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An Uncommon Budget: Intro to Artisan in Ranked


Hello, Rooker here.

First, a quick personal introduction, as this is my first article. I played paper Magic with my older brother when I was young, and later came back to the game with Magic Arena. I am mostly a Johnny, loving to brew synergistic decks that I've never seen anyone else try. With a limited budget as a poor college student, though, I was pulled into a love of budget decks.

At this point, I have over 70 decks for Standard and over 20 for Explorer that have zero Rare or Mythic cards. Many of them have failed spectacularly, but each has helped me learn how to better make hyper-budget decks for the ladder, regardless of how well it performed. If you are a free-to-play player who wants to still have fun playing a variety of decks, then this is for you. As well, if you'd like to see my data-hoarding tendency, here is a link to my brainstorm of deck ideas.

Artisan Restrictions

Artisan decks (decks with only Common and Uncommon cards) are heavily restricted and have to work hard to get around those restrictions. First, the cards aren't very good. There aren't many cards that would see play in a generic "goodstuff" pile like Esika's Chariot or The Wandering Emperor. This leads to decks being heavily synergistic, and with that, there is often very little room for interaction and backup game plans. This generally means that if you want to play Artisan on the ladder, you will be playing best-of-one.

Second, because Commons and Uncommons are generally balanced for Limited, the best cards tend to cost between one and three mana. There are some exceptions, but this tends to pull Artisan decks towards more aggressive, low-curve decks. If you don't want to be aggressive, card draw and other ways to sink your mana become very important for using your mana efficiently.

Lastly, if those first two restrictions weren't enough to kill control, there are no true sweepers / wraths at Uncommon or Common. The best cards available in Standard are Cinderclasm, Malicious Malfunction, and Crush the Weak, meaning that control decks tend to need red or black.

And one quick disclaimer: I am going to be sharing decklists that have worked well for me specifically. I have a terrible MMR—mostly from testing bad ideas—and I tested these decks at low Platinum rank. If you are a ladder grinder and still want to play these decklists, I recommend going to the play queue, instead of the ranked queue.

With all the explanation out of the way, let's talk about some specific decklists.

Standard

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Modified Goblins is a deck split across three different themes: Goblin Tribal, Modified Go-Wide, and Enchantress. The card that holds the deck together is Akki Ember-Keeper, an Enchantment Goblin that also supports the going wide plan for Ambitious Assault. This split across different themes means that the deck often loses to itself, but it also means that there is usually at least some small combo in the opening hand.

Gameplay Video

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This is not the best deck for ladder, but it is probably the best control deck in Artisan. This deck is based loosely off of the Izzet Epiphany deck that dominated standard before the bannings. The goal here is to get 10 or 20 instants and sorceries into the graveyard and then win with Serpentine Curve, Kazuul's Fury, and Dual Strike. This deck rides hard on the power of Expressive Iteration and tries to control the board mostly with burn spells. The deck can probably use some tuning, so I invite any control mages to take this deck base and run with it.

Gameplay Video

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And for the last Standard deck, we have my personal favorite. Azorius Delver is a powerful tempo deck that can be built in two different ways. This build is the slow and steady one, where the goal is to stick a single threat, then use cards like Boon of Safety, Jwari Disruption, and Slip Out the Back to protect it. The alternate approach for this deck is more aggressive, using cards like Faerie Vandal and Security Bypass. In my experience, the slow and steady build is a bit better, and is one of the most powerful Artisan decks to play on ladder (which means a little above 50% win rate if you play well).

Gameplay Video

Alchemy

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This deck hasn't been as thoroughly tested since Baldur's Gate came out, but it has consistently been a solid contender for Alchemy Artisan. How do we get around not having any of the strong Rare and Mythic finishers that black control decks get? We draft them from Cursebound Witch's spellbook! This deck spins its wheels a lot digging through the deck, and generally wins with whatever you draft off of Cursebound Witch, with Cruel Reality being the best hit.

Gameplay Video (Outdated Decklist)

Explorer

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This is perhaps the most straightforward Explorer deck, but also the best win rate in my experience on ladder. This is a simple Cavalcade of Calamity deck with the small twist of running cards that care about non-combat damage being dealt to the opponent like Chandra's Spitfire and Chandra's Pyreling. Out of all of the Artisan decks, this is probably the only one I would recommend for grinding the ladder.

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Making a three-color deck work with an Artisan manabase is tough, but this deck is looking to make it into the late-game where that stops being as much of an issue. Dragonspark Control is built around using cards like Servo Schematic and Oni-Cult Anvil to gum up the field while charging up a Dragonspark Reactor. The deck has decent removal for early-game threats, and in the late game, Dragonspark Reactor is both a psuedo-unconditional removal spell and a way to close out the game. Certainly an interesting take on an Anvil deck, and I can't wait for Ghirapur Aether Grid to get added to Arena as a powerful addition to the deck.

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I could share a lot of decks from Cycling to various aggro and token decks, but those decks are mostly boring to review and easy to make on your own. This deck, in contrast, is doing quite a few interesting things. It's a pet deck of mine from Ikoria standard and was originally an Obosh, the Preypiercer deck. The purpose of the deck is to run many of the most powerful Black creatures that only have one power, then double the beatdown with Heraldic Banner. The deck contains some notorious combos from Standard like Hateful Eidolon and Mire's Grasp or Archfiend's Vessel and Malakir Rebirth. Fun deck if you love either of those combos or want to play a deck that can run Whisper Squad with a straight face.

Conclusion

It is a challenge to make an Artisan deck work on ladder, but it is possible. Hopefully, for all of you free-to-play players out there, these decklists give you something fresh to try without spending any precious wildcards. Even better, perhaps these decklists and other ideas from the brainstorm of ideas will inspire you to make your own budget brews. For now, these decklists are all I have space to share, but if you want to follow me on YouTube, I will be showcasing an Artisan deck on ladder every Saturday. Until next time!



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