the effort you put into constructive feedback each week, and for making the past year and a half a tremendously positive experience for me. I'll miss writing and - as sappy as it sounds - I'll miss you.
Unlike when I quit House of Cards, though, I'm not quite saying goodbye. I've finally hit an age where I realize I have no predictive ability whatsoever with regards to my life. I'm working at Taco Bell, for crying out loud... Who woulda thunk it? For the time being, I know that I'll keep playing Magic, keep writing Feature Articles, and keep working on names and flavor text. After that, who knows? I may be back someday, somehow, for some reason.
Until then, think hard and have fun!