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Budget Magic: $85 (35 tix) Mono-Red Hollow One (Modern)


Tālofa, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! With Standard getting the shakeup today with some bannings, I didn't have time to record a Rivals of Ixalan Standard Budget Magic for this week, but it's probably a good thing that we stay in Modern for one more episode because today's deck is awesome! We're calling it Mono-Red Hollow One, and while this is a fine name, it doesn't fully capture the power of the deck. The basic idea is that we overload our deck with effects that make us draw and discard like Burning Inquiry, Faithless Looting, and Goblin Lore; churn through our deck at light speed (while also filling our graveyard); and then by the end of Turn 2 or 3, have 10 or 15 power on the battlefield with the help of cards like Hollow One, Prized Amalgam, Scourge Devil, and Bloodghast! Then, we beat our opponent down with our massive recursive board of creatures before they get a chance to recover. Just how much power can we get on the battlefield on Turn 2? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Mono-Red Hollow One (Deck Tech)

Mono-Red Hollow One vs. Ad Nauseam (Match 1)

Mono-Red Hollow One vs. UG Merfolk (Match 2)

Mono-Red Hollow One vs RB Graveyard (Match 3)

Mono-Red Hollow One vs. BUG Doubling Season (Match 4)

Mono-Red Hollow One vs. Jeskai Control (Match 5)

The Deck

The story of Mono-Red Hollow One is actually interesting. RB Graveyard decks have been running around on the fringes of Modern for a while, and since many of their pieces are cheap, it seemed possible to build something similar on a budget. Initially, the plan was to be red and black so we could actually cast cards like Bloodghast or Street Wraith in a pinch, but the budget mana base was simply too clunky. Being able to curve our Burning Inquiry into Goblin Lore is what makes the deck powerful, so even taking off a single turn to play a tapped land is brutal. I almost scrapped the idea altogether but then decided that maybe the best thing to do was simply embrace the variance and try a mono-red version of the deck. Sure, we can't cast half of our cards, but in all honesty, we don't want to be casting Prized Amalgam or Bloodghast anyway; we want to be discarding them and getting them back from the graveyard for free. The Mono-Red Hollow One shell worked amazingly well, and the end result is one of the most powerful Modern Budget Magic decks we've had in a while!

Drawing and Discarding

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The foundation of Mono-Red Hollow One is our massive 14 draw and discard spells (which we're going to call looting effects for the sake of simplicity, even though there are a few differences between the cards), all of which cost either one or two mana. The main idea of our deck is that we not only start casting these cards on Turn 1 but are also chaining one into another, so we're drawing and discarding multiple cards every turn, which enables all of our other synergies, either by getting cards in our graveyard or by triggering abilities from the battlefield (or even from our hand).

Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore are probably the most interesting of our looting cards because they are random. Normally, discarding cards at random is a bad thing, since we risk discarding cards we want to keep in our hand, but Mono-Red Hollow One really doesn't care because for the most part, all of our cards are interchangeable and we just want to draw and discard as many cards as possible. The upside of Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore is that since the discard is random, we get a better rate than if we had control over our discard (for example, Burning Inquiry draws and discards three cards for one mana, while Faithless Looting only lets us draw and discard two). Meanwhile, Faithless Looting is great because not only does it let us double loot on Turn 1, but we can also discard it for value with our other draw and discard effects and flash it back later. As for Cathartic Reunion, it's actually the worst card in the bunch for our deck, but it still helps add to the critical mass of draw and discard effects we want in our deck.

Together, these cards make it clear that we want to be drawing and discarding as much cards as possible, and we don't especially care what we are drawing and discarding—the question is why. What is the payoff for overloading our deck with these weird looting effects?

Payoffs

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The namesake Hollow One is the most powerful card in our deck, since we have a bunch of different combinations of cards that allow us to cast any number of Hollow Ones for free on the very first turn of the game. To get a free Hollow One, we need to discard or cycle three cards in a turn, which is where Street Wraith comes into play. While Burning Inquiry on Turn 1 gives us free Hollow Ones all by itself, Faithless Looting needs help (one more card discarded or cycled), but if we happen to have a Street Wraith in hand, we can simply cycle it for free and then start casting our Hollow Ones. Getting even a single free Hollow One on the first turn of the game is a big deal and a very fast clock, and we occasionally pick up free wins by casting two or even three Hollow Ones for free and killing our opponent by Turn 3 with Hollow One beats. 

