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Budget Magic: $80 (35 tix) Saprolings (Standard)


Alii, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Dominaria is finally here, which means it's time to kick off our exploration of the new (and super-awesome) Standard format with one of the most hyped tribes from the set: Saprolings! On paper, Saprolings look a bit underpowered, with only a handful of playable rares and lots of random commons and uncommons, but after playing with the tribe for a while, I found they are actually significantly more powerful than they look at first glance. The deck gets not only two different two-mana lords but also Tendershoot Dryad, which is absurdly powerful when we can cast it with ascend on Turn 5. Can Saprolings compete in Dominaria Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Saprolings (Standard)

The Deck

The basic idea of Saprolings in Dominaria Standard is pretty simple: we play as many lords as possible alongside a ton of cards that put multiple Saprolings onto the battlefield. The end result is sort of an aggro-tribal-token hybrid that's looking to flood the board with Saprolings, make them huge with our lords, and then close things out in a turn or two with Tendershoot Dryad! Probably the easiest way to break down the deck is to start with our lords, move on to our Saproling producers, jump to our Slimefoot, the Stowaway backup plan, and then finish things off with our utility cards. 

The Lords

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Metallic Mimic and Sporecrown Thallid are the two most important cards in our deck. One of the downsides of Saprolings is they are tiny—often 1/1 tokens—which means they simply aren't very big threats without the help of our lords. On the other hand, one of the biggest upsides of Saprolings is that most of our cards put multiple creatures on the battlefield, and with lords to pump our 1/1s into 2/2s or 3/3s, cards like Saproling Migration and Spore Swarm become extremely threatening. Having eight two-mana lords in all means that we typically have one on Turn 2. As the game goes along, it isn't uncommon that we get multiples on the battlefield. 

Metallic Mimic is our best lord on Turn 2 because if we can follow it up with Saprolings, they get a permanent buff in the form of a +1/+1 counter, so even if our opponent manages to kill our Metallic Mimic later in the game, the damage is often already done. On the other hand, Metallic Mimic isn't great in the late game when we have already played out our hand, since it's mostly just a 2/1 (although it does become a Saproling itself, so it benefits from our other lords). On the other hand, Sporecrown Thallid is at its best when we already have some Saprolings on the battlefield—for example, when we play Saproling Migration on Turn 2, so on Turn 3, we can untap, cast Sporecrown Thallid, and attack for four damage with our tokens. 

Together, Metallic Mimic and Sporecrown Thallid help to make sure we play as many lords as possible—we can never really have too many in this deck—which in turn allows us to turn tiny Saproling tokens into massive threats and close out the game in short order.

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Tendershoot Dryad is the most powerful card in our entire deck. Thanks to the fact that nearly all of our non-lord cards put multiple creatures on the battlefield, assuming we make our land drops, it's normal that we have 10 permanents for ascend by Turn 5. This allows Tendershoot Dryad to come down and immediately pump all of our Saprolings by +2/+2, essentially making it a double lord. A normal good curve for our deck is something like Saproling Migration on Turn 2, Sporecrown Thallid on Turn 3 (making our tokens into 2/2s), Spore Swarm at the end of our opponent's Turn 4 (giving us a total of five Saproling 2/2 Saproling tokens), untap on Turn 5, play Tendershoot Dryad with ascend, make our five tokens into 4/4s, and just kill our opponent on the spot. 

Of course, this raw power is offset to some extent by the fact that Tendershoot Dryad is only a 2/2, which means it dies to pretty much every removal spell in the format. However, most opponents have to kill our Metallic Mimics and Sporecrown Thallids, so by Turn 5, when Tendershoot Dryad comes down, it isn't that uncommon that our opponent has already spent all of their removal spells (we can also use Blossoming Defense for protection if we wait until Turn 6). The upside of Tendershoot Dryad, outside of pumping our creatures, is that it wins the game all by itself if it stays on the battlefield for a few turns, making two 1/1 Saprolings (which are 3/3s as long as Tendershoot Dryad is on the battlefield) every turn cycle, which gives us an unbeatable board in just a couple of turns. All around, Tendershoot Dryad is great, either winning the game immediately if we have a decent board or winning slowly over a few turns by making multiple tokens for free each turn cycle.

The Saprolings

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When it comes to making Saproling tokens, our two best options are Saproling Migration and Spore Swarm. Saproling Migration is basically the Saproling version of Raise the Alarm or Servo Exhibition, with the upside of making a massive four tokens if we kick if for six mana in the late game. This flexibility makes it extremely powerful, since the rate is pretty decent on both Turns 2 and 6, especially when our tokens are being pumped by our many lords. 

Meanwhile, Spore Swarm is better than it looks, mostly thanks to the fact that it is instant speed. While three tokens for four mana is a reasonable (although not great) rate, the fact that we can wait until our opponent is tapped out to cast it is an upside. Plus, if things are going poorly and we need to block, making three Saprolings during our opponent's combat phase can be a good way to ambush a creature or two. 

Both cards are even better with our lords. Making three 1/1s for four mana isn't a great deal, but when we have a couple of lords on the battlefield, making three 3/3s is pretty amazing. The same is true of Saproling Migration. If we spend the early turns playing lords, then making four Saprolings on Turn 6 is often a game-winning play. Plus, both of these cards are important for turning on ascend as quickly as possible to power up our Tendershoot Dryad

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We have even more Saproling production in the three-drop slot, with Yavimaya Sapherd and Deathbloom Thallid. While the cards are fairly similar, Yavimaya Sapherd is the better option for our deck, since it makes a Saproling token right away, while we have to wait for Deathbloom Thallid to die to get the token. In all honesty, neither card is great, but they help fill out our curve, have relevant creature types, and put multiple bodies on the battlefield, which are enough, considering the limited number of Saprolings we have in Standard at the moment. If Magic 2019 brings a more powerful three-drop Saproling, it would go a long way toward making the deck even more competitive.

