What’s Upton?

Posted in Building on a Budget on November 6, 2006

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 article is Extended legal. All cards in this week's deck come from 7th, 8th, 9th Edition, plus Invasion block, Odyssey Block, Onslaught Block, Mirrodin Block, Kamigawa Block, Ravnica Block, Coldsnap, with a special guest appearance by Time Spiral.
- Time Spiral became available online on October 30th. Time Spiral was not available at the time most of this deck was tested.
- No animals were hurt in the testing of this deck. No keyboards were thrown across the room in frustration, either.

Did you play in your Standard State Championships last weekend? Chances are, if you're from Paraguay, you did not. However, if you are from a state, let's say one between Alabama and Wyoming, you might have competed in one of the first major post-Time Spiral Standard tournaments in the world!

As many of you may know, I work for Star City Games, and we ran the Virginia State Championships. The turnout for States was great, everybody got their jiggy thing going on, and nobody was trampled underfoot – all in all, a successful 172-person tournament. Hoo daddy, do I have a scoop for you today! I present to you the 2nd place finisher from the Virginia State Championships!

John Upton Original - 2nd Place Virginia States 2003

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…circa 2003.

You can stop looking at me like I'm Hurkylme Jenkelfors now. I wasn't the one who returned all your artifacts – I just brought you a deck that has a lot of artifacts!

“Ben Bleiweiss, truly you have lost your marbles. If not marbles, then immediately inspect your deck of cards to see that it's full. Failing that, schedule an inspection to see the relative tightness of your screws.”

Fie. Upon. Thee.

John Upton piloted this deck to a second place finish against young former state champion Wesley Moss in 2003. He would have won the tournament if not for a particularly nasty set of timing rules, that I'll go into later. This deck was designed to beat Affinity and Goblins, two of the nastier decks running around in those days. John himself was a terrific Magic writer (where have you gone, John Uptonmaggio?), and you can see him talk about this (untitled) deck here.

I'll say one thing for sure – this deck absolutely looks like whatever pile of excrement you're thinking of! Seriously – there are random two-ofs in the deck all over the place, no way to tutor for anything other than basic lands, Skeleton Shards with only eight artifact creatures in the entire deck, six basic land searchers for only ten basic lands, and triple-black Visara the Dreadful with only eleven sources of black mana in the entire deck!

And this deck wins like nobody's business.

I found that out after watching John pilot the deck through the Top 8 of states that year. In the last game of the finals, he was targeted by a Persecute while holding double Shrapnel Blast, with his opponent at less than 10 life. He was fearful of a response, so he let the other guy name a color, and then tried to respond by casting double Shrapnel Blast for the win.

I began taking the deck to various and sundry Friday Night Magics, and I always pulled a respectable finish with the deck. Unfortunately, this was pre-Darksteel Standard, and the deck immediately fell out of favor when Arcbound Ravager and Skullclampruined made Standard interesting for a while.

The reason this week's article isn't Time Spiral-oriented is because Time Spiral was only legal for a couple of days before my deadlines were due into the powers that be. In addition, the prices on cards from a new set are completely wacky the first few days after a set release as people scramble to get ahold of the cards. I didn't want to have to price up a deck against artificially inflated prices on singles, so I decided to dredge up an old favorite.

The problem is, John Upton's deck, janky-yet-consistant as it may appear, is nowhere near budget. I researched the prices of the cards in this deck on Magic Online, and came up with the following:

Bloodstained Mire: 10 Tickets
Hammer of Bogardan: 1 Tickets
Oblivion Stone: 2 Tickets
Persecute: 2 Tickets
Promise of Power: 2 for 1 Ticket
Shrapnel Blast: 4 for 1 Ticket
Solemn Simulacrum: 4 Tickets
Starstorm: 2 Tickets
Visara the Dreadful: 3 Tickets
Total cost of the deck: 56 Tickets

In addition, Disciple of the Vault is banned in Extended. Yes, even when you're not playing Affinity. Grumble rassa frazzle dimples.

It was up to me to start taking out cards from the deck. The Bloodstained Mires were the first to go – they accounted for twenty of the twenty-six ticket surplus cost, so without them, the deck hits the thirty-six ticket mark. I also didn't need Visara – she didn't make much sense in the deck, nor did Promise of Power (which was a holdover from a Standard environment long since gone). That trimmed another four tickets off of the deck cost.