One last thing: Street Wraith is one the "cards we can't cast" list, since we don't actually have any black mana in our deck, so feel free to cycle it away aggressively. Thankfully, if we get into a position where we don't want to spent two life to cycle, the problem usually takes care of itself, since we can hold Street Wraith in hand as discard fodder for Faithless Looting, Burning Inquiry, and all of our other looting effects.

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Flameblade Adept might not look like much, but the card is actually absurd in our deck. The one-drop is essentially a reverse Hollow One, wanting us to have it on the battlefield before we start casting all of our looting effects, rather than holding it in our hand to get a discount. Ideally, we'll play Flameblade Adept on Turn 1, and then if we can follow up with something like Faithless Looting into Burning Inquiry on Turn 2, we are suddenly attacking for six menacing points of damage, which is a huge chunk of our opponent's life total. As the game goes along, it isn't uncommon that we get multiple Flameblade Adepts on the battlefield and have them both end up with six or even eight power, which—thanks to menace—makes the one-drop into a huge, meaningful clock that is hard for the opponent to block.

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Prized Amalgam is also on our "can't cast this" list, but that's fine, since casting it as a 3/3 for three isn't really a good deal anyway. In our deck, Prized Amalgam is simply more discard fodder that comes back to the graveyard for free with the help of our other cards. One of the tricks of Mono-Red Hollow One is that our looting effects are actually drawing us cards. Take, for example, Faithless Looting. In a fair deck, we might draw two cards and discard our two worst cards, which is fine for filtering through our deck but doesn't really generate card advantage (actually the opposite, since we end up with one less card in our hand). On the other hand, in our deck, if we discard two copies of Prized Amalgam, we are actually generating tons of card advantage with Faithless Looting, since we actively want Prized Amalgams in our graveyard, which means we essentially discard zero cards to draw two, which is a great deal. The downside of Prized Amalgam is that it doesn't really do anything by itself and needs help to come back from the graveyard, but thankfully our deck is built to get back Prized Amalgam as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Bloodghast, newly cheap(er) thanks to the Iconic Masters reprinting, is our best way to get Prized Amalgam from our graveyard to the battlefield, since all we need to do is play a land to get our Bloodghast from the graveyard, which brings along with it any number of Prized Amalgams at the end of our turn. Apart from getting back Prized Amalgams, Bloodghast is a pretty reasonable creature on its own, especially in the late game, when we can get our opponent below 10 life and have all of our Bloodghasts come back with haste to kill our opponent after a sweeper or other removal. Plus, Bloodghast is an integral part of our nut draw.

The most powerful thing Mono-Red Hollow One can do is something like this: on Turn 1, we play a Faithless Looting to discard a Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam, cycle a Street Wraith and play a Hollow One (or two) for free. On Turn 2, we can cast a Burning Inquiry, hopefully discard some more Bloodghasts or Prized Amalgams, and then make our land drop to get back somewhere between five and 10 power from our graveyard, which, added with our Hollow Ones, can potentially put our opponent dead on Turn 3, and if they do manage to survive, they are almost certainly dead the next attack step.

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Hellspark Elemental probably looks strange, but it does two important things for our deck. First, thanks to its unearth ability, it works sort of like a backup Bloodghast, triggering our Prized Amalgams and hitting for some hasty, trampling damage. Second, Hellspark Elemental helps us finish the game after our opponent finds graveyard hate, since unlike much of our graveyard stuff, we can actually cast it from our hand. 

One of the biggest upsides to Mono-Red Hollow One is that it isn't as weak to graveyard hate as it might look. Yes, things can go poorly if our opponent manages to resolve a Leyline of the Void on Turn 0 or plays a Tormod's Crypt on Turn 1, but we get stuff back from our graveyard so quickly and build an overwhelming board presence so fast that even a Turn 2 Rest in Peace is often too slow (especially if we are on the play). Basically, we don't just put our opponent to the test as to whether or not they have graveyard hate; we make them pass the test on Turn 1 (or at the latest, Turn 2, on the draw), since past that point, we've often already gotten all of the value we need out of our graveyard to win the game. 

