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Budget Magic: $95 (10 tix) Rakdos Shamans (Modern, Magic Online)


Вітаю, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Lately, we've been playing a lot of Standard on Budget Magic, but we are changing things up this week and heading to Modern to play a deck built around a couple of sweet Ravnica Allegiance cards: Rakdos Shamans. A couple of weeks ago, we had an Instant Deck Tech for Jund Shamans. Well, today's deck is sort of the budget version of the same archetype, with Judith, the Scourge Diva joining Rage Forger and Metallic Mimic to give Shamans a bunch of powerful, aggressive payoffs and Rix Maadi Reveler giving us a weird version of Elvish Visionary in red. Is going Rakdos the right way to build Shamans in Modern, now that Ravnica Allegiance has brought us a couple of powerful black Shamans? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Rakdos Shamans (Modern)

The Deck

Rakdos Shamans is basically a tribal aggro deck that's looking to dump a bunch of efficient Shamans on the battlefield, pump them with a bunch of strange lords, and then (hopefully) kill the opponent before they manage to draw enough removal or a sweeper to recover and ruin our day. Probably the easiest way to look at the deck is to start by talking about our payoffs—the reasons to play Shamans in Modern—before moving through our filler Shamans and utility cards.

The Payoffs

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Rage Forger is—by far—the biggest reason to build a Shaman deck in Modern. It's partly a Shaman lord, putting a +1/+1 counter on each of our Shamans when it enters the battlefield, and partly a cheaper Hellrider, giving us a way to force damage through blockers with its "when a creature attacks" trigger and close out the game quickly on an empty board. Ideally, we'll be able to have several Shamans on the battlefield by the time we cast our Rage Forger on Turn 3; after that, we'll be able to close out the game in just a couple of big attacks.

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Rage Forger is so important to Rakdos Shamans that we're actually playing the full four copies of Flamekin Harbinger, even though two copies of the very medium Glarewielder are the only other Elementals in our deck that we can tutor up. Flamekin Harbinger is essentially just extra copies of Rage Forger that also gives us a cheap Shaman body on the battlefield, making it exactly what we want in our one-drop slot. Meanwhile, Glarewielder is a strange addition to the deck but can actually be pretty powerful. Being five mana means that we don't often hard cast it (although it does occasionally steal games in the late game), but the ability to evoke it for just two mana makes it so our opponent can't block with two creatures and maybe even gets in some extra damage with Judith, the Scourge Diva when it hits the graveyard, which makes it a powerful way to close out the game through our opponent's defense.

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Payoff number two in our deck is Metallic Mimic, which is especially good in Shamans since it synergizes so well with Rage Forger by putting a +1/+1 counter on our other creatures. While it is a bit awkward that we need it on the battlefield before we cast our other creatures, if it happens to sit on the battlefield, Metallic Mimic ends up being more than worth its two-mana cost, especially considering that it can be a Shaman itself so it benefits from our Rage Forger. Even something as simple as a one-drop on Turn 1 into Metallic Mimic on Turn 2 into Rage Forger on Turn 3 makes for a pretty scary start, with our Rage Forger allowing us to get in for a ton of damage.

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Our third and final payoff is also our newest payoff: Judith, the Scourge Diva. The Ravnica Allegiance rare happens to be perfect for Shaman tribal, doing two very important things. First, while Judith, the Scourge Diva is on the battlefield, it pumps all of our other creatures, in some ways giving us a backup Rage Forger to force through as much creature damage as possible as quickly as possible. Second, Judith, the Scourge Diva helps solve one of the problems with Shamans: sweepers. The way the Shaman tribe plays, the deck really want to dump its hand as quickly to power up our Rage Forger and steal quick wins. Unfortunately, this means that if our opponent can find a sweeper, we're often left just a few damage short of closing out the game and with a mostly empty hand. Judith's ability to ping our opponent as our creatures die can sometimes put our opponent in a position where if they do use a Supreme Verdict or Damnation to sweep away our board, they will die in the process to Judith damage. Otherwise, Judith, the Scourge Diva works really well with our Rage Forger as well. Thanks to Rage Forger's Hellrider ability, which wants us to attack with our entire board just about every turn, Shamans is incentivized to attack into opposing blockers to force through damage. Judith, the Scourge Diva punishes our opponent for blocking and killing our creatures by dealing some additional damage as our creatures die, which means we're dealing one damage with Rage Forger as we attack and another with Judith, the Scourge Diva after our opponent blocks and kills our creature, allowing us to deal oodles of damage even once our opponent has a bunch of defense on the battlefield.

Other Shamans

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Backing up Flamekin Harbinger in the one-drop slot is Spikeshot Elder, which looks a bit janky but is surprisingly strong with Rage Forger and Judith, the Scourge Diva. While paying three mana for one damage isn't great, we have a repeatable three-mana Lightning Bolt if we can get Spikeshot Elder up to three or more power with our pseudo-lords, which gives us a way to clear blockers out of the way or, if we can get our opponent's life total low enough, close out the game by throwing damage at our opponent's face. Worst case, we never activate Spikeshot Elder, and we have a 1/1 Shaman body on the battlefield to benefit from our payoffs, which makes Spikeshot Elder fine in the worst-case scenario and amazing in certain games, where it can take over all by itself.

