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Brewer's Minute: Irreplaceable

Hey, everyone. It's time for another Brewer's Minute. This week has been all about Modern Masters 2017, and while the set in general looks insane (by far the best Masters series set of all time), from the perspective of someone who builds budget decks, there are two cards that stick out above the rest as the most important reprints in the set: Path to Exile and Inquisition of Kozilek. The reason these cards are so important is that they are irreplaceable—there simply aren't good substitutes available in the Modern format, and their effects are extremely important to building successful decks in their respective colors. 

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In a set featuring Tarmogoyf, fetch lands, Damnation, and essentially every other valuable and playable Modern card, it might be surprising that Path to Exile and Inquisition of Kozilek are the most important reprints from Modern Masters 2017 for budget players. The reason these cards are so important is that they simply don't have substitutes in the format, and their effects are extremely important for decks in their colors to be successful. When it comes to building budget decks, especially in Modern, it's all about finding good substitutes for expensive cards. Thankfully, most of the time, there are good substitutes to be had in the format. Maybe the best example of this is the "aggressive red one-drop" slot. 

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Goblin Guide is the best aggressive red one-drop every printed. If we were to rank the card on a scale of one to 10, it would probably be something like a 9.5. It is (or at least was, before Modern Masters 2017) also extremely expensive at $30 a copy, which means if we are looking to build a budget-friendly aggro deck in Modern, Goblin Guide is off the table. Thankfully, Monastery Swiftspear is available in the format. While it's not quite as good as Goblin Guide (maybe being a 9 out of 10), it's good enough that we can use it in the aggressive red one-drop slot and still expect to have a reasonable amount of success. 

The same thing is true of a lot of different effects. Rest in Peace may be 10 out of 10 for graveyard hate, but the much cheaper Tormod's Crypt still exiles the graveyard when our budget deck happens to run into Dredge. Remand is a great tempo-generating counterspell, but we can usually sneak by with Mana Leak without losing too many percentage points. In fact, most cards in Modern have some fairly reasonable substitute. However, there are a handful of cards that are irreplaceable. 

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Path to Exile and Inquisition of Kozilek are two such cards. If we consider them to be 10 out of 10 as far as what they do, the next best options are maybe 5 out of 10, or even worse. As such, when we are building a budget-friendly white (or black) deck in Modern, we are often forced into a corner: we either spend half of our budget on one utility spell or we play a very sub-par replacement. 

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For example, for a white deck in Modern, the potential replacements for Path to Exile include Condemn (which is fine in some matchups, but what about when an opponent plays a Turn 2 Eidolon of the Great Revel or Dark Confidant and doesn't attack?), Journey to Nowhere (which suffers from being sorcery speed, so it doesn't save us from an Infect creature buffed by a bunch of pump spells), and Dispatch (which is actually better than Path to Exile but can only be played in a very specific deck with a ton of artifacts). 

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A very real-world example of this problem is a Mono-White Humans deck I tried to build a while ago. The deck looked powerful, with a ton of aggressive creatures like Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant, but it really needed Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to protect against spell-based combo decks and wraths. Since Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is somewhat expensive, we were basically left in a situation where we could either play Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and bad removal (I tried it; the deck didn't really work) or Path to Exile but not Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (also tried and failed). As a result, I ended up scrapping the entire deck—while the idea was solid, we simply couldn't make it fit under the budget because Path to Exile was so expensive and lacking a good replacement. 

Thankfully, with the Modern Masters 2017 reprinting dropping Path to Exile from close to $50 a play set to around $20 a play set, Mono-White Humans can actually work! And this is just one example. I've wanted to build budget UW Control in Modern forever, but having Path to Exile (an extremely important card to the deck) eat up half the budget made it impractical. Having a cheaper version of an irreplaceable effect in Path to Exile suddenly opens the doors to tons of new budget possibilities. 

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The same goes for Inquisition of Kozilek in black. While it does have a substitute (in Thoughtseize), the substitute is too expensive to help us budget players, which left us with options like Duress, which is fine when we play a spell-based combo deck or even a control deck but leaves us dead to Turn 1 Delver of Secrets or Turn 2 Tarmogoyf. Now, with Modern Masters 2017 driving down prices, not only are there options for powering up existing budget decks (like 8 Rack or Rakdos Aggro), but cheap Inquisition of Kozileks opens up new decks as well. 


The point of all this is that there are some effects that we simply can't do without because they are so important and without good replacements, and while some of these effects will always be expensive (like Mox Opal), having simple utility spells cost $50 a playset has a hugely constricting effect on budget decks. With Modern Masters 2017, we have not one but two irreplaceable effects that will be significantly cheaper, which will open up a ton of new possibilities as a result when it comes to brewing on a budget!

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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