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Last but not least, we have a couple of copies of Scourge Devil, which is both another way to get our Prized Amalgams from the graveyard thanks to unearth and a finisher, since it comes into play as a hasty 4/3 that also pumps our other creatures until the end of turn. This means that draws like Hollow One on Turn 1 into Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam on Turn 2 into unearthed Scourge Devil on Turn 3 are lethal (and while this is a reasonable draw, it's far from the nut draw, since we can have multiple Hollow Ones or a Flameblade Adept on the battlefield). Scourge Devil is only a two-of, since it is more expensive than our other graveyard cards, which opens it up to graveyard disruption, but the upside of randomly winning games on Turn 3 makes it more than worthy of a couple of slots in our deck.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, Mono-Red Hollow One was great, posting a perfect 5-0 (the second week in a row that we've 5-0ed on Budget Magic, which is probably a record). Heading into our matches, I assumed that the deck would be weak to graveyard hate, but as we talked about a few minutes ago, this isn't exactly true. We can take advantage of our graveyard so quickly that if our opponent doesn't have hate on the first couple of turns, it doesn't really matter all that much. 

Maybe the best part of Mono-Red Hollow One is that we can win quickly but also win the long game. While it isn't uncommon for us to end Turn 2 with five or 10 power on the battlefield, and we pick up free wins with Hollow One on Turn 1 thanks to Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam coming back from the graveyard over and over again, the deck is actually pretty resilient to removal and most sweepers, which gives us a pretty good chance to win a longer game against disruption-heavy control and midrange decks. The combination of having free Turn 3 wins and the ability to win long is exactly where you want to be in a format like Modern, and for a budget option, Mono-Red Hollow One does a great job of filling this role.

The biggest drawback of Mono-Red Hollow One is there is a reasonable amount of variance, especially when it comes to lands and Hollow One itself. Having both a Burning Inquiry and Hollow One in hand on Turn 1 and then discarding the Hollow One to Burning Inquiry is always fun, and we had one game where we got stuck on lands because we kept drawing and discarding them to our random looting effects. Thankfully, this doesn't matter most of the time, and we have enough raw power that when we get unlucky and discard Hollow One to Burning Inquiry, we can just shrug it off and find another way to win.

So, should you play Mono-Red Hollow One? I think the answer is yes. The deck felt like it had a ton of raw power and had a reasonable chance to win against most decks in the format, since pretty much everyone struggles against having two Hollow Ones on the battlefield on Turn 1. While graveyard hate can be a problem, especially if it comes down early, the consistency and power of the deck more than make up for the weakness. Plus, Mono-Red Hollow One has a pretty straightforward upgrade path toward the RB Graveyard deck that has been popular lately, with all of the most expensive cards from our budget deck showing up in the tier build. The deck is a blast to play, fast, powerful, consistent, and one of my favorite decks we've played on Budget Magic in a while!

There's one massive problem with getting Mono-Red Hollow One into the ultra-budget range: there are only two expensive cards in the deck (Bloodghast and Street Wraith), and both are pretty important to the deck's plan. To get the deck down near $50, we have to cut not only all of the Street Wraiths (which makes it much harder to cast Hollow One for free on Turn 1, since Burning Inquiry is the only card that can enable that start) but also one Bloodghast (which makes getting Prized Amalgam back from the graveyard a bit less consistent and more expensive). In their place, we get Bomat Courier (which is a good way to discard a hand full of graveyard stuff) and another Cathartic Reunion. While messing around with this version on the kitchen table is probably fine, losing these cards makes the deck a lot less explosive and somewhat less consistent, which were two of the main reasons the budget build performed well. I wouldn't want to play this build in any sort of tournament without making some upgrades—having the full four Bloodghasts and the Street Wraiths is just too important to the deck's success.

For our non-budget list this week, we have RB Hollow One (or RB Graveyard, whichever your prefer), which is basically the tier version of our budget deck. The biggest change to the deck is that it's more about playing a few big creatures than generating grindy graveyard value, with huge delve threats like Gurmag Angler to go alongside Hollow One. Flamewake Phoenix works like another Bloodghast but with flying and haste, while also taking advantage of the fact that RB Hollow One has more big creatures than our budget deck to trigger ferocious. I'm not exactly sure how much better this build is than our budget build. We actually beat this build in our videos, although with a sample size of exactly one match, this isn't especially meaningful. The good news is that having a tier version of the deck gives you something to build toward if you end up with our budget build. More importantly, of the $85 cost of the budget deck, 70 of those dollars go toward cards that are used in RB Hollow One, so you aren't really wasting much money by picking up the budget build to play and practice with if you're planning on building into RB Hollow One eventually.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Next week, we'll jump into Rivals of Ixalan Standard! 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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