Posted in Building on a Budget on July 2, 2008

By Ben Bleiweiss

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Building on a Budget, the column dedicated to build decks using Magic Online that cost 30 tickets or less! We're in the middle of Eventide previews this week on, and poor ol' me never gets a preview card of my very own. So I gussied up my courage, and said to mean ol' Kelly Digges, "Hey Kelly? Can I get me one o' them preview cards?" and he said "Heck no, Ben! I'm-a busy previewing one of my own! But I kept asking, and I kept asking, and finally Kelly agreed to meet me halfway: he let me put the focus of this week's deck under a hide/reveal link.

Click here to see what Counterintelligence is all about!

Power Conduit


Ever since the persist mechanic debuted, I'd wanted to get my hands on a playset of Power Conduit, and take them down to Funkytown. Nate Heiss once tackled Power Conduitin this very column, but counters have come a long way since Darksteel. And by a long way, I mean from the graveyard as -1/-1 counters. Let me break it down:

Peanut Butter Theory

Ok boys and girls, it's time to share with you Ben's Peanut Butter Theory:

First you make the peanuts.

Then you make the peanut butter!

What's this have to do with Magic and deck building? Well, you ever gone to one of those restaurants that brings you a big ol' tub of peanuts in a metal bucket, and you're supposed to shell them and eat them and then throw them on the ground? And then they make the busboy or wait staff sweep them up every hour or so? This is nothing like that. Weren't you listening? This is about PEANUT BUTTER! If you don't have peanuts, you can't make peanut butter—or in this case, if you don't have the base materials to work with, you can't have a refined end product.

To boot: Power Conduit is great for moving around counters. However, Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks are focused around (among other mechanics) two themes: +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters. And when a creature has a +1/+1 counter and a -1/-1 counter at the same time, the two counters negate one another and vanish. So:


Kitchen Finks
Peanut: Power Conduit

Peanut: Kitchen Finks

Kitchen Finks: 3/2, gain 2 life, persist, yadda yadda yadda. Kitchen Finks dies: 2/1, -1/-1 counter, gain 2 life. Kitchen Finks dies again: Dead Finks. Hello graveyard!

But let's rewind here! Kitchen Finks of the just-dead: a 3/2 with a -1/-1 counter—no good for persist! Why, let's tap Power Conduit. That removes that nasty -1/-1 counter, and turns it into a nifty +1/+1 counter! Holy schlabolies, 4/3 Finks! Ready to persist again!


Or, how about we grok this one out for size:

Peanut: Devoted Druid. 0/2. Taps for . Untaps for a -1/-1 counter. Tap, , untap. Tap, . Untap, dead (as a -2/0). No good! No good!

Enter Power Conduit.

Devoted Druid. 0/2. Tap: . Put a -1/-1 on: untap. Tap, . Remove the -1/-1 counter with Power Conduit, and give Devoted Druid a +1/+1 counter. Untap Druid. Tap, . Untap Druid. Tap, . Four mana, one very alive Druid.


So I was like, hey man, this smells like a deck to me!

Counterintelligence 1

Download Arena Decklist

Here's a breakdown of the ticket cost of the cards in this deck (cards without a cost can typically be traded for at 0.05 to 0.1 tickets each)

4 Wall of Roots (2 each, 8 total)
4 Kitchen Finks (2 each, 8 total)
4 Devoted Druid
4 Safehold Elite
4 Sun Droplet (0.33 each, 1.33 total)
4 Power Conduit
3 Etched Oracle (0.33 each, 1 total)
3 Orochi Hatchery (0.5 each, 1.5 total)
1 Talisman of Dominance
1 Talisman of Impulse
1 Talisman of Indulgence
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Talisman of Unity
2 Triskelion (1.5 each, 3 total)
1 Clearwater Goblet (1 total)
4 Vivid Grove
3 Mirrodin's Core (.5 each, 1.5 total)
1 Fungal Reaches
2 Saltcrusted Steppe
12 Forest

