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Budget Magic: $92 WB Prison (Standard, Magic Arena)


'Iorana, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Throne of Eldraine has been overrun by a horde of Zombie tokens thanks to the combination of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the Dead, so this week, we're looking to stick it to the top deck in Standard by stacking up a board full of hateful, prison-y enchantments with WB Prison! The main goal of the deck is simple: get two (or more) copies of Ethereal Absolution and / or Revenge of Ravens on the battlefield, which will lock an infinite number of annoying 2/2 Zombies (and other small creatures) out of the game. Apart from the lock, we've got a Doom Foretold to eat away our opponent's permanents and a pile of good removal in Oath of Kaya, Prison Realm, and Kaya's Wrath. Ideally, we'll win the game by our opponent scooping in frustration, but if we have to actually kill our opponent, we have Cavalier of Dawn and Ugin, the Ineffable to get the job done. Is stacking up hateful enchantments the way to win in Throne of Eldraine Standard on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: WB Prison (Standard, Magic Arena)

The Deck

WB Prison is essentially a tap-out control deck. Rather than trying to play counters and other instant-speed interaction like more common draw-go-style control decks, we're looking to spend each turn tapping out to deal with our opponent's threats and eventually for our prison-esque enchantments like Ethereal Absolution and Revenge of Ravens to (hopefully) lock our opponent out of the game. While the main goal of the deck is to deal with the endless Zombie tokens put forth by various Golos, Tireless Pilgrim decks, our enchantments are really strong against basically any deck that's looking to win with creatures.

The Lock

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As I mentioned in the intro, our main goal is to get at least two copies of Ethereal Absolution and / or Revenge of Ravens on the battlefield at the same time. While one copy of either of these cards is very strong against creature-based decks, they become devastating in multiples. While we don't play many creatures of our own, Ethereal Absolution kills all one-toughness creatures immediately and shrinks bigger creatures. In multiples, it can lock some decks out of playing creatures altogether. Plus, it also works as a win condition by allowing us to exile creatures from our opponent's graveyard to make a steady stream of fliers. Meanwhile, Revenge of Ravens doesn't actually kill our opponent's creatures, but it makes it really difficult for our opponent to attack since we gain a life and they lose a life for each attacking creature. This means that any one-power creatures can't attack (since the end result would be our opponent losing one life), which means just a single Revenge of Ravens can beat a deck like Mono-Red Aggro all by itself. In multiples (or combined with Ethereal Absolution), Revenge of Ravens can neutralize an entire board full of Zombie tokens from Field of the Dead, making it more or less impossible four our opponent to attack, which in turn will buy us a ton of time to find a finisher and close out the game.

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While both Ethereal Absolution and Revenge of Ravens are great against decks looking to go wide with tokens or small creatures, they don't do much if our opponent is leaning on a few big creatures or planeswalkers. Thankfully, we have plenty of ways of dealing with threats that happen to slip through the cracks of our two primary enchantments. Doom Foretold, in conjunction with Golden Egg and Guild Globe for cantripping sacrifice fodder, slowly eats away our opponent's board until they have no nontoken, non-land permanents left in play. This allows us to deal with annoying planeswalkers, artifacts, and enchantments like Fires of Invention, which dodge Ethereal Absolution and Revenge of Ravens. Eventually, we run our opponent out of sac-able permanents and end up with a Knight token, an extra card, and some life for our trouble, although forcing our opponent to sacrifice good cards while we sacrifice relatively useless eggs that already did their job by drawing us a card when they came into play is the real payoff.

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If we need targeted removal rather than the slow grind of Doom Foretold, we turn to Prison Realm and Oath of Kaya. Prison Realm is a solid way to deal with a planeswalker or a huge Hydroid Krasis for a low price. Sometimes, we can even do a sweet trick where after exiling one of our opponent's creatures, we choose to sacrifice Prison Realm to Doom Foretold to give our opponent back their creature, only to force them to sacrifice it on their upkeep with Doom Foretold, keeping our enchantment active for another turn cycle. Meanwhile, Oath of Kaya combines with Revenge of Ravens to give us even more lifegain, which makes our matchup against aggro decks hilariously good. You haven't really experienced Throne of Eldraine Standard until you watch a Mono-Red deck try to beat a Revenge of Ravens backed by Oath of Kaya. It's like trying to empty the water from your sinking ship with a spoon. 

