With all the prerelease and release events behind us, it’s now time to start looking forward to the Gatecrash Game Day, which is a Constructed Standard event. As anyone who buys single cards can tell you, playing Standard can be a very expensive proposition, what with the most competitive Standard decks being very… standardized, which drives the price of the cards used in these decks through the stratosphere. However, it is still quite possible to build a cheap Standard deck that is still viable, especially at the level of play seen at non-Pro Tour events like Game Day or Friday Night Magic. Today’s budget Standard deck is an oppressive, mean Blue deck, focused on using counterspells to protect your few evasive creatures and disrupt your opponent’s game plan.
You’ll like playing this deck if: You enjoy controlling your opponents and keeping a clear board; or if you like being the meanest son of a gun at the event.
Stay away from this deck if: You enjoy interactive games (you and your opponent have a back and forth), you like to play aggro beatdown, or you like to make friends while playing Magic.
Your objective while playing this deck is to play a cheap, powerful creature with evasion early on, then use counterspells and disruption to protect that creature and your life total. First, the creatures I use in this deck are a pair of transforming beaters from Innistrad:
Delver of Secrets
Delver of Secrets is the creature that makes this deck possible. In our build of almost entirely instant counterspells, this creature is often a turn one drop, turn two swing for 3… in the air! With counterspell backup to defend against enemy fliers and kill-spells, Delver is often the only creature you’ll need to seal up a game.
Ludevic’s Test Subject
Ludevic’s Test Subject acts as the second hit of this deck’s evil game plan. You drop an unassuming egg turn 2, then you pump in your extra mana to hatch it into a terrifyingly large creature. As with the Delver, you should use your counterspell suite to protect your creature.
These are the only creatures this deck needs. We’ll be running four of both of them.
The second part of the deck is the well-stocked disruption suite. This stack of instants will make you the bane of your opponents. Your goal is to not allow them to do ANYTHING without your permission. Here’s a list of the cards you’ll need:
Dissipate & Cancel: The Unconditional Hard Counters
These counterspells are the simplest, and most versatile in your arsenal. They will counter almost all spells for three mana. If you have the mana open, you can stop your opponent in his tracks, an invaluable tool. You’ll want to hold on to these spells the longest, and burn your other spells first, saving the hard counters for emergencies.
Essence Scatter and Negate: The Conditional Hard Counters
These spells are included because they are only two mana, meaning you can start the disruption from turn two, a valuable asset to your game plan.
Syncopate and Spell Rupture: The Tax Spells
These spells are the most useful during the early turns. If you’re holding on to these, use them early, because if the game drags on, they may be able to pay the costs. Spell Rupture is definitely the better of the two, if more conditional. With a flipped Delver, it becomes a Mana Leak , a great spell in the pre-RtR Standard. Use it with a flipped Ludevic’s Abomination, and you have a nigh insurmountable counterspell. The problem is that it’s worthless if you have no creatures. My current list is running four of these, but it will be the first to go in future iterations if I find need for another spell. Syncopate is a solid early-game spell. Casting it for X=1 when your opponent is tapped out is incredibly satisfying, and it can scale to the late game pretty well.
Unsummon: Always Useful
I’m including Unsummon in this list as emergency cleanup spell, for the rare occasion that something important slips past your counterspell net. Send that problem creature back your opponent’s hand, and counter it when he tries to play it again. It’s the closest to “Destroy target creature” you’ll be finding in mono-Blue standard.
The Deck List
4x Delver of Secrets
4x Ludevic’s Test Subject
4x Essence Scatter
4x Spell Rupture
This deck works quite well against almost all strategies. As long as you can recognize the threats that require countering, you can maintain your dominion over the game state. Finally, this deck can be incredibly fun to play… for you.
This deck’s primary weakness is weenie aggro strategies. Watch out for the Boros, Mono-Red and Mono-White army decks, who can cast enough spells to quickly overwhelm your counterspell net and beat down your life total quite quickly. Another weakness is the level of knowledge required to play this deck. You must always be able to make decisions on whether or not a spell is too dangerous to let through, and you can occasionally be burned by allowing something through that you shouldn’t have.
Other cards you may wish to use in your sideboard:
This deck has a supreme weakness to Abrupt Decay, which cannot be countered by a traditional counterspell AND hits both of the creatures this deck runs. Abrupt Decay is a powerful card, and is used in Standard Zombie decks, of which you are likely to see at least a few at a standard event. However, a Mizzium Skin targeting your creature will indirectly counter the Abrupt Decay by making your creature an invalid target. In this deck, it is basically a “counter target spell or ability that targets a creature you control” for one mana, which can be a useful effect to have.
This creature is a much more consistent beater than the transforming creatures, giving you a flying body that can also counter an important spell in a pinch. If you’re willing to move out of super-budget territory into mild budget territory, you can give him a Runechanter’s Pike (which works well on the Delver as well, by the way) to have a decent size flying beatstick.
Dispel, Rewind, and Inspiration
You’ll want to keep Dispel in your sideboard for use against other control decks, to keep their control in check and especially to counter any Sphinx’s Revelations you run across. Rewind is another potential card for the control deck mirror, where games tend to go long. Inspiration can help you refuel on more counterspells at the end of your opponent’s turn if he didn’t play anything worth countering that turn.
And that wraps up my examination of a reasonably powerful Standard deck, for a grand total of less than $15. Feel free to leave criticisms or your experience with this deck in the comments.
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