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Budget Magic: $92 (33 tix) Mono-Blue Storm (Standard)


Mirë dita, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we are heading back to Standard for one of the most unique decks in the format: Mono-Blue Storm! Normally on Budget Magic, we play decks that I brew myself, but every once in a while, a spicy budget-friendly build posts a finish somewhere, which leads to it sneaking onto the series. This is one of those cases, with the deck originally being played to a 5-0 finish in a Magic Online league by Jackomatrus, so congrats to him on a super-sweet and budget-friendly build!

The basic idea of Mono-Blue Storm is simple: we play a bunch of cheap (and even free) artifacts, draw a bunch of cards, eventually bounce all of our cheap artifacts back to our hand and recast them, ideally with an Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield to gain a bunch of life, and eventually kill our opponent by sending 50 damage to their face! Can the plan actually work in Standard? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Mono-Blue Storm (Standard)

The Deck

Mono-Blue Storm is essentially a Standard-legal form of Storm, with Aetherflux Reservoir being our version of Tendrils of Agony. We cast a ton of spells, pick them all back up with Paradoxical Outcome to draw a bunch of cards, and then hopefully recast everything with Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield to win the game in one big combo turn. 

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Aetherflux Reservoir is almost exactly Tendrils of Agony except colorless and we need to cast it at the beginning of our combo turn, rather than the end. If we can cast nine spells in a turn with Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield, we gain a total of 45 life, which should be more than enough to get above 50 life and activate the second mode on Aetherflux Reservoir to deal 50 damage to our opponent and win the game. In fact, Aetherflux Reservoir is our only way to win the game, which means we need to be at least somewhat smart about when we cast it. Thankfully, we have three copies, so getting one countered or killed isn't the end of the world, but oftentimes we hold onto our Aetherflux Reservoir and try to use it to win the game on the same turn that we cast it. 

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Beyond Aetherflux Reservoir itself, the two most important pieces of our combo are Baral's Expertise and Inspiring Statuary, which work extremely well together. Let's start with Inspiring Statuary. Our deck is overloaded with cheap artifacts that do relatively little except for upping our storm count during our combo turns. Inspiring Statuary suddenly turns them all into mana rocks for non-artifact spells thanks to improvise, which allows us to do some pretty crazy things like cast Paradoxical Outcome for one mana. It also allows us to cast Baral's Expertise for just two mana, which is actually extremely important to the deck.

While Baral's Expertise might look like a weird bounce spell, it actually does much, much more. Most importantly, it gives us a way to cast Aetherflux Reservoir for just two mana. Since we can't improvise out other artifacts, without Baral's Expertise, we are often stuck casting Aetherflux Reservoir for full price, and it's pretty hard to pay four mana for Aetherflux Reservoir and still have enough mana left over to cast a bunch of other spells and storm off for the win. However, with Baral's Expertise's "free cast" ability, we can improvise out Expertise for just two mana and then cast Aetherflux Reservoir for free, leaving us up plenty of mana to cast the rest of our spells and combo off. Even better, it also lets us bounce a bunch of our cheap artifacts to recast after we have Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield to up our storm count.

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Next in line is the combination of Paradoxical Outcome and our free spells, Ornithopter and Mox Opal. Paradoxical Outcome is our primary draw engine and one of the most important cards in making sure we have enough cards to cast to storm off once we have Inspiring Statuary and Aetherflux Reservoir on the battlefield. While Paradoxical Outcome is fine when we cast it for four mana, it's even better when we have Inspiring Statuary on the battlefield, which essentially allows us to cast it for just a single mana, since we can tap our free artifacts to improvise it out and then recast the free artifacts to improvise again in the future. We also draw a ton of cards along the way, which likely finds us more free or cheap artifacts to cast to keep upping the storm count until we eventually get above 50 life and win with Aetherflux Reservoir

As for Ornithopter and Mox Amber, they are pretty much just Darksteel Relics in our deck. Since we don't have any legendary creatures or planeswalkers in our main deck, we can't even tap Mox Amber for mana, which means it (along with Ornithopter) are purely in our deck to help pay for improvise and to up our storm count for free during our combo turns.

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While Ornithopter and Mox Amber are our best cards to cast, bounce, and recast since they are free, we also have Renegade Map and Traveler's Amulet. While these artifacts cost one mana, they have another hidden upside: rather than replacing real cards in our deck, they are replacing lands. Probably the best way to think of both Renegade Map and Traveler's Amulet is as really slow and expensive Islands, but Islands that generate storm count. Since we have four Renegade Map and one Traveler's Amulet, we can cut all the way down to 18 lands, which is pretty helpful when we are resolving Paradoxical Outcome and Commit // Memory while we are comboing off. One of the easiest ways to fizzle with Mono-Blue Storm is to cast one of our big card-draw spells and draw a bunch of lands, and while drawing into a bunch of Renegade Maps isn't great, it's much better than drawing an actual land because it increases our storm and we can bounce it to future Paradoxical Outcomes to draw even more cards.

