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Budget Magic: $90 Squirrel Twin (Modern)


Anyoung, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Modern Horizons 2 is here, and the set brings along with it the return of one of Modern's most beloved and infamous combos: Splinter Twin! No, Wizards didn't unban Twin itself. Much like Yawgmoth's Will and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Splinter Twin is now mono-green, and it's a bit squirrelier than back in 2016, but if you really think about it, what was Splinter Twin anyway? A combo that made infinite one-power creatures with the help of a three-mana support piece and a four-mana payoff. Thanks to Modern Horizon 2's Scurry Oak and its interaction with Ivy Lane Denizen (if we play Scurry Oak and then Ivy Lane Denizen, we make an infinite number of 1/1 Squirrels and also a massive Scurry Oak by continually using Ivy Lane Denizen to put a +1/+1 counter on Scurry Oak when the Squirrel token enters the battlefield), we now have a very similar combo, with a three-drop and four-drop making infinite 1/1s: Squirrel Twin! The best part? We can build a competitive version of the deck for just $90! Can Squirrel Twin live up to its ancestor Splinter Twin? How good is the combo? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Squirrel Twin

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The Deck

Squirrel Twin is a combo deck. Every card in our deck helps us do one thing—go infinite with Scurry Oak and Ivy Lane Denizen, either by ramping us into it, drawing us cards, or tutoring up combo pieces. Once we pull off the combo, we should be able to win the game with an infinitely large board of 1/1 Squirrel tokens or with a massive Scurry Oak!

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So, how does the Squirrel Twin combo actually work? First, we play a Scurry Oak; then, we play an Ivy Lane Denizen. When Ivy Lane Denizen enters the battlefield, it will trigger the evolve ability on Scurry Oak, which will make a 1/1 Squirrel token that is green, so it will trigger Ivy Lane Denizen to put a +1/+1 counter on something. This will be Scurry Oak, to make another Squirrel and trigger Ivy Lane Denizen again. We can do this an infinite number of times, giving us a few million Squirrel tokens and also the mightiest Oak in Magic, thanks to all of the +1/+1 counters we put on Scurry Oak

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This combo—Squirrel Twin—is all our deck really is trying to do. All of the other cards in our deck are to help support the plan. Eldritch Evolution, Chord of Calling, and Primal Command are in our deck to help us tutor up Scurry Oak and Ivy Lane Denizen. Chord of Calling is especially powerful because it allows us to grab a combo piece at instant speed, potentially letting us combo on our opponent's end step so we can untap and immediately win by attacking with our mighty Scurry Oak and an infinite chatter of 1/1 Squirrels, but in reality, all of these cards are great. One of the biggest upsides of Squirrel Twin is that we can assemble the combo very consistently, thanks to having a ton of tutors. 

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Our mana dorks help to speed up the combo. With an Elvish Mystic or Llanowar Elves on Turn 1, we can play a Scurry Oak on Turn 2 and an Ivy Lane Denizen on Turn 3 to go infinite, which is pretty fast for an infinite combo (even faster than the original Splinter Twin combo), even for a format like Modern. Meanwhile, Wall of Roots is a great blocker and works really well with Chord of Calling—it essentially adds two mana since we can add one by putting a counter on it and get another by tapping it to convoke.

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Finally, we have some card-draw creatures, which serve two important roles in our deck. First, Wall of Blossoms and Elvish Visionary draw us a card when they enter the battlefield, helping us dig through our deck for our combo pieces and tutors. Second, Wall of Blossoms and Elvish Visionary are some of our best creatures to sacrifice to Eldritch Evolution, since, because they are two-drops, sacrificing either will allow us to tutor up a Scurry Oak or a Ivy Lane Denizen, depending on what combo piece we happen to be missing. We also have one Eternal Witness to get combo pieces that die back from our graveyard, while the three-drop also works well with both Primal Command and Chord of Calling since we can tutor it up and immediately return the tutor to our hand from our graveyard so we can tutor up something else.

The Sideboard

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  • Relic of Progenitus and Loaming Shaman offer graveyard hate, with Loaming Shaman being a budget Endurance that we can tutor up at instant speed with Chord of Calling.
  • Vexing Shusher helps us fight through counterspells—it's basically our budget version of Veil of Summer.
  • Reclamation Sage is another solid one-of, hating on various artifacts and enchantments, while taking advantage of the fact that our deck is really good at tutoring up creatures.
  • Weather the Storm fights aggro and burn by buffering our life total, hopefully buying us enough time to assemble our Squirrel Twin combo and close out the game.
  • Damping Sphere is good against various combo decks and Tron, slowing down other unfair decks while not really bothering our Squirrel Twin plan all that much since once we dump our hand of mana dorks, we're mostly okay with casting just one spell a turn. And if we need to play multiple spells, we can use our mana dorks to pay the Damping Sphere tax.

Playing the Deck

By far the most important thing to keep in mind while playing the combo is how the Squirrel Twin combo works. Scurry Oak is a 1/2, while Ivy Lane Denizen is a 2/3, which means if we play Scurry Oak early in the game and happen to evolve it by playing a Wall of Blossoms or Wall of Roots, then when we play Ivy Lane Denizen, it won't be big enough to trigger Scurry Oak's evolve and start the combo. The same thing happens if we happen to cast Ivy Lane Denizen before we cast Scurry Oak. This might sound like a big deal, but it usually isn't since we can just cast another cheap green creature to trigger Ivy Lane Denizen's +1/+1 counter ability to start the loop. As such, it's often a good idea to hold onto a random mana dork in the late game, just in case we need it to trigger the combo. 

