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Budget Magic: $100 Abzan Rites (Modern)


Grüß Gott, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! One of the most exciting aspects of Modern Horizons 2 was the addition of a bunch of new support cards for Reanimator, like Persist and Unmarked Grave. Well, today, we're going to see if those cards have what it takes to make Against the Odds all-star Siege Rhino into a real threat in Modern. Abzan Reanimator, which calls back to the Abzan Rites deck we played years ago, basically is a midrange reanimator deck. One of the biggest upsides of the build is that, while we can get fast reanimator kills with a Turn 2 Archon of Cruelty or Ashen Rider, if our opponent manages to shut down our graveyard (and pretty much all Modern decks have graveyard hate), we can still win fairly by casting Siege Rhino and maybe blinking it a few times with Ephemerate. How good is Siege Rhino in 2021 Modern on a budget? What about the new Modern Horizons 2 reanimator cards? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Abzan Rites

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The Deck

Abzan Rites is a midrange reanimator deck. While we can get super-fast kills by reanimating something massive like Ashen Rider or Archon of Cruelty as early as Turn 2, we can also play a fairer game plan, grinding value from our graveyard with cards like Lingering Souls and Eternal Witness and draining our opponent by blinking Siege Rhino with Ephemerate.

The Reanimation

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One of the biggest new additions to our deck is Persist, which joins our namesake Unburial Rites in our reanimation package. Persist is shockingly efficient for a Modern-legal reanimation spell, putting any non-legend into play from our graveyard for just two mana, which makes it essential to our most explosive starts. Meanwhile, Unburial Rites is more expensive but has two big upsides. First, if we happen to draw it, we can use it to reanimate two creatures thanks to flashback. Second, having flashback means that we can mill (or even tutor) Unburial Rites into our graveyard and still cast it, which is extremely powerful in conjunction with some of our graveyard-filling cards...

Filling the Graveyard

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Speaking of filling the graveyard, we can do it in a few different ways. Another new Modern Horizons 2 addition—Unmarked Grave—is the most direct, simply tutoring a nonlegendary card into our graveyard for just two mana. Notice Unmarked Grave doesn't say "creature," which is actually super important since it means we can use the sorcery to snag a reanimation target like Ashen Rider or Archon of Cruelty. And if we already have a reanimation target, we can use Unmarked Grave to grab a reanimation spell, thanks to the flashback of Unburial Rites

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We also have Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage, which don't guarantee that we'll get the perfect card like Unmarked Grave in our graveyard but still fill our graveyard (while also replacing themselves in our hand and making sure that we hit our land drops, in case we need to hard cast our big finishers). Satyr Wayfinder usually mills three random cards and give us a land, and in a pinch, we can even blink it with Ephemerate to get more cards in our graveyard. Meanwhile, Grisly Salvage mills four cards and snags a creature or a land, making it a good way to stock our graveyard with finishers in the early game and a good way to dig for big things to hard cast in the late game.

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Finally, we have Bone Shards as our primary removal spell. Even at sorcery speed, killing any creature or planeswalker for one mana is powerful—so powerful that Bone Shards has the downside of forcing us to discard a card or sacrifice a creature. However, in Abzan Rites, discarding a card is typically an upside rather than a drawback since we actively want cards like Archon of Cruelty and Ashen Rider in our graveyard. While cards like Unmarked Grave and Grisly Salvage are great ways to get finishers into our graveyard from our library, there's always a risk that we'll just naturally draw our Archon of Cruelty or Ashen Rider. Bone Shards gives us an easy way to discard finishers from hand and is also our fastest way to get an Archon in the graveyard. In theory, we can Bone Shards on Turn 1 to discard a finisher and then put it into play on Turn 2 with Persist, which is an almost unbeatable start in most matchups!

The Threats

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Our two biggest, baddest finishers are Archon of Cruelty and Ashen Rider. Both offer big flying bodies along with removal-based enters-the-battlefield triggers, making both devastating reanimation targets for Persist and Unburial Rites. At eight mana, we're not really planning to hard cast either, although it does happen on occasion, especially since cards like Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage are good at making sure we make a land drop every turn. 

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Our other big threat is our old friend Siege Rhino. While not as exciting of a reanimation target as either Archon, getting a two-mana Siege Rhino with Persist is still a fine deal. The bigger upside of Siege Rhino is that it's cheap enough that we can easily hard cast it. The Modern meta is pretty prepared for graveyard decks right now, so we'll likely face some sort of graveyard hate in just about every match. If our opponent can lock down our graveyard, casting and blinking Siege Rhino gives us a way to win the game or, at worst, stabilize while we try to make enough land drops to cast Archon of Cruelty and Ashen Rider.

