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Budget Magic: $94 (15 tix) Modern Stake Sisters


Héébee, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. Since we are getting near the end of Eldritch Moon Standard, with Kaladesh prerelease events happening this weekend, this week we are heading to Modern to check out my take on a classic Modern archetype: Soul Sisters. The basic idea of the deck is that we can use Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant to gain a ton of life, but we aren't just gaining life for the fun of it; instead, we are using our life gain as a combo piece to turn some otherwise lacking creatures into huge threats. Once the deck finds all of its pieces, it runs like a machine, gaining a ton of life each turn and being fairly difficult to disrupt. Then ,we finally close things out with Burn at the Stake, which can easily do 30 (or more) damage to our opponent for only five mana!

Let's get to the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Stake Sisters: Deck Tech

Stake Sisters vs. Naya Zoo

Stake Sisters vs. 8 Whack

Stake Sisters vs. Titanshift

Stake Sisters vs. Jund

Stake Sisters vs. Turbo Turns

The Deck

While it might look like an aggro deck, Stake Sisters is actually a combo deck that just happens to be playing a bunch of inexpensive creatures. Probably the easiest way to break it down is to talk about the core of the deck and then the various synergies that build off of the core. 

The Core

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Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant are the two most important cards in the deck. Not only do they allow us to gain a ton of life, which by itself is helpful against some of the popular aggressive decks in the format, but they are also essential to many of our combos. While they aren't very good at attacking or blocking, that's fine—all we really want is for them to sit out on the battlefield and gain us life, turn after turn. 

Norin the Wary is one of the strangest creatures every printed. Whenever anyone casts a spell or attacks with a creature, Norin the Wary exiles itself, which means it can never attack or block. Actually, it can't do much of anything. So, if Norin the Wary does nothing, why is it in our deck? Because there is one thing that Norin the Wary does better than any other creature: generate enters-the-battlefield triggers. Rather than acting like a creature, Norin the Wary is this odd combo piece, blinking in and out of the game pretty much every turn, which means that once we get a Norin the Wary going, we are pretty much guaranteed to trigger our Soul Wardens and Soul's Attendants multiple times each turn cycle. 

The last core piece of our deck is Genesis Chamber, which pushes our combo into overdrive. With both a Norin the Wary and Genesis Chamber on the battlefield, we not only get Soul Warden triggers from Norin the Wary entering the battlefield, but every time Norin the Wary comes into play, we also get a 1/1 Myr token, doubling up our life gain triggers. While it's true that Genesis Chamber impacts both players, our deck is built in such a way that, in just about every matchup, we not only end up getting more Myr tokens than our opponent, but our Myr tokens are better than our opponent's because they trigger our other cards and facilitate our combos. 

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Squadron Hawk isn't as important as our Soul Sisters, Norin the Wary, or Genesis Chamber, but it is still very good in our deck. All we need to do is draw one copy and we get to search out the entire squadron, which guarantees that we have at least three more creatures entering the battlefield to trigger our Soul Sisters and Genesis Chamber, along with flickering our Norin the Wary. It's also nice to have some flying blockers. While gaining a ton of life and making a bunch of chump blockers mean we aren't afraid of many early game creatures, a Vault Skirge wearing a Cranial Plating or an Inkmoth Nexus being targeted by pump spells can be problematic. Squadron Hawk gives us something to throw in front of these creatures and either trade off or at least chump to buy us some time while we are looking for answers. 

Creature Payoffs

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Ajani's Pridemate is insane in our deck. In fact, I've had games where it ended up growing to 15/15 as early as Turn 4! Ideally, we'll get some number of Soul Wardens and Soul's Attendants on the battlefield before we cast our Ajani's Pridemates, and then every creature that enters the battlefield will put a counter on our Ajani's Pridemate. If we have multiple Soul Sisters, we'll get a counter for each one because they trigger independently. Just how we take advantage of Ajani's Pridemate depends on the matchup. Against some decks, we hold it back as a huge blocker, especially if we are planning on winning with direct damage from Burn at the Stake, while in others, Ajani's Pridemate goes on the offensive and quickly becomes The Abyss, forcing our opponent to chump block every single turn. 

Meanwhile, Champion of the Parish takes advantage of the fact that Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, and most importantly, Norin the Wary are Humans. While it doesn't grow quite as fast as Ajani's Pridemate, it does end up getting pretty big, especially when we have a Norin the Wary flickering in and our of the battlefield multiple times each turn cycle. In a sense, Champion of the Parish ends up being a miniature Ajani's Pridemate and plays the same way, either holding down the fort on defense or quickly forcing our opponent to chump block to stay alive. 

The Finisher

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Before putting together this deck, I'd never really played Soul Sisters, but I had played against it many times. My impression of the deck was that while it was very good at gumming up the board and staying alive thanks to the ample life gain, it wasn't really that good at closing out games. While Ajani's Pridemate and Champion of the Parish can quickly force opponents into chump-block mode, this isn't quite as good as it seems because if the opponent is playing a reasonable number of creatures, Genesis Chamber provides the opponent with plenty of Myr tokens to chump block with. As a result, I wanted a way to close out the game in a timely manner. 

