Restrictions breed creativity. Necessity births invention. When I was 16, I stayed up the night before my Junior Nationals Qualifier brewing on a $30 budget. I got to the tournament site early to put the cards together from scratch. I didn’t lose a match that tournament, winning a qualification to Junior Nationals and a $500 scholarship which I put towards my marketing degree. I’ve told this story before and I’ll tell it again because of the message—want to ball but you are on a budget? If it is important to you, you WILL find a way!
The Rules of Balling on a Budget
#1 - No Downgrades.
If we want to play Angel of Serenity, we are playing Angel of Serenity. We’re not downgrading the card to Archon of the Triumvirate. Building on a budget is all about finding a deck that actually does not want any of the expensive cards at all! Yes, this can work. We need to find build around rares that nobody else likes and/or a high density of powerful and redundant commons and uncommons.
#2 - No Omissions.
If we are playing UR Delver, we are playing Snapcaster Mage. We aren’t going without. Balling on a budget is all about finding a deck that actually does not want the expensive cards. I mean that. We can do this.
#3 - No Excuses!
If we get buried 6 feet under planeswalkers and rare lands, we didn’t lose because we went budget. We lost because we didn’t build correctly or we didn’t play correctly. Or maybe we just lost. When you ball on a budget, you ball, and you happen to be on a budget. Since we are looking at decks that actually don’t want expensive cards, the deck should be able to stand up when the restraints are pulled. This is about building good decks that happen to be cheap. The deck will stand up!
State Championships 2013
If you have the funds, I would recommend either the WUg control or Rampnica deck I have been working on. I realize these decks are extremely expensive for a lot of us—myself included. If you can invest in them it’s worth it. If you have an Open, or States, or an FNM coming up and you really want to play, but you have no cards and very little money, then listen up.
Today I bring you a deck with only 12 rares. The 12 rares are cheap and easy to find. The rest are commons and uncommons. Go through your old boxes or draft leavings and call your friends. You should be able to get this deck together if you absolutely need something competitive to battle with and don’t want to sell the pickle farm. Worst-case scenario you can go to a card store and pick up the entire deck for I believe less than $50 at the most.
The deck is also good. It’s fast and consistent. If a deck stumbles against us at all, it’s game over.
I want to thank my friend Corbett Gray for help laying the foundation for the deck. Corbett and I often work on the same decks and play them at tournaments. This time his contribution has been especially big.
Let’s dive in!
Dirt Cheap Dirty Red
Rakdos Cackler, Stromkirk Noble
We have 8 one-drops. Rakdos Cackler is really under-costed and Stromkirk Noble can get out of hand really quickly. A lot of decks are playing tapped lands on the first turn right now, and these are great ways to punish them.
I agree that 8, while a lot, is still not that many—sometimes we won’t have a one-drop. Well, I would play more but the alternatives are no good. Stonewright is the only reasonable one, but it’s often just a one-mana 1/1. Sometimes you flood and theoretically it’s good there, except you’re spell-light in those situations and have a hard time connecting with anything.
Ash Zealot, Rakdos Shred-Freak
We have 8 hasty two-drops that hit for 2. Ash Zealot is really hard for decks to interact with in the early game. There just aren’t a lot of 3-toughness creatures available for less than three mana. The both of them hit early and hit hard. A common play involves Rakdos Cackler into one of these for 4 recurring damage starting on the second turn. That’s a serious problem for a lot of openers.
Gore-House Chainwalker, Mogg Flunkies
We have 7 3-power two-drops. These guys are severely undercosted. It doesn’t take too many 3 damage chunks from a red deck to put the opponent teetering on the peak of incineration (=D). These are 2 of the most impactful two-drops at ANY rarity.
We have 3 Flunkies because the card doesn’t always attack. It is a huge monster and the 3 toughness is awesome in combat, but I prefer 4 of the Gore-House Chainwalker because that guy will always be able to attack.
This guy is the actual granddaddy in this deck. If we curve out with guys and unleash this man on the 4th or 5th turn, it’s often curtains on the spot. He is incredibly aggressive and has the power to fight through massive life gain and Wraths. Hellrider is the ideal top end for this 27-creature deck.
Pillar of Flame, Searing Spear, Brimstone Volley
Here is our reach. If we get the opponent low enough, we can burn them out from afar with a combination of these. They also double as removal in the early game to clear a path for our guys. These spells are extremely flexible, and are one of the main draws to the deck. The different modes of these spells allow them to be useful in all games, and will reward careful planning.
21. Yes, 21 is not very many with 4 Hellriders, but I would rather be stuck stranded with Hellrider in my hand than hitting my 5th or 6th land drop. Our lands have serious diminishing returns after the 4th, and we don’t have any mana sinks or ways to filter later land draws. This is why I am erring low with 21. I won’t always cast Hellrider, but I can win by casting the spells I do draw. I want to minimize flood with this deck at all costs.
