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Budget Magic: $90 STANDARD Living End


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to Standard to play a deck I'm hyped about for a couple of reasons: Standard Living End! Of course, literal Living End isn't legal in Standard. But thanks to Brilliant Restoration and artifact / enchantment channel creatures, we can make a Standard deck that will play a lot like Modern Living End, where we spend the early game milling our graveyard with creatures that can discard themselves for value and then get them all back onto the battlefield at once with our Living End, Brilliant Restoration. So, why am I so excited about the deck? Well, first, it's really sweet! It does something different from the rest of the decks in Standard; has some of my favorite cards in the format, like Colossal Skyturtle and Shigeki, Jukai Visionary; and is a blast to play. Second, we're only about a month from Standard rotation, but the deck (outside of a couple of copies of Disdainful Stroke in the sideboard) completely survives rotation. So rather than being fun for the next few weeks and then rotating, it will keep being fun for a whole year! Can we build our own Modern Living End deck in Standard with Brilliant Restoration and channel creatures? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Standard Living End

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The Deck

The plan of Standard Living End is pretty straightforward: we spend the early game filling our graveyard with channel creatures, all of which happen to be artifacts or enchantments; ramp up to seven mana for Brilliant Restoration; and reanimate a bunch of Colossal Skyturtles, Mirrorshell Crabs, and Greater Tanukis to hopefully kill our opponent with just a single massive attack!

Living End

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While literal Living End obviously doesn't exist in Standard, we can build a deck that plays a lot like Modern Living End with a bit of work (and a bunch of mana), with Brilliant Restoration filling the Living End role as a mass reanimation spell. Of course, there is one big difference—Brilliant Restoration costs seven mana, which means we're not reanimating our graveyard on Turn 3 like Modern Living End does. But this is fine, considering that Standard is so much slower than Modern is. We don't need to reanimate everything super early in the game for our deck to work. The other big difference between Brilliant Restoration and Living End is that Brilliant Restoration reanimates artifacts and enchantments rather than creatures, but since all of our channel creatures just so happen to be artifacts or enchantments, in our deck, Brilliant Restoration actually reanimates all of our creatures (minus Topiary Stomper, which is really just a ramp spell), turning it into a real Living End.

Channel Creatures

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If you've ever seen Modern Living End in action, you'll know that it's built around creatures that can put themselves into the graveyard for value, primarily by cycling. Our channel creatures do essentially the same thing. We can discard cards like Sunblade Samurai and Greater Tanuki to make sure we hit our land drops and ramp into Brilliant Restoration; then, once we resolve Brilliant Restoration, our reanimated channel creatures become our finishers, giving us a massive board to kill our opponent in just one or two attacks.

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Along with our ramping channel creatures, we've also got some interaction in the forms of Colossal Skyturtle (one of the most underrated cards in Standard) and Mirrorshell Crab, with Colossal Skyturtle giving us a way to deal with creatures with its bounce mode and Mirrorshell Crab allowing us to deal with anything as a slightly overcosted Mana Leak. Along with being our best interaction, these cards are also our best finishers once we Living End them into play, with both having some protection thanks to ward and offering massive (and evasive, in the case of Colossal Skyturtle) bodies.

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Oh yeah, and we also managed to sneak one of my favorite Standard synergies into the deck: Turtle Lock! While the main reason why Shigeki and Skyturtle are in our deck is to support our Brilliant Restoration plan, they also work extremely well with each other in the late game when we have a bunch of mana, when we can use Colossal Skyturtle to get Shigeki from the graveyard and then channel Shigeki, Jukai Visionary to get Colossal Skyturtle and some other cards back from our graveyard. We can do it again once we run out of action, by discarding our Turtle to get Shigeki and then discarding Shigeki to get back Turtle and more. Unless our graveyard gets shut down, this offers an incredible source of grindy card advantage in the late game, letting us get back removal and threats every turn until we eventually overwhelm our opponent. These cards also offer some protection for our Brilliant Restoration. One nightmare is that we spend seven mana on Brilliant Restoration only to have it countered. Thanks to Turtle and Shigeki's recursive abilities, if the worst case happens, we can always get back our Brilliant Restoration from the graveyard and try our mass-reanimation plan again on the following turn!

Other Stuff

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Rounding out the nonlands in our main deck are three cards that aren't directly related to our Standard Living End combo, although they help in a support role. Topiary Stomper isn't an enchantment or artifact, so we can't reanimate it with Brilliant Restoration, but it is a solid ramp spell that helps us get to Brilliant Restoration as quickly as possible. Memory Deluge helps make sure we can find Brilliant Restoration and our channel creatures consistently. Finally, Farewell helps us stabilize the board while we are filling our graveyard and digging for our game-ending Brilliant Restoration. While the upside of hitting artifacts and enchantments is nice against things like Wedding Announcement and Esika's Chariot, in some cases, exiling rather than destroying is actually a drawback for our deck since we'd rather have our channel creatures end up in our graveyard so that we can Brilliant Restoration them back into play. But Farewell is so powerful that it's probably worth it, despite this little non-bo.

