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Budget Magic: $46 (22 tix) Standard Savannah Lions


Happy holidays Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we are heading back to Battle for Zendikar Standard for one of the most aggressive decks ever featured on Budget Magic, Savannah Lions! Over the course of Magic's history, Savannah Lions (2/1's for one mana) have been printed sparingly. That all changed a few years ago when Wizards decided they should print a Savannah Lions variant in almost every set. As a result, we currently have four different Savannah Lions in Standard, which means we can play a mono-White deck featuring as many as sixteen 2/1's for one White mana. This week we are looking to kill our opponents fast with the pride of little White weenies!

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about the deck. 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.

Savannah Lions Intro

Savannah Lions vs Atarka Red

Savannah Lions vs RB Dragons

Savannah Lions vs UG Ramp

Savannah Lions vs Hardened Scales

Savannah Lions vs RB Aggro

The Deck

Along with being the most aggressive of the Budget Magic decks, Savannah Lions may also be the most straightforward aggro deck we've ever played. Every single creature in the deck costs one- or two-mana, we back up our creatures with a small selection of removal and pump spells, and we attack again and again. If the game ever goes long, our odds of winning drop significantly. We want to do everything we can to close out the game as fast as possible. Probably the easiest way to break down this deck is by looking at it in three parts. One-drops (Savannah Lions), two-drops, and spells. Let's start by talking about our Savannah Lions

One-Drops

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Expedition Envoy is the worst of our Savannah Lions because she's literally just a Savannah Lions. All our other one-drops have some amount of upside. We can't take advantage of the fact that Expedition Envoy is an Ally, making her purely a two-powered, one-mana creature. Still, she's good in our deck as an aggressive one-drop.

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Mardu Woe-Reaper has a bit of upside in that he can gain us life with his "exile a creature from a graveyard" ability. However, gaining one life isn't all that relevant in our deck. We are not going to win many long games with this deck, and the small amounts of incidental life gain only shine in games that go long. That said, we aren't going to turn down the offer of a free life point and a potential hedge against Ojutai's Command. He is helpful against aggro mirrors, but like Expedition Envoy, the reason Mardu Woe-Reaper is in the deck is because he can attack for two on turn two. 

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Dragon Hunter is our highest variance Savannah Lions. In many matchups he's just a vanilla 2/1 for one White mana. When we run into a deck packing Dragonlord Ojutai or Thunderbreak Regent, he suddenly becomes much more. A number of decks in Standard are looking to win with combat damage from Dragons, and having an aggressive one-drop that can stonewall a huge flier on defense or swing past a hexproof Dragonlord Ojutai on offense is a major boon. 

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I believe Savannah Lions is the best Kytheon, Hero of Akros deck in Standard since we are built in a way to maximize the odds of flipping Kytheon into Gideon, Battle-Forged on turn three. Our nut draw is basically one-drop on turn one, two one-drops on turn two (one of these being Kytheon, Hero of Akros), and attack with everything on turn three. Kytheon will flip into Gideon, Battle-Forged and (hopefully) win us the game. 

While it is true that Gideon, Battle-Forged is not the most powerful planeswalker ever printed, he is better than what most people give him credit for, especially in a dedicated aggro deck like Savannah Lions. Just being a 4/4 indestructible attacker is solid, and his +1 ability gives us a bit of resilience against a wrath. Being able to untap after a Planar Outburst with not just a Gideon, Battle-Forged and a random 2/1 gives us a much better chance of winning a game. All in all, Gideon, Battle-Forged is one of the main reasons to play this deck.

Two-Drops

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Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is probably our best two-drop, or at the very least good in the widest range of situations. Once we have an Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit on the battlefield, all of our Savannah Lions enter the battlefield as 3/2's. While one additional power might not seem like much, the extra damage is often the difference between winning and losing.

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While both Consul's Lieutenant and Knight of White Orchid have abilities that offer some upside, the biggest benefit of both of these cards is first strike. While all of our other two drops trade with an Abbot of Keral Keep or Soulfire Grand Master, Consul's Lieutenant and Knight of the White Orchid can attack with impunity. I've never actually connected with Consul's Lieutenant to make it renowned, but I'm sure it's good when it happens. Likewise, even though we sometimes get an extra Plains on the battlefield thanks to Knight of the White Orchid, the earliest this happens is turn three, which is actually too slow to really matter in our deck. 

