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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 23 2008 1:40am
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Money where my Mouth Is: Buying Staples
I have seen a lot of articles on staples recently. I have written about collecting in the past, but I wanted to examine the issue in a bit more depth. Specifically, I want to look at what I actually bought, and explain my thinking. 
I earned a minor celebration recently, and decided to spend some money on myself. I budgeted 50 TIX to spend at MTGOTraders – and vowed that I would write about the purchases. Since I love constructed play above all else, I wanted to invest in my long-term collection. Writing about the purchases was intended to keep me from spending too frivolously. You can decide how well that worked.
I have also been playing in Extended PTQs recently, and expect to play in another one this weekend. That has reminded me how much I love Extended. I am looking at playing the format online in the future – after the rotation. For now, I cannot afford the Pernicious Deeds and Vindicates that define the format. After the rotation, however, things should get better.
That said, I do play Extended matches in the Tournament Practice room. I don’t necessarily expect to win as often as I could if I had the money cards, but I can come close. I also play a fair amount of multiplayer and casual games. To that end, I did buy a few cards that I expect to us just for fun.
I should also note that I am not buying Lorwyn block cards at the moment. I expect to play in a number of Morningtide release events, and most of those require a Lorwyn tournament pack and some boosters.   I expect to open a number of Lorwyn rares in those events, and I’m hoping to get lucky. If I get really lucky, I might chain my winnings and end up with a bunch of both Morningtide and Lorwyn packs, so I’ll wait.
Standard Purchases
Actually, I lied. I did buy some Lorwyn.  I bought three copies of Wren's Run Packmaster. I owned zero, and I really wanted to play around with the GB Elves deck a bit. Since I own zero, even if I bust another in the Morningtide release, I will still just have a playset. They are also inexpensive – all three totaled about 2 TIX.   I also expect that I will be able to resell them at some future time, once they no longer interest me. Fat green creatures generally appeal to casual players – but those casual players rarely pay much for them.
Actually, this is a great example of the sort of purchase that I would consider a mistake if it had cost even one TIX more. Creatures like the Packmaster are quite good in block, marginal in Standard, and are almost never playable in formats with large card pool, like Extended or Classic. As a rule, I try to pick up creatures in drafts and sealed events, and save my cash for true staples. In this case, however, I want to play some Standard before this weekend, when I will be attending the StarCity Games $5,000 tournament. 
As a general rule, the first staple I attempt to collect is multicolored lands. I have spent most of my budget on lands, and now have playsets of the Ravinca duals (e.g. Stomping Ground) and multiples of many of the Onslaught fetchlands (e.g. Windswept Heath.) I have also played enough Eighth, Ninth and Tenth edition limited to have a good collection of the painlands (e.g. Yavimaya Coast.) As a result, I don’t need to buy lands anymore: I can build multicolored decks without having mana issues.  
After lands, I look at cards that break or change fundamental game mechanics – and do so as cheaply as possible.  Ideally, these cards should cost one (or zero) mana. Stifle is a perfect example: U, counter target activated ability. However, Stifle is an expensive card, and one that is due to rotate out of Extended in November of this year. That is not worth the cost. 
However, a card that is worth the cost right now is Extirpate
Extirpate removes cards from the graveyard at instant speed – and for that magical one mana. Extirpate can beat Dredge – just Extirpate the Dread Returns as soon as you possibly can. More importantly, Extirpate can also break up a new combo deck appearing in paper Standard tournaments where Morningtide is legal. The deck is called Project X 2.0, and abuses the following card
The deck fights to get a Mirror Entity into play, and a Riftwing Cloudskate and Body Double into the graveyard. The deck plays Reveillark, then stacks X Mirror Entity activations for zero, where X is the number of permanents that the opponent controls, plus one. The first Mirror Entity activation goes off, making your all creatures 0/0, so they die. When Revelliarck dies, it fetches Body Double and Riftwing Cloudskate. The Cloudskate bounces an oppponent’s permanent, and Body Double copies Reveillark. Then the next Mirror Entity activation goes off and the process repeats. Eventually, your opponent has no lands and no permanents, so you return Body Double and Mirror Entity. The turn after that, you can attack with these two creatures, and Mirror Entity can ensure that they are at least 5/5s.
Here’s a decklist:
Extirpate can break up the combo. Just get rid of the Body Double or Reveillark with the Mirror Entity triggers on the stack. 
Note: in Extended, people are playing Revillark in a Protean Hulk combo build. When the first Hulk dies, it fetches a Carrion Feeder, Body Double and Reveillark. The Body Double copies the dead Hulk, and is then fed to the Feeder. That Hulk fetches Mogg Fanatic and any other necessary cards. Then the deck deals infinite damage with recurring Fanatics.
I beat that deck in my last PTQ by Extirpating the Mogg Fanatics. Extirpate is solid against that deck, and solid against Dredge. That makes it important in Standard, current Extended and future Extended. That’s why I shelled out to complete my playset. 
Speaking of the PTQ, here’s what I played.

