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Budget Magic: $87 (37 tix) Modern Death Cloud

Halauġikpiñ Budget Magic lovers! It's that time once again. This week we are heading back to Modern to play with one of my all time favorite cards, Death Cloud. With Eldrazi still running rampant, it seems like it just might be time for Death Cloud to shine. If we play our cards right, not only will we have ample blockers and removal to survive the early game, but by turn four or five we should be able to destroy all our opponent's creatures and lands and empty their hands. Better yet, the way our deck is constructed we'll usually have a planeswalker or creature left behind after the mass destruction!

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about Modern Death Cloud. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Death Cloud Intro

Death Cloud vs Abzan Company

Death Cloud vs Living End

Death Cloud vs Affinity

Death Cloud vs Waste Not

Death Cloud vs UR Eldrazi

The Deck

The main idea of the deck is to cast Death Cloud for as much mana as possible as quickly as possible, while also breaking its symmetry by having more mana sources on the battlefield or planeswalkers that stick around after the destruction. Essentially, our goal is to make Death Cloud read, "Our opponent sacrifices all their permanents and discards his or her hand; we sacrifice most of our permanents and discard our hand." Then we exploit the difference between "all" and "most" and use whatever is left to win the game before our opponent can recover. 

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We can use Smallpox as a miniature version of Death Cloud (although it's literally a smaller version of Pox). Smallpox is especially good on turn two on the play. Imagine our opponent goes Eldrazi Temple into Eldrazi Mimic, or Forest into Noble Hierarch on turn one. We untap on turn two and cast Smallpox. Our opponent is losing a creature and a land, while we are just losing a land, which makes the exchange quite profitable. Plus, our deck is built to function through these type of symmetrical effects. Most of the time we'll come out ahead when we resolve a Smallpox, no matter when we cast it.

Breaking the Symmetry: Ramp

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Sakura-Tribe Elder is great in this deck. First, it's a Rampant Growth, so it helps us get ahead on mana for Death Cloud. It's also a Rampant Growth that can block for a turn, so it can help us survive until we get enough mana to cast a Death Cloud. Sometimes buying just one extra turn by chumping a Tarmogoyf or Thought-Knot Seer is enough time to cast a Death Cloud to take over the game.

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When I started building the Death Cloud deck, Sakura-Tribe Elder was the first card I added to the deck. However, finding a second ramp spell proved much more difficult. After cycling through a ton of options I decided to go with Search for Tomorrow for two reasons. First, thanks to suspend, it gives us a turn one play, which our deck is otherwise lacking. Second, in conjunction with Sakura-Tribe Elder, it allows us to play a Thragtusk, Liliana Vess, or, after sideboarding, Curse of Death's Hold on turn three, which is something Explore, Cultivate, and literal Rampant Growth are unable to offer. The only downside of Search for Tomorrow is that it doesn't work well with Eternal Witness since, without suspend, it's overcosted for its effect. Admittedly, this case is a fringe scenario that is unlikely to come up all that often.

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Golgari Signet offers another two-mana ramp spell while also getting around Death Cloud altogether. While Death Cloud destroys many card types, artifacts are not on the list. Solemn Simulacrum offers another Rampent Growth that can chump block, and is fine with Death Cloud since we end up drawing a card. Solemn Simulacrum breaks the symmetry in two different ways: first by getting us ahead on mana and second by leaving us with a card while out opponent is empty handed. That said, it is a bit expensive for Modern, so it's only a one-of in our deck.

Breaking the Symmetry - Other Creatures

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Thragtusk might be the best card in Modern that doesn't see much tournament play. It's good against Eldrazi since it can trade with Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher while leaving behind a 3/3 Beast token to block something else. It's good against aggro (especially when we ramp into it on turn three) since it makes a huge, resilient blocker and gains us five life. It's good against control since it will always take two removal spells to get rid of it once it resolves. Thragtusk is a very good card.

In our deck, Thragtusk is even better, since it works so well with Death Cloud. Not only does it gain us five life, which is often enough to get us out of the danger of dying to our own Death Cloud, it leaves behind a 3/3 Beast token. While a 3/3 might not sound like much, when our opponent has no creatures, lands, or card in hand, it's usually more than enough to put the game away. 

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Eternal Witness is mostly just a value card, but she's also very helpful in rebuilding our board after a Death Cloud. In games where we don't draw Death Cloud, she helps us grind out wins by getting back Thragtusks or planeswalkers. Our deck puts a lot of things into our graveyard thanks to Smallpox and Death CloudEternal Witness offers an efficient way of getting back whatever we need in a given situation. 

