Two More Cheap But Powerful Standard Decks: U/W Auras and Grixis Thopters

Last week, I explored a couple of lists that are good entry points for those looking to enjoy today’s terrific Standard format without shelling out hundreds of dollarydoos. Today, I’ve got a couple more! Let’s get right into it.

White-Blue Auras

It’s not just in Modern that people are slapping pants onto hexproof dudes—if you look through the results from recent Standard Leagues, two players have been absolutely crushing it with this little number. Both vmprnighthwk (who seems to only have intermittently-functional vowel keys on their computer) and Ruiner continue to put up consistent 5-0s, proudly sponsored by Sram’s House of Trousers.

vmprnighthwk, 5-0 in Competitive Standard Leagues

This deck, while incredibly one-dimensional, offers a huge bang for your buck—in both senses. A litany of 1-drops combined with cheap Auras mean that this list hits hard and fast, and has a range of ways to mitigate some of the pitfalls involved with Auras.

Firstly, most of the creatures being enchanted are either resilient to removal or offer value when they’re killed. Adanto Vanguard shrugs off most cheap removal, Slippery Scoundrel punishes anyone trying to play an interactive game of Magic, and even Sacred Cat offers another body out of the graveyard to keep the fuel coming.

The most important aspect of this deck, however, it its ability to play a value game. Sram, Senior Edificer is the centerpiece of that, but when you examine the actual Auras being played in the list, it’s easy to see how the traditional 2-for-1s you’d expect in an Aura deck are overcome. The Cartouches either replace themselves immediately or make a 1/1, which is worth some percentage of a card in itself.

Plenty of interaction comes out of the board, but can only really be brought in sparingly so as not to interrupt the linear thrust of the deck’s overall game plan. While this doesn’t offer a lot of wriggle room to outmaneuver your opponent, burying them with an aggressive start backed up with card advantage seems like a winning proposition!

The other bang you’ll get for your buck is this deck’s price tag. Almost every card costs under a dollar, with the broad majority being under 50 cents. Only five cards cost more than a buck: Sram, at $1.79, is a necessary and rather forgiving expense, as is Aethersphere Harvester at $2.79. Harvester sees broad play across the entire format, so it’s a reasonable investment that will slot nicely into other Standard decks you may build.

As usual, the mana base involves some costs—Glacial Fortress is $2.99, and Irrigated Farmland is $3.99. Again, making compromises with your mana is a great way to bring down the price of a deck, but it’s also a great way to hamstring yourself when it comes to winning games of Magic. If you’re looking to cut one of these lands, however, I would give Irrigated Farmland the flick, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, and very simply, Glacial Fortress is a dollar cheaper than Irrigated Farmland. Secondly, your Glacial Fortresses will be Standard-legal for a full year after Irrigated Farmland rotate out. Thirdly, as this is an all-out aggro deck I’d sooner remove lands that always come into play tapped over ones that don’t. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the art on the new Glacial Fortress is super sweet.

The final card to think about is Legion’s Landing. Flipping this card should be straightforward enough and adds to the deck’s late game firepower, but if $7.49 is too pricey, there are (less effective) alternatives. You could go up to the full playset of Sacred Cat—a card that is most similar to Legion’s Landing—or improve the deck’s interaction by including a few copies of Cast Out.

Grixis Thopters

Typically, budget decks tend to be aggressive due to their reliance on cheap (in both senses) creatures and removal—cards that tend to appear at common and uncommon. I was intrigued to see, therefore, a Grixis Thopters list perform strongly at a recent online PTQ in the hands of JPike. This deck fights on multiple angles, utilizing planeswalkers, value creatures, removal, and even has a combo finish!

JPike, 7-2 in a Standard PTQ

Tezzeret the Schemer has had a disappointingly quiet time throughout his tenure in Standard, as has Herald of Anguish. This deck looks to make the most of these very narrow but nonetheless powerful mythics, with a streamlined game plan that is able to adapt meaningfully to whatever an opponent is attempting to get away with.

This deck looks to squeeze every drop of available value from its artifacts, and is very good indeed at ensuring that there’s a lot of them at any given moment. Whirler Virtuoso is a Standard all-star, and Maverick Thopterist is a worthy second fiddle that synergizes strongly with the entire deck. All the little Thopters and Servos serve a dual purpose in powering out improvise threats before closing out the game with a combo finish.

Marionette Master represents scary amounts of damage for any opponent, and this deck has no trouble getting artifacts into the bin. Between Pia Nalaar and Herald of Anguish, sacrificing artifacts to trigger a big Marionette Master shouldn’t be an issue. Alternatively, there’s just chump-attacking with Servos.

Tezzeret is a high-loyalty planeswalker that offers ramp, removal, further artifacts, and a game-winning ultimate, and is backed up by some of the best removal in the format. Magma Spray, Harnessed Lightning, and Confiscation Coup have proven themselves time and time again in Standard. They’re equally as effective here.

Best of all, this deck is not going to break the bank. With only six cards costing more than a dollar (and again the majority of the deck being under 50 cents), pulling together this list won’t cost an arm and a leg. Abrade comes in at $1.49, but as a Modern-and Legacy-playable removal spell it’s not a bad pickup. The two marquee mythics of the deck aren’t even that expensive—Herald of Anguish and Tezzeret the Schemer will set you back $1.49 and $2.79 respectively.

Don’t balk at Treasure Map. At $3.49 it’s not the cheapest card in the deck, but enables important synergies (improvise, sacrificing artifacts to Marionette Master) as well as being a draw engine. Further, this card will be around for a long time in Standard, and sees play in a wide variety of strong decks (Abzan Tokens, Mardu Vehicles), so it’s worth snagging a few copies.

As usual, the lands might give you pause. Drowned Catacomb and Dragonskull Summit are $4.49 and $3.49, respectively. Once again, think of the way in which your collection improves once cards like this are added to them. Good mana-fixing is just about the best investment you can make if you want to be part of competitive Magic long-term. Pick them up now and enjoy 18 months of good mana in Standard.

Finally, the singleton Nicol Bolas in the sideboard, while undoubtedly powerful, is probably replaceable. If you want something to tussle with control, Nezahal, Primal Tide is a good option, but I’m surprised that this deck doesn’t play any copies of Essence Scatter, and would instead look to include a couple of copies somewhere.

Hopefully these two decks give you an idea of how easy—and cheap—it can be to take part in Standard. Given the format is in the best health we’ve seen for a long time, consider picking up a nice cheap list like these ones and diving in head first!

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