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Budget Magic: $43 (18 tix) 8 Whack (Pioneer, Magic Online)

Glidö, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we are heading to Pioneer one more time to find out if one of the best budget decks in Modern can make the leap to the format in ultra-budget format with a $40 build of 8 Whack! While calling the deck 8 Whack might be a bit of a stretch since we technically only have four Bushwhackers (just Reckless Bushwhacker, since Goblin Bushwhacker isn't legal), we do get Castle Embereth as a pseudo-whack that loses the ability to give our team haste but makes up for it by beating repeatable every turn! The deck's main goal is to get in huge bursts of damage early in the game by flooding the board with cheap creatures and pumping them with our Bushwhackers. If our opponent manages to stabilize the board before they die, then we try to finish them off with some powerful burn spells like Stoke the Flames. Can 8 Whack make the jump from Modern to Pioneer in ultra-budget format?  Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: 8 Whack (Pioneer)

The Deck

Eight Whack is an aggro deck. The primary plan is to flood the board with cheap creatures, pump them with Castle Embereth and Reckless Bushwhacker to get in a couple of massive attacks early in the game, and then finish our opponent off with burn spells like Stoke the Flames and Lightning Strike going at their face!

The Whacks

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As I mentioned in the intro, we technically only have four whacks since Goblin Bushwhacker isn't legal in Pioneer, although Castle Embereth fills in as pseudo-whacks five through eight. Together, these cards are our main payoffs and the primary reasons why our plan of flooding the board with cheap creatures can work. Reckless Bushwhacker has the upside of not just giving our creatures +1/+0 but also haste, which allows for some very explosive turns where we can play something like Goblin Instigator or Dragon Fodder and surge Reckless Bushwhacker on the same turn to deal a ton of damage by surprise. Meanwhile, Castle Embereth's biggest strength is that it is repeatable. One of the main ways that 8 Whack loses is by flooding out and not drawing enough action. The power of Castle Embereth is that once we get to four mana, if we have nothing better to do, we can always spend our turn pumping our creatures to get in for as much damage as possible, which makes it very solid protection against flooding out.


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Starting off our curve are three different one-drops, each with different strengths. Together, these cards help to make sure that we get our game plan started on Turn 1 and can even lead to some very strong starts on their own, especially against slower decks, where playing a one-drop on Turn 1 and following it up with two one-drops on Turn 2 is often a good way to steal a game. Before we talk about our one-drops' individual strengths and weaknesses, it's also important to point out that these cards are key to making Reckless Bushwhacker work. Remember: to pump our team, we need to surge Reckless Bushwhacker, which means casting another spell before it. As such, sometimes it is correct to hold onto a one-drop until Turn 3 so we can play it and surge Reckless Bushwhacker to get in a big attack.

As far as the cards themselves, Fanatical Firebrand has the upside of coming down with haste and chipping in for immediate damage on Turn 1, which is nice. While killing our opponent with creature damage is nice, we are often trying to get our opponent down to somewhere around seven or eight life, at which point we can finish the game with burn if things go awry. As a result, every point of damage counts. Other than being a hasty attacker, Fanatical Firebrand also gives us a cheap answer to cards like Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic, which are very heavily played in Pioneer at the moment.

As for Foundry Street Denizen, it's the biggest of our one-drops since it pumps itself whenever we have a red creature enter the battlefield. This means that something like Foundry Street Denizen on Turn 1 into Dragon Fodder or Goblin Instigator on Turn 2 allows us to get in an attack for three, and on most turns, Foundry Street Denizen is at worst a 2/1 for one.

Finally, we have Legion Loyalist, which is one of our swingiest one-drops. In some matchups, it's mostly just a 1/1 haste for one, which isn't exciting but is fine in 8 Whack. In other matchups, especially against decks with small blockers or—better yet—tokens, Legion Loyalist is the best card in our deck, making it impossible for our opponent to effectively block our onslaught of cheap attackers. 