We aren’t playing any fancy lands like Hellion Crucible. We have RR requirements at, and often operate on, only 2 lands. Mountains are exactly what we need.
I’m going to be honest and say that the sideboard options for mono-red decks are always limited. We generally have a small pool of cards to work with. The upside is that red decks such as this are really focused and don’t necessarily need many sideboard cards. We are extremely single-minded and don’t want to switch our plan up too much, so any cards we do put in our sideboard need to be extremely purposeful and impactful.
4 Reckless Waif
Reckless Waif is for any game where you are on the play against a deck that usually doesn’t play a spell on the first turn. To me this is actually one of the biggest draws to the deck. I’m looking forward to game 3s on the play.
Turn 1 Reckless Waif, go!
*GULP* - opponent.
4 Mark of Mutiny
Mark of Mutiny is for anyone that wants to cast big fat creatures. Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity are prime pickings for this card. This could also be Traitorous Instinct, but I think I prefer the lower mana cost. I might play a split of these just to throw the opponent off.
4 Flames of the Firebrand
Flames of the Firebrand is for anyone playing 1-toughness creatures. Rakdos Shred-Freak, Avacyn's Pilgrim, and Lingering Souls tokens are juicy targets. I have these in the board behind Brimstone Volley because the metagame is varied enough that I would rather have the 5-damage burn spell to the face over a more situational 3-damage spell.
3 Manic Vandal
Manic Vandal is for decks that are using the Keyrunes and Chromatic Lantern to accelerate. These decks are already going to be on the back foot from giving up their 3rd turn to accelerate to a 5th turn Thragtusk. Manic Vandal will deliver a crushing blow to them.
Steam Vents, Blood Crypt, Hallowed Fountain, Overgrown Tomb, Temple Garden
Every time the shocklands are in Standard, players often start at 18 or lower life. This makes the metagame especially friendly to a mono-red burn deck looking to reduce our opponent's life total to 0 as fast as possible. Shocklands are in baby! Go ahead and play your rare lands! The more in the room, the warmer the room.
Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells
Obviously these cards are good against us. They are actually beatable, occasionally even in multiples. The first thing I did with this deck is test it against a Jund midrange deck with 4 of both of these cards. At 4 and 5 mana they don't often come down until turn 4 or 5, or maybe a turn earlier with acceleration. If they are accelerating they skip a turn of defense somewhere along the way. Point is, by the time they get one of these guys down, the game might be already slipping out of their reach. We can straight up KILL on the 4th turn, so a Huntmaster of the Fells is sometimes just a minor speedbump.
Decks with these cards are generally doing it off the splash. This means they are skipping turns in the early game, taking damage, and/or struggling with mana consistency. Thragtusk is a huge pain, but Thragtusk decks often let themselves die before they can cast Thragtusk.
Playing Dirt Cheap Dirty Red
The most important thing for playing red decks is sequencing your spells to maximize damage over the projected future. You will find that playing a 3-power guy on the second turn will usually result in more damage than a 2-power haste guy on the second turn, even if it’s less immediate damage.
It’s also important to know when to use your burn spells as removal or life deduction. Generally when you have a creature presence, it is better to use your burn spells as creature removal. When we lose board position and the game starts to slide to the opponent, we want to save it for the face. Use your judgment and plan ahead!
I’m actually planning on playing this deck for my State Champs on account of convenience. I could go through the hassle of putting together a 1k deck, but Dirt Cheap Dirty Red is calling me. I need to burn some faces!
Alright, so the WU control deck is still a thing. (So is Rampnica, but no new list for that this week).
Yes, that is 29 lands. The last time I played 29 lands I finished 12th at GP: Seattle with a slow deck that had only 8 cards that cost three mana or less. I know when to play lots of lands and I know how to go big and slow when necessary. Fact is, you just NEED to hit every land drop with this deck. You can’t stall on mana at all, because everything you’re doing is building towards Thragtusks, Sphinx's Revelation, and Angel of Serenitys.
I would love to play this deck, but it is expensive and a big hassle to get together for the only Standard tournament on my schedule for the immediate future. If I end up playing in important events I might try to get this together, but until then… INCINERATE YOU!
Woo Brews Live
Last week I had my first ever live show on twitchtv.com/traviswoo. It was so much fun! We had great fun with great people and great players from all over the world. The Magic highlight was restarting the game with Karn and playing a turn 1 Lodestone Golem and turn 2 Avalanche Riders. It was a hilarious affair.
I am having another scheduled show for Wednesday at 2pm Pacific Time. Cube will be offline by then, so we will probably do some Pauper or some sort of a random draft.
Before that time I will try to get in some more Cube drafts before they close. I might actually be streaming right now. Yes, right now, so check it out! (twitchtv.com/traviswoo).
If you want to hear it from the source, you know how to reach me. Hope to see you then!
Questions! Comments!! Think there’s something I forgot?