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Budget Magic: $80 Legacy Mono-Red Prowess


Ola, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Thanks to the pandemic keeping people at home, there has been an explosion of interest in Magic Online as a way for players to keep enjoying eternal formats from the comfort of their own homes. While Legacy is much cheaper on Magic Online than it is in the paper world (mostly because there isn't a Reserved List on Magic Online, so cards like dual lands can and have been reprinted multiple times), it's still not a cheap format. As such, today, as we wait to start exploring Ikoria Standard next week, we're doing something that we've rarely done on Budget Magic: playing a Legacy deck! Today's deck is an $80 version of Mono-Red Prowess, which, if it's actually competitive, seems like the perfect starter deck for new Legacy players on Magic Online or in paper. The big question is whether an $80 deck can actually compete in a $3,000-deck format. Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

A quick note: when I originally recorded the Mono-Red Prowess league, I was thinking that I was going to use it for Much Abrew About Nothing, but I changed gears after realizing that the deck was a perfect fit to be our second-ever Legacy Budget Magic deck. So if you hear any references to Much Abrew in the video, that's the reason why.

Another quick reminder: if you enjoy Budget Magic and the other content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Budget Magic: $80 Legacy Mono-Red Prowess

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The Deck

Mono-Red Prowess is essentially a spell- (especially burn-spell) heavy aggro deck. The goal is to stick a prowess one-drop, cast cheap burn spells to pump it and deal extra damage, and hopefully close out the game quickly before the opponent manages to stabilize or combo off. Thanks to free burn spells like Fireblast, Gut Shot, and Lava Dart, Mono-Red Prowess can close out the game extremely fast, which is important because as a mono-red deck, we don't really have tools (like Force of Will) to fight fast combo decks.

Prowess One-Drops

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Perhaps the two most important cards in our deck are Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage. While we can theoretically win the game with just burn spells, having a prowess one-drop greatly speeds up the clock by essentially giving all of our spells the kicker of dealing one extra damage for each prowess creature we control. Monastery Swiftspear is the better of the two thanks to haste, which allows it to come down off the top of our deck and immediately attack, which can generate some explosive turns with the help of our free spells. In reality, we aren't picky: the most important thing is to have a least one of these creatures on the battlefield on Turn 1.

Card Advantage

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Our final prowess creature is Bedlam Reveler. Unlike Monastery Swiftspear or Soul-Scar Mage, which we want to be the first card we play each game, ideally, we'd like Bedlam Reveler to be the last card in our hand, allowing it to come down and draw us three new cards, which will hopefully give us enough action to close out the game. While Bedlam Reveler might seem expensive, when you consider how many free burn spells we have in the deck (along with Faithless Looting to fill the graveyard), it's actually pretty easy to get Bedlam Reveler down to just two mana fairly early in the game. After Bedlam Reveler is on the battlefield, it is a solid threat, with four toughness allowing it to dodge Lightning Bolt and its high mana cost making it unkillable by Fatal Push. Just keep in mind that drawing multiple copies of Bedlam Reveler isn't ideal since we'll have to discard the second one to the first copy's enters-the-battlefield trigger.

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One of the unique things about Legacy Mono-Red Prowess is that it's an aggro deck that also draws an absurd number of cards. Apart from Bedlam Reveler, we also have Faithless Looting and Light Up the Stage. Light Up the Stage almost always draws us two cards for a single mana while triggering prowess along the way, which is a great deal, even in a format as powerful as Legacy. Meanwhile, Faithless Looting is technically card filtering rather than card draw, although being able to discard extra lands or spells like Lava Dart that we can flash back from the graveyard (while also filling the graveyard with spells to make Bedlam Reveler cheaper) makes it extremely strong in our deck.

The Bolts

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One of the other unique aspects of Legacy Mono-Red Prowess is that we get eight real Lightning Bolts, with Chain Lightning joining literal Lightning Bolt. Three damage to any target for a single mana is still the gold standard for burn in Magic, and having eight of the effect is a really big boost in power. While Chain Lightning is worded in a really convoluted way, it's really rare that the spell-copying text actually does anything, so most of the time, it is safe to think of and play Chain Lightning as if it were just a sorcery-speed Lightning Bolt

Free Burn

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What really sets Legacy Mono-Red Prowess apart from similar decks in other formats is Fireblast, which is one of the most absurd burn spells ever printed in Magic. While it technically costs six mana, we almost never actually spend six mana on it. Instead, we cast it by sacrificing two of our Mountains, giving us a huge burst of damage to close out the game for free. Just as importantly, cards like Fireblast, Gut Shot, and Lava Dart (which we can cast from our graveyard by sacrificing a Mountain) give us a bunch of free spells to trigger prowess on Monastery Swiftspear, Soul-Scar Mage, and Bedlam Reveler, which multiplies the damage these spells deal.