Total Cost: 25.33 tickets


Etched Oracle
What likes +1/+1 and charge counters? Most of the cards in the deck, that's what! This is a base green deck with many ways to produce other colors of mana, without sacrificing stability in the early game. Wall of Roots, Devoted Druid, and the Talismans give an early boost of mana, leading up to Orochi Hatchery or Triskelion as kill conditions. Kitchen Finks, Safehold Elite, Sun Droplet and Clearwater Goblet are in the deck to buy time, while Etched Oracle works as a reusable card-drawing mechanism—mainly because with Power Conduit, you can get it past four counters, and then use it every few turns to Ancestral Recall yourself.

So, you might ask yourself, why am I using Talismans in this deck instead of green mana acceleration, Ravnica block signets, or other non-pain-inducing ways of accelerating mana? Simple—if I have two Sun Droplets in play, I want to be able to have a way to damage myself, so that I can give both of the Droplets counters and gain life if my opponent is not actively damaging me!

I also have ten lands that can fuel Power Conduit in case that my other cards in play cannot—but still, I like the idea of producing a green mana with Wall of Roots, making it a 0/4, and then using Power Conduit to bump-a-dump my Wall to a 1/6 blocker. And hey, what's wrong with dropping Orochi Hatchery on turn four as a two-Snake-producing contraption, and then using Power Conduit to grow it by a Snake a turn? Heck, if I've already got the Conduit in play, I can have four Snakes by turn five: move a counter the turn I play Hatchery, and move a counter the turn I'm going to activate it!

This deck has so much love, and so little jelly. Let's see how it does in play in the Extended casual room!

Game 1: fstatc (Mono-Artifact Equipment)

Fstatc starts the game with double Cloudpost, Ornithopter, Myr Servitor, Paradise Mantle, and Loxodon Warhammer. I get Forest and Saltcrusted Step, along with Talisman of Progress and Vivid Grove. This allows me to play a Etched Oracle with four counters on turn four, and Triskelion (wiping away fstatc's creatures) on turn five. Fstatc then plays Blinkmoth Urn, but I have lots of artifacts to play out of my hand with the extra mana. I drop Power Conduit and Mirrodin's Core, and start moving the charge counters of the Core onto my Triskelion, killing fstatc quickly thereafter.

Record: 1-0

Game 2: Golden Void (Green-Blue "Comes into Play" Creatures)

I get a great start with Devoted Druid and Power Conduit, allowing me to play Druid on turn two, tap it for two mana on turn three, drop Power Conduit, use Power Conduit to make the Druid a 1/3, tap it twice more, and play a Talisman and Kitchen Finks. Golden Void plays Living Wish for Viridian Shaman, killing my Conduit. I drop another Conduit, and he blocks my Finks with his Shaman, using Eternal Witness to bring back his Shaman to kill my second Conduit. He then gets another Living Wish for Duplicant, removes Kitchen Finks from the game, and wrecks me out of the game.

Record: 1-1

Game 3: AJ_Impy (Black-Red Din)

AJ_Impy starts with Manaforge Cinder, Gobhobbler Rats, and Shivan Zombie. I get Kitchen Finks, Sun Droplet, and Devoted Druid. I'm building up to Triskelion when he plays Seething Song and Din of the Fireherd, making me sacrifice four lands and both my creatures. Left at no lands and a 2/1 Finks, I quickly get run over by his hordes.

Record: 1-2

Game 4: Greymogin (Battle of Wits)

I get Safehold Elite, and then double Kitchen Finks. He transmutes Brainspoil for Battle of Wits, drops Battle of Wits turn five, and kills me a turn before I kill him.

Record: 1-3


Sun Droplet
Game 5: dimmer11 (White Weenie)

He starts with Icatian Javelineers, Silver Knight, and Griffin Guide. I get Devoted Druid and Sun Droplet. He adds Knight of the Holy Nimbus and Suntail Hawk. I drop Etched Oracle, which gets removed from blocking by Temporal Isolation. I drop a second Sun Droplet and die at exactly 0 life the turn before I would be able to stabilize with Wall of Roots plus Clearwater Goblet.