The other cuts were harder, since the remaining rares were a little more integral to the deck. In the end, I decided I wanted to stick more with the recurring artifact creatures theme of the deck, and less with the burn. To that effect, I took out the two Starstorms and the lone Hammer of Bogardan.

Out: 2 Bloodstained Mire, 4 Disciple of the Vault, 1 Hammer of Bogardan, 2 Promise of Power, 2 Starstorm, 1 Visara the Dreadful

John Upton Budget

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That brought the total from 56 tickets down to a svelte 27 tickets. I knew I wanted more of a focus on artifact creatures, so I scoured Gatherer for a list of Extended-legal artifact creatures which could send themselves, or others, to the graveyard. After much deliberation, I settled on the following list:

I didn't want to fiddle with multiple colors in my deck, so Etched Oracle was out. The others were all fine – Triskelion is a much better six-drop than Visara, and Megatog can kill people in a single swing. Arcbound Reclaimer lets me get back my Skeleton Shards (or Pyrite Spellbombs, or Oblivion Stones) if need be, and Nim Replica can kill utility creatures.

I also needed to replace the Bloodstained Mires, and I did so with a Great Furnace and a Swamp. The Terrors were the best creature kill spells available to Black three years ago, but I upgraded them with Rend Flesh. Rend Flesh tends to kill a lot more than Terror. I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

I also tricked the deck out with a third Skeleton Shard (that's the point of the deck, no?) and a third Bottle Gnomes. In the end, here's what I ended up with:

In: Great Furnace, Swamp, Skeleton Shard, Bottle Gnomes, 4 Rend Flesh, 2 Triskelion, 2 Megatog, 1 Arcbound Reclaimer, 1 Nim Replica
Out: 2 Terror

Total cost: 30 tickets on the button!

What's Upton 1

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Game 1: Folkdsb (U/B Leyline)

He drops Hunted Horror, and I use Shrapnel Blast and Pyrite Spellbomb to kill it. He drops a second Hunted Horror, just in time for me to draw Rend Flesh. Much to my frustration, he has a Mana Leak for my creature kill spell. He doesn't have one for the second Rend Flesh I draw on the next turn – how lucky!

We go into a long battle of move and countermove – he casts Remove Soul on my Bottle Gnomes, casts triple Clutch of the Undercity on my lands, and Mana Leaks a Megatog. When he casts Compulsive Research and passes the turn, I untap, Persecute his hand out from under him, and then burn him out with multiple Shrapnel Blasts and Pyrite Spellbombs.

Record: 1-0

Game 2: Wwen (Urzatron)

His first two plays are Urza's Tower and Urza's Mine. I steel myself for a quick game, but Wwen proceeds to draw triple Urza's Tower and double Urza's Mine, with no Power Plant in sight! I cast a first-turn Pyrite Spellbomb, cycle it and a Barren Moor on turn two, and drop Solemn Simulacrums on turns four and five. Megatog joins up on turn six, and he answers with a Vault of Whispers and a Triskelion. I drop Oblivion Stone, Bottle Gnomes and Pyrite Spellbomb, feed all my artifacts to the Megatog, and hit him to death with a 21/22 trampler.

Record: 2-0

Game 3: swp777 (G/W/B?)

He gets Windborn Muse and then puts double Sword of Light and Shadow on it, with Glorious Anthem backup. I stare at the Rend Flesh in my hand and drop Oblivion Stone. He proceeds to beat me about the head with his 7/8 flyer, and despite drawing a Shatter and multiple Bottle Gnomes, I never get to my fifth mana to blow up the Stone and reset the game.

Record: 2-1

Note: Need more mana. Replace Shatters with Signets?

Game 4: Landmark (G/B Elves)

He gets Llanowar Elves, and I Pyrite Spellbomb them dead. He then drops triple Elves of Deep Shadow. I play Nim Replica, take a hit, and then trade the Replica for two Elves after damage is on the stack. He drops Loxodon Warhammer on his last Elf, but I have a Shatter ready. Landmark goes to the “B” plan of Moldervine Cloak, but I respond by Rending the Flesh of his last elf.

Momentum shifts to me, as I drop back-to-back Triskelions. He plays Troll Ascetic to hold up my guys, and then dredges back his Cloak the following turn to swing for six. I take 6, go down to 6, and swing back for 8. I play Goblin Replica, with double-Shrapnel Blast in hand. He attacks, and I block, throw Goblin Replica at his head, attack for 7 more, and then shoot him to death with the Trikes.

