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Budget Magic: $94 (16 tix) Sephara Stompy (Modern, Magic Online)


Bunâ dzuâ, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, as we wait for Throne of Eldraine and our new post-rotation Standard format, we're heading to Modern to see how good Sephara, Sky's Blade is in the format. Our main goal is to get a Sephara, Sky's Blade on the battlefield as quickly as possible, hopefully on Turn 3, with the help of a bunch of cheap flying creatures and then beat our opponent down in the air before they get a chance to recover. As a backup plan, we have not only Favorable Winds but another new Core Set 2020 addition in Empyrean Eagle to turn our tiny fliers into more meaningful threats. What happens if you go all-in on Sephara, Sky's Blade in Modern on a budget? Let's find out! Then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Sephara Stompy

The Deck

Sephara Stompy is an evasive aggro deck. The main goal of the deck is to get four cheap (often one-mana) fliers on the battlefield over the first three turns of the game, which allows us to power out a massive Sephara, Sky's Blade for just a single mana. This not only gives us a huge threat but also protects the rest of our fliers by making them indestructible. If we don't happen to draw Sephara, Sky's Blade, we can simply stack up Favorable Winds and Empyrean Eagle to turn our small fliers into bigger threats and hopefully pick up the win by going wide with cheap, evasive creatures.

Sephara

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Sephara, Sky's Blade is the centerpiece of our deck. As a seven-mana 7/7 flier with lifelink, Sephara, Sky's Blade is basically unplayable in Modern. However, if we can get four fliers on the battlefield, we can play Sephara, Sky's Blade for just a single mana, with the additional cost of tapping our team. At one mana, Sephara, Sky's Blade is great, not only giving us a massive, lifelinking flier but also protecting our other creatures from removal by making them indestructible. While a handful of playable removal spells can deal with Sephara (like Path to Exile or Assassin's Trophy), the other big upside of Sephara, Sky's Blade is that she dodges some of the most played removal spells in the format, like Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt. Against some decks Sephara, Sky's Blade pretty much wins the game all by herself since our opponent can't kill her, while the lifegain often closes the door on various aggro decks.

One-Drops

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To get Sephara, Sky's Blade on the battlefield on Turn 3, we need to have need to have four fliers on the battlefield and at least one mana left over to cast Sephara, Sky's Blade herself. Basically, we need three one-drops and one additional flier (which can be either one or two mana) to make it happen, which means that overloading our deck with one-mana fliers is essential. All in all, we have 19 one-drop fliers, all of which have some sort of upside. Mausoleum Wanderer and Judge's Familiar give us one-mana fliers that can also Force Spike instants or sorceries, which helps us fight through counters and sweepers against control and slows down various spell-based combo decks while also helping ensure we hit the four-flier threshold to get Sephara, Sky's Blade on the battlefield as soon as possible.

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Rounding out our one-drop package are a bunch of card-advantage-generating fliers. The floor on all of these cards is adding a one-mana flier to the battlefield to support our Sephara plan, but the ceiling is noticeably higher, with each being able to generate card advantage in their own unique way. Faerie Seer simply scries two when it enters the battlefield, which makes it a solid option for digging for Sephara, Sky's Blade or more fliers to get Sephara on the battlefield if we already have a copy in hand. Faerie Miscreant is often just a 1/1 flier for one, but we get to draw an extra card if we happen to draw multiples. Finally, Spectral Sailor is just a 1/1 flier in the early game, but if the game happens to go long, it turns into a great source of card advantage, allowing us to draw an extra card each turn for four mana. 

Together, these cards give us a critical mass of cheap fliers to help get Sephara, Sky's Blade on the battlefield by Turn 3. With 19 one-drop fliers in the deck, we'll almost always have at least two in our opening hand, and it's not all that uncommon that we'll have three or more.

Two-Drops

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In the two-drop slot, we have two more flyers. Pride of the Clouds is our biggest beater outside of Sephara, Sky's Blade, often being a 4/4 or 5/5 for just two mana thanks to all of our other cheap fliers. In a pinch, we can even take advantage of the forecast ability to make some flying tokens if we run out of action and have nothing better to do with our mana in the late game. Meanwhile, Remorseful Cleric gives us a main-deck hate card for Hogaak and Izzet Phoenix, both of which rely heavily on the graveyard to execute their game plan, as a flying Tormod's Crypt. While our one-drops are the most important cards for getting Sephara, Sky's Blade on the battlefield, because of how the Sephara curve works, we can have one two-drop over the first three turns and still have enough fliers and mana to cast Sephara, Sky's Blade on Turn 3.