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Prophetic Prism is interesting in Mono-Blue Storm. While it is more expensive than our other artifacts, it comes with the upside of drawing us a card when it enters the battlefield, which often makes the higher cost worth the price. There are also rare situations where being able to turn a colorless mana into a blue mana is relevant because we're playing four copies of Zhalfrin's Void in our deck. Meanwhile, Glint-Nest Crane gives us an early-game blocker that also digs through our deck for an artifact. Otherwise, it's worth keeping in mind that in the late game, we can often bounce it and replay it for just one mana thanks to Inspiring Statuary, which is a good way to up our storm count.

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Commit // Memory and Reserve Engineer are backup card-draw spells. Reverse Engineer is pretty simple: it draws us three cards, usually for just two mana thanks to improvise, which keeps us churning through our deck to find combo pieces and free spells. Commit // Memory, on the other hand, does a lot of powerful things in our deck. First, as we talked about before, Aetherflux Reservoir is our only way to win the game, so something like an Ixalan's Binding can really ruin our day. Commit // Memory allows us to bounce the Ixalan's Binding and proceed to combo off. The same is true of counters, since if we somehow end up with all of our Aetherflux Reservoirs in our graveyard, Commit // Memory can shuffle them all back into our library to give us another shot at comboing off. More importantly, the Memory half of Commit // Memory gives us a great way of refueling, in conjunction with Inspiring Statuary, since we can cast it for just two "real" mana, making it an even cheaper version of Timetwister! While only a two-of, Commit // Memory helps shore up a lot of weaknesses in our deck and is very rarely bad.

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Last but not least, we have Metallic Rebuke, which—apart from Commit // Memory—is our only way of interacting with our opponent. One of the downsides of playing Mono-Blue Storm is that we are pretty much a goldfish deck, so rather than trying to stop our opponent from killing us, we're mostly trying to kill our opponent before they can kill us. This said, Metallic Rebuke does give us one piece of cheap interaction, while doubling as a way to force through our combo pieces against heavy counterspells decks.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Mono-U Storm, which is a pretty fine record for a budget deck. Our matches actually did a pretty good job of showing both the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. We pretty much crushed anything somewhat midrange but struggled against extremely aggressive decks (which can often kill us before we are able to combo off) and extremely controlling decks (like the Esper Approach deck, which could simply counter all of our combo pieces). On the other hand, Mono-Blue Storm is an extremely consistent way to win games and matches if our opponent is only playing a few (or no) counters and isn't killing us on Turn 4.

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As far as improvements to the deck, it would be nice if we had a way to make Mox Amber tap for mana. It's possible that a solution is to move Baral, Chief of Compliance from the sideboard to the main deck, although considering that we have almost no good targets for removal, it's unlikely that Baral, Chief of Compliance will stick around on the battlefield for very long. Another possibility is moving into red for Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, which would both turn on Mox Amber and give us another card-draw engine, although this would up the budget of the deck quite a bit, since UR dual lands are usually the most expensive of their cycles. 

All in all, Mono-Blue Storm felt pretty good and is certainly one of the most unique decks in the Standard format. While it does have some bad matchups, it certainly is good enough to beat a lot of decks, especially if you put in some practice and learn the lines inside and out. Just a warning: the deck isn't that easy to play. While the combo is pretty straightforward, trying to figure out when to try to combo and when to play around counters and other interaction is pretty challenging, so plan on practicing a bunch if you decide to pick it up!

Ultra-Budget Mono-Blue Storm

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There's one huge problem with making an ultra-budget build of Storm: Mox Amber and Ornithopter are the only zero-mana artifacts in Standard, and while Mox Amber isn't especially good in our deck, it would be really hard for the deck to function well without a critical mass of zero mana artifacts. Personally, I don't think it's worth playing the deck without Mox Amber, and there aren't any other expensive cards to cut, which means we can't really make an ultra-budget build. If you're feeling frisky and are willing to replace Mox Amber with a one-mana artifact, then something like Navigator's Compass or even more copies of Traveler's Amulet is probably the way to go.

Non-Budget Mono-Blue Storm

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The build we played in the videos is already the non-budget build! This being said, there is potential for a sweet, somewhat more expensive build that takes advantage of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain as another card-draw engine. While Jhoira herself isn't that expensive, the main cost of the deck is adding Sulfur Falls and Spirebluff Canal to the mana base. Whether the UR version would actually be better than the mono-blue version remains to be seen, but it is worth keeping in mind if you want to try something slightly different. To make room for Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, I'd just remove the three Glint-Nest Cranes and otherwise run the deck essentially as is.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! 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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