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Budget Magic: $94 (49 tix) UW Monks (Modern)


Ħello, Budget Magic lovers, and happy New Year! This week, we're heading to Modern for a deck that sort of walks the line between being a blue-white tokens deck and being a blue-white prowess deck: UW Monks! The basic idea of the deck is simple: play a ton of cheap noncreature spells, some of which make tokens or act like creatures (for example, Smuggler's Copter), to trigger our two Monks: Myth Realized and Monastery Mentor. Then, we overwhelm our opponent with a board full of tokens and prowess triggers and eventually go wide enough to take over the game and finish off our opponent. Can we finally make a deck built around Myth Realized and Monastery Mentor work in Modern? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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UW Monks (Deck Tech)

UW Monks vs. GW Valuetown (Match 1)

UW Monks vs. Blue Steel (Match 2)

UW Monks vs. RB Rack (Match 3)

UW Monks vs. Merfolk (Match 4)

UW Monks vs. Death's Shadow (Match 5)

The Deck

UW Monks is interesting, since it sort of falls midway between two archetypes: prowess and tokens. The good news is that the prowess and tokens plans intersect thanks to Monastery Mentor, and the main idea of our deck is to go wide with a lot of small creatures and eventually get around our opponent's defenses. To really understand the game plan of the deck, we need to start by talking about our two Monks because the rest of the deck is designed to harness their power.

The Monks

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Monastery Mentor is the centerpiece of our deck—if we can get the Monk to stick on the battlefield for just a single turn, the game will quickly spiral out of control in our favor. In some ways, Monastery Mentor is just a more expensive version of Young Pyromancer, but the additional mana comes with a huge upside: the tokens it makes aren't just 1/1s but 1/1s with prowess, which means they turn into really huge, hard-to-block threats as we cast our cheap spells. 

The downside of Monastery Mentor is that it tends to be a good target for our opponent's removal, and just about anything kills the Monk. This being said, if we can untap with it, the end result is usually us making several tokens by chaining together cheap spells. At this point, it doesn't even really matter if our opponent manages to kill our Monastery Mentor, since the tokens are usually enough to close out the game. 

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Our second Monk is Myth Realized, which works extremely well with Monastery Mentor for a couple of reasons. First, if we manage to get our Myth Realized onto the battlefield on Turn 1, it cares about the same thing as Monastery Mentor (casting cheap spells to generate lore counters), so as we are casting spells to make tokens with Monastery Mentor, we are naturally growing our Myth Realized into the white version of Death's Shadow. Second, while Myth Realized typically isn't a great draw in the mid- or late game, even when it is bad, it counts as a cheap noncreature spell to trigger Monastery Mentor and make another prowess token.

Together, the Monks form the foundation of our deck. Our primary game plan is to get a couple of Myth Realized and / or Monastery Mentors on the battlefield, cast a ton of spells in one big turn, and take over the game with a flood of prowess tokens (and a huge Myth Realized) before our opponent manages to draw a sweeper or something else to stabilize.

Prowess Providers—Creatures

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As far as cheap spells we can cast to trigger prowess on Monastery Mentor and Myth Realized, we have a couple of different groups of cards. First, we have some cheap token producers in Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk, which allow us to go even wider. While the cards do about the same thing (putting two 1/1 tokens on the battlefield), Raise the Alarm is generally the better of the two since it's an instant, which allows us to pump our Monastery Mentor or Myth Realized at instant speed or make a 1/1 prowess token for chump blocking. Meanwhile, Gather the Townsfolk's fateful hour ability is sometimes relevant, but it comes up less often than you'd think, so most of the time, Gather the Townsfolk is just a Raise the Alarm without the benefit of instant-speed shenanigans. Regardless, the main purpose of both is to add a couple of extra tokens to the battlefield, either to support our go-wide aggro plan or to chump block while we are waiting to draw into our Monks.

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One of the main themes of our deck is playing cards that act like creatures but are actually non-creature spells that trigger our Monks for extra value, and Smuggler's Copter is a perfect example. Not only does it trigger both Monastery Mentor and Myth Realized when we cast it, but it also gives us a way to upgrade a 3/3 token into a 3/3 flying looter. Plus, Smuggler's Copter is just a really powerful card. The loot ability helps make sure we are getting rid of useless lands to find more spells to keep triggering our Monks, while being a flier lets us chip in for some free damage, making it easier to eventually close out the game with our Monks and tokens. All around, Smuggler's Copter is a perfect card for our deck and, apart from our Monks, the threat we want to see most in our opening hand.

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Legion's Landing is just a one-of, since it is oddly expensive thanks to Standard, but it's actually really solid in our deck, offering another one-mana way to trigger Monastery Mentor and Myth Realized and then quickly flipping into a token-producing land thanks to all of the tokens we make with Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk. While it doesn't do anything especially important or unique, it does fit the theme of going wide and casting cheap spells, and the upside of giving us a mana sink in land form is an upside, which makes it a solid option as a one-of in UW Monks.

