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Budget Magic: $94 (20 tix) Sidisi GPG (Modern)


Bunâ dzuâ, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! As we wait for Guilds of Ravnica to come (along with rotation) and shake up Standard, we are heading to Modern this week for one of my favorite styles of decks—a grindy, value-filled, graveyard-based deck that's looking to harness the power of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant alongside Standard staple God-Pharaoh's Gift: Sidisi GPG! The idea of today's deck is pretty simple: we're looking to fill our graveyard with the help of self-mill and self-sacrifice creatures, tutor up a God-Pharaoh's Gift with Gate to the Afterlife, and start getting creatures back from our graveyard as 4/4s. If something goes wrong, our backup plan is to make a bunch of Zombies with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Can God-Pharaoh's Gift port over to Modern with Sidisi in support? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Sidisi GPG (Modern)

The Deck

Sidisi GPG is basically a value reanimator deck. Rather than trying to get back one big creature, we're looking to reanimate a bunch of smaller value creatures for free with the help of God-Pharaoh's Gift. Apart from the reanimation package itself, the deck is mostly focused on filling the graveyard with the help of self-mill and self-sacrifice creatures to help us get God-Pharaoh's Gift onto the battlefield and to make sure we have plenty of reanimation targets to choose from once we find our namesake card.

God-Pharaoh's Gift

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The foundation of our deck looks like it belongs more in Standard than in Modern: Gate to the Afterlife and God-Pharaoh's Gift. While in theory we can cast God-Pharaoh's Gift, a seven-mana artifact isn't especially playable in Modern, which means tutoring it up with Gate to the Afterlife is much more practicable. The main goal of our deck is to use the first couple of turns to start filling our graveyard with creatures—hopefully enough creatures that we can play a Gate to the Afterlife on Turn 3 and then activate it to find God-Pharaoh's Gift on Turn 4—and then start reanimating our creatures as 4/4s to take over the game.

Apart from finding God-Pharaoh's Gift, Gate to the Afterlife has some weird upside in our deck. We have some ways to sacrifice our own creatures, which allows us to both gain life and loot with Gate to the Afterlife. The lifegain doesn't always matter, but against decks like Burn or other aggro decks, gaining a few extra life over the course of the game can shift the matchup in our favor. Meanwhile, the loot ability helps us get the six creatures needed to activate Gate to the Afterlife into the graveyard so we can tutor up God-Pharaoh's Gift as quickly as possible. 

Once we find God-Pharaoh's Gift, we should be able to put the game away in short order. While we don't have one game-ending reanimation target like Iona, Shield of Emeria or Griselbrand (in part because those cards are expensive for the budget and in part because one of the upsides of our deck is that we can cast all of our spells and try to win fairly if our opponent finds graveyard hate), reanimating a creature each turn for free as a 4/4 is enough to win most games, especially when those creatures typically come with some powerful enters-the-battlefield triggers!

Filling the Graveyard

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Our most straightforward ways to stock our graveyard with creatures are Stitcher's Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder, both of which dump at least three cards into our graveyard when they enter the battlefield. When you consider that our deck has a massive 29 creatures, even just milling over three cards at a time will get us to the six needed to activate Gate to the Afterlife pretty quickly. Stitcher's Supplier has the additional upside of milling three more cards when it dies, which usually happens quickly as we chump block with the 1/1 or sacrifice it to something like Viscera Seer, while Satyr Wayfinder helps to fix our mana and ensures that we hit our land drops as it stocks our graveyard. 

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Our second plan for filling the graveyard is sacrificing our own creatures, which is good in general and even better when we have a Gate to the Afterlife on the battlefield for more looting. Viscera Seer not only allows us to sacrifice our random Satyr Wayfinders and Stitcher's Suppliers to get more creatures in the graveyard but also allows us to scry into our Gate to the Afterlife to find our God-Pharaoh's Gift. Meanwhile, Evolutionary Leap is a bit more expensive, costing a mana to activate, but both sacrifices a creature and replaces it with another creature (which we can then sacrifice), keeping us churning through our deck to find action and fill our graveyard.

