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Budget Magic: $50 Tour de France (Standard)


Nechoochon, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Ikoria is here, so today, we are starting our exploration of our new Standard format with a deck that hits all of the marks of a classic budget strategy: Tour de France (probably better know as Boros Cycling). Why is Tour de France such a perfect budget deck? Well, first off, in the paper world, the deck only costs $50, with half of the budget going to a single card: our companion, Lurrus of the Dream Den. Secondly, on Magic Arena, the deck plays zero main-deck rares or mythics (although we do have Lurrus of the Dream Den as our companion), making it something that most players should be able to build digitally without a huge wildcard investment. Third, the deck is actually really powerful, being able to compete with and even beat most of the top decks in the Standard meta! Can a deck with no main-deck rares or mythics win in Ikoria Standard? How good is a combo-ish build of cycling tribal? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Tour de France

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The Deck

Tour de France is a cycling-based aggro-combo deck. The main goal is to stick a cycling payoff or two early in the game, spend the rest of the game cycling cards (since nearly every non-land in our deck has cycling), and then finish the game with a massive Zenith Flare (which can hit for 20 or more damage!) or two to the opponent's face. One of the weird aspects of the deck is that most of it doesn't matter. In fact, nearly half of the cards in our deck are literally uncastable and in the deck solely because we can cycle them for just a single mana, which makes it pretty easy to break down the relevant cards in the deck since there are way fewer than normal!

Cycling Stuff

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Let's start with the easiest group of cards in our deck: literally uncastable cyclers. Our deck only has red and white mana, so we can't cast Boon of the Wish-Giver, Frostveil Ambush, Memory Leak, or Startling Development. So why are they in our deck? Because they are non-creature spells that can be cycled for just a single mana. When we talk about our payoffs in a minute, you'll see that cycling as often and as much as possible is the key to powering up our deck (while being spells also has a couple of upsides, which we'll get to later). So even though all of these cards are just "pay 1, discard this card, draw a card" and nothing more, they are central to our deck's functioning.

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We also have a couple of additional cycling cards that we can technically cast but often just cycle away. Footfall Crater is just a one-of, and we almost always cycle it, but we do occasionally play it, especially from our graveyard, with the help of our companion Lurrus of the Dream Den. Meanwhile, Go for Blood is the cycle spell we cast the most. One of our cycling payoffs—Flourishing Fox—ends up pretty big in the late game, which makes it a good option for fighting one of our opponent's creatures. As such, I usually try to make Go for Blood the last spell that we cycle away because there is actually a chance that we'll want to cast it, unlike most of the other one-mana cycling spells in our deck, which are uncastable (although don't be afraid to cycle Go for Blood if there isn't another option).

The Payoffs

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So, why is our deck overloaded with uncastable cycling cards? Because the other half of the deck is cards that do something powerful when we cycle (and often cycle themselves). Take Flourishing Fox, for example. It starts off as a lowly 1/1 but quickly grows (potentially to a 3/3 on Turn 2 and maybe a 6/6 on Turn 3) into the biggest threat on the table, sometimes just winning games by itself as an attacker! If Flourishing Fox is our go-tall cycling payoff, Valiant Rescuer is our go-wide cycling payoff, making a 1/1 token whenever we cycle but only once each turn. If we can cycle once on our turn and once during our opponent's turn, we're essentially getting a free Raise the Alarm each turn cycle, giving us a bunch of chump blockers for big creatures and eventually a horde of tokens to go on offense.

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We also have Drannith Stinger and Drannith Healer, which trigger to ping our opponent for one (in the case of Drannith Stinger) or gain us one life (for Drannith Healer) whenever we cycle. Unlike Valiant Rescuer, these cards are limited by the "once a turn" clause, so in the late game, the triggers can really add up if we can cycle four or five times in a single turn. Drannith Stinger is by far the better of the two, and occasionally, we have games where we draw a couple of copies, the opponent can't kill them, and we win with direct damage from cycling. On the other hand, I usually cycle away Drannith Healer, although the lifegain can be helpful against aggro decks like Mono-Red or even some Cat Oven decks.

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As you probably noticed, all of our cycling-payoff creatures also have cycling themselves, which is where our companion Lurrus of the Dream Den comes into play. Since all of our cycling payoff creatures cost two or less, Lurrus of the Dream Den allows us to recast them from our graveyard, which means we can cycle away cards like Drannith Healer or Drannith Stinger in the early game, knowing that we'll eventually be able to get them on the battlefield (if we need them) thanks to Lurrus of the Dream Den. Lurrus is one of the two reasons why the cycling cards in our deck are almost all instants and sorceries, making it easier to meet its companion clause. Plus, as a 3/2 with lifelink, Lurrus of the Dream Den is a reasonable creature to just run out on Turn 3, especially against aggro decks, where having a lifelink blocker is helpful.

