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Budget Magic: $70 (20 tix) Modern Monumental Quest


Jó napot kívánok, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! A few weeks ago, we played an Oketra's Monument deck in Modern for Much Abrew, and while the deck itself was middling at best, one of the big takeaways was that Oketra's Monument is really powerful and has a lot of potential in the format. So this week, we are looking to harness the power of the legendary artifact but with a twist. Rather than just using Oketra's Monument to go wide with a bunch of 1/1 Warrior tokens, we can also use it to go tall with the help of Quest for the Holy Relic tutoring up Argentum Armor! Quest for the Holy Relic also helps to solve one of the biggest problems with many Oketra's Monument decks, in that when you don't have a monument on the battlefield, you're left playing a bunch of underpowered creatures without a payoff. Can the combination of Oketra's Monument and Quest for the Holy Relic lead to a competitive Modern deck, backed by some efficient and tricky white creatures? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Monumental Quest (Deck Tech)

Monumental Quest vs. Death & Taxes

Monumental Quest vs. UR Breach Moon

Monumental Quest vs. Faerie Ninja Delver

Monumental Quest vs. Conley Woods Combo

Monumental Quest vs. UR Storm

The Deck

The basic idea of Monumental Quest is actually pretty simple: we try to stick either an Oketra's Monument or Quest for the Holy Relic (or both) during the early turns and then use them to win the game by casting a ton of cheap white creatures. One of the most interesting aspects of the deck is that it can play in two very different ways, either looking to go wide with 1/1s and then pumping them into bigger threats or by going tall by getting a massive equipment on a single creature. While we'll talk a bit about both plans, let's start by looking at our two namesake cards.

Monumental Quest

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Oketra's Monument is a really powerful artifact, not just making all of our white creatures (which is basically all of our creatures) cheaper but making each one come along with a 1/1 Warrior kicker. The best part of Oketra's Monument is that it's pretty easy to build around—all we need to do is play a lot of cheap white creatures. The problem with playing a bunch of cheap white creatures is that they often aren't all that powerful, which means when we don't have a copy of Oketra's Monument to make a ton of tokens, our deck doesn't do much of anything. This is where Quest for the Holy Relic comes in.

Quest for the Holy Relic is actually a lot like Oketra's Monument—it gives us a payoff for playing a lot of cheap white creatures. While the way it pays off is a lot different (giving us one massive threat thanks to the free equipment), the way we get to the payoff is very similar to Oketra's Monument. Having both in the deck means we are likely to have at least one of our payoffs in our opening hand, solving the "monument deck without a monument" problem.

Oddly, Oketra's Monument and Quest for the Holy Relic both work well together and help shore up each other's weaknesses. When we have an Oketra's Monument on the battlefield with Quest for the Holy Relic, it's super easy to get enough quest counters to trigger our quest. On the other hand, our two different plans—going wide with Oketra's Monument or tall with Quest for the Holy Relic—are good in very different matchups. Going wide with 1/1 tokens is great against fair decks, where the targeted removal from decks like Jund and Delver have a hard time keeping up, while going tall with Argentum Armor and Quest for the Holy Relic gives us a chance to compete with unfair decks like Tron by blowing up their lands. 

Support Creatures

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Both Oketra's Monument and Quest for the Holy Relic trigger whenever we cast a creature, which means the more creatures we cast, the more powerful the Monumental Quest plan becomes. Rather than trying to cast a whole bunch of different creatures, the trick of our deck is to play creatures we can cast over and over and over again. Whitemane Lion is our best combo piece. When it enters the battlefield, it forces us to return a creature we control to our hand, which means we can keep bouncing it to its own ability to generate quest counters or make 1/1 Warriors with Oketra's Monument. Once we have an Oketra's Monument on the battlefield, we can use Whitemane Lion to make a Warrior for each mana we have available, which actually makes it a lot like the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo. Even better, since it has flash, we can wait until the end of our opponent's turn, make a huge board full of tokens, and immediately untap to attack our opponent for a bunch of damage. 

Of course, when we aren't using Whitemane Lion as a combo piece, we can also use it to save our other creatures from removal spells by flashing it in and picking up whatever creature is targeted, or even to fizzle a big attack from our opponent by chump blocking their biggest creature and then picking up the blocking creature before damage.

