ello, and welcome to another edition of Building on a Budget. The Alara Reborn Prerelease is just around the corner, and I'm really excited to see what the new set has to offer. There are a lot of fears and questions whenever a new set is about to be released, but R&D has been so phenomenal recently that this set is bound for radness.
There are a few special facts about Alara Reborn that you may or may not have heard. Alara Reborn consists of all multicolor cards. That's right, every card in the set is more than one color. This seems all well and good for a lot of people, but it's a bit scary for someone who writes a weekly column about building decks that are inexpensive.
Wizards was kind enough to give me the tri-lands from Shards of Alara and Rupture Spire from Conflux, but it still seemed like I had to jump through some hoops to get the mana right in the decks I was building without ruining their curves. Luckily, Alara Reborn fixes our mana with a cycle of commons (yes, these are commons) that make my job a whole lot easier. I'm proud to be the one introducing this new and exciting cycle of cards.
When I look at a new set as a budget deck-builder, especially a set from Shards of Alara block, I'm looking for one thing before all others: mana fixing. One of the most difficult parts of building cohesive budget decks is making the mana base work properly. Even when I restrict myself to two colors, I sometimes have trouble finding the mana I need to cast my spells. Tenth Edition painlands and Shadowmoor block filterlands are expensive. I need to make things work without using too many expensive fixers.
There are five of these. They're all commons, so you won't have to worry too much about finding a play set.
Common mana fixing is especially important in today's Limited formats. The Borderposts only produce two colors each, so it's very important that enough of them are opened at any given draft table. Making this cycle all commons is a very good move on R&D's part. These ensure that the wacky five-color decks I've been drafting stay wacky and stay five colors.
Looking to the past, we can see a lot about our future. These are very similar to the Invasion "come into play" tapped dual lands. You can simply tap your existing land for mana, use it to pay the alternate cost of your Borderpost, and then replay the land. Essentially making it the same as a "comes into play tapped" land. The big restriction here is that the land needs to be basic. If you play a nonbasic land on your first turn, you can't use it to pay the alternate cost of your Borderpost.
The Borderposts have a real mana cost too, though. It's important to remember that hardcasting your Borderpost isn't all that bad. You can play your third land and tap out to play a Borderpost to set up for a powerful five-mana spell on your fourth turn.
The alternate cost of the Borderposts is affected by cost reduction. This means that you won't have to pay the one mana for the alternate cost if you have an Etherium Sculptor in play. It doesn't seem to do much, but free spells usually have a way of surprising me with their applications.
Yes, they may seem a lot like the Invasion "comes into play tapped" lands. In a lot of ways they are very similar. There are a lot of hidden strengths here, though.
The Borderposts have color. This may not seem too important, but it has a lot of relevance in Shards block. Your Bloodhall Ooze will get bigger if it finds a Veinfire Borderpost or Firewild Borderpost when it checks during your upkeep. You can drop Cliffrunner Behemoth and swing with a hasty 5-power Beast without ever having to over-commit to the board.
Perhaps the most exciting application of the Borderposts is their interaction with Bloom Tender. Think about it:
Turn one: Forest, Veinfire Borderpost
Turn two: Replay the Forest, Bloom Tender
Turn three: Fieldmist Borderpost, replay the Forest, Mind Shatter opponent for 4.
This deck is any Johnny/Timmy's dream. We can make infinite mana with an Umbral Mantle and use our Bloom Tender to do pretty absurd things. This is a deck I'd like to build once we have the whole spoiler available. I'll throw together a sample list for now to whet your appetites. I'll start by explaining the card choices.
Bloom Tender: The Elf Druid is what makes this deck tick. We can produce infinite mana or attack for infinite damage quite easily.
Umbral Mantle: A great combo with our Bloom Tender. This can enable turn three kills with reasonable regularity. Turn-one land, play a Borderpost for its alternate cost. Turn-two Bloom Tender. Turn-three Umbral Mantle, tap and untap Bloom Tender infinite times, attack for infinite damage. If your opponent has a pesky blocker to deal with the problem we can just use a Soul's Fire to deal infinite damage directly to his or her face.
The Borderposts: These really make the deck a realistic strategy. We can use them to fix our mana and to do very powerful things with our Bloom Tender.
Crimson Wisps: Giving Bloom Tender haste will probably result in a lot of surprise wins.
Mind Shatter: I want to do something exciting with all the mana I can produce so quickly. Mind Shatter is one of the most exciting things we can do.
Mind Spring: Drawing my whole deck seems like a good way to win games.
Elvish Harbinger: Where's my Bloom Tender?
Merfolk Looter: I want to sift through my library and put together a big turn with my Bloom Tender. This makes that very possible.
Firespout & Volcanic Fallout: I need to survive long enough to play my combo, Firespout and Volcanic Fallout let me do that.
Once we put the deck together it will look something like this:
The deck seems like it would be a great choice casual players everywhere. I'll look at the deck again in a few weeks and hopefully make it into something that can win some
Bloom Tender is definitely the most flashy application I could think of for Standard, but what really got me excited was adding these in the Master Transmuter deck I built a few weeks back.
Let's take a look at the Master Transmuter deck:
I love this deck with every cell in my body. I still find myself burning the midnight oil playing it in the casual room on Magic Online. I've had some problems with this deck in the past, though. One of the most frustrating situations is having an active Master Transmuter with nothing to bounce except the Master herself. The Borderposts solve that problem beautifully.
We can simply add Borderposts in place of some lands and the deck runs a lot better. An updated list would look like this:
A lot of people play with this deck and it's a crowd favorite at my local Friday Night Magic. If you're a master of transmutation, you should make sure you find a play set of the appropriate Borderposts at your local prerelease.
Speaking of the Prerelease. That time is approaching once again. I've always loved Prereleases—they're one of the best ways to make new Magic-playing friends. It's always a friendly environment and I believe it to be the best gateway into tournament Magic.
I had the pleasure of spellslinging at the Philadelphia prerelease for Conflux. Unfortunately, I can't do it for Alara Reborn. I've worked it out so I can be slinging some new cards at my local shop, though. If you are making your way out to Philadelphia you can play against my good friend Gerard Fabiano. If you beat him you even get a pack of Alara Reborn. I urge all of you to make your way to any prerelease nearby and open up some new product, it's one of the most exciting times to be a magic player. It's definitely worth finding the time to be a part of it.
Next week I'm going to give you the first of a two-part column on a deck that was brought to my attention by Bill Stark of the Starkington Post. Over the next few weeks I'd like to hear your new deck ideas. With new cards being announced every day it shouldn't be hard to brew up new and exciting archetypes. Whether it's a tighter list for my Bloom Tender deck or an entirely new deck built around Dragon Broodmother, I always look forward to your emails when a new set is being previewed.