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Affordably Frozen

First, let me apologize for this post going out late. I’ve been a little behind on this blog due to some personal concerns, but I’m continuing to make this a priority and I am doing my best to keep the pressure on!

Dark Depths: Dark Depths enters the battlefield with ten ice counters on it. 3 Colorless Mana: Remove an ice counter from Dark Depths. When Dark Depths has no ice counters on it, sacrifice it. If you do, create Marit Lage, a legendary 20/20 black Avatar creature token with flying and indestructible.

I can see how, if you’ve never played with it before, you might think that Dark Depths is a jank card. It doesn’t produce mana. It’s a legendary, which means you can only have one on the battlefield. It costs 3 colorless mana each time you want to remove an ice counter, and it starts with ten. Its ability can be countered. Finally, the creature it produces is vulnerable and can’t attack the turn it enters the battlefield. But now, imagine for a moment, that all of the ice counters can be removed immediately without spending nearly as much mana, or any at all! Suddenly it becomes a little bit better despite its faults. Speed becomes important, and pacing the game to ensure you can trigger the ability at the perfect moment, becomes quintessential. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

I have always wanted to play my own variation of this deck since I first saw Dark Depths. It’s such a thematic design; plus the card, and the combo tools to release Marit Lage on time, have always interested me. Recently Dark Depths dropped to just above $10, and I bought one. Admittedly, a single card for that much seems excessive, but it’s been trending over $25 for so long. Well, I’ve come up with a terrible deck idea to trim a somewhat traditional build into what I’m affectionally calling “Affordably Frozen,” otherwise known as “Marit Lage on the Cheap.” My goal for this deck is to keep it around $60. I think it’s worth the cost (especially given the format it’s so popular in.) Luckily, I already own a lot of the cards I plan to put in it, but for those who are looking at this without a collection to support it, you might think it’s not really my usual budget deck. Honestly, based on my past decks, that’s fair criticism.

Although I’m not basing this deck specifically off any other single deck I’ve seen before, before I begin, I recommend checking out a version of the real thing by clicking here. That way you have a solid idea for comparison purposes.

Bring her to life

Vampire Hexmage: First strike. Sacrifice Vampire Hexmage: Remove all counters from target permanent.

Thespian’s Stage: Tap Thespian’s Stage: Add 1 Colorless Mana. 2 Colorless Mana, Tap Thespian’s Stage: Thespian’s Stage becomes a copy of target land, except it has this ability.

Vampire Hexmage has the incredible ability to remove all counters, regardless of their type, from a single permanent; including Dark Depths. Since the ability triggers at instant speed, you can wait until just before your turn begins so that Marit Lage can attack immediately. This effectively reduces the need to stock up on haste enablers (like Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, or a cheaper alternative, Chariot of Victory. Side note: Marit Lage in a chariot!) Vampire Hexmage can pose a slight problem with requiring double black mana to cast, but that’s why we’re also mainboarding Dark Ritual.

Thespian Stage, for the price of two mana and a tap, can copy any land, like Dark Depths. However, it doesn’t copy the requirement for the counters since it hasn’t entered the battlefield. Therefore, it immediately turns into Marit Lage, ready to swing when your turn begins. Isn’t that a cool interaction?

This makes summoning Marit Lage a two-card combo. That means, fast, efficient, and easy to put together. Unfortunately, Marit Lage is vulnerable, even moreso in a budget variation, so it’s really important to time this deck going off perfectly. Gotta keep her breathing long enough to take out your opponent.

Keeping the monster breathing

Not of This World: Counter target spell or ability that targets a permanent you control. This spell costs {7} less to cast if it targets a spell or ability that targets a creature you control with power 7 or greater.

Not of This World was designed to be a tribal Instant for the massive Eldrazi who have become the big bad win conditions that many of us scorn. Here, we’re going to use it to protect Marit Lage. See, because Marit Lage is a 20/20, and thus, like many Eldrazi, has a power greater than 7, Not of This World becomes free to cast once Marit Lage is out. Now, this doesn’t protect Dark Depths unless we have 7 mana, but that’s okay. That just means we can’t play Dark Depths until we can trigger it, and we know it’s safe to do so.

Ramp… ramp ramp ramp ramp

In order to reliably and efficiently be sure that Marit Lage is summoned, we need to exploit green’s most iconic archetype, which is ramp.

Expedition Map: 2 Colorless + Tap Expedition Map + Sacrifice Expedition Map: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Crop Rotation: As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a land. Search your library for a land card, put that card onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

Once Upon a Time: If this spell is the first spell you’ve cast this game, you may cast it without paying its mana cost. Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal a creature or land card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Ancient Stirrings: Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal a colorless card from among them and put it into your hand. Then put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order. (Cards with no colored mana in their mana costs are colorless. Lands are also colorless.)