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If there's a drawback to WB Prison, it's that the deck can be slow. Kaya's Wrath gives us a way to clear the board on Turn 4, hopefully buying us enough time to start playing our powerful but expensive enchantments. It also works well with Ethereal Absolution (stocking the graveyard with creatures we can exile to make Spirits) and Doom Foretold (by clearing away creatures, hopefully forcing our opponent to sacrifice more powerful permanents like planeswalkers). 

Finishing the Game

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We often win the game by our opponent getting so annoyed by our prison pieces that they simply give up. But we have a couple of options if we actually need to kill our opponent. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon gives us another (mostly) unconditional removal spell that also makes a stream of 2/2 tokens to attack our opponent. Combined with cards like Ethereal Absolution and the loss of life from Revenge of Ravens, even with just some 2/2s, it usually doesn't take us that long to finish off our opponent once we've gained control of the game. As for Cavalier of Dawn, it's perfect for our deck. It gives us another unconditional removal spell with its Beast Within–like enters-the-battlefield ability if our opponent has something we really need to kill. If our opponent doesn't have any good targets, we can always blow up one of our eggs to make a 3/3 to speed up our clock. Then, when Cavalier of Dawn dies, we can return one of our powerful lock enchantments to our hand—most often Doom Foretold since it tends to sacrifice itself, but also Ethereal Absolution or Revenge of Ravens if they happen to get destroyed or hit by discard. 

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, WB Prison was solid. We finished our five matches with a 4-1 record and crushed all of the creature-based decks we faced. Sadly, our one loss came to Bant Golos, which was the one deck we really wanted to beat, although one of our losses in the three-game match came from mana screw. On paper, it seems like we should at least be able to give Golos, Tireless Pilgrim / Field of the Dead decks a tough time, although we'll have to test the matchup some more to know for sure.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm not sure there are many. The main deck felt very solid, although it's possible that the three Unmoored Egos and three Ashiok, Dream Renders in the sideboard are too much focus on the Golos matchup. After playing a bunch of games with the deck, it seems that our matchup against basically any deck looking to win by beating down with creatures is somewhere between good and great. The harder matchups are against creature-light decks or decks like Simic Flash with a bunch of counterspells to answer our expensive enchantments cheaply. The easiest way to improve these matchups is Teferi, Time Raveler, but that's more of a non-budget solution. For the budget deck, adding the fourth Duress and maybe some counterspells of our own to the sideboard could be the way to go.

All in all, WB Prison was sweet. It felt surprisingly competitive, and if you like making opponents miserable with underplayed enchantments, it's a ton of fun to play as well. If you're tired of dying to random creatures and boards full of Zombie tokens, give it a shot!

Getting WB Prison down in the $50 price range is easy: we just trade Godless Shrine and one copy of Castle Locthwain for four copies of Scoured Barrens

On the other hand, making WB Prison cheap on Magic Arena is a lot trickier. We start by cutting all of the rares from the sideboard and mana base. While losing Unmoored Ego and The Elderspell from the sideboard is fine (especially since Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage seems like a really solid addition for slower, more controlling matchups), going up to eight tapped lands in the mana base will cause problems in some games. After that, we drop Cavalier of Dawn (the only mythic in the budget build) along with Oath of Kaya for uncommon removal in Despark, Consecrate // Consume, and Glass Casket. While the deck seems functional with these changes, losing Oath of Kaya does make our Doom Foretolds a bit worse since we're replacing an easy-to-sacrifice permanent with spell-based removal. But hopefully Golden Egg and Guild Globe will be enough fuel to keep Doom Foretold running smoothly. In general, these changes do make the deck less competitive but also cut the Magic Arena price tag roughly in half. If you're just looking to play casual games, the Arena budget build should still be good enough to lock some opponents out of the game!

For our non-budget build this week, we draw inspiration from the Esper Stax list. In fact, the deck above is basically Esper Stax but with Ethereal Absolution and Revenge of Ravens added to the mix. Dance of the Manse gives us an additional finisher, making Cavalier of Dawn less necessary, while Teferi, Time Raveler goes a long way toward improving our weakness to counterspell-based control and tempo decks.

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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