This is my third calendar year working on Building on a Budget! It seems like only yesterday that I first started working on Building on a Budget, so I guess that's a good sign—time flies when you're having fun!
Speaking of fun, I had a blast playing around with the Classic format on Magic Online this past week. For those tuned in at the end of last year, I ran a poll asking you, the reader, which format you'd most like to see me play at the beginning of this year. That poll was too close to call, so I held a runoff between the two top picks. Here are the results of that runoff:
|Which format would you like to see Ben explore on a budget?|
|Classic, where most cards are legal.||2692||40.5%|
|Highlander, where there can only be one!||2276||34.3%|
|Classic Highlander – I like them both!||1672||25.2%|
The biggest problem I had when approaching Classic was an immense pool of cards. Every card on Magic Online is legal for Online play, with the three exceptions of Gleemox (banned), Flash (restricted) and Vampiric Tutor (restricted). This left every base set from Seventh through Tenth, Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight, Masters Edition, and all expansion sets from Onslaught through Lorwyn as places to draw from (plus a few promo cards like Sliver Queen, Morphling, and others). Let me tell you—it is daunting to start from scratch when building a deck with that many cards to choose from!
What pushed my choice over the edge was the inclusion of Skullclamp. Now, I don't know who among you played when Skullclamp was legal in Standard, but the card is three degrees of broken. Each time you play a one-toughness creature, you're looking at another card. Put it on a two toughness creature, and draw extra cards when it dies/is blocked. Play two Skullclamps on a two-toughness creature, and draw four cards. Skullclamp is banned in every paper format except Vintage, and for good reason—it is one of the most potent card-drawing cards ever printed in Magic.
Well, it's legal in Classic and I found them all over the place at four-for-a-ticket. If Skullclamp is legal in Online Classic, I sure as heck was going to find a way to work it into every deck I built on a Budget.
Here is a list of the cards that caught my eye when I was perusing all available Red, Artifact and Land cards for Online classic. I didn't include high-priced lands (I knew they would throw me off a budget), but I included cards that were too expensive to use otherwise (such as Goblin Piledriver) as a point of reference.
Goblins are generally a strong deck. Here's an Extended-legal version of Dirty Kitty, a Goblin deck revolving around the pieces of the Goblin puzzle, with a touch of Fecundity for card drawing.
In order to make this deck budget, the green had to go entirely—there's just no cheap way to get green and red reliably and still fit in the budget of the key cards (the Goblins) in this deck. Also, Goblin Piledriver just isn't affordable. While several other key Goblins (Warchief, Matron) are available cheaply right now thanks to the Elves vs. Goblins duel deck, a set of Piledrivers alone would take up most of the cost of the deck.
There is another deck that was banned out of existence in other formats—the Goblin Recruiter / Goblin Charbelcher deck. With this combination, you can put all of the Goblins in your deck on top of your library, and then activate your Charbelcher to deal that much damage (or double that much if you get a Mountain) to your opponent. I found Charbelchers available for half a ticket each.
This gave my deck multiple degenerate combos—Skirk Prospector plus Mogg War Marshal (three extra mana), Skullclamp plus most of my Goblins (reusable card drawing), Goblin Warchief (to reduce the cost of other Goblins and give them haste), a singleton tutorable Goblin King (more damage, Mountainwalk) and Sharpshooter, plus the Recruiter/Charbelcher kill. This was a much more competitive deck than I'm used to playing in the casual room, but there weren't enough people playtesting Classic in the serious rooms to test there. There were plenty of other players playing Classic in the casual room, and so I tested my Goblin deck there.
We go back and forth trading creatures, but eventually I kill Norin #1 with Death Match and Norin #2 with Gempalm Incinerator. My Mogg War Marshals make Death Match work in my favor, and Skullclamp lets me keep the guys coming and coming and coming. Eventually I overwhelm him, but not before he casts a (to-be-sacrificed) Phyrexian Dreadnaught to try to stay alive.
Game 2: Corrian_Orrak (Black-Green Control)
He gets Skeletal Changeling, and then blows up my team with Endemic Plague. I get down Goblin Charbelcher, and use Charbelcher plus Lightning Bolt to kill consecutive Stronghold Overseers. He drops Phyrexian Totem, and swings with it the next two turns. The first turn I'm tapped out from killing an Overseer. The next turn, I deal 8 to the head of the Totem, dropping Corrain_Orrak to a single permanent. I then draw Goblin Recruiter, get my combo off, and deal 34 to his head.
He gets an early Spark Elemental, Shock and Goblin Grenade to bring me to 10, with a Wheel of Fate suspended on turn 2. I get Skirk Prospector, Goblin Warchief, Skullclamp and Mogg War Marshal, draw a lot of cards and drop a lot of goblins, get Recruiter for Sharpshooter, all the rest of the War Marshals and Goblin King, and try to swing for the win. He kills my Goblin King, and then drops Seismic Assault the following turn, allowing him to stay alive through my next attack. This leaves him at 1 life when Wheel of Fate goes off. He draws eight (seven plus his regular draw), drops a one-drop Goblin, and tries to play Goblin Grenade. I respond by sacrificing a Warchief to play Lightning Bolt targeting him (just drawn off of the Wheel of Fate). He is able to knock me down to 4 with Seismic Assault, but my Bolt resolves before his Grenade, winning me the game.
