I was looking for some cards to change up to make the deck more consistent. I was finding that often I would struggle to get enough creatures onto the board for a game-ending Rites. Remember, this deck is a Pauper deck, meaning that only commons are allowed (as opposed to the normal 30-ticket-or-less budget afforded to other decks in this column).
I used the Magic Online filter to show me all common cards in Extended that were Red, Blue, Artifact or Land. Here's the list of possibilities I came up with to add to the deck.
These were the cards that would leave me up at least one card whenever they were cast. The more cards I draw, the more cards I have in hand for Rites, and the more spells I can cast overall. Keep in mind, however, that the deck is consistently killing on turns 4 through 6, so I don't want to necessarily lose a full turn tapping out just to draw a couple of cards.
Cards designed to draw one card, either attached to a minor effect (Peek), in lieu of a medium effect (the Spellbombs) or with the addition of greater card selection (Sleight of Hand). These would help me smooth out my early game (remember, I'm killing rather quickly with this deck!), without giving up cards in hand to rites...or by giving me flexibility with the option of cycling.
Same as above, except with one card at a time over multiple turns. These serve the same purpose as Looter il-Kor, except without evasion.
I went back and forth for a while deciding which direction I'd want to take LordofDucks PDC Rites deck – did I want to move more towards upping the storm count, by focusing on Empty the Warrens? Were evasion creatures the way to go? Did I want to stuff my hand and get all combo-y with Tolarian Winds and Deep Analysis?
In the end, I decided against all of these except upping the number of storm enablers. The deck was 4-1 so far, and in the games I won I was crushing my opponents (with a deck that costs virtually nothing, natch). If the deck was working great, why mess with how it works? Instead, I looked to possibly swap out similar-functioning cards with possible upgrades.
In place of Spiketail Drakeling, I added in Wee Dragonauts. I never really used the sacrifice effect on the Drakeling, and this deck is very offensively oriented – ie, I must hit in order to kill. On the turn that I win most games, we're looking at casting Keep Watch plus Rites of Initiation. Even without the Rites itself, we're looking at a 5-point swing from the Dragonauts just from casting two instants/sorceries, not to mention a turn where I double-Lava Dart/Empty the Warrens, or any other shenanigans. I saw Wee Dragonauts as a way to speed up my clock considerably.
I took out Sparksmith, which never really worked well for me, and would work even less well once I focused more on making 6+ goblins per cast with Empty the Warrens. In its place, Razorfin Hunter – the same mana cost, with the ability to whittle the opponent down early game before my Rites-fueled kill turn.
While I didn't change the focus of the deck with any of the major cards listed above, it was good to have a list of cards to know that I could swap in or out on a moment's notice. Did I want to run Fathom Seer? I would need more Islands. Deep Analysis a good trick? I'd probably want Tolarian Winds and more Thought Courier effects.
I drop a Mogg War Marshal turn two, and don't pay echo so I can drop another on turn three. He only plays Forests and Plains, and when I attack on turn four (with just a Red open), he casts Moment's Peace before damage (so I hold a Rites of Initiation in my hand – I don't think I would have cast it there anyhow, in fear of any disruption spell – Condemn, Wing Shards, etc, making me auto-lose the game). He does, however, tap out to play Commander Eesha the next turn. I drop my fourth land, attack with all four Goblins, cast Keep Watch, and then Rites for seven, killing him.
Game 7: tkennan (W/G Tokens)
He drops first and second turn Llanowar Reborn, making a 2/2 Squirrel token with Chatter of the Squirrel on turn two. I cast Ponder turn one, setting up Mogg War Marshal turn two and a second Ponder into Empty the Warrens on turn five. By then, he's cast Sprout Swarm, Mosswart Bridge, Sprout, and flashed back the Chatter of the Squirrel. I go down to seven on his attack, and then swing in with my five Goblins (one died to his Sprout plus Llanowar Reborn earlier). He casts Gilt-Leaf Ambush, but I have Keep Watch and Rites to kill him regardless. He shows me his hand, and it contains double Angel of Salvation and Murgana Petroglyphs.
Game 8: Bagyvon (R/G Non-Budget)
Game 9: o Psilocybe o (W/G/B Control)
He casts Llanowar Elves, double Sakura-Tribe Elder, Loxodon Warhammer and double Duress. His first Duress hits nothing – my hand is Mulldrifter, Looter il-Kor and Razorfin Hunter (which takes down his entire board). I get down Ninja of Deep Hours and start drawing three cards a turn (discarding one of them because of Looter il-Kor). I keep a grip with Empty the Warrens and plenty of action in case he has a mass-removal spell – as is, my board is winning the game, so why overextended? He Mortifies my Ninja, so I drop Mogg War Marshal down. On my attack, I draw a second Ninja after dealing damage with my Looter, so I ninjutsu the War Marshal back to my hand (remember, even after damage, there's still a window for using instants and effects, so you can get the Ninja on the board, just to get it on the table), allowing me to recast the War Marshal. He concedes on his next turn.
