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Budget Magic: $88 (13 tix) Pelt Collector Evolve (Modern)


Grüß Gott, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're taking a quick break from playing the super-sweet Guilds of Ravnica Standard to play a deck I've been meaning to test out for a while: Pelt Collector Evolve in Modern! If you've been following the Budget Magic series since the beginning, you might remember that one of the very first decks we played was Simic Evolve. Today's deck is basically an updated version with a significant boost in power, thanks to the printing of Pelt Collector in Guilds of Ravnica. The primary plan of the deck is to stick a couple Experiment Ones or Pelt Collectors in the early game, play an undying creature like Young Wolf or Strangleroot Geist, and then use Rapid Hybridization or Pongify to kill our undying creatures, making a 3/3 token, while our undying creature returns even bigger and our Experiment One and Pelt Collector grow into 3/3s for just a single mana. Ideally, we'll end Turn 2 with something like eight power and three creatures on the battlefield and smash our opponent before they find a way to answer our aggressive threats! Can Pelt Collector make Pongifying your own creature a real plan in Modern? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Pelt Collector Evolve (Modern)

The Deck

Pelt Collector Evolve is basically a tempo aggro deck. The main plan of the deck is to flood the board with cheap creatures over the first two or three turns of the game, back them up with a bit of bounce to get potential blockers out of the way, and hopefully kill the opponent quickly before they get a chance to recover.

Evolve Creatures

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Experiment One has long been the foundation of the UG Evolve archetype, and with the printing of Pelt Collector, the deck can now play a massive eight copies of its most important card. While there are some slight differences between the one-drops, with Experiment One regenerating itself after it gets to three counters and Pelt Collector gaining trample (and also growing slightly faster, since it triggers on creatures dying as well as entering the battlefield), for the most part, these cards are the same in our deck. They come down on Turn 1 as 1/1s and hopefully grow into at least 3/3s by Turn 2 or 3, making them very aggressive and powerful one-drops. Combining the two gives us eight Wild Nacatls with upside, ideally allowing us to overrun our opponent with cheap creatures before they are able to draw into a sweeper or a bunch of removal to stabilize the board.

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Cloudfin Raptor gives us an additional evolve one-drop, trading a bit of immediate power for evasion. Much like Pelt Collector and Experiment One, our deck can quickly grow Cloudfin Raptor into a 3/4 flier, which is an extremely fast, evasive clock. If we happen to have both Cloudfin Raptor and one of our green one-drops in our opening hand, it's usually best to get down Cloudfin Raptor first, even though it offers less attacking power on Turn 2, since both Pelt Collector and Experiment One can evolve Cloudfin Raptor into a 1/2, and then our bigger creatures can finish the job of getting it up to three or more power. All in all, this gives us 12 one-drops that that have evolve (or pseudo-evolve, in the case of Pelt Collector), which means we should often have multiples in our opening hand to facilitate fast starts and hopefully end the game quickly.

Undying Creatures

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Young Wolf and Strangleroot Geist probably look a bit strange, since neither is a staple of aggro decks in Modern, but both are extremely synergistic with our deck. With the help of a couple of cards we'll talk about momentarily, our primary game plan is to kill our own undying creatures for value, allowing them to come back as even bigger creatures (with Young Wolf being a one-mana 2/2 and Strangleroot Geist a two-mana 3/2 with haste) while also growing our evolve creatures into even bigger threats. While Young Wolf is a bit underpowered on its own as a 1/1, Strangleroot Geist is fine, offering a couple of hasty points of damage on Turn 2 even without help. Plus, if everything goes wrong, Young Wolf and Strangleroot Geist are good chump blockers if we are looking to stall out and draw into more action, although Pelt Collector Evolve more often wants to be the aggressor.

The Combo

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The most unique aspects of Pelt Collector Evolve are Pongify and Rapid Hybridization. At first read, the blue instants look like bad removal spells, killing one of our opponent's threats but leaving them with a 3/3 token, but the trick of the deck is that we're planning on using Pongify and Rapid Hybridization to upgrade our own creatures (and trigger evolve), rather than as removal on our opponent's creatures. With the help of Young Wolf and Strangleroot Geist, Pongify and Rapid Hybridization allow us to get off to some extremely fast starts by targeting one of our own undying creatures.

For example, let's say we play a Cloudfin Raptor on Turn 1, followed by a Pelt Collector and Experiment One on Turn 2. On Turn 3, we can play a Strangleroot Geist and use a Pongify or Rapid Hybridization to kill it, giving us a 3/3 token for our troubles. Strangleroot Geist returns from the graveyard as a 3/2 with haste, and all of our evolve creatures evolve twice, making them into three-power attackers. The end result is that we're attacking with four three-power creatures on Turn 3 for a massive 12 damage while still having our Pongify / Rapid Hybridization token left back on defense. Even just playing a Pelt Collector on Turn 1 into Young Wolf and Pongify on Turn 2 gives us a pretty scary start with a 3/3 Pelt Collector, a 2/2 Young Wolf, and a 3/3 token on the second turn of the game! Basically, the right way of thinking about Pongify and Rapid Hybridization in our deck is as weird versions of Wild Nacatl that require us to have a creature on the battlefield but also have a lot of synergy with all of our evolve and undying creatures.

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Of course, while our main plan is to use Pongify and Rapid Hybridization as Wild Nacatls, we can use them as removal in a pinch as well. If our opponent is throwing a bunch of pump spells at an infect creature or has a massive Death's Shadow, turning it into a relatively benign 3/3 is a fine plan. Still, we focus on using Pongify and Rapid Hybridization on our own creatures first, and only use them as removal if we are desperate.