Sylvan Scrying: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

If I could get rid of green, I would, but I can’t. Personally, I would prefer to have the interaction and protection that blue provides, but a three-color deck would be cost prohibitive for a budget build. I firmly believe it’s possible, but it’s just not reasonable to maindeck with this build. Ultimately, green is just too useful at ramp. We may not need a lot of mana to go off, but we need specific cards, and green can get us everything we need. Truth be told, there are also some black/green cards that are really effective in this format, but I can’t afford them, so I’m just going to have to pretend they don’t exist.

Now, most of our ramp cards only deal with land. Expedition Map, Crop Rotation, and Sylvan Scrying all help us get the lands we need, mainly Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage. One of the benefits to having a land-focused deck, is to also pack it with useful utility lands to help us deal with our opponent’s moves. These cards also let us get any of our other lands, like Blast Zone, Bojuka Bog, Detection Tower, Ghost Quarter, Nephalia Academy, or even the snow lands that I’m using to play Arcum’s Astrolabe. I know that snow lands cost a bit more, but I think they’re thematically relevant and I’ve always wanted to play them. Chromatic Sphere would probably be a better option overall to play for mana fixing, but I’m not doing it!

The rest of the cards in this section aren’t tutors, so they’re not letting us dig into our deck to get exactly what we need. Instead, they let us filter the top cards of our deck to pull what we might need earlier than we would just drawing into it. Once Upon a Time is a potentially free way for us to grab a land or creature, like Vampire Hexmage. This card is notorious for being banned in a lot of formats, and for good reason. I think it’s absolutely amazing as the first spell in the game, and worth the late-game cost. Ancient Stirrings lets us grab any colorless card, like a land, but also like the aforementioned Arcum’s Astrolabe, Chariot of Victory, or more importantly, Not of This World. This card is bonkers as a turn one drop to grab Not of This World, especially when you have everything else to get Marit Lage out.

Collectively the bulk of this deck is all about reducing the variance of our deck, and that’s really important because we need to go fast, like Sonic.

Sideboard and Alternative Win Conditions

Autumn’s Veil: Spells you control can’t be countered by blue or black spells this turn, and creatures you control can’t be the targets of blue or black spells this turn.

Chronozoa: Flying. Vanishing 3 (This creature enters the battlefield with three time counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a time counter from it. When the last is removed, sacrifice it.) When Chronozoa dies, if it had no time counters on it, create two tokens that are copies of it.

The majority of the sideboard is pretty straight forward, and I’ve included a list below. One notable card though, is Autumn’s Veil, which lets you shut down blue and black spells at instant speed. Since blue and black are incredibly common in competitive formats, this card seems like a no brainer to include.

Now you’ve seen a blue card here, and you’re probably getting ready to call me out. I know, I know. Earlier I said I couldn’t support the idea of a third color in this deck, but as a last-ditch effort when things are looking rough, I’ve included a splash of blue to include Chronozoa as an alternative win condition to Marit Lage. See, my thinking here is that Chronozoa is a weird option to come across in this kind of format, so it won’t be expected. Plus, with Vampire Hexmage, you can trigger its Vanishing ability whenever it becomes threatened, forcing it to clone itself. Then it just becomes a race to keep making Chronozoa’s until your opponent becomes overwhelmed. Is it a good win condition? No. Is it interesting? I think so. Funny, too!

Deck List

Every other card that’s in this deck list seems pretty straight forward. Fatal Push takes down creatures early, Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit is a split land/removal spell to deal with creatures late game, Duress gives us the ability to see what’s coming and take away powerful spells, and Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary is a split land card that lets us get Dark Depths back if we lose it.

  • 4 Vampire Hexmage
  • 2 Arcum’s Astrolabe
  • 3 Expedition Map
  • 2 Chariot of Victory
  • 4 Crop Rotation
  • 4 Dark Ritual
  • 3 Fatal Push
  • 2 Once Upon a Time
  • 1 Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit
  • 3 Not of This World
  • 3 Ancient Stirrings
  • 3 Duress
  • 2 Sylvan Scrying
  • 2 Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary
  • 1 Blast Zone
  • 1 Bojuka Bog
  • 1 Dark Depths
  • 1 Detection Tower
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 3 Llanowar Wastes
  • 1 Nephalia Academy
  • 4 Snow-Covered Forest
  • 4 Snow-Covered Swamp
  • 2 Temple of Malady
  • 3 Thespian’s Stage

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of a classic! As you can see, I’m pretty proud of this version even if it’s expensive and totally vulnerable in such a competitive format. I’m sure its win rate will be well below anything tolerable by most players, but to me, it’s simply great.