In my first Old School 93/94 on a Budget article, I boasted that you can play Old School, competitively, for just $40. During the NEOS Monthly Tournament series, I put that bold statement to the test. Now that the tournament is officially over, I can post the results, which are what you would expect: a meager 1-4. However, I won several games (4/13; a win percentage of 31%) against legitimate decks piloted by some of the community’s best players, including a finalist. More importantly, I had a ton of fun, and that’s what really matters. (“Some of the best games… that I’ve had in tournaments is when I’m at the middle or bottom tables where it really doesn’t matter… Everyone’s laughing and having a good time… and you wouldn’t be able to tell who won the game…” Andy Baquero, All Tings Considered, “Spike to Spice“ at 28:20)
The original budget, $40, was to build a sixty-card deck. In keeping with that spirit, but upgrading the deck to comply with tournament play, I raised the budget an additional $10 to build a fifteen-card sideboard (25% more cards = 25% more budget). Embarrassingly, I somehow don’t own four Giant Growths, so I ran a “miser’s” Avoid Fate in its place. With less than five minutes before my first match, but in an effort to remain on-budget, I hastily assembled a suboptimal sideboard using only my vague memory of card values, a stick of gum, a paperclip and whatever cards that I had within arm’s reach.
i. Scavenger Folk
During the deck construction process, I chose to include Ghazban Ogre over Scavenger Folk because of a compromise I made to stay on-budget: the omission of “fast mana.” (Sol Ring, Birds of Paradise, etc.) Without consistent mana acceleration, the deck has to play “fair” Erhnams (turn 3-4) and Armageddons (turn 4-5). Consequently, the deck lacks early-game pressure. Shortly into the first match, it became clear that the ogre was not the solution to the lack of early-game pressure. Conversely, over the course of the tournament, Scavenger Folk put in work. Instead of being a distracting liability, they excelled at eating a removal spell meant for one of your better creatures and/or going down in trading with an expensive artifact. As discussed later in this article, moving the Scavenger Folk to the maindeck frees up two sideboard slots.
ii. Divine Offering
Destroying an Ankh of Mishra or a Black Vise and gaining life is awesome. It can help buy you enough time to pull off a win. The real challenge here is exercising enough restraint and self-control to prevent yourself from adding fifteen copies of this card to your sideboard. A couple Divine Offerings and your maindeck Disenchants should be enough to handle any artifact threats.
As Wrath of God is out of our budget, Brainwash is used as Swords to Plowshares 5-8. It slows down faster decks by forcing them to choose either:
a. Refrain from attacking, assemble an army, and get Balanced; or
b. spend all of their mana every turn to attack, instead of assembling an army, and risk being unable to pay for their board state after Armageddon.
Juggernaut either compliments or replaces Erhnam Djinn in a matchup against Black, which typically can’t deal with artifacts.
idk kill flyers I guess
vi. The Miser’s Tranquility.
I couldn’t find another Disenchant.
…I told you it was suboptimal.
I was in Group 2.
i. Matches One & Two: Underworld Dreams “Trick Deck“
In the first match, I had to mulligan to six in both games, but both games were close. My second match, also against Trick Deck which, after having just been in a February Group with three Troll Disco players, was a bit disappointing. Equally disappointing was that my opponent was able to defeat me in both games before anything worthy of discussion occurred. At this point, it was clear that the deck wasn’t consistently fast enough to beat a “tier” combo deck.
iii. Match Three: R/B Troll Disco
My third match was against R/B Troll Disco (of course) as piloted by finalist, Jeff Grasso. I won the first game thanks to a Thorn Thallid pinging off his Order of the Ebon Hand. In the second game, he miscut Hymn to Tourached me, the very same miscut Hymn to Tourach that I had erroneously assumed was an “NFC” (non-factory cut) earlier that week.
If I hadn’t learned my lesson by then, after having it played against me, I certainly do now. I may have lost the match, but the silver lining was that Thorn Thallid continued to exceed expectations as a budget beatstick. After the match, I had the pleasure of teaching him how to play Brawl!
Unfortunately, I do not remember how I sideboarded during the first three matches. Meh, you didn’t miss much.
iv. Match Four: R/G/b Ponza/Black Vise
Game one, while on the play, I kept a very risky hand: Plains and six one-and-two-mana Green cards (Elves, Sprites, Pixies, Growths, etc.) At that time, I believed that I was favored to draw a Forest within the first few turns and that, while I would be behind-curve (playing one drops on turn two, two drops on turn three, etc.), I would be able to play an Armageddon or an Erhnam on-curve. Instead, he played a turn one Black Vise, I missed my turn-two land drop, and on turn three he Stone Rained and Bolted my Forest and Elf. With one unusable land and a handful of Green cards, I quickly succumbed to the Black Vise. Obviously, had I known that he was playing Ponza, I would not have taken such a risk.
