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Budget Magic: $20 (9 tix) Standard Mono-Blue Brains

Aloha Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we get to continue our exploration of Shadows over Innistrad Standard with a deck that ranks among my all-time favorites on Budget Magic: Mono-U Brains. Now, to be fair, I scoffed at Brain in a Jar when it was spoiled, thinking it was unplayable, but last week that changed. First, during Against the Odds we ran into a really interesting Brain in a Jar deck that looked super cheap. I had a couple people email me with Brain in a Jar lists. As a result, I decided that maybe there was something to Brain in a Jar after all, so I put together a build of the deck. After playing a few matches, I realized the deck was insanely awesome. Not only is it competitive, but it's ultra budget at only $20 in paper and 9 tix on Magic Online! Better yet, it wins by drawing cards, and if I'm not Stasis locking someone out of the game, there's nothing I'd rather do than draw some cards.

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about Mono-U Brains. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Mono-U Brains Deck Tech

Mono-U Brains vs Seasons Past

Mono-U Brains vs Four-Color Dragons

Mono-U Brains vs Mardu Control

Mono-U Brains vs UG Flash

Mono-U Brains vs Seasons Past (Again)

The Deck

The basics of Mono-U Brains is simple. We draw cards, draw cards, draw cards, and eventually win by casting a Rise from the Tides for somewhere between 15-25 2/2 Zombie tokens. As such, you might think there isn't much to the deck, but that is far from the case. Since it takes us a while to win and we don't have much removal, the margin for error is actually quite small, to the point where taking the wrong card of Pieces of the Puzzle on turn three can end up costing us the game several turns later. Let's break it all down.

The Combo

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Rise from the Tides and Brain in a Jar is the main combo of the deck. Rise from the Tides is an incredibly powerful Magic card. I already mentioned that it makes between 15-25 2/2 Zombies for only six mana. The problem is that it's a sorcery. As such, what tends to happen is that we spend a ton of time and resources to cast a huge Rise from the Tides, only to see our opponent undo all our work with a Radiant Flames, Languish, or Flaying Tendrils. So the trick of the deck is to resolve a Rise from the Tides and not allow our opponent to untap so they can't use their sweepers. 

Brain in a Jar is the simplest way to cast Rise from the Tides at instant speed (usually during our opponent's end step), which allows us to untap and immediately attack with a million Zombies for the win. It also allows us to generate a ton of value along the way since our spells curve nicely. 

Mono-U Brains - Spell Curve
Spell Mana Cost
Anticipate, Nagging Thoughts, Disperse Two
Grip of the Roil, Pieces of the Puzzle Three
Engulf the Shore Four
Pore over the Pages Five
Rise from the Tides, Part the Waterveil Six

Two important things to remember about Brain in a Jar. First, if it wasn't obvious already, a Brain in a Jar activation removes the timing restriction from cards, allowing us to cast sorceries at instant speed. Unless we are digging for a land or something specific, it's usually best to wait and activate it at the end of our opponent's turn to avoid sorcery speed discard. Second, when I first started playing the deck I was jamming Brain in a Jar on turn two, but then I realized that, if we had a choice between Brain in a Jar or Anticipate / Nagging Thoughts it's often better to wait until turn three for Brain in a Jar because if we cast it on turn two we don't have the mana necessary to put a counter on it. 

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Part the Waterveil does two important things in our deck. First, it's our Plan B for winning with Rise from the Tides when we don't have a Brain in a Jar. Thanks to cards like Kolaghan's Command and Anguished Unmaking, there's no guarantee we'll be able to resolve a Brain in a Jar and have it sit on the battlefield for the six turns necessary to get enough counters to cast a Rise from the Tides. In these situations our plan is to get up to twelve mana and cast a Part the Waterveil and Rise from the Tides in the game turn. While getting up to 12 mana might sound crazy, it happens more often than you'd think thanks to Mage-Ring Network

One of the great things about our deck is that we are really, really good at finding the cards that we need thanks to an epic amount of card draw / filtering. As such, it's common that, by the midgame, we'll have two or even all four copies of Part the Waterveil in hand. In these situations we can use Part the Waterveil like a double Rampant Growth, casting it, and using our extra turn to add a counter to our Mage-Ring Networks and (hopefully) make land drops to get up to 12 mana to win the game with Rise from the Tides

The second important thing Part the Waterveil does is allow us to combo off quicker. Just like we sometimes use Part the Waterveil like a Rampant Growth to get up to 12 mana, there are times where we use it just to get another counter on Brain in a Jar. Almost like some of the old Birthing Pod decks in Modern would use Deceiver Exarch and Restoration Angel to keep untaping Birthing Pod until they could get the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker for the combo kill, we can use Part the Waterveil to take extra turns and get a Brain in the Jar from four to six counters without letting our opponent untap. 

