Sunday, February 12, 2012

Decklist Ex Machina #14 Budget Starter Decks for New Magic Players

Coming up with fun decklists so you don't have to.

So a friend and I had been discussing that a lot of casual players simply don't have any starting decks that can remotely hang with the big guns at the kitchen table. Intro Packs and other products are typically the equivalent of bringing a toothpick to a field of gatling guns. The Event Decks are a nice start (since they're aimed at letting you jump into Friday Night Magic where people test tournament decks) but they cost $24.99 at just MSRP and they still need tweaking to get the right amount of copies of cards and at that point you're looking toward spending around $30-50 just to modify or fix the list they gave you. Plus, you might find out that you don't actually like the deck or you might be afraid to spend that kind of money in the first place if you're really new to Magic and just unsure what kinds of decks or colors you like to play. I'm here to help.

So below are five different decks, one for each color, where the price of entry shouldn't be more than $5-10 (whether that be online or if you have a nifty card shop with good prices nearby). I purposely avoided Rares or Mythic Rares and I made sure to avoid anything earlier than M11 or Zendikar to make these as cheap and easy to find as possible. As of the time of this writing the options were M11, M12, Zendikar Block, Scars of Mirrodin Block, Innistrad, and Dark Ascension (Avacyn Restored isn't currently out yet and I may or may not update these lists once it's released - *edit/update* - only a single card was added after Avacyn Restored was released). Each has a description on how to play the deck and a short list of Rares and Mythic Rares you could and/or should add to the deck to improve it in the future if it turns out you really enjoy playing it.

White Budget
"Souldiers of Fortune"

24 Creature Spells
Squadron Hawk 4
Ajani's Pridemate 4
Soul's Attendant 4
Suture Priest 4
Immolating Souleater 4
Kor Skyfisher 4

13 Non-Creature Spells
Oblivion Ring 4
Survival Cache 4
Midnight Haunting 3
Sylvok Lifestaff 2

23 Lands
Kabira Crossroads 4
Glimmerpost 4
Plains 15

Soul's Attendant and Suture Priest are ready to shoot your life total through the roof while Ajani's Pridemate reaps the benefits and quickly becomes a monster. Immolating Souleater also comes in handy as another finisher since it can nom on that life total and deliver a haymaker to the face of your opponent. Kor Skyfisher can pull off a lot of tricks by bouncing Kabira Crossroads, Glimmerpost, or even itself to gain even more life. The Skyfisher and the Squadron Hawks enjoy picking up Lifestaffs as a regular hobby for more delicious damage and life gain. Just be prepared to change your life total more often than an OCD person re-adjusts table napkins.

Other Options:
So it's important to mention that Serra Ascendant is pretty much the first thing to go grab and get whenever possible. Ranger of Eos is spectacular because he can search for Soul's Attendants and other goodies which makes the deck run smoother than teflon. Elspeth, Knight Errant produces tokens every turn to trigger that life gain while providing other options. Another possibility is using Mentor of the Meek as a powerful draw engine to ensure victory.

Green Budget
"Upper Management"

26 Creature Spells
Llanowar Elves 4
Viridian Emissary 4
Frontier Guide 3
Leatherback Baloth 4
Grazing Gladeheart 4
Baloth Woodcrasher 3
Pelakka Wurm 2
Ulamog's Crusher 2

11 Non-creature Spells
Cultivate 4
Harrow 4
Primal Bellow 3

23 Lands
Terramorphic Expanse 3
Evolving Wilds 3
Forest 17

Managing mana is what this deck is all about. Most of the cards here fetch lands to trigger Landfall abilities and ramp into playing earthquake-inducing creatures earlier than your opponents will be ready for. This deck probably has the most to gain from adding higher rarity cards since the real high-costing Rock Stars tend to dwell at Rare or higher but Ulamog's Crusher and Pelakka Wurm certainly aren't slouching on the job. Woodcrasher starts off sub-optimally since he has a hard time waking up but if you give him some caffeine (land drops) then he's ready to work. Just imagine laying down a Terramorphic Expanse, blowing it up for a Forest, then casting Harrow, which still leaves you two additional lands ready to be tapped and you've already hit four land drops this turn by doing all of this. Abuse the landfall my friend.

Other Options:
Oracle of Mul Daya is an automatic include here since it brings the Landfall options to absurd levels. Lotus Cobra seems like a safe bet and Verdant Catacombs and Misty Rainforests can replace the current fetchlands. As for finishers, there are tons of rare and mythic rare creatures that can destroy planets and you might as well take advantage of all of that mana you'll have. The practical and absurdly powerful Primeval Titan and Avenger of Zendikar are prime candidates but there's also the hysterical Emrakul, Kozilek, and Ulamog. It's worth noting that Scapeshift might as well have stated "I win" in the card text.