The Mana

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The mana for Standard Living End probably looks a bit strange, with just six rare dual lands, Field of Ruin, Brokers Hideout, and a bunch of basics, but it actually performs pretty well. The odd choices are partly a budget thing. Pathways and even the Innistrad lands are expensive, and playing too many of them would put us over our budget, but playing basics also helps support the deck's ramp plan. Thanks to Greater Tanuki, Sunblade Samurai, and Topiary Stomper, we have a bunch of cards that can tutor up basic lands, so we need to play a bunch to not run out. Cards like Brokers Hideout and Field of Ruin become much better once we've got a bunch of basics. Field of Ruin specifically is great in our deck. Some Standard decks only play one or two basic lands. In these matchups, we can use the Colossal Skyturtle / Shigeki, Jukai Visionary loop to keep getting Field of Ruin back from the graveyard, destroy our opponent's nonbasics, and potentially Strip Mine our opponent out of the game.

Playing the Deck

The most important thing to realize about Standard Living End is that we can win the late game against basically any deck in Standard, thanks to Brilliant Restoration, Colossal Skyturtle, and Shigeki, Jukai Visionary. We had some matches where our opponent was able to wrath our board several times after we reanimated everything with Brilliant Restoration, and it didn't matter since we could just keep getting Brilliant Restoration back to our hand from the graveyard until we finally ran our opponent out of sweepers. As such, the main focus is making sure that we can survive long enough to make it until the late game, which often means using our limited removal early in the game and digging aggressively for Farewell, especially against aggro, which is one of our harder matchups.

The other challenging aspect for the deck is graveyard hate, which can snipe our channel creatures before we reanimate them. This means being aware of cards like Go Blank, which can be a huge blowout, and trying to leave up a counterspell to stop them. In game one, our only counter is Mirrorshell Crab, but we get a bunch more after sideboarding, and it's usually worth bringing some in if we're up against a deck likely to have Go Blank.

Speaking of the sideboard, Endless Detour is one of our best cards, giving us a pseudo-removal spell against creature decks and a pseudo-counter against control. It can also deal with uncounterable threats like Hullbreaker Horror, which was key in our match against Simic Ramp.

Oh yeah, as we learned during our matches, Shigeki, Jukai Visionary whiffs on occasion (we won't find a land in our top four cards about 10% of the time). While this isn't a deal breaker by any stretch, it is worth keeping in mind. We had one game where we kept a land-light hand, trusting that Shigeki would save the day, and ended up very disappointed when it whiffed.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we finished 3-2 in the weirdest way possible. One of our wins came against a The Kami War deck that scooped the entire match when we Farewelled them in game one, which felt a bit cheap. On the other hand, one of our losses came against Simic Ramp, where, after one of the longest, grindiest games ever, featuring a bunch of Hullbreaker Horrors and Titan of Industry, we eventually maneuvered into a position to beat our opponent's hand full of counters and managed to reanimate a lethal board with our opponent empty-handed and a dead counter on the top of their deck, so we were literally 100% to win...only to run out of time a few seconds before we could attack for lethal. Basically, one of our wins could have been a loss, while one of our losses should have been a win, which I guess means everything equaled out in the end, and we finished with the 3-2 we deserved.

As far as changes to make to the deck, the only card I'm not sure on is Farewell. Would it be better as a cheaper but less powerful (and non-exiling) wrath like Depopulate? I'm honestly not sure. We had some games where Farewell's ability to hit artifacts and enchantments probably won us the game, but we had other games where we didn't really want to cast Farewell because it would exile all of our channel creatures so we wouldn't be able to reanimate them in the future. Maybe a 2-2 split of Farewell and Depopulate (or Doomskar for the next few weeks until rotation comes) would be best.

So, should you play Standard Living End? Assuming you don't mind playing some super long, grindy games, I think the answer is yes! The deck is fun, unique, and competitive, and it survives rotation. The only downside is that, unlike Modern Living End, which often wins super quickly, Standard Living End often plays epic, long games. If you're looking for a deck that can pick up quick wins to grind out daily rewards, this isn't it. On the other hand, if you like making opponents miserable, reanimating things, and winning the late game in a sweet way, then Standard Living End is probably the perfect budget deck for you!

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One downside of the budget build of Standard Living End is that it isn't that cheap on Magic Arena, with 32 rares, but it is possible to get this number all the way down to 13 with some careful cuts. First, we drop all of the rares from the mana base, which isn't ideal but hopefully will work for this deck since we're pretty good at tutoring up lands. Topiary Stomper becomes Path to the Festival; Memory Deluge becomes Thirst for Discovery; and sideboard removal spells like Endless Detour and Fateful Absence are downgraded to Touch the Spirit Realm, Banishing Slash, and Brokers Charm. While these changes do represent a downgrade in power, the deck still has all the synergies, loops, and reanimation potential that we saw in the video. While I wouldn't take it to a tournament or expect to rank up with it on Arena, it should be more than good enough for casual play (it's also just $27 in paper, which is nice!)

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Finally, our non-budget build doesn't get many huge upgrades (in fact, it still comes in at just $150 in paper), but it does get a handful of upgrades, mostly to the mana base (where it gets some channel lands and a couple more rare dual lands) and the sideboard, where The Wandering Emperor enters the fray. 

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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