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Budget Magic: $105 (26 tix) Soul-meria (Modern, Magic Online)


Kopivosian, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading into our new, extremely fun post-banning Modern format to play one of my favorite cards from Modern Horizons: Soulherder. If you think about it hard enough, the three-drop is basically a Panharmonicon, offering us a repeatable way to reuse our creatures' enters-the-battlefield abilities by blinking them every turn, but a Panharmonicon that also turns into a massive threat as it grows itself with +1/+1 counters! To back up our Soulherder value, we have an old classic: Emeria, the Sky Ruin. With Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting banned, graveyard decks are on the downswing, which means much less graveyard hate running around in Modern. This, in turn, opens the door for slower, grindier graveyard-based cards like Emeria, the Sky Ruin to shine. The end result is a deck that is just oozing with value from creatures entering the battlefield repeatedly thanks to Soulherder and then eventually coming back from the graveyard for even more enters-the-battlefield shenanigans from Emeria, the Sky Ruin! Can Soulherder work on a budget, backed by the perennially underrated Emeria, the Sky Ruin? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we can talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Soul-meria (Modern)

The Deck

Soul-meria is basically a midrange deck looking to generate oodles of value with the help of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers and then ways to reuse their triggers, like Soulherder, Ephemerate, and (after our creatures die) Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Our main plan for winning the game is to slowly generate so much value that our opponent simply can't keep pace and then win the game at our leisure, either with a massive Soulherder or something like Sun Titan

The Engine

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The genesis of Soul-meria was the revelation that Soulherder and Emeria, the Sky Ruin basically want the same things: creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers. Soulherder takes advantage of these creatures by repeatedly blinking them to generate value as it grows into a massive threat in its own right, while Emeria, the Sky Ruin gives us a late-game engine: once we get to seven Plains, we get to reanimate a creature for free every turn! While not directly synergistic, Soulherder also loosely helps to support our Emeria, the Sky Ruin plan by blinking creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities that help us hit our land drops, assuring we get up to seven Plains as quickly as possible.

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When it comes to hitting our land drops, we have two options. Skittering Surveyor allows us to tutor a basic land to our hand, which ensures that we hit our land drop every turn, in conjunction with Soulherder's blink ability, while Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is even better: it tutors any land directly onto the battlefield. While we don't have the colors of mana necessary to activate Golos, Tireless Pilgrim's second ability, being able to tutor up non-basic lands is extremely helpful. If we don't have Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Golos can find it, and if we already have Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Golos offers a great way to get up to seven Plains to turn on Emeria's reanimation. In a pinch, we can even tutor up something like Field of Ruin, which is especially helpful against decks like Tron. Toss in the fact that Soul-meria is a very mana-hungry deck (since it draws a lot of cards and the pinch is typically having enough mana to cast them all), and both Skittering Surveyor and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim are perfect for the deck!

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Beyond Soulherder and Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Sun Titan is the most powerful card in our deck. While its primary purpose is to be a finisher as a 6/6 vigilant creature, it also offers a lot of value with its reanimation ability. Being able to return any permanent with converted mana cost of three or less means that we can get back a Soulherder that has died (to then blink Sun Titan to get back something else) along with many other creatures in our deck. It can also work as a ramp spell by getting back a Field of Ruin or an Irrigated Farmland that we cycled away earlier in the game, helping us get up to the seven Plains necessary to turn on Emeria, the Sky Ruin

Card-Draw Creatures

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Wall of Omens and Watcher for Tomorrow, in conjunction with Soulherder, help to make sure that we always have a hand full of cards. Both creatures essentially draw us a card when they enter (or in the case of Watcher for Tomorrow, leave) the battlefield, which means if we have a Soulherder on the battlefield, we can blink a Wall of Omens or Watcher for Tomorrow to draw an extra card each turn. Along with a steady stream of card advantage, Wall of Omens and Watcher for Tomorrow give us solid early-game defense. We can always chump block a big creature because we know that later in the game, either Sun Titan or Emeria, the Sky Ruin will allow us to return our Wall of Omens / Watcher for Tomorrow to the battlefield to start the value train running again.

Removal Creatures

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We also have a few blinkable removal creatures. Deputy of Detention hits anything and is especially effective against a bunch of tokens, as it hits every card our opponent controls with the same name. Thanks to Soulherder, we can afford to run our Deputy of Detention early in the game, even if the thing we are exiling isn't that powerful, since we can always reset Deputy of Detention with Soulherder's blink if a better exile target comes along. Reflector Mage is just a one-of but provides a good answer to creatures. Meanwhile, Venser, Shaper Savant is one of my favorite cards in the deck since it can bounce anything, including lands. This allows for a weird sort of soft lock with Soulherder and Ephemerate where we can blink Venser, Shaper Savant every turn to bounce our opponent's best thing, making it very difficult for our opponent to develop their board. Maybe the best example of this was against Tron, where Venser, Shaper Savant basically won us the game by keeping our opponent from ever assembling Tron by bouncing a Tron land each turn!

Other Creatures

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Rounding our our creature package are Flickerwisp and Lone Missionary. Lone Missionary is pretty simple: Burn is extremely popular at the moment, and gaining four life (and potentially more thanks to blink and reanimation) is a good way to keep our life total high enough that Burn can't end the game with a flurry of Lava Spikes and Lightning Bolts. As for Flickerwisp, it gives us another way to blink our creatures for value, and much like Soulherder, it works especially well with Sun Titan since we can cast Sun Titan to reanimate Flickerwisp, use Flickerwisp to flicker Sun Titan, and reanimate something else at the end of our turn when Sun Titan returns to play, allowing us to rebuild our board at lightning speed in the late game.

