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Budget Magic: $55 (36 tix) Standard Mardu Threaten

Jeeka, ma chi uula Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we are heading back to Oath of the Gatewatch Standard for Mardu Threaten, a deck that hits all the checkmarks of a great Budget Magic deck. First of all, it's cheap, costing only $55 in paper and 36 tix online. Second, it's competitive, as you'll see in the videos. Third, and most importantly, it's a ton of fun to play!

Since we spent the last couple of weeks playing decks involving the new Oath of the Gatewatch Eldrazi, this week I wanted to build a deck that would be good against the Eldrazi decks that keep popping up in Standard. One thing that makes the Eldrazi powerful is they are really hard to kill with spells. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is indestructible, Kozilek, the Great Distortion can counter everything, even Reality Smasher and Matter Reshaper have abilities that often make killing them two-for-ones in our opponent's favor. So I figured, what if instead of trying to kill the Eldrazi, we just took control of them, used them to smash our opponent's life total, and then killed them in a way that was beneficial to us?  

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

Mardu Threaten Intro

Mardu Threaten vs GR Eldrazi Ramp

Mardu Threaten vs BUG Eldrazi

Mardu Threaten vs Mono-Black Eldrazi

Mardu Threaten vs UB Aristocrats

Mardu Threaten vs Mardu Eldrazi

The Deck

As you can see in the videos, the plan is fairly simple. We steal our opponent's creatures using our nearly endless supply of Threaten effects. Then after smashing our opponent with their own creature, we use Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Butcher of the Horde, and Nantuko Husk to sacrifice the creature before we have to give it back at the end of the turn. 


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The reason the deck works is we have a critical mass of good Threaten effects in Standard. Most important of our creature Threatens is Eldrazi Obligator and Jeering Instigator. While it might be possible to play the strategy with all Act of Treasons, leaving behind a body after stealing a creature is a huge tempo boost to the deck. 

Eldrazi Obligator is the best Threaten in the deck because it not only steals a creature but also has haste. Haste is super helpful in dealing with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, since we can play Eldrazi Obligator on turn five, steal the 2/2 token, and attack Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with both creatures to get him off the battlefield. Beyond this scenario, it offers a really good way to close out games. Stealing a Reality Smasher and attacking with both creatures offers eight damage out of nowhere, and things get even crazier when we steal an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

The best part of Jeering Instigator is that no one expects it. Seriously, when someone plays a morph against you in Standard, what runs through your head? Den Protector, maybe Rattleclaw Mystic or Hidden Dragonslayer? The point is, Jeering Instigator is nowhere on the list. As a result, people tend to play their big creatures even when we have a face-down Jeering Instigator on the battlefield, which allows us to steal and smash the following turn. 

Maybe the most important aspect of both creature Threatens is that they get around some tricky cards. For instance, we can steal and sacrifice a Reality Smasher to get rid of it without discarding a card. We can steal and sacrifice a Matter Reshaper to draw a card, and both cards play around the counter ability of Kozilek, the Great Distortion

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Act of Treason is the worst of our Threaten effects because it doesn't leave behind a body. It's necessary because we really need to make sure we have access to a creature stealing spell when we need one. Turn Against has some upside since we can steal an opponent's creature at instant speed. We can play it after our opponent has declared attacks, steal one of the attackers, use it to block the other attacker, and potentially get a two-for-one in the process. 

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Mob Rule is in the deck on the theory that sealing a Kozilek, the Great Distortion and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger at the same time and attacking our opponent for lethal has to be one of the sweetest possible kills in Standard. That said, I never drew it, and it likely isn't very good in many situations. 

The Sacrifice Outlets

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The other reason we play Mardu Threaten is that along with having a bunch of good Threaten effects, we also get a ton of cheap and powerful sacrifice outlets. While we actually have to spend a mana to activate Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim's sacrifice ability, she makes up for this downside by being a really powerful two-drop in our deck that is lacking early game creatures. Having deathtouch means she can trade with just about any creature our opponent could play. Her second ability seems really powerful, but I never got to the 30 life necessary to activate it. 

