Hi everyone, and welcome to the first article of Budget Brew! I wanted to work on an article series where creativity and fun could meet actual game wins, and so I’ve set to work carving out interesting areas in Standard that might not have been explored as fully since these decks won’t be built using the most efficient (and therefore expensive) cards. If you’ve been wanting to get into Standard, but simply haven’t had the funds—or just want to try something a little different—then this article series should give you some ideas! Before I get to the deck, let’s go over some of the ground rules I’ve laid out for the series:
Budget doesn’t mean free. Decks will often be built around a rare or mythic, though it won’t be a chase one. This means you won’t see the most expensive cards in Standard in these deck lists and though they’ll vary in price, I’ll always keep them under 75 Tix on Magic Online at the time of writing the article.
Mana bases can be more expensive, and that’s okay. Having a working mana base lets you play Magic and cast your spells, which is the easiest difference between winning and losing. Sometimes there will be a direct budget replacement such as Foul Orchard instead of Hissing Quagmire. If I’m not running both, I’ll leave it up to you which one you want in your final version.
I want these decks to be as competitive as possible, but they’re more suited to do well at FNM than a GP (though you might find hidden gems along the way!).
What time is it? Alhammer Time! This deck looks to abuse its namesake card, Alhammarret’s Archive. When you first look at the card, it screams blue, but it actually works extremely well in a green deck since it easily hits the crossroads of life and cards. Let’s go through each of those categories card by card:
This little plant is the key to surviving the early game and is part of the reason you’ll be able to take a turn off to play a 5-mana do nothing artifact in the midgame. Be sure to sequence your lands carefully with this deck, because you’ll often want to cast spells before making your land drop. Another key is deciding when to use Evolving Wilds since you have 11 creatures that actively care about the extra land, yet you also don’t want too many taplands. I wouldn’t go overboard worrying but if it’s possible, it’s better to hold the Wilds. You also only need to get Swamp for The Gitrog Monster in game 1s, which can factor into your decisions.
Pulse of Murasa
I’m actually a little surprised how little this card has seen play in Standard, but I think it’s likely overshadowed by its big sister Den Protector. Pulse has a huge impact on a game where the life is relevant, and getting back a key threat feels fantastic. I’ve gained 12 before with the Pulse and Archive, and let me tell you that feels great. Also, don’t forget Pulse can buy back a land!
Retreat to Kazandu
This one looks like a stinker, and I actually thought it would be horrible so I only included it as a 1-of in my initial build. In game though I found it to be quite effective. 2 life a turn, or a counter is nice, but realistically it will be even better than that. You’ll often have extra land drops, and gaining 4 per land with an Archive really pushes it over the top. I also tried a Retreat to Hagra for a little while but found that one to be a little underwhelming. If your opponent has access to Dromoka’s Command, remember to board this out since it’s quite vulnerable and not actually essential to your deck’s function.
Since this deck is a landfall ramp deck the Renewal fits perfectly, and sometimes you’ll even gain 14 instead of 7. Ding!
Clues with Alhammarret’s Archive are the main way to draw extra cards with the deck, and anyone who’s been following Standard knows how good the Tracker is. I’ve found it’s usually better to play a turn-3 Nissa’s Pilgrimage than a turn 3 Tracker to both ensure a Clue the following turn and because hitting 5 mana is so important in the deck.
The Gitrog Monster
I won’t lie. The deck is built around Alhammarret’s Archive, but The Gitrog Monster is my favorite card in it. The extra land drop really gets your landfall going, and you can draw extra cards off of almost everything! Each upkeep, sac a land, draw a card. Grapple, and flip a land? Draw a card. Crack Evolving Wilds? Draw another card. Have Archive in play? Double all those draws.
But the best? Noose Constrictor with the Monster. Noose Constrictor is a fine 2-drop in general but combos especially well with Gitrog. Discard a land, draw a card, and give the Constrictor +1/+1. But if you also have an Archive in play, you have the real possibility of chaining through your deck and killing your opponent all at once. Now that is sweet!
As you can see from these card descriptions, the deck is an engine deck, where each piece you get in play amplifies everything else you’re already doing. But it takes a lot of mana to really be able to do all these things, which means your main goal should be ramping in the early turns and trying your best not to die. In addition to drawing a bunch of cards, and gaining some extra life, this deck runs a one of Ulamog, and The Great Aurora as top end in case you’re unable to break through otherwise. The Great Aurora works especially well if you’ve gotten a ton of Clues off Trackers but haven’t had time to use them yet. Just note though that it shuffles in an Archive if you have it, so no double drawing there, though that might actually be upside since otherwise you could simply deck.
Your goals in game should vary based on what your opponent is trying to do. You can think of your deck as either trying to maximize life gain or card draw depending on which is more important. As an example, let’s say it’s turn 6 and you have a Kazandu Refuge in play. You can either cast The Gitrog Monster or Nissa’s Renewal. Which is correct is context dependent. Here you have the opportunity to gain 13 life, or get a threat into play that also draws cards. You also might want to hold the Renewal until you get a Tracker in play, but of course you might be under too much pressure to wait. The good news is that the correct option is usually obvious since again it’s dependent on the pressures your opponent is putting you under rather than needing to make a decision in a vacuum.
As for matchups, I think the deck is reasonable versus extremely fast decks since you can gain enough life, though your success against Mono-White Humans will depend on both how quickly you can assemble a defense and how explosive their draw is. That said, I’ve had turns where I’ve gained upwards of 20-30 life and my opponent simply couldn’t deal enough damage fast enough.
Slower decks will try to go toe to toe with you, but you can go way over the top of what they’re doing, and they’ll even give you enough time to do that. In those matchups, make sure you’re always getting your Clues off Trackers and not simply running them out turn 3. It also is often correct to take a turn off as soon as possible to land an Archive so that when you do draw cards or gain life you’ll get the maximum effects out of them, which will be important in long, drawn-out games.
Sadly, your worst matchup is also the best deck in Standard. Bant Company comes out of the gates quickly and can swarm you with Collected Company before you know what hit you. Sometimes you will be able to get your engines online and go over the top, but that’s no guarantee. On top of that, Spell Queller is a real nuisance since it is quite literally Counterspell plus a flyer against you. Such are the perils of running a purely insular synergy deck.
All in all, the deck is a total blast to play and is competitive in current Standard. It attacks the format from a unique angle and you even get to say “It’s Alhammer time!” most games.
If you want to add some spicy dollars to the deck, there are a few ways you can improve it. The first would be Emrakul, the Promised End. I think Emrakul offers up a fantastic late game, especially because you’d have been building up a midrange wall of threats, which is the exact scenario Emrakul shines under to eat delicious opposing creatures. That’s about the only card I would want to add to the main deck, though.
In the sideboard, you have a few more options. Languish is fantastic versus the faster decks, and actually gives your deck some options against the faster decks post-board. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is also totally awesome and lifelink will sometimes even be doubled. I haven’t tried Liliana at all here, though I think she would mostly be good against Spirits decks or grindy matchups. The slower matchups are already good enough though, so I don’t think she’s particularly necessary even if you own your playset.
Happy brewing and I’ll see you next time!