FNM Hero: Weapon Selection

Written by Jonathan Medina on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM

FNM Hero: Weapon Selection

Jonathan Medina

Jonathan has written for gatheringmagic.com and starcitygames.com (as a premium columnist). He captivated the Magic community as he chronicled his journey to trade a single pack up to a piece of power nine. Now you can find him here every week as he tells his FNM Hero adventure.

Welcome to the first installment of FNM Hero. If you don’t know what this is then you’ve failed and you need to go back to The Introduction. As for the rest of you, stick around it is time to pick a deck.

When I started this challenge there was one question that all my friends asked. “Is an Event Deck the best way to enter the game?”

This is a good question. I want this series to be helpful for new players and a good way to start is to buy an event deck. This allows a new player to “plug and play” without having to track down cards or construct a deck. This is the main reason that I’m starting with an event deck, but after doing the research, I think it may be tough for even a savvy player to buy these decks for less than MSRP by purchasing singles.

I’ll be reviewing all the available event decks. The key is to find a deck that will offer the most playability and tradability for the price. It might come down to me selling pieces of my deck to get into an FNM, so I have to consider the worse case scenario when looking at the decks. For each deck I’ll evaluate three categories; Trade Value, Legality, and Strategy.

[Trade Value] What’s this deck worth in trade?

I’ll be using Star City Games (SCG) pricing for the deck totals. SCG makes a good high point and it’s common for people to reference SCG while trading. I know that this seems counter intuitive since we sell singles at Legit MTG. My original thought was to include the eBay or Legit MTG prices for each deck but decided against both of these notions for different reasons. With eBay pricing it’s really hard to remove the shipping price from cost of commons and uncommons. This will inflate the price of the deck because each common and uncommon will be inflated by these hidden costs. The reason that I didn’t use Legit MTG prices is because I have control over these prices. I would never cheat to beat my own challenge but I’d rather avoid the appearance of impropriety completely. It’s for this same reason that I won’t be buying cards from Legit MTG during the challenge.

[Legality] Which cards are NOT Standard Legal?

It’s important for my challenge that most of my deck is playable in Friday Night Magic (FNM). You’ll notice that some of these decks are high in value with a bunch of trade fodder, but the cards are actually not playable in FNM. This would require me to buy singles to compete and I want to keep that to a minimum. This will be a good guide for people who are looking to pick up an Event Deck to battle at FNM.

[Strategy] What approach would I take to win with this deck?

I can’t guarantee that the advice given in this section will be any good. One of the things that make this adventure interesting is that I’m not a great player. I’m sure that we’ll all learn something from my mistakes.

Trade Value ($40.12)

Cards above $2
1 Phantasmal Image $14.99
1 Glacial Fortress $5.49

Legality

Not Standard Legal
Preordain

Strategy

My first instinct would be to convert this to a Delver / Runechanter’s Pike deck. Pike can hold the ground against Zombie or Human hordes and it’s inexpensive. The problem with that is that we have to move away from the “Illusions” theme which takes the core of the deck out. It also means more money in the future, with things like Snapcaster Mages or expensive dual lands. Leaving the deck mainly intact isn’t really an option because Illusions fall prey to all the Vapor Snags, Tragic Slips and Galvanic Blasts that are floating around.

The benefit of making the changes above is that I would have a Phantasmal Image and Glacial Fortress for trade. That can go along way in converting to the deck to something playable.

Trade Value ($57.96) Highest Value

Cards Above $2

1 Verdant Catacombs $9.99
2 Bloodghast $3.99

Legality

Not Standard Legal
Bloodghast
Bloodthrone Vampire
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Kalastria Highborn
Pawn of Ulamog
Vampire Hexmage
Vampire Lacerator
Vampire Nighthawk
Viscera Seer
Blade of the Bloodchief
Verdant Catacombs

Strategy

This deck is full of trade fodder but it doesn’t give me anything close to a deck to play with. Besides the deck not being legal for FNM it’s typically more expensive than other decks because it has a fetchland and 4 Dismembers in it. I want this challenge to focus on playing rather than trading, so I’ll pass on this deck and I suggest that new players do the same.

Trade Value  ($42.82)

Cards Above $2

2 Goblin Guide $5.99

Legality

Not Standard Legal
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Guide
Ornithopter
Devastating Summons
Lightning Bolt
Goblin Ruinblaster
Leyline of Punishment
Searing Blaze
Unstable Footing

Strategy 
I could see taking this deck in the artifact aggro route with Porcelain Legionnaire, Vault Skirge and Hellrider at the top end. I’m not sure how good that would be but it doesn’t strike me as something that I’d want to do. Tempered Steel is practically the same deck with better cards and it still has a problem winning.

Trade Value  ($41.80)

Cards above $2

2 Drowned Catacomb 6.99

Legality

Not Standard Legal
Consuming Vapors
Deprive
Jwar Isle Refuge
Smother
Preordain

Strategy

Now this is a strategy that I can get behind. If I take the blue out of the deck then I’ll have two Drowned Catacombs to trade. I could pick up a few Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon on the cheap ($5.99) and go Mono-Black. Cards like Distress go along way to help make this a viable FNM Strategy and at .25 who can argue? Most of the other Mono-Black cards are commons and uncommons, with the exception of Liliana which I’d have to wait on.  I’ve played Infect before and there are some big issues with the deck in the current meta.

