6/02/2010 BoaB: "Cruel Evolution"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Building on a Budget, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Grixis would be insane if they reprinted Damnation.

On the article: pretty standard budget Grixis list.  Nothing terribly exciting, but I agree relic can be used as some sweet SB tech right now.  Not to sure how well it works out MB.
As I see it, the problem cards (thrinax, BBE, Vengevine) were designed to bust the Card Advantage of control decks.  The relic and double negative are merely trying to compensate, but are too situational to solve the problem: they are too resilient to spot removal (Sprouting Thrinax and Vengevine, at least; Bloodbraid elf is a whole other story).  This is why (imo) Mythic is doing so well: it plays better creatures than them, which is a stronger solution.

As an aside, is there such a thing as Mythic with BBE, or is that just Naya?
I am sorry, but I simply hate this list.  As the previous poster said, Vengevine is an answer to control, so trying to answer it with situational cards in a control shell seems illogical to me when other cards are better at answering it and better in the abstract as well.  Journey to Nowhere, Path to Exile, and Oblivion Ring seem so much better.

Other than that, it seems to be a very standard Grixis list.  I don't think it is competitive.  Consume the Meek and Consuming Vapors are the entire reason to go black, and then it is a choice of either Grixis and  Earthquake or Esper and Day of Judgement.  All of these are rares and trying to build a competitive Grixis control deck on a budget is futile.  It isn't competitive and it isn't original.  I liked some of your others lists a lot better.

The problem with this list is that there are too many things that are basically cantrips but in a lot of matches do nothing.  Spreading Seas is great in some matches, but let's be frank, sometimes it's basically just a cantrip.  Relic helps versus Vengevine specifically, but also is most often merely a cantrip.  Prophetic Prism helps run a budget mana base, but wouldn't be necessary if your mana wasn't so bad, and again is a cantrip.  And Divination is basically nothing more than a cantrip.  It is terrible.  There are so many cards in the list that do nothing to the board.  Beyond that, how to you expect to win in this format with a control list that lacks mass removal?  So when you are spending 2-3 mana to cantrip your opponent is beating your face with Blightnings, Sprouting Thrinax, Putrid Leech etc.  Terrible.

Echoing another poster, there are alot of cards which essentially works as cantrips when you are behind:

4 Spreading Seas
3 Prophetic Prism
3 Relic of Progenitus
1 into the roil

and 3 divination

The effect of this is that you are almost playing a 46-card deck. In that context, I think 26 land might be too much (equivalent to 34 land with no card draw or cantrips). It means that your cantrips and card draw barely work as card advantage (or even card parity) when you are under any pressure; two thirds of the cards you draw are land or cantrips, and do nothing immediate to affect the board or hand. Only 10 cards affect the board at all, and 3 of those cost 6 mana.

By contrast, a UW control deck will generally have 26-28 and 8 cantrips (4 wall of omens and 4 spreading seas), which works out as equivalent to 30-32 lands. They also have the advantage that four of those cantrips help you if you are behind and very often generate card advantage.

That wouldn't be so bad if all the action cards you did draw were powerful mana-intensive X-for-1s, but most of them are one for one spells, with the notable exceptions of cruel ultimatum and mind shatter. I think more powerful card advantage generating spells like that might be the way to go (earthquake for example, which I don't think is beyond the budget of the column?). Again, the contrast with UW is hugely unfavourable (their action cards are card advantage generators like the planeswalkers, day of judgment, martial coup and mind spring).

I understand that the column is building on a budget and UW is a very powerful and very expensive deck, but I think removal counts are low enough right now that an approach based on card advantage generators like sedraxis specter, siege-gang commander, gatekeeper of malakir, earthquake and sea gate oracle would have just been a better, if more expensive, deck. It would still easily have been budget for standard right now, thus meeting your own criterion for 'budget'. Essentially a budgetised (read: jaceless and perhaps rare-land-less) version of the grixis decks currently running around tier 1.5/tier 2, like mike flores in mentioned a few weeks back in his column. As it is, your list looks somehat similar to those, but with gas stripped out for cantrips.

I love this column, but this one had a big flaw. The article talks about beating vengevine, but the matchups don't show a situation featuring vengevine. It looks like the relics belong in the sideboard. Relic seems a lot better than bojuka bog as someone tweeted about...

