Essential Magic Articles

Budget Building: Episode 3 - Elementals

by Kevin Weber

The Idea

If you were going to list the budget cards that appear in a lot of tourney decks, four of the ones towards the top would be: Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, Crib Swap, and Nameless Inversion.

Notice anything about them?  They're all Elementals.  So wouldn't it be a nice start to a deck...

4 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Shriekmaw
4 Mulldrifter
4 Crib Swap
4 Nameless Inversion

The best part is, besides the Vivid Lands, there's a great fixer for this sort of thing: Primal Beyond.  And unlike a lot of the rare lands lately, it's somewhat affordable (as of writing this opening, it's $3.50 on

Now, before going any further, I want to describe a problem I've seen with lands like Primal Beyond.  For example, back during Ravnica, you'd often see posted decks using Pillar of the Paruns like:

4 {R}{W} spells
4 {G}{W} spells
4 {B}{U} spells
4 {U}{G} spells
4 {B}{W} spells
4 {B}{G} spells
4 {U}{R} spells
4 {R}{G} spells
4 {R}{B} spells
4 Pillar of the Paruns
2 of each Ravnica Dual land

There's a number of problems here.  First, without Pillar of the Paruns, there's a very good chance you're going to be color screwed.  After all, you've only got 8 lands providing any given color.  So, if you want to play, say, your {R}{W} spell, you need one of the 8 lands that provide Red, AND one of the 7 remaining lands to play White.  Even Pillar doesn't completely alleviate the problem, because you'd still have to find 1 of the 14 lands that can provide either of the two colors.  Then, repeat this for every color combination - while you might be able to play your {R}{W} spell, you've still got eight other combinations to worry about.  Plus, well, Pillar is only 4 cards.  There will be a good percentage of games you never even see one.

Second, Pillar can entice bad deckmaking decisions - namely, including only multicolor spells.  For instance, which would fit better in the deck: Electrolyze or Last Gasp?  The thing is, Last Gasp is easier on the color requirements, is more powerful, and costs {1} less.

The best way of dealing with these issues is to approach it like a regular deck.  Don't include a multicolor card simply because it's multicolor - only include it if it's more powerful and a better fit than a single-color option. And instead of thinking of your creation as a {W}{U}{B}{R}{G} deck, make it into a one or two color deck that just happens to splash the other colors.  After all, it's a lot easier to play your {B}{G} spell if 20 lands in your deck provide black mana!

The same lessons apply to Primal Beyond.  We don't want to include cards simply because they're Elementals.  And we want to have a primary color, so that even if we get color screwed, we'll still have a good percentage of our deck available.  The great part is there's a semi-combo that fits these two things perfectly.  I faced against it in my second article, and it involves the following three cards: Flamekin Harbinger, Incandescent Soulstoke, and Nova Chaser.

It works like this: Flamekin Harbinger goes and finds an Elemental - probably one of the two following pieces you're missing.  Incandescent Soulstoke is played out.  Then, if it survives the turn, it uses its ability to put out the Nova Chaser.  The chaser hits play and champions the Harbinger.  It attacks for 11 trample damage, dies, and the Harbinger comes back into play - which conveniently finds a second Nova Chaser to repeat the whole thing again.

Last edited 4/17/2008 10:44:54 AM Page 1 of 7  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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