Other Stuff

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Ephemerate is another really efficient way to blink our creatures for value. With something as simple as a Wall of Omens, it ends up being a slow one-mana Divination; with Venser, Shaper Savant, it often ends up as a double Stone Rain for just a single mana; and with Sun Titan, it usually adds something like six or nine mana worth of creatures to the battlefield! Toss in the fact that it can fizzle a removal spell from our opponent by blinking the targeted creature in response or allow us free blocks on big threats (by blocking and blinking the blocking creature before damage), and Ephemerate does way more than it should for its one-mana price tag.

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As far as interacting with our opponent, we have one Dovin's Veto and one Ojutai's Command as counters as well as Winds of Abandon to deal with opposing creatures. Initially, Winds of Abandon was a budget replacement for Path to Exile, but after playing the deck for a bunch of games, it might actually just be better than Path to Exile in Soul-meria, as strange as that probably sounds. The ability to overload Winds of Abandon comes up quite a bit in this deck since we're really good at slowing down and stalling out the game, so having one card that can kill a Death's Shadow or Stoneforge Mystic on Turn 2 but also wrath away a huge board full of creatures on Turn 6 is actually extremely valuable. 

The Mana

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One of the challenges of building around Emeria, the Sky Ruin is trying to build a mana base that is functional but with as many Plains as possible to turn on Emeria. Thankfully, we have two budget-friendly dual lands with the Plains type in Irrigated Farmland and Prairie Stream, so most of our blue mana sources actually count toward Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Field of Ruin is a four-of in the deck, in part because I hate losing to Tron (which is really popular at the moment) and in part because it works well with Sun Titan since we can activate it early in the game and then reanimate it to kill another land (and tutor up another Plains for Emeria, the Sky Ruin

Wrap-Up

All in all, Soul-meria was really solid. We finished our five matches 4-1, with our only loss coming to Bogles (which feels like a miserable matchup, although we actually were a single land away from stealing the match win by overloading Winds of Abandon), while taking down Tron, GB Midrange, and two different token-based decks (BW Stoneforge tokens and Mardu Tokens) along the way. 

While Soul-meria isn't especially fast, it is extremely good at going long and takes advantage of the fact that Modern is in a pretty fair place at the moment. Graveyard hate is at a minimum, so Emeria, the Sky Ruin is actually quite strong, and many players are building grindy Stoneforge Mystic decks. And in a world where everyone is looking to grind our incremental value, Soulherder trumps Stoneforge Mystic just about every time. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of Soul-meria, I'm pretty happy with the list in general. Ojutai's Command wasn't very impressive, outside of one game where gaining four life was important to staying alive and eventually stabilizing. It should probably be cut, maybe for another Dovin's Veto to help against combo and control. I could also see trimming back on Flickerwisp, mostly because it sort of feels like a bad Soulherder, but I'm not sure what to replace it with. If you have a favorite enters-the-battlefield creature, feel free to cut a Flickerwisp or two and give it a try—it should work out fine and might actually be pretty powerful in the deck.

If you like value and Panharmonicon-style decks, Soul-meria seems like a really solid budget option for our current Modern format, with the upside of being upgradable into the Bant Soulherder deck that Gabriel Nassif has been championing for the last few weeks. The deck is a blast to play and—at least, in our current, mostly fair Modern format—actually feels surprisingly competitive!

Ultra-Budget Soul-meria

Sadly, I don't think there's a way to get Soul-meria down into the $50 price range. Normally, when it comes to making an ultra-budget build of a deck, the easiest thing to do is to make the mana base more budget friendly, but in Soul-meria, our dual lands are already less than $1 a copy, which means there isn't much to trim in this case. In theory, you can cut Field of Ruin to save $15, but it will make the deck a lot worse. The other problem with making Soul-meria ultra-budget is that none of our cards is that expensive, but most of them are worth a few dollars, so there isn't any one thing to cut to significantly drop the deck's price. We could probably get the deck down near $80 by cutting a copy each of Venser, Shaper Savant, Deputy of Detention, and Field of Ruin, but it's hard to get it any cheaper than that. And with how important those cards are to the success of the deck, I really think it's worth finding a way to spend an extra $20 to play the budget build rather than skimping to save a relatively small amount of money.

Non-Budget Soulherder

For our non-budget builds this week, we actually have two decks. First, we have Bant Soulherder, which has developed into a real Modern deck over the past month or two. While the deck's plan is very similar to that of our budget build (blinking enters-the-battlefield creatures for value with Soulherder), going into green offers things like Eternal Witness (which goes infinite with Soulherder and Time Warp), Coiling Oracle (for rampy card draw), and Knight of Autumn as a catch-all. If you're looking to win a Grand Prix with Soulherder, this is probably where I would start.

On the other hand, if you want to do a straightforward upgrade of UW Soul-meria, the main additions come to the mana base (Flooded Strand, Hallowed Fountain, and a third copy of Emeria, the Sky Ruin) and the sideboard (where we get staples in Leyline of the Void and Stony Silence). As far as the main deck, Force of Negation replaces the lesser counterspells and is perfect for our deck since we generate so much card advantage that we can afford to two-for-one ourselves to Negate a key spell, and a copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor to offer a backup plan for winning the game if our creatures get shut down. While I think the non-budget build is slightly better than the budget build, the most important upgrades you can make are to the sideboard cards, which aren't super expensive. So if you are looking for a way to upgrade without spending a few hundred dollars, start with Stony Silence and Leyline of the Void

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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