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Budget Magic: $94 (48 tix) Abzan Rites (Modern)


Ħello, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Rivals of Ixalan will be released next week, which means we'll be kicking off a string of Budget Magics focused on the new Standard format, but for this week, we are heading to Modern for a deck that's basically a port of a old Standard deck: Abzan Rites! Abzan Rites is basically a reanimator deck, but instead of playing a bunch of really expensive reanimation targets, the focus is to reanimate things like Siege Rhino and Restoration Angel that we can also hard cast without too much trouble. Then, we simply win the game by blinking or reanimating Siege Rhino a bunch of times until our opponent's life total is drained away to zero! Can Abzan Rites make the move from Standard over to the much more powerful and faster Modern format? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Abzan Rites (Deck Tech)

Abzan Rites vs. Affinity (Match 1)

Abzan Rites vs. Five-Color Humans (Match 2)

Abzan Rites vs. Cruel Control (Match 3)

Abzan Rites vs. GR Zoo (Match 4)

Abzan Rites vs. Blue Moon (Match 5)

The Deck

Abzan Rites is actually a pretty simple deck: we're basically an Abzan Midrange deck but with a bunch of graveyard synergies thrown in, which means we essentially walk the line between Abzan Midrange and Abzan Reanimator. The unique aspect of the deck is that rather than trying to reanimate one huge game-ending threat, we're instead looking to reanimate some powerful midrange creatures over and over again, until we eventually overwhelm our opponent with small bits of value. 

Filling the Graveyard

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Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage are the foundation of our deck. The main purpose of both cards is to stock our graveyard with our reanimation spells and reanimation targets, with Satyr Wayfinder finding us a land and milling three and Grisly Salvage hitting a creature or land and milling four, but they have another important ability as well. One of the challenges of Abzan Rites is making our three-color mana base work on a budget, but having eight two-drops that can (hopefully) find whatever color of mana we need helps to smooth things out. Plus, while reanimating stuff with Unburial Rites gives us some late-game inevitability, we are more than happy to just make our land drops and hard cast Siege Rhinos, Restoration Angels, and Thragtusks, and having Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage helps to make sure we always have four lands on Turn 4 to start casting our big threats.

Reanimation

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Unburial Rites is the perfect reanimation spell for our deck, since we can mill it into the graveyard with Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage and not only cast it but cast it at a discount with flashback. Just as importantly, Unburial Rites lets us reanimate two things for just one spell, so once we get to the midgame, it's not uncommon that we cast Unburial Rites from our hand to reanimate a Siege Rhino or Thragtusk and then flash it back the next turn to reanimate a Restoration Angel to blink the Siege Rhino or Thragtusk for even more value. The end result is a sort of grindy inevitability. If our opponent ever kills one of our threats, we can simply reanimate it, and if they manage to kill it again, we can reanimate it again, which means sooner or later, our opponent will end up being overwhelmed with Siege Rhino, Thragtusk, and Restoration Angel value and we will win the game.

Threats

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Siege Rhino is the centerpiece of our deck and our primary finisher. While the body is great, the fact that it drains for three whenever it enters the battlefield is even more of a payoff for our deck, since we can keep having the same copy of Siege Rhino enter the battlefield over and over again thanks to Restoration Angel and Unburial Rites. This process not only slowly kills our opponent three life at a time but also keeps our life total high, which is especially helpful against any aggressive decks and some combo decks (like Burn). 

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Restoration Angel is a fine creature on its own, offering three damage in the air along with four toughness to dodge Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix, but it's even scarier in our deck, since we have a ton of good blink targets. Even just blinking Satyr Wayfinder is fine, by milling more cards to reanimate and making sure we hit our land drops, but the big payoff is blinking Siege Rhino for more drain triggers, Thragtusk to gain life and make 3/3 tokens, or even Ashen Rider to exile away our opponent's board. 

The flash on Restoration Angel is also extremely important to our grindy game plan, allowing us to chump Death's Shadow or Gurmag Angler with a Satyr Wayfinder or Siege Rhino and then flash in Restoration Angel before damage to save our creatures and reuse their enters-the-battlefield triggers. While Siege Rhino is the centerpiece of our deck, Restoration Angel comes in a close second and is our best support card by far.

