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Budget Magic: $100 Dino Whack (Modern)


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! A little while ago, Aspiring Spike tweeted about how he made a 20/20 trampling Ancient Imperiosaur on Turn 2 in Modern, which got me thinking: what could be better than a 20/20 on Turn 2? A 20/20 trampling Ancient Imperiosaur on Turn 2 but on a $100 budget! How can we make such a massive creature so quickly? Let's get to the video and find out, and then we'll talk more about the deck! 

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Budget Magic: Dino Whack

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The Deck

Dino Whack is the latest twist on a classic budget Modern archetype—8 Whack—that looks to take advantage of the deck's ability to flood the board with cheap creatures and tokens in order to potentially convoke out a 20/20 Ancient Imperiosaur as early as Turn 2!

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Our deck's goal is simple: get Ancient Imperiosaur on the battlefield as quickly as possible with as many counters as possible. Since the Dino has convoke, the main way we go about this is by flooding the board with cheap creatures and tokens. Convoke is an interesting mechanic. Since it lets us tap our creatures to help pay for the spell's cost, in practice, every creature we add to the board is actually a Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise when it comes to casting our namesake Dinosaur! With our best draws, we can get seven creatures on the battlefield by Turn 2, which lets us tap them all to convoke out a 20/20 Ancient Imperiosaur that should be able to kill our opponent in just a single attack!

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So, how can we possibly get seven creatures on the battlefield in just two turns? Well, our plan starts with two free creatures in Memnite and Ornithopter. Apart from adding bodies to the battlefield to help us convoke Ancient Imperiosaur out, these cards also help us power out some of our most explosive token makers.

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Gleeful Demolition and Kuldotha Rebirth are pretty absurd in our deck. For just a single mana (and sacrificing an artifact, which is where Memnite and Ornithopter come in), they add three 1/1 Goblin tokens to the battlefield, which in turn add three mana toward convoking out Ancient Imperiosaur. If you really think about it, these cards are essentially Dark Ritual in our deck since they cost one mana but add three, which means we are sort of playing eight Dark Rituals in our Modern deck!

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The other reason why our free artifact creatures are so important is that, alongside Burning-Tree Emissary, they help power up Chatterstorm by upping our storm count. While we are very much not a storm deck and aren't going to "go off" with Chatterstorm and make a huge board full of Squirrel tokens, we can usually get somewhere between two and four tokens from the sorcery, which is a pretty good deal for just two mana! Even more importantly, the Squirrels are green. One of the strange aspects of convoke is that it cares about the colors of the creatures being tapped to cast the spell. For Ancient Imperiosaur specifically, we can tap five creatures of any color to pay its generic cost, but we'll need at least two green creatures to pay for the green mana if we want to get a fully powered 20/20 copy. As such, alongside supporting our general game plan of getting seven creatures on the battlefield super quickly, both Chatterstorm and Burning-Tree Emissary have the additional upside of helping pay for the green part of Ancient Imperiosaur's convoke cost. 

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Otherwise, we have two more one-drops that add artifacts to the battlefield to help power up Kuldotha Rebirth and Gleeful Demolition in Chromatic Star and Voldaren Epicure, both of which have some extra upsides. Chromatic Star is a great artifact to blow up with one of our token makers since we get to draw a card when it goes to the graveyard, while Voldaren Epicure adds a body to the battlefield for convoke purposes along with making a Blood token, which we can either use to cast a Kuldotha Rebirth or Gleeful Demolition or to filter away extra lands and dig through our deck to find Ancient Imperiosaur

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Rounding out our deck are our eight (or, technically, seven) whacks in Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker. These cards do two very important things for our deck. First, if we manage to convoke out a massive Ancient Imperiosaur, we can use a Bushwhacker to give it haste and kill our opponent right away with a massive trampling attack. Second, one of our deck's weaknesses is that we only get to play four copies of Ancient Imperiosaur, which means we sometimes simply won't draw one. In these games, our best path to winning is by flooding the board with our cheap creatures and tokens and then using our whacks to pump them and hopefully kill our opponent fairly with combat damage.

Playing the Deck

The most important thing to keep in mind about Dino Whack is that it is very dependent on Ancient Imperiosaur. While we can win without it thanks to Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker, our best draws involve getting the Dino on the battlefield early, so as we are deciding which hands to keep, we always want to have Ancient Imperiosaur in mind. We also need to track how many creatures we can add to the battlefield. Having an Ancient Imperiosaur or two in hand but not having cheap creatures to convoke it out with is even worse than not having an Ancient Imperiosaur since our deck only plays 17 lands, and there's little chance we'll cast the Dino without having a bunch of creatures to convoke it.