Breaking the Symmetry - Planeswalkers

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Planeswalkers in general work really well with Death Cloud and Smallpox, since they stick around after it resolves and continue to generate value turn after turn. It is really, really hard to lose a game when we resolve a Death Cloud with X = 4 with a Garruk Wildspeaker or Liliana Vess on the battlefield.

Garruk Wildspeaker is perfect for the deck because it both helps us ramp into a big Death Cloud and closes out the game after a Death Cloud. Often, we can play Garruk Wildspeaker on turn three with the help of Sakura-Tribe Elder or Search for Tomorrow. We immediately untap two lands to play another Sakura-Tribe Elder or leave up a Doom Blade to defend Garruk Wildspeaker. When we untap with Garruk Wildspeaker on turn four, we are set for Death Cloud X = 4, which should clear away our opponent's entire board and most of their hand, leaving us with a Garruk Wildspeaker with five loyalty counters (and at least one land). We can spend the rest of the game making a bunch of 3/3 Beasts to close out the game or, if we draw well, untap lands so we can cast things like Thragtusk or Liliana Vess

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When I first started building the deck I had Ob Nixilis Reignited in this slot. The more I thought about it the more I realized Liliana Vess was better for what we are trying to do. First off, Liliana Vess can come in and immediately tutor for a Death Cloud. Or, if we already have a Death Cloud, a finisher like Garruk Wildspeaker or Haunting Echoes. Then after we resolve a Death Cloud we can simply +1 Liliana Vess every turn to make sure our opponent stays empty handed. Even if they draw lands they'll always be playing off the top of their deck. Finally, it's not impossible that we +1 enough to ultimate, which should almost always win the game, since the graveyard with be stocked with Thragtusks, Eternal Witnesses, and whatever creatures our opponent had that died to Death Cloud

The (Surprise) Finisher

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Haunting Echoes is our "gotchya" card. After a Death Cloud, Haunting Echoes will exile pretty much all the relevant cards from our opponent's deck. Oddly, it also provides a main deck hate card for graveyard based decks like Living End and Dredge, which have an incredibly hard time beating a Haunting Echoes


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While we don't have a ton of targeted removal since we are relying on Death Cloud and Smallpox to take care of the majority of our opponent's creatures, I did want to make sure we had the ability to kill an Eldrazi Mimic or Tarmogoyf on turn two. We ended up with three copies of Doom Blade and one Dismember


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While most of our mana base is made of basics (so we can find them with our Rampant Growth effects) and budget duals, I did want to mention these two lands. Bojuka Bog is another low opportunity cost way to hate out Living End, which has been on the rise lately as a way to combat Eldrazi. Meanwhile, Dakmor Salvage synergizes with Smallpox and Death Cloud since we can sacrifice (or discard) it and then dredge it back to our hand the next turn to make sure we hit our land drop. 


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Most of the sideboard is fairly self-explanatory, but I wanted to briefly mention the importance of Curse of Death's Hold. One situation where Death Cloud looks bad is against decks that can go wide with tokens (e.g. Lingering Souls or even Eldrazi Scions). Curse of Death's Hold is our answer from the sideboard. It's also effective against Infect, Affinity, and Goblins when we can ramp into it on turn three or four, since it locks a huge percentage of their creatures out of the game. 


Since it is pretty much impossible to play Thragtusk, Eternal Witness, and planeswalkers in a $30 deck, the ultra budget version of Death Cloud looks quite a bit different than the list we played in the videos. While it should play a similar game, the downgrades, like Thragtusk becoming Penumbra Spider, Eternal Witness becoming Xathrid Necromancer, and Garruk Wildspeaker becoming Explore, are quite impactful. While this version is probably fine to mess around with on the kitchen table, I wouldn't expect to have much success with it, even at the FNM level. 


For our non-budget list this week, I decided to go with a modified build of the deck osmanozguney used to 5-0 a league about a month ago. Overall, this build is a bit more controlling and benefits a from having good discard in Thoughtseize and Inquisition of KozilekKitchen Finks is pretty close to a three mana Thragtusk in the deck. Rather than being all-in on resolving a Death Cloud, this deck can play a (relatively) fair game of Magic with efficient creatures and removal, and occasionally steal some free wins when it happens to draw a copy of the powerful sorcery. The downside is that this list is super expensive, over $1400 in paper, so it will be a long, long road to upgrading should you choose to head that direction.


Anyway, that's all for today. I'm really happy with how the deck turned out this week and think the list is quite competitive. Unlikely some Budget Magics, this week we actually ran into a lot of tier one matchups and still came away with a winning record. Even the matches we lost were extremely close with our Affinity opponent catching our Curse of Death's Hold with a one-of Stubborn Denail out of the sideboard and our UR Eldrazi opponent drawing incredibly well to recover from Death Cloud. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive.

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