Budget Brewing: Friday Night Fun, A Call to Alms
I’d like to start this week by thanking you all for the extremely positive feedback I received from last week’s column. The support I received from the community, especially on a new column from a new author, was inspiring and appreciated.
I’m relatively new to Magic. I started playing during the tail end of Innistrad limited.
Some players at Jupiter have been playing since Revised. That’s roughly 18 years of experience more than me. I believe that I can hang with them during any given draft or constructed tournament.
The best players are not invincible or untouchable. Yes, they are quite good at what they do, but they do lose.
I hear so often the sorrow of players when they have to face off against players they feel are better than them, and the match is over before it begins. If you believe you will lose, you will lose. I learned a long time ago that I must believe that I can win every match I play. Every single one.
Sure, that notion is a bit unrealistic. Sure, I lose my fair share of the time, and sometimes more. The point of the matter is that confidence, persistence, drive and desire are the X factor in any given match up.
I’m not the best player at any given tournament. I’ll be the first to say this. But, I do have a need to get better each time I sit down and shuffle. Not a want. A need. I constantly ask others how any given situation would have been played by them. I draft as often as I can. I think of wacky decks and make them win. Losing upsets me. It doesn’t upset me because I didn’t get to ruin an opponent’s tournament, but knowing that I made mistakes and could have done things better gets my goat.
Writing this column and playing these decks each week, I feel will improve my game. I go into each FNM virtually cold to the deck, and I scrape for each victory. Many opponents have flashy and expensive rares and mythics, and more power to them, but skill is truly tested. I’m always an underdog.
I want to win. Badly. Every match.
I look around every FNM and see most players sporting 75 card combinations found on the Internet made successful by a pro. Sure, the recipe for success is greater for decks that have won a Grand Prix or Invitationals, but I can tell what I’m up against based on the first two turns. There’s no originality or ingenuity. All it takes is a little thinking and any 75 can turn the competition on its ear. Playing against a new brew is exciting and challenging for me. Trying to figure out the main goal or win condition of a deck while simultaneously accomplishing my deck’s goals is one of the great joys of playing Magic.
[Editor’s note – click any of blue card names or featured card images to view and purchase the card from Jupiter Games!]
With that said, when constructing a deck, there are several things to keep in mind. The first is figuring out a way to win the game. It is quite easy to put together a pile of cards that don’t do anything. The cards must work together in some regard. Secondly, one must try to tackle a metagame. If a whole shop is full of control decks, a deck must be designed to beat them. Jace, Memory Adept was unplayable in Constructed and has now turned into a kill condition for the control mirror. Why can’t you be the one to be innovative? Why can’t your deck define a format?
I built this week’s deck based on my local metagame call of fast and aggressive decks. A deck full of cheap and efficient removal spells is extremely well positioned against those sorts of decks. Righteous Blow and Dead Weight easily extinguish an opposing Champion of the Parish, Rackdos Cackler and the like. Those spells served as my effective Pillar of Flame, compared to red decks. I wanted to ensure that I was alive by the time I needed to cast a huge idiot.
The goal of this deck is to stick an Alms Beast, or a similar monstrosity, without any living bodies on my opponent’s half of the battlefield. An unopposed Alms Beast kills pretty quickly. Even if they do block it a couple of times and gain some life, they will soon run out of chump blockers and be moving onto the next game.
Pacifism is no joke. Pacifism saw some fringe play at Pro Tour Gatecrash, and I fell in love with the elegance and simplicity of it. Boros Reckoner and Thragtusk shenanigans are short lived while a Pacifism immobilizes them. Fiend Hunters and Oblivion Rings serve the same purpose, but a Thragtusk beast still lingers with those two options.
I also believe that Bloodgift Demon has been underplayed since it was printed. A 5/4 flyer plus Phyrexian Arena that has never really found a home seems inconceivable, but the card is extremely slow. It does, however, refill a dumped hand with removal spells and keeps you in any long game.
I chose not to play four Desecration Demons because the downside is large in this deck. An opponent can easily sacrifice a creature stuck under a Pacifism or Dead Weight to interrupt your game plan and probably kill you. Proceed with caution with this large demon. The upside is gratifying, but in true black nature, it comes with large costs.
On to the sideboard:
Appetite for Brains comes in against the midrange and control decks. Nabbing an opposing Restoration Angel, Huntmaster of the Fells, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage or other things that this deck struggles with is critical.
Human Frailty, well, kills humans. Moving on!
Knight of Infamy also does well against the humans deck and can’t be blocked by Restoration Angel.
War Priest of Thune still blows up troublesome enchantment removal.
Lingering Souls is quite good against Azorious Charm decks. Azorious Charm is just so annoying, and the flash deck can’t possibly Unsummon four tokens profitably.
Nevermore is a catch-all. Naming any of the following is backbreaking to an opponent: Thragtusk, Rancor, Unburial Rites, Omniscience, Jace, Memory Adept, Sphinx’s Revolation, Boros Reckoner, Falkenrath Aristocrat. To sum up, no more bad stuff.
Slayer of the Wicked kills the wicked creatures. ‘Nuff said.
