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Budget Magic: $110 (52 tix) Pummeler (Pioneer, Magic Online)


nuqneH, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, as we wait for next week's banned-and-restricted announcement, we're heading back to Pioneer to pummel some fools! While energy in general hasn't really taken off in Pioneer, Electrostatic Pummeler is a very powerful card. With a bit of work, it potentially offers us the ability to one-shot kill our opponent as early as Turn 4! How practical is janking out opponents with one big Electrostatic Pummeler attack in Pioneer? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Pummeler (Pioneer)

The Deck

GR Pummeler is a weird deck. On one level, it's basically an energy aggro deck with a bunch of pump spells, but on the next level, its somewhat similar to Modern Infect since we can potentially just jank our opponent out with one big attack, with Electrostatic Pummeler hitting for more than 20 damage. In this end, this leaves us with a deck that can win fairly without Pummeler but often ends games by surprise with a huge, trampling attack from our namesake three-drop.

The Pummeler Plan

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Electrostatic Pummeler is the centerpiece of our deck. While a 1/1 for three doesn't sound that scary, what makes Electrostatic Pummeler so devastating is the ability to pay three energy to essentially double its power. By itself, it takes an almost infinite amount of energy to make Electrostatic Pummeler into an infinite threat (spending 12 energy, for example, would only make it an 8/8). But with the help of a pump spell or two, as little as six energy can make Electrostatic Pummeler into a one-shot-kill attacker!

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The main idea of the Pummeler kill is to play either Ghor-Clan Rampager or Collision // Colossus on our Electrostatic Pummeler before activating its self-pumping ability. Either of these spells gets our Pummeler up to five power, while also giving it trample to get through blockers. Once we get Electrostatic Pummeler up to five power, we only need six energy to double its power twice, to make it a 20-power trampling attacker! While Collision // Colossus technically has the upside of killing a flying threat from our opponent, this doesn't come up all that often in Pioneer. On the other hand, Ghor-Clan Rampager is a legitimately awesome pump spell. Not only does it facilitate a one-shot kill with Electrostatic Pummeler, but if we are on our backup plan of beating down with random dorks, a 4/4 trampler for four is actually a fine creature in its own right.

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While Ghor-Clan Rampager and Collision // Colossus are our primary Pummeler pump spells, we have a few backup options as well. Rhonas the Indomitable is just a one-of, but it offers a lot of value in our deck. We can use its pump ability to grow our Electrostatic Pummeler if we don't have one of our better pump spells, and thanks to four-power creatures like Ghor-Clan Rampager and Bristling Hydra, Rhonas the Indomitable often ends up a 5/5 indestructible deathtoucher for three mana, which is significantly above the curve, even in Pioneer.

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Rounding out our pump spell package are Embercleave and Blossoming Defense. Embercleave is especially helpful in situations where we need to get through a bunch of blockers or our opponent gains life. If we add Embercleave's double strike and +1/+1 to the curve we were talking about before (one pump spell to make Electrostatic Pummeler five power and then doubling its power twice), the end result is 44 trampling damage, which should be enough to kill our opponent through just about any number of blockers. Even better, if that somehow isn't enough to kill our opponent, Embercleave sticks around, unlike cards like Temur Battle Rage, so in the worst case, we can move it onto something like Rhonas the Indomitable or Bristling Hydra the next turn for another massive attack.

Meanwhile, Blossoming Defense is our worst pump spell when it comes to killing people with one big Pummeler attack since it only gives +2/+2, but it makes up for this by offering hexproof as a way to protect our Electrostatic Pummeler (and other creatures). One of the easiest ways for our opponent to deal with our plan is to simply kill our Electrostatic Pummeler as soon as it hits the battlefield, before it even gets a chance to attack. Blossoming Defense helps to ensure this plan doesn't work, buying us the turn we need to untap with Pummeler and attack for lethal.