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Aviary Mechanic and Kor Skyfisher are our backup Whitemane Lions. The biggest drawback to both is that they lose flash, which makes it impossible to use them to save our other creatures from removal or to fizzle attacks, but thankfully, both have upsides as well. The biggest upside of Aviary Mechanic is that the bounce ability is a may, so unlike Whitemane Lion and Kor Skyfisher, we can run it out as a regular Grizzly Bears if we need to, although the dwarf also has the downside of not being able to bounce itself, which means we can't do the Whitemane Lion trick of playing it over and over again in the same turn. Meanwhile, Kor Skyfisher can bounce itself and gives us a reasonable flying body to threaten our opponent in the air. It's also worth noting that both allow us to bounce any permanent rather than just creatures, which lets us do some sweet tricks. For example, we only have 21 land in our deck, so if we miss a land drop, we can cast either Aviary Mechanic or Kor Skyfisher for two mana and then use their enters-the-battlefield ability to pick up and replay one of our lands, essentially making either cost just a single mana. 

Altogether, the power of these cards is that we only need one or two of them to generate a ton of value with Oketra's Monument or Quest for the Holy Relic, since we can keep bouncing them to their own abilities (or to each other's abilities) to make a board full of Warriors or to turn on Quest for the Holy Relic

Card Advantage

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Thraben Inspector might be the best card in our entire deck. It comes down on Turn 1 and makes a Clue, and then we can spend the rest of the game bouncing it with Whitemane Lions, Aviary Mechanics, and Kor Skyfishers to make even more Clues, giving us a steady stream of card advantage and helping us find our quests and monuments. It's also a good, cheap chump blocker while we are waiting to set up Quest for the Holy Relic and Oketra's Monument. Meanwhile, Sky Hussar is a bit strange in our deck, since we don't have any blue mana, which means we can never cast it, but it does do a great job of digging through our deck by allowing us to tap our random Warrior tokens and Thraben Inspectors to draw a card. It often ends up playing like our own personal Howling Mine and makes sure we never run out of action. 

Going Wide

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As I mentioned earlier, Monumental Quest usually wins in one of two ways. Either we go wide with Oketra's Monument tokens or go tall with Argentum Armor from Quest for the Holy Relic. The going-wide plan is fairly simple: we make a ton of tokens with Oketra's Monument with the help of all of our bounce creatures, and then we pump them up with Honor of the Pure and Signal Pest. Honor of the Pure is great in our deck, not just making all of our 1/1 Warrior tokens into 2/2s but pumping our various bounce creatures as well. This makes it really easy to go from nothing to a lethal board out of nowhere. Imagine we pass our Turn 5 with just an Honor of the Pure and Oketra's Monument on the battlefield. At the end of our opponent's turn, we can cast Whitemane Lion five times and make a total of 10 power and toughness, all for just five mana at instant speed!

Signal Pest might look weird, since it's the only non-white creature in our deck, but it's actually very strong for two reasons. First, it gives us another way to pump all of our small creatures thanks to battle cry, which helps us push through damage and close out the game. Second, it gives us another one-drop that we can bounce with our Aviary Mechanic or Kor Skyfisher to put more counters on Quest for the Holy Relic

Going Tall

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When it comes to tutoring up (and equipping) things with Quest for the Holy Relic we only have one option in our deck: two copies of Argentum Armor. While it's probably possible to play a wider variety of equipment like Batterskull and various Swords, these cards are tough to fit under the budget. Plus, Argentum Armor is just the biggest, baddest equipment in Modern, not just giving our creature +6/+6 but also letting us Vindicate whenever we attack. 

Argentum Armor is especially good against unfair decks, which are often just fast enough to race the Oketra's Monument plan (especially considering we don't have Leyline of Sanctity, Rest in Peace, or Stony Silence, since they are too expensive for the budget), allowing us to blow up a land (like a Tron piece) and hopefully slow our opponent down just enough that we can close out the game. 

The biggest challenge with Argentum Armor is that it costs six mana to equip, which means we very rarely have the ability to get it on one of our creatures without the help of Quest for the Holy Relic. As a result, it's usually a good idea to try to play around removal as much as possible. Something as simple as a Path to Exile or Fatal Push on the creature we equip to can ruin all of our hard work (this is one of the reasons why this plan is especially good against unfair decks like Ad Nauseam and Tron, since they don't usually have much targeted removal to blow us out).

