Building_on_a_Budget

Ben begins a much-awaited theme deck evolution.

Fun With Fungus (Part 1)

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The letter H!ey everyone! Could this be it? Could it be time for the most demanded Building on a Budget column in Building on a Budget history?

 Is Ben really going to tinker with Fun With Fungus?  
Yes! Hallelujah!
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me Twice, shame on me!
I skipped this poll entirely.

It's not a dream. It's not a hoax. It's not an alternate reality, a fake-out, a false start, a bait-and-switch, or any other practice illegal in the 48 contiguous states. It's time to evolve the Fun with Fungus Time Spiral theme deck!

Like most other theme decks, Fun with Fungus is a loosely-knit collection of ideas and possibilities. There's a smattering of several different themes running through the veins of this package of sixty cards. Let's take a look at them, shall we?

Theme #1: Fungus

They are here to have fun with, no? The primary theme of this deck is to play around with, as we refer to them in the scientific community, tokinus generatus, or the common Thallid. These pieces of living mold in turn generate Saprolings. In the end, you have a field that reminds me of a golf course, with the Thallids making up the fairway, and the Saprolings making up the green.

There are many cards in this deck which tie into this theme. Thallid, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Deathspore Thallid, Thallid Germinator, Sporesower Thallid, and Savage Thallid all have the “remove three Spore Counters: Make a Saproling” mechanic. This mechanic is both a strength and a weakness. It's a strength in that every third turn, you can make a free 1/1 creature, based on your initial investment. It's a weakness in that two out of every three turns, those counters are utterly useless.

Other cards which contribute to the Fungus theme are Sprout (look ma! No hands!), Thelon of Havenwood (making spore counters count every turn since '06!), and Verdant Embrace (making creatures into Verdant Force on the cheap).

Theme #2: Turning smaller creatures into larger ones

This is the second, more prevalent, theme in the Fun with Fungus theme deck. There are several cards which turn your little mice into Marrow-Gnawer, the Rat with a Taste for Revenge. Aside from the aforementioned Verdant Embrace, Thelon of Havenwood and Thallid Germinator, there's also Strength in Numbers, Might of Old Krosa, Fallen Ideal, Pendelhaven, and Pendelhaven Elder. I guess we can also lump Herd Gnarr in here, as it is made bigger whenever you remove those three spore counters to poop out another Saproling (how else do you think they reproduce!).

Theme #3: Killing stuff!

You're playing black! You are the mage who likes to kill stuff! Deathspore Thallid, Feebleness, Sudden Death, Assassinate, and Krosan Grip are your kill suite, though I wonder why you'd want to play one sorcery-speed Assassinate but only two copies of the übermensch Sudden Death?

Those are the three main themes of Fun With Fungus. There's a couple of other cards in the deck, so let's give them the star treatment quickly, shall we?

  1. Dread Return: In the deck because with all the token generation, you stand a very good chance of being able to flash it back. However, Savage Thallid and Sporesower Thallid are your two largest creatures, and neither of them costs much more than Dread Return itself. Reanimation spells are best used to cheat mana costs (bringing back Akroma, Angel of Wrath, on turn four), so the uses for Dread Return are pretty minimal. Given that there are only four copies total of the above-mentioned fatties in this deck, Dread Return does not look long for this world….
  2. Claws of Gix: Wasn't this in the initial build of that other Theme deck I evolved? In that deck, Claws of Gix was there as a way to up your storm count for free. In this deck, Claws of Gix is there to gain life from the multitude of creatures that you'll be generating off of all your Thallids.
  3. Wormwood Dryad: Why in tarnation is this card in this deck? What purpose does it serve? It's a mystery, and only you can solve it! E-mail me using the link at the bottom of the column with your explanation about why Wormwood Dryad was included in the Fun with Fungus deck, and whoever comes up with the best/funniest explanation gets their answer printed in next week's column!
  4. Swamps/Forests: I have no clue why these are in the deck either…. Oh wait, they let you cast the spells. I like casting spells, fellow wizard!

So what are my initial impressions? This particular theme deck is pretty straightforward, and the themes are all interconnected. You want to drop a bunch of guys who make other guys, pump up both the guys who make guys and the guys who were made from guys, and then kill the guys your opponent has so your guys and your other guys can get to the guy across the table and winning ensues!

I do see several problems with the deck, but that comes with a caveat: Theme decks are designed to be tinkered with. What's the fun in opening up a fully-tournament worthy deck out of a box, and not having to come up with cool ideas and neat combos on your own? Ok, Spike in the back, you sit down. The rest of you, each theme deck can take on your own personality. You like Thallids? Take out some of the kill or pump, and put in more Thallids. You like creature kill? Take out some pump and put in more destruction! You like pump spells? I like Pump much better than DDR, thankyouverymuch.

Ok, back to the problems. For one, the mana base is a little screwy. There are 6 unique cards in the deck that use black mana (10 total cards), but there are also 10 Swamps in the deck. By contrast, there are 14 unique green cards in the deck (24 total) with 14 Forests (counting Pendelhaven as a Forest here) in the deck. The ratio of colored mana to spells is definitely off, and will eventually need fixing. This can probably be solved via Golgari Rot Farm, since we can turn some of those Swamps into lands which produce both green and black.

