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Budget Magic: $71 Rotation-Proof Mono-Red Cavalcade (Standard, Magic Arena)

Grias god, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're looking to the future. While we're technically playing Core Set 2020 Standard, we're using a deck that is completely rotation-proof: Mono-Red Cavalcade! If you're somehow not familiar with rotation, the basic idea is when Throne of Eldraine is released in just about a month, all of Ixalan along with Dominaria and Core Set 2019 will leave Standard, leaving us with both Ravnica sets, War of the Spark, and Core Set 2020 to make up our Standard format (along with Throne of Eldraine). As such, our deck today is built exclusively out of cards from the sets that remain in Standard after rotation, which means you should be good to go on Magic Arena or at your local FNM immediately after Throne of Eldraine is released! (And with a bit of luck, the deck might even get an upgrade or two from Throne of Eldraine itself.)

I should mention that Mono-Red Cavalcade isn't a brand new deck; a build 5-0'ed on Magic Online recently. So rather than building this week's deck from scratch, my main contribution to the archetype was making some changes to get rid of rotating cards in favor of cards that will survive rotation. The main plan of the deck is simple: we have a ton of one-power creatures to trigger Cavalcade of Calamity along with a pseudo-combo kill with Chandra's Spitfire (which gets +3/+0 for each Cavalcade of Calamity trigger), allowing it to get in for oodles of damage in the air, and we back it all up with some powerful burn like Heartfire and Shock to clear away blockers or go to our opponent's face to close out the game. Can a rotation-proof build of Mono-Red Cavalcade compete in pre-rotation Standard? Let's find out! Then, we'll talk more about the deck! Oh yeah, one last thing. Technically, I'm away on vacation this week, so the article is a bit shorter than normal. 

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Budget Magic: Rotation-Proof Mono-Red Cavalcade

The Deck

Mono-Red Cavalcade is an aggro deck. The primary plan is to stick some one-power creatures in the early game, along with a Cavalcade of Calamity to essentially double up their damage, and then close out the game by attacking or with burn spells, once our opponent's life total is low enough. While the deck seems good right now, it should be even better after rotation, as it loses zero cards while all of the other top decks in Standard lose at least a little something, and some (like Scapeshift) will likely cease to exist altogether.

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Cavalcade of Calamity is the centerpiece of our deck. In the early game, it essentially doubles up the damage from our one-power creatures, and then later in the game, it allows us to force damage through blockers since even if our opponent has blockers, Cavalcade of Calamity will still ping our opponent. It also offers a pseudo-combo kill with Chandra's Spitfire. Because Chandra's Spitfire triggers (to get +3/+0) whenever our opponent takes noncombat damage, this means that each Cavalcade of Calamity trigger pumps Chandra's Spitfire. If Chandra's Spitfire is the only creature we have on the battlefield alongside Cavalcade of Calamity, it essentially attacks for five in the air (one from the Cavalcade ping and four more from Spitfire itself), but it gets especially crazy when we have a bunch of cheap one-power creatures. Chandra's Spitfire gets +3/+0 for each attacking creature, which often means it hits for something like 13 or even 16 damage!

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As for our one-power creatures, we start off with a bunch of one-drops, each with an upside. Footlight Fiend pings something when it dies, which means it works especially well with Heartfire and Mask of Immolation. Scorch Spitter basically has a personal Cavalcade of Calamity built into it and pings for one when it attacks, making it another way to up the power on Chandra's Spitfire and allowing it to attack for two on an empty board. Meanwhile, Tin Street Dodger can make itself (mostly) unblockable for one mana, which means if we really need to get in a ping of damage (maybe to spectacle Light Up the Stage), Tin Street Dodger is a good way to get the job done. Together, these cards give us 10 one-power one-drops to get our Cavalcade of Calamity curve started.

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Scampering Scorcher is just a one-of since four mana is a lot for our 19-land deck, but it is very powerful with Cavalcade of Calamity, making three hasty 1/1s, which amounts to a lot of Cavalcade of Calamity (and possibly Chandra's Spitfire) triggers.