Also, if the situation where you knew the opponent had blightning happens a lot, then don't you want swerve?
it isn't original. 



I agree. What is wrong w/ Jacob not coming up with an original deck every week using cards that are cheaper than one copy of Jace 2.0 and still beat all the best decks refined over months by the best players in the world? Who does he think he is not delivering something original every single week.

I agree. What is wrong w/ Jacob not coming up with an original deck every week using cards that are cheaper than one copy of Jace 2.0 and still beat all the best decks refined over months by the best players in the world? Who does he think he is not delivering something original every single week.




I think the bug of it is if the article going to feature decks you can find on the standard deck help forum then do you really need to have someone writing the article? I didn't have a problem with it, but I know lack of innovation/using common decklists has been brought up for his articles before, so I can fully understand people getting frustrated with seeing it.

As for the article itself, sad to see so little testing against vengevine with the build up at the top and the echo at the end that he wanted more relics to stop vengevine decks :/
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I agree. What is wrong w/ Jacob not coming up with an original deck every week using cards that are cheaper than one copy of Jace 2.0 and still beat all the best decks refined over months by the best players in the world? Who does he think he is not delivering something original every single week.




I think the bug of it is if the article going to feature decks you can find on the standard deck help forum then do you really need to have someone writing the article? I didn't have a problem with it, but I know lack of innovation/using common decklists has been brought up for his articles before, so I can fully understand people getting frustrated with seeing it.

As for the article itself, sad to see so little testing against vengevine with the build up at the top and the echo at the end that he wanted more relics to stop vengevine decks :/



How many people in those forums are as good at Magic as Jacob? Probably the same number that are as good at Magic as Jacob writing for this website-zero. I've seen tons of people want to talk shop with pro players at big events, yet here one does every week and it gets tons of complaints about originality. They have from the lab for that. Do people really need two columns a week of "Hey guys, here's an original deck that went 3-7 in the casual room on modo. Yay!"?

A great player explains how to play the game at high levels each week and people are upset someone's used cruel ultimatum before? The guy is good, but he can't make the banewasp afflictions of the game suddenly competitive. 

Looking at the game logs, Divination sticks out like a sore thumb. The fact that it's sorcery speed and so many of your answers are instants means that many times (particularly during the Jund game), you're deciding between drawing yourself some cards and being able to contain your opponent, which leads to situations where you're under early pressure because you're playing Divinations on your early turns, and you don't have the wrath effects to take advantage of that. It might be worth trying Courier's Capsules instead. Tapping out on turn two instead of turn three is nice, and you can cash in for the cards whenever you want.
Probably better to swap the black in this list for white, I think.

Remove black, you lose Cruel Ultimatum.  Add white you get Path, Journey, O-Ring, Wall of Omens.... etc.   All these seem better fit to fight the Vengevine and BBE situation.

Keep the red if you really want.  Bolt, Double Negative.  Sure.  But replace the Terminates with Journey or Path or Cantrip Wall.   R/W/U for America, bishes. 
How many people in those forums are as good at Magic as Jacob? Probably the same number that are as good at Magic as Jacob writing for this website-zero. I've seen tons of people want to talk shop with pro players at big events, yet here one does every week and it gets tons of complaints about originality. They have from the lab for that. Do people really need two columns a week of "Hey guys, here's an original deck that went 3-7 in the casual room on modo. Yay!"?



Maybe you're happy with decks like this, and thats fine I'm sure many are. It was a fine decklist and it may or may not accomplish what it was supposed to do (2 games makes it very hard to determine if its competitive or not). I however can easily see the point of people saying "hey guys, do we really need a new article this week which is the same as random user has been posting and we've been laughing?"

A great player explains how to play the game at high levels each week and people are upset someone's used cruel ultimatum before? The guy is good, but he can't make the banewasp afflictions of the game suddenly competitive.



See, but he's not explaining. Today he's saying here's my list, its built for cards I'm not seeing, goodbye. JMS, now he actually tried to explain how to play better; with deck evolution, card evaluation, and TESTING. 3-7 would be AWESOME to see, because we'd actually get to see if the deck does what its supposed to do. Even if it fails, we'd see it. Right now its 1-1, that doesn't prove its more competitive then anything Into the Lab does since its not being tested. 