Card Draw

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The rest of our deck is almost exclusively instants and sorceries that draw us cards which allows us to keep cycling through our deck, finding our combo pieces and filling the graveyard to make our Rise from the Tides deadly. While I'm not going to talk in depth about every single piece of card draw in the deck, I did want to mention Pore Over the Pages and Nagging Thoughts. For one thing, these two cards work very well together because the "untap two lands, then discard a card" part of Pore Over the Pages gives us both the mana and discard outlet to madness Nagging Thoughts. If you are trying to figure out which card to discard to Pore Over the Pages, keep Nagging Thoughts in mind. 

The other cool part of Pore Over the Pages is that it allows us to generate an extra mana when we cast it off Brain in a Jar by tapping two lands. While this one mana (excluding the mana originally spent to activate Brain in a Jar) doesn't matter too often, it can help us get up to the 12 mana needed to pull off the Part the Waterveil / Rise from the Tides turn by allowing us to add two counters to Mage-Ring Network in the same turn.

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Pieces of the Puzzle and Anticipate help us cycle though our deck to find more card draw. Since we have 33 instants or sorceries in the main deck, we are almost always going to hit twice on Pieces of the Puzzle and being able to dig five cards deep can be super important in the late game when we need a copy of Rise from the Tides or Part the Waterveil to win the game. 


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We don't have any real removal in the deck, instead relying on Grip of the Roil and Engulf the Shore to slow down our opponent just enough to give us the time to combo off. Grip of the Roil might look bad, but it draws us a card, and sometimes slowing down a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet for a couple turns is enough. Meanwhile, Engulf the Shore is matchup dependent. If our opponent can just dump a bunch of cheap creatures back on the battlefield, it's essentially a Fog, but when it takes them multiple turns to replay more expensive creatures it's closer to a Time Walk. Regardless, the main purpose of both of these cards is to buy us enough time to carry out our game plan. 

The Sideboard

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The sideboard is our control matchup package. When we run into a deck that isn't playing very many creatures, Grip of the Roil and Engulf the Shore are pretty much dead cards, so we can simply swap them out for a bunch of counters which not only help us force out important cards through our opponent's disruption, but can buy us time by countering opposing planeswalkers and other threats.

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Send to Sleep is just another Fog effect for when we run into decks with big creatures. Disperse is actually a very important card to the deck. The one card we really don't want to see across the table is Virulent Plague, which completely locks out our "kill with 2/2 Zombie tokens" plan. Disperse provides a nice, clean answer since we don't really need to get rid of Virulent Plague permanently. We just cast it on our opponent's end step and win the next turn with Rise from the Tides and Part the Waterveil

Ultra-Budget Mono-U Brains

No ultra budget list this week. I mean, the deck is already $20 or 9 tix. What more do you want!

As odd as it sounds, I'm not sure the non-budget version of Mono-U Brains (technically UB Brains) is better than the version we played in the videos. While I like the idea of Languish as a "real" sweeper, since it's much better than Engulf the Shore against aggro decks like Mono-White Humans, I'm not sure it's worth the cost. I'm not even sure we want Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, as crazy as that sounds in a deck built around drawing cards and filling the graveyard. Not only does including Jace, Vryn's Prodigy reduce our instant and sorcery count (making Rise from the Tides worse), it also turns on all our opponent's removal. One of the appeals of the deck is that it turns all our opponent's removal spells into mulligans, and adding Jace, Vryn's Prodigy diminished this aspect of the deck. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is the non-budget version is more "cards that I might consider trying" than an definite upgrade over the budget build. 


Anyway, that's all for today. The deck seemed very strong, going 4-1 in our matches on video and 8-1 overall. Of course, this feat was aided by the fact I played against the Seasons Past deck about a million times, and that deck cannot beat Mono-U Brains. Seriously, I'm 5-0 in matches and 10-0 in games against the deck that took Finkel to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. You definitely need to give this one a try, not only is it incredibly cheap, but it's amazingly fun to play and competitive!

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinionsn and suggestions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at 


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