Other Stuff

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Avatar of the Resolute rounds out our creature package and works really well with the rest of the deck. Thanks to both evolve and undying putting +1/+1 counters on our creatures, Avatar of the Resolute often enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each creature we control, making it massive for a two-drop. More importantly, Avatar of the Resolute gives us a card that can grow our Pelt Collectors, Experiment Ones, and Cloudfin Raptors above three power. While 3/3s for one are great, 4/4s for one are even better!

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As far as interacting with our opponent, we have Vapor Snag and Unsubstantiate. Ideally, we'll be able to kill our opponent quickly enough that having hard removal isn't necessary, and if we get desperate, we can always use a Pongify or Rapid Hybridization to deal with a problematic creature. Vapor Snag just gets a blocker out of the way while also getting in a random point of damage, which is never a bad thing. Plus, occasionally making our opponent lose one life is very relevant (for example, if we run into a Worship). Meanwhile, Unsubstantiate is a bad bounce spell that has the upside of being able to deal with a spell, potentially buying us a turn against combo where we can Time Walk something like Ad Nauseam or Past in Flames by returning it to our opponent's hand. 

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Finally, we have Chart a Course, which is basically just a draw two for two. One of the drawbacks of Pelt Collector Evolve is that we can have a hard time recovering if our opponent finds something like Anger of the Gods to sweep away our board. While our evolve creatures are great on Turn 1, they are pretty bad off the top of our deck in the late game when were are empty-handed. Chart a Course gives us a source of card advantage to help us fight through our opponent's removal and disruption and keep the action flowing.

The Mana

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Normally, we don't spent too much time talking about our mana base, but I wanted to mention it for Pelt Collector Evolve because it's the clunkiest part of our deck. While we're playing as many (mostly) untapped dual lands as we can fit into the budget, the fact that we have green one-drops and a blue one-drop along with a double-green two-drop means that we occasionally have games where where we have to play off-curve because of our mana. While this is to be expected with a budget deck, especially an aggro one looking to curve out, it's worth mentioning because the single biggest thing you can do to improve the deck is to upgrade into shock lands and preferable fetch lands as well, to make sure that we can cast everything on time every game.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we played five matches with Pelt Collector Evolve and won three, which is pretty decent for a budget deck in Modern. While we got beaten soundly by Grixis Control, I still feel like we probably should have beaten Infect. Having eight bounce spells and six Pongify should have made the matchup great for us, but it didn't work out in practice. Meanwhile, we managed to beat Bogles, which was surprising, since we don't have many good answers to a huge hexproof creature, as well as Rakdos Burn and Thing Ascension with a spicy Mission Briefing / Isochron Scepter combo. While our clunky mana was occasionally problematic, we also won a game where we mulliganed to five, showing the explosive power of the deck.

As far as changes I'd make to the budget build now that we've played some games, I'm not really sure there are many. While there are certainly plenty of upgrades that can be made, most are too expensive to keep the deck under budget. If you're willing to spend a bit of money (but not go full-on non-budget), adding Breeding Pool and maxing out on Botanical Sanctum while cutting some of the Hinterland Harbors would go a long way toward shoring up the mana without the cost of playing a bunch of fetch lands.

All in all, Pelt Collector Evolve felt solid. It's a really unique and fun take on aggro, sometimes feeling almost like a cross between aggro and combo. It's powerful enough to pick up a lot of wins and has an almost unbeatable nut draw where we end Turn 3 with something like 15 power on the battlefield. If you like attacking and growing your creatures into massive threats, give it a shot!

While it is possible to get Pelt Collector Evolve down into the ultra-budget range, the only way to make it happen is to make the mana even more clunky by cutting the dual lands for more basics and Evolving Wilds. Considering that the mana was already a problem for the build we played on video, downgrading the mana even more seems like a risky strategy. This build is probably fine if you want to mess around on the kitchen table, but I wouldn't even want to play the ultra-budget build at an FNM—it will lose to itself pretty often by not being able to cast its spells in time. 

I considered trying to make the ultra-budget deck one color, but since the green evolve and undying creatures and the blue Pongify effects are basically the key synergy of the deck, it simply wasn't possible. If you're looking for something slightly similar that will be more functional in ultra-budget form, something like Mono-Green Stompy or Mono-Blue Faeires might be the way to go.

For our non-budget build this week, we move from Simic into Temur. Going into red does a few things for the deck. First, we get Lightning Bolt as a removal spell that can also close out the game by throwing some damage at our opponent's face. Second, we get Vexing Devil, which is a huge addition to our deck, since it gives us a one-drop that can evolve all of our random evolve creatures all the way up to four power. In some decks, Vexing Devil is awkward thanks to its punisher mechanic, but in our deck, we really don't care what our opponent chooses. If our opponent takes four damage, we still get to evolve all of our creatures, and if Vexing Devil sticks around, we get a one-mana 4/3 and our creatures evolve anyway. Third, going into red gives us access to things like Engineered Explosives and Destructive Revelry in our sideboard. Otherwise, the deck stays mostly the same, with the mana being massively improved by a bunch of fetch lands and shock lands, so we should rarely struggle to cast our spells on time. All in all, the non-budget of Pelt Collector Evolve seems pretty competitive. It's even more explosive than the budget build thanks to Vexing Devil and is more consistent as well, thanks to the mana upgrades.

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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