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For the record, I thought this article was quite good, given past articles of his (I noticed he's stopped counting the M10 duals as "budget", which is a HUGE step forward, imo).  There's still quite a ways to go to match past authors, but this was a huge step forward, and I congratulate JVL on his accomplishment.  However, I simply have to address this one thing:

How many people in those forums are as good at Magic as Jacob? Probably the same number that are as good at Magic as Jacob writing for this website-zero. I've seen tons of people want to talk shop with pro players at big events, yet here one does every week and it gets tons of complaints about originality. They have from the lab for that. Do people really need two columns a week of "Hey guys, here's an original deck that went 3-7 in the casual room on modo. Yay!"?



See, the thing is, you're missing the point.  As one of those people who have complained about JVL, I'll explain to you what the point is.

FtL is not a place where FNM players go to for decks they want to play at FNM.  FtL is for kitchen table Magic and is (or, imo, should be) most closely related to Serious Fun, if anything.  Now, I haven't been reading Noel's articles, so I don't know what he's been up to in the last while, but when I stopped reading it, he was doing pretty well.  Nearly every deck was Extended or Legacy-legal (i.e. almost nothing Standard legal), and they were all built on doing wacky things with nothing in mind for budget, availability of cards, etc.

FtL is basically supposed to (again, imo) be a thought experiment article more than a practical one.  "If I took this card and that card and that card, I bet they'd do something really cool, so let's go build it", is how I think every FtL article starts out.  Now, since Johnny has been terribly hosed for the past couple of years, the decks that Noel builds, when they are Standard-legal, tend to be quite cheap, because the nature of recent Johnny cards have made the decks cheap.  I have no qualm, however, with Noel using cards like Doubling Season (roughly $10/card and almost impossible to find in trades) in his articles.  Everyone knows the card is bad in tournaments and it's expensive, but that's not the point of FtL. 

BoaB, on the other hand, is a place where a new, inexperienced player can go to (or should be able to go to) with his stack of commons and maybe a couple $3 rares and find a deck to play at FNM that won't put him 0-4.  It might put him 2-2 if half the field is PTQ-level decks, but it should be able to win at least sometimes.  It doesn't need to be PT-winning tech, but it should be reasonably decent.

That said, it is VERY difficult to budgetize a top-tier Standard deck these days.  There simply isn't any replacement for cards like Day of Judgement, Jace, Gideon, Elspeth, Baneslayer Angel, and so forth.  By coming up with "unoriginal" decks, JVL is completely missing the point of BoaB, which is to do the best you can with what you have, and "budgetized" top-tier decks (and ESPECIALLY top-tier control decks) are almost certainly not the best you can do with what you have.

To analogize: Say you go out and buy a Deckbuilder's Toolkit.  I haven't bought one myself, but I know the basic gist.  You open it up and you get a couple of Bolts, a couple of Cancels, maybe you rip a Baneslayer in your M10 pack.  On the other hand, you get 3 Plated Geopedes, 3 Steppe Lynx, an Arid Mesa, a Goblin Bushwhacker, a Ranger of Eos in your Shards pack, and a Path to Exile in your Conflux pack.  In this case, would you try to build the budgetized U/W/r deck (there are certainly the cards for it) or the budgetized Boros Bushwhacker deck?  Yeah, we know U/W is a better deck than Boros when fully powered, but the cards lend themselves much more towards the Boros deck.  It seems to those of us complaining about unoriginality that JVL would build the U/W/r deck in this situation.

(And yes, I know that both U/W/r and Boros are unoriginal strategies; that's why it's an "analogy".  I don't want to construct a set of 150+ cards to prove my point)
There seems to be a lot of complaints about how JVL writes his column. The thing is, he has his own identity and style when it comes to writing. As far as I know, he has free creative reins over his column, as long as he stays "budget". What "budget" means is very relative, but JVL thinks that budget decks are decks that are cheaper when compared to most other winning decks, which is a perfectly fine way of interpreting. Previous authors used the "30 tickets rule", which is also a fine way to interpret the term "budget". However, previous authors made decks for the casual room, whereas JVL is trying to give us decks that we can play at FNM and sometimes it is powerful enough for a PTQ. Doing this on a budget is extremely hard, because in Magic you get what you pay for. More money spent = better cards. As JVL said, Standard is a very tough format these days, mainly because of the lack of tier 2 cards and strategies that use "substandard" cards to win. Most decks these days are built of very many powerful cards and therefore are very powerful, as opposed to many bad cards and therefore powerful (U/G threshold/madness comes to mind).