As we learned in our first match, you probably shouldn't completely automate the combo on Magic Online. The first time we comboed, we set up auto-targets and auto-yielded to our combo, which made it super easy to make a huge board full of creatures. But after making 70-ish Squirrels, Magic Online thought we had an "unbound loop," which caused the game to end in a draw. In reality, the Squirrel Twin combo isn't an unbound loop, and it shouldn't draw the game since we can stop the combo whenever we want to by placing the Ivy Lane Denizen counter on a creature other than Scurry Oak. Keep this in mind if you decide to try the deck on MTGO

One of the drawbacks of Squirrel Twin compared to the original Splinter Twin is that our Squirrel tokens don't have haste, which means we often have to wait a turn to win the game after we combo off. However, there are a couple of ways to speed up the combo. First, we don't really need the Squirrels to win if our opponent doesn't have any blockers—we can just use the combo to make Scurry Oak massive and, assuming it's not summoning sick, win right away by attacking. Second, we can use Chord of Calling to tutor up Ivy Lane Denizen on our opponent's end step, combo, and immediately untap and attack with a lethal board of Squirrel tokens. Thankfully, we never comboed off and proceeded to lose the game, although sooner or later, there will be a game where we go infinite and our opponent has a sweeper to wrath our board. One potential way to get around this is by putting our last +1/+1 counter on Ivy Lane Denizen itself to make it a 3/4 after we combo, which is big enough to dodge sweepers like Anger of the Gods and Sweltering Suns, so that even if our opponent can sweep away our infinite Squirrels, we potentially can play another creature to go infinite again the next turn.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that our combo can be fizzled by creature removal on Scurry Oak or Ivy Lane Denizen. As such, if our opponent is playing a removal-heavy deck, it is often better to try to wait until they tap out before comboing, rather than just running out our combo at the first opportunity. Against decks with less removal, it's usually better to just go for it—the upside of going infinite on Turn 3 or 4 is really high, and we have a ton of tutors to reassemble the combo if our opponent does have a removal spell to finish it.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we went 3-1 with Squirrel Twin, which is a solid record, especially for a budget deck. While we did get absolutely crushed by a Crim-esque Grixis Control deck (hardcore control with a bunch of removal and counters probably is our worst matchup), we managed to take down a Harmonic Prodigy Wizards deck, Burn, and Hollow One, in a really interesting and close match.

As far as updates to make to the budget build, I'm pretty happy with where it landed. It might be worth including something like Blossoming Defense in the sideboard to help fight control and protect our combo pieces, but otherwise, most of the potential upgrades to Squirrel Twin would require going into a second color (like blue for counters or black for discard to protect our combo), which isn't really possible while sticking to our $100 budget.

So, should you play Squirrel Twin? I think the answer is yes. While I expect the deck will get somewhat worse once people expect the combo and learn that they need to leave up removal or else they'll just die (which hilariously sounds a lot like how you have to play against the original Splinter Twin), it felt like a surprisingly powerful and extremely consistent budget option for Modern. If you're a Splinter Twin fan, a Squirrel fan, or just looking for something super cheap to try in our new Modern Horizons 2 format, give Squirrel Twin a shot! While it likely isn't a tier option, it is a budget deck that can win a lot of games, and it does feel a lot like playing a really weird, green, squirrelly version of Splinter Twin

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We can get Squirrel Twin down near $50 without making too many big cuts to the main deck. We first cut the sideboard to the bone by dropping cards like Vexing Shusher for ultra-budget Veil of Summer Autumn's Veil, while Damping Sphere turns into Blossoming Defense (which won't help us fight other combo decks but should improve our control matchup), and Relic of Progenitus becomes more copies of Loaming Shaman as graveyard hate. In the main deck, we drop Eternal Witness for another Elvish Mystic, swap an Eldritch Evolution for the much cheaper Primal Command, and call it a day.

Non-Budget Squirrel Twin

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For our non-budget build of Squirrel Twin, our primary main-deck upgrades are Ignoble Hierarch and Noble Hierarch over Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic, which is basically a freeroll and gives us a somewhat better chance of winning without the combo by attacking, thanks to the exalted triggers. We also get Vivien, Monsters' Advocate as part of our tutor package (the ability to tick down Vivien, cast a Ivy Lane Denizen, and tutor up Scurry Oak is really powerful) and as a card-advantage engine against control. We also upgrade to a Sultai mana base so we can play cards like Assassin's Trophy, Mystical Dispute, Collective Brutality, and Thoughtseize in our sideboard to help protect our combo from our opponent's removal. While I do think the non-budget build is an upgrade, mostly thanks to our improved sideboard, it also ups the cost of the deck to over $1,000, which I don't think is worth it. Take Ignoble Hierarch, for example. It costs $220 for a playset, and while it is strictly better than Llanowar Elves, I don't think it is enough better to justify the increased cost. While I think the non-budget build offers some good ideas as to where the archetype can go (into multiple colors for better combo protection), I wouldn't run out a buy the list card for card—it's just too expensive.

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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