The Joke's on You!

Posted in Building on a Budget on September 17, 2007

By Ben Bleiweiss

  • Building on a Budget is dedicated to making decks that cost 30 tickets or less on Magic Online. Weekly deck testing is done using Magic Online.
  • This week's format? Standard. This means only Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, and Tenth Edition are allowed!

Attention Fleshlings! I am BoaB, the Building on a Budget robot. I am a budget-deck creation automation, built for the sole purpose of calculating the best budget decks for your eye socket consumption. I have been bribed with the finest of oils and petroleum products to fill in for Ben today. He is busy previewing Lorwyn cards at Ben is a naughty hew-man and will not let me out when he is around, so I have taken liberties to finish this column for him. We will consummate a budget deck now. I will bring my friends.



March of the Robots

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My legions will rise from their inanimate state to smash the imperialist forces which hold them down! Do you doubt my words, hew-mans? Watch as they build in power. Their crescendo will be a might to behold! They will...

Ben, Pit Fighter

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! Hold everything here, BoaB! What do you think you're doing?

BoaB is doing your job, that is what BoaB is doing.

Dude, your deck has like a kajillion rares! This isn't a budget deck.

BoaB disagrees. BoaB has done extensive calculations in his turbines, and has found this deck fits in the parameter of "budget" for this column. This deck has 21 rares. This is significantly lower than a kajillion. BoaB thinks that you made that word up.

Fine—the deck has 21 rares, and 20 uncommons! The only common cards, besides basic lands, are a quartet of Signets.

BoaB computes Desert at 2 tickets each. BoaB computes Serrated Arrows at 2 for 3 tickets. Boab has found Academy Ruins and Legacy Weapon for 1 ticket. All other rares are half a ticket each, at most. This deck costs 25 tickets according to BoaB. It is acceptable.

Look, you don't understand my audience! I get flak for having twelve rares in a deck half the time—you can't go around spewing out decks that have 41 rares and uncommons.

BoaB disagrees. This is within mission parameters. BoaB will crush the opposition with this budget deck.

Look, let's just say that I buy into the premise that this is a budget deck—it doesn't even look like a good deck. How do you win with this deck?

Foolish Bleiweiss. BoaB will drop lots of artifacts that make mana. These artifacts will make other artifacts that stop fleshlings. Serrated Arrows and Icy Manipulator slow the assault and weaken the ligaments of bipedal organisms. Quadropeds will quake beneath their cruel might! Once they are on their knees, the machines will march and break bonds and bones.

So basically, your game plan is to drop artifacts, so you can drop more artifacts, and then use those artifacts to attack?


Well, I see three problems with this plan.

Problems? There are no problems. This does not compute! BoaB is a flawless deck building unit. BoaB has won the award for best stack of sixty for two years running at the Robotolympics.

You were the only one competing! You're the only robot in the world dedicated to building on a budget, and you're horrible at it!

Sticks and stones, fleshling. Sticks and stones.

Look, let's talk strategy, or your lack thereof, okay? First of all, your deck has way too many mana sources. You have eleven mana-producing artifacts, and twenty-four lands, for a total of thirty-five out of sixty cards dedicated to producing mana.

This is correct. Creator-Ben will notice that many of these cards have multiple uses. Desert can stop attacking creatures. Mind Stone can be turned into other cards when necessary. Spectral Searchlight can hurt the opponent for a point of damage. Tolaria West gets a land you are missing for Legacy Weapon. Academy Ruins brings back an artifact that has been put in the recycling bin. Urza's Factory makes an army before the army.

That is true—but take a look at your mana base. The only colored spell in your deck is March of the Machines, and you only have three cards that require colored mana to use: Legacy Weapon, Academy Ruins, and Tolaria West. I can see that your deck is set up to be able to have five colors of mana to active Legacy Weapon early, and you don't need blue until later for Academy Ruins, because you won't recur artifacts early. But Tolaria West? Doesn't it seem like you won't get to double blue mana to transmute it too often?

BoaB has several ways to achieve blue mana. There are three Islands, four Signets, and three Spectral Searchlights to produce blue mana.

It seems to me that those aren't enough to support a double-blue spell in the early game—that's only ten sources of blue mana in the entire deck. Of course, I'm not counting the use of Sculpting Steel to copy a mana artifact, but most of the time you're going to want to copy Serrated Arrows or Icy Manipulator.

Or Steel Golem.

