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Budget Magic: $20 UG Kicker (Standard)


Sho'daache, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Zendikar Rising is here, which means it's time to kick off our exploration of our new Standard format with a deck that's both absurdly cheap and absurdly fun: UG Kicker! Coming in at just over $20 in paper and with zero mythics and 19 rares (with almost half being lands) on Arena, UG Kicker is about as cheap as a Standard deck can be. More importantly, the deck is oddly effective and super fun to play! Today's episode was recorded during the early-access event last Wednesday (thanks to Wizards for the invite!), which means we're playing best-of-one Standard since it was the only option. But don't worry; we'll be back to best-of-three next week. Even though we're playing best-of-one, I added a sideboard to the deck for best-of-three purposes. Anyway, how good is kicker in Standard? What sweet tricks does this $20 deck offer? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: UG Kicker

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The Deck

UG Kicker is a tough deck to nail down. While it is all about abusing the kicker mechanic, it plays like a weird mixture of tempo and midrange, with a bit of ramp thrown in for good measure. The deck is built around a handful of kicker-based payoffs and then a ton of kicker spells to support them.

The Payoffs

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Our best and most important payoff is Roost of Drakes, which offers a one-mana enchantment that makes a 2/2 Drake whenever we kick a spell or, thanks to having kicker itself, a four-mana enchantment that makes a 2/2 Drake when it comes into play (while also triggering our other kicker payoffs). In the early game, this steady stream of fliers gives us chump blockers to slow down our opponent's offense and buy us time to set up our overwhelming late game. Later in the game, the flock of Drakes turns into our primary win condition, beating our opponent down in their air.

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Our second kicker payoff is our new kicker legend, Verazol, the Split Current. Thanks to its somewhat unique wording, Verazol, the Split Current scales like Stonecoil Serpent does, offering a huge body if we are willing to dump all of our mana into it. More importantly, we can remove counters from it to copy our kicker spells, including permanents, which makes Verazol, the Split Current a way to make more Roost of Drakes and to double up our kicker-based removal and finishing kicker spells.

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Finally, we have Coralhelm Chronicler, which is the glue that holds our deck together, allowing us to dig for one of our 26 kicker spells when it comes into play and then offering additional consistency from the battlefield by letting us loot as we kick our spells, to filter away extra land and ramp spells that are useless in the late game and help make sure we have a steady stream of action. While not as explosive as Verazol, the Split Current is or as essential to finishing the game as Roost of Drakes is, the consistency that Coralhelm Chronicler adds is essential to our deck's success.

Ramp

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The downside of kicker spells is that kicking them tends to be pretty expensive. This means hitting our land-drops and ramping are essential. Vine Gecko is essentially a ramp spell for kicked spells that also grows into a massive threat, making it a bit like Wildgrowth Walker from the old explore decks. Meanwhile, both Reclaim the Wastes and Vastwood Surge do double duty in our deck, making sure we hit our land drops (or outright ramping us) while also being kicker spells to trigger Roost of Drakes and copy with Verazol, the Split Current. Reclaim the Wastes shows up in the land slot, allowing us to cut back on actual lands, much like Attune with Aether in energy decks from Kaladesh Standard, while Vastwood Surge is also our primary finisher. One of the most common ways for us to actually win the game is to make a few Drakes with Roost of Drakes and then kick (and possibly even copy) Vastwood Surge to put a bunch of +1/+1 counters on our fliers, allowing us to win with one big attack.

Kicker Removal

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Since UG Kicker takes a while to get going thanks to the expensiveness of kicking spells and because our late game is extremely powerful, the most important aspect of playing the deck is having ways to stay alive in the early game while we get our kicker plan set up. For this, we turn to a bunch of tempo-y, kicker-based removal. Bubble Snare is surprisingly efficient, allowing us to keep one of our opponent's creatures tapped down forever for just a single mana. Meanwhile, both Blink of an Eye and Inscription of Insight let us bounce our opponent's creatures, buying us time to start making Drakes and copying our kicker spells. Inscription of Insight is fine for four mana but insane if we can kick it, offering us a potential five-for-one when we choose all of the modes.

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Finally, we have our kicker-y Eternal Witness, Murasa Sproutling. While somewhat expensive at five mana when kicked, getting a kicker spell back from the graveyard is powerful, allowing us to keep bouncing our opponent's creatures with Inscription of Insight and Into the Roil or getting back Vastwood Surge to kick and grow our team to close out the game. We can also just run out Murasa Sproutling for three mana against aggro decks to have a blocker, knowing that we can always get it back later in the game with a second copy.

The Mana

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Most of our mana base is just typical mana fixing, but Throne of Makindi deserves a mention. The ability to store up mana for kicked spells is actually very powerful in the deck. If we play it and add a counter to it on Turn 2, we can have four mana to kick a Roost of Drakes or Into the Roil on Turn 3. Later in the game, the extra mana helps us get up to eight mana to kick Inscription of Insight or Vastwood Surge. While it might be tempting to cut Throne of Makindi to save on rare wildcards on Arena, I wouldn't. It's really strong in our deck.

Playing the Deck

The most important aspect of playing UG Kicker is to focus on stabilizing in the early game. Thanks to the power of kicker, we can win the late game in almost all matchups. The challenge is getting there. Don't be afraid to use cards like Bubble Snare, Into the Roil, and Inscription of Insight aggressively in the early game, even unkicked. We have more than enough late-game power that we can afford to throw away these cards to save damage and keep our life total high as we get Roost of Drakes online and develop our mana.

Along the same lines, don't be afraid to cash in Verazol, the Split Current early in the game as well. During our matches, we almost never cast a huge Verazol, the Split Current; instead, we usually cast it for somewhere between two and four mana and immediately use it to copy a kicker spell or two. While I'm sure there will be games where we spend 10 mana on Verazol, the Split Current and use it to win the game, it's more than good enough as a 4/4 that copies two spells before it dies. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we ended up going 7-2 across nine best-of-one matches with UG Kicker, although it is worth reiterating that it was early-access day, so we played against a higher percentage of brews than we would normally. That said, the deck felt like it had game in a lot of different matchups. The tempo plan of using bounce spells to stall out the game was super effective against creature decks, and Roost of Drakes is even more powerful than it looks. I'm not sure we've ever played a more powerful or fun deck that costs just $20!

Non-Budget / Ultra-Budget UG Kicker

Considering the deck is already around $20, there isn't much sense in trying to make an ultra-budget build. The build we played for the videos is about as cheap as it can be in paper. On Magic Arena, there isn't really an easy way to reduce the cost of the deck more other than by cutting back on the rare lands, but Throne of Makindi is too important to cut, which means the only real option is to drop Temple of Mystery for more copies of Thornwood Falls and basics. 

Along the same lines, I'm not sure there's much to add to the deck for the non-budget build. In theory, we could play cards like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath just because they're powerful and in our colors, but this doesn't really work with the kicker theme of the deck. Rather than adding expensive cards just to increase the price and have a "non-budget build" of the deck, I'd just keep playing it as is and adjust the sideboard as necessary based on how the Zendikar Rising format develops.

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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