Stargazing on a Budget

Posted in Reconstructed on February 25, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Theros is an extremely high-synergy block. Unlike a block such as Return to Ravnica, which includes an entire menagerie of individually powerful multicolored cards, such as Supreme Verdict and Obzedat, Ghost Council, Theros has several strong cards that aren't immediately obvious at first blush.

The deck builder in me loves it.

Rather than figuring out how to smash together all of the best multicolor cards and still make the mana work, Theros requires you to dig a little deeper. While you still have some obvious all-stars, finding the hidden gears that can make a new deck tick is quite enticing. The next big thing could just be right under the surface, waiting for you to find it.

In today's article, we're going to try and do just that—and stay budget, to boot! Let's take a look at Naf's (presumably of Nafs Asp fame) take on White-Blue Heroic Enchantments:

Naf's Enchantment Aggro

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Budget Rules

Before I get into how the deck plays out, since this is a budget article let's take a quick look at my rules of thumb for budget deck building.

  • I will not add any new rares or mythic rares to the decklist. I'd rather make the deck extra budget-y and then let you season to taste with delicious rares than cook it so rare you won't eat it at all.

  • The one exception to the above is mana fixing. You'll get a lot of mileage out of acquiring a mana base: they can go in many decks and are one of the crucial elements. Your cards probably aren't going to help you if you can't cast them!

  • I try not to make substitutions. Budget doesn't need to mean making a worse version of a current deck—it just means building toward an archetype that has easier-to-obtain cards. Cards like Master of Waves and Sphinx's Revelation simply can't be replaced in decks that need them.

  • Budget doesn't mean bad. I'm not setting out to make a deck we know will be suboptimal through this process. There have been plenty of highly successful low-rare decks throughout Magic's history, and there are certainly ways to follow in their footsteps.

If you want more explanation on any of those points, check out the beginning of my first budget article.

Now, with that out of the way, let's move onto exploring the deck's battle plan!

The Battle Plan

At a glance, this might look like some kind of white-blue heroic deck with some weird card choices. But make no mistake, there's something far more unique going on here. This is an aggressive deck themed around enchantments!

The deck aims to kill the opponent as quickly as possible, and is capable of doing so through some rather explosive draws. Hero of Iroas lets you pile on a ton of Auras—including bestow creatures—quickly. Eidolon of Countless Battles can grow to gigantic numbers. While Hopeful Eidolon might look a little weak on its own, sitting on the battlefield, it pumps Eidolon of Countless Battles by +1/+1—and that's where the synergy starts to come in!

Thanks to bestow, your creatures also have an element of resiliency. Even if your opponent kills your creature, you'll still be left with something to replace it on the battlefield. And while this deck can be blisteringly fast some games, you can also play more of a controlling role with cards like Hopeful Eidolon. The flexibility lets you take on the aggressive role against midrange and control, while becoming the control deck against beatdown.

The key to tweaking this deck is going to be refining the pieces to the optimal numbers and also finding any other nuggets of synergy that were omitted from the original deck. Ready to get started to do all of this—and on a budget? It's time to begin!

Deck Breakdown

What is enchanting enough to stay in the deck, and what should be left in the stars? Let's go through the deck card by card and make modifications along the way.

Hero of Iroas

Hero of Iroas is a card I certainly have a bit of a soft spot for—it was one of my Born of the Gods preview cards, after all. It also so happens to be one of the cards that makes this deck tick! Hero lets you slam Auras (including bestowed creatures) onto the battlefield at a reduced cost—and can grow larger in the process if you target him.

In a deck full of Auras and creatures with bestow, he's one of the cards that glues everything together. I definitely want to keep all four.

Meletis Astronomer

Another card I'd like to add that also helps pull everything together is Meletis Astronomer. While he isn't the best attacker before being enchanted up, he keeps your Aura engine running and helps you find key cards like Ethereal Armor. Plus, all of the Auras that can target him chain together! Sometimes this astronomer will just find a single star in his quest before you need to start enchanting other creatures... but keep enchanting him and you might end up finding an entire star whale out there. In a deck like this, getting a new card with every spell you cast will easily overwhelm your opponents, and the Astronomer will do just that.

