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Budget Magic: $65 (20 tix) Blue Skies (Pioneer, Magic Online)


Kamusta, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Thanks to a recent round of Players Tour events, the Pioneer meta has shifted into a combo-heavy field featuring Lotus Breach, Dimir Inverter, and Sultai Delirium. How can a budget deck hope to keep up with a field full of fast combo decks? Take to the skies with a bunch of disruptive fliers, of course! Today, we're heading to Pioneer to play a deck built around pressuring our opponent with fliers and Favorable Winds, backed by card draw, disruption, and some tech just for the top decks in the format. Can a nearly ultra-budget mono-blue deck compete with the top tier of the Pioneer meta? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Blue Skies (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Blue Skies is basically a tempo deck. It can get some very aggressive starts thanks to the combo of a bunch of one-mana flying creatures and Favorable Winds to buff them, while also disrupt the opponent with Wizard's Retort, Mausoleum Wanderer, Judge's Familiar, and Nimble Obstructionist. The goal is to beat our opponent down while disrupting them just enough that we can get their life total to zero before they manage to assemble their combo or wrath away our board.

One-Drops

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Two of our most important one-drops are our Force Spike Birds Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer. These cards add a flying clock to the battlefield on the first turn of the game while also giving us ways to slow down our opponent's spells. Since they are counters that sit out on the battlefield, our opponent can play around them, but playing around a Force Spike requires playing off-curve, which buys us an extra turn or two of attacking our opponent, allowing us to get in extra damage and hopefully close out the game. Apart from being great against combo decks like Lotus Breach, Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer are also good against removal-heavy control and midrange decks, where they can counter wraths and other removal spells that would disrupt our tempo plan.

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Siren Stormtamer gives us another disruptive one-mana flier, one that is especially good at protecting our creatures from our opponent's removal. One of our best ways to quickly close out the game is to snowball the advantage of putting Curious Obsession on a flying creature. The problem is that our creatures are small and die to most removal. Siren Stormtamer gives us a hard counter for removal spells that would kill our Curious Obsession creature while also protecting our biggest finishers, like Tempest Djinn

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Spectral Sailor is our backup one-drop, and it's only a two-of in our deck. The upside of Spectral Sailor is that if the game goes long, we can start to use it to draw extra cards, which oddly turns it into a must-kill threat in some matchups once we get to four mana. Being able to beat down with our creature, leave up our mana for cards like Wizard's Retort or Nimble Obstructionist, and then draw a card with Spectral Sailor if we don't need to do anything else during our opponent's turn is one of the most powerful positions our deck can work itself into.

Other Fliers

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Tempest Djinn is our biggest, baddest flier and our quickest way to close out the game. Since our mana base is mostly basic Islands, it often comes down at a 3/4 on Turn 3 and grows throughout the game as we continue to make our land drops. Thanks to having four toughness, Tempest Djinn dodges most red removal, while having a converted mana cost of three means it dodges Fatal Push without revolt, making it surprising resilient to some of the most played removal spells in the Pioneer format. 

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Nimble Obstructionist does double duty in our deck. On one hand, as a 3/1 flash flier, it's a fine threat on its own, hitting for big chunks of damage in the air to help us close out the game. On the other, it's also one of our tech cards against Dimir Inverter. The idea is that we can allow our opponent to resolve Inverter of Truth, and then when our opponent goes to win the game with Thassa's Oracle, we can cycle Nimble Obstructionist to Stifle the "you win the game" trigger, likely forcing our opponent to lose the game by drawing on an empty library during their next turn! The combination of being a solid creature for our deck's primary flying beatdown plan while also being a great option to fight one of the top decks in the meta makes Nimble Obstructionist an easy four-of in our deck.

