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Budget Magic: $84 (50 tix) Mono-Black Vehicles (Modern)


Laphi, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Next week, we'll have Hour of Devastation on Magic Online, which means we'll be able to start exploring the next Standard format, but in the meantime, let's head to Modern for a deck built around a card that's currently banned in Standard: Smuggler's Copter. Vehicles have made their presence felt in Standard, but do they have what it takes to port over to Modern in a mono-black aggro shell? It seems the answer is yes! In fact, there are a few reasons why Vehicles are even better in Modern than in Standard: we get better creatures to crew, some sweet tapping and untapping synergies to abuse, and even more recursive threats to take advantage of the loot mode on Smuggler's Copter! Let's get to the videos so you can see the sweetness of Mono-Black Vehicles; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Mono-Black Vehicles (Deck Tech)

Mono-Black Vehicles vs. Grixis Shadow

Mono-Black Vehicles vs. Naya Burn

Mono-Black Vehicles vs. Death and Taxes

Mono-Black Vehicles vs. Human Company

Mono-Black Vehicles vs. Eldrazi Tron

Mono-Black Vehicles vs Death's Shadow (Again)

The Deck

Mono-Black Vehicles is pretty straightforward—we're a mono-black aggro deck that's built around abusing two powerful Vehicles: Smuggler's Copter and Aethersphere Harvester. Normally, I shy away from aggro decks for a couple of reasons. First, it's pretty easy to lose to a single sweeper. Second, very aggressive decks tend to lead to some number of non-games thanks to drawing too many lands and not enough action. Mono-Black Vehicles solves both of these problems, with tons of recursive threats to beat sweepers and weird, sneaky card advantage to work through flood. Let's start by talking about the namesake Vehicles.

The Cars

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Smuggler's Copter probably doesn't come as much of a surprise—it's been on the rise in Modern ever since it was banned in Standard. It's an extremely powerful Magic card, and in almost every game we play, it's the card we want to see most in our opening hand. While it does die to a lot of removal (Fatal Push, Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, et al.), it only takes a couple of attacks (and loots) to make it worth its mana cost, and when it sits out on the battlefield, it's a two-drop that wins the game all by itself, like Dark Confidant

Aethersphere Harvester looks a bit strange in a Modern deck, but it's actually quite strong. For one thing, there are very few Modern decks that do much in the air, which means unless we run into a Lingering Souls deck, we are usually able to get in for a lot of damage with both of our flying Vehicles. More importantly, Aethersphere Harvester does a good job of dodging some heavily played removal like Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and non-revolt Fatal Push. Finally, Aethersphere Harvester gives us redundancy. While we would play eight copies of Smuggler's Copter if we could, we really need more than four Vehicles in our deck, and Aethersphere Harvester is the next-best option. 

The Crew

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One of the reasons we want a lot of Vehicles is that Vehicles do more than just attack and block in our deck, since they give us a free, repeatable way to tap our own creatures for value. Night Market Lookout might look underpowered, but it's actually very strong in our deck. If it comes down on Turn 1, it essentially hits for two damage on Turn 2 and even gains us a life thanks to the drain trigger, and then once it's outclassed on the ground, we can simply tap it to crew our Vehicles to drain our opponent without even attacking. While it might not seem like much, the incidental lifegain is often important, especially when we run into other aggressive decks.

Meanwhile, Pain Seer is our Dark Confidant, but it only costs us $0.50 instead of $50. As weird as it sounds, Pain Seer might be better than literal Dark Confidant in our deck (and Dark Confidant would be great). As long as we have a Vehicle, we can use it to tap our Pain Seer on our opponent's end step, and then we get an extra card on our upkeep at the cost of a bit of life (exactly the same as Dark Confidant). However, Pain Seer has an extra point of toughness and gives us more control—if we are down to one life, we can simply choose not to tap it, and we don't have to worry about dying to our own Dark Confidant trigger. 

With both of these cards, it's important to note that we can crew a Vehicle any number of times, even if it's already in creature form, so with just a single Smuggler's Copter or Aethersphere Harvester, we can tap an entire board full of Pain Seers and Night Market Lookouts whenever we want!

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Dread Wanderer, Bloodsoaked Champion, and Scrapheap Scrounger do double duty in our deck. On one hand, they are good at crewing our Vehicles, because even if our opponent kills them, we can get them back from the graveyard to keep our Vehicles active. On the other hand, they are important to winning without our Vehicles—some of the best draws in our deck involve playing a one-drop on Turn 1 and two more one-drops on Turn 2 and simply beating our opponent down before they have a chance to recover. All of the recursion also gives us the opportunity to win the long game. While Anger of the Gods is annoying, we naturally hose other wraths because so many of our creatures come back from the graveyard (not to mention our Vehicles, which are also good against sweepers). Finally, apart from crewing our Vehicles, all of these cards also work really well with Smuggler's Copter, since we can discard them for value to its loot ability and then get them back from our graveyard. 

As for the individual cards, Dread Wanderer is likely the worst of the bunch because it enters the battlefield tapped, which is a bit of an anti-synergy with our Vehicles. Bloodsoaked Champion is great—since we have some many aggressive creatures, it's pretty easy to trigger raid to get it back from the graveyard. Meanwhile, Scrapheap Scrounger is a bit more expensive, but the ability to get it back at instant speed is a nice upside. 

