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Budget Magic: $67 (44 tix) Standard Inspiring U-Drazi


Boka, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! This week, we are heading to Aether Revolt Standard to play a deck I've been trying to make work almost since Aether Revolt was released: Inspiring U-Drazi! On paper, Inspiring Statuary looks like a broken Magic card. In the worst case, it's a three-mana mana rock, but at its best, it's adding tons of mana, since it turns all of our artifacts into mana rocks. The problem is that Inspiring Statuary only makes generic mana and it can't help cast artifacts, which makes finding good things to cast with it challenging. Thankfully, in Oath of the Gatewatch, Wizards gave us a ton of colorless creatures that are super powerful and also not artifacts: the Eldrazi! It's almost like Eldrazi and Inspiring Statuary were built for each other. Throw in a few more artifacts for ramping and some removal and counters to disrupt the opponent and we have the makings of a real powerful deck!

Of course, the question for any Standard deck is, "Can you keep up with Mardu Vehicles and Four-Color Copy Cat?" Unsurprisingly, we ran into both decks during our videos this week, so you'll be able to judge for yourself. Let's get to the videos, and then we'll talk more about the deck.

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Inspiring U-Drazi: Deck Tech

Inspiring U-Drazi vs. Mardu Vehicles

Inspiring U-Drazi vs. Four-Color Copy Cat

Inspiring U-Drazi vs. GB Energy

Inspiring U-Drazi vs. UB Zombies

Inspiring U-Drazi vs. UR Emerge

The Deck

As soon as Inspiring Statuary was spoiled, I knew I wanted to use it to cast colorless Eldrazi, but it actually took me quite a while (a couple of months) to get the deck to the point where I felt like it was fairly competitive. The first attempts had two major problems. First, I started off playing mono-colorless, which gives the deck access to a ton of powerful non-basic lands but left it lacking in options. Eventually, it became clear that going two-color (colorless and another color) was necessary. The second problem was many of my early builds of the deck were all-in on Inspiring Statuary, playing underpowered artifacts like Servo Schematic and Cogworker's Puzzleknot to cast big Eldrazi as quickly as possible. While this worked great sometimes, there were also some really awkward games where we simply would fail to draw an Inspiring Statuary, play a bunch of Servo Schematics, and die with our Eldrazi still in hand. Eventually, I realized that Inspiring Statuary doesn't need a ton of artifacts to be good. Even by itself, it isn't horrible as a three-mana mana rock, and with just one or two other artifacts, it becomes super powerful. It was this realization (that we didn't have to play a ton of sub-par artifacts to make Inspiring Statuary good) that really made Inspiring U-Drazi come together.

The Ramp

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We've already talked quite a bit about Inspiring Statuary, so I'm not going to go too in-depth here. Basically, at it's worse, Inspiring Statuary adds a mana, and at its best, it's allowing us to cast cards like Elder Deep-Fiend without emerging or tapping any lands, which is pretty absurd. It also gives us the ability to tap our artifacts, which is pretty sweet with one of our other artifacts...

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Key to the City is sneakily one of the most powerful cards in our deck. It comes down on Turn 2, so it's on curve with Inspiring Statuary, and it's an artifact, so we can tap it for mana once we have our Inspiring Statuary. More importantly, it has a really powerful "untaps" trigger that generates a ton of card advantage over the long game. The idea of Key to the City is that you can use it to loot—by discarding a card and then paying two mana to draw a card when you untap, which is fairly powerful in its own right. However, in our deck, we skip over the "discard a card" part by tapping Key to the City for mana with improvise, which means we basically have our own personal Howling Mine that costs us two mana each turn. Over the course of a long game, this adds up to a lot of additional cards and often helps us drown our opponent in card advantage. Then, when it comes time to finish our opponent off, we can use it to make our big Eldrazi unblockable to close out the game quickly, even though chump blockers.

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Prophetic Prism is actually really bad in our deck, since it can't make colorless mana to help us cast Matter Reshaper or Thought-Knot Seer and we are mono-colored (so adding mana of any color isn't really helpful), but it is a necessary evil. Because of our curve, we really needed an additional two-mana artifact, and Prophetic Prism was the best option for the budget (in a non-budget build, this would probably be Walking Ballista). The good news is that Prophetic Prism is actually really good when we have an Inspiring Statuary on the battlefield, as basically a Mind Stone that draws us a card when it enters the battlefield, instead of when it leaves the battlefield. Meanwhile, Deadlock Trap gives us a way to deal with planeswalkers, which can be a problem for our deck if they resolve. While we can beat them down with our creatures, it's nice to have a way to keep them in check for a couple of turns while we are looking for an answer. Plus, the bar is pretty low for artifacts in our deck, since even at their worst, they are tapping for mana thanks to Inspiring Statuary.

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Confirm Suspicions is insanely powerful in conjunction with Inspiring Statuary, basically giving us the ability to build our own Mana Drain. With an Inspiring Statuary on the battlefield, we can often cast Confirm Suspicions for just two "real" mana thanks to improvise, and then when it resolves, Confirm Suspicions gives us three Clue tokens that are essentially Mind Stones, since we can both tap them for mana and sacrifice them to draw cards. This lets us jump all way from five mana on Turn 4 (assuming we have an Inspiring Statuary) to eight mana on Turn 5, which means we can start hard casting Elder Deep-Fiends to Time Walk our opponent out of the game.

