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Budget Magic: $96 (41 tix) UG Lands (Standard)


Mirë dita, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading back to Dominaria Standard to play one of the most underrated mythics from the set—Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar—in a deck we're calling UG Lands! The deck is sort of a weird hybrid of a value town-esque strategy and a UG Ramp deck, overflowing with card draw and one of the biggest, baddest finishers in Standard, in Multani! While our primary plan is to ramp, having lands on the battlefield serves more purposes in our deck than just letting us cast our spells by drawing us cards, returning Multani from the graveyard, growing our Multani, and even winning us the game by milling out our opponent. Can a value town-esque lands strategy work in Dominaria Standard on a budget? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: UG Lands (Standard)

The Deck

UG Lands, as we talked about in the intro, is sort of a weird mashup up between a value town-style deck and UG Ramp, with Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar as the finisher. In the early game, we're looking to stay alive and ramp a bit, and then we eventually take over the game by drawing a ton of cards, trampling over for massive chunks of damage with Multani, or even milling our opponent out with Ipnu Rivulet

The Ramp

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UG Lands is on the one-three-five ramp plan, with our ideal ramp curve being Llanowar Elves on Turn 1, Spring // Mind on Turn 2, and then Hour of Promise on Turn 3, which leaves us with an absurd amount of mana as early as Turn 4. Because our deck is based around doing cool things with lands, cards that ramp us by tutoring up lands are much more powerful than cards that ramp us in other ways, like Gift of Paradise

All of our ramp spells come with some amount of upside. For Llanowar Elves, this is giving us something to do on Turn 1. Meanwhile, Spring // Mind does double duty as a ramp spell in the early game and a card-draw spell in the late game, while Hour of Promise can tutor up some sweet non-basic lands and often leaves behind some Zombies for chump blocking. Together, these cards not only help us get as many lands on the battlefield as possible as quickly as possible but also allow us to do some powerful things with our cards that care about lands.

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Thaumatic Compass and Wayward Swordtooth give us a less traditional ramp package, with Thaumatic Compass making sure that we have two lands to play each turn with Wayward Swordtooth, which not only ramps us but also gives us an undercosted 5/5 for three once we get the city's blessing. Then, in the late game, both cards gain additional value. Thaumatic Compass eventually flips around into a Maze of Ith, which helps us keep big attackers like Hazoret the Fervent and random Dinosaurs at bay, while Wayward Swordtooth has some strong synergies with a bunch of our other cards (but more on this in a minute). 

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Our final less-traditional ramp piece is a couple of copies of The Mending of Dominaria. In UG Lands, the Saga does double duty, helping us dig through our deck to find our creatures and then eventually ramping us by returning a ton of lands from our graveyard to the battlefield. Not only does getting this huge boost of lands help us grow our Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar, but the milling also helps us find our Multani, since we can always return it from our graveyard to our hand by bouncing a couple of lands back to our hand. It's also a great way to trigger the pseudo-landfall ability on Tatyova, Benthic Druid multiple times in the same turn to gain a bunch of life and refill our hand!

Payoffs

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It might seem weird to consider Champion of Wits as payoff, since on its face, it's just a 2/1 for three, but the Naga Wizard has a ton of synergy in our deck. First, thanks to all of our ramp, we can always play (or even discard / mill) Champion of Wits and then use all of our extra mana to eternalize it to draw a bunch of cards, but more importantly, Champion of Wits offers some sweet tricks. For example, we can use Champion of Wits to discard extra lands to reanimate them with The Mending of Dominaria or to discard Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar in the early game, knowing we can return it to our hand in the late game when we have the mana to cast it. Basically, Champion of Wits is both the glue that holds UG Lands together and also a payoff for the late game, when the eternalize helps us put the game away with a boost of card advantage. 