Game 10: Shruktus (Black/Blue Control)
He hits me with Ravenous Rats, and drops Dimir Guildmage, Urborg and Quicksand on the board. I lose three creatures to Death Pulse, but manage to get Mulldrifter cast three times with double Ninja of the Deep Hours. After a long war of attrition, I finally land an Empty the Warrens with two storm count (making six Goblins) allowing me to cast double Keep Watch to find a Rites of Initiation for the win.
Game 11: Eagleye (U/G Doubling Season)
He gets down a Doubling Season early, and proceeds to drop Triskelion (which kills Mogg War Marshal and his two tokens, plus Razorfin Hunter and two Empty the Warrens tokens), Beacon of Creation (for eight guys) and Pentavite (which makes a ton of flyers). I knock him down to twelve with a Looter il-Kor on the table and two Rites of Initiation in hand, but he gets Fabricate for Coat of Arms to kill me with Pentavite tokens.
That was a good run with LordofDucks deck, but I was hankering to try out that token-creature deck from tkennon! He graciously sent me a list of his deck, along with the following explanation:
"I won't go overboard explaining every choice I made since I know you'll be examining it plenty if you use it for the column, but I'll just say that the most enjoyable part of the deck by far tends to be the hideaway lands. You can pretty much guarantee that you'll get to play 1-2 of the cards hidden
By hideaway every game, because both the green and white requirements are very
easy to meet. Playing an Hour of Reckoning for free, or tricking your opponent with a hidden Petroglyphs is great fun. :)"
4 Angel of Salvation (.25 each)
4 Leyline of the Meek (.33 each)
4 Muraganda Petroglyphs (.5 each)
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Scatter the Seeds
4 Sprout Swarm
3 Hour of Reckoning (.25 each)
4 Chatter of the Squirrel
4 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
This deck would be an interesting play for me, because this isn't the type of deck I would have built if left to my own devices. I wanted to approach evolving this deck the way I would a theme deck – even though there are some cards in here I think (on paper) are sub-optimal, I wasn't familiar enough with how they actually played in-game to see if they were good or not! In particular, I wasn't a huge fan of Leyline of the Meek (which I viewed as a very-expensive Glorious Anthem more often than not, when it wouldn't be in my starting hand), Angel of Salvation (will this deck get to eight mana between lands and convoked creatures, and not want to swing?), or Mosswort Bridge (how often will I have ten power in tokens on the board?)
Game 1: DedalusEx (Affinity)
Game 2: grubbaboom (W/G/U Counters)
He gets down Vigeon Hydropon and Power Conduit, then drops Dark Depths, Aquastrand Spider, and Trophy Hunter. I get a second-turn Sprout Swarm (as I have two in hand) and start buying it back on turn four. Slowly I build up Sprout Swarm tokens, eventually getting up to eight plus a Leyline of the Meek. He drops a Pentarch Paladin set to green, but I have just enough tokens that turn to drop Murganda Petroglyphs (which I had been holding ) to swing in with eight 4/4 tokens (and he only has three blockers).
Game 3: MagicProVirus (Bringers)
This was a cool deck – MagicProVirus gets the Urzatron on turn three, and drops Composite Golem. On the next turn, he gets Deathrender, equips his Composite Golem, sacrifices it to generate WUBRG, plays Bringer of the Blue Dawn, and puts a second Composite Golem into play for free (equipped with Deathrender). On his next turn, he does the same, except this time bringing out Bringer of the White Dawn, and Legacy Weapon (killing one of my enchantments.)
Unfortunately for MagicProVirus, I got a great start by having Leyline of the Meek in play to begin the game, with Llanowar Reborn followed by Raise the Alarm, and then Murganda Petroglyphs (leaving me with a 5/5 and a 4/4 attacking on turn four). I drop another Raise the Alarm to win this game before it gets out of my control!
Game 4: tjriley30 (B/U Discard)
I get the game started with a Leyline of the Meek, drop Windbrisk Heights, then Raise the Alarm, followed by a second Raise the Alarm. I lose one token to Recoil (discarding Sprout Swarm) and then lose two more cards (Hour of Reckoning, Selesnya Sanctuary) to Consult the Necrosages. I drop Murganda Petroglyphs, and swing with my 4/4 guys. On my next attack, I swing for twelve again, activating the Heights to put Gilt-Leaf Ambush into play. This draws a concession via disconnection from tjriley30.