There are a bunch of ways to get Ancient Imperiosaur onto the battlefield on Turn 2. The simplest is to play a Gleeful Demolition or Kuldotha Rebirth on Turn 1 to add three bodies to the battlefield and then play some combination of Burning-Tree Emissary, Memnite, or Ornithopter into Chatterstorm on Turn 2. If we can cast two spells before the Chatterstorm, we'll make a total of five more creatures (three Squirrels and whatever the first two creatures we cast to up our storm count happened to be), giving us more than enough to convoke an Ancient Imperiosaur into play!

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we really got to see the good and the bad of the deck as we finished with a 2-3 in a Modern league. The bad is that cards like Fury are a blowout. We had a couple of games where we did our thing, flooded the board with tokens, and were a turn away from casting a game-ending Ancient Imperiosaur only to have our opponent evoke out a Fury, wrath away our board, and leave us with little chance to recover. The good is that we also had games where we dodged the sweepers, stuck a Turn 2 Ancient Imperiosaur, and killed our opponent before they had a chance to do much of anything. Basically, Dino Whack feels like a really high-variance version of 8 Whack. When everything comes together, it gets a lot of free wins and can beat just about anything, but if our opponent has the right answers early in the game, we can dump our hand, get wrathed, and lose almost as fast as we can win.

One weird quirk of the deck is that we don't have any removal or reach. Since we need so many creatures on the battlefield to convoke out Ancient Imperiosaur, we really don't have room for cards like Lightning Bolt or Goblin Guide, which have been staples of past 8 Whack–style decks we've played. This doesn't matter when we manage to cast a fast Ancient Imperiosaur—we're going to win—but the lack of reach really hurts in games where we end up trying to piece things together without the Dino. Part of the power of old 8 Whack decks is that, thanks to Lightning Bolt and Goblin Guide, you really only need to get in one big Goblin Bushwhacker attack, and you can likely burn the opponent out of the game if they manage to stabilize and sweep the board. Dino Whack doesn't really have that option, which, in some games, left us in a position where we managed to get our opponent low on life but couldn't quite squeeze through the last few points of damage to close out the game.

As far as changes to make to the deck's budget, I think the main deck is pretty solid. The sideboard is a bit clunky thanks to the budget restriction. (For example, Void Mirror can be a bit of a nonbo by locking us out of playing Memnite and Ornithopter, and we can't fully convoke a Ancient Imperiosaur with it on the battlefield and have to settle for an 18/18 instead. But it's also probably necessary because of the popularity of cascade decks in the format.)

So, should you play Dino Whack in Modern? While I'm not sure the deck is better than a traditional 8 Whack deck, I still think the answer is yes. For one thing, if you have any of the past 8 Whack decks we've played and some recent Standard dual lands, you should be able to put this deck together for a very, very low price. Plus, the deck is super powerful! If you manage to dodge the bad *cough* Fury *cough* matchups and run well, the deck can easily 5-0 a Modern league or win an FNM. But if you hit the wrong matchups and run poorly, I could also imagine the deck going 0-5. Basically, Dino Whack is the highest-risk, highest-reward version of 8 Whack we've played so far, but it also offers a staggering amount of power for a deck that costs just $100.

Ultra-Budget Dino Whack

No ultra-budget list this week. I don't think there's a way to get the deck's cost down near $50, unfortunately. If you look at the deck, the only nonland cards in the main deck that cost more than $2 a copy are Memnite, Ancient Imperiosaur, and Kuldotha Rebirth, and they are all uncuttable because there aren't any replacements available in Modern. The mana base is a little bit expensive, coming in at just over $30. We could drop this number by a lot, but it would require playing lands that enter the battlefield tapped, and Dino Whack simply can't afford to play tapped lands. There's nothing worse than having a Turn 2 Ancient Imperiosaur hand but not being able to cast Ancient Imperiosaur because of a tapped land. If you're trying to scrimp and save, the Haywire Mites in the sideboard are cuttable, but that only saves $14, so the deck's total cost would still be around $90, which isn't enough savings to really matter. 

Non-Budget Dino Whack

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Finally, for our non-budget build, we have the list that Aspiring Spike used to 5-0 a Modern league, which is basically the same deck except with an upgraded mana base and sideboard. 

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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