Second, the deck is very low on creatures. Counting Sprout, there are 23 creatures in the deck, meaning that roughly one out of every three cards will yield you a creature spell. The deck has literally no way to kill an opponent outside of attacking with creatures, and a majority of the creatures are intrinsically weak on the power/toughness to mana-cost ratio. Three of your guys have defender, nine of your men are 1/1, and the deck can't exactly pump out a quick swarm to beat down an opponent with, which leads to:

Third: Thallids are inherently weak. This is not to offend anyone, but the mechanic is one of the weaker ones. Let's look at Thallid itself:

Turn 1: Played as a 1/1 creature.
Turn 2: 1/1 creature.
Turn 3: 1/1 creature.
Turn 4: 1/1 creature that can make another 1/1 creature.
Turn 5: You have two 1/1 creatures that can attack.

The payoff for playing a first-turn Thallid is not spectacular. This is not to say that all Thallids are bad – it's just to say that the Thallid mechanic needs a lot of help to get off the ground. Thallid Germinator, Deathspore Thallid, Thallid Shell-Dweller, and Thallid itself are not going to beat down your opponent without help. The two toughness on Savage Thallid is a killer, leaving Sporesower Thallid as the best of the bunch. Four mana for a 4/4 creature is respectable, plus he speeds up the timetable of your mechanic on other Thallids.

Let's get some practice games under my belt before I start making changes to the deck.

Game 1: William11ngu (U/W Suspend)

He gets Deep-Sea Kraken, but doesn't have much else going. He bounces a couple of my early Thallids, and gets Deep-Sea Kraken down to one suspend counter. In order to deal with Deep-Sea Kraken, I Sudden Death my own Saproling. This removes the Deep-Sea Kraken from the game permanently, and ends his offensive threats for the game. My Thallids eventually overwhelm him.

Record: 1-0

Notes about Game 1: I get stuck at four mana for the entire game, with two Savage Thallids in hand. For those who are unfamiliar with the Split Second/Deep-Sea Kraken trick, here's how it works: When Deep-Sea Kraken has one counter left, you play a split second spell (any will do). This triggers the removal of the last counter on the Kraken. Since you still have a split second spell on the stack, Deep-Sea Kraken cannot be played. This keeps him removed from the game with no time counters. Once this happens, he's gone for good.

Game 2: Cwampthing (U/R Control)

I mulligan a one-land hand, and end up with a second six-card hand with two Swamps and no Forests. Luckily, I draw Pendelhaven on turn one (I'm on the draw). He ends up mana flooded, and doesn't get much going due to a lack of spells, and a plethora of mana. I beat half his life total out with Sprout plus Pendelhaven, and then drop Savage Thallid to finish the game.

Record: 2-0

Game 3: Schappi83 (Five-Color Good Stuff)

Schappi83 is playing an 80ish-card five-color deck with a whole bunch of Good Stuff (Mortify, Putrefy, Kaervek, Lightning Helix, etc), and a ton of bounce lands, dual lands, and land search. He gets mana flooded, gets 16 lands to the board, and I still can't kill him. I kill Kaervek and two Razias (go Sudden Death) but eventually succumb to Zombify on Razia.

Record: 2-1

Notes about Game 3: This is the first game that I get Fallen Ideal plus Claws of Gix. For every four mana I spend, I am able to gain one life. This is not efficient life gain, but it kept me alive for an extra couple of turns at the end of the game when facing down Razia. I also had a turn where I attacked with Thelon into his Razia, which I had already enchanted with Feebleness. He blocked and redirected the damage dealt by Thelon back to Thelon. After damage was on the stack, I sacrificed Thelon to Claws of Gix. This meant that there was no target left for Razia to redirect damage to, and Razia died. Note that this trick is similar to ones that let you get around Temporal Isolation (If you stack damage with your Temporally Isolated creature, and then sacrifice it before damage is dealt, it will deal full damage since the enchantment is no longer around to prevent the damage from the creature).

Game 4: Bestjett (U/R Izzet)

He suspends turn-one Ancestral Vision and then kills me on turn 6 with double Wee Dragonauts. My board is a bunch of 0/5 walls.

Record: 2-2

Notes about Game 4: Man, I wished those Thallid Shell-Dwellers were Wall of Roots, because at least I could have started busting out my 4/4's a turn early. It mattered, because I never got past three mana this game.

Game 5: Mieyebo (Slivers)

He drops Spinneret Sliver, and follows it with Watcher Sliver. I draw Sudden Death but have only one Swamp. He drops Might Sliver, and I draw my second Swamp. He uses Chord of Calling to fetch a second Might Sliver, giving him a board full of 6/8 Slivers. He declines to attack into my imposing board of Herd Gnarr and Pendelhaven Elder, but I just concede – the point is to test the deck, and at this point I should have been long since dead, instead of sitting there while my opponent gets more than five 6/8 creatures (Fungus Sliver being with fifth).