Prowess Providers—Cantrips

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Serum Visions and Opt are our two best cards for triggering our Monks, and one of the most powerful things our deck can do is chain together these cantrips once we get a Monastery Mentor on the battlefield. Before we have our Monks, we can use both to cycle through our deck and find our important finishers, and then after we get our Monks on the battlefield, the combination of Serum Visions and Opt provides a steady stream of 1/1 prowess tokens while also triggering prowess on all the creatures we have on the battlefield. Serum Visions is better as a cantrip, since it digs us deeper into our library, although Opt being an instant is a nice bonus for our deck, giving us another way to make an instant-speed token with Monastery Mentor or pump our Myth Realized out of range of damage-based removal like Lightning Bolt

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While Serum Visions and Opt are pretty well known as cantrips in Modern, we also have a lesser-played one-mana card-draw spell that just happens to work really well with the theme of our deck: Shared Discovery. Shared Discovery is basically a sorcery-speed Ancestral Recall that makes us tap four creatures to cast it. While tapping four creatures it a lot, our deck is built to flood the board with tokens, which makes Shared Discovery fairly easy to cast in our deck (although it is risky, since there will be times when it rots in our hand if our opponent can deal with all of our board). 

If you think about our deck, there are a few different combinations of cards that give us the creatures we need to cast Shared Discovery. One of the simplest is to play Raise the Alarm at the end of our opponent's second turn, untap on our turn, and cast another Raise the Alarm or Gather the Townsfolk, and then we can use our last remaining mana to tap all of our 1/1s to refill our hand with Shared Discovery. Another option is to get down a Monastery Mentor and cast a single Raise the Alarm or Gather the Townsfolk (which gives us three tokens—two from our spell and one from the prowess ability on Monastery Mentor), which again gives us four creatures to tap for Shared Discovery (which then makes us a 1/1 blocker thanks to Monastery Mentor). While there are certainly times when Shared Discovery is bad, there are also times when it's the best card in our entire deck, and the explosive power it offers more than makes up for the downside of it occasionally getting stuck in our hand.

Other Stuff

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Vapor Snag gives us a bit of removal. While Path to Exile is probably better in this slot, we simply couldn't find room under the budget, and since our deck has the ability to close out the game pretty quickly, having Vapor Snag instead isn't that much of a downgrade, especially considering that sometimes the one extra point of damage is very relevant. Meanwhile, Mana Leak gives us a main-deck way to interact with combo decks like Storm or Ad Nauseam, hopefully buying us the one extra turn we need to close out the game with our Monks and tokens. 

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Last but not least, we have a single copy of Apostle's Blessing, which gives us a one-mana way to protect our Monks from removal. As we talked about before, one of the biggest challenges of our deck is untapping with Monastery Mentor. If we can get in even one turn of casting spells with the Monk on the battlefield, we usually win the game. If we are willing to wait an extra turn to play our Monastery Mentor, Apostle's Blessing gives us a way to not only protect the Monk from a Lightning Bolt or Fatal Push but also make a 1/1 prowess token for our trouble!

Wrap-Up

All in all, we played five matches with UW Monks and ended up going 4-1, which is pretty solid. However, this record should probably be taken with a grain of salt, since we played a couple of weird matchups like Blue Steel with Pili-Pala combo and a crazy build of 8 Rack using Lavaborn Muse. This being said, we also played against Merfolk, Death's Shadow, and GW Valuetown, so it isn't like we only played against rogue brews. Matchups aside, the deck actually worked really well. The Monks were great, with Monastery Mentor winning a lot of games all by itself and Myth Realized providing a solid backup plan. 

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As for changes I'd make to the budget build of UW Monks after playing a few games, I'm not sure there really are many. Most of the cards that make great additions, like Remand over Mana Leak and Path to Exile over Vapor Snag, push the deck out of budget range. The sideboard could probably be improved slightly, but overall the deck felt solid and surprisingly competitive.

So, should you play UW Monks? If you enjoy token decks or prowess strategies, I think the answer is yes. One of the things I love about the deck is that, apart from directly upgrading UW Monks, you can push the deck more toward a straightforward UW Tokens build with a few changes (by adding things like Intangible Virtue) or move away from the token theme altogether and play more cantrips and possibly something like Thing in the Ice (which has some sneaky synergy with Myth Realized, since it won't be bounced while in enchantment form) and be a non-token UW Prowess deck. Basically, there are a ton of different directions you can go with the UW Monk shell, which means it should have a lot of replayability and customization potential.

There really isn't a way to make UW Monks budget friendly, since Monastery Mentor makes up a big chunk of the deck's cost, and the deck wouldn't be UW Monks without Monastery Mentor. If you are looking to sling a bunch of spells in an ultra-budget shell, I'd suggest the ultra-budget UR Prowess list from a few weeks ago. 

The non-budget build of UW Monks doesn't get a ton of upgrades to the main deck—mostly just better mana along with Path to Exile over Vapor Snag and Remand over Mana Leak. On the other hand, the sideboard does get some major improvements, with staples such as Rest in Peace and Stony Silence. Generally speaking, this build of the deck should play just like the one in the videos but with slightly better matchups against specific decks thanks to the sideboard upgrades. 

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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