With that aside, you (JVL) should probably pick up something that previous authors of this column has done: more testing. Both Jay and Ben would play a minimum of 15 games with a deck, sometimes as much as 40 games. You, however, have two games. You should keep in mind that people who use budget decks are on a tight budget (obviously), and therefore would like a sort of "guarantee" before they buy cards for a deck. If you play more games, the average player can see what a deck wins against and what it loses against, and then they evaluate if that is a deck that they are interested in purchasing. You explain what the cards do in your deck very well, but sometimes we just want the cold hard numbers that only testing can give. Also, please do not use one-ofs immediately. You do not have to give us a perfectly tuned deck; the tuning is part of what is fun of deckbuilding. Therefore it is best if you use four-ofs for almost all cards (win-conditions and mana intensive cards are not subject of this rule), because then we can figure out what works and what doesn't through more testing. Also, sometimes a deck just doesn't quite work. It happens to everyone. If it should ever happen (I'm not implying that that is the case of this week's column), please just admit it. We learn more that way.

Keep up the good work, JVL!
This was the average JVL article: an interesting idea, semi-budget, a small test record, mostly already covered ground. Far from great, but definitely not worth complaining too much about.
The issue I have on the whole is simple: If you look at Bleiweiss or JMS, they'd have large test records, and mostly would have a winning record. 6-5, 8-3, that stuff. Jacob has 2 rounds here. Usually he has a score of 2 wins, 1 loss. If this is too abstract, look at Ben Bleiweiss's evolution of Arcanis's guile. Over the course of 2 weeks, he assembled a 13-5 record in the casual room. Granted, this was the casual room, but you could still bring that deck to a MTGO standard tournament (an 8-man tournament, say) or an FNM with a token sideboard and do decently.
The other issue is originality. I looked at each article Jacob's written this year. Of these, several had relatively orignial concepts, but mostly they were variants of common strategies one could find in the deck help forum. With Jacob's predecessor's combo decks, bizzarre creations, and casual room matches, you would be bombarded by different deck possibilities. Not just the deck the writer made, either. You'd see other people's decks, and get ideas from their card choices. I was a new player when JMS was around. I saw dozens of ideas, went to an FNM with a red/green combo deck I'd seen in one of his articles, and won. That's what got me hooked onto the game for good.
In short, my complaint is that we don't get any of the precon evolutions, 17 game casual room test records, and such. We rarely get the bizzare combo decks or rogue creations. I'm not suggesting we always have this, but having some articles in the tournament room with less budget, more ptq-viable decks, and also some articles in the casual room with precon evolutions, combo decks, control and aggro variants, et cetera. Jacob's already done stuff like this, with the Surreal Ascension deck.
I liked the article overall, though I do agree with some of the criticisms here.
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Come on guys, there has been articles about more casual ideas like Level up, Johnny forays like the Surreal ascencion deck and budget stuff like Beastmaster ascension, and as soon as he tries a standard approximation of a control list you start complaining about not being original. JVL has to keep a lot of different people happy and he won't satisfy all of them with a single article. Just wait for another article when the current one wasn't directed at you.

About Grixis, I think Nicol Bolas would be a better fit than Cruel Ultimatum now. Cruel Ultimatum won't achieve a lot when the opponent already controls two or more planeswalkers and is quite more difficult to cast when lands are spread. Nicol Bolas can start stealing beaters or destroying walkers as soon as he comes into play without forcing you to go aggro. Is the additional mana a big difference?

I agree that Divination feels subpar. Even Sea gate oracle can achieve some filtering while offering a body to chump block or beat.
If Limited gets in the way of printing good Constructed cards... Screw limited
Come on guys, there has been articles about more casual ideas like Level up, Johnny forays like the Surreal ascencion deck and budget stuff like Beastmaster ascension, and as soon as he tries a standard approximation of a control list you start complaining about not being original. JVL has to keep a lot of different people happy and he won't satisfy all of them with a single article. Just wait for another article when the current one wasn't directed at you.