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Apart from Cavalcade of Calamity itself, Legion Warboss and Chandra, Acolyte of Flame are two of the most powerful creatures in our deck. Legion Warboss can win games on its own, Goblin Rabblemaster–style, if our opponent doesn't have a removal spell, and it makes a steady stream of 1/1s to trigger Cavalcade of Calamity, even though it's technically a 2/2 itself. Meanwhile, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame is insane in our deck. Its floor is making two hasty 1/1s each turn to trigger Cavalcade of Calamity and Chandra's Spitfire, while it occasionally takes over games by flashing back spells like Light Up the Stage, Heartfire, and Shock to deal a ton of damage (or, in the case of Light Up the Stage, to draw a ton of cards).

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Mask of Immolation is interesting. It might be too cute for the deck, but it does have a lot of synergy. On level one, it's a 1/1 for two, which means it works with Cavalcade of Calamity, but it does some cool tricks with our other cards. For example, since the tokens that Chandra, Acolyte of Flame makes go away at the end of our turn anyway, if we have nothing better to do, we can spend our mana to equip Mask of Immolation and sacrifice the tokens to deal some damage. Meanwhile, it gives us an additional way to deal non-combat damage to trigger Chandra's Spitfire. While not nearly as efficient as Cavalcade of Calamity in this regard, sometimes we just sacrifice two or three creatures to ping our opponent, grow Chandra's Spitfire into a 7/3 or 10/3, and kill our opponent with an attack in the air.

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As for our spells, we have three. Light Up the Stage gives us a steady source of card advantage, and since our deck is overloaded with cheap creatures and weird direct damage, we can almost always cast it for just one mana thanks to spectacle. Meanwhile, Shock and Heartfire give us removal spells that can also go to our opponent's face to close out the game if we are a few points of damage short of lethal. Heartfire specifically is insane in our deck. Four damage for two mana is a great deal, and thanks to Chandra, Acolyte of Flame tokens and creatures like Footlight Fiend, sacrificing a creature usually isn't much of a drawback in our deck. We also win some games out of the blue by casting Heartfire and then immediately flashing it back with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame's Snapcaster Mage–esque 2 to deal eight damage to our opponent. 


Rotation-Proof Mono-Red Cavalcade was pretty great. We played five matches and won all five, including taking down multiple builds of Scapeshift and Esper Control. The record was especially impressive considering the rotation-proof handicap: everyone else was playing with eight sets' worth of cards, while we had just four sets to work with, and we were still more than competitive. In theory, this means that Mono-Red Cavalcade should be even better post-rotation, when other decks lose important pieces, while our deck (at the very worst) stays the same and might even improve with some new Throne of Eldraine cards. 

As far as changes to make to the build we played for our videos, I'm not sure there are any. We might be able to cut a copy or two of Experimental Frenzy from the sideboard (it was hard to find room to bring in all three, even in matchups where it is good), but in general, the deck felt good to go. 

As far as Arena, the deck is ultra-cheap there as well, with 12 total rares (and no mythics) and four of the rares being in the sideboard (so you can probably go as low as eight rares if you're playing best-of-one). If you're looking for something cheap and competitive to play now that should also be cheap and competitive after rotation, you probably can't do much better than Mono-Red Cavalcade. 

On the other hand, if you are looking to play the deck over the next month and don't mind playing some cards that rotate, here's the build that recently went 5-0 on Magic Online. As you can see, the biggest changes to rotation-proof the deck were changing Fanatical Firebrand to Footlight Fiend and Lightning Strike to Heartfire. While Fanatical Firebrand is probably better than Footlight Fiend, Heartfire was really insane in our deck, and I'm not sure I'd want to cut it, even if Lightning Strike were an option. The other change was to the sideboard, where we had to drop Blood Sun since it's rotating. I was a bit worried about the Scapeshift matchup (where Blood Sun is one of our best sideboard options), but we managed to take down Scapeshift and Field of the Dead every time we faced it, even without much sideboard help. It might just be that the matchup is good enough where Blood Sun is unnecessary, and I certainly wouldn't recommend spending wildcards (or dollars) on Blood Sun just to build this deck, with rotation so close at hand.


Anyway, that's all for today. I'm away in Vegas, which means we'll likely miss next week's episode of Budget Magic, but don't worry: I'll be back soon, and more fun budget decks will be right around the corner. Until then, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at


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