Eldrazi

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Matter Reshaper is the least powerful of our Eldrazi but also one of the most important. Standard is a pretty aggressive place, so having Matter Reshaper come down on Turn 3 as a blocker is very important. Plus, Matter Reshaper is rarely bad because it cycles when it dies, and it occasionally does even more by putting a land or random artifact directly onto the battlefield. I mentioned Elder Deep-Fiend a minute ago, and while our main plan is to hard cast it with improvise, Matter Reshaper is also a great emerge target if we don't have an Inspiring Statuary.

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Thought-Knot Seer is still good, shutting down nearly all of the ground creatures from Mardu Vehicles thanks to its four toughness and stripping away combo pieces from Copy Cat decks. It's also a fairly fast clock that can help make sure we have enough attackers to close out the game once we tap down all of our opponent's creatures with Elder Deep-Fiend. There's really not much more to say about it—it's been a good card in both Modern and Standard for so long that most people understand its power. However, it is worth reminding everyone that Inspiring Statuary doesn't help us pay the colorless mana cost of Thought-Knot Seer, so while we can get it all the way down to one mana with the help of improvise, we can't make it free (the same is true of Matter Reshaper). Thankfully, we have a bunch of lands that produce colorless mana in the deck, so casting it by Turn 4 usually isn't a problem.

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Drowner of Hope does double duty in our deck, and in some ways, it is almost Elder Deep-Fiends five through seven. While it can't tap down our opponent's lands, it can tap down creatures by sacrificing the Eldrazi Scion tokens it makes. This means it's great when we are behind, since it can tap down threatening attackers, but also amazing when we are ahead, allowing us to tap down our opponent's blockers and get in big hits of damage. Having five toughness is also nice because, unlike Thought-Knot Seer, this means it dodges Chandra, Torch of Defiance's minus ability and also random removal spells like Grasp of Darkness, so it's actually really difficult for most decks to kill. 

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Elder Deep-Fiend is our finisher, and it's great in our deck. While we do emerge it out on occasion, part of the reason it's so good in our deck is that it's colorless, so we can sometimes cast it for free (or very cheap) just by tapping all of our artifacts. We can do this on our opponent's upkeep to essentially make them skip a turn by tapping most of their lands, or we can do it during our turn to tap down our opponent's blockers to get in a big attack and close out the game.

Other Stuff

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Spell Shrivel gives us an additional counter that can hit anything, and since it only has one blue mana symbol, it works well with Inspiring Statuary. Meanwhile, a couple of copies of Glimmer of Genius help us dig through our deck to find our important pieces while also providing energy to power up our Deadlock Trap

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Finally, we have a bit of removal. Warping Wail is in the deck because it's the best answer (outside of counters) we have to a Felidar Guardian while also being reasonable against Mardu Vehicles. Plus, even in matchups where it's bad at killing creatures, we can always just make a Scion token and get some value out of it. Scour from Existence is great but only if we have an Inspiring Statuary, which makes it somewhat high variance. Exiling anything is nice, but it sometimes gets stuck in our hand because it's so expensive. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished with a 3-2 record, which isn't horrible, especially considering we managed to beat both Mardu Vehicles and Four-Color Copy Cat, which together make up about 70% of our current Standard format. The Copy Cat matchup actually felt pretty good. Our creatures are bigger than our opponent's creatures, so we weren't in too much danger of dying to random Rogue Refiners, which meant that all we have to do was deal with the combo and we should be able to win. Meanwhile, Mardu Vehicles is more challenging (I played against it again later and lost to it), and we benefited from our opponent having some weird draws. While Inspiring U-Drazi has the power to keep up with the cars, when our opponent gets a fast start, they can still run us over before we have a chance to stabilize, especially if our draws are slow. 

Since the build of Inspiring U-Drazi from the videos was only $66, it's pretty close to ultra-budget range itself, but if you want to make it even cheaper, the only real way to do it is by cutting Thought-Knot Seer, which is almost $30 a playset. While Thought-Knot Seer is one of the best Eldrazi in the deck, you can get by without it if you're just playing for fun. The problem is that there isn't an obvious substitute, so to fill the void, we add in four Drowner of Hope, a Conduit of Ruin and Kozilek, the Great Distortion, and another Warping Wail. This build is fun and should be fine for the kitchen table, but if you start taking it to tournaments, you'll definitely want to upgrade to Thought-Knot Seer.

One of the benefits of building around Eldrazi is the deck ended up fairly cheap, not because we are leaving out important but expensive cards but because the Eldrazi themselves simply aren't all that expensive. As such, we only have a few additions to our non-budget build this week. First and most impactful is Walking Ballista, which is not only a very good Magic card that happens to be strong against the two big decks in Standard, but it is also an artifact, so we can tap it for mana with Inspiring Statuary. Otherwise, we get Sanctum of Ugin in the mana base over some of our less-powerful colorless lands to help us chain together Elder Deep-Fiends or to help tutor up our last addition: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. In the main deck, the Eldrazi Titan is only a one-of tutor target because it's slow, but we have a couple of more in the sideboard to bring in as a trump card against slow control decks. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. I had a blast playing Inspiring U-Drazi, and it was nice to finally find a budget-friendly deck that didn't just get crushed by the two big decks in the format! 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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