Record: 1-4

So far, so bad! Well, at least I know what I'm losing to: creatures, creatures, and more creatures (and/or Battle of Wits, but hey, you win or you don't against Battle of Wits—you either have the Naturalize or not—whereas creature removal is much more versatile). It's easy to work in more creature removal, especially on the counter theme.

In: 3 Infused Arrows, 2 Triskelion
Out: 4 Safehold Elite, 1 Clearwater Goblet

Yeah, those Safehold Elite weren't doing very much. I barely drew them, and I had so many other two-drops that I didn't really have a use for them (I almost always wanted to drop a mana accelerator instead). I bring in two more Trikes and an Infused Arrows (reusable thanks to Power Conduit) and get ready to off some critters.

Counterintelligence 2

Download Arena Decklist

Game 6: krondor2 (Ping Deck)

Krondor2 drops Izzet Guildmage, Thousand-Year Elixir, and Prodigal Sorcerer. I drop double Sun Droplet, Mirrodin's Core, and Power Conduit, and then play Infused Arrows for four. Krondor2 concedes, as a ping deck will have huge problems against two Droplets and a replenishable way to kill creatures.

Record: 2-4

Game 7: IMPU2LATE (Guilty Conscience / Stuffy Doll)


Orochi Hatchery
I get my set up with Orochi Hatchery and Power Conduit, and IMPU2LATE then pulls off the Guilty Conscience / Stuffy Doll combo. I look at my top card: Infused Arrows. Wah!

Record: 2-5

Game 8: stayinlanes (Mono-White Ajani)

Stayinlanes gets a Skyhunter Skirmisher and a Dawn Elemental... and I kill the Skirmisher with Triskelion and drop Sun Droplet. He then drops Guardian of the Guildpact and Ajani Goldmane. He continues to drop creature after creature, and eventually just bashes my head in with a 7/7 Dawn Elemental that I can't contain.

Record: 2-6

Game 9: PirateHeather (Mono-Black Weenie)

PirateHeather starts with double Vampire Bats and Drudge Skeletons, and I get Wall of Roots, Talisman of Unity, double Sun Droplet (with the Talisman to keep counters on the Droplets) and a pair of Power Conduits. I then add Infused Arrows to the board (which kills all her creatures), and a Triskelion (which grows to 10/10 to finish her in two attacks).

Record: 3-6

Game 10: xtxoxpxd44 (Sunburst)

I get a start with Kitchen Finks and Orochi Hatchery. Xtxoxpxd44 drops Skyreach Manta, and I answer with double Sun Droplet and a Power Conduit. He drops a second Manta, and I drop a second Finks and start racing. He concedes the game the turn before I'll overrun the board with large Finks and Snakes.

Record: 4-6

This second stretch of 3-2 is much better than my 1-4 start, but I'm still not feeling the deck. I have a great start-and-middle game (setting up guys, playing some D), but the deck is lacking that OOMPH to make it an actual threat to kill an opponent. Time for the "B" plan: RED!

Red gives me access to two cards that work great with what I already got: Murderous Redcap (more creature removal, PLUS it has persist) and Ion Storm. All these Vivid lands? Yeah, they use charge counters. So does Mirrodin's Core. They are all fodder for the Ion Storm, which can shoot off creatures and opponents left and right.


Ion Storm
Vivid Crag

Since I'm going to two colors, I need more focus on getting my mana right, and less focus on sunburst. Accordingly, in come Talismans and lands that produce red and green, and out go Talismans and lands that don't. Simple and clean! I also take out the Etched Oracles and Orochi Hatcheries—the Oracles because I'm no longer playing sunburst, and the Hatcheries because they have proven to be wayyyyy too slow and clunky. I'll just dome people with Ion Storm instead. TO THE HEAD!