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Tatyova, Benthic Druid is my favorite card in UG Lands and, apart from me really wanting to play Multani, was the main reason I built UG Lands in the first place. Thanks to all of our ramp, we can often cast Tatyova, Benthic Druid by Turn 3 or 4, and then all of our ramp spells come with a lifegain and card draw kicker. For example, once we have Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Hour of Promise not only finds us two lands (and likely makes two Zombies) but also gains us two life and draws us two cards. The two cards are especially important, since they help us find more lands and ramp spells to draw even more cards. This doesn't even consider the games when we have Tatyova on the battlefield and The Mending of Dominaria gets its third lore counter and puts a bunch of lands from our graveyard to the battlefield, which often ends up being close to a Sphinx's Revelation for free! We can also do some tricks with Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar and Wayward Swordtooth by picking up lands with Multani's graveyard ability, replaying two of them a turn with Wayward Swordtooth, and drawing a bunch of cards along the way. Typically, we only need Tatyova on the battlefield for a single turn to get our mana's worth, and when she sticks around for multiple turns, it's pretty hard to lose. 

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Ramunap Excavator, especially combined with Wayward Swordtooth and Tatyova, Benthic Druid, is where our deck takes on a sort of value town feel. We have a few Deserts that can sacrifice themselves, along with Champion of Wits to get lands into our graveyard and Field of Ruin, so we usually have at least one land to play from our graveyard when Ramunap Excavator hits the battlefield. This not only works like a strange kind of ramp but also gives us a repeatable way to trigger Tatyova, Benthic Druid to draw even more cards or slowly mill our opponent out of the game with Ipnu Rivulet!

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Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is our finisher, and it's pretty insane in our deck. Thanks to all of our ramp and our ability to get lands back from our graveyard to the battlefield, it's not uncommon for Multani to quickly grow into a 10/10 or 12/12 with reach and trample, while in the late game, we can get Multani up over 20 power, where just a single attack can potentially win us the game. More importantly, Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is fairly hard to deal with permanently without specific removal like Vraska's Contempt, as we can always bounce a couple of lands to return Multani from our graveyard to our hand and, since we typically have a ton of mana, immediately recast Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar. We can essentially do this for free if we happen to have a Wayward Swordtooth on the battlefield, since we can just replay both lands that we bounced untapped, which makes it really difficult for some decks to deal with Multani. Then, we simply trample in every turn, forcing our opponent to chump block away their board until we eventually get through at our opponent's life total and finish off the game (which usually only takes two or three turns). 

Other Stuff

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River's Rebuke is both a finisher and a weird, expensive Fog. In some games, we just use it to set our opponent back a turn or two to buy more time to set up our powerful late game by bouncing all of their permanents. In other games, we can grow a huge Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar, use River's Rebuke to bounce all of our opponent's blockers, and simply attack once with Multani and our other random dorks for lethal. Being in blue-green, we don't have much targeted removal or real sweepers, so River's Rebuke is basically a combination of both. While it doesn't answer anything permanently, it's often a game-swinging (or even straight-up game-winning) play for six mana if we get the timing right. 

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Commit // Memory is basically a catch-all answer. It can deal with spells on the stack or permanents on the battlefield and, with the help of some milling from Ipnu Rivulet, get rid of things permanently. After we have it in the graveyard, the aftermath protects us from accidentally milling ourselves out of the game with all of our card draw. Generally, the downside of paying six mana for both players to draw a new hand is that the opponent gets to untap and play their cards first, but in UG Lands, since we have so much ramp, we can often aftermath Commit // Memory and immediately play several cards, which makes it a good way of refueling in the late game after we've cast all of our ramp spells. While Commit // Memory doesn't do any one thing especially efficiently, the fact that it does just about everything well enough makes it a great two-of in our deck.

The Lands

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While most of our lands are in the deck to help us cast our spells, our Desert package is really important for a few reasons. First, having Deserts allows us to make Zombies with Hour of Promise, which is very important to staying alive long enough for us to do our sweet late-game things. Second, with the help of The Mending of Dominaria and Ramunap Excavator, Ipnu Rivulet gives us the ability to mill our opponent to death if we can't win with Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar. The Mending of Dominaria is especially sweet, since we can wait until it's about to get the third lore counter, sacrifice all of our Deserts to mill our opponent on our upkeep (or at the end of our opponent's turn), and then get back all of our lands with The Mending of Dominaria to mill some more. Ramunap Excavator works the same way, just more slowly, since it can only get us back one (or two, with Wayward Swordtooth) Deserts each turn. But over the course of a few turns, milling four or eight cards per turn adds up to a win, with Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar holding down the fort on defense to keep up alive.

