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Budget Magic: $80 (25 tix) Standard UB Walls

Ia ora na Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again. This week we're heading back to Standard with a Budget Magic deck that presents a different takes on the UB Control archetype: UB Walls. If you've looked over the most recent Meta Snapshot, you'll know that our current Standard is a fairly fast and aggressive format one in which control in general has been struggling. But what if instead of just trying to kill everything, we do some blocking and play a finisher that rewards us for playing high-toughness creatures? Check out the videos and then we'll talk more about the deck in a minute. Oh, and don't miss match the final match of the series — we run into a Hall of Famer playing one of the craziest decks I've ever seen! But first a quick reminder — if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

UB Walls Intro

UB Walls vs Mono-Red Aggro

UB Walls vs UR Ensoul Artifact

UB Walls vs GB Elves

UB Elves vs The Great Aurora (featuring unintentional special guest HOFer Kenji Tsumura!)

What we have going on here is a fairly typical blue black control shell highlighted by removal like Ultimate Price, sweepers like Languish, card draw including Dig Through Time and Jace's Ingenuity, and counterspells like Dissolve and Dissipate. What sets this deck apart from other UB Control builds is the presence of the namesake walls. 

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While they might seem like a gimmick, having a bunch of high-toughness defenders is actually pretty sweet in our current aggressive format. Wall of Frost in specific is an all star. It might not be obvious at first glance, but Wall of Frost actually locks down two creatures since each creature it blocks doesn't untap the next turn. Because it can block any ground threat in the format, it is a great way to stall out the game while we develop our hand. It almost beats decks like Mono-Red all by itself since they either need to spend two burn spells to kill it (which means these two burn spells are not going at our face), and it's pretty solid against UR Ensoul Artifact as well since it blocks a Darksteel Citadel enchanted with Ensoul Artifact

Monastery Flock isn't as exciting as the other two walls, but it fills an important role. One of the ideas of the deck is to be able to play a creature with at least five toughness on turn three and follow it up by Languishing away our opponent's board on turn four. This leave us with hard-to-attack-through defender left on the battlefield to lock down our opponent's next play. 

Mnemonic Wall doesn't survive Languish or even block particularly well, but it does provide a lot of value in the late game where we can cast it and return a counterspell or card draw spell to our hand. It also creates a sweet (but slow) loop with our one-of Foul Renewal. With a Mnemonic Wall in our graveyard we can cast Foul Renewal to kill a threat and then get back our Mnemonic Wall, which we can then use to return the Foul Renewal. After chumping with Mnemonic Wall we can do the whole thing again. In the late game this amounts to a sort of repeatable nine-mana Flame-Tongue Kavu, which can be pretty hard for some decks to beat. 

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Phenax, God of Deception is the card that makes the entire deck possible. While it is possible to generate enough devotion to turn him into a creature, 98 percent of the time it is just an indestructible enchantment that allows us to tap all of our walls to mill away our opponent's library. Since we typically already have a few walls on the battlefield by the time we resolve our Phenax, God of Deception, the process of milling our opponent out is actually pretty fast, often somewhere between two and four turns, although even a single Wall of Frost will get the job done over the course of six or seven turns.

The other synergy our deck has with Phenax, God of Deception is that he allows us to mill our own library, which means our Dig Through Times almost always cost two and Murderous Cut generally costs one. When you combine this with Mnemonic Wall and Foul Renewal, there are some games where we end up Digging five or six times which gives us an endless string of answers to pretty much anything our opponents can play. 

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I already mentioned the power of Foul Renewal in the late game in conjunction with Mnemonic Wall, but the main reason it is included in the deck is to provide insurance for our win condition. We only have nine creatures in total, so it is possible that some combination of wraths and removal could kill them all taking away our ability to win the game. Foul Renewal doesn't just get us back one creature, but often several creatures with the help of the Mnemonic Wall loop. 

The rest of the deck is pretty self-explanatory. We kill things, counter things, block things and draw cards until eventually we work ourselves into a dominant position. We then get [Phenax, God of Deception online and win the game in short order. 

Non-Budget Additions

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While I think the deck is fairly solid and playable as is, there are a few potential additions that could make it even better. Polluted Delta is basically a straight up swap with Evolving Wilds. Having twelve lands that come into play tapped is a lot, even for a control deck, and Polluted Delta is the easiest solution to this problem. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver not only fits well with our mill theme (a few activations has the potential to cut an entire turn off of our mill clock), but it's just a strong card. In the worst case it ends up gaining a bunch of life as our opponent's creatures are forced to attack our planeswalker rather than lowering our life total, and in the best cast it can win the game on its own for only three mana. Hero's Downfall would shore up our weakness to resolved planeswalkers; In our current build, we are pretty much committed to countering any and every planeswalker we see since we have no realistic way of attacking down a planeswalker's loyalty. I mean this quite literally as our only potential attackers are a morphed Monastery Flock and an active Phenax, God of Deception. As a result, having access to a Hero's Downfall or two would lessen the stress on our counters and give us a way to get back into the game if our opponent manages to resolve an Elspeth, Sun's Champion or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

Why Play UB Walls Over Traditional UB Control?

  • UB Walls is far less expensive. A typically UB Control list well set you back nearly $400 in paper and almost 200 tix on Magic Online. UB Walls is only a fraction of the cost at $80 in paper and $25 online.
  • Style points. There are actually a ton of cool mill synergies in the deck which are missing from the typical UB Control list. Once you cast your sixth Dig Through Time of the game or pull off the Mnemonic Wall/Foul Renewal loop, you'll never go back. 
  • The walls themselves (especially Wall of Frost) are actually pretty good. If we were in a Standard where other control decks were more played, running a bunch of walls would be a problem, but since most of the top decks in Standard are either aggro or midrange creature strategies, the walls range from live to very good in most matchups. 
  • We can close out the game faster than most (or all) UB Decks. Currently the finishers of choice for UB Control are usually one copy of Silumgar, the Drifting Death or one Prognostic Sphinx. Even unimpeded, these creatures are going to take six to seven turns to finished the game. Depending on our board state, we can usually close things out in somewhere between two and four turns once Phenax, God of Deception hits the battlefield. 


Anyway, that's all for today. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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