Game 4: Bolo69 (Hondens)
I get Skirk Prospector, Mishra's Factory and Mogg War Marshal, and use the War Marshal mana during my upkeep from a sacrifice to power up Mishra's Factory. Goblin Matron fetches up Goblin Warchief, and I drop Skullclamp to draw multiple cards. He is quickly overwhelmed, having only dropped a Honden of Night's Reach.
Game 5: Thenoeght (Mono-Black Control)
Turn One: Skirk Prospector
Turn Two: Skullclamp
Turn Three: Goblin Warchief
Turn Four: Goblin Recruiter, for four Mogg War Marshals, one Goblin King, and one Goblin Sharpshooter. Sacrifice Recruiter to draw two cards. Play two War Marshals. Sacrifice them both for . Sacrifice a Goblin token to pay for Skullclamp on another token. Sacrifice two tokens to cast two War Marshals. Sacrifice both War Marshals and a token to add , Clamp another token, and drop Goblin King. Swing to knock him down to 1. Sacrifice two tokens to play Goblin Sharpshooter and win.
An early Goblin King has helped me speed up my kill considerably, since I can pump out a ton of tokens by recruiting up Mogg War Marshal and sacrificing to get a chain going with Skirk Prospector. I decide to add in more Goblin Kings, and take out an Incinerator and a Charbelcher in their place.
Game 6: POS26 (Black-Blue Faeries)
I get Skirk Prospector, Goblin King, Goblin Matron, and double Mogg War Marshal. He has a lot of 1/1 Faeries, plus an Oona's Prowler. I make my guys 2/2, and start swinging, making his Prowler a 1/1 when he blocks. He quickly succumbs to a horde of 2/2 Goblins.
The next three games consisted of a match in the tournament practice room.
Game 7: Game 1 vs. Quel (Pox)
Match Record: 0-1
He gets another early Nihilith, but this time I am able to race him with multiple Mishra's Factorys on the board. He gets Pox, and we trade life, with me down to 1 and him to 3, though my double Factory takes down his Nihilith on defense. Eventually he gets Engineered Plague on Goblins, but I kill him with a Skullclamp on my Mishra's Factory.
Match Record: 1-1
Game 9: Game 3 vs. Quel (Pox)
He plays an early Engineered Plague, but accidentally sets it to Birds. I offer to not play any of my one-toughness creatures, but he says it's okay. I then drop Goblin King, Skullclamp, a whole lot of Mogg War Marshals, Skirk Prospector, Goblin Matron, and another Goblin King, and start swinging in with a host of guys. I even get to Gempalm Incinerator a Nihilith!
Match Record: 2-1
Game 8: Rippenflesh (Black-Red Goblins)
He kills an early Warchief with a Lightning Bolt, and Skirk Prospector with a Hornet Harrasser plus Goblin Grenade. I get down a Matron, get another Warchief, drop a Skullclamp and a Prospector, and set up to kill with Goblin Recruiter. Unfortunately, I drop a Goblin Sharpshooter, and instead of killing his Knucklebone Witch plus Siege-Gang Commander, I accidentally have the Sharpshooter target itself (darn misclick!). This makes me go for plan B: drop seven Goblins to the board (a Prospector, a Warchief, four tokens from Mogg War Marshal, and a Goblin King), swing for 13, and then sacrifice everything to hit him with Goblin Charbelcher. I turn up a Mountain at the end of my remaining Goblins, so I would have dealt over 20 damage anyhow.
Game 9: grayghost (Elves / Treefolk)
I get a slow start, but it's buoyed by a Gemplam Incinerator and Goblin Matron. This lets me set up with Goblin Sharpshooter (always good against Elves) plus a Goblin King and a Warchief. My guys push through on sheer damage this game.
Game 10: CragLaR (Black-White-Green-Blue Control)
He gets off a Cruel Edict, but I get double Prospector, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Matron and Goblin King, and proceed to swing with Prospector, Warchief, Matron, and King for two straight attacks, which is enough damage (with the proceeding haste) to win.
With the 11-1 record under my belt with Goblins, I decide to switch to a classic burn deck. I still want to us Skullclamp, but I add in several creatures that aren't necessarily from the Goblin deck—Mudbutton Torchrunner (Lightning Bolt plus draw two cards), Slith Firewalker (the guy just keeps getting bigger), and Scorched Rusalka (to get through that last few damage). I make my burn suite an impressive package of Rift Bolt, Lightning Bolt, Fireblast, Char, and Incinerate.
I have enough burn to take down a forest full of wet trees. Let's see what kind of kindling I found!
