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Budget Magic: $58 / 10 Rares | UW Magecraft (Standard)


Salve, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Strixhaven is finally here, which means it's time to start exploring our new Standard format on a budget! While just a lowly uncommon, Clever Lumimancer is one of the most aggressive and exciting cards for the set. Today, we look to embrace the one-drop's potential in a UW Magecraft deck that can pour on an absurd amount of early damage thanks to Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe! The best part? The deck only costs $58 in paper and has just 10 rares (and zero mythics) for Magic Arena! How good is magecraft in Standard? How messed up is Clever Lumimancer itself? Can a deck compete with just 10 rares? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: UW Magecraft

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The Deck

UW Magecraft is basically an aggro / combo deck that shares a lot of similarities with various prowess or blitz decks from older formats. The main idea is to play creatures that benefit from us playing (or copying) instants or sorceries, cast a bunch of cheap instants and sorceries to buff our creatures, and hopefully close out the game super fast, maybe as early as Turn 3 or 4!

Creatures

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The core of UW Magecraft is Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe, both of which grow as we cast or copy cheap instants and sorceries thanks to their magecraft ability. Clever Lumimancer is one of the most aggressive one-drops that has ever been printed. While it starts off with zero power, it's usually attacking for two on Turn 2, and it's pretty easy to grow it into a four-, six-, or even 20-power creature as the game goes along and we cast more spells. Leonin Lightscribe doesn't pump as aggressively as Clever Lumimancer does, only getting +1/+1 when we cast an instant or sorcery, but it makes up for this by pumping our entire team. Things can get crazy really quickly if we can get both of these cards on the battlefield together. Let's say we play Clever Lumimancer on Turn 1 and Leonin Lightscribe on Turn 2. On Turn 3, if we can cast three one-mana spells, Clever Lumimancer will grow to a 9/10, and Leonin Lightscribe will be a 5/5, which is an absurd amount of damage on Turn 3 in Standard!

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Rounding out our creature package are Symmetry Sage and Clarion Spirit. Symmetry Sage is powerful—basically a one-mana 2/2 flier in our deck with the additional upside that we can use its magecraft ability to target Clever Lumimancer to give it +2/+0 or create a Spirit token with Clarion Spirit. The downside is that it always dies to Bonecrusher Giant. (While Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe also die to Bonecrusher Giant without help, if we can cast a single spell, both pump to three toughness and survive the two damage from Stomp.) Meanwhile, Clarion Spirit probably looks strange since it does have magecraft, but since our deck is built to cast a bunch of cheap spells each turn, it's actually very easy to trigger repeatedly to make 1/1 Spirits, which we then can pump with Leonin Lightscribe and Symmetry Sage to close out the game quickly in the air. 

The Spells

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The most important spells in our deck are our one-mana cantrips. The most powerful thing our deck can do is play a couple of magecraft creatures, play a bunch of spells to pump them into massive threats, and kill our opponent by Turn 3 or 4. For this plan to work, we need cheap card-draw spells to keep us churning through our deck in order to find more cheap spells to trigger magecraft on our creatures. Defiant Strike and Opt are basically just "one mana, draw a card, trigger all of your magecraft abilities," which is exactly what our deck wants. Of One Mind is a sneaky all-star, often drawing us two cards for one mana since Clever Lumimancer and Symmetry Sage are Humans, while Clarion Spirit and Leonin Lightscribe are non-Humans. It's not exciting if we have to cast it for three mana but is still a Divination, which isn't the end of the world. Finally, we have one copy of Mentor's Guidance, which is basically two Opts for three mana, as long as we have one of our magecraft creatures on the battlefield. While this might not sound exciting—three mana is a lot for double-Opt—it does trigger our magecraft creatures twice because it copies itself, which is pretty powerful.

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By far the biggest challenge of UW Magecraft is that our creatures are small and die to a lot of removal, and we really need to keep a couple on the battlefield to be able to win the game. As such, having cheap spells to protect our creatures is essential. For this, we turn to Fight as One, which often can protect and pump two creatures thanks to our mixture of Humans and non-Humans, while Sejiri Shelter comes with the upside of being a land, which helps to make up for the fact that two mana is about one more than we'd like to pay for a spell that gives a single creature protection from a color until end of turn. While the main purpose of both cards is to keep our creatures on the battlefield through removal, Sejiri Shelter can also help to close out the game by giving Clever Impersonator protection from whatever color of blockers our opponent might have, to get in a lethal alpha strike.

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For removal, we have Stern Dismissal and Kabira Takedown. While Stern Dismissal doesn't remove a creature permanently, getting rid of a blocker for a turn often is enough to close out the game since our clock is so fast. Meanwhile, Kabira Takedown isn't great, but being an MDFC makes it good enough as a one-of. 