Energy Production

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While having a pump spell is an important part of the Pummeler kill, we also need to have enough energy to activate Pummeler at least twice, which means we generally need a minimum of six energy when we go for the Pummeler kill, and having nine or 12 is even better, since it allows us to double our Pummeler's power additional times. One way we generate energy is through our mana base. Thanks to Attune with Aether, which is essentially an Evolving Wilds that makes to energy, we can trim all the way back to 20 "real" lands, increasing our odds of drawing more action. Aether Hub fixes our mana as a cheap, untapped dual land, and if we don't need it to make colored mana, it ups our energy count. Meanwhile, Servant of the Conduit makes a couple of energy when it comes into play while also ramping us into bigger spells like Bristling Hydra and Embercleave

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As we talked about in the intro, one of the upsides of playing Pummeler is that we have a really solid aggro backup plan if we don't happen to draw Electrostatic Pummeler (or if our opponent manages to kill it before it kills them). Voltaic Brawler and Bristling Hydra are both above-the-curve threats in a deck overloaded with ways to produce energy. On Turn 3, Voltaic Brawler can attack as a 4/3 trampler, which means we sometimes have games where we simply beat our opponent down with Voltaic Brawlers for a couple of turns and win the game. Meanwhile, Bristling Hydra makes three energy when it comes into play (enough for a Electrostatic Pummeler activation all by itself) while also being a really good target for our pump spells if we don't have a Pummeler, thanks to its ability to give itself hexproof. While not as devastating as our Pummeler combo, a couple of turns of attacking with a hexproof Bristling Hydra will often be enough to kill our opponent, with the help of cards like Ghor-Clan Rampager, Collision // Colossus, and Embercleave

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Last but not least is Harnessed Lightning, which does double duty in our deck. The primary purpose of Harnessed Lightning it to be a removal spell, and thanks to our deck's ability to produce a lot of energy, it is a good one, killing most early-game threats by itself, while scaling to the late game with the help of our other energy producers. That said, Harnessed Lightning is also an energy ritual. If we need one more Electrostatic Pummeler activation, we can cast Harnessed Lightning (even targeting one of our own creatures in a pinch), intentionally choose to have it deal zero damage, and end up with three extra energy—exactly enough to pump Electrostatic Pummeler one additional time!

Wrap-Up

Pummeler felt solid! While we played a couple of strange matchups along the way, we finished 4-1, with our only loss coming to an Elves opponent who had a mana dork into Steel Leaf Champion into Collected Company every game. Otherwise, we took down Bogles and Devotion, along with a reanimator deck and a strange brew that was cheating Dragons into play with Thran Temporal Gateway

The one card I really wanted to get a feel for was Embercleave, but sadly, we never drew it. I could see it being so unnecessary that we end up cutting it or so good that we want to add additional copies. It will take more testing to really figure it out, although I'm planning to leave it as-is for now.

As far as changes I'd make to the budget build, in general, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Greenbelt Rampager is sometimes awkward since it siphons away our energy, but it is good if we end up on our backup plan of beating down with random creatures. An additional copy of Rhonas the Indomitable is also probably optimal, although the deck is already slightly over budget, so adding another $5 is tough. 

All in all, Pummeler felt like a solid budget option for Pioneer. If you enjoyed the deck in Standard (or play Infect in Modern), this is probably the perfect budget starter deck for the format. Not only is it good in budget form, but thanks to Aether Hub, Attune with Aether, and Servant of the Conduit, the deck can easily add a third (and maybe even fourth) color, giving a lot of upgrade and customization options. If you like jank-'em-out free wins with a solid backup plan, give Pummeler a shot in Pioneer!

Pummeler is actually pretty easy to get down into the ultra-budget price range. Maindeck-wise, the only cuts are Rhonas the Indomitable and Embercleave, which get replaced with Temur Battle Rage, which does most of what Embercleave does (although in one-shot form rather than being repeatable) for $1 rather than $21. Otherwise, we drop Veil of Summer from the sideboard for Display of Dominance, which doesn't draw us a card or fight counterspells but still protects our Pummeler while also killing things like Oko, Thief of Crowns or Teferi, Time Raveler after they hit the battlefield, while Pithing Needle becomes Sorcerous Spyglass, which costs an additional mana but is about 1/4 of the price. In general, I don't think the ultra-budget build is that much worse than the budget build. It's slightly less efficient in some slots, especially in the sideboard, but I think it should still be fairly competitive, even with the downgrades.

For our non-budget build, we don't have a ton of changes. We get a second copy of Rhonas the Indomitable and a third Embercleave over the two copies of Greenbelt Rampager along with Stomping Ground in the mana base over Game Trail. We also get Heroic Intervention in the sideboard as another protection spell. All in all, these changes slightly improve the deck and really don't cost that much (adding just under $70 to the deck's price, mostly because a playset of Stomping Ground is $44). 

Going into a third color also has potential, although I'm not sure it's worth decreasing the deck's consistency. If you decide to go that direction, blue offers counterspells and Rogue Refiner, black adds Thoughtseize as a proactive way to protect our combo, and white has some solid sideboard cards like Rest in Peace and Settle the Wreckage

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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