Game 5: joshuabates (U/G Control)
He drops Isochron Scepter on turn two, imprinting Naturalize. So much for my Petroglyphs! I lose a Windbrisk Heights to Annex, but manage to get down two Squirrel tokens, two Elf tokens, and two Soldier tokens (thanks to Chatter of the Squirrel, Gilt-Leaf Ambush and Raise the Alarm, respectively), and I start swinging for the fences. He gets Sun Droplet, and I start playing (and buying back) Sprout Swarm. I eventually overwhelm with sheer numbers of 1/1 creatures.
Five games is enough to make a starting determination about this deck. So far, I've run into two problems – there are too many lands that come-into-play tapped, making it hard to keep to a curve of two-drop, three-drop and four-drop (and possibly multiple cards on turn five), since I always seem to be one mana behind. In addition, I have never even come close to casting Angel of Salvation, so my feelings on that creature were right – just not the right deck for it.
On the other hand, man, was Leyline of the Meek great when I could start the game with it in play! The ability to drop four-power worth of creatures on turn two (Raise the Alarm) was fantastic, and having it start in play was a huge tempo boost! I definitely wanted to keep those, and so my initial hunch about them (being a dead card if not in my opening hand) was off. A great lesson in the value of running the deck first!
I made up a list of cards that I'd potentially want to swap into this deck. They included the following (with ticket costs listed with each card, when a card cost more than bulk price):
Call of the Herd: 3 each (two vanilla token creatures, perfect for both Petroglyphs and Leyline)
Watchwolf: .33 (A huge vanilla creature, for Petroglyphs.)
Savannah Lions: 1 (See Watchwolf)
Decree of Justice: 7 (Ended up being too expensive, but one of the better token creature generators. Not budgetary, but worth mentioning if you have tickets to throw at this deck)
Even the Odds (Three 1/1's at once – but only if you hold up casting creatures earlier)
Feudkiller's Verdict (10 Life and a 5/5 token – but I was rarely behind in life any of the games, so I didn't see the need for a ten-life gain spell)
Fists of Ironwood (Raise the Alarm, for green. A definite consideration, with the drawback that someone (either me or my opponent) would need to have a creature in play or this would sit in my hand)
Garruk: 6 (I'll get back to him in a moment – see the end of this list!)
Hunting Triad (Three Elves at once, or a permanent +3/+3 boost. However, also in the part of my curve where I want to cast a creature enhancer – such as Petroglyphs or a Leyline)
Icatian Crier (Two creatures a turn, but not until starting on turn four. Very fragile itself)
Imperious Perfect: .5 (Another definite contender. Boosts my Gilt-Leaf Ambush tokens, plus puts a 2/2 Elf into play each turn)
Mobilization: 1 (I have never been a huge fan of this card, as it always seems to be a bit slow in making creatures (compare to Sprout Swarm, which is two mana or (less-than) five mana with convoke). Still, it fits the theme, so I thought to mention it here)
Promise of Bunrei: 1.5 (If I were to choose a conditional token-creature generator, this would be it – Even the Odds can be played around, as can Fists of Ironwood...but Promise of Bunrei pops out a quartet of 1/1 (or larger!) creatures any time one of my guys dies. This provides a huge disincentive for my opponent to ever kill my creatures.)
Selesnya Guildmage (A way to both make 1/1 creatures or pump the rest of my guys. However, inefficient at the first compared to other options, and worse than Mirror Entity at the second. This deck is pretty focused – I don't necessarily want a guy who is utility versus having the most efficient cards I can have)
Squirrel Nest: .5 (A reliable way to make 1/1 token creatures every turn, at the investment of a single land)
Supply/Demand (A one-shot way to dump a ton of tokens into play at once. Basically, the budget non-instant version of Decree of Justice)
Thelonite Hermit: .5 (Four 1/1 guys that would pump to at least 2/2 with Thelonite Hermit, and larger with Petroglyphs or Leyline)
Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree: (Slower than Squirrel Nest, but able to take a land slot if need be).
While I could safely add three to this deck, and be under budget (by two tickets), instead I want to keep this deck at a lower cost. Basically – if you have some extra tickets, or you want to push the thirty-ticket limit (and remember, this is a limit – I don't always have to hit it, just when necessary....and yes, this is foreshadowing for my next deck in this round robin!), Garruk would be awesome for this deck.