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Burning-Tree Emissary is extremely powerful in Shamans since it allows us to flood the board with Shamans as early as Turn 2, which can allow for an extremely explosive Turn 3 with Rage Forger and Judith, the Scourge Diva. Since Burning-Tree Emissary gives us back the two mana we spend to cast it once it hits the battlefield, we can cast any number of them on Turn 2 and even top off the charge with another one- or two-drop. The games where we have two copies of Burning-Tree Emissary along with another two-drop and one of our three-mana payoffs are the closest Rakdos Shamans gets to picking up free wins, often attacking for 10 or more damage as early as Turn 3.

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Our last Shaman is another new Ravnica Allegiance addition in Rix Maadi Reveler. The two-drop is actually amazing in our deck. On Turn 2, it allows us to discard a useless land to dig for our payoffs while adding a 2/2 Shaman to the battlefield, which is fine. Then, in the late game, Rix Maadi Reveler gives us a way to refuel by drawing three cards. Rakdos Shamans is really good at dumping its entire hand quickly, which means that as soon as Turn 4, Rix Maadi Reveler is giving us an Ancestral Recall attached to a body, which is a pretty amazing deal, giving us card advantage to fight through our opponent's disruption and another way to rebuild after a sweeper.

Other Stuff

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As for removal, we have eight Lightning Bolts, with four Lightning Bolts proper and four Skewer the Critics. In the early game, these cards allow us to deal with our opponent's blockers; then, in the late game, the combination of Lightning Bolt and Skewer the Critics gives us a ton of reach to close out the game. In a weird way, having eight Lightning Bolts is another way to solve the sweeper problem. If we can get in 14 damage with our creatures before our opponent manages to stabilize, we can (hopefully) draw into enough burn to close out the game even if our opponent manages to wrath away our board.

Wrap-Up

All in all, we played five matches with Rakdos Shaman and won three, which is a pretty solid record for a budget deck. Along the way, we took down Death's Shadow, Tron, and Mono-Black Zombies. On the other hand, our two losses came to Restore Balance and UW Control—decks that are overloaded with sweepers and removal. While we probably could have run better in those matchups, it is a little concerning that, even with all of our attempts to beat sweepers, the control matchup still feels pretty challenging.

The upside of Rakdos Shamans is that the deck can get off to some blazingly fast starts and pick up free wins against opponents who stumble a bit on mana. Judith, the Scourge Diva is a huge addition, giving us essentially 12 Rage Forgers, counting Rage Forger itself and Flamekin Harbinger. Spikeshot Elder was also a surprise all-star. It's not that hard to get the one-drop up to three power, at which point it becomes a really meaningful threat. Against Zombies, it pretty much won a game all by itself by shooting down our opponent's endless Zombie lords.

As for changes to make to the budget deck, I'm not sure there's much to do in the main deck. It's possible that Skewer the Critics is unnecessary and we could play something else in that slot, although it's hard to find a budget-friendly option that is better. We already have all of the best Shamans in our colors, and it's not really practical to splash a third color with a budget mana base. On the other hand, it's possible we could improve the control matchup with our sideboard. Shriekmaw wasn't very good, and the two Shatterstorms might not be necessary. Drill Bit could be a good option as a budget Thoughtseize to strip sweepers and other disruption from our opponent's hand. In fact, it might be worth trying Drill Bit over Skewer the Critics in the main deck to improve our hardest matchups.

In the end, Rakdos Shamans feels like a solid budget option. While the deck is good on its own, it has some additional upside. First, if you already have the All-In Shaman deck we played a couple of years ago, the Rakdos build should give you an additional way to play your cards, giving you (almost) two decks for the price of one. Second, the non-budget Jund Shamans build has been putting up some good results on Magic Online, so there's also a pretty clear upgrade path into a deck that should at the very least be good enough to compete at a tournament level. If you like tribal synergies and being aggressive, Rakdos Shamans might be the Modern budget deck for you!

Getting Rakdos Shamans down into the $50 range is interesting. The most painful cut is Metallic Mimic, which is oddly the most expensive of our pseudo-lords. Finding another payoff to replace the two-drop is tricky. After searching around a bit, the best option might be Fanatic of Mogis, which is a Shaman and gives us another way to throw a bunch of damage at our opponent's face, since all of the creatures in our deck are red. Otherwise, we drop Lightning Bolt for Drill Bit, giving us a pseudo-Thoughtseize to help the control matchup; cut the two Dragonskull Summits from the mana base for two more basic lands; and change up the sideboard slightly. While losing Metallic Mimic is painful, in general, the deck should still work just fine even with the downgrades, although trading a two-drop for a four-drop does make it a bit less explosive.

For our non-budget list this week, we have the Jund Shaman list that we Instant Deck Teched a couple of weeks ago. The main idea of the deck is the same—flood the board with Shamans and use our payoffs to close out the game—but splashing into green does give us a couple of sweet additions. Perhaps the biggest is Collected Company, which often gives us six mana of Shamans for just four mana at instant speed while also digging six cards deep in our deck to find our payoffs. Otherwise, we get several powerful but expensive sideboard cards like Fulminator Mage and Surgical Extraction, along with Elvish Visionary in the main deck as another card-advantage Shaman. All in all, the non-budget build does represent a pretty big boost of power, but it comes at a cost, with the deck being nearly nine times more expensive than our budget build, thanks mostly to the mana base. The good news is that Jund Shamans is quite powerful and likely has what it takes to cobuimpete in Modern at a tournament level.

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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