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Finally, we have our big finisher: Show of Confidence. At a glance, Show of Confidence doesn't look that exciting, just putting a +1/+1 counter on a creature for two mana, but it's actually much, much better since it essentially has magecraft storm, copying itself for each instant or sorcery we've cast during the turn. Since both Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe trigger whenever a spell is cast or copied, this offers a truly insane amount of damage. Picture this: it's Turn 4, and we have just a Clever Lumimancer and a Leonin Lightscribe. We cast two of our one-mana spells into Show of Confidence, which will give us the original Show of Confidence and two copies. This triggers Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe five times, turning Leonin Lightscribe into an 8/8 and Clever Lumimancer into a 15/16. And that doesn't even include the three +1/+1 counters we get from Show of Confidence itself! 

The Sideboard

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  • Miscast offers a cheap way to protect against removal and wraths. It's one of the cards we sideboard in the most against midrange and control.
  • Shell Shield protects against targeted removal. Against something like Bonecrusher Giant, just casting it for one mana to pump our creatures' toughness is enough to save many of our creatures, and against hard removal, we can kick it for hexproof.
  • Essence Scatter might be better as more copies of Stern Dismissal or another bounce spell, but it's to answer creature-heavy decks like Adventures.
  • Seasoned Hallowblade / Riddleform give us more resilient threats that dodge removal and sweepers. They are good against any removal-heavy deck but are especially powerful against wraths.
  • Drannith Magistrate offers a bit more hate for Adventure decks, slowing them down by keeping them from casting things from exile.

Playing the Deck

The biggest challenge of playing UW Magecraft is figuring out when we need to rush out our threats as quickly as possible to close out the game and when we need to play them off-curve so we can leave up protection like Fight as One to keep them on the battlefield. There's no hard answer to this question. In some cases, if we play too slow, we will let our opponent get to powerful midrange threats like Elder Gargaroth or finishers like Emergent Ultimatum. On the other hand, if we just always run out our creatures and they die, we're left spinning our wheels casting cantrips without much of a purpose. 

Speaking of protecting our creatures, it's important to realize that any spell in our deck can be protection for Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe against removal like Bonecrusher Giant since even casting an Opt will grow our creatures enough that they survive the damage. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we went 3-2 with UW Magecraft and experienced both the incredible highs and lows of the archetype. We had some absurd games against Yorion and Adventures, where we'd grow our Clever Lumimancer into a nearly 20-power creature and just kill our opponent on Turn 4—the deck is super explosive. On the other hand, we played against Mono-Black Auras, which was overloaded with Dead Weights and Mire's Grasps, and it felt like we had zero chance of winning (in part because of the amount of removal our opponent had and in part because enchantments get around many of our sideboard cards, like Miscast and Seasoned Hallowblade).

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm pretty happy with the main deck but not nearly as happy with the sideboard. Riddleform and Seasoned Hallowblade are solid, and Miscast is essential, but Essence Scatter would probably be better as another bounce spell, Drannith Magistrate might not be necessary (the deck already felt solid against Adventures), and Shell Shield can be a bit clunky and might be better as more copies of Seasoned Hallowblade or Riddleform.

UW Magecraft felt super powerful. It was perhaps one of the most explosive Arena budget decks we've ever played. It can do some really crazy things and pick up some really fast wins. On the other hand, there are certain decks (those overloaded with cheap removal, like Rogues and Auras) that can be tough to beat because we only have 16 creatures, and the rest of our deck is dependent on keeping those creatures on the battlefield. Despite some tough matchups, I feel like UW Magecraft matches up pretty well against many of the top-tier decks in the meta, like various Yorion Piles, Sultai Ultimatum, and Adventure decks. Plus, you can't beat the 10-rare price tag! If you like slinging spells and killing opponents quickly, I'd definitely recommend it as a solid budget option, although the fact that our creatures are pretty fragile might keep it from being a legitimate top-tier option in Standard.

Ultra-Budget UW Magecraft

No ultra-budget list this week. There are only 10 rares in the deck, and both Leonin Lightscribe and Hengegate Pathway are uncuttable. If you want to save a couple more wildcards, dropping Drannith Magistrate is fine (you can replace it with either more Stern Dismissals or more Seasoned Hallowblades). 

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Our non-budget list doesn't undergo any massive changes, although it does get a few solid upgrades. Brazen Borrower joins the mix over Stern Dismissal, while we get more dual lands in our mana base (which should be helpful since we did have some games with the budget build where we got color screwed thanks to our lack of dual lands). Otherwise, the sideboard gets an overhaul, although it doesn't really add that many rares or mythics outside of a couple of Brazen Borrowers. All in all, the non-budget build is a meaningful upgrade, mostly thanks to the improved mana, and still comes in at under 20 total rares and mythics, so it shouldn't break the bank.

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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