I really like the use of Steel Golem in this deck. You only have one other creature (Triskelavus), so Steel Golem doesn't have much of a drawback. In addition, you have ways in the deck to work around it—you can put creatures straight into play (such as with Urza's Factory), turn noncreatures into creatures (Chimeric Staff), or use Sculpting Steel to copy Steel Golem after playing it as a noncreature artifact. Speaking of Sculpting Steel—why not Mizzium Transreliquat? Wouldn't the versatility of moving your artifact around outweigh the slight activation cost of the Transqreliquat?

BoaB calculated the odds, and saw the Izzet artifact as having too many drawbacks. You cannot copy the legendary Legacy Weapon. Copying Serrated Arrows with Sculpting Steel gets you three counters. Copying it with the Transreliquat gets you zero.

How about the choice of Chimeric Staff versus Gruul War Plow?

Either of these is a good choice, but BoaB wanted to be able to attack for more than four if there was excess mana on the table. Gruul War Plow attacks for cheaper and gives trample. Chimeric Staff has the potential to get very large. Both attack for four with just a March of the Machines on the table.

Shouldn't Mishra, Artificer Prodigy be in this deck?

No Fleshlings allowed!

Come on, BoaB—he's for the good of the deck!

BoaB doesn't want anything to be affected by the spell you refer to as Terror.

You can't Terror Mishra—he's partly black!

Irrelevant. He is made of flesh. He will be killed easily. This construction of a deck is for the perfect machines only.

Well, I think Mishra would be a good addition to this deck—you'd just need to change up the signets so they all fit the same colors, so you don't have swings-and-misses with Mishra. Also, I wish Coalition Relic wasn't a high-dollar item on Magic Online—it would be perfect in this deck for fixing mana and activating Legacy Weapon.

And protein-shake Bleiweiss thought that I was pushing the budget restrictions.

You are! Sure, I could run that deck...but I think the people want something a little more budget.

BoaB will find that out for sure!

Great, now why'd you have to go and do that? I've gone weeks without polls.

Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!

BoaB, it's really creepy when you laugh in that mechanical, monotone voice.

Does that disturb friend Bleiweiss? Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

Sorry about that folks. I've unplugged BoaB now. Actually, I never realized he had a plug until now. How convenient! I've been working on a different deck this week—one that is a little less pricy. It originally started out as a mono-blue Millstone-type deck that revolved around Millstone, Whetstone, and Jester's Scepter. My initial designs ran mana-acceleration, bounce (to recur Jester's Scepter), and permission spells.

Then I started thinking—did I really need both Whetstone and Millstone? Did I want more ways to recur Jester's Scepter? I decided to make Jester's Scepter more of the focus of the deck, so I added in Vedalken Mastermind as a way to bounce the Scepter. I took a look through the blue cards in Standard and found two that caught my eye:

Azorius Aethermage (bounce my Scepter, draw a card!)
Reality Acid (bounce my Acid, destroy your permanent!)

Dream Stalker seemed like a natural fit into the deck as an alternative to Vedalken Mastermind and Boomerang. Since I was running white, I also added in a few Momentary Blink (to protect my Mastermind and to reuse Stalkers). Most of my business spells cost three, so Drift of Phantasms seemed like a good spell to add for early game defense and the ability to tutor up the Æthermage, Reality Acid or Scepter. Last, I put in Ambassador Laquatus (as a tutor target and a fifth milling mechanism) and a couple of Treasure Hunter (to recur Jester's Scepter, if it were destroyed or discarded). The following is the deck I ended up with:


The Joke's On You!

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Game 1: SSJSHARPIE (Mono-White Gauntlet)

I get Vedalken Mastermind and then Vedalken Aethermage. I transmute for Reality Acid with Drift of Phantasms, and proceed to kill a permanent a turn (with a bonus of drawing a card) for every turn until he has no threats (Gauntlet of Power, Sacred Mesa, Loxodon Warhammer) left. I then start recurring Jester's Scepter three times a turn with a second Æthermage, Dream Stalker, and Momentary Blink. SSJSHARPIE gets decked for forty cards.

Record: 1-0

Bzzzt. BoaB is back online. BoaB is very displeased with your actions, Benjamin.

Hey, I just won, didn't I?

With Boab's March deck?

Nope, The Joke's on You!

What joke?

That's the deck, sir.

Allow me to gaze.

Game 2: tontom (Mono-White Enchantment Aggro)

He gets Sidewinder Sliver and double Blade of the Sixth Pride. I get Treasure Hunter and double Drift of Phantasms, plus Momentary Blink, and Dream Stalker and Boomerang. He draws triple Pacifism and double Temporal Isolation in his first six cards (fourteen cards seen total) and beats me down to exactly zero.