Hopeful Eidolon

Hopeful Eidolon looks pretty unassuming—but that's what Limited players thought at first too, and now it's one of the highest picks in white. In this deck, the Eidolon is fantastic. You can grant +1/+1 and lifelink to one of your creatures and pick up a heroic trigger and it counts as an enchantment for Ethereal Armor. This is also a card I want to keep all four copies of.

Fabled Hero
Ghostblade Eidolon

Double strike packs a punch in this deck. Enchanting a double striker is brutal—especially if you bestow something like Hopeful Eidolon. There are some aggressive decks that can't really beat Fabled Hero into an Eidolon; the 8 life you gain plus having to deal with the Hero in question is a tall order. Whether casting Ordeals or simply giving it some kind of evasion and sending it through, double strike is going great work here.

However, while Ghostblade Eidolon is an enchantment, I don't really want another three-drop. Fortunately, there's just the solution: Fencing Ace. I want about two more two-drops in addition to Hero of Iroas and Meletis Astronomer, and Fencing Ace helps fill that gap in case I don't have either of them. While two copies is kind of a weird number for this card, most of the time you would rather play either of your other two-drops instead.

Fencing Ace

Also, if you are looking to budgetize this deck further, you can trim down on Fabled Heroes and play more Fencing Aces with a straight face. While I like Hero more since it's more explosive, Ace is a solid two-drop—and in some draws, will be even better than the Hero.

Eidolon of Countless Battles

While not a "glue card" in the sense that it enhances your other cards in the way that Hero of Iroas does, the Eidolon of Countless Battles is an incredibly strong reward for this deck. It's pretty easy to get this creature up to gigantic heights: all of your Auras count and all of your creatures count. Oh, and you can bestow it to creatures to pump them up as well. I'm going to stick to three since I'm not adding rares, but if you have a fourth, I'd definitely add it in.

Nyxborn Shieldmate

Holy Strength isn't really a Constructed hit, and neither is Sanctuary Cat. But together, and in this one deck, it's something you can start to talk about.

If you cast a turn-one Shieldmate, you can enchant it with Ethereal Armor and get in for 3 starting on the second turn. It's also an enchantment creature to count toward Eidolon of Countless Battles.

However, while it's in the discussion, I don't think Nyxborn Shieldmate quite makes the final cut in this deck. Even in the situations where your deck is firing on all cylinders the Shieldmate isn't good enough. Bestowing Holy Strength for two mana with Hero of Iroas isn't that exciting, pumping Eidolon of Countless Battles is nice but just having another enchantment isn't that much worse, and although you can attack for 3 with an Ethereal Armor on turn two, that puts a lot of eggs in one very fragile basket and means you can't cast a two-drop that turn.

While it would be a fine card if it just appeared in your hand for free, every card you play comes at the cost of playing another card instead. Most of the time, I'd rather just draw something else

Ethereal Armor

Similar to Eidolon of Countless Battles, Ethereal Armor is a huge reward for playing all of your enchantments. It can substantially push your guys up in size for only one mana and is definitely a card you're happy to draw in multiples. I'm going to be keeping all four.

Aqueous Form

These are two strange cards to group together—but it'll make sense in a moment, I promise.

Something I'm always looking for in synergistic decks like this are ways to combine cards into one. Since you have to play so many cards to get your synergies rolling, your other cards need to give you flexibility and options where they can.

Aqueous Form is all right, but it puts you down a card (something to be very conscientious of in a deck full of Auras) and only lets one of your creatures attack through. Pacifism restricts one of your opponent's creatures, but doesn't necessarily get the guy through you need to get through.

What if there was a way to combine both?

The answer is a little odder than you might imagine:

Stratus Walk

If you have one huge creature to get through, Stratus Walk will let you push through all of your opponent's ground creatures. If your opponent's the one with a huge creature and you have a few smaller guys, you can levitate the creature and sneak in underneath it. And to top it all off, Stratus Walk draws you a card when you cast it, meaning you maintain card parity. Stratus Walk does cost one more than Aqueous Form, but the flexibility and the fact that it draws you a card rather than scrys pushes Walk over Form for me.