Here’s the online version:
Wooded Foothills
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Contested Cliffs 
2 Forest (premium)
Godless Shrine
1 Mountain (premium)
Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains (premium)
Stomping Ground
1 Swamp (premium)
Temple Garden
Treetop Village
Windswept Heath

Birds of Paradise
Ravenous Baloth
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Eternal Witness
Flametongue Kavu
Indrik Stomphowler
Mystic Enforcer
Troll Ascetic
Viridian Zealot

Cabal Therapy
Living Wish
Pernicious Deed
City of Brass
Eternal Witness
Gaddock Teeg
Giant Solifuge
Indrik Stomphowler
Loxodon Hierarch
Thrull Surgeon
Viridian Zealot
Withered Wretch
It is not quite as potent online as in real life. In real life, I own about a dozen Pernicious Deeds, including a playset of alternative art Judge Foils. Online – one copy of Deed, used mainly for Elder Dragon Highlander and Singleton. Without the Deeds, this deck folds to rush decks.  Likewise, having just one Spiritmonger online limits the deck.  I only own three Contested Cliffs - but that is not a problem.  My PTQ deck should not have had four - three are enough, and maybe only two are really needed.
However, this deck includes not only the fourth Extirpate I just bought, but also my third Living Wish. The Wish was the biggest part of my buy.   That one card ate a quarter of my 50 TIX right there.   It is also scheduled to rotate out of Extended (the only format in which it is playable) in November. Until then, however, I can have some fun with it. I probably won’t ever win a match played for prizes, but I should have fun in the tournament room.  
Living Wish
I also bought a Quagnoth
I had considered it for the sideboard of the Wish deck, but I did not find room. Nonetheless, I wanted a second copy. Right now, it is cheap. If I becomes a sideboard staple (and Morningtide reprints a reworked Mind Twist, which is a discard card so sick it was once restricted in Vintage), then I will want more – and the cards will be much more expensive. Quagnoth is a good anti-discard card, with a playable ability.   It is not yet a staple, but may become so on short notice. It’s a strategic investment. Sometimes those investments pay off, sometimes not. For example, I bought a playset of Mulligan Moxen (Serum Powders) for under a buck, but no deck has ever wanted them. On the other hand, I invested in Vedalken Shackles when they were 2 TIX each, and bought my Chalice of the Voids at two for a TIX. They are worth a bit more, now.
Next fall, Extended will rotate. Seventh Edition, and everything from Invasion, Odyssey and Onslaught blocks will leave the format. That will cripple some decks, but leave others standing. I am looking at the archetypes, and trying to buy the cards that will be worth keeping, while avoiding decks that will be crippled.
For example, Enduring Ideal decks currently rely on some mana acceleration (mainly Invasion lands) and certain enchantments. Form of the Dragon is key – and will be around after the rotation. (It was in Ninth Edition.) Solitary Confinement, on the other hand, is rotating out. Without Confinement, the deck just loses to burn spells. Post rotation, I expect the archetype to crash, and Endurin Ideal to drop to $0.50 or so.
At that point, I’ll buy them. Not now.
On the other hand, I think it is reasonably likely that Tooth and Nail decks may well make a comeback.   The best kill combo – Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Sky Hussar will remain legal. Other tricks will also remain. I decided to buy a single Darksteel Colossus, both as an investment in that deck and because it is fun to play in EDH and casual games. I don’t expect to ever need two copies, but one is useful – and this card keeps rising in price. I figure it is better to get it now than to fight wildly rising prices later, once it appears in a Tier One deck.
Another archetype that will definitely survive the rotation is Affinity. Affinity was broken, and will remain broken. Affinity is also relatively cheap. I have seriously considered buying the components (I already have everything except Arcbound Ravager and Blinkmoth Nexus), but I just don’t like playing the deck. Instead, I bought myself a second copy of Kataki, War's Wage. Eventually, I will want three or four for sideboard use – probably three – but I can only afford one right now. Still, these will probably rise post rotation, as everyone starts off playing the obvious decks. Affinity is an obvious deck.   It is also a very good obvious deck.   Stocking up on the Affinity hosers is a good idea, because the price of Kataki is not going to drop until Affinity becomes unplayable, which may not happen until the 2012 rotation. 
I scrolled down the pages of Eight and Ninth Edition rares. 
I looked for any cards that I had faced in recent PTQs that selling cheaply. Last weekend, I lost against a Static Orb / Opposition deck. Static Orb is in Eighth Edition, meaning it will survive the rotation. However, Opposition will not – and without Opposition, Static Orb is not exciting. 
Ensnaring Bridge, on the other hand, is a solid card that will remain legal after the rotation, and that works well with red burn decks. It comes in from the sideboard to shut down creature beat decks.   Tim Morrison placed Third at a PTQ in Indianapolis with this burn deck, and featured Ensnaring Bridge in the sideboard.
Ensnaring Bridge
Burn Baby Burn - Tim Morrison 
Barbarian Ring
Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Great Furnace

