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By: JustSin, Dave
Apr 27 2012 7:23am
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Budget Mechanics, Pt. 1

Since my return to Magic, after about a year long break, I've come to be a fan of Pauper for its diverse meta environment and more importantly its low cost of entry, but I must confess that it's not entirely where my heart lies.  With money as no object my passions lie within larger card pools and larger decks.  This need to expand beyond Pauper gave me an idea for a special mini-series.  Since I haven't found myself on the winning end of the lottery recently I still needed to build decks on a budget, but I wanted the opportunity to play some games beyond Pauper.

Throughout the internet there are any number of Magic players who write up articles and create budget based decks.  That's not really the kind of player I am so I wanted to make my budget series a bit different.  I decided there was no better way to show the wide range of budget possibilities than to build decks that featured different spell mechanics.  Here are the "rules" that I set out for myself for the upcoming mini-series:

   I knew that I wouldn't be able to cover every mechanic available to us so some would not make the cut.  Fateful Hour is something that would cause me too much frustration so that was going to be left out.  Also I wanted to avoid things like Level Up, which would have me wanting to bring in a number of cards that would push us beyond our budget.  I ultimately decided that I would break it down into 15 spell mechanics that I felt would be both fun and interactive.

   The budget that I wanted to set myself was $20 per deck, not including basic lands.  All prices of course will be taken from MTGOTraders and I'll be doing my best to stay within that budget.

   This mini-series will be broken down into five articles, each featuring three decks/mechanics.  By doing this I can focus each article better on the decks and mechanic rulings without overwhelming you with words.  Since this is a special edition series these five articles won't necessarily be coming on a weekly basis, but instead as I build the decks and get the articles put together.  That being said I promise not to drag it out forever as well.

   I'm going to try and save a bit of time and space by using videos to do most of the discussion about how the decks work and to show example games.  Don't forget to check these out!

Now I know that everyone has their favorite mechanics that they may hope to see, but I decided that I'm not going to put up a "schedule" of what you should expect in each part.  This way I can keep you coming back in hopes of finding the mechanic you were looking for


The first mechanic up on the chopping block is one that I use as a fallback whenever I get into a Magic slump.  Graft was introduced to us with Ravnica block (more specifically Dissension) and was associated with the Simic guild.  With the announcement of a "Return to Ravnica" I really hope to see more Graft cards later on.  The best part of Graft is the fact that there are so many ways outside of Graft to interact with +1/+1 counters.  We've had plenty of spells both past and present that pumped creatures with counters and then we were introduced to Proliferate in SoM, which works great with Graft as well.  Allow me to get technical for a minute here and explain Graft to those who may not be familiar with the rulings...

  • The Graft mechanic is both a static and triggered ability.
  • Creatures with Graft are basically 0/0 creatures that enter the battlefield with a number of +1/+1 counters indicated by the number following the word "Graft" on the card. (For example, Graft 2 means that the creature comes into play with two +1/+1 counters on it, making it a 2/2)
  • Whenever another creature enters the battlefield (regardless of which player controls that creature) a triggered ability occurs, which gives you the choice whether or not to move a +1/+1 counter from the creature with Graft to the creature that just entered the battlefield.
  • If a creature has multiple instances of Graft then each one works separately.
  • If a creature with Graft and another creature enter the battlefield at the same time then Graft does trigger and a counter can move.

This is a great deck to start off with because it holds to that one desire we all held when we first started playing Magic; using big, green creatures to beat up on our opponents.  Now I would be remised to totally eliminate blue from this deck since Graft is a Simic mechanic, but it will definitely be a splash instead of a major color.  Also, while the majority of Graft cards were introduced to us in Ravnica block, there are a couple of great cards released in Time Spiral block that interact with Graft as well (Llanowar Reborn).  Let's take a look at what I've come up with..

I won't waste a lot of time describing card choice on this deck since most of it should be pretty easy to understand.  Obviously Cytoplast Root-Kin is an automatic 4-of as it works basically as a Graft Lord.  The only Proliferate cards that I decided to use from SoM are Contagion Clasp and Tezzeret's Gambit because I didn't want to overload the deck.  Tezzeret's Gambit is the best of the two since it enables us to reload our hand after dropping a number of creatures, which is something aggro deck's often struggle with.  The -1/-1 counter that is provided from Contagion Clasp is almost irrelevant since I wasn't adding it for creature kill.  What I really wanted from this card was a reusable form of adding counters.  Another recent addition to the deck was Increasing Savagery since it can get so out of hand, but it can be switched for any pump spell that would add counters instead of working as an "until end of turn" effect.  Since every creature in the deck is green I brought in Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, but left it as a single copy since this deck wants its lands to come into play untapped.  You may also think its a weird choice using Khalni Heart Expedition as my mana ramp, but the key to this spell was its interaction with Proliferate.