I'm going to roll both of these cards into one and play four Stratus Walk. While it doesn't disable attackers like Pacifism does, it has enough other upsides that I like it here: it's not dead in some matchups like Pacifism is, and you can cast Stratus Walk on your own creatures to trigger heroic. I want a little more than just four effects like this though, so I'm going to keep one Pacifism around as the fifth effect like this.

Ordeal of Thassa

Speaking of keeping card parity, Ordeal of Thassa does that quite nicely while also pumping up a creature in the process. Any of two-drops or Fabled Hero make excellent targets for it. And when you complete Thassa's quest, the two cards you pick up should help continuing to edge you forward. I'm happy to keep all four of these.

Gods Willing

Earlier, I was talking about how invaluable versatility can be, and Gods Willing is a great example of that. This is a card that can protect your creature from removal while also giving it protection from the color of blockers your opponent has and pushing through for damage.

I don't want to play four copies main deck since I usually don't want to draw a ton of them early on, and there also need to be enough enchantments in the deck to make all of your engines work. However, three copies seems just right. Against decks with a lot of removal, try casting cards like Fabled Hero on turn four with mana up to protect them and you should be in good shape.

Oh, and be careful with how you use Gods Willing. Protection causes all Auras of that color to fall off—so if you give your creature with Ethereal Armor protection from white to slide past a Brimaz, King of Oreskos, it means you're losing your Armor in the process. Play accordingly.

With all of those changes in mind, and adding a couple lands to give the deck the mana it needs to help bestow its creatures, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's The Fault in our Stars

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This deck is a complete blast to play, and you can definitely have some strong draws. Although many of the cards look a little weird on their own, together their synergy overpowers much of what other decks can do.

If you're looking to de-budgetize this deck, there are a few cards you could consider. Spirit of the Labyrinth is a good aggressive creature that also happens to be an enchantment, meaning it counts for Eidolon of Countless Battles and Ethereal Armor. Detention Sphere is another card you could definitely consider as a removal option since it sits on the battlefield and ups your enchantment count.

Ephara, God of the Polis is another card you could look at playing a couple copies of. You have enough creatures that she will help keep your cards flowing to keep on pace with any removal-heavy decks. If you're branching into mythic rare territory, Brimaz, King of Oreskos is so strong that playing some here would be pretty reasonable as well. Oh, and definitely try and pick up the fourth Eidolon of Countless Battles if you can.

Spirit of the Labyrinth
Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Have fun enchanting your creatures! May people crumble at your hands.

Honorable Mentions

Looking for some budget inspiration? Take a glance at the decks below and see if it helps quench your deck thirst!

Hiroya Kobayashi's The Wolf

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Philippe Boulanger's Golgari Sacrifice

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Chase Turose's Ecstatic Wave

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Jay Frizzell's Rakdos Onslaught

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Matsukasa's Budget Red Devotion

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Greg Dreher's Hold the Gates for Phenax

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Mark Ian Alloso's Rakdos

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Jacob Milicic's Visions of Death

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Itou Kazunari's Blood Devotion

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Takashi Mukai's Izzet Disaster

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Lightning's Boros Burn

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Derek Hunter's Gruul Blitz

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Jacob's Aurazhov Blitz

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Shota Sugawara's Hello, Kitty!

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Eddie Taylor's Ace of Auras

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Out of Budget

It was great looking through all of your budget submissions for this week. Now that we took a week to work on budget decks, let's look at Standard again—but this time not through a budget lens. It's open submission week!

Format: Standard
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: March 3, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time

Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

What decks are still left uncovered in Standard? Send me yours, and let's see what we can come up with together!

It was a lot of fun working on this deck this week, and I hope you enjoyed it too! If you have any feedback, feel free to send me a tweet or post in the forums and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week with something a little different than the usual fair. Until then, have fun enchanting your creatures!



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