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Budget Magic: $53 (11 tix) Sram Aid (Standard)


Kaixo, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! This week, we are heading once more to Aether Revolt Standard for a deck that is super exciting for two reasons. First, it's really fun to play and actually pretty competitive, almost being a weird mashup of Modern Sram'O's, an Aetherflux Reservoir combo deck, and Modern Bogles: Sram Aid. Not only does Sram Aid draw a ton of cards, but we sometimes just have a 5/6 hexproof attacker as early as Turn 2, and later in the game, it's not unusual that we are attacking for 10 or more damage in the air with just one creature! Second, it's about as cheap as it gets, at only $53 and 11 tix on Magic Online, and more than half of the price tag comes from two play sets of dual lands (Prairie Stream and Port Town), so if you're looking to go ultra-budget, you can make the deck for something like $25 or 3 tix just by changing some of the lands!

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Sram Aid: Deck Tech

Sram Aid vs. Bant Aetherworks

Sram Aid vs. GR Werewolves

Sram Aid vs. Jund Delirium

Sram Aid vs. Temur Control

Sram Aid vs. Jeskai Copy Cat

The Deck

It's actually sort of hard to sum up Sram Aid in a sentence. While the underlying foundation of the deck is the improvise mechanic and most of its games end with a huge attack or two from a Bastion Inventor, there are a lot of small synergies and mini-combos, which make the deck play much better than it reads on paper, but let's try to break it down.

Sram Aid

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While Sram, Senior Edificer occasionally shows up in decks alongside cheap equipment, most of the time the equipment are just zero- (or one-) mana artifacts that draw cards and never actually get equipped to a creature. This is partly because even though the casting costs of the equipment are cheap, they actually cost quite a bit to equip to a creature, but this issue is fixed by Sigarda's Aid, which not only allows us to cast our equipment with flash but also equip them for free!

Sram, Senior Edificer is mostly a card-draw engine, and while we sometimes have huge combo-esque turns where we cast a ton of equipment and draw a ton of cards, that's not really the primary plan of the deck. Instead, we are perfectly happy casting a Sram, Senior Edificer on Turn 2 or 3, casting some equipment, and drawing a few cards. All of the biggest payoff cards in our deck want a lot of artifacts on the battlefield, and Sram, Senior Edificer is a way to generate some extra value (and help find our finishers) while we cast our equipment. 

Sigarda's Aid is absurd with Sram, Senior Edificer specifically, while also being essential for finishing the game (but more on this later). For one thing, Sigarda's Aid lets us combo off with Sram, Senior Edificer at instant speed, which makes it a lot easier to play around our opponent's removal and counters. We can even combo off in response to a removal spell by casting a bunch of equipment while a removal spell targeting our Sram, Senior Edificer is on the stack. More importantly, Sigarda's Aid lets us use our equipment like combat tricks by casting them after blockers, or like Blossoming Defense to fizzle removal spells targeting Sram, Senior Edificer or our other creatures. That said, the main reason Sigarda's Aid is in the deck is because it generates a lot of mana by allowing us to equip all of our random equipment to our creatures for free. 

Equipment

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Bone Saw and Cathar's Shield aren't especially powerful as equipment (although Cathar's Shield giving +0/+3 makes it pretty good at fizzling removal spells, with the help of Sigarda's Aid, and the vigilance lets us get in huge attacks with still having a blocker back on defense), but they work great with Sram, Senior Edificer and help power up our improvise cards, since they are free to cast. Plus, we have usually drawn most of our deck by the late game, and as strange as it sounds, putting four copies of Bone Saw on a creature actually builds a pretty threatening creature to close out the game.

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Inventor's Goggles doesn't give a huge power and toughness boost, but it's still pretty good in our deck because all of our non-Sram, Senior Edificer creatures are Artificers. This means that even if we don't have a Sigarda's Aid on the battlefield, we still get to equip it for free with some regularity. Plus, like I mentioned before, our deck really just wants cheap artifacts on the battlefield, so the bar is pretty low for an equipment to be good enough to make our deck.

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Stitcher's Graft is basically a colorless, permanent Giant Growth when we have a Sigarda's Aid on the battlefield, which means it not only leads to a ton of blowouts (where our opponent blocks one of our creatures and we flash in and equip Stitcher's Graft) but also makes it our best equipment for closing out the game. It also has some nice synergy with Cathar's Shield, since giving a creature vigilance takes away the downside of the creature not untapping the next turn once it attacks with Stitcher's Graft

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Skeleton Key is just a one-of, and even one might be too many. On paper, it seemed like a good way to filter through our deck and find more action, but in practice, our deck already draws so many cards that occasionally looting isn't really that valuable. Meanwhile, skulk isn't especially useful outside of limited, and it's even worse in our deck because by the time we start attacking, our creature is usually wearing so much equipment that it's bigger than everything else on the battlefield, which means skulk does literally nothing. As such, Skeleton Key probably shouldn't be in the deck—a fourth copy of Inventor's Goggles or Stitcher's Graft would likely be much better. 