Out: 3 Orochi Hatchery, 3 Etched Oracle, 2 Vivid Grove, Talisman of Dominance, Talisman of Indulgence, Talisman of Unity, Talisman of Progress, 2 Saltcrusted Steppe, 2 Forest
In: 3 Ion Storm, 4 Murderous Redcap, 2 Vivid Crag, 3 Talisman of Impulse, 2 Fungal Reaches, 2 Mountain

Counterintelligence 3

Download Arena Decklist

Game 11: oudawntan (Three-Color Elves)

Oudawntan begins with Joiner Adept, Wirewood Herald and Essence Warden. I drop a Vivid Crag, a Forest (and a Talisman), and then put down a Vivid Grove and Ion Storm on turn three. This allows me to machine gun down his team on turn four, and drop Kitchen Finks and Devoted Druid on turn five. He gets Golgari Germination, but I counter with Power Conduit. At this point I can untap my Druid, make it a 1/3 with the Conduit, shoot away two blockers (thanks to the Vivid Lands plus the +1/+1 counter on my Druid), and keep hitting for 3 a turn. Once he runs out of creatures, I start hitting him for 6 a turn (4 on the attack, and then 2 from the Ion Storm to his dome), ending the game quickly.

Record: 5-6


Murderous Redcap
Game 12: killerkow316 (Red-Green Land Thin / Goblin Charbelcher)

This is a very long and intense game. Killerkow316 begins with game with a lot of mana acceleration thanks to Sakura Tribe-Elder and Kodama's Reach, and stops me from abusing Wall of Roots / Power Conduit with Duplicant. He then drops a Goblin Charbelcher, and I answer with double Kitchen Finks. I keep my Finks alive and running with the Power Conduit, and he starts getting down Solemn Simulacrums (which I kill with Murderous Redcap). Eventually he starts recurring his graveyard with Gaea's Blessing, and I start turning on the offense with two Finks and a Redcap against his 0/5 Duplicant.

In no short time, killerkow drops a second Goblin Charbelcher, and I get Sun Droplet to stop any real offense. He nearly wipes the board clean with Starstorm plus Charbelchers on my Finks, but I get Ion Storm, and start shooting off his guys. He uses Search for Tomorrow to fetch out Panglacial Wurm, and we trade creatures multiple times. In the end, I stick a Murderous Redcap to the board against his two Charbelchers and get enough charge counters on my Sun Droplet to deal the last 8 damage with my Ion Storm.

Record: 6-6

I've hit the .500 mark, and that's a great place to be, considering I started at .200. The red added a ton to the deck, including ways to directly kill the opponent without needing to get a Triskelion or a 4/3 Finks. Other cards I considered using for this deck include Ageless Entity, Spike Feeder, Thallid, Dark Depths, Chainbreaker, Sculpting Steel, Pentad Prism, Well of Lost Dreams, so if you're going to take this deck for a spin, feel free to innovate however you'd like!

Oh, and there were a pair of polls last week:

What are you?
Johnny 2534 30.5%
Timmy 1819 21.9%
Spike 1749 21.1%
Vorthos 1090 13.1%
Melvin 909 10.9%
None of the above 203 2.4%
Total 8304 100.0%
What is Ben?
Timmy 1635 31.3%
Johnny 1614 30.9%
Spike 892 17.1%
Melvin 516 9.9%
Vorthos 349 6.7%
None of the above 211 4.0%
Total 5217 100.0%

I will say that I was extremely surprised by the results of the second poll (the one where you voted on my player profile). I was expecting to be pegged as a Spike / Johnny (in that order), but Spike was way down on the list. Maybe I've gotten a lot less Spikey since my early start on this column, or maybe I wasn't as Spikey as I thought—but either way, you've spoken, so call me Timmy the John or Johnny the Tim, whichever you prefer!

Next Week: The Final Five, Part 1!


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