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Stinkweed Imp helps us fill our graveyard from our graveyard thanks to the dredge mechanic, allowing us to skip a draw to mill five cards and return it to our hand. If we happen to mill it to something like Stitcher's Supplier or Satyr Wayfinder, it helps us make sure that we get to six creatures in our graveyard in no time. The other upside of Stinkweed Imp is that it works amazingly well with Gate to the Afterlife, since we can sacrifice a creature to loot, dredge Stinkweed Imp to get five more cards in our graveyard, and then discard Stinkweed Imp all with the same activation, which leaves us with a Stinkweed Imp in the graveyard to dredge again when our next creature dies. Plus, Stinkweed Imp is a surprisingly good blocker thanks to its pseudo-deathtouch, allowing us to take down big attackers like Tarmogoyf, Death's Shadow, and Eldrazi with ease. Then, if our opponent has more threats, we can always dredge it back to our hand and recast it for even more defense.

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Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw are great in our deck since they work like spells, with Mulldrifter being a Divination and Shriekmaw being a Terror, but with the upside of being creatures so they support our God-Pharaoh's Gift / Gate to the Afterlife plan. In the early game, we can evoke them for value and perhaps even sacrifice them to Viscera Seer or Evolutionary Leap with the evoke trigger on the stack. In the late game, once we have a God-Pharaoh's Gift, we can evoke Mulldrifter (to draw cards) or Shriekmaw (to kill something) and immediately get them back as evasive 4/4 attackers and get another enters-the-battlefield trigger along the way! A great example of this was against the Miracles deck, where our opponent cast an Entreat the Angels but the combo of Shriekmaw and God-Pharaoh's Gift was able to take down two of the four 4/4 fliers and allow us to steal the win!

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Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is both a way to fill our graveyard for God-Pharaoh's Gift and our backup plan for winning the game when we don't have a God-Pharaoh's Gift. Since we have 29 creatures in our deck, we are likely to get a 2/2 Zombie whenever Sidisi, Brood Tyrant enters the battlefield (or attacks), which means it's technically five power and toughness across two bodies for five mana, which isn't a bad deal on its own. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is even better when you consider that we actively want creatures in our graveyard, since milling over creatures is almost like drawing cards in our deck. After we have a God-Pharaoh's Gift, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant works a bit like Angel of Invention does in Standard, coming back as a 4/4 and likely making two 2/2 Zombies as it comes into play and attacks, making it similar to a Grave Titan that we can cast fairly for just four mana when we don't have our reanimation online!

Other Stuff

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Eternal Witness doesn't help us fill our graveyard but is still a key piece of our deck because it lets us get back Gate to the Afterlife from our graveyard. Since we mill so many of our own cards, we often end up with at least one Gate to the Afterlife in our graveyard, and having a way to return it to our hand and eventually use it to get God-Pharaoh's Gift is super helpful. Of course, we can also get back random Shriekmaws for removal, Viscera Seers to trigger Gate to the Afterlife, or Mulldrifters to draw cards, so we're rarely short on good targets for Eternal Witness. The other cool trick with Eternal Witness in this deck is that we can sacrifice Gate to the Afterlife to tutor up a God-Pharaoh's Gift and then use God-Pharaoh's Gift to reanimate Eternal Witness to get back the Gate to the Afterlife to get our second copy of God-Pharaoh's Gift. Once we have two copies of God-Pharaoh's Gift on the battlefield, it's really hard to lose against most decks in the format.

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Last but not least, we have Kitesail Freebooter and Acidic Slime as additional ways to interact with our opponents. Kitesail Freebooter comes down on Turn 2 to steal a removal spell or counterspell while also giving us a main-deck way to fight combo decks, which are the natural enemy of our slow, grindy graveyard deck. Meanwhile, Acidic Slime can blow up a Tron land or an annoying artifact like Ensnaring Bridge, which our deck would have a difficult time beating otherwise. While it might be tempting to play spell-based discard and removal, for our deck, using creature-based answers is important because it helps to support our Gate to the Afterlife and eventually our God-Pharaoh's Gift