Burn at the Stake allows us to take advantage of the fact that our deck is amazingly good at flooding the board with creatures, thanks to Squadron Hawk and Genesis Chamber, while also fixing our difficulty in actually killing our opponent, since we can just tap all of our stuff to burn our opponent out of the game. It's pretty easy to be dealing 15 damage on Turn 5, and there are plenty of times when, by the time we draw Burn at the Stake, it's good for 30 or even 90 damage. Basically, Burn at the Stake ends up being five-mana "you win the game" in most matchups, and it makes the deck much more playable. No only do we avoid long, drawn-out matches where we are hoping to slowly out-Myr our opponent, but it also closes out the game quickly so that our opponent has less time to draw into trump cards like Anger of the Gods, Pyroclasm, and Supreme Verdict

Other Stuff

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I really wanted to run Path to Exile in Stake Sisters because it's just the best removal in Modern, but at $10 a copy, it's really difficult to fit in under the budget. Thankfully, in this deck, Outnumber can be a good budget substitution. While it isn't as good on Turn 1 since it needs creatures to power up, by Turn 3 or 4, it's a one-mana card that can kill a Tarmogoyf or a Thought-Knot Seer, just like Path to Exile. Meanwhile, Lightning Bolt does double duty, letting us kill our opponent's early threats and blockers while, in the late game, going to our opponent's face for the last few points of damage. 

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Most of the mana base is straightforward, with budget red / white duals and some basics, but Kher Keep and Westvale Abbey are actually pretty important. The reason they are in the deck is that they give us a way to continually make creatures when we are flooding out, which means we keep triggering our Soul Sisters to gain life and keep pumping up our Ajani's Pridemate. Westvale Abbey can also be a backup plan for winning the game—as we talked about earlier, our deck is really good at flooding the board with creatures, so when we don't draw a Burn at the Stake to win the game, we can flip Westvale Abbey into Ormandahl and kill our opponent with a huge, hasty, flying, and indestructible creature. 

The Sideboard

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Like usual, we aren't going to go over every single sideboard card, but I did want to talk about two specific cards. Sudden Shock is in the deck primarily to help against Infect, which can be a difficult matchup. While we aren't really worried about most aggressive decks because we gain so much life, Infect can be problematic because it doesn't care how much life we gain, since it's planning on killing us with poison counters. Sudden Shock gives us a way to kill Inkmoth Nexus and Blighted Agent without worrying about getting blown out by pump spells. As for Boros Charm, one of the easiest ways for our opponent to ruin our plans is a well-timed sweeper like Kozilek's Return, Pyroclasm, or Supreme Verdict, so when we are expecting these spells from our opponent, we can bring in Boros Charm as a two-mana counter that can make all of our stuff indestructible in response to our opponent's wrath. 

Ultra-Budget Mono-White Human Sisters

To get our list down into the ultra-budget range, we really don't have a choice but to go mono-white, which means cutting the Norin the Wary combo along with our Burn at the Stake finisher. As a result, we head towards a Humans-based build, looking to maximize the power of both Champion of the Parish and Ajani's Pridemate, and then for closing out the game, we have Brave the Elements to give all of our stuff protection from whatever color of blockers our opponent happens to have (also, Brave the Elements is a great hoser for Anger of the Gods and Pyroclasm in a mono-white deck). We also add Spirit Bonds as a budget replacement for Genesis Chamber. While the enchantment is a bit more mana intensive, the payoff is even better, giving us a 1/1 flying Spirit token rather than a ground-bound 1/1 Myr; plus, we get rid of the symmetrical effect headache, which means our opponent shouldn't have as many chump blockers for our huge Ajani's Pridemates. All in all, I think this list looks pretty good for an ultra-budget list and expect that it should be able to win some games. Just keep in mind that the original list is only 15 tix on Magic Online, so you aren't really saving that much by going ultra-budget unless you are playing in paper. 

Non-Budget Norin Sisters

The non-budget build of Norin Sisters stay red / white, but drops Burn at the Stake in favor of Purphoros, God of the Forge, which forms a really-hard-to-deal-with, game-winning combo with Norin the Wary, since every time it flickers, it's not only gaining life with the Soul Sisters and making tokens with Genesis Chamber but also dealing damage to the opponent. Another big addition is Ranger of Eos, which gives the deck a way to search out either of its Soul Sisters, Norin the Wary, or Champion of the Parish for a reasonable cost. As a result, the deck can trim down to only three copies of Norin the Wary, which is nice, since Norin the Wary is legendary and getting Norin flooded is pretty annoying. Otherwise, the mana base gets a boost with Sacred Foundry, Outnumber turns into Path to Exile, and the deck gains access to all of the great white sideboard cards like Stony Silence and Leyline of Sanctity. While I think this version is an upgrade over the one we played in the videos, I also think our original build played pretty well, so I wouldn't rush into upgrades. If you do decide to add some more money to the deck, I'd start with Path to Exile over Outnumber, Purphoros, God of the Forge over a couple of Burn at the Stakes, and Sacred Foundry, in that order. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. All in all, we went 3-2 in our video matches and 4-3 overall (not featured were a second win and a loss to Zoo- / Burn-style decks). The deck felt good and was a ton of fun to play. It seems to naturally have good matchups against a lot of the aggressive decks in the format, and if you can dodge sweepers, it has the potential to do some real damage on a tournament level, especially with some upgrades! 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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