Other Stuff

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Ephemerate might look strange in a reanimator deck, but it's actually pretty insane because all of our creatures have strong enters-the-battlefield triggers. Blinking Siege Rhino a few times is one of the easiest ways we can win a game if our opponent has graveyard hate, but Ephemerate is good with our big reanimation targets as well. We can reanimate Ashen Rider on Turn 2 or 3, exile one of our opponent's lands, and blink it with Ephemerate to reuse its enters-the-battlefield trigger and exile another one and snag a third land on our next turn, which should leave our opponent with very little mana to execute their game plan (the land-exile plan is solid against any midrange or control deck, but it's especially strong against decks like Tron). Meanwhile, Archon of Cruelty has a super–Siege Rhino enters-the-battlefield trigger, giving us the same Lightning Helix drain as Siege Rhino does while also drawing us a card and forcing our opponent to discard and sacrifice a creature. Trigging it multiple times should leave our opponent without much of a hand or board.

Eternal Witness fills two roles in our deck. First, it's just a value card. Since Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage dump a lot of cards in our graveyard Eternal Witness gives us a way to get back whatever is best for a given situation. Second, Eternal Witness further powers up our Ephemerates. With an Eternal Witness on the battlefield we can cast an Ephemerate to blink something like Siege Rhino, Archon of Cruelty or Ashen Rider and then when Ephemerate rebounds blink Eternal Witness to put the Ephemerate back in our hand and repeat the process. 

Last but not least, we have Lingering Souls, which is mostly another card that we can mill with Satyr Wayfinder or Grisly Salvage to get value from the graveyard, although making a bunch of 1/1 fliers is a good way to stabilize the board against creature decks, hopefully buying us the time to get our reanimator plan online to close out the game.

Wrap-Up

Abzan Rites crushed it! We ended up going 5-0 with the deck, and we really got to see the deck's resilience across our matches. The combination of having fast reanimator kills but still being able to play a fair, midrange game if our graveyard gets shut down is extremely powerful, minimizing one of reanimator's biggest weaknesses, in that it gets beaten badly by graveyard hate. The new Modern Horizons 2 additions go a long way toward powering up the archetype, with Persist and Unmarked Grave offering the fast reanimator kills that older versions of the deck were lacking.

As far as upgrades to make to the budget version of the deck, I wouldn't change a thing. While there are plenty of upgrades available (especially to the mana base), none of them are cheap enough to fit under the budget.

So, should you play Abzan Rites in Modern? I think the answer is clearly yes! The deck felt strong, posted a good record, and is super fun to play (especially if you're a Siege Rhino fan). If you like grindy midrange decks, graveyard value decks, or reanimator, Abzan Rites is probably the perfect Modern budget deck for you!

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Getting Abzan Rites down near $50 is pretty tricky. The main challenge is that some of the most expensive cards in the deck are our new Modern Horizons 2 additions, like Persist, Unmarked Grave, and Archon of Cruelty, and we can't really just cut them all because they are the main reasons to play the deck. Thankfully, it's possible with a bit of work and some painful cuts. We start by trimming the mana base and sideboard to the bone. Next, we drop Eternal Witness (which is nice but not necessary), trade one Archon of Cruelty for another Ashen Rider, and swap a Persist for another Unburial Rites, and we're good to go! In general, the ultra-budget list should play almost exactly like the one in the video, making it a good starting point for the kitchen table—just with a bit less consistency and flexibility thanks to the sideboard and mana-base downgrades.

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Meanwhile, the non-budget build of Abzan Rites is basically the reverse of the ultra-budget. The non-land cards in the main deck stay mostly the same, with the one big addition being Liliana of the Veil, which is perfect for the deck, offering a bit more removal, a backup win condition thanks to the ultimate, and another way to discard finishers that we happen to draw. The biggest upgrades come to the mana base (where we get a tier Modern mana base of fetch lands and shock lands) and the sideboard, where Thoughtseize replaces Duress and Chalice of the Void gives us a way to deal with various decks looking to cheat free spells like Glimpse of Tomorrow, Crashing Footfalls, and Living End into play. While the non-budget build represents an upgrade over the budget build, the budget build felt solid enough that I wouldn't worry about rushing out to spend an extra $800 on the deck. The improved mana is nice, but as we saw during the video, it isn't really necessary for the deck to function. However, if you want to build towards the fully optimal build of Abzan Rites this is what I'd be aiming for.

Conclusion

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 SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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