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Standard On A Budget: The 20-Dollar Challenge, Part II
If you'll recall from our previous article, we are in the middle of creating a maverick, meta-crushing Standard deck, with a mere 20-dollar price tag. Now that we've created our deck, it's time to see how it does against the strongest decks in the current Standard. As mentioned previously, those decks are mono-blue devotion, also known as Master of Waves, mono-black devotion, starring Grey Merchant of Asphodel, and Big Boros, a mono-red devotion with Boros Reckoner. As you've no doubt noticed, Theros has had a rather big impact on Standard with the introduction of devotion.
So to recap here's our deck we're going to be using:
4 Deputy of Acquittals
4 Essence Scatter
4 Nimbus Naiad
4 Wall of Frost
4 Yoked Ox
4 Detention Sphere
4 Runner's Bane
I'll be using a program called Cockatrice for these games, mainly because if I were to actually reconstruct these decks elsewhere I'd be about 600-dollars in the hole. I'll be including a few screenshots, though it may be hard to understand what's going on so I'll be explaining along the way as well. A match is three games long so we'll be playing nine games altogether. That should give us a pretty good feel for how well our deck does.
U/W Deck vs. Master of Waves
It's already looking bleak and we're only on turn 4. My opponent cast a Jace, Architect of Thought and FoF'd a Master of Waves off his second ability. I'll definitely have to keep an Essence Scatter up in anticipation. Wall of Frost is up and I'm becoming more confident about my deck! My opponent has so many creatures up--three Nightveil Specters--but I Pacified them all! Oh no, he just drew a Cyclonic Rift off of Jace again. I really wish I had a Detention Sphere for Jace. And an overloaded Cyclonic Rift into a Master of Waves off the back of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and that is game.
I'm off to a good start with a Nimbus and was successfully able to Sphere my opponent's Thassa. And now with Jace coming out I'm beginning to wish I had saved my Sphere instead. I think what I'm beginning to notice is that if my opponent gets off a Master of Waves its game over. I did better this game (20-12) but then a Master came down with fourteen 2/1 Elementals and that was game.
End Results: Master of Waves 2, U/W 0.
U/W vs. Big Boros
I think this will be a better match-up since Boros is very much creature-centric and we won't have to worry about blow-outs from Planeswalkers or mass-bounce. And of course it should help that Master of Waves won't be making a splash here.
It always feels good to Scatter a Boros Reckoner on turn three. I'm definitely beginning to see problems with my deck, mainly that it lack a good win condition. But we'll discuss everything I've learned afterward. Right now it's very much a stalemate as we both try to draw something worth playing. I still have a handful of removal, but nothing that can actually kill my opponent. Until my opponent cast Hammer of Purphoros, I had a good handle on the game. But I can't race against a 3/3 Haster each turn, especially if my main defense is removal.
There isn't much to say about this game unfortunately. I took a 1-land hand because the other cards were good and ended up getting completely mana screwed. This is a case where I really should have mulligan'd and can only blame myself. My opponent, however, had plentiful mana and was able to pull a Frostburn Weird > Burning-Tree Emissary into the red 6/5 indestructible god, Purphoros.
So far the only good thing about losing two games in a row is that I don't have to play a third game and lose again! That's probably not a good thing though as I'd much rather be winning.
End Results: Big Boros 2, U/W 0.
U/W vs. Mono-Black Control or Grey Merchant
I think my least favorite turn one play is 'Swamp > Thoughtseize'. I hate it even in Pauper when you replace Thoughtseize with Duress. This has been my best match-up so far mainly because it's a slower deck which lets me stabilize. Of course, no amount of stabilizing will beat the combo of a Desecration Demon followed up a Grey Merchant. There's nothing as depressing as watching all your damage be undone through a single card. Of course none of that compares to a SECOND Grey Merchant being cast.
Game 2: (please, please, just let me win once)
Full disclosure: I just took a bunch of mulligans and had awful hand after awful hand so I decided to start over. It's not fair nor does it display my deck truthfully, but I'd like to win just once so you can forgive me.
So my opponent opens with another Thoughtseize, taking a precious Pacifism. The funny thing about playing with cheap cards is that none of the cards--with the possible exception of our Detention Spheres--are really going to hurt us if Seize'd. A turn one Yoked Ox with an empty field and yet he can't even deal damage! In what kind of world does my opponent draw back-to-back-to-back Hero's Downfalls? Aaand Pack Rats is down with Underworld Connections fueling a bunch of rats. There's no amount of removal in the world to take care of that many rats! But still, out of curiosity where was my Detention Sphere? Ah, twenty cards into my deck I would have been able to get rid of the rats.
End Results: Grey Merchant 2, U/W 0.
A Sobering Conclusion
We all win some and we all lose some. Even the great Louis Scott-Vargas only wins about 60% of the time. Still, I think if you're losing 100% of time it may behoove you to put up your deck and realize it just wasn't meant to be. What does this mean for me? Just that my foray into breaking the Standard meta wide-open certainly didn't pan out and that perhaps it's best to focus on Pauper, which is what I primarily wanted to write about anyhow. So why did I even publish this article then? Well, I thought of just leaving it at the 'cliffhanger' at the end of the last article, but then I'd be passing myself off as something I'm not. We all have our strengths, but no one is the perfect deck-builder and there's no shame in admitting and owning up to your imperfection.
A Few Final Thoughts On My Deck
Still, I would like to end this article with a few rumination concerning my decklist and why, perhaps, it didn't work out as well as I had initially anticipated. With my U/W decklist beside me and looking over all the cards, here are my closing remarks about them.
Deputy of Acquittals.
This is a good card, but I just found myself never able to fully utilize its bouncing. I think though that since my deck had so few creatures and even less good bounce targets it made it hard to find reasons to keep mana open to properly utilize its flash/bounce. It just ended up being a vanilla 2/2 more often than not. Still, it's going to be on my mind when I make my next U/W Pauper deck.
Nimbus Naiad/Yoked Ox.
I had high hope for a 2/6 flying Ox, but there were games where that never happened. And even when it did, it still wasn't much to get excited about when facing down a red 5/5 or black 6/6 flyer. My point is also that if your deck only has one win condition it better be resilient and NOT fold to removal or other creatures.
Wall of Frost.
I was very iffy about including a 3-mana wall but generally I was pretty pleased with its performance. However, there were times when I really wished it had had reach as well. I'm not sure I'd use it again if I were redoing the deck, but it wasn't bad.
Both of these turned out to be just a tad too situational for my tastes. I think for the most part I would have been happier with a 3-mana Claustrophobia than leaving a blocker with Agoraphobia or having a useless card with Runner's Bane.
These always worked well and I was never unhappy to see them in my hand. Still, since this meta is full of devotion it felt a little counterproductive to Pacify a creature then have my opponent use its devotion to power out an even bigger one.
This was hit or miss, but generally-speaking I was glad to have it. I just have a hard time holding back mana, though that could easily be explained by my type of play-style more than the playability of the card itself.
See you next time (hopefully with a better deck)!