There's really not much to say about Nantuko Husk. It's pretty much a Standard staple based solely on how good it is at sacrificing things. Being able to activate the sacrifice ability for free is a huge deal, since it allows us to play an Eldrazi Obligator or Turn Against on turn five, instead of waiting another turn to leave up a mana to sacrifice the creature with Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim or Collateral Damage.

Butcher of the Horde is just a good card. Not only does it let us sacrifice a creature for free, it's a 5/4 flier, which helps us close out games quickly. 

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These two cards are what I like to call our "sneaky sacrifice outlets." Once our opponent wises up to our plan of stealing, smashing, and sacing, one of the ways they will try to disrupt us is by using removal to kill our sacrifice outlet in response to our Threatens, so they get their creature back at the end of turn. In these cases, Collateral Damage and Altar's Reap become "gotchya" sacrifice outlets, letting us get rid of our opponent's creature permanently, even through a removal spell. Plus, having access to Lightning Bolt is never a bad thing. In one game we finished off our opponent by attacking with Eldrazi Obligator and sacrificing it to Collateral Damage for exacties. 


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Our removal package is designed to shore up some problems for our deck. Fiery Impulse kills our opponent's one or two drop, which is important for two reasons. First of all, stealing a Monastery Swiftspear or Zurgo Bellstriker feels like a waste of a Threaten, but more importantly our "steal a creature" plan doesn't start until turn three. Without some early game removal we would get run over by aggro decks before we even got a chance to start stealing things. 

Ruinous Path gives us an out to planeswalkers. While we can use our haste creatures and Threatens to beat down planeswalkers with creature damage, it's nice to have a backup plan for when our opponent resolves a Chandra, Flamecaller or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Murderous Cut is just a good, unconditional way to kill something at instant speed. A card like Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury would be really hard for our deck to beat because most of our Threatens are sorcery speed. As such we generally want to try to save our Murderous Cuts to deal with certain hard to interact with creatures. 

The Siege

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It seems like I include Outpost Siege in pretty much every Red deck I build. It does such a good job of mimicking the card advantage of Chandra, Pyromaster. In many matches it feels like a resolved Outpost Siege is game over for the opponent since we are essentially drawing two cards a turn to their one. It helps us find Threatens or sacrifice outlets, depending on what we need, and helps us push through awkward draws and find more action. All around, it's just a good card. 

The ultra budget version of Mardu Threaten has one major problem: it loses Eldrazi Obligator, the best Threaten effect in Standard. In its place we get more copies of Turn Against and a bit more removal, which is fine, but still represents a major downgrade from Eldrazi Obligator. The reason we had to cut Eldrazi Obligator isn't so much the cost of the card itself, it's only $8 a play set, but because playing Eldrazi Obligator means we need to play eight pain lands to have access to colorless mana. By cutting Eldrazi Obligator, we cut the painlands, rework the manabase, and get the deck down to the $30 range. Be warned, if you build this version with the idea of upgrading, do not play Eldrazi Obligator without adding the pain lands as well. You'll never be able to pay the colorless kicker without them. 

Since we already have all the best sacrifice outlets and Threaten effect in Standard, there really aren't a ton of changes for the non-budget version of Mardu Threaten. Clearly the biggest addition is Kolaghan's Command, which allows the deck to get even more grindy by getting back a Threaten creature that our opponent has killed. Otherwise, we upgrade the mana base with some creaturelands, a few fetches, and better duals. While I think this version is more powerful and consistent than the budget version, and I would add these cards if you have access to them, I wouldn't make buying these upgrades a huge priority. The amount they improve the deck seems fairly minimal. 


Anyway, that's all for today. I was really impressed with Mardu Threaten. Not only does it generate some salt from our opponents when we steal a huge Eldrazi out of nowhere, it's really fun to play. I'd certainly play it at an FNM, and even against stronger competition depending on what the format looks like. The more non-interactive Eldrazi decks there are in your local meta, the more success you'll have with the deck. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestion in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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