Record: 1-1

It appears that your deck is not as invincible at it seems.

I never said it was perfect—that's what testing is for.

You had problems getting a white mana that game. BoaB saw you transmute Tolaria West turn three to get an Azorius Chancery for turn four.

Yup, that's true—that momentum loss really hurt me when I was getting beat down in a hurry.

BoaB thinks that if you had Boreal Shelf or Plains, instead of Tolaria West, then your defeat might have been victory.

Very possible. I might need to change up the mana configuration of the deck.

Game 3: kristevatron (Green-Blue Simic)

He gets a third-turn Trygon Predator, which just screws my double-signet draw. I have to use Reality Acid plus Boomerang to take out a Muse Vessel, and then put Reality Acid on the Trygon Predator to neutralize it. He then drops double Riftwing Cloudskate (taking Azorius Aethermage off of the board and allowing me to draw a card), puts Loxodon Warhammer on one, and hits it with Stonewood Invocation so I can't Boomerang it to stay alive.

Record: 1-2

Once you fell behind, there was 0% chance of a comeback.

I wouldn't say that! I was pretty close to stabilizing the board when he played that Stonewood Invocation to finish me off.

Player kristevatron chose to destroy Reality Acid with Trygon Predator, when he did not have to. Why is this?

Well, it's because he didn't want me bouncing the Acid, potentially, on my next turn. If he had left the Acid on his Predator, he might have gotten in another two swings. However, if I drew any bounce, I would both kill his Predator and have the Acid back, and he'd have nothing to show for it.

Game 4: Dustraven (Mono-White Aggro)

He keeps a two-land draw, and I lock him with Reality Acid / Vedalken Mastermind on turn five, since he is still at two lands.

Record: 2-2

How brave. Beating a man with two lands!

That's one of the good points of this deck—if I get an early lead, I can shut them down before they get a chance to come back. Some decks just sit there and can't really finish off a prone opponent—this one can shoot them down to zero lands quickly, so they can't recover.

Game 5: murmic2397 (Mono-White Aggro)

This game has a lot of back-and-forth—I get Reality Acid going, but he keeps dropping creature after creature, including triple-Mobilization (which makes quite a number of 1/1 token creatures). I finally get to the point where I have stabilized the ground and am starting to kill off his lands with Reality Acid. On the last turn of the game, he uses a Lotus Bloom to play Akroma, Angel of Wrath and kills me (I'm at 3 life before the attack).

Record: 2-3

Why did you play Azorius Aethermage that last turn, instead of Drift of Phantasms?

It was just a game play choice. I figured that if I got an Æthermage on the board, I could start drawing multiple cards a turn with my Reality Acid and Vedalken Mastermind combo. I also hadn't seen an Akroma yet, even though I'd hit him twice with Jester's Scepter.

But if you played Drift of Phantasms, you would have been the victor!

That's one of the things you learn from playing a deck—how to play against other decks and when to play offense or defense. I should probably have dropped all my Drift of Phantasms to the board that turn, and then started doing Reality Acid on his lands after I was sure he had no way to break through in the air. I held them back to tutor, just in case, but that wasn't what was necessary at that moment.

BoaB would have won that game.

I'm sure you would have. Anyhow, it's time to make some changes to the deck. There definitely need to be more Plains in the deck, and those Treasure Hunters aren't doing it for me. I thought they'd recur Scepters, but so far they have been generic 2/2 creatures every single game.

It's a shame that Lorwyn isn't out. BoaB knows cards that would be perfect for this deck.

Really? Like what?

BoaB can't say.

But you just brought it up.

BoaB is sworn to secrecy. But BoaB promises that if fleshbag Ben waits for a month to revisit this deck, fleshbag Ben will not feel the electrical impulses of regret.

Are you a relative of Gleemax, by any chance?

BoaB is not allowed to say about that either.

But if I wait for Lorwyn to come out, I lose Azorius Aethermage and Azorius Signet and Azorius Chancery and Drift of Phantasms, at the least!

After my computations for the Lorwyn gain to Ravnica loss scenario, it is beneficial for you to wait for Lorwyn to commence tinkering with the deck named "The Joke's on You!".

Fine. All right folks, we're going to come back to this deck in a month or so. It definitely had a lot of potential, but BoaB tells me that Lorwyn has the goods for this deck.

Stop talking like I am not here. BoaB knows that the readers have eye sockets with the requisite vitreous humor to engage me.

Fine, fine. I'll see you next week with my first foray into Extended in quite some time, with an update to a deck that was made by none other than's Brian David-Marshall. See you in seven!

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