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished our video matches 3-2 but actually dropped a second match against the sweet RB Madness deck, bringing our total record to 3-3, which is a pretty reasonable record for a budget deck. The biggest challenges for the deck are fast aggro and combo. While our value engine gives us a huge advantage against midrange and control and we have endless chump blockers (and a better late game) to deal with most creature-based decks like Death's Shadow and Hollow One, we only have a minimal number of answers in the main deck against fast combo (although things get a bit better after sideboarding). Our losses came to Burn and Merfolk, both of which seem like challenging matchups. Merfolk is probably unbeatable thanks to islandwalk making our blockers irrelevant (although it can be much better for non-budget builds, since Damnation is a perfect sideboard card for the deck), and against Burn, we are mostly hoping to draw Thragtusk or Gate to the Afterlife and a sacrifice outlet before we are dead, and our endless pain lands make things even more challenging. On the other hand, we managed to beat the RB Madness deck, UW Miracles, and the Thopter Sword deck (even through main-deck graveyard hate!).

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As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck now that we played some matches, things are tough. Most of the cards that would be perfect for the deck (like Collective Brutality to shore up the combo and Burn matchups or Damnation to help against decks with evasive creatures) are too expensive for the budget. Adding in the fourth copy of Kitesail Freebooter could help, and it might be worth moving Thragtusk into the main deck. Another possibility is to have a dedicated finisher—things like Iona, Shield of Emeria, Ashen Rider, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are great God-Pharaoh's Gift targets but come with the downside of being uncastable when we are trying to play a fair game (like through graveyard hate, for example). For now, I plan on sticking with the value plan, but based on how impressive God-Pharaoh's Gift and Gate to the Afterlife were in our matches, I think it's worth exploring some other possibilities as well.

All in all, Sidisi GPG seems competitive enough to win a reasonable number of games against the tier decks in Modern—especially with upgraded mana, as the pain lands were pretty brutal throughout out matches, but that's one of the sacrifices that must be made to play a three-color deck on a budget—and it's incredibly fun to play. The deck basically walks the line between Sultai Midrange, Reanimator, and The Aristocrats, so if you like grinding out value with Satyr Wayfinder and Mulldrifter and eventually taking things over in the late game, give Sidisi GPG a shot—you'll have a ton of fun!

The ultra-budget build of Sidisi GPG is pretty straightforward: we cut the mana base as much as possible, replacing some of the random fast lands and pain lands with Evolving Wilds and more basic lands. Otherwise, we cut back to a single copy of Eternal Witness, replacing it with one Greenwarden of Murasa and one main-deck Thragtusk. While losing Eternal Witness hurts, since it makes it less likely we can get a Gate to the Afterlife back from the graveyard, there really isn't another way to get the deck down near $50, since none of the other cards in our deck are all that expensive. All in all, this build is certainly worse than the one in the videos, although it should be fine for some kitchen table fun.

As I mentioned a moment ago, in theory, there are a bunch of different ways to build around God-Pharaoh's Gift in Modern, and perhaps we'll try some other builds in the future, but for our non-budget list this week, we've got a straight upgrade of Sidisi GPG. The biggest change to the main deck is the mana base, which is greatly improved, with fetch lands and shock lands replacing the extremely painful pain lands. Otherwise, we trim additional copies of Mulldrifter, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, and Shriekmaw to make room for Collective Brutality. In the wrap-up, we talked about how fast combo and aggro are our two worst matchups, and Collective Brutality helps against both, killing Goblin Guides, gaining life against decks like Burn, and offering a main-deck Duress against decks like Storm. Plus, it works well with the theme of our deck, since we can discard creatures for the escalate cost to turn on Gate to the Afterlife or reanimate with God-Pharaoh's Gift. The other big main-deck addition is a copy of Craterhoof Behemoth, which gives us a reanimation target that can end the game in just one attack, which can be relevant against combo specifically, where giving our opponent extra turns can be risky. Otherwise, the sideboard gets a complete reworking, with Fulminator Mage helping against Tron and creaturelands, Liliana of the Veil and Thoughtseize giving us options against control and combo, Abrupt Decay joining Reclamation Sage to answer our opponent's graveyard hate, and Damnation for those pesky Merfolk (and other creature matchups). All in all, this build looks solid. While it maintains the same grindy foundation of the original, it's much less likely to kill itself with mana problems and has some help to shore up some of Sidisi GPG's worst matchups.

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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