Other Stuff

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Finally, we have a playset of Path to Exile, which is just the most efficient white removal spell in Modern. While four copies of Path to Exile does eat up a lot of the budget, it's worth it, since the downgrade to the next-best option (something like Condemn, Declaration in Stone, or Journey to Nowhere) is massive. Plus, Monumental Quest really values mana efficiency, since we want to have as much mana as possible to spend playing and bouncing our own creatures to trigger Quest for the Holy Relic and Oketra's Monument, which makes Path to Exile even more important to our deck.

Wrap Up

All in all, we finished our video matches 3-2, although our overall record with the deck was 4-3 (we lost a rematch against Delver and beat a misbuilt Enchantress deck that made the mistake of playing Trace of Abundance on lands they wanted to untap with Arbor Elf and Garruk Wildspeaker). Generally speaking, the deck felt pretty competitive. We're naturally good against fair decks because we have a ton of chump blockers, lots of tricky creatures to fizzle targeted removal, and some good removal. On the other hand, we can still struggle against unfair decks like Storm. While Argentum Armor helps a lot against slower unfair decks like Ad Nauseam and Tron, there isn't much a budget Mono-White deck can do against fast combo decks except try to race, and while this plan sometimes works, we end up just a turn too slow more often than not. 

Monumental Quest is definitely a deck that plays much better than it looks. On paper, we're just a pile of 2/2s, which doesn't seem especially competitive in Modern, but the deck is overloaded with synergy and actually quite powerful once it gets going. 

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There really aren't very many changes I'd make to the budget build after playing the matches. I've been debating the fourth Kor Skyfisher over the fourth Aviary Mechanic, but I'm still not sure what's right. It's also possible that we should be playing some number of Ghost Quarters, although they are awkward, since we want all of our lands to tap for white mana so we can cast Whitemane Lion as many times as possible with Oketra's Monument out. While we'll talk more about this with the non-budget build, some of the easiest upgrades you can make are to improve the sideboard. One of the biggest reasons to play white in Modern is that the color has a bunch of all-star sideboard cards, including Leyline of Sanctity, Rest in Peace, Rule of Law, and Stony Silence, so if you have some copies floating around, you might as well throw them into Monumental Quest (and if you don't have them, they are a really solid investment into Modern, since you'll play them in most white decks you build).

Pushing Monumental Quest down into the ultra-budget range is actually pretty easy: we cut Path to Exile and replace them with Fiend Hunter. While this is a pretty big downgrade in some matchups, Fiend Hunter does offer some sweet synergy with our deck, coming down for just two mana if we have Oketra's Monument and exiling creatures forever if we can bounce it with Whitemane Lion with the exile trigger on the stack. If you're trying to make the deck even cheaper, you can also drop Selfless Spirit from the sideboard, although it would make the deck weaker against control. Adding an extra Brave the Elements or Burrenton Forge-Tender can take care of Pyroclasm and Anger of the Gods, but they don't really save our board against Damnation or Supreme Verdict

For the non-budget build of Monumental Quest, we change three things. First, we change up our equipment package to make it good in a wider range of matchups. As I mentioned before, the big challenge with Argentum Armor is the equip cost is so high that if our free equip creature gets killed, we can almost never equip it again. Adding some other equipment helps to solve this problem. While the non-budget build still has Argentum Armor as a Quest for the Holy Relic target, it also has Batterskull for some lifelink and to be another big threat, while Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow give us protection from all of the most popular removal colors in Modern while also helping us to force damage through blockers. Second, we add some blue mana to the mana base so we can cast Sky Hussar and also play a couple of Negates in the sideboard to fight unfair decks. Finally, we change up the sideboard with a bunch of the best white sideboard cards in the format, including Rest in Peace, Leyline of Sanctity, and Eidolon of Rhetoric, which should further help our deck fight against combo. All in all, these changes are a meaningful upgrade, although the blue splash probably isn't 100% necessary. I'd start by fixing the sideboard first, followed by improving the equipment package and then adding blue mana as the last step.

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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