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The final creature in our deck is Pack Rat, which has some light synergies with our other cards (mostly by being a backup discard outlet for all of our recursive creatures). It's mostly in our deck because it a powerful standalone threat. If our opponent doesn't immediately have a removal spell, we can spend our turns discarding cards to make more copies of Pack Rat, and before long, we have a huge and lethal board full of rats. 

Other Stuff

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Last but not least, we have a couple of support cards. Inquisition of Kozilek gives us a way to strip answers like Anger of the Gods and Stony Silence from our opponent's hand or clear away something like a Tarmogoyf, which can stonewall our early offense. Meanwhile, Dismember is just the best removal spell for our deck, killing pretty much anything for just one mana if we are willing to pay some life, and paying life is usually fine, since we are such an aggressive deck. If budget weren't a concern (and we had fetch lands), we'd probably play Fatal Push in this slot, but with such a limited number of slots for removal (and because our curve is so low that mana efficiency is very important), Dismember is clearly the right choice for our build. 

Wrap-Up

We finished our video matches 4-1 and beat a bunch of tier decks along the way, including Grixis Shadow, Naya Burn, and Eldrazi Tron, which is super impressive. We also beat Naya Burn in a rematch, lost a second match to Grixis Shadow, and got beat by Mono-U Turns, bringing our total record to 5-3. 

In the end, the deck was surprisingly strong. We have the ability to get random aggro draws where we just play a bunch of one-drops to get in early damage and then use our Vehicles almost like burn spells to close things out in the air after the ground gets clogged up, but we also won some long games, even surviving an All is Dust against Eldrazi Tron, which isn't something most aggressive decks can do. 

A lot of our weird cards worked out really well in practice, especially Pain Seer, which was an all-star in our deck. The combination of Smuggler's Copter and Pain Seer was essential to helping us push through some bad draws and find enough action to actually kill our opponent. Plus, it's pretty sweet to finally have a Pain Seer deck, since the card was very hyped when it was spoiled but has fallen flat up to this point. 

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The one thing I disliked about the deck was Dread Wanderer. While it is fine as an early beater, the "enters the battlefield tapped" clause was occasionally annoying when we wanted to immediately crew a Vehicle. While I think the Zombie is playable in Mono-Black Vehicles, we can probably do better, but I'm not exactly sure what should takes its place. The only other recursive threat is Gravecrawler, which would require a bit of a rebuild for more Zombies, but Hex Parasite could be an interesting option. While the artifact creature is just a 1/1, the ability to remove counters from Chalice of the Void or a planeswalker if the game goes long is a nice upside. 

All in all, Mono-Black Vehicles was great. If you are looking for an aggressive list with a bit of a twist, this could be the right choice for you. While I'm not sure we'll actually beat tier decks as often as we did in our small sample, the deck certainly has the power to keep up with a lot of the best decks in the format and is strangely resilient to a lot of common answers. Give it a shot; I don't think you'll be disappointed! 

Ultra-Budget Mono-Black Vehicles

Going ultra-budget with Mono-Black Vehicles is pretty easy. Apart from reworking the sideboard a little bit, we simply cut Inquisition of Kozilek and Dread Wanderer. Unfortunately, there really isn't a good budget substitute for Inquisition of Kozilek, so instead of playing a subpar discard spell like Duress in the main deck, we throw in some more removal. While this will weaken our combo and control matchups slightly, it actually improves our matchups against creature-based decks, and hopefully we'll be fast enough to get in under control and combo anyway even without main-deck discard. For Dread Wanderer, we get Hex Parasite (a change we already talked about, which might be correct even for the regular budget build). While the ultra-budget build will be a bit worse in certain matchups, for the most part, it should work just like the one in the videos, and it will be just as good or even better in a lot of matchups. While I'd want to upgrade to discard before playing any major tournaments, I think the ultra-budget build could function at the FNM level. 

Non-Budget Mono-Black Vehicles

It's really tempting to add another color (maybe white, since Lingering Souls seems great in this deck) for the upgraded build of the deck, but then it wouldn't be Mono-Black Vehicles anymore. So while I think that WB Vehicles could be very solid, we'll stick to mono-black for the non-budget build. Even without adding a color (well, technically we have Blood Moon in the sideboard), we can make a ton of upgrades. First, we get actual Dark Confidant to go along with Pain Seer, giving us an overwhelming amount of card advantage for an aggro deck. We also get more (and better) discard thanks to Thoughtseize to go along with Inquisition of Kozilek. Bloodghast gives us the best recursive creature in Modern, and fetch lands support the landfall ability. Since we have fetches, we also get Fatal Push as the primary removal spell and can splash for a few Blood Moons in the sideboard from just a couple copies of Blood Crypt. Finally, we get to upgrade the sideboard with Collective Brutality, Fulminator Mage, and Surgical Extraction. In sum, these changes make the deck significantly more powerful but also significantly more expensive. While a lot of the expensive cards are good cards to own for Modern anyway, I'm not sure I'd want to spend over $800 on Mono-Black Vehicles without putting in a lot of test games with the budget version. 

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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