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Budget Magic: $23 (11 tix) Mono-Blue Reservoir (Standard)


Sillaw, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Normally on Budget Magic we play a deck that I brew, but every once and a while there are exceptions, and this is one of those weeks! I've been waiting for Aetherflux Reservoir to work in Standard for a long time now, and while the deck has a lot of power, it has never really been in a good place as far as the metagame was concerned. With Aetherworks Marvel running around, it's hard to play a turn five combo deck, not to mention that the popularity of Marvel made sure everyone was packing a ton of artifact hate and counters like Negate. However, everything's different now that Marvel is banned, which means it just might be time for an Aetherflux Reservoir combo deck to shine!

More importantly, today's deck is amazingly cheap: just $23 in the paper world and 11 tix on Magic Online, which might make it the cheapest deck ever to 5-0 a competitive Standard league on Magic Online (by the way, shout out to Tulio_Jaudy for playing the deck to the 5-0 finish)! So today we're going to take Aetherflux Reservoir combo out for a spin in Standard to see if this super sweet and amazingly budget friendly deck can stand up! Let's get to the videos, then we'll talk more about the deck.

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Mono-U Reservoir (Deck Tech)

Mono-U Reservoir vs. Abzan Revolt 

Mono-U Reservoir vs. RB Aggro

Mono-U Reservoir vs. Temur Energy

Mono-U Reservoir vs. GR Ramp 

Mono-U Reservoir vs. Weird White

The Deck

Mono-U Reservoir is pretty simple—it's basically a Standard-legal version of Storm. Our one and only (realistic) way of winning the game is by getting an Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield and then casting a bunch of spells. Maybe the most interesting part of the deck is that it's overloaded with cards that are really bad in a vacuum, but they synergize well enough with our plan that they are good in our deck. Let's start by talking about the namesake card...

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To win the game with Aetherflux Reservoir we need to get to over 50 life, which usually means casting about nine spells in the same turn. The good news is that we don't necessarily have to win the game all at once with Aetherflux Reservoir (unlike true Storm, which is often pretty useless if it doesn't literally kill the opponent in one shot), instead we can mini combo, draw some cards and gain enough life that our opponent can't kill us, and then try again the next turn. While the combo turns are the big payoff and the most exciting part of the deck, in some matchups, it's the incremental life gain from casting two or three spells each turn that really puts the game out of reach. 

From a more meta perspective, it's important to remember that Aetherflux Reservoir is our only way of winning the game. We have two copies, which means we can take some risks with the first one, but if our opponent manages to deal with it, we need to be extremely careful with the second copy or risk losing the game by not having a way to win. This can mean holding the Aetherflux Reservoir until we are ready to win, or making sure we have a bounce spell (or, a counterspell after sideboarding) to protect it from our opponent's removal.

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Aetherflux Reservoir is so important that we have a bunch of ways to dig through our deck to find it. Whir of Invention is the most direct, allowing us to tap a bunch of cheap artifacts to pay the improvise cost and then tutor out Aetherflux Reservoir at instant speed (which is helpful in playing around counters). The upside of Whir of Invention is that if we already have our Aetherflux Reservoir, we can use it to find our other combo pieces like Inspiring Statuary, or even just a random card draw artifact like Prophetic Prism to make sure we don't fizzle mid-combo.

Glint-Nest Crane does double duty, helping us dig through our deck to find our Aetherflux Reservoir and other artifacts while also providing a cheap spell we can cast to trigger Aetherflux Reservoir and gain some life. As a 1/3 flyer for two-mana, it's also a reasonable blocker in the early game which can be important against things like Grim Flayer or Winding Constrictor

Cheap Artifacts

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Ornithopter and Bone Saw are the worst cards in our deck, but they are also some of our most important cards when it comes to comboing off with Aetherflux Reservoir because they are free. Most of our easiest wins come from getting an Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield, casting a handful of free artifacts, bouncing them all back to our hand (often for as little as one mana) and then replaying them to get up over 50 life. As for playing with these cards, it's usually best not to cast them unless you need them for something (like paying improvise costs or generating mana with Aetherflux Reservoir). Instead, just keep them in hand until they have a purpose to protect them from removal.

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Renegade Map is more important to our deck than it looks at first glance. When it comes to playing a Storm-style combo deck which requires drawing a lot of cards, one of the easiest ways to lose is drawing too many lands. Renegade Map allows us to go all the way down to 18 lands, which is a tiny amount for a deck that's looking to play a four-drop on turn four, even considering our card draw. If we are lacking lands we can sacrifice it to find an Island, and when we have enough lands we can use it to generate storm count for Aetherflux Reservoir. While it's a bit annoying that it comes into play tapped (so we can't immediately tap it to improvise), it's still great in our deck.

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Prophetic Prism and Implement of Improvement give us cheap artifacts that also draw us a card to help us get to our goal of casting enough spells to kill our opponent with Aetherflux Reservoir. Once we have an Aetherflux Reservoir and Inspiring Statuary, Prophetic Prism is often our next target with a Whir of Invention. Even though we don't have any white mana sources in our deck, we can always sacrifice our Implement of Improvement with mana from Prophetic Prism

The Rest of the Combo

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Inspiring Statuary is the second most important artifact in our deck. While we can win without it, our most explosive combo turns almost always involve Inspiring Statuary reducing the cost of our key spells. While it can't reduce the cost of our artifacts (which makes it look pretty clunky in our deck since we have more artifacts than non-artifacts), it's actually very good and helps us take advantage of all the cheap artifacts we have laying around by giving us one-mana Engulf the Shores and Paradoxial Outcomes while making our Baral's Expertise just two-mana. 