Record: 2-3

Well, the games that I won consisted of me getting bad mana draws, and my opponents getting mana-flooded. In the games I lost, I got worked over pretty well. This deck needs help. My mana needs fixing, I need more ways to deal twenty damage to my opponent, and I need some way to help my Saprolings and Thallids go from schoolyard jokes to playground bullies. Going into next week, I leave you with this list of Standard-legal cards that make Saprolings. Can you guess what's coming next?

Standard-Legal Cards that generate Saprolings:

Bramble Elemental
Deathspore Thallid
Fertile Imagination
Fists of Ironwood
Flash Foliage
Golgari Germination
Pollenbright Wings
Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII
Savage Thallid
Scatter the Seeds
Seed Spark
Selesnya Evangel
Selesnya Guildmage
Sporesower Thallid
Sprout
Supply // Demand
Thallid
Thallid Germinator
Thallid Shell-Dweller
Thelonite Hermit
Ulasht, the Hate Seed
Verdant Embrace
Verdant Force
Verdeloth the Ancient
Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree


As a special feature over the next few weeks, I'm going to be going set by set and pointing out the cards that make great additions to any budget deckbuilder's portfolio. I'll be separating the cards into two categories: Essentials and Specialized. This basically means as follows – the Essentials are cards that, if you're playing that color, you'll probably use over and over again. Examples of Essential cards are Naturalize, Volcanic Hammer, and Izzet Boilerworks. Specialized cards are cards that aren't at universally played as Essential cards, but have their uses. Examples include Warp World, Mark of Eviction, and Chastise.

This week's set? It's Time Spiral time! I'll list the cards by color and note whether they are Essential or Specialized. All cards on this list cost two tickets or less. For a primer on how to find the best prices using Magic Online, please refer to my Buying on a Budget article. Most of the commons and uncommons on this list can get gotten at 16-for-a-ticket and 8-for-a-ticket, respectively. Most of the rares are either 2-for-a-ticket, 1 ticket, or 2 tickets each. I've included some highlights of some really good deals I found searching around the rooms. Happy bargain hunting!

White

Benalish Cavalry
Celestial Crusader
Cloudchaser Kestrel
Disenchant
Enduring Renewal
Essence Sliver
Evangelize
Fortify
Griffin Guide
Honorable Passage
Icatian Javelineers
Knight of the Holy Nimbus
Magus of the Disk
Mangara of Corondor
Momentary Blink
Pentarch Paladin
Resurrection
Serra Avenger (1.25 tickets each!)
Temporal Isolation

Blue

Brine Elemental
Cancel
Careful Consideration
Clockspinning
Deep-Sea Kraken
Draining Whelk
Fathom Seer
Flying Men
Looter il-Kor
Magus of the Jar
Mystical Teachings
Ophidian Eye
Sage of Epityr
Snapback
Spell Burst
Think Twice
Trickbind
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Voidmage Prodigy
Walk the Aeons
Whispers of the Muse
Wipe Away

Black

Bad Moon
Dauthi Slayer
Dread Return
Faceless Butcher
Funeral Charm
Nether Traitor
Shadow Guildmage
Smallpox
Stronghold Overseer
Stupor
Sudden Death
Tendrils of Corruption
Twisted Abomination

Red

Ancient Grudge
Avalanche Riders
Coal Stoker
Disintegrate
Empty the Warrens
Fiery Temper
Grapeshot
Greater Gargadon
Ignite Memories
Jaya Ballard (2 for 1 ticket!)
Lightning Axe
Magus of the Scroll (2 for 1 ticket!)
Mogg War Marshal
Pandemonium
Reiterate
Rift Bolt
Sudden Shock
Sulfurous Blast
Thick-Skinned Goblin
Tribal Flames
Wildfire Emissary

Green

Gaea's Blessing
Hail Storm
Krosan Grip
Might of Old Krosa
Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
Primal Forcemage
Scryb Ranger
Search for Tomorrow
Spectral Force (1 Ticket! Get these now before Planar Chaos, if you like green.)
Spike Feeder
Stonewood Invocation (1 Ticket)
Thelonite Hermit (1 Ticket, and you might see these in a column sooner rather than later….)
Thornscape Battlemage
Wall of Roots
Yavimaya Dryad

Artifact

Chromatic Star
Gauntlet of Power
Prismatic Lens
Serrated Arrows
Stuffy Doll (1 Ticket, and ask for four Guilty Conscience as well!)
The Rack
Tormod's Crypt
Triskelavus

Gold

Harmonic Sliver
Lightning Angel (2 Tickets)
Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
Mystic Enforcer (2 for 1 ticket)
Saffi Eriksdotter
Shadowmage Infiltrator (2 Tickets each – Buy of the Week!)
Stormbind
Teferi's Moat
Void

Lands

Academy Ruins
Calciform Pools/Dreadship Reef/Fungal Reaches/Molten Slagheap/Saltcrusted Steppe
Desert
Pendelhaven
Terramorphic Expanse
Urza's Factory
Vesuva

See you all next week, and until then have Fun with Fungus, and explain that razzin'-frazzin' Dryad to me!

Ben

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