Backup Plans

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One of the risks of building around Sephara, Sky's Blade is that we only have four copies of our namesake card, which means we won't draw a copy in some games. As such, having a backup plan for winning in games when we don't find Sephara is important since a bunch of one mana flying 1/1s are unlikely to be fast enough to get the job done in Modern. Our backup plan is pumping our small fliers into more meaningful threats. Favorable Winds gives us a two-mana anthem that pumps all of our creatures, while Empyrean Eagle is the same, with the downside of costing one more mana but the upside of being a flier itself, so it can attack and potentially help us cast our Sephara, Sky's Blade. While beating down with random 1/1 fliers isn't likely to be enough to win many games of Modern, if we can turn our one-drops into 2/2s or 3/3s, then winning by attacking in the air with Faerie Miscreant, Mausoleum Wanderer and friends becomes much more realistic.

Interaction

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While we don't have a ton of ways of interacting with our opponent, instead trusting that we can beat our opponent down quickly enough that their threats won't really matter, we do have a couple. Vapor Snag is a solid tempo play, often buying us an extra turn of beating down by returning one of our opponent's creatures to their hand. And while making our opponent lose one life isn't a huge deal most of the time, it occasionally ends up being relevant, especially in non-Sephara games, where every point of damage counts. Meanwhile, Detention Sphere gives us a catch-all that can answer creatures, planeswalkers, or annoying artifacts like Ensnaring Bridge. It's also a good way to get rid of a board full of Lingering Souls tokens, which is a lot for our deck of small fliers to slog through otherwise, especially without Sephara, Sky's Blade on the battlefield to make our team indestructible. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, our record was Sephara Stompy was middling, finishing 2-3 in our video matches and worse overall, but part of this was the matchups. Somehow, when I sat down to record, I ended up playing something like five Chalice of the Void / Ensnaring Bridge decks in a row, which have to be some of the worst matchups for Sephara Stompy since both Chalice of the Void and Ensnaring Bridge basically lock us out of the game. As such, even though the record wasn't great, the deck felt like it had potential, and we'd probably have posted a better record if we had played a wider range of matchups.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, in general, it felt pretty solid. It's possible we could use a bit more interaction (one Detention Sphere and two Vapor Snags aren't a ton), but our fliers felt good, and the backup plan of Empyrean Eagle and Favorable Winds worked as intended. In the future, once Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is banned, we should be able to cut Remorseful Cleric and maybe use that slot for more Vapor Snags or Path to Exiles, if budget is less of a concern. Another possibility would be playing something like Winged Words or Chart a Course to make the deck less all-in on the aggro plan. While this would slow us down slightly, it would help in removal-heavy matchups when the games go long.

In sum, Sephara Stompy felt middling in terms of how competitive it was, although this was in part because of the matchups. Sephara, Sky's Blade herself is really strong when we get her down on Turn 3, although just how strong depends somewhat on the matchup. Against some decks, Sephara, Sky's Blade basically ends the game, while in others, she is just good (or ends up eating one of the few removal spells that deal with her). If you're looking for an updated take on Favorable Winds and like beating down with fliers, I think that Sephara Stompy is a good option, especially if you can dodge those pesky Chalice of the Voids!

Getting Sephara Stompy down near $50 is pretty easy, although it does come at the cost of making the mana base clunkier. As an aggro deck that's looking to curve out, Sephara Stompy really wants untapped dual lands, but even the "budget" untapped dual lands (in this case, Adarkar Wastes and Glacial Fortress) are $5 or $6 a copy, which works on a $100 budget but not on a $50 budget. We can get in the ultra-budget price range by cutting the duals and replacing them with more basic lands and Tranquil Cove, but at the cost of having more games where our mana doesn't work as we hope or where we have to play off-curve thanks to Tranquil Cove. On the other hand, if you have blue-white duals from Standard, the deck would function quite well with four copies of Hallowed Fountain and four Glacial Fortress along with some basics. 

Meanwhile, our non-budget build stays mostly the same, with the biggest upgrades being to the mana base (where we get Flooded Strand, Hallowed Fountain, and Seachrome Coast, so we shouldn't have any issues with lands coming into play tapped or being color-screwed) and the sideboard, where Rest in Peace, Stony Silence, and Force of Negation join the fray. In general, these upgrade improve the deck in certain matchups, and the mana base changes should make the deck more consistent, but I'm not really sure they will make enough of a difference that it will be worth rushing out to spend $350 to upgrade the deck. If you have some of the upgrades lying around, feel free to add them in, but Sephara Stompy is much better suited to be a budget (or even non-budget) deck than a non-budget build.

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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