Keldon Marauders
Mogg Fanatic
Spark Elemental

Flames of the Blood Hand
Lava Spike
Magma Jet
Rift Bolt
4 Shard Volley
Shrapnel Blast
Blood Moon
2  Ensnaring Bridge
Pithing Needle
Sulfuric Vortex
Tormod's Crypt
Shard Volley is a Morningtide card. It is basically a Lightning Bolt, but with the additional cost to cast of sacrificing a Mountain.  The rest of this deck – with the exception of Sulfuric Vortex – will remain legal after the Extended rotation in fall.   Given that this deck will be around, and that Ensnaring Bridge also works in various combo decks and the like, I am more than happy to spend a couple TIX to buy the rest of my playset. 
Looking over Eighth and Ninth Edition cards, I see a number of other possible staples, including the pain lands, City of Brass and Wrath of God.   I have these. The one possibly staple that I do not have, but will eventually pick up, is Plow Under.   Plow Under is stupid good in big mana decks – but less useful in a world of Dredge decks and Countryside Crusher, so I have not yet bought them. Sometime, perhaps.
Moving on, I looked at Kamigawa block cards. I found four cards that I could see playing In future Extended events, or possibly casually. These were also cheap. They are not the best cards in the block, but I already have a playset of Umezawa’s Jittes and three Pithing Needles. Here are the cards.
Sickening Shoal
Shining Shoal
Descendant of Kiyomaro
The Jushi Apprentices are not insanely good, but they are solid card drawing creatures, and may be useful again. I’m easily willing to risk a pair of TIX on a playset. If nothing else, I can play them casually, and in multiplayer. They are just good enough to be worth having, while not good enough to get everyone gunning for me. That makes them nice multiplayer fodder.  (By comparison, try playing something like Ambassador Laquatus in a serious multiplayer game, and see how the opponents react.)   
Besides, Jushi Apprentice looks like it might be a nice combo with Rings of Brighthearth
The two shoals are another speculatory purchase – but I bought three of each to complete the playsets. Shoals are pitch spells – meaning that they have an alternative casting cost. Some pitch spells – e.g. Force of Will – are totally broken. Others – e.g. Scars of the Veteran – are total garbage. The other Shoals are marginal, but creature removal is fine, and the white Shoal has seen play in various Block and Standard decks. I think it is worth paying a couple TIX for playsets of the cards.   If I own them, I can always playtest them in the future. If they end up featuring in a really good deck, their prices will rise dramatically. If not, I am not out much.
Finally, the Descendant of Kiyomaru is simply a nice blocker, and was regularily used as a sideboard card against rush decks in both Block and the Standard of its day.  It may be useful again - and the price is right.   I completed the playset.
Classic and Beyond