Red Budget
"Burning Calories"

20 Creature Spells
Furnace Scamp 4
Goblin Arsonist 4
Plated Geopede 4
Stormblood Berserker 4
Cunning Sparkmage 4

19 Non-creature Spells
Lightning Bolt 4
Searing Blaze 4
Geistflame 3
Faithless Looting 4
Shrine of Burning Rage 4

21 Lands
Teetering Peaks 2
Mountain 19

This deck hits hard and fast like most hedgehogs apparently do in the wild (Sega told me so). Plated Geopede and Stormblood Berserker are key players on this track team as they're kind of absurdly powerful. The burn spells here are made of efficiency and possibly death. Just remember to save them at first as pseudo-creature destruction or to finish up the game once your creatures get outclassed by your opponent's late-game drops. Shrine of Burning Rage is there as a contingency plan if the game dares to drag on. It quickly grows into ten or more points of damage so get ready to charge your lazer (It's what Dr. Octagonapus would recommend).

Other Options:
Koth of the Hammer and/or Hero of Oxid Ridge would kick the volume up to eleven. Some other nasty drops include Chandra's Phoenix, Goblin Guide, Grim Lavamancer, and Hellrider. Regardless of the number of options, this deck is easily the deadliest at just using commons and uncommons (it comes with being the color Red really) so if you're looking for a deck with the least need for upgrades or just prefer the play style of hitting hard and fast then this is the way to go.

Black Budget
"Table Scraps"

24 Creature Spells
Pulse Tracker 3
Bloodthrone Vampire 3
Viscera Seer 2
Reassembling Skeleton 4
Gatekeeper of Malakir 4
Vampire Nighthawk 4
Blood Artist 4

13 Non-creature Spells
Tragic Slip 4
Duress 3
Altar's Reap 4
Exsanguinate 2

23 Lands
Swamp 23

Your creatures here are nothing more than tasty snacks to be sacrificed as needed but primarily it's the leftovers known as Reassembling Skeleton that your vamps will be dining on repeatedly. You can either sac the Skeleton to Bloodthrone Vampire for damage, Viscera Seer for card filtering, or Altar's Reap for card advantage and just bring it back to do it again as long as you keep enough mana open. Thanks to the ease at which you can put creatures in the graveyard, Tragic Slip becomes a superior Dismember and Blood Artist will appreciate all of your efforts by slowly draining your opponent's health to the very last drop. You've got some blood on your face there. *hands you a towel*

Other Options:
This deck is easily the weakest of the five prior to upgrading but the good news is that is also has the most options for deckbuilding. The preferred option is to turn this into a Vampire Tribal deck but since it has its roots in being based around sacrificial effects, you can get a lot of mileage out of Innistrad's mechanics such as Morbid and Undying (Geralf's Messenger is pretty spiff). Bloodghast and Kalastria Highborn are not only two of the most powerful vampires printed but they also work beautifully in this deck and have synergy with one another. Other "vampires matter" cards such as Malakir Bloodwitch or Captivating Vampire could also help.

Blue Budget
"Clear Skies"

18 Creature Spells
Delver of Secrets 4
Sea Gate Oracle 4
Invisible Stalker 4
Stitched Drake 3
Stormbound Geist 3

19 Non-creature Spells
Mana Leak 4
Think Twice 4
Ponder 4
Into the Roil 4
Darksteel Axe 3

23 Lands
Halimar Depths 4
Islands 19

Clear Skies drops provide soothing relief for most irritated sky symptoms (Endorsed by Ben Stein... Oh, you're saying that was Clear Eyes? I'll just stick to being blissfully in denial.). You are clear for take off with these efficient fliers... yeah I can't even type that with a straight face. I've literally turned into cheese at this point. No... I'm not taking that part out... Sea Gate Oracle, Think Twice, Ponder, Into the Roil, and Halimar Depths make up the card advantage and card filtering to help transform Delver of Secrets. Don't forget that Invisible Stalker can wield Darksteel Axe like a boss (both of which are almost untouchable). The sky's the limit... pffft... yeah... cheese.

Other Options:
I'd recommend dropping the Axe for Runechanter's Pike, replacing the Drake with Snapcaster Mage, and replacing Stormbound Geist with another instant or sorcery though there are other routes to take. Maybe you go crazy and try to utilize something like Gravitational Shift with more flying creatures or maybe you add the beautifully efficient Jwar Jwar Sphinx?

This is Kylak signing out and hoping this helps you get a good head start.


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