As-is, I decided to go with Mirror Entity – a cheaper way to pump all of my guys, and believe me this deck can pump out guys! I decided against going with the vanilla bruisers (Watchwolf, Savannah Lions) because the token theme was working out well so far – but Watchwolf would be the absolute next card I'd add to the deck (or put in place of Mirror Entity, if it didn't work out). Even without any pumping, 3/3 for two (with no drawbacks) is huge – I'd have to work Raise the Alarm plus Petroglyphs (turn four) to equal what I get, raw, out of Watchwolf on turn two.
Call of the Herd was another hard card to not add to the deck – it fits great on the curve (I'm low on three-drops pre-Mirror Entity), but I couldn't fit both Mirror Entity and Call of the Herd into the same deck and keep a budget. This was an either/or situation based on budgetary constrictions, and if Mirror Entity didn't work out, I would likely yank both it and one of my token creature generators (probably Sprout Swarm) in exchange for a package of Watchwolf and Call of the Herd.
Here's the changes I ended up making:
Game 6: Sengir...J (Mono-Green Mana Ramp)
I mulligan into a hand with two lands, two Leyline of the Meek and two Murganda Petroglyphs. I keep it, and start the game with two Leylines in play. I get down Windbrisk Heights, and he drops Spectral Searchlight. I am able to use the Heights as a mana sink when he makes me add mana to my mana pool, and so he goes to plan B: casting mana ramp spells like Seek the Horizons and Journey of Discovery. I cast Gilt-Leaf Ambush on my 4th turn (the first creature generating spell I cast), and then drop Petroglyphs. He is dead in two swings from my pair of 5/5 creatures.
Game 7: JadedAngel08 (B/W Control)
I start with Leyline of the Meek in play, and get a pair of 2/2's with Raise the Alarm on turn two, and again on turn three. This lets me drop Murganda Petroglyphs on turn four, which is much mightier than the lone Blind Hunter he's mustered at this point. Sixteen points of tokens enter the red zone in back-to-back turns to seal this game quickly.
Game 8: shyguylck771 (U/W Sliver/Changeling/Hivestone)
Game 9: rittercs (U/B Token Slivers)
He drops Sinew and Sidewinder Sliver, and follows them with Twilight Drover! I start with Leyline of the Meek in play, but I also get stalled at two Forest, and can only manage two Sprout Swarm tokens – but I don't want to trade them on the attack to give him an army of 2/2 flyers. He gets Skeletal Vampire on the board before I get my third land down, and I lose in the air quickly.
Game 10: eldridgek (W/G Control)
He gets down double Windborn Muse, and I get Hour of Reckoning underneath a Windbrisk Heights. He gets up to twenty-something life with double Terashi's Grasp on my Enchantments plus a Beacon of Immortality, and I build up around 30 token creatures with Sprout Swarm and Squirrel Nest. He outraces me in the air before I can get up to fourteen mana (twelve to attack with three guys, plus two to activate Windbrisk Heights) or draw another Hour.
Hour of Reckoning worked great when I needed it, so I'd want to get a fourth copy into the deck. Mirror Entity wasn't working out as planned (I usually didn't need it when I drew it, or didn't have enough mana to make it effective), so if I were to keep going with this deck, I would get the B plan – Call of the Herd and/or Watchwolf (plus a fourth Hour of Reckoning). However, it was time to take a look at a deck from a few games ago!
The Bringer/Urzatron deck I faced from MagicProVirus was awesomely sweet – I just barely beat him the game I won, because he started going off with Composite Golem, five-color creatures, and Deathrender. My biggest concern about his deck, from the standpoint of evolving it in the Round Robin? I felt that when I saw the deck list, it would be well over budget. This concern was not unfounded.
1 Bosh, Iron Golem (.25)
1 Bringer of the Black Dawn (3)
1 Bringer of the Blue Dawn (4)
4 Bringer of the White Dawn (1.5)
4 Cloudpost (.25)
4 Coastal Tower
4 Composite Golem
4 Deathrender (.5)
2 Legacy Weapon (.5)
2 Lightning Coils (.25)
2 Mindslaver (3.5)
4 Pentad Prism
4 Sundering Titan (4)
4 Thirst for Knowledge (.5)
4 Urza's Mine (.25)
4 Urza's Power Plant (.25)
4 Urza's Tower (.25)
Total Cost: 45.75 Tickets
The core of this deck is definitely usable – in fact, just by taking out four Sundering Titans, I could get the deck to JUST under budget (29.75 tickets). Is this the way I'd want to evolve the deck? Are there other cards I'd want to swap to get to that magical 30 ticket mark? Tune in next week to find out the swaps I made in MagicProVirus's Bringer deck to get it below thirty tickets, as the Building on a Budget Round Robin continues!