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Budget Magic: $82 Gruul Modified (Standard)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, for the first time in a while, we're heading to Standard! I've been wanting to try out the modify mechanic for a while now. Cards like Invigorating Hot Spring and Thundering Raiju seem super strong with the right support, and today, we finally get a chance to see just how good these cards can be, all for just $88 in paper and $25 on Magic Online. While our deck is super sweet, there is some bad news: it's pretty pricey on Magic Arena since it has 35 rares. Normally, when it comes to Arena decks, I try to stick to a budget of 15 rares or less, but there just aren't that many sweet budget decks that can be built on that budget, and I'm a bit tired of being held hostage by Arena's lackluster economy, so we're modifying anyway. The deck's very budget-friendly if you're putting the deck together anyplace but Arena. If you're looking to build it on Arena, I'm sorry that it's so expensive, but that's really an Arena economy issue, not a Budget Magic issue. Anyway, rant aside, we're basically a Gruul +1/+1 counter deck with a ton of strong modify payoffs! How good are the mechanic and deck in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Gruul Modify

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The Deck

Gruul Modify is a Gruul midrange deck built around the modify mechanic and +1/+1 counters to modify our creatures. While there are no specific combos in the deck, we do have a lot of synergy thanks to our modify payoffs, with our primary plan being to curve out with creatures and hopefully smash our opponent to death with cards like Thundering Raiju, Oran-Rief Ooze, and friends.

The Modify Payoffs

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The two cards that made me want to build Gruul Modify are Thundering Raiju and Invigorating Hot Spring, both of which seem incredibly powerful in the right deck but aren't really seeing any play in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Standard for some reason. Invigorating Hot Spring can be compared to cards like Fires of Yavimaya and Rhythm of the Wild, as a three-mana enchantment that gives our creatures haste. Since many of our creatures naturally get +1/+1 counters, most of our deck is modified, and for the few creatures that aren't, we can use Invigorating Hot Springs to add counters and modify them. Meanwhile, Thundering Raiju is a great way to close out the game in a deck full of modified creatures, as essentially an upgraded Hellrider. When it attacks, we can put a counter on something, which either allows us to grow another creature or turn Thundering Raiju into a 4/4 haste for four, which is a solid deal. And we also get some direct damage to help us close out the game!

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We've also got a couple of backup modify payoffs. Kodama of the West Tree is great in our deck, giving us an on-curve body, giving our massive +1/+1 counter creatures trample to help us close out the game, and potentially ramping us a bit, although it's only a two-of since it's fairly expensive, at $7 a copy. Meanwhile, Goro-Goro, Disciple of Ryusei gives us another way to haste in our threats and gives us a way to flood the board with 5/5 Dragon Spirit tokens in the late game as we attack with our modified creatures. 

+1/+1 Counter Stuff

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The rest of the creatures in our deck help support our modified theme with +1/+1 counters. While Oran-Rief Ooze doesn't technically care about modified creatures, it does care a lot about +1/+1 counters and works as a strong payoff in our deck, and doubly so with the haste from Invigorating Hot Spring. If we have Hot Spring on the battlefield, we can play Oran-Rief Ooze, put its counter onto itself, attack, and add another counter, essentially making it a 4/4 haste for three (which is great on its own) while also adding additional counters to any of our other attacking creatures. 

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We've also got a bunch more +1/+1 counter creatures. Swarm Shambler gives us something to do on turn one while also offering a little bit of protection from targeted removal by replacing our dead +1/+1 counter creatures with 1/1 Insects. Halana and Alena, Partners offers a way to add more counters to our creatures and works especially well with the pump offered by Thundering Raiju, Oran-Rief Ooze, Jugan Defends the Temple, and Invigorating Hot Spring since the bigger we grow Halana and Alena, the more counters we can add to other creatures. Finally, Ochre Jelly is one of my pet cards in Standard, and it's pretty solid in our deck since it scales throughout the game. While it isn't especially efficient at any mana value, it gives us a way to use the extra mana we generate from our Kodama of the West Tree ramp and can be the biggest threat on the table in the late game.

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We've also got a few fake +1/+1 counter creatures. Jugan Defends the Temple is just a one-of, but it works well with our +1/+1 counter theme, with the front side adding counters to creatures and the backside being pretty absurd if it sticks on the battlefield, allowing us to dump tons of counters on whatever creatures we play (making it another good mana sink for our Kodama of the West Tree ramp). Ranger Class needs no introduction, but it is great in our deck, not only adding counters to attacking creatures but also giving us a source of card advantage once it is leveled up, by letting us play creatures from the top of our deck. Finally, Emergent Sequence helps ramp us into Thundering Raiju and friends, and it's pretty funny late in the game with Kodama of the West Tree since the Fractal land gets a +1/+1 counter for each land that enters the battlefield during the turn, and Kodama can put a lot of lands into play.


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The other upside of building a modified deck is that we get to take advantage of two strong removal spells that don't really work in other decks: Flame Discharge and Kami's Flare. Flame Discharge is pretty far above the curve if we have a modified creature (which we almost always should), offering two damage for one mana and scaling up from there, giving us a way to kill early-game creatures on the cheap and then huge threats later in the game when we have more mana. Meanwhile, Kami's Flare is basically a Standard version of Searing Blaze or Searing Blood if we have a modified creature, shooting down a creature while also throwing a bit of damage at our opponent's face.


Record-wise, we finished 3-2 with Gruul Modified, which is pretty solid for a budget deck. We got run over by Naya Runes, which is a thing that happens in Standard on occasion. While I don't think the matchup is unwinnable, it requires us to draw a lot of removal early in the game. We can win if we do; otherwise, we're sort of out of luck once our opponent grows a massive threat because all of our removal is damage-based and can't really kill a 10/10 or 20/20. Our other loss came to a GW Lifegain deck that managed to draw a lot of Righteous Valkyries, although we sort of avenged this loss by taking down Abzan Clerics. Otherwise, we ran over Esper Control and crushed a UW Vehicle deck.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm pretty happy with where it landed. Although I'm sure there could be some small changes, like adding more copies of Jugan Defends the Temple or, if it fits under the budget, Kodama of the West Tree, I'd be more than happy to run the deck back as-is.

It's also worth mentioning that both of our big payoffs—Invigorating Hot Spring and Thundering Raiju—were very impressive. I'm really not sure why more people aren't playing with these cards. They are super powerful!

So, should you play Gruul Modified in Standard? I think it's a solid budget option for Magic Online or for paper play, although it is awkward on Arena because it has so many rares. The deck felt powerful and like it could keep up with many of the tier decks in Standard—it has good removal, good payoffs, and a fun +1/+1 counter theme. Give it a shot if you're looking for something different to play in Standard while we wait for New Capenna to be released in a few weeks!

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Our ultra-budget list has two goals: make the deck cheaper in paper (which we did, getting it down under $20!) and also decrease the price on Magic Arena (which we sort of did, although it still has 16 rares). The end result is a deck that has the same play style as the one in the video bit with cheaper, tapped dual lands and missing a few pieces, like Kodama of the West Tree, Ochre Jelly, and Ranger Class. While the deck still should be functional enough for casual play, I think it will probably need some upgrades to be played competitively. 

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Finally, for our non-budget list, we mostly get improved mana and a few sideboard cards, although we also get an Avabruck Caretaker in the main deck as another finisher, along with another copy of Jugan Defends the Temple and Kodama of the West Tree. In general, the deck should get a bit more powerful, although it's really similar to the one we played for the video.


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

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