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Budget Magic: $87 (33 tix) Rogues (Modern)

Halauġikpiñ, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Next week, we'll begin our exploration of Ixalan Standard, but for this week, we're heading to Modern for some some sweet tribal action! Rogues have been on the Against the Odds poll a couple of times, and while they have come super close to winning, they've never managed to take home the grand prize. Then, this week, I realized that maybe Rogues' problem is that they aren't actually an Against the Odds tribe. What if Rogues are a Budget Magic tribe? So, I set about building a list and was amazed by how well it came together. While Rogues look a bit janky and underpowered on paper, they have a lot of synergy, which makes the tribe play much stronger than it looks. Can a pile of unblockable Rogues, some unconventional lords, and prowl cards actually compete in Modern? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck! 

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Rogues (Deck Tech)

Budget Magic: Rogues vs. Death & Taxes (Match 1)

Budget Magic: Rogues vs. Storm (Match 2)

Budget Magic: Rogues vs. Jeskai Control (Match 3)

Budget Magic: Rogues vs. Bogles (Match 4)

Budget Magic: Rogues vs. Esper Control (Match 5)

The Deck

When it comes to tribal decks, we often talk about the tribe's competitive advantage. For Rogues, their biggest competitive advantage is evasiveness, and not just normal kinds of evasive like flying or trample; some Rogues are just straight-up unblockable. Having a ton of cheap, evasive one-drops is the foundation of our Rogue tribal, and then we build on this foundation with some unconventional lords and cheap prowling finishers.


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The foundation of our deck is 12 one-drops that are as close to unblockable as possible. Slither Blade is sort of the mascot for the deck. While it probably looks strange in a Modern list, it actually does exactly what our deck needs it to do by coming down on Turn 1 and being guaranteed to deal combat damage to our opponent, thanks to being literally unblockable. Vampire Cutthroat isn't quite unblockable, but in a lot of matchups, our opponent won't have any creatures with power of one or less, which allows the Vampire to skulk in for combat damage at will. Faerie Miscreant, on the other hand, is actually the worst of our one-drops, since it has the least amount of evasion, being stonewalled by Restoration Angels, Spell Quellers, and Lingering Souls tokens. 

Together, our one-drops make sure that we have an extremely hard-to-block creature on the battlefield on Turn 1, which is super important for our deck because it enables many of our future plays. Then, as the game goes along, our one-drops end up even better thanks to some of our other Rogues that power up hard-to-block creatures. 

The Payoffs

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The probably sounds strange, but Stinkdrinker Bandit is—by far—the best card in our deck. While it looks like an extremely underpowered four-drop, thanks to all of our unblockable one-drops, we can almost always play it for its two-mana prowl cost, which makes Stinkdrinker Bandit very powerful. While Rogues don't have any traditional lords, Stinkdrinker Bandit is actually better than the Rogue version of Lord of Atlantis or Elvish Archdruid would be in our deck, granting a massive +2/+1 to unblocked Rogues. Since many of our Rogues are either unblockable or at least hard to block, Stinkdrinker Bandit ends up playing like a double lord, with just a single copy turning all of our one-power rogues into Wild Nacatls with upside. 

It's also important to point out that the ability stacks, so if we ever get two copies of Stinkdrinker Bandit on the battlefield, things will spiral out of control quickly. With one copy, our Vampire Cutthroats and Slither Blades attack for three (mostly) unblockable damage each turn, and with two copies, they hit for five. This gives us a weird but legitimate nut draw of playing a Slither Blade on Turn 1, hitting for one with Slither Blade on Turn 2 so we can prowl in a Stinkdrinker Bandit, hitting for three with Slither Blade (assuming our opponent has a blocker for Stinkdrinker Bandit) on Turn 3 along with playing two or three more one-drops, and then hard casting a second Stinkdrinker Bandit pre-combat on Turn 4 to hit for 15 or 20 unblockable damage!

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Our other unconventional Rogue lord is Oona's Blackguard, which is basically a 1/1 flying version of Metallic Mimic that only works with Rogues. Being a flier, Oona's Blackguard works well with Stinkdrinker Bandit, often hitting for three in the air, and making our Slither Blades and Vampire Cutthroats into two-power (mostly) unblockable creatures is actually quite powerful on its own. However, the best part of Oona's Blackguard is her second ability.

The ability to make our opponent discard a card whenever they are dealt combat damage by one of our creatures with a +1/+1 counter is actually quite important to our deck. Since so many of our creatures are evasive, if we can play an Oona's Blackguard on Turn 2, we usually have a free Mind Rot every turn by Turn 4 just by attacking with our random one-drops. While making our opponent discard is good in any matchup, it's especially helpful against combo decks like Titan Shift and Ad Nauseam, where our opponent needs a critical mass of cards to win the game, or against control decks that are looking to hold removal, counters, and sweepers in hand. While the reason we are playing Oona's Blackguard is because she is a synergistic Metallic Mimic, the ability to Mind Twist away our opponent's hand over the course of a couple of turns is certainly a major upside.