Picture a fairly normal curve where we play Monastery Swiftspear (hitting our opponent to 19) on Turn 1 into Soul-Scar Mage on Turn 2 (hitting our opponent to 18). On Turn 3, something like Lava Dart, flash back Lava Dart, Lightning Bolt, and sacrifice our last two Mountains to Fireblast adds up to 19 damage (and technically, it could be even more since we'd have one mana left over to cast an additional burn spell or something like Faithless Looting). 

Other Stuff

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Abrade is by far the weirdest card in our main deck. While it is a fine removal spell thanks to the flexibility of hitting creatures or artifacts, it can't go to our opponent's face. Its main purpose is to be a main-deck answer to Chalice of the Void (which is fairly heavily played in Legacy and is devastating to our deck since so many of our cards have a converted mana cost of one). While it is probably the correct call so we don't auto-lose to Chalice of the Void in game one, playing a burn spell that can only damage creatures is occasionally awkward. If given the choice, try to use Abrade over cards like Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning to deal with opposing creatures since our other burn spells are best spent reducing our opponent's life total.

The Sideboard

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  • Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast are a testament to the blueness of Legacy. Something like 50 percent of decks are playing blue, and nearly 35 percent are playing Oko, Thief of Crowns (which is really, really strong against our deck). Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast offer a way to fight blue decks. It's also important to keep in mind that you can technically cast Pyroblast targeting any permanent, regardless of its color, which is something relevant as a way to trigger prowess. 
  • Smash to Smithereens gives us another way to fight through Chalice of the Void, and it is also a really solid burn spell against various artifact-themed decks that show up in the Legacy format. The key aspect of Smash to Smithereens is that it hits our opponent for three damage, so even if the artifact we are blowing up isn't that impactful, we're still getting a Lava Spike out of the deal while also disrupting our opponent's game plan. 
  • Cave-In and Magmatic Sinkhole give us extra removal, but they are good in opposite matchups. Cave-In offers a free Volcanic Fallout for go-wide decks like Death and Taxes, while Magmatic Sinkhole is good at taking down one large-ish creature or planeswalker.
  • Finally, Sulfuric Vortex is especially important against lifegain decks (Batterskulls, Oko, Thief of Crowns, etc.) while also being a free, repeatable source of damage. This can be helpful in slow, grindy matchups, especially against decks that can't easily remove an enchantment from the battlefield.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 3-2 with $80 Legacy Mono-Red Prowess and were super close to going 4-1 (our match against the Dark Depths deck with Oko, Thief of Crowns was insane, with us coming up one spell short in both games after having to spend a bunch of damage on Oko, Thief of Crowns). While this might not sound super impressive, in reality, especially considering that playing an $80 deck in Legacy is like playing a $25 deck in Modern or a $10 deck in Standard (compared to the average cost of decks in the format), it was a very solid performance for the deck. Plus, on Magic Online, if you can consistently finish 3-2 in leagues, you slowly profit since you get your entry fee back and get a Treasure Chest, which is worth about $2.50. 

If there is a drawback to Legacy Mono-Red Prowess, it's the fast combo matchup. Decks like Belcher in Legacy are extremely fast and consistent, with Turn 1 or 2 wins. The thing that keeps them in check is the presence of Force of Will and other free stack interaction. As an $80 mono-red deck, we don't have access to Force of Will, so we're mostly hoping for herd immunity (that enough other people play Force of Will that not too many people will play fast glass-cannon combo decks) or that we dodge the glass-cannon-combo matchups. That said, cards like Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast do help against some combo decks, especially ones using blue combo pieces like Show and Tell

So, should you play Legacy Mono-Red Prowess? I think the answer is yes, especially if you are looking to get into the Legacy format on the cheap. The deck is good enough that you should be able to consistently do well in league on Magic Online and occasionally go 5-0 when you hit the right matchups. If I can post a winning record while very much not being an aggro player and never having played the deck before, you should be able to do even better with some practice! If you're interested in exploring the Legacy format (and the awesome Legacy community on Magic Online) but are a normal person who doesn't have $3,000 to spend on cardboard, Mono-Red Prowess seems like the perfect starter deck to dip your toes into this super-fun format!

Non- / Ultra-Budget Lists

No non-budget list this week; $80 Legacy Mono-Red Prowess isn't so much a budget deck as it is a fully powered deck that just happens to be cheap enough to fit into our normal budget price range. As for ultra-budget, the most expensive cards in the deck are Soul-Scar Mage and Bedlam Reveler at around $4 a copy. They are important enough to the deck that they aren't worth trying to replace just to save $15 a playset. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! Hopefully, you enjoyed this special Legacy edition of Budget Magic! If you've been pining for some Standard, don't worry. Next week, we'll be exploring Ikoria cards in our new Standard 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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