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Hidden Dragonslayer is perhaps the most important two-drop in our deck because it offers another way to deal with any our opponent's big blockers. He also gives us a sneaky out to the Become ImmenseTemur Battle Rage combo from Atarka Red, since we can unmegamorph Hidden Dragonslayer to destroy the lethal attacker. A lot of the time we are forced to play Hidden Dragonslayer face up as yet another 2/1; in this deck having pressure is more important than waiting for potential upside, so if we don't have another play on turn two, or get stuck on mana, we will play Hidden Dragonslayer as a 2/1 with lifelink 100% of the time. 

Spells

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Having access to eight two-mana removal spells is key to the deck. While Pacifism looks odd in a constructed deck, it's actually very, very good. At first I ran Stasis Snare in this slot, but three mana is just too much for our deck. Ideally, we want to play a one-drop on turn one, a two-drop (or two one-drops) on turn two, and a removal spell plus another one-drop on turn three. Hitting our opponent's first play with either a Silkwrap or a Pacifism allows us to attack for six on turn three and another six on turn four, which is usually enough damage for us to finish off the game with whatever we have left over.

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Valorous Stance is excellent in our deck. Like Pacifism and Silkwrap it can take care of our opponent's big threats, and it also allows us to swing our team into blockers thanks to its "target creature gains indestructible" mode. This mode is especially important with Kytheon, Hero of Akros. Because we are only playing with 19 lands, it's not all that uncommon we only have two lands on the battlefield. Valorous Stance allows us to attack with Kytheon, Hero of Akros, make him indestructible, and flip him into Gideon, Battle-Forged, even when we don't have the three mana available to activate Kytheon, Hero of Akros's indestructibility. 

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Kytheon's Tactics is easily the worst card in the deck, but sometimes we need a way to punch in a few extra damage or attack through a bunch of Dragon Fodder / Hordeling Outburst tokens. In the non-budget version, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is clearly the more powerful option, but given the rest of the cards in our current Standard format, Kytheon's Tactics is the best budget-friendly option. 

On a related note, the one thing this deck wants the most is a Crusade effect. We currently don't have a Honor of the Pure or even a Spear of Heliod in Standard. Having some way to buff our team would be awesome. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Oath of the Gatewatch gives us a Crusade, which could push Savannah Lions up in Standard.

The ultra budget version of Savannah Lions is missing two key cards. First is Kytheon, Hero of Akros. While Anointer of Champions is a somewhat reasonable replacement, she is a huge step down in power from Kytheon, Hero of Akros. Not only can the Anointer not become a planeswalker, but she isn't a Savannah Lions and can't attack for two damage on turn two. Second is Hidden Dragonslayer. While Dromoka Warrior has even more aggressive stats, she is missing the upside of being able to destroy problematic blockers. While I think the ultra budget version is playable, it is a meaningful step down from the budget version. 

The non-budget version of Savannah Lions is probably Mono-White Gideon, as exemplified JohnnyHotSauce's deck above. It trades in some of the one-drops for a more powerful midgame including Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Wingmate Roc and Archangel of Tithes. While Mono-White Gideon isn't going to win as many games on turn four, it has a lot more resiliency. Hangarback Walker and Secure the Wastes offer  protection from sweepers. Wingmate Roc can win some games on its own. The problem is, while some of the cards are the same, the decks are fundamentally different. Savannah Lions is to Mono-White Gideon as Mono-Red is to Big Red. Still, if you are looking to build into something, Mono-White Gideon is the most competitive way to go. 

Conclusion

I've had a lot of success with Savannah Lions; its best draws can overrun just about any deck in the format. The main problem is the inconsistency. If we draw more than four lands, our odds of winning drop significantly. Every so often this happens in a 19 land deck. Still, I would definitely play Savannah Lions at a Friday Night Magic level event. With a bit of tuning it may have a chance at a SCG Open or Grand Prix. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and opinions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 


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