Triumph of Cruelty, to my knowledge, has seen no play. Triumph makes it difficult for any midrange or control deck to keep a hand. Even a tiny High Priest of Penance has to be dealt with, even against an opposing Augur of Bolas, and they are basically discarding a card to not discard a card just to deal with your guys.
Round 1-Ed Demicco: Wolf Run Bant
Game 1: Ed was running Melissa DeTora’s exact 75 from Pro Tour Gatecrash, which retails at $545. My deck didn’t even cost 7% of what his deck cost.
Game 1, I am in quite a bad spot against this deck. My deck was meant to eat aggressive decks for breakfast, and in the first game against a midrange or control deck, I’m in a bad spot. I found myself drawing a fist full of tiny creature removal that didn’t quite do anything against his three toughness Augurs or Centaur Healers. I did my best to stone-wall him with an Alms Beast and Bloodgift Demon, but those were soon removed with an untimely Supreme Verdict. Eventually, a Restoration Angel that I couldn’t deal with trampled me for my life total.
Sideboarding: -2 Righteous Blow, -3 Dead Weight, -2 High Priest of Penance, -2 Oblivion Ring, +2 Appetite for Brains, +2 Knight of Infamy, +1 War Priest of Thune, +2 Nevermore, +2 Triumph of Cruelty
Most of my spot removal was extremely bad in this match up, and they just had to come out. I knew Ed’s game plan was to get maximum value out of a Supreme Verdict then win with a single creature. I elected to rip apart his hand with Appetite and Triumph
Game 2: Ed was off to a slow start, casting and flashing back Think Twice on his turn in an attempt to find lands. I cast an Alms Beast on my fourth turn and never looked back. I also had an Orzhov Charm and Bloodgift Demon in my hand, so I didn’t want to continue to clutter the board just to get all of my creatures killed. Ed paid for his second land to cast , so I had him on a three turn clock. Ed tried his best to cast Sphinx’s Revelation and stay in the game, but he seemed to be out of answers. Alms Beast got there.
Game 3: Ed elected to play and mulliganed while I kept a hand with Appetite for Brains and a Triumph of Cruelty. He mulliganed down to five and kept a poor hand with two lands because he had to. I did a mental happy dance while I ripped one of two Supreme Verdicts out of his hand on my first turn, looking at Augur of Bolas and Dissipate. He cast Augur to find nothing on his second turn and tapped out to play Centaur Healer on his third. Dissipate was uncastable at this point. I slammed a Triumph onto the board and Fiend Huntered his Centaur Healer the following turn. Ed was unable to deal with my one power creature, and passed back to me. He was forced to discard several turns in a row because Fiend Hunter tied Augur of Bolas in power. I cast a Vampire Nighthawk that I knew was going to get dissipated, staring at a castable Alms Beast and a Bloodgift Demon. My Alms Beast got wrathed away, but Bloodgift Demon stuck. My hand was refilled while I hit him 4 times in the air to kill him.
Ed commented after the match that he didn’t sideboard because he thought: “Whatever, it is just Jeremy’s budget deck. I can just beat it.”
Words to live by.
Round 2- Anupam Hridoi: U/W/R Flash
Game 1: Another bad matchup for me. I kept Plains, Swamp, Fiend Hunter, Vampire Nighthawk, Orzhov Charm, Alms Beast, and Ultimate Price on the play. I felt that I could at least be in the game with this hand, so I kept it. I didn’t draw a third land until five turns into the game, and was so far behind by the time I did. I managed to deal with some Restoration Angels and Runechanter’s Pikes via removal and Oblivion Rings, but my creatures fell well behind curve. I was eventually burned out with Searing Spear and Pillar of Flame.
Sideboarding: -2 Righteous Blow, -3 Dead Weight, -2 High Priest of Penance, -2 Desecration Demon, -2 Pacifism, +2 Appetite for Brains, +2 Triumph of Cruelty, +3 Lingering Souls, +2 Knight of Infamy, +2 Nevermore
Game 2: I kept an extremely similar hand as the first with a Nevermore to stop Sphinx’s Revelation. I got greedy and kept it. I again whiffed on lands and lost. There isn’t much to say about this game because it wasn’t interactive. I began to question my land count, wishing I played another land.
Round 3- Christian Brown: Human Reanimator
Game 1: Christian was on the budget version of this deck, and I jealously looked across the battlefield at: Swamp, Island, Mountain, and Selesnya Guildgate on his fourth turn. I looked down at a Plains, and a Swamp. As I wished for a Sundering Titan, I told myself that I had to stop keeping such hands. I eventually cast an Alms Beast, but it was far too late. Christian reanimated an Angel of Glory’s Rise, and I scooped up my cards. I was beginning to become extremely irritated. I longed for a 23rd land, but knew I couldn’t do much about it.
Sideboarding: -2 Righteous Blow, -3 Dead Weight, -1 Pacifism, +2 Nevermore, + 1 War Priest of Thune, +3 Lingering Souls
To be blunt, bringing in Lingering Souls was pretty stupid. I let my emotions get in the way of my thinking, and I was trying to kill Chris more quickly. I saw Izzet Staticaster, and I brought in Lingering Souls. I’ll try to shape this column so my mistakes can be learned from, and this was one of them.
