Saturday, June 13, 2009

Budget Building: Gifts from Wizard

We have entered what I believe to be the most exciting time of the Magic year. The begging of summer, and the end of the traditional school year, ushers in the largest recruitment time for the game. It appears Wizards recognizes this opportunity too, and is making a special offer to encourage existing customer, but primarily to create a unique opportunity for noobs.

This doesn't present a huge boon for most established mages, but if you are new to the game, or been waiting for the right time to jump in, the sound you are hearing may just be opportunity knocking. In most of my budget articles, I have established $20.00 as the relevant entry point. For this amount a careful mage can establish a reasonable collection, and create one or more playable decks. You may have noticed that Wizards is targeting a $15.00 purchase, and committing a potential for a bonus $10.00 in freebies. The chance to get an extra 40% bang for your buck, just shouldn't be missed out on by any new mage.

So now the question becomes, what can you do with your $15.00 to get even more for your money. The quickest answer is 4-5 packs, depending on your local retail prices. Honestly, this answer is probably your worst alternative. The pack contents will, as always, be random. The chances of creating much beyond the training decks given with your purchase is slim at best. You could always get lucky, pulling a chance card of some sort, after all, someone has to win the lottery once and a while. Most people will tell you I prefer a sure thing. The discussion then turns to Intro Packs.

For those of you who may not know, Intro packs are Wizards latest efforts to put player recruitment on the retail fronts. For an average retail of $12.00 you get a ~40 card preconstructed deck, plus a sealed booster to get you started. These typically represent a reasonable value for a new player, and a jumping off point for a new mages collection. Today, we will attempt to separate the best options, from the sea of 15 such decks you are most luckily to encounter in your local retails store. My goal is to focus on the decks from the current Shards block. These should be readily available, and will remain in the current Standard for roughly another 15 months. Below, you will find each of the decks I feel represent a better then average value for your collection, a return figure to allow you to gauge the potential value of each deck, a brief description of the deck concept (excerpted from Wizards promotional materials), and a list of key cards from the deck.

Esper Artifice (WUB) +80%

In this world of wind and wave, control is the guiding force. Cut off from the chaos of red and green mana, Esper has become a magocracy. The forces of high magic rule supreme. The plane of Esper is dominated by brilliant wizards, artificers, and sphinxes who seek to control the very forces of nature through a magical alloy called etherium. Construct an army of unstoppable artifacts using the power of etherium, and dominate all who would stand in your way. Everything here is observed and controlled.

Master of Etherium, Sharding Sphinx, Arcane Sanctum, and Oblivian Ring.

Eternal Strugle (GW) +50%

The best strategy against an overwhelming enemy is to stay on the offensive. You’ll forge a new alliance between Bant and Naya against the forces of Nicol Bolas, charging into the fray with an array of efficient, battle-ready knights and behemoths. As you cast trick after game-altering trick, victory will dawn over the trampled resolve of your foes.

Knight of New Alara, Dauntless Escort, Qasali Pridemage, and Path to Exile.

Bant Exalted (GWU) +30%

Without the destructive or selfish impulses of red and black mana, Bant has become a golden utopia. Angels rule the realm with benevolence and grace. Humans and the birdfolk called aven resolve their conflicts with ritualized combat. Duty and honor are the bedrock of this kingdom of light.

Battlegrace Angel, Rhox War Monk, Sigiled Paladin, and Seaside Citadel.

Grixis Undead (UBR) +20%

What becomes of a world without new life? The dark wasteland of Grixis answers the question. Its denizens desperately cling to its remaining lifeforce. Without the communal forces of white and green to bring life and compassion, it's every ghoul, demon, and necromancer for themselves.

Crumbling Necropolis, Gravedigger, Vein Drinker, Blightning, and Cruel Ultimatum.

Primordial Jund (BRG) +10%

In the absence of white or blue mana, Jund has devolved into a roiling, primordial cesspit. Dragons top the food chain, at home in Jund's countless volcanoes. While dragons stalk the skies, humans, goblins, and the lizardfolk called viashino lie low in Jund's tar-spotted, vine-choked canyons.

Savage Lands, Flameblast Dragon, Mycoloth, and Sprouting Thrinax.

So get out here folks. Grab a friend, and both of you jump on this deal. Between the two of you, you will have access to a thriving little community of your own, rip with trade options, and mage battles to be had. Remember the options I have outlined above will give you the most bang for your buck, but any intro pack you pick up this weekend will give you a good deal. Buy packs if that's all they have, you will still have enough to begin playing. Hang out fro a while, you may just stumble on to a little community to help you get started. Trading is great, but hang on to your key cards until you understand how card values work. Ask about a Friday Night Magic, or a casual night, as both are great places to meet people and learn more about the game.

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