The Big Finish

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While our creature-based cycling payoffs are solid and do occasionally win us games by themselves, the card that really makes Tour de France work is Zenith Flare. By far the most common way we kill our opponent is by chipping in for damage and clogging up the board in the early game and eventually casting a Zenith Flare or two in the mid- to late game for 10 or even 20 damage each, to directly burn our opponent out of the game. Since our deck has a massive 41 cycling cards, it's really easy to powerful up the X in Zenith Flare, making it one of the best burn spells available in Standard and the perfect way for our deck to close out the game by surprise at instant speed!

The Sideboard

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The most important thing to realize about sideboard with Tour de France is that you usually don't want to bring in more than four or five cards since bringing in sideboard cards means removing cards with cycling, and chaining together cycling cards is essential to our deck functioning. That said, trimming cycling cards to bring in a handful of silver bullets is a good way to improve some otherwise tough matchups. Here's a quick rundown of the sideboard cards and where they are most effective.

  • Grafdigger's Cage is for Gyruda, Doom of Depths and Lurrus of the Dream Den decks specifically, although it has other applications in some matchups. While it does shut down our Lurrus of the Dream Den as well, it's worth it if it means not losing to Gyruda on Turn 4.
  • Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor is the other reason most of our random cycling cards are spells. It's pretty easy for our deck to get five or even 10 noncreature spells in the graveyard, which means Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor kills any creature or planeswalker for just two mana at instant speed. It's the card that you'll sideboard in most, by a pretty significant margin.
  • Scorching Dragonfire is a smaller, faster Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor. It primarily comes in against creature-heavy aggro decks like various sac decks and Mono-Red.
  • Flame Sweep is for go-side aggro decks. While it does kill all of our creatures, it's a necessary evil against decks like Mono-Red Cavalcade.
  • Unbreakable Formation is to protect our board from wraths against control, although I'm not sure it's actually necessary. On paper, you can bring it in, leave up all of your mana in case the opponent has a sweeper, and then cycle a bunch of times at the end of the opponent's turn, but in practice, I rarely sideboarded it in. It might be worth cutting for something else.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we ended up going 4-1 with Tour de France, with our one loss coming in a game where we flooded out severely (I think we ended up drawing 12 of our 19 lands and simply ran out of cycling cards). Meanwhile, we managed to take down Temur Elementals, Jeskai Fires, an Abzan Creatures deck, and Sultai Midrange, a suite of expensive, powerful, and, in some cases, top-tier decks! While Tour de France looks janky on paper, it's actually surprisingly strong and super fun to play!

That said, if I had the matches to do over again, I would make one small change to the deck: the build we played for the video has 10 Plains and 9 Mountains. While running all basic lands is fine (and a good way to keep prices down since the deck really needs all of its lands to come into play untapped), the mixture was off a bit. We had a few games where we couldn't play Flourishing Fox on Turn 1, and when you consider that the only two red cards we really need to cast are Drannith Stinger (which is good, but we can cycle it away) and Zenith Flare (which we don't usually want until the late game anyway), playing something like 12 Plains and 7 Mountains would probably improve the deck.

If there is a drawback to Tour de France, it's that hard graveyard hate (like Leyline of the Void) is really good against our deck. Thankfully, because of Gyruda, Doom of Depths, most Standard decks are running Grafdigger's Cage rather than Leyline of the Void. Just be warned that if the metagame shifts and people decide that Tour de France is a deck they want to beat, Leyline of the Void or even something like Kaya, Orzhov Usurper will make life much harder by powering down our Zenith Flares and shutting off our grindy Lurrus of the Dream Den backup plan.

In the end, it's hard for me to imagine there is a much better $50 / zero main deck–rare / mythic deck out there in Ikoria Standard. Tour de France felt legitimately competitive, even against powerful top-tier decks. If you're looking to rank up on Arena without many wildcards or win an FNM (once they start happening again) for $50, Tour de France seems like the way to go! More importantly, the deck is a blast to play. You almost always have a handful of cards thanks to cycling, and Zenith Flare is an absurdly powerful Magic card.

Ultra-Budget Tour de France

No ultra-budget build this week. The deck is already incredibly cheap. That said, if you want to make it cheaper in paper, you can play it without Lurrus of the Dream Den (even though Lurrus is great in the deck). And on Magic Arena, you can cut Unbreakable Formation from the sideboard if you are trying to keep to as close to zero rares as possible (but you probably shouldn't cut Grafdigger's Cage since Cat Oven Sacrifice decks and Gyruda Combo are both tough matchups without the artifact).

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As for the non-budget build of Tour de France, the core of the deck remains exactly the same. The big addition is blue mana to the mana base, which means we can actually cast cards like Boon of the Wish-Giver in a pinch. Since we have blue mana, we also get a blue sideboard card that offers the perfect way to beat graveyard hate in games two and three: Ominous Seas! While not as explosive as our primary plan, if our opponent has something like Leyline of the Void, we can play Ominous Seas, cycle a bunch to get counters, and eventually take over the game with a steady stream of 8/8 Krakens!

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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