At this point, although he’s up a game, he can’t effectively sideboard against me because he has no idea what deck I’m playing. While sideboarding, he muttered something about his sideboard plan against Zoo. I sided out three of the four Swords, the Balance, and the two ogres for four Divine Offerings and two Scavenger Folk. Game two started out much better. I perfectly curved-out out into Sprites, Divine Offering on his Black Vise, Whirling Dervish and Swords on his Sedge Troll, and Disenchant on his Sylvan Library. At this point, I don’t think he’s playing any black removal, because he would have targeted the Sprites, so I’m holding a Giant Growth for the inevitable Bolt on my Dervish. I was half-right, because I was able to save my Dervish from an Earthquake and win the game.
Between games two and three, I sided out the Armageddons for Juggernauts. His deck is better at land destruction than mine, so I’d rather draw four-mana threats than Black Vise damage. In the end, it didn’t matter, because he got color-screwed and I Disenchanted his Chaos Orb.
v.Match Five: R/G/u Zoo
The first game was very close. At one point, he double-blocked my Erhnam with a Kird Ape and a Factory. I Growthed. He Berserked his Factory. I Growthed again. He Berserked his Factory again! Needless to say, I dealt all ten to the Ape. Despite coming out ahead on that trade, I ended up losing that game. It was very close. His deck had superior reach with Scryb Sprites, Flying Men, and Bolts. Unfortunately, the other two games were not competitive: we alternated wins off of mana screw. Of note, in game two, I got out a turn three Erhnam. On turn four, when I attacked, he Berserked my Erhnam as removal.
Let’s talk about what worked and what didn’t:
I hate the Ghazbans. Scavenger Folk, Nafs Asp, or Timber Wolves are the safer play. With the amount of Lightning Bolts in the format, you just end up taking three to the dome and giving your opponent a 2/2.
In this particular tournament, the pixies were no better than Grizzly Bears. Don’t get me wrong, if your meta is Artifact Creature-heavy (Mishra’s Factory, Juggernaut, Su-Chi, Triskelion, etc.), you’ll be glad that they are in your 75. However, if you have room in your budget and/or are expecting an aggro-heavy knight meta (Mono Black/White Weenie), Elvish Archers are probably the better default choice. At the very least, I would drop down to two in the maindeck or put all three in the sideboard.
If you’re like me, and are considering removing the Balance and Armageddons (and consequently White altogether), Red is a great replacement. This mostly Green shell can easily skip over to G/r by replacing Swords with Bolts, Disenchants with Shatters, and the Ghazban Ogres/Scavenger Folk/Nafs Asp with Kird Apes. A deck tech and tournament report on budget Erhnam & Burn ‘Em is forthcoming. Regardless of which color you choose, piloting a two-color deck without dual lands or City of Brass was a challenge.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: why not Mono Red? In Old School 93/94 on a Budget ($40): U/R Burn, I answered that question: on a $40 budget, Mono Red “…looked really underpowered without Chain Lightnings or Blood Moons.” Sure, you can replace the sprites with Goblin Balloon Brigade, the pixies and dervish with Ironclaw Orcs and Goblin Rock Sleds, the dervish and thallids with Goblin Kings and Brassclaw Orcs, and the Erhnams with Orggs. This might win you game one but, without room in the budget for Chain Lightning, you may be too slow to race common sideboard plans that take advantage of Red’s inability to deal with enchantments: CoP: Red, Moat, Island Sanctuary, The Abyss, Arboria, etc.
If you choose Mono Green, I would seriously consider a full playset of Scavenger Folk, because the life gain from Crumble (instead of Disenchant or Shatter) may be enough for your opponent to stabilize against your suboptimal threats. You also lose access to creature removal (Bolt or Swords), which could be disastrous if your opponent can either outpace you or grind the game to a standstill.
If I had to run this deck in another event, I would probably run something closer to G/w “Zoo”
Other budget sideboard options to consider are:
Dust to Dust
Congratulations to the champion, Jason Seaman, and everyone else who tested their mettle at an international level.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of brewing and playtesting with a limited card pool, you should register for the upcoming Mobstercon Team Unified event hosted by ATC! The concept of the Team Unified format essentially also places a budget restraint on the decks, so it’s the perfect place to take a budget brew for a spin!