The Backup Plan

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Most of the time, Saprolings win by simply stacking up lords and playing a bunch of Saproling tokens, but we do have a bit of reach if the board gets gummed up in the late game, thanks to the combination of Slimefoot, the Stowaway and Fungal Plots. Slimefoot, the Stowaway isn't great with our Saproling beatdown plan because it isn't a Saproling itself to benefit from our lords, and making a Saproling token costs a ton of mana; however, the drain ability is very relevant in the late game for a couple of reasons. First, Slimefoot, the Stowaway gives us protection from sweepers like Golden Demise and Sweltering Suns, since if our opponent sweeps away our board, Slimefoot can drain them out of the game. Second, with the help of Fungal Plots as a sacrifice outlet, we can get a strange Aristocrats-style kill by sacrificing all of our Saprolings to drain our opponent out of the game with Slimefoot, the Stowaway working like a Saproling-only Blood Artist

As for Fungal Plots, it's a bit awkward when we aren't using it to combo-kill with Slimefoot because a lot of our creatures aren't Saprolings (so we can't sacrifice them to draw cards) and a lot of our Saproling makers aren't creatures (so we can't exile them from the graveyard to make Saprolings). Despite this clunkiness, Fungal Plots does give us some nice value in the late game, especially in slower removal-heavy matchups, where we can turn our graveyard into Saprolings and Saprolings into new cards to help fight through our opponent's disruption.

Utility Cards

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We round out our deck with a handful of utility cards. Blossoming Defense helps to protect our lords from our opponent's removal spells, which is especially important with Tendershoot Dryad, since it can take over the game by itself if we can keep it alive, while also working as a weird removal spell if we can pump our creatures after our opponent blocks. Speaking of removal, Vicious Offering and Hour of Glory give us ways to deal with our opponent's creatures. Vicious Offering is great in our deck, since we make a lot of random 1/1 tokens, so we typically have something to sacrifice to kick it and kill something like Hazoret the Fervent or The Scarab God, while Hour of Glory is basically our budget-friendly version of Vraska's Contempt, exiling anything for just four mana. 

Wrap-Up

As far as our record, we finished 4-1 in our video matches, but thanks to a rematch against UW Auras that we lost, the overall record was 4-2, which is a pretty impressive performance for a strange and new tribe. As I mentioned in the intro, Saprolings look a bit underpowered on paper, but they actually work really well in practice. Having a ton of lords and on-tribe token producers is a good way to steal a lot of games. Most of the time, we didn't do anything tricky, but if our opponent doesn't have too much disruption, we can win pretty quickly while Tendershoot Dryad, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, and Fungal Plots give us a chance if the game goes long. 

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As far as changes I'd make to the deck now that we've played some matches, I'm not really sure. There are a few things worth testing, but I'm not 100% sure if they would make the deck better or not—for example, Llanowar Elves. Some of the Saproling decks I've seen play the one-drop, but it's a bit awkward, since it isn't a member of the Saproling tribe. While playing our threats a turn early is nice, I'm not sure if that outweighs the lack of tribal synergy. Another card that I left out was Fungal Infection. While the one-mana removal spell has the potential to be very powerful, it really depends on the matchup, and right now, people are playing a ton of strange decks, and control / ramp seems to be on the upswing, which aren't the best Fungal Infection matchups. Moving a copy or two into the sideboard to deal with Llanowar Elves and to help against Mono-Red couldn't hurt. Finally, if you can, squeeze a couple of copies of Fatal Push into the deck, probably over one Vicious Offering and one of the Deathbloom Thallids. Being able to kill Llanowar Elves on Turn 1 is pretty important, and Fungal Plots helps us turn on revolt to kill bigger creatures in the late game.

In sum, Saprolings was a lot better than I thought it would be. Heading into our matches, I was expecting it to be fun but not especially competitive, but after playing with the deck, it seems to be pretty competitive as well. While we're probably a couple of good Saprolings away from having a tier Saproling list, the deck has enough power to tangle with a lot of the best decks in the format and is certainly playable at the FNM level or on Magic Online. If you love tribal strategies and going wide with tokens, this might be the perfect Dominaria Standard budget deck for you!

Getting Saprolings down to $50 is pretty easy: we cut Field of Ruin and Woodland Cemetery from the mana base for Evolving Wilds and more basic lands, while removing Heroic Intervention from the sideboard. In theory, this makes the deck slightly more clunky thanks to the additional tapped lands, but for the most part, the ultra-budget build is exactly the same as the one we played in the videos.

The non-budget build of Saprolings doesn't change all that much either. The biggest upgrades are Fatal Push over Vicious Offering and Vraska's Contempt over Hour of Glory, along with Blooming Marsh in the mana base. As far as the Saprolings themselves, the only change we make is dropping the disappointing Deathbloom Thallid for Aethersphere Harvester to give us some way to fight against powerful fliers like Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix along with some incidental lifegain. All in all, the non-budget build is an improvement, but in reality, it should play pretty much like the build from the videos, with a slightly upgrade to the removal. 

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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