Record: 3-1

Game 5: MikeMossbarger (U/B Grave Pact)

He drops Bottle Gnomes and puts Grafted Wargear on it. I drop turn-three Oblivion Stone and then cast a fourth-turn Persecute naming black. The only card I hit is Grave Pact, but he has four blue flyers in hand. He casts Aven Fisher the following turn, and I Persecute out his entire hand and then set off Oblivion Stone after taking another 7 damage. He draws Surveilling Sprite, but I draw Triskelion and that's that. Despite his set-up of double Grave Pact over the next few turns, I draw Skeleton Shard and am able to infinitely recur my Triskelion until he runs out of creatures. Finally, he draws into only lands, and I beat him to death.

Record: 4-1

A think a trio of Rakdos Signets would help the deck – I keep falling just short on mana, and I'd love to accelerate into a turn-three Persecute or Solemn Simulacrum. Artifact signets give me more food for Megatog, as well as Shrapnel Blast. In exchange, I remove Shatter (which was very metagame specific to begin with, and probably shouldn't have made the first cut of the deck) along with a single Rend Flesh.

Out: 2 Shatter, 1 Rend Flesh
In: 3 Rakdos Signet

What's Upton 2

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Game 6: Kaja Rang (R/B Burn)

He hits turn-one Frostling, turn-two Seal of Fire, and turn-three Seal of Fire. I Persecute red and hit Stalking Yeti, Yamabushi's Flame and Hit // Run. We trade Frostling and my Nim Replica, and he drops a third Seal of Fire. I Rend FleshRakdos Guildmage. I drop Oblivion Stone, and he casts Hit // Run (I sacrifice a Vault of Whispers). He then drops Frostling and Genju of the Spires and attacks me to 9. I crack Stone on my turn (so he doesn't keep his animated land alive), and he shoots me down to 3 with his enchantments.

I Rend FleshDark Confidant on his next turn and drop Rakdos Signet. He drops Frostling, and I drop Bottle Gnomes. He passes, and I play Triskelion, shoot Frostling, attack for one, and then sacrifice Bottle Gnomes. Usually, I would hold off sacrificing my guy, but I don't want to die in response to sacrificing Bottle Gnomes to a burn spell. He sends Volcanic Hammer at my head, and I drop Megatog and attack for three with my Triskelion. I then get Solemn Simulacrum, sacrifice it to he Tog, draw into another Bottle Gnomes, use it to go to 6, and attack for 9. He passes the turn, and I finish the comeback by swinging with everything sacrificed to Mr. Giant Teeth.

Record: 5-1

Game 7: CommissionerGordon (I'm Batman! Errr…I mean U/R Burn)

He casts double Hatching Plans and double Crack the Earth. I lose two lands, he draws eight cards, but I do get to drop and swing with Nim Replica. The Nim hits him down to 14, at which point CommissionerGordon taps out for Electrolyze. I answer him by sacrificing the Replica to Shrapnel Blast, untapping, and sending two more Shrapnel Blasts to his dome.

Record: 6-1

Game 8: MrOBs (W/G Lifegain)

Our first game is scrapped due to Magic Online error, but we get a second game in. I cast turn-three Persecute, and hit Mirari's Wake, Faith's Fetters, Auriok Champion, Rune-Tail. He drops Genesis Chamber, and I drop Goblin Replica and Triskelion. He drops double Sakura-Tribe Elder and follows them with Well of Lost Dreams. I drop Megatog and then hit him for 24 in one turn thanks to all the Myr tokens I have.

Record: 7-1

Game 9: AAAAA17 (Is this alphabetically the first player on Magic Online? – W/R control)

I play Bottle Gnomes and sacrifice it to counter his Smash. He Fiery Tempers my next Bottle Gnomes, but I get down Solemn Simulacrum. He plays Commander Eesha and Starlight Invoker, but I kill them with Rend Flesh and Shrapnel Blast (the Blast is on the Invoker, once he hits seven lands). I drop Triskelion and Skeleton Shard, recur my Simulacrum (which bit the Shrapnel Blast in the sky earlier!), and drop Megatog. He plays Beloved Chaplain, but protection from creatures does nothing against a 21/22 trampler.

Record: 8-1

Game 10: Topdeckdan (U/G Future Sight)

His deck is built around Temporal Spring, Boomerang, Future Sight, cantrips, Beacon of Tomorrows and Sensei's Divining Top. He gets the combo off and wins, and I don't really pose much of a threat after he returns all my permanents to the top of my deck and takes infinite turns with one card left in his library – the Beacon.