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The other big advantage of playing a bunch of cheap, unblockable creatures is we can consistently take advantage of prowl. Earwig Squad is a great example of the power of the mechanic. As a five-mana 5/3, the Goblin Rogue is horrible, but for just three mana (and coming along with a free Sadistic Sacrament), Earwig Squad is very above the curve. While it's a bit annoying that one of our best finishers dies to Lightning Bolt, Earwig Squad makes up for this downside by dodging Fatal Push thanks to its high converted mana cost. Apart from just being a big creature, the ability to pick three cards from our opponent's deck can also be helpful, especially against combo decks. Taking three Ad Nauseams against Ad Nauseam or three Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles against Titan Shift isn't quite game over, but it does make it a lot harder for our opponent to assemble the pieces they need to win the game. Against other decks, we can simply pull out whatever sweepers our opponent happens to have or targeted removal that could ruin our plans. 

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Latchkey Faerie doesn't do anything especially spicy, but a 3/1 flier for three that replaces itself when it enters the battlefield is a pretty efficient card on its own. Plus Latchkey Faerie benefits from all of our Rogue synergies, getting a +1/+1 counter from Oona's Blackguard and hitting for five if we have a Stinkdrinker Bandit on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Thieves' Fortune is basically a one-mana Impulse—assuming we can prowl it (which we usually can)—that helps us dig through our deck to find our lords, removal, or counters. 

Other Stuff

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Apart from our Rogues, we spend our utility slots on tempo-based removal. Much like Favorable Winds, Faeries, or Spirits, Rogues don't really need to stop the opponent from doing anything forever. We just need to keep our opponent's big creatures and spells in check long enough to close out the game with our cheap, evasive creatures. Vapor Snag is great, even though it doesn't actually kill the creatures, since it forces our opponent to waste their mana recasting it, and sometimes the single point of damage can be important if we are racing. Dismember is just a one-of, but it gives us a way to deal with something permanently when the situation calls for it. Meanwhile, Remand helps us fight through our opponent's removal and gives us more game against combo decks by buying us an extra turn, which will hopefully be just long enough to Rogue out the win.


All in all, we finished 3-2, although our loss to Storm was incredibly close. While I'm not sure exactly what I did wrong, I came away with the impression that we probably could have won the match. Regardless, it showed that Rogues could hang with the most powerful and fastest combo decks in the format. We also lost to Bogles, but that's not really a surprise. Apart from our opponent mulliganing into oblivion, our chance of beating Bogles is close to zero. Thankfully, Bogles isn't a major part of the metagame at the moment, but if you have a bunch of Bogles players in your local meta, it's probably worth including some sacrifice effects in the sideboard to help in the matchup. Otherwise, we won a close match against Death and Taxes and pretty much dominated the two control games, which was actually somewhat surprising, since sweepers seem good against our deck.

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After playing though the matches, there isn't a ton I'd change in the budget build of the deck. The sideboard might want Duress (or Thoughtseize, if you have them in your collection). Otherwise, the biggest change I'd make is dropping Faerie Miscreant in favor of Triton Shorestalker. The upside of Faerie Miscreant is so minimal (between Rogues and Favorable Winds, we've played a lot of Faerie Miscreant lately, and we've probably drawn an extra card about once in every five or six matches) that having another straight-up unblockable creature is likely just better. While we didn't get punished during our matches, sooner or later, we'll run into Lingering Souls and be very sad that Faerie Miscreant only has flying, rather than being unblockable. 

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Other cards I considered for the deck were Metallic Mimic, Auntie's Snitch, and Marang River Prowler. While I think a recursive build of Rogues could be sweet, Auntie's Snitch and Marang River Prowler both feel a bit awkward in our deck. Since most of our creatures are unblockable it's likely that whatever creatures our opponent happens to have on defense will automatically block Auntie's Snitch. Meanwhile, Marang River Prowler is unblockable but felt just a bit worse than Latchkey Faerie and Earwig Squad in the three-drop slot. As for Metallic Mimic, it didn't make the cut because it's currently $8 a copy thanks to Standard, but if you already have copies, I'd probably throw a couple into the budget build over a Vampire Cutthroat and a Earwig Squad

Getting Rogues all the way down to just $35 is actually pretty easy. We just change Remand to Mana Leak, rework the sideboard a bit, and cut the semi-expensive dual-land cycles in favor of more basics and Dismal Backwater. While the deck should play almost exactly like the one in the videos, the ultra-cheap mana base will lead to less consistency (the mana for the build we played in the videos was already a bit troubling, since we really need our first three lands to come into play untapped). More basics should help with the lands-entering-tapped problem, but it will also lead to some hands where we don't have both of our colors of mana. This being said, the ultra-budget build should be fine for kitchen-table fun, but upgrading the mana is probably necessary to play at a higher level.

The non-budget version of Rogues gets a couple of huge additions (apart from a very upgraded mana base) in Bitterblossom, Liliana of the Veil, and Fatal Push. While we typically think of Bitterblossom as a Faeries card, it actually makes Faerie Rogue tokens, which means it works very well with both Stinkdrinker Bandit and Oona's Blackguard. Fatal Push is by far the best removal spell for the deck and replaces both Dismember and Vapor Snag, now that we have fetch lands to support revolt, and Liliana of the Veil is a great value card that helps fight against control and combo while also solving (at least, to some extent) our Bogles problem. Otherwise, we get some upgrades in the sideboard as well, with Fulminator Mage helping us fight Tron, Thoughtseize for combo and control, and improved graveyard hate. All in all, the non-budget build is a significant improvement over the version we played on video, even though it will function pretty much the same in most matchups.


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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