The Payoffs

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Bastion Inventor is the biggest reason to play this deck. Cheap hexproof creatures have the potential to be extremely powerful, and our deck is built to make Bastion Inventor as cheap as possible. In fact, we can actually cast it on Turn 1 with an especially crazy draw, but more often we cast it on Turn 2 or 3. Bastion Inventor also makes all of our bad equipment good. While using a Cathar's Shield or Stitcher's Graft to just draw cards with Sram, Senior Edificer or Reverse Engineer is fine, in our deck, these equipment not only draw us cards but also turn our Bastion Inventor into a huge game-ending threat. Inventor's Goggles equips for free even without a Sigarda's Aid, which means Bastion Inventor enters the battlefield as a 5/6 hexproof, which is bigger than pretty much anything in the format. Toss in a Stitcher's Graft and it's an 8/9, and a Cathar's Shield makes it an 8/12 with hexproof and vigilance, so we can get in damage and also leave back a huge blocker. When all is said and done, it's not at all uncommon that we finish the game with a Bastion Inventor with 10, 15, or even 20 power!

Gryff's Boon was a late addition to the deck. The one problem with the "make a huge Bastion Inventor plan" is chump blockers—making a 15/20 hexproof creature sounds great, but if the opponent can just chump block with a random one-drop, it doesn't really do us much good. I scoured all of the equipment to find an answer (Loxodon Warhammer would be amazing in this deck), but there really weren't any good options. Then, I read Sram, Senior Edificer again and realized that maybe an aura would be the answer. After another quick search, I landed on Gryff's Boon. As we draw through our deck by casting equipment, we'll eventually draw one of our two copies, stick it on our Bastion Inventor, and fly over for victory. While our opponent might be able to block for a turn or two with a Heart of Kiran or something similar, there really aren't that many fliers that see play in Standard at the moment, so before long, our opponent will run out of blockers and it will only take us an attack or two to finish the game. 

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Reverse Engineer and Paradoxical Outcome are our other payoff cards. While they aren't as good at directly winning the game as Bastion Inventor, they draw us tons of cards, which in turn helps us find our Bastion Inventors and other important pieces. In our deck, it's not that uncommon that we can cast a Reverse Engineer as early as Turn 2, and almost certainly by Turn 3, and drawing two for three mana is a pretty good deal.

Meanwhile, Paradoxical Outcome is amazing in our deck. While drawing a bunch of cards is super helpful, the main purpose of the instant is to reset our equipment. One of the weird aspects of Sram Aid is that we need to cast all of our equipment in the early game to generate value with Sram, Senior Edificer as well as mana for Bastion Inventor and Reverse Engineer. However, in the mid- to late game, we want to take advantage of the "equip for free" aspect of Sigarda's Aid to make our Bastion Inventor an unbeatably huge threat. Paradoxical Outcome is the perfect card—it not only lets us pick up all of our equipment for only four mana but also draws us a bunch more action along the way!

Other Stuff

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The last non-land card in the main deck is Stone Haven Outfitter, which is partly a bad version of Sram, Senior Edificer (as a two-drop that can sometimes draw us some cards) and partly a bad Bastion Inventor (because it's an Artificer, Inventor's Goggles equips for free, potentially giving us a two-mana 4/5 on Turn 2 but lacking the protection of hexproof). Basically, we needed another creature to round out our deck, and while Stone Haven Outfitter is likely the worst of the creatures in our deck, it does just enough and has just enough synergies with the rest of our cards that it is deserving of a slot. 

Ultra-Budget Sram Aid

First off, we don't really need an ultra-budget list because the deck in the videos already falls into the ultra-budget range. However, if you are looking to play Sram Aid for even less money, the easiest thing to do is just cut the rare dual lands and replace them with more basic lands and Meandering Rivers. This drops the price of the deck all the way down to under $25 in paper and under 4 tix on Magic Online. I actually tried this build for a couple of games, and it is significantly less consistent and a bit less explosive (basically, we sometimes need white mana on Turn 1 for Sigarda's Aid and double blue mana on Turn 2 for Reverse Engineer, and it's basically impossible to have this with the ultra-budget mana base), but after the first two or three turns, it should more or less play the same as the build in the videos.

As far as the main deck, there really aren't a ton of changes to be made, but we do drop down to two copies of Stone Haven Outfitter and add in a couple of Spell Quellers. The bigger changes come in the sideboard, where we get Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to help fight through removal-heavy control and midrange builds, a Selfless Spirit to counter sweepers, and Authority of the Consuls as a better answer to the Copy Cat Combo. All in all, this build has more powerful cards, which should make it better in specific situations, but most of the time, the deck will play about the same as the one built in the videos.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Technically, we finished 3-2, but this includes a loss to Jund Delirium, thanks to a game that we would have won about 95% of the time but found a way to lose, thanks to some crazy running from our opponent. All in all, the deck felt surprisingly competitive. The synergies are strong, and people don't have a way to deal with a huge, flying Bastion Inventor. For the price, you can't go wrong! 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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