Record: 8-2

At this point, Time Spiral is legal and I want to play with Mindless Automaton! It works really well with Skeleton Shards, plus it's a cheap budget “timeshifted” card. I also want more mass removal in the deck. I take out a Solemn Simulacrum to make budgetary room for these cards, and I take out Arcbound Reclaimer (I never drew it in ten games) and a Bottle Gnomes to make space down to sixty cards.

Out: Arcbound Reclaimer, Bottle Gnomes, Solemn Simulacrum
In: 2 Mindless Automaton, Oblivion Stone

What's Upton 3

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Game 11: Fooblizoo (B/G Control)

He gets a turn-three morph, and I strip out Spiritmonger and Crime // Punishment from his hand with Persecute (thanks to Signet), leaving him with only double Ravenous Baloth in hand and no green mana on the board. I Pyrite Spellbomb his morph the next turn (Liege of the Pit), and only then does he draw his fourth mana. He uses Bloodstained Mire to get a Forest and Crime // Punishment for two (killing two of my Rakdos Signets). I beat him down with double Solemn Simulacrum, and he never is able to deal with them before they finish him off.

Record: 9-2

Game 12: Trencher (R/W/G Sliver Evolution w/ Legions Slivers)

He gets a bunch of Slivers, but I Oblivion Stone them all off the board on turn five. I then get my board position shored up with Solemn Simulacrum and his brother, Solemn Simulacrum. He drops Fury Sliver, Two-Headed Sliver and Bonesplitter Sliver, and I drop Mindless Automaton, make him a 5/5, and then decimate his team with Pyrite Spellbomb and Rend Flesh. He concedes, his only non-land permanent being the Two-Headed Sliver.

Record: 10-2

Game 13: Xainthanatos (R/W/G Sliver Evolution!)

Deja-vu! He gets double Quilled Sliver, and I get Mindless Automaton. I swing, make it a 3/3 in response to his shoots, and then play Skeleton Shard. I discard my second Automaton to the first, bring it back with the Shard, and do it again, and then cast Oblivion Stone. He plays Harmonic Sliver to kill my Oblivion Stone, but I play three Shrapnel Blasts on my next turn for the win.

Record: 11-2

Game 14: Shadower (R/G Monsters)

He plays Krosan Drover, and I Persecute green, hitting Krosan Groundshaker, Elvish Pioneer and Wirewood Savage. Then I drop Mindless Automaton, and he drops another Savage. I play Oblivion Stone, he attacks with both his guys, and I pump the Automaton to three to block and kill his Savage. He drops Hunted Wumpus, and I respond by putting a fate counter on my Automaton with Oblivion Stone. I blow up the world, swing in for three, drop Solemn Simulacrum, and cast double Shrapnel Blast to finish Shadower off.

Record: 12-2

Game 15: Lightfoot_420 (Nephilim.dec)

He drop a bunch of lands, and I Persecute a hand full of Nephilim out, and leaving him with a Putrefy and Mortify. He uses one to kill my Nim Replica, and the other to kill a Rakdos Signet. I play double Goblin Replica, and they die to a Savage Twister. This lets me drop a Triskelion, get a hit in, and then shoot Lightfoot_420 for 3 in response to a Putrefy. I drop Megatog, and he drops Ink-Treader Nephilim. I play an artifact land, cast double Oblivion Stone, and trample over him for exact damage to win.

Record: 13-2

Game 16: Thordeer (U/W/B tournament deck)

He gets Dark Confidant, Mortify, Remand, Sword of Fire and Ice, and other cards you'd see in a PTQ competitive Blue/White/Black good-stuff deck. It's a close game, but I always am a turn behind. I wish I could have pulled this one out, but it wasn't meant to be.

Record: 13-3

This is three decks in a row now that I've been really happy with, and this one gets the B+ BoaB seal of approval!

It's not for everybody, because a lot of the games will be won by the skin of your teeth. You will have a lot of options each turn, so playing around with the deck a lot before really doing well with it is a must. It does play differently than almost any other deck I've ever played, so I highly recommend giving it a whirl if you have a chance.

Next Week: Guess which Time Spiral theme deck I'll be doctoring first!

PS: You guessed wrong. Tune in next week for the shocking details!

Which Time Spiral Theme Deck would you like to see Ben doctor first?Fun With FungusHope's CrusadersReality FractureSliver Evolution

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