The Pump

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If there's a drawback to Blue Skies, it's that most of our creatures are pretty small, which can complicate our plan of killing our opponent before they draw into their combo or wrath. Favorable Winds help to solve this problem, suddenly turning all of our 1/1 fliers into 2/2 fliers, essentially doubling our clock. Meanwhile, Curious Obsession can win games all by itself if left unchecked, not just by pumping one of our creatures but by drawing an extra card each turn, which will find us more disruption, more threats, and hopefully enough creatures to finish our opponent off before they manage to kill us.

Defense

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Rounding out our main deck is a bit more disruption. While Merfolk Trickster sadly doesn't have flying to benefit from Favorable Winds, it's basically our removal spell, flashing into play to fizzle an attack or get a blocker out of the way by tapping it down. Meanwhile, Wizard's Retort will often be a Counterspell in our deck since we incidentally have quite a few Wizards, and a hard two-mana counter is one of our best tools against both Dimir Inverter (where we can counter a combo piece) and Lotus Breach (where hitting a card-draw spell or Underworld Breach can swing the game). 

The Mana

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While most of our mana base is basic Islands for the sake of Tempest Djinn, we also have Ipnu Rivulet, which is another card designed to fight Dimir Inverter. The idea is that if we can leave up Ipnu Rivulet, we can wait until after our opponent exiles their library with Inverter of Truth, mill the few cards they put back into their library, and potentially cause our opponent to lose the game by milling out before they have a chance to play their Thassa's Oracle

Wrap-Up

All in all, our record with Blue Skies was only 2-3, which isn't great, although apart from getting crushed by Sultai Delirium (our deck has a really hard time keeping up with the lifegain and card draw of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath), we were really close in both of our other losses, getting top-decked against WB Auras and taking Dimir Inverter right down to the end of a three-game match. So if things broke a bit better, we easily could have been 3-2 or even 4-1. 

As far as changes I'd make to the deck now that we've played some games. I'm not sure that Ipnu Rivulet is actually worthwhile. While it is theoretically good against Dimir Inverter, in other matchups, it's frustrating that it doesn't grow our Tempest Djinn. Playing it might be focusing too much on one specific matchup, and even though Dimir Inverter is likely the most played deck in Pioneer at the moment, it's probably something like one in every four matches. With Nimble Obstructionist, our counterspells, and the Force Spike birds all being good against Dimir Inverter, Ipnu Rivulet might represent us focusing too much on one deck, even though it is the top deck in the format.

All in all, Blue Skies is a deck that I feel is at least somewhat more competitive than our 2-3 record suggests. While it gets crushed by Sultai Delirium, we did beat Lotus Breach, and I think we have the tools to compete with Dimir Inverter as well, even if it didn't work out the one time we faced it during our videos. Especially for the nearly ultra-budget $65 price tag, I think that Blue Skies is a decent budget option for Pioneer. If you like attacking with fliers and using some sweet, underplayed tricks to eke out value, give it a shot!

Ultra-Budget Blue Skies

Since our deck is already just $65, no ultra-budget list this week. If you're trying to make the deck even cheaper, probably the easiest choice is to drop Mystical Dispute from the sideboard for more copies of Disdainful Stroke and Negate. Another option is cutting Mausoleum Wanderer (which would save about $12) for a random flying one-drop like Faerie Miscreant, but the Force Spike birds are one of the core aspects of the deck, so I'd try to avoid this unless you are really desperate to make the deck as cheap as possible. Otherwise, there isn't really a lot that can be cut from the deck without greatly reducing its power and playability. 

Non-Budget Skies

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If you want to build toward a top-tier deck that plays similarly to Blue Skies, the best option is likely Azorius Spirits. The game plan and even some of the cards are the same, but you get powerful options like Spell Queller and Teferi, Time Raveler along with a bunch of lords like Supreme Phantom and Empyrean Eagle to replace Favorable Winds. If you're looking to directly upgrade Mono-Blue Skies, there aren't a ton of changes to be made. The one card that would improve the deck is Brazen Borrower, which can replace Merfolk Trickster, turning our removal spell from a 2/2 ground creature into a 3/1 flying creature that works with Favorable Winds and Curious Obsession.

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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