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Thragtusk and Ashen Rider are both just one-ofs, but both offer a ton of power when we can reanimate them with Unburial Rites and then blink them with Restoration Angel. The problem with both cards is that they are a bit expensive, so they are more difficult to cast from hand than Restoration Angel and Siege Rhino, which means we are usually hoping to not draw them but instead mill them with Satyr Wayfinder or Grisly Salvage and then get them back when needed with Unburial Rites

Thragtusk gives us even more life gain against aggro decks and can make a bunch of 3/3 tokens with the help of Restoration Angel or Unburial Rites, which makes it a solid backup Siege Rhino that's a bit better at stabilizing on defense but not as good at killing the opponent. Meanwhile, Ashen Rider gives us a main-deck out to things like Ensnaring Bridge and Tron lands, and exiling the opponent's best permanent is almost never bad. Plus, once we get our Ashen Rider on the battlefield, it puts our opponent in a really tough position thanks to the death trigger. If our opponent kills it (or attacks into it with a big creature), it exiles another permanent, and then we can always reanimate it again with an Unburial Rites, but if our opponent leaves it on the battlefield, we can always blink it with Restoration Angel for even more exile value.

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Wrapping up our threats is Lingering Souls, which is basically built for Abzan Rites. If we happen to draw it, we can play it and flash it back to make a ton of 1/1 fliers, which can chump block while we are waiting to get Siege Rhino online or go on the offensive, if the situation calls for it. More importantly, Lingering Souls gives us another card that we can mill with Satyr Wayfinder or Grisly Salvage for value, since we can always just flash it back for two tokens, which sort of means Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage are drawing us two cards (or at least 1.5 cards) when we happen to mill over a Lingering Souls with either of them.

Removal

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One of the best parts of Abzan Rites is that the rest of our deck is cheap enough that we can spend a big part of our budget on some of the best removal spells in the format. Inquisition of Kozilek gives us a Turn 1 play, which is important since both Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage start our curve on Turn 2, and we don't want to fall behind in a format that's as fast as Modern, while also giving us a main-deck card that helps against spell-based combo, which is one of our harder matchups. Path to Exile is the best removal spell for our deck (especially considering we don't have fetch lands to trigger revolt on Fatal Push), killing anything for just a single mana. Meanwhile, Abrupt Decay hits a lot of heavily played creatures while having the upside of dealing with random artifacts from decks like Affinity or Lantern Control as well. Plus, being uncounterable is occasionally important, helping us kill a Death's Shadow through Stubborn Denial or dealing with an annoying Merfolk lord through Spell Pierce

Wrap-Up

Abzan Rites basically killed it, as we ended up going 5-0 in our five matches. While we did get a bit lucky to dodge fast combo like Storm, we beat a wide range of aggro (like Affinity and Zoo), midrange (like Five-Color Humans), and control (Blue Moon and Cruel Control) decks, which makes the performance pretty impressive. All around, the deck felt really solid and has a surprisingly high power level. While Abzan Rites doesn't do anything especially tricky, it just plays a lot of really good Magic cards, and if our opponent doesn't find graveyard hate, the reanimation plan gives us a ton of inevitability. 

As for changes to the budget build after playing some matches, I'm not sure we really need to play anything. The deck felt really, really good. If you have the budget, adding in Thoughtseize would go a long way to upgrading the combo matchup, which is by far our worst matchup (since our clock isn't very fast and we don't have a ton of ways of interacting with things like Past in Flames or Scapeshift), but in reality, this is more of a non-budget upgrade. I'm pretty happy with leaving the budget version as it is.

In sum, if you were a fan of Siege Rhino or Unburial Rites decks in Standard, or if you like graveyard-flavored midrange decks, then Abzan Rites is likely the perfect budget Modern deck for you. While the combo matchup can be a problem, the deck has the power to compete with a lot of the best decks in Modern and is a blast to play!

To get Abzan Rites down into the ultra-budget range, we only need to change up our removal spells, which are the only expensive cards in the budget build of the deck. In place of Inquisition of Kozilek, we get a couple of Duress, which is much more matchup dependent but still gives us some main-deck interaction for spell-based combo decks. For Path to Exile, we get Declaration in Stone, which is slower but still gets the job done when we just need to kill anything. Meanwhile, Abrupt Decay becomes a couple of copies of Sylvan Caryatid to accelerate into our four-drops along with another Ashen Rider to reanimate. Dropping the strong removal spells does decrease the power level of the deck, but this is a good option if you are looking for a $50 place to start, and the deck should function pretty much like the one in the videos.

For the non-budget version of Abzan Rites, the creatures and reanimation stays the same, with the utility spells, mana base, and sideboard getting significant upgrades. Along with the typical fetch-lands-for-shock-land mana base, we get Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality alongside Inquisition of Kozilek for early-game discard and Fatal Push joining Path to Exile as removal. We also get a ton of powerful but matchup-dependent cards in the sideboard like Fulminator Mage for Tron, Liliana, the Last Hope for more grindy graveyard value, Surgical Extraction for graveyards, and Stony Silence for Affinity. If you want to stray a bit further from the formula, it's also worth mentioning that you can use the most expensive cards from the budget build of Abzan Rites to build into normal Abzan Midrange as well, although it's an expensive upgrade to undertake thanks to Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil.

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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