Game 1: jdderda (Mono-Black Discard)
I draw eleven Mountains, and end up dying to Liliana Vess and The Rack, having never drawn enough burn to kill Liliana before she got up in counters. I do get double Skullclamp, but no creatures to go with it.
Game 2: cadaverous knight (Muse Vessel)
Very similar to my old Muse Vessel deck, but I burn him out the turn before he takes away my entire hand, and strips all of my lands but two. He ends up with double Char, Slith Firewalker, Skullclamp, and Mudbutton Torchrunner under his Muse Vessel before I take him down to zero.
Game 3: Knights84 (Mono-Red Burn / LD)
He gets Slith Firewalker and casts Molten Rain on my Mishra's Factory. I Incinerate his Firewalker, and he casts Stone Rain. He then plays Vulshok Sorcerer, and I drop Mudbutton Torchrunner. He drops another Sorcerer, shoots me, and I drop another Torchrunner. He accidentally shoots his own Sorcerer and concedes, but we look at our hands and determine that I was going to win the game (I had double Fireblast, double Rift Bolt and Lightning Bolt to his Shock, Sorcerer, Firewalker, Shock, meaning I could throw 17 damage at him (plus the Torchrunners, either attacking or being killed for 3 damage) before he could even get close to throwing 14 more damage at my head.
I get stuck on one mana, with double Scorched Rusalka and a Skullclamp. It takes until my second Rusalka until I draw a second mana. However, I recover quickly from there thanks to a ton of burn in my hand, and I end up with double Slith Firewalker finishing the game at 4/4s with Char, Lightning Bolt, and Fireblast to provide the last damage.
Game 5: dark_cowboy30 (Black-Green Elves)
I kill a Wellwisher with a Mudbutton Torchrunner and a Skullclamp, and get a Slith Firewalker up to 3/3. I then aim Lightning Bolt at dark_cowboys30's head, get triple Skullclamp on my Firewalker, and finish the game by untapping, unsuspending a Rift Bolt, throwing double Incinerate at the dome, and then saccing four Mountains to double Fireblast (17 points of direct damage)
The Rusalkas aren't that great, since A) I want to sacrifice my creatures to Skullclamp when possible, and B) I don't have a lot of creatures. I decide to run Martyr of Ashes in their stead, as a way to sweep the board of early creatures, and to have a creature with more general utility for this deck.
I've also ended up with Char in my hand to end several games—at three mana, it is (surprisingly enough) very unwieldy for this deck. Most of the rest of my burn costs one or zero (Fireblast), and I've had more than enough of it. What I'm light on are creatures, especially with Skullclamp in my deck. I take out the Chars (making the deck completely rare-free) and put in Dwarven Blastminers—people love their nonbasic lands, and the Blastminer also gives me an out in case my opponent drops some sort of Story Circle or Circle of Protection: Red.
Game 6: Simaton (Mono-Green Aggro)
He gets an early Skullclamp, and this leads him to get double Uktabi Drake with card-drawing aftereffects. I get stuck on a Mountain and triple Mishra's Factory, which makes me die to Groundbreaker when it has triple Might of Old Krosa on it, and I can only use Lightning Bolt on it once.
Game 7: Nick_Braford (Mono-Green Elves)
I burn away his Sunscape Familiar and Stormscape Familiars with Mudbutton Torchrunners plus Skullclamp, but he's left with a Drift of Phantasms. I get Slith Firewalker and a Morph onto the board, and swing. He drops a bounceland, and I flip up my morph (which is Dwarven Blastminer), kill his land, and draw a concession. I have a full grip to his nearly empty hand.
Game 9: ncurry (Black-Red Discard / LD)
I get hit by Hymn to Tourach, making me lose Incinerate and Lightning Bolt. I do get a first-turn Skullclamp, which I use to clamp up first Martyr of Ashes, and then a morphed Dwarven Blastminer. He is joined by double Slith Firewalker and a Mishra's Factory, and I burn out his blocker (Black Knight) to let my creatures do all the damage.
Game 10: LaFFaL (Goblin Burn)
A deck similar to mine. Martyr of Ashes stops his first couple of creatures, but I get burned down to 11, and he's got three cards in hand. I get down Slith Firewalker, swing him up to 2/2, and then double Skullclamp him. This lets me have a following turn that includes double suspended Rift Bolt resolving (6 damage), double Lightning Bolt (12 damage), double Incinerate (18 damage), and double Fireblast (26 damage). Considering I already had him down below 18, this was a bit of overkill—but heck, I'm entitled to a little extra burn now and then, amigos!
I had a lot of fun playing Classic with these two decks—even though both are red, they function very differently. There's a fun thrill of getting across 20 points of attacking damage on turn four or five with Goblins, just as there is a perverse pleasure taken in dealing 20 points of burn in a single turn. For those who hate playing with rares at all, definitely try out the pure red burn deck—it was very fun to play, it proved competitive, and it had no rares. If you like Goblins, take advantage of two of the most broken cards in Magic Online (Skullclamp and Goblin Recruiter) while they are cheap and allowed, and win yourself a few games!