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By: dragonmage65, Nick Matthews
Mar 06 2007 12:00am
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dragonmage65's 5th BDBC - The Conclusion:

Welcome back folks! First up on the agenda is a follow-up on my budget deckbuilding challenge, a contest I host over on the WotC boards. The contest involves combo'ing around a jank rare while keeping the budget to under a paltry ten dollars - no, that wasn't a typo! The reasoning for this limit is that many who play MTGO have a small budget to work with - one of those people happens to be me. I want to help make Magic enjoyable for all players, not just the players who can afford to drop the big bucks for the latest chase rares (not that I have anything against those who do have full-time jobs to sponsor their exploits - more power to them). You can find the thread for this contest here: boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php. This contest's centerpiece card was Grinning Totem - an overlooked Mirage rare that recently made a timeshifted appearance in Time Spiral. So after several weeks and many decklists, the vote was in and we had a winner - AJ_Impy!

Roar of the Grinning Totem


Lands (24):

4x Ancient Den

4x Island

4x Plains

4x Seat of the Synod

4x Swamp

4x Vault of Whispers  

Creatures (16):

4x Cephalid Aristocrat

4x Composite Golem

4x Dromar's Attendant

4x Outrider en-Kor



Other (20):

4x Conjurer's Bauble

4x Demonic Collusion

4x Grinning Totem

4x Krark-Clan Ironworks

4x Roar of Reclamation


Total: 60 Cards
Sideboard: N/A


Legal in: Extended, Classic,

I've also got an exclusive interview just for you! 

dragonmage65: Hi, and congratulations! What do you think the hardest part about making the deck was?

AJ_Impy: The hardest part tends to be innovation: figuring out how to break the card in an interesting way that no one else is likely to think of. In this case, with Grinning Totem, the card relies substantially on your opponent's deck and sacrifices itself to have any effect. In order to make full use, you'd need to have sufficient mana to cast any spell that the Totem might pull, and a means of recurring the totem. Quite a few people were going for the reliable-but-predictable Academy Ruins method, but I wanted to go for something bigger, more spectacular, more Johnny. Trying to find an original and creative use for a card with very little application is always tricky.


dm65: Can you summarize the deck's strategy for our readers?

AJ: Basically, it hinges on one massive turn that ends with your opponent losing. Using Outrider en-Kor and Cephalid Aristocrat to dump your library into your graveyard for free, you need to cast a Roar of Reclamation to get everything into play. What you do then depends on your opponent's deck - you're going to kill them with Grinning Totem, but there are two ways to go about that. The quick way is to sacrifice a Totem, find an X-spell if they have any, sacrifice golems until you have X= their lifetotal and wipe them off the face of the game. If they don't have any X-spells or burn, we need to deck them. One card at a time, 4 cards per iteration. This is where the Conjurer's Baubles come into play: You stack your now-2-or-3-card deck with the Roar of Reclamations from your graveyard, sac all your Totems to remove 4 cards from their deck, rinse, repeat.
     As for getting to this point, you need the Outrider, Aristocrat and Roar. With Demonic Collusion useful as a repeatable tutor, getting all three isn't too hard. There are enough warm bodies to provide defence in the mean time, with the golems particularily expendable. One of my favourite tricks during testing was blocking with the Aristocrat and/or Outrider, waiting for lethal damage on the stack and then emptying the library into the graveyard with a Roar at the ready the next turn.

dm65: If it has one, what would you say the deck's Achilles heel is?

AJ: A high mana curve. With the artifact lands vulnerable to disenchanting, an attack on the mana base can stop the deck dead before you get a chance, and an aggro deck can kill you all too quickly.

Roar of Reclamation
dm65: Do you have any advice for any Johnny hopefuls that might happen upon this?

AJ: Always look at the big picture. Don't just look at what a card says, look what it implies, and look how even the most obscure aspect of it can be tweaked. Remember cards with open-ended phrasing such as 'remove a counter from a card you control:beneficial effect', in that case look for cards with counters you don't want. If a card mentions a specific creature type, think of creature type changers and other means of interacting with that information.

dm65: Which Johnny card would you like me to combo around right this instant?

AJ: There are a number of beauties I have my eye on for Planar Chaos, but I'll be working on those myself. Let's go for the obscure Scourge rare, Faces of the Past.

dm65: Thanks for your time!

AJ: You're welcome!

Well then, AJ_Impy has asked, and AJ_Impy shall receive. From now on, every time I host a budget deckbuilding challenge, I'll have the opportunity to return the favor by building my own deck, with the same strict financial constraints, around a crap rare of the winner's choice. So, then, introducing our next combo!


Make a Combo Wish - Hell’s Horrors

Faces of the Past is a fairly narrow card. The 'tribal' requirement only limits its combo potential, but we shall have to make do in any case.
The card can do one of two things - it can tap creatures, or it can untap them. Tapping creatures is for the control folks who play with their 60island.dec and naively expect to actually make some friends while doing it. Untapping things, on the other hand, is for real men who enjoy jacking themselves up on Red Bull twice a day.

Err…perhaps not, but I trust you get the point.