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Paradoxical Outcome is the card we want to draw the most in the mid to late game (once we have an Aetherflux Reservoir), because it almost always means we can cast enough spells and gain enough life to win the game. The basic idea is to use it targeting our cheap artifacts, pick them all up, and recast them to up our storm count. Along the way we also draw a bunch more cards, which means even more cheap artifacts to cast, and maybe another Paradoxical Outcome to do it all over again. If we have Inspiring Statuary, our Paradoxical Outcomes typically cost just one-mana, and in some weird way, actually generates mana since we can tap a bunch free artifacts to pay for it and then recast them so they are untapped to cast something else.

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Baral's Expertise and Engulf the Shore are partly back up copies of Paradoxical Outcome, giving us additional ways of bouncing some of our stuff back to our hand to recast. At the same time, they also help keep us alive against our opponent's creatures, with Baral's Expertise bouncing one or two of our opponent's biggest creatures while also putting a combo piece like Inspiring Statuary or Aetherflux Reservoir into play for free. Meanwhile, Engulf the Shore bounces everything (well, usually, it does require us to have a bunch of Islands, but since every land in our deck is an Island it usually isn't a problem). Since most of our combo pieces are not creatures, Engulf the Shore isn't as good at helping us combo off, it still lets us bounce any number of Ornithopters back to our hand to recast.

Other Stuff

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Reverse Engineer just give us some very cheap card draw. It's super powerful when we are casting it for just two "real" mana thanks to improvise, which we can do as early as turn two thanks to all of our free artifacts. In the mid and late game it helps us find our combo pieces, and if we already have the combo set up, it makes sure we have enough random spells to cast to get the win with Aetherflux Reservoir

The Sideboard

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The sideboard is pretty simple: counterspells come in to help us fight through opponent's counters and also various artifact destruction spells that can kill our combo pieces. Meanwhile, Engulf the Shore and Baral's Expretise come in to fight against opposing creature decks. While they slow down our deck a little because we have to take out cheap artifacts to make room, they slow down our opponent even more and help keep us alive long enough to combo. Finally, Vexing Scuttler and Commit // Memory help us fight control decks by giving us cards to take advantage of our graveyard. Memory is especially important because it gives us a way to shuffle our Aetherflux Reservoirs back into our deck if they get countered or killed. 

Wrap Up

All in all we finished our matches 3-2, which is a pretty reasonable record for a $23 deck. One thing that stood out during our matches is that we are a great game one deck. In fact, I'm pretty sure we won the first game of every single match. Now that artifact hate is back in sideboards (instead of main decks) and control isn't a major part of the format, most decks don't have many ways to interact with our combo before sideboarding. After sideboarding, things get harder with discard, counters, and artifact hate coming in to fight against our deck. The good news is we only have to win one of the two post-sideboard games, and with the help of our sideboard counters to fight our opponent's sideboard hate cards, that isn't too hard. We actually came very close to going 4-1, with our Temur Energy opponent just barely having enough action to kill us with a Chandra, Torch of Defiance emblem in a really epic match. All in all, the deck felt pretty competitive; with tight play we could keep up with most of the tier decks in the format, which is a great deal for $23 or 11 tix. 

Ultra Budget/Non-Budget Mono-U Reservoir

This is one of those weird weeks where we don't have a ultra-budget deck because our deck is already significantly cheaper than most of our ultra-budget lists, and we don't have a non-budget list because it's already non-budget despite being $23. Sometimes building budget decks requires leaving out cards that we really want to play to make the deck cheap enough to fit into the budget range, but sometimes the optimal build of a deck just happens to be cheap.

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This said, after Hour of Devastation enters the format, it will be interesting to try Leave // Chance in the deck. While this would require going Jeskai, the front half of card works like a back up version of Paradoxical Outcome, allowing us to pick up all of our cheap artifacts for just one or two mana. The back half is amazing with Inspiring Statuary, giving us a one-mana Windfall, allowing us to discard all of the random lands we draw into and hopefully turn those into useful artifacts to facilitate our combo.

The downside of going Jeskai is that we lose Engulf the Shore because we don't have enough Islands to support it, at least in the main deck. In its place we get a couple of copies of Leave // Chance and another Baral's Expertise for defense. The other nice part of going white with Aetherflux Reservoir is that we get Sram, Senior Edificer in the sideboard. While main deck Sram, Senior Edificer dies way too often to be very good, ideally opponents will remove their targeted removal for game two, which let's us bring in Sram, Senior Edificer to draw us a bunch of extra cards, especially now that we play Cathar's Shield over Ornithopter (which gets much worse without Engulf the Shore). While I'm not sure this build is better than the one we played on video, Leave // Chance has a lot of potential with the combo and seems like it's worth testing out.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Mono-U Reservoir is super sweet and amazingly competitive for a $23 deck. Give it a shot, I don't think you'll be disappointed! 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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