One of the most common questions I get every year around this time is, “what deck should I play until rotation?” Typically about now is the last point at which you can sell Standard cards for anywhere near their high value and people don’t want to simply stop playing until October. Unfortunately, the budget options are pretty limited, since many of the cheap decks include four Mutavaults, which will rotate, barring a surprise reprint in M15.
While I usually hate answering this question in terms of existing decks because it typically means playing an inferior version, in the right metagame it could be excusable to cut Mutavault. But the best choice is to pick a cheap deck that works within your restrictions and go from there.
This week I want to take a look at the dirt-cheap decks that have done well online and aren’t completely hopeless.
checoso_fdk (4 – 0)
Standard Daily #7095470 on 2014-05-15
This is one of the cheaper WW decks that pops up every so often in the Daily Results. While I prefer the version with Launch the Fleet, this is a good example of how some of the aggro decks lean heavily on a single spot on the curve. With this many one-drops, not only does Boros Elite become a real threat, but quad-Brave the Elements doesn’t look nearly as silly when you can fire one off for 6 damage and use a second copy to finish up.
Ideally you don’t run into Supreme Verdict all day, but even then, on the draw Verdict may not be enough from a UW or Esper player. Being forced to spend a pair of removal spells and a Verdict gives so little value that you absolutely need the Jace or Revelation followup. The combo of Judge’s Familiar and Brave the Elements also punishes the usual black removal suite nicely.
Obviously the sideboard was sort of a sick joke, and I got some laughs and horrible messages when I actually blew someone out with Rootborn Defenses or Immortal Servitude. As it stands, other than Glare, only Banishing Light and Keening Apparition are must-includes. Outside of those two you have the usual problem with WW sideboards not having a whole lot of options. Pick some cards that hose a specific archetype and go from there.
Mono-G Aggro by ph_crescens
This build is one of the many mono-G variants that gained in popularity over the past two weeks. While others run more mana sources and cards like Garruk, these builds focus on 1s, 2s, and Aspect of Hydra. This one aims for aggression, utilizing Wild Beastmaster of all things. That seems insane when Bile Blight is a playable card, but here we are. This deck works primarily because of how much power it can dump onto the table early thanks to Tusker, Brushstrider, and Reverent Hunter.
This is a build I was kicking around in the 8-4s for a few queues before I just couldn’t take the spew on the price of Theros Boosters. Playing Magic Online is barely fun enough for me at the moment and I like the format, I mostly just can’t deal with the program anymore. I get paid to stay on top of Magic, which to a degree means playing on MTGO and even that’s a chore sometimes.
Back on topic though, my main issue with the deck is that while it can jam a lot of power out there it is a massive dog to any deck that can block. Cards like Courser, Desecration Demon and Polukranos, World Eater do a good job of stalling and you don’t have enough trickery to really play around removal backed by blockers. Slow hands can’t even race a Pack Rat before it dominates the board, meaning despite the threat density you’ll still be forced to mulligan aggressively at times.
Mono-Blue also turns this deck into a complete joke and adding Setessan Tactics to the board was one of my first changes. This feels like an easy change and I’d even consider maindecking a pair, despite being a mostly dead card vs. control. Obviously you also can’t possibly win the green mirror if your opponent has this and blasts it off, so there’s another reason.
This is my current build with budget restrictions:
It feels so bad to not play Mutavault and yet here we are. This is the deck hurt most by losing Mutavault because it doesn’t have good late-game reach against control even with burn. Having Mutavault lets the deck sneak in damage without truly committing any additional resources to the field. So instead this is what we have and while it isn’t what we’d like to see it remains a strong 2-drop deck.
In fact the deck is essentially built around casting multiple 1-drops early or going Burning-Tree Emissary into another 2-drop. Often it can simply overwhelm black decks before they find their footing or put them in a position where any topdecked burn spell puts the game away. Creature decks will be miserable as always and even there Searing Blood and Firefist Striker at least give you a little bit of play.
Essentially the only reason red aggro works in the current metagame is that it can go over the top of the early plays of the midrange decks. They need to sweep early or at least play some amount of blocking that can’t be burned (AKA: Sylvan Caryatid) to stay alive early. Plus the current best aggro deck, Burn, has problems with normal creature-based red aggro, especially if the pilot tries to goldfish against you.
You’ll notice all these are mono-colored builds and that’s because we want to value consistency and budget before anything else. We could also play a two-colored deck, it’ll just cost a lot more. Here’s a two-color list that’s far closer to combo than anything else in the format.
This is a take from the WU Heroic Block decks that I was kicking around in the tournament practice room when I was bored. It certainly isn’t optimized, but with the addition of Ajani’s Presence I feel a lot better about it. You need to play it like a combo deck though, since it simply falls apart if you try to curve your creatures out and they die. It is much better to play cards with Presence or Gods Willing backup than on their own against swamps or Burn.
Once you’re willing to go up to the next budget point of two color strategies and heavier doses of rares your options open up quite a bit. However this article is purely focused on the cheapest available options so we’ll leave off here. While I’ll stick with my archetypes until rotation, I see the appeal of cashing out now with a full three* Limited releases to amuse you before the fall set.
*Conspiracy, M15, and Vintage Masters