So then, how can we abuse the ability to untap creatures? In other words, what is it, when tapped, is worth untapping?
There are plenty of cards that fit this criteria - Elvish Aberration, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and others, but none of those particularly caught
my eye. I'm going to go big - big with Hell's Caretaker. Caretaker is awesome, since it doesn't force you to spend mana to use it. With Faces of the Past, we can actually use it to start an infinite loop with other Horrors. But how
on earth can we abuse this loop? Well, we could start by looking at what we're trying to do. Obviously, we're recurring creatures - they come into play and leave play infinite times. So we should look for on-color effects that trigger off of either of those. While we could splash for a third color, inconsistency is the bane of any combo deck and should really be avoided - thus, we'll eliminate the obvious Pandemonium right away. However, don't fret; we still have an excellent alternative:

Faces of the Past

Genesis Chamber


Mmm....all-natural, wholesome evil!


The Faces of Hell

Lands (22):

4x Dimir Aqueduct

6x Island

12x Swamp


 Creatures (19):

3x Dimir House Guard

4x Frightcrawler

4x Hell's Caretaker

4x Phyrexian Rager

4x Thought Courier 

 Other (19):

3x Concentrate

4x Darksteel Ingot

4x Diabolic Tutor

4x Faces of the Past

4x Genesis Chamber

Total: 60 Cards
Sideboard: N/A
Cost: $9.45


Legal in: Extended, Classic,

Synopsis: This deck utilizes a nasty infinite recursion combo - Faces of the Past + Hell's Caretaker + any Horror creature + Genesis Chamber. To start it off, you'll need all four of the above in play, and you'll need another Horror creature in your graveyard. At the beginning of your upkeep, activate Hell's Caretaker targeting the creature in your graveyard, sacrificing the Horror you have in play. This triggers Faces of the Past and untaps Hell's Caretaker. This also puts a 1/1 Myr token into play, and your Caretaker will end up untapped. Lather, rinse, and repeat to your heart's content. After you've created as many Myr as you like, you'll have to wait another turn before you can attack, unless you should choose to splash for something along the lines of Mass Hysteria. This, of course, leaves you open to global kill effects, but that's a risk you'll have to accept. You have 12 horrors in the deck in 4x Caretaker, 4x Phyrexian Rager, and 4x Frightcrawler, which should be plenty for your purposes. Dimir House Guard can fetch up your Caretakers or even your (Diabolic Tutors) if you need something else. Thought Courier gives you an outlet for discarding a Horror into your graveyard. The Concentrates are there because I love them, and the Darksteel Ingots are there because I love them too - and as if that weren't enough, they actually do something!

Versus Aggro decks: The deck tends to fall a few turns short in beating out the weenie rush, though occasionally it can pull off a combo in time. An
added bonus to this matchup is that you can be sure that they won't be packing Wrath of God.

Versus Control decks: No combo deck will ever consistently beat a control deck. Get over it. But if you honestly want to try, be sure to play cards you
have mulitples in hand of first, to draw out counters/kill etc. Though the best option is really to scoop and move on. Thank goodness not many people
find control fun.

Versus Everything Else: You're on your own here - just look out for removal and stay away from falling behind.

So then, until next time, good luck, and have fun!
- dragonmage65


Therapy by Dreager_Ex at Sun, 03/11/2007 - 06:46
Dreager_Ex's picture

I am on board with the Cabal Therapy, I think it would be a great sideboard card if not maindeck. the first time is like a look into the fog but if you flash it back it shouldn't be a problem especially if you can just recurse everything..

It's fun. by Hollow0n3 at Mon, 03/12/2007 - 04:36
Hollow0n3's picture

I really like the deckbuilding challenge, I hope you continue them.
I was happy to see AJ win it, since not many people tried to stay away from the ruins.
The Combo-Wish deck looks interessting.

by runeliger at Sat, 03/10/2007 - 11:02
runeliger's picture

The article was a little bit shorter than usual, but decks were pretty cool! Also, I recommend Brain Pry for your second list, it MAKES SURE your oppoonent isn't packing Wrath of Gods :P (or damnations for that effect, even final judgement sucks)

by dragonmage65 at Sat, 03/10/2007 - 11:26
dragonmage65's picture

Actually, the article just seems shorter because the decklists are more condensed. In reality it's quite a bit longer than previous ones. Brain Pry isn't a great fit for the second deck because it doesn't particularly do much if you don't know what your opponent is playing, meaning that at best it's just a cantrip for 2 mana.

by runeliger at Sat, 03/10/2007 - 12:53
runeliger's picture

I'll take your word on that. My argument for Brain Pry is that at 2 mana you can pretty much ensure that what you're doing won't be disrupted (unless they top deck), which allows you a bit more security when going off.

by AJ_Impy at Sat, 03/10/2007 - 16:00
AJ_Impy's picture

Not bad, not bad at all, although I might advise switching the Concentrates for a draw card that gets you discarding, to give you another outlet to get a horror in the grave. A good range of questions asked.

Re: Brain Pry... by dragonmage65 at Sat, 03/10/2007 - 16:37
dragonmage65's picture

Ah, but how do you deal with the problem once you know it exists? Cabal Therapy would be infinitely better than Brain Pry for sure, since you can actually get rid of the problem before it becomes one.

nice! by Elvish_Dragon at Sat, 03/10/2007 - 18:38
Elvish_Dragon's picture

I liked the deck :) I'm a fan of combos any day ever!

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