Second Sunrise
Second Sunrise is a combo enabler. You can sacrifice a lot of artifacts and so forth – things like the Odyssey Eggs, Chromatic Star, etc., the get them all back into play with the Sunrise. At Worlds in Paris, 15 months ago, the French has an Extended deck built around this card. I’m not sure that this is currently viable, but once Black Lotus appears online, and after the rotation, this is the sort of combo card that might break. Once again, I’m buying them now because, right now, they are almost free. If a broken Sunrise deck  does appear, these will immediately jump to several TIX apiece. 
AEther Vial is a slightly different card. It is already broken – broken enough to be banned in Extended. It is not banned in Classic, and may or may not be banned in whatever Wizards creates to allow people to play Invasion and later cards. I fully expect that format to be created, and played, so I want a playset. Once again, these are cheap staples in any weenie deck that can legally play them.  

Casual Stuff
Finally, I bought a few cards that I plan on playing only in casual decks. 
Jinxed Choker

 Jinxed Choker is another speculative card that I wanted to have a couple copies of in my collection.  The Choker is a kill mechanism for decks that generate a ton of mana – and it works reasonably well. It would be broken if it did not target an opponent, but it is fine in multiplayer if you couple it with Ivory Mask (since the opponents cannot target you, they cannot give it back. This is primarily a casual play card, but I have seen people play these as kills in Extended decks in the past.
Austere Command
I bought one copy of Austere Command. It is my first. I have never opened or drafted one, but I am building a mono-white EDH deck. It will have one Wrath of God, an Akroma’s Vengeance, etc. – and I needed an Austere Command to complete the deck. It is also not unreasonable that I will play the Command in other decks, especially in block and Standard.   My immediate purpose, however, is casual.
The same thing is true of the next couple purchases. Acquire is like Bribery, but really cheap because it is more likely to miss altogether.  In EDH,  however,  it is pretty darn good.   Likewise, Memnarch is not necessarily playable in constructed formats played for rating points, but it may be a decent sideboard card in some future big mana blue deck. In the meantime, I can play it in EDH and casual multiplayer – e.g. in 2HG. 
Rounding out my purchases, I bought single copies of Altar of ShadowsTower of Murmurs and Benalish Heralds. The first three are random cards that I wanted to try in casual singleton or EDH decks. All three cost just pennies apiece, but each has a powerful effect that may be worth building into a deck – if not worth building a deck around. 
The final card is Benalish Heralds. I once wrote an entire article about this card. In my opinion, this is the ultimate multiplayer card. Multiplayer cards should be good, solid, and unthreatening – unless they just win the game outright. Benalish Heralds provide a nice, easy blocker and slow card advantage. They are not as worrisome as (Mind’s Eye) or as combo-riffic as Seedborn Muse, so playing one will not put you first on everyone’s hit list. They are exactly the sort of card I want to drop on turn four in an EDH game – and that makes them worth the nickel I paid for them.
It is way too easy to write an article listing the cards to buy for future Extended, starting with Ravnica duals, then Chrome Mox, Sensei’s Divining Top, Vedalken Shackles, etc. Hopefully, this list has provides a bit of different slant. 
And, hopefully, this article will convince some people to get their butts over to and order some cards. Card sales are what make sites like possible – and card prices are at a all time low. Once version 3.0 gets stabilized, and Wizards starts marketing to a lot of new users, the demand for older tournament staples will skyrocket, and prices will climb again. Get your cards now. 
“one million words” on MTGO


by urzishra (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 02/23/2008 - 15:01
urzishra (Unregistered)'s picture

Great article!..

 I'm glad my  approach to things is the "prefered" method (getting multi lands .. going after cool little casual cards.. getting cards that mean the most "extended then casual then classic then standard" .. )