The last card I want to mention is another great addition to Graft that was given to us in Time Spiral block... Fungal BehemothFungal Behemoth is an absolute bomb in this deck and gets so out of hand when the size of all your creatures is completely composed of +1/+1 counters.  While it is great to suspend Fungal Behemoth you can feel free to hard cast it and it will still be huge.  I played out a game until I played every card and just take a look at how great Fungal Behemoth can be!

Now I know this won't ever happen in a real game, but it was funny as hell to me and I just thought I'd share it!  Let's take a look at how this deck holds up on my $20 budget...

That's right people I've not only managed to stay in budget, but I come in at only $10!  And if I do say so this deck used to be even cheaper.  The most expensive card in this deck right now is the full set of Hinterland Harbor and when I started this article it was much cheaper.  I do believe it was PureMTGO's own recent talk on speculation that has had the price on this card steadily creeping upward.  Thankfully, even with the slow increase in cost we're still going to be able to hold down our $20 limit.

So what are some other choices for the deck?

I won't go through each card (sorry you'll have to look them up yourselves if you're not familiar), but I do want to point out a few options I had considered.  Novijen, Heart of Progress was the original pump land before Oran-Rief, the Vastwood.  It doesn't work nearly as well since it costs mana to activate, but it can be worth the consideration if you play with more of the blue Graft creatures.  Afiya Grove is the original graft spell, coming to us all the way from Visions!  One card that used to be in the deck (and I loved) was Shape of the Wiitigo, which is such a beast.  It makes a creature's size nuts, but it also puts quite the target on its back.  Decree of Savagery was also considered as an alternative to Increasing Savagery since it had the ability to put counters on multiple creatures.  The thing that holds it back is the heavy mana cost of hard-casting the spell (though it can be cycled to give you (Increasing Savager) + a cantrip).  The last thing that I'll mention is the Spikes!  They are just so full of synergy when it comes to interacting with the +1/+1 counters given to us with Graft.

Check out the videos below for the DechTech and see how it performs:


**Bonus note this deck is also Tribal legal (mutants)!!**


Now there are a lot of spell mechanics that we've become all too familiar with.  Flashback is one of these and it has become even more relevant now that it is in Standard and the newest block has cards with an important focus on Flashback elements.  While I'm going to try my best to minimize the number of decks I'm going to talk about that are overly popular it is something that cannot be avoided when trying to create 15 playable decks!  So feel free to bypass these more common mechanics, but if you pay attention you never know, you may find something interesting.

Flashback is a mechanic that was introduced to us first during Odyssey block.  Cards with Flashback are always instants or sorceries and using this ability basically allows you to replay the spell a second time for a cost that can be greater than or less than the original casting cost.  While Odyssey was the first set to showcase this mechanic we have seen a lot of cards added to the Flashback pool thanks to the latest blocks.  Flashback is a mechanic that is often seen in conjunction with other popular spell mechanics like Threshold and Madness since all three benefit from the same basic idea of graveyard interaction.  Let's take a look at some of the technical details of the Flashback mechanic...

  • The Flashback cost means that you are able to play that spell from your graveyard at that cost rather than the casting cost in the upper right side of the card.
  • All spell type restrictions remain in place.  For example, you can only use the Flashback ability of a sorcery spell at sorcery speed.
  • Playing a spell for its Flashback cost does not change the converted mana cost of the spell.
  • After a spell is played using its Flashback cost it is exiled from the game once it leaves the stack, whether this is through resolving, countering, etc.
  • Effects that would cause you to pay either more or less for a spell also affect spells being cast using Flashback.  For example, if you have Nightscape Familiar on the battlefield and Deep Analysis in your graveyard, the Flashback cost of Deep Analysis is U.

When putting together a deck for the Flashback mechanic I originally wanted to head down a path of BG and use universal discard in order to help put Flashback spells into the grave.  After some work I found that I just couldn't resist the calling of the traditional UG decks.  I know this does seem like I'm going to be heavy on the UG decks in this series (seeing as Graft ended up being UG as well), but it cannot be avoided.  To switch colors would possibly be more creative/different, but in reality there has to be a balance between that and effectiveness as well.  So I set out to put together a UG deck that would include Flashback relevant cards from both past and present.  Here's what I came up with...