About Grixis, I think Nicol Bolas would be a better fit than Cruel Ultimatum now. Cruel Ultimatum won't achieve a lot when the opponent already controls two or more planeswalkers and is quite more difficult to cast when lands are spread. Nicol Bolas can start stealing beaters or destroying walkers as soon as he comes into play without forcing you to go aggro. Is the additional mana a big difference?

I agree that Divination feels subpar. Even Sea gate oracle can achieve some filtering while offering a body to chump block or beat.



I thought it seemed like an interesting decklist. It definately needs some board sweepers though. It doesn't look possible to win against RDW, beastmaster green or Boros Bushwhacker. infest or volcanic fallout would be the budget options but really you want something like damnation. I'd love to play the deck a few times to get a good feel for it (or read about a few games) but I am less inclined to gather the cards because I really don't think it will work out very well.

I think Jacob does a much better job of giving the play by play breakdown of a particular game but what we really need here is quantity. This deck, for instance, doesn't seem like a great deck to take to FNM (IMO). With only 8 cards that kill creatures the opponent won't mind it when you cast mind shatter a sphinx or a cruel ultimatum because victory will be within his reach at that point.

I am thinking that Budget decks will be bad for awhile. So far I've blamed the mythic rares and while I think that is a contributing factor I also believe that part of it is the rare dual lands which in spite of being non-mythics they are maintaining a very high price tag. The fetchlands are the worst offenders but the worldwake man lands and the M10 duals are all pretty expensive as well. This makes it very difficult to build on a budget in spite of the budget friendly tri lands from shards. Add to this the fact that seemingly budget friendly cards like steppe lynx and plated geopede require these rare lands in order to reach their potential and you have the perfect storm. This deck is another example of a deck that will be twice as good with those rare duals. The ability to regularly cast double negative or other color intesnive cards on turn 3, check. additional threats and being able to win the game without drawing one of your 3 sphinxes, check, check.

All told I think this is by far the worst time for budget players for as long as I've been playing Magic. Wizards has basically taken every archetype and given it a mythic rare that is absolutely needed in order to play that archetype. In addition we aren't just talking about Rav duals + pain lands + future sight duals or future sight duals + shadowmoor duals. This is Fetchlands + a cycle of mutavault's and M10 duals. By the time Ravnica showed up most people had their pain lands anyway so supply was pretty high on those which made them less expensive. M10 duals are new and everyone needs them. The fetchlands are new and everyone needs them in addition to being playable from vintage onward. The man lands from worldwake are new and like mutavault they are in high demand.

I have a lot of hope that things will begin to get better for us budget players when Zendikar rotates which will be quite awhile but I think I'll still be around. Unfortunately, we're going to have to suffer through some pretty horrible BoaB articles until then.

I think that using one of's is great for the collumn personally. 1st this is the part of the article where you actually get to see some deckbuilding genius at work. The analysis he gives to the cards at the beginning is great and telling why he included just one is perfect for those of us hoping that we will be as good of a deckbuilder as he is some day plus it gives us additional options. For instance if I only have 2x cruel ultimatum now I have some options to start out with for potential replacements. Doom blade, into the roil double negative and mind shatter. While 1 of's are often not better when you have 2x it is a learning experience and by including into the roil and then talking about why he likes it as a 1 of in his deck I am gleaning information from the article. Here is his quote

"I really like this card, it seems like it always does what I need a card to do. I'm becoming more eclectic as a deck builder and I'm starting to appreciate the power of one-ofs more as time goes on."



This is something I've been working on also as a deckbuilder so I much prefer this version of the deck than a version without into the roil, or double negative and merely included 2x additional doom blade.  

Please give us more games.... I realize that you're spending a lot of time testing out your non-budget tournament decks and attending Grand Prix/Pro Tours. I appreciate that your game write ups are far and above that of the other authors of BoaB but we really want to see the deck in action. Especially since I only construct about 1 in 20 of these decks.
Don't be too smart to have fun
didnt he intend to build this deck to stop venegvine???
we didnt even see 1 when he tested it

more testing would be nice