1) Lingering Souls – The deck is full of X-1′s and even though flying used to make this deck playable, now I’ll have to battle through infinite 1/1 flyers to deal damage!

2) Planeswalkers – Infect creatures have a low power so it’s hard to attack planeswalkers down to zero loyalty. Mono-black has limited ways to deal with planeswalkers so these will continue to be a thorn in this deck’s side.

3) Mirran Crusader – Protection from black is a little bit of a problem for Mono-Black. I’d pack a full set of Geth’s Verdicts if I adapted this deck.

Trade Value ($38.87)

Cards Above $2

1 Green Sun’s Zenith $9.99
1 Inkmoth Nexus 8.99

Legality

Not Standard Legal
Overgrown Battlement
Groundswell
Primal Bellow
Obstinate Baloth
Vines of Vastwood

Strategy

This is another take on Infect. It has no control elements (like Distress or Removal) and it relies strictly on brute force to win. If you like crossing your fingers and hoping that you’re opponent doesn’t have a removal spell (or a blocker) then this deck is for you. I like to have more control over my destiny so this deck isn’t something that draws me in.

Trade Value ($36.98)  Lowest Value

Cards Above $2

1 Mirran Crusader $5.99
2 Stoneforge Mystic $7.99

Legality

Not Standard Legal
Kor Duelist
Stoneforge Mystic
Journey to Nowhere
Sword of Vengeance
Dread Statuary
Kor Firewalker

Strategy

This deck wont work for my purposes, it’s basically a worse version of “Hold the Line” with less Standard legal cards. The artifact sub-theme isn’t viable because Stoneforge Mystic isn’t legal in Standard. This deck has a lot working against it, and it’s also the deck with the lowest trade value.

Trade Value ($43.29)

Cards Above $2

1 Champion of the Parish 5.99
2 Mirran Crusader 5.99
2 Honor of the Pure 2.99

Legality

This deck is 100% legal to be played at FNM.

Strategy

This deck is pretty insane for a starter deck. It has a synergistic core and well positioned answer cards. Oblivion Ring, Leonin Relic-Warder and Nihil Spellbomb offer flexible answers to the meta. Champion of the Parish and Accorder Paladin put on the early pressure, while Mirran Crusader or an equipped creature closes the game out. It’s also a cheap deck to upgrade by adding more of the powerhouse cards, or things like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($4.99), Loyal Cathar (.25) and Gather the Townsfolk (.25).

Trade Value ($41.36)

Cards Above $2

1 Birds of Paradise $4.99
1 Green Sun’s Zenith $9.99
1 Ratchet Bomb $7.99
1 Hinterland Harbor $4.99

Legality

This deck is 100% legal to be played at FNM.

Strategy

I don’t like the “mill yourself” strategy. There are a lot of Spellbombs and Surgical Extractions roaming around and I don’t want to fight that uphill battle for a minimal pay off. That being said, I think Gnaw to the Bone is pretty insane right now especially against Geralf’s Messenger.

Trade Value ($46.23)

Cards Above $2

2 Birthing Pod $3.49
1 Solemn Simulacrum $8.99

Legality

This deck is 100% legal to be played at FNM.

Strategy

This deck is flexible with a lot of answers in the form of tutorable creatures. I like the fact that I can tune this deck to beat certain aspects of the meta. I’d need to upgrade to four Birthing Pods and the top end creature suite but with a little work this deck could be a strong contender.

Trade Value ($50.70)

Cards Above $2

1 Hellrider $2.99
2 Inkmoth Nexus $8.99

Legality

This deck is 100% legal to be played at FNM.

Strategy

This deck has a solid strategy with some expensive “fat” to trim. I can put the Inkmoth Nexus in my trade binder along with other decent cards like Gut Shot (1.99) and Faithless Looting (.99). The deck has some solid reach with cards like Brimstone Volley, Goblin Arsonist and Hellrider. Torch Fiend is a great card to fend off opposing swords and Forge Devil can pick off a turn one Delver of Secrets. This deck seems like a solid choice.

The Moment of Truth

After reviewing the options I’ve come down to three choice; Hold the Line, Spiraling Doom, and Gleeful Flames. If you’re looking to follow in my footsteps my recommendation would be to pick one of these three.

Hold the Line was my first choice. I’ve played a lot of Human’s in Standard and I think I could get by with this version of the deck. Unfortunately, the store that I went to was out of stock. They did have Spiraling Doom and Gleeful Flames in-stock. Between these two, Gleeful Flames probably gives me the best shot in the Meta since it’s aggressive and it punishes my opponents for stumbling. If this project was only about winning I would have picked Gleeful Flames, but this is also about entertainment. It’s more interesting for me to work on a Birthing Pod deck through the course of this project than a red deck. I’ve wanted to try the archetype since Patrick Chapin crushed with it at nationals and let’s face it – I HATE losing to Wurmcoil Engine.

Spiraling Doom, don’t let me down!

Thanks for reading, I see you next time when I talk about my first week on the job.

Jonathan Medina

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