Not too Flashy
A Deck By: JustSin
3 Screeching Skaab
3 Armored Skaab
2 Civilized Scholar
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Careful Study
3 Mulch
4 Counterspell
3 Moment's Peace
2 Runic Repetition
2 Deep Analysis
2 Grizzly Fate
2 Parallel Evolution
4 Roar of the Wurm
2 Crush of Wurms
28 cards
4 Hinterland Harbor
10 Forest
10 Island
24 cards
Roar of the Wurm

Most of this is better explained in the video below, but let's take a quick look at some of the choices.  Our Flashback package includes token creators in Roar of the Wurm, Crush of Wurms, and Grizzly FateGrizzly Fate works great since it brings in the Threshold mechanic as well as the Flashback mechanic in order to bring about better results.  We also get Deep Analysis in order to help us fill our hand and find the lands we need to keep playing these big spells.  The last Flashback spell is Parallel Evolution, which is one of your best "win" cards that works by doubling all your token creatures.  We have several options for getting things like Roar of the Wurm into the graveyard in Screeching Skaab, Armored Skaab, and Careful Study.  Another important self-mill card is Mulch, which helps you meet your land drops and adding to your grave at the same time.  Counterspell is brought in as our only control option in order to stop threats before they hit the table.  Outside of that we're looking at another creature deck that looks to simply muscle its way through an opponent's defenses.

Now I'm not going to waste time with offering card choices and changes that can be made with a mechanic like Flashback that has such a huge selection to choose from, but I do want to make a slight exception.  One card I kept going back and forth on was Catalyst Stone, which reduces the cost of all Flashback spells by 2.  This seems to be an obvious choice when running such nonsense as Crush of Wurms, but I couldn't find a middle ground between adding that or the Moment's Peace.  Feel free to make this change, but since the deck requires a heavy mana base for some spells I wanted to use Moment's Peace as a stall card to provide me with time to get that land count I need.

So it all seems good so far, but how'd I do in relation to my $20 budget?

Once again I come in under budget!  Although I was getting much closer to that $20 mark...  I already talked about the Hinterland Harbors, which I'm sure at this point are climbing pennies each day.  The other problem card here was Parallel Evolution, which is over a dollar a piece.  Deep Analysis also comes in close to a dollar each, but in order to ensure my cost-effectiveness (is that a word?) I kept it down to two copies.  If you did want to throw in Catalyst Stones then they come in at $0.21 per at the time of writing.

Here and there I'm going to add information with regards to possible other cards that can be added to decks (along with prices, see above) if you have a preference of something else or want to grab a card you actually own instead of buying new ones.  There are some mechanics, however, such as flash where the number of other cards are incredibly plentiful!  There are not only a number of options for Flashback, but as I said the mechanic works incredibly well with other mechanics such as Madness and Threshold.  Not to mention the fact that Innistrad Block has given us a lot of options that can be used for self mill!  So you can see the options are almost endless!  The only thing i can recommend is that if you want to see what other options there are out there go to your MTGO client, filter down to only blue and green cards (perhaps even colorless for artifacts), and use the search box to cover all those options (Threshold, Madness, Flashback, "Into your graveyard", etc.).  The only specific card that I wanted to point out was mentioned above in Catalyst Stone.

Check out the videos below for the DechTech and see how it performs:



As we move back towards the less popular mechanics, we find ourselves headed to Kamigawa block for a look at Splice.  My very first introduction to MTGO was at the end of Ravnica block so I never had a chance to play with Splice when it was first introduced to the game.  It was a mechanic that I had deemed to be pretty weak and never attempted it retroactively until now.  I even had to sit down before playing a game in order to understand how the card interaction works in the MTGO client (but we'll get there in a minute).  Splice was a mechanic that was exclusive to Kamigawa block and tied into the whole idea of Arcane spells.  Arcane spells were a sub-type for instants and sorceries in the same way as Tribal spells during Lorwyn.

The Splice mechanic actually works as a card advantage mechanic and functions while a card remains in your hand.  Whenever you play an Arcane spell you have the option to play a spell with Splice for its Splice cost by revealing the card from your hand.  As I determined, when playing a deck with Splice cards you receive an option in game to play an Arcane spell alone or with splice.  If that description didn't help, maybe this picture will...

Splice can be a bit of a complicated thing to understand so let's see what some of the details are when it comes to rules...