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Burning-Tree Emissary is our free win card and allows for some incredibly explosive starts. Sometimes, we have a hand with a couple of copies of Burning-Tree Emissary along with Reckless Bushwhacker, which allows us to play all of our Burning-Trees, follow them up with a surged Reckless Bushwhacker, and potentially get in an attack for eight or 10 damage on Turn 2!

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Our deck is at its most powerful when we can go wide and quickly put a bunch of creatures on the battlefield because the more creatures we have on the battlefield, the more damage Reckless Bushwhacker and Castle Embereth represent. Goblin Instigator and Dragon Fodder (which are basically the same card, except one is a creature and one is a sorcery) are the core of our go-wide plan, putting two bodies on the battlefield with a single card. This allows for some very fast starts, where we can laying Foundry Street Denizen on Turn 1, Dragon Fodder or Goblin Instigator on Turn 2 (and attack for three with Foundry Street Denizen), and then another one-drop plus Reckless Bushwhacker on Turn 3 to attack for 12. This will most likely leave our opponent low enough on life that even if they manage to sweep away our board, we should be able to cobble together the win with random haste creatures and burn spells.

The Burn

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Last but not least, we have our burn spells. These cards do double duty in our deck. In the early game, they allow us to get rid of potential blockers, clearing the way for big Bushwhacker attacks. Then, in the late game, they allow us to finish off our opponent with direct damage, which is especially important in matchups where our opponent has sweepers or other ways to stabilize our board. Against decks with sweepers, our main goal isn't to kill our opponent with our creatures but to get our opponent low enough in life that our burn spells can finish the job. Stoke the Flames is especially sweet in our deck since we can often cast it for free by convoking our creatures. Here, it's important to remember that if we are planning to cast Stoke the Flames, all of our one-drops along with both Goblin Instigator and Dragon Fodder are essentially free since we can cast them and then use the summoning-sick creatures to generate the mana we need to Stoke the Flames with convoke.


Record-wise, 8 Whack was solid. We finished 4-1 in our five matches, only losing to a Jeskai Control deck that seemed to have infinite three-mana sweepers, with both Deafening Clarion and Fiery Cannonade. While our deck is built in a way that Turn 4 wraths like Supreme Verdict are usually too slow to actually beat us, Turn 3 wraths—especially if we are on the draw—are often enough to keep us from getting our opponent's life total low enough to turn them out. On the other hand, we got some amount of revenge against control by beating a Gates / Field of the Dead deck with Gates Ablaze and Supreme Verdict, while taking down Temur Energy, White Weenie, and Hardened Scales in really tight matches. 

As far as changes to make to the deck, I'm pretty happy with the main deck, although the sideboard is more of a work in progress. That said, I'm not actually sure what I'd cut or add to the sideboard. The Pioneer metagame is so wide right now that it's really hard to know what you are trying to beat—you can easily play against 10 different decks across 10 matches. 

All in all, Pioneer 8 Whack felt really solid. If you are a Modern 8 Whack player, this seems like a really good starting point for the Pioneer format (not just because you know how to play the deck but because you should have some of the more expensive cards like Legion Loyalist). And if you're someone who is interested in trying out the Pioneer format but doesn't want to put out a bunch of money, you can't really do much better than a $40 deck. I could easily see 8 Whack winning an FNM-level tournament or going 5-0 in a league on Magic Online. Better yet, you don't even have to worry about making expensive upgrades to optimize the deck—the version we played for the video is not only ultra-budget but also a non-budget list as well. The archetype just happens to be very cheap!

Ultra / Non-Budget Lists

8 Whack is a unique archetype in that it happens to be ultra-budget even in optimal form. As such, there isn't really any need for an ultra-budget list (since the deck is already $40) or a non-budget list (since the deck doesn't really need or even want any upgrades). If I were going to play 8 Whack in a Pioneer GP, I'd play this list without any meaningful changes (except trying to tune up the sideboard for whatever meta I was expecting at the event).


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

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