A small rant: I played Rest in Peace in every single one of my sideboards since the card was printed, and I never played against a single reanimator deck. Magic is funny.
Game 2: Chris struggled to find an Angel in all of his self-milling for the first couple of turns, and an Alms Beast ate away at his life total rather quickly. Chris was making a mistake that I see often, wearing his heart on his sleeve. I could tell that he was quite disgusted that he was forced to do nothing while his life total vanished in quarterly increments. These actions told me that he had zero ways in his hand to deal with the threat I had on-board. That is crucial information not to be given away to an opponent. Use this tool and reverse it. Bluffing no gas many times and appearing frustrated or desperate is an excellent way to have opponents walk into a trap.
Sideboarding: None. I would’ve liked to change my sideboard for a third game, but I didn’t have much else against him. Some of my cards were still dead.
Game 3: I looked down at Lingering Souls, Lingering Souls, Alms Beast, Fiend Hunter, Plains, Plains, and Plains. Knowing that my deck played more Swamps than Plains, I felt okay with this hand on the draw. I cast Lingering Souls on my third turn, without drawing a land, and was met with a flashed Izzet Staticaster. I somehow managed to draw another Lingering Souls as I untapped, and knew that thing had to go. I wasted a Fiend Hunter and passed back to Christian. He continued to pile his graveyard full of humans, digging for that crucial Angel. I still did not draw a land, played a second Lingering Souls from my hand. Another Izzet Staticaster cleared the board. I knew I was in trouble, and Christian found the Angel in a hard-cast Faithless Looting. Disgusted in my sideboarding choices, I picked up my cards.
Round 4- Noah Eggleston: G/B
Game 1: Noah is a young man that is rather new to Magic and shows a lot of promise. He has a lot of learning to do, just like most new players do, but he shared my desire to win. I lost the die roll, and Noah kept a one Forest hand on the play. He proceeded to do nothing while I actually succeeding in curving out with Vampire Nighthawk into Alms Beast into Bloodgift Demon. He eventually drew some lands and cast Murder on one of my creatures, but he was so far behind at that point that coming back was a difficult task.
Sideboarding: None. I didn’t see that much of his deck, and felt most safe not changing mine.
Game 2: I again kept a questionable hand, and, again, I was punished for it. Noah found a first turn Arbor Elf, and ramped into an Acidic Slime, blowing up a land. I stumbled even further at this point, and my spot removal was too little for the creature-per-turn game plan Noah had going on. I died with 3 lands. Again.
I don’t mean to complain about my lack of lands, but I am trying to highlight my mistakes. I didn’t build my deck with enough lands, and I should not have kept such hands knowing that. I dislike mulliganing almost more than anything, and sometimes that works out. This tournament was one of those times.
Game 3: I kept a hand with an Alms Beast, removal and plenty of lands happily. I drew into a Nighthawk, helping me keep my life total safe enough from being gobbled by Noah’s larger creatures. An Alms Beast was quickly murdered, and Noah was trying to find an answer to my flying bat. This happened for a couple turns until I found a Desecration Demon. My large demon ended the game quickly.
Round 5-Thomas Keefer: Mono Black Ghast
Game 1: I played Thomas the week prior, and he was playing an almost identical 75. We each cast a Vampire Nighthawk on our third turn, and I got cute with a suicide attack and a Faith’s Shield. Thomas should never have blocked in this situation, and he suffered the consequences. I learned from last week to kill the Crypt Ghast as soon as I saw it, and I did. My Nighthawk was killed shortly after, but Thomas never missed a land drop and an army of 13 zombies quickly ate my brains.
Sideboarding: -2 Pacifism, -3 Dead Weight, -2 High Priest of Penance, -2 Divine Reckoning,+3 Lingering Souls, +2 Appetite for Brains, +2 Triumph of Cruelty, +2 Nevermore
Boarding out Divine Reckoning was the second extremely dumb thing I did during this tournament, but I wasn’t really focusing on this match. I was trying to complete it so I could play in the late night draft, and my brain wasn’t really in it.
Game 2: I started with a Vampire Nighthawk that paid the Ultimate Price, buried an Alms Beast in a huge grave, and killed an opposing Crypt Ghast via Orzhov Charm. Thomas utilized Sign in Blood for a couple turns to dig for lands, and I never drew my sideboarded cards. I was afraid, at this point, to mulligan any hand with land. He again cast Army of the Damned on his eighth turn, and I felt extremely silly with Divine Reckonings in my sideboard.
I was disappointed with my results from this FNM. I know my deck had the potential of letting me end up with a record better than this, but I just put myself in a position to fail by my decisions.
I’m going to stick to my guns in this and play a budget deck at this week’s Big Standard tournament. If you choose to play a version of my list, I would advise another land or two. A more aggressive main deck, featuring Knights of Infamy and Glory would probably serve better against the midrange and control field that Jupiter seems to be. Some removal could be taken out, based on your preference, and High Priest of Penance could be transferred back to your binder. I’ll be back next week with another deck, but in the meantime, whether it’s the kitchen table or the feature match, have fun and keep brewing.