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Otherwise, we have Arch of Orazca and Field of Ruins as tutor targets for Hour of Promise. Arch of Orazca works really well with Hour of Promise, especially when we are making two Zombies, since we can typically tutor our Arch of Orazca and immediately get the city's blessing. While paying five to draw a card isn't efficient, we often end up with tons of land on the battlefield, so it's usually not a problem. As for Field of Ruin, remember that we can always get it back with Ramunap Excavator and The Mending of Dominaria, so in UG Lands, it's often better to fire it off early in the game than wait to hit a Search for Azcanta or Legion's Landing, since we want land in our graveyard. Field of Ruins can also give Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar +1/+1 at instant speed by getting giving us an extra land. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished our video matches 3-2, but we lost to Aggro Wizards a second time, bringing our total record to 3-3. Based on our matches, UG Lands is great against anything midrange or controlling but can struggle with super-aggressive decks, which makes sense, considering we are pretty light on removal and don't have any permanent sweepers. While we can beat aggro if we have a nutty ramp draw simply by going over the top of our opponent, if they have an average hand and we have an average hand, we often are just a bit too slow to stabilize before we die. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the goal should be to improve the aggro matchup. This being said, I'm not exactly sure how to do that while staying straight blue-green. Splashing into white or black would offer a lot more removal options while also allowing us to keep the core of the deck, but this would be challenging on a budget, since we'd probably need more dual lands (and the good removal spells themselves aren't all that cheap). Moving Deep Freeze into the main deck is a possibility, but the enchantment is better against one big, powerful creature than fighting against a swarm of Bomat Couriers and Earthshaker Khenras. Thankfully, as our Mono-Green Stompy match showed, the aggro matchup isn't unwinnable (even though we lost that math, it was extremely close, even with our opponent having some crazy Ghalta, Primal Hunger draws). 

In the end, UG Lands is a ton of fun. While it will lose to very aggressive decks, it's pretty competitive against anything midrange or controlling, and we can steal wins against all-in aggro when we get good draws. If you like ramping, drawing tons of cards, and beating down with massive, trampling creatures, give UG Lands a shot—it's a blast to play and fairly competitive to boot!

Getting UG Lands down into the ultra-budget range is pretty difficult, mostly because instead of having one or two really expensive cards, we have several semi-expensive cards, so we need to make a lot of changes to get down near $50. We start by cutting all of the rare lands for Evolving Wilds and more basic lands. Thankfully, our deck can support this better than most by using our ramp spells as fixing. Otherwise, we lose Champion of Wits and have to trim back on Wayward Swordtooth, replacing them with Merfolk Branchwalker and a copy of Pull from Tomorrow, which aren't quite as good but still keep us churning through our deck and help us stock our graveyard. The end result is that the deck is a bit less powerful than the one we played in our videos and perhaps a bit less consistent, thanks to the lack of dual lands, but still functional. If you're looking for a more middle-of-the-road approach, try to find a way to keep the Champion of Wits and Wayward Swordtooth. The deck can function just fine without the more expensive lands.

For our non-budget build this week, we branch out from straight green-blue and into Bant to get some better removal and sweepers to keep up with aggro. While the game plan of the deck is exactly the same, the addition of Seal Away, Settle the Wreckage, and Fumigate (along with even more white removal in the sideboard) goes a long way toward shoring up the biggest issue we found with the budget build of the deck (our tendency to get run over by aggro). While these changes won't matter in some matches, against aggro specifically, the non-budget build is a huge improvement over the budget build, which makes it a better choice if the plan is to lands it up on the tournament scene.

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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