  • When a spell is played for its Splice cost you essentially are copying the text box from the Splice spell and adding it to the Arcane spell.  If the Arcane spell resolves then both spell effects happen.
  • A Splice spell is simply revealed when played for its Splice cost, meaning that the card remains in your hand whether or not the Arcane spell it is attached to resolves.
  • You may not Splice a spell onto an Arcane spell if no legal targets exist for the Splice spell's ability.
  • You cannot splice any one card onto a spell more than once, however if you have multiple copies of the same Splice spell you may Splice those.
  • While the main spell has the addition of the text from the Splice spell, it does not gain other characteristics such as name, mana cost, color, or spell type.  For example, if Glacial Ray is spliced onto a non-red spell its ability can target a creature with "Protection from Red".
  • If you Splice a targeted spell onto an untargeted Arcane spell (and vice versa) then that Arcane spell will be countered if the target isn't legal when the spell resolves.

I have to admit when I was looking over the rules for Splice and I read that last one I wasn't sure it should work that way, but it does when tested.  The reason for this is that the untargeted Arcane spell gains the targeted text, which means that the Arcane spell is actually both targeted and untargeted.  Perhaps the coolest spell of all is a Splice card that has no casting cost, meaning it can only be played for its Splice cost!


When I sat down to put the deck together there were a few popular options including the use of Hana Kami, but the one I went with was actually Ire of Kaminari.  In order to pull it off I had to build a deck that was very heavy on its non-creature spells.

Hot and Splicy
A Deck By: JustSin
0 cards

Other Spells
3 Consuming Vortex
1 Dampen Thought
3 Eerie Procession
4 Glacial Ray
4 Hinder
4 Ire of Kaminari
4 Lava Spike
3 Peer Through Depths
3 Psychic Puppetry
4 Reach Through Mists
2 Sift Through Sands
2 Toils of Night and Day
37 cards
15 Island
8 Mountain
23 cards
Ire of Kaminari

I feel that most of this deck is self-explanatory.  The basic idea is to use all of your Arcane and Splice spells in order to control your opponent's tempo and stall for time.  Then you use Ire of Kaminari to finish them off after having filled your graveyard with all of those used control spells.  The most important thing to point out about this deck is the fact that Hinder is not Arcane.  This means that when tracking your graveyard count you need to make sure that you actually have the spell count you need in your graveyard.  If you check out the example game you'll see that I made this critical mistake.  The best Arcane cards in this deck for Splice targets are easily Lava Spike and Reach Through Mists since these cards add only one additional mana to the Splice cost.  This becomes especially important with Consuming Vortex, which has a Splice cost that is double its regular casting cost.  It is also important to note that your Splice spells are also Arcane spells, which means you don't have to sit around and wait for a non-Splice spell in order to use the Splice mechanic.

As mentioned earlier there are very few options available that meet the Arcane or Splice requirement.  The first thing I did when looking for other possible options was to eliminate all creatures.  The deck really revolves around the Ire of Kaminaris and you want as few spells as possible that do not meet the requirements.

There are two artifacts that I added to the list, which can help the fact that the deck is running no creatures, but if you do want to use them make sure you do so in minimum in order to not disrupt the Ire of Kaminari too much.  The use of Disrupting Shoal has the potential to replace Hinder in order to no long worry about the fact that Hinder isn't an Arcane spell, but the fact that X has to be the countered spell's converted mana cost holds Disrupting Shoal back a bit.

Let's take a look at the deck cost...

Well I don't think decks come any cheaper than this!  We didn't even reach the $2 mark with this deck, which may say something about the strength and popularity of the Splice mechanic.  I would love to go on and talk more about the costs in this deck, but there really isn't much more that can be said.  The deck pulls in most options that are available in the way of Arcane and Splice spells in these two colors so there aren't even many changes that can be made.

Check out the videos below for the DechTech and see how it performs:


Well there you have it, the first three decks in my Budget Mechanics mini-series!  As I said this is going to be a special thing that I'm going to submit as I have time to build and test the remaining decks, but don't be worried about me losing interest on this and leaving it unfinished!  I already have most of the decks built as v1.0 and ideas written out for those I haven't started to put together!

- JustSin


I rarely play standard, but by Leviathan at Mon, 04/30/2012 - 14:53
Leviathan's picture

I rarely play formats other than Commander, but when I do I really like budget articles. This is great because it gives plenty of options. Videos were nice because I could understand you and you did a good job of explaining the deck and plays. Plus your voice is very soothing. Like listening to the ocean on a warm summer evening. Mmmmm, sleepy. Good stuff.

Lol! I'm going to take that by JustSin at Mon, 04/30/2012 - 15:20
JustSin's picture

Lol! I'm going to take that last part as a compliment I guess lol

The budget will really have by pretty_you123 at Wed, 12/18/2013 - 19:59
pretty_you123's picture

The budget will really have it. It going to be fun if we do it right. - Nationwide Relocation Services