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Budget Magic: $97 (16 tix) UR Sai-Master (Modern)


Bunâ dzuâ, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! We've been playing a lot of Standard lately ever since Core Set 2019 was released, but we are changing things up this week by heading to Modern to play a sweet artifact deck featuring the new Core Set 2019 legend Sai, Master Thopterist: UR Sai-Master. The idea of the deck is to generate a bunch of value with Sai and random artifacts, and then eventually use Kuldotha Forgemaster to tutor up a big finisher like Platinum Angel or Blightsteel Colossus to close out the game. Can the combo of Sai, Master Thopterist and Kuldotha Forgemaster form the foundation of a fun budget deck in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: UR Sai-Master (Modern)

The Deck

UR Sai-Master is basically a value-heavy artifact deck with a sort of combo finish, thanks to Kuldotha Forgemaster tutoring up a (hopefully) game-winning artifact. Unfortunately, it's a sort of strange deck to break down, since it's a synergy-based deck, and apart from Kuldotha Forgemaster, it generates advantage from a bunch of small synergies rather than working toward one single combo, but let's give it a shot!

The Engines

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Sai, Master Thopterist is one of the two main engines of our deck. While being legendary can be a bit clunky, it has pretty solid stats (with four toughness allowing it to dodge Lightning Bolt and helping it block a lot of the aggro creatures in the format) and two great abilities. The main goal of Sai, Master Thopterist in the deck is to make a bunch of Thopters as we cast random artifacts. While not the fastest clock, we can sometimes win just by beating down with the 1/1 fliers, but more often, we chip in for some damage here and there and use the Thopters to stay alive by blocking our opponent's threats (and then saccing the Thopters to Sai's second ability to draw more artifacts to make more Thopters and repeating the process). We also want as many random artifacts on the battlefield as possible because they support our second engine: Kuldotha Forgemaster.

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Kuldotha Forgemaster is an extremely powerful card, allowing us to sacrifice three artifacts to tutor any artifact from our deck directly onto the battlefield. It also happens to combine very well with Sai, Master Thopterist, since we get a 1/1 Thopter when we cast Kuldotha Forgemaster, which we can then sacrifice to Kuldotha Forgemaster to help pay the artifact cost of its ability. We also play a bunch of random mana rocks and card-draw artifacts to make more Thopters with Sai, and these cards also make great Kuldotha Forgemaster food. Ideally, once we activate Kuldotha Forgemaster, we can tutor up something that will either lock our opponent out of the game or kill them with damage in just a couple of turns, but we'll talk more about our finishers in a minute.

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Lightning Greaves is extremely important to our deck. It's an artifact, so it makes a Thopter with Sai, Master Thopterist, and we can sacrifice it in a pinch to Kuldotha Forgemaster, which is nice, but its real purpose is to protect our creatures and speed up our Kuldotha Forgemaster. In the early game, we can use Lightning Greaves to protect our Sai, Master Thopterist from removal, ensuring we have a steady stream of Thopters as we cast our artifacts. Then, we can use Lightning Greaves in the mid-game to give our Kuldotha Forgemaster haste so that we can activate its tutoring ability right away. The main goal is to play Kuldotha Forgemaster, equip it with Lightning Greaves so we can activate it immediately to tutor up one of our finishers, and then move Lightning Greaves onto our finisher to both protect it from removal and give it haste so we can attack our opponent right away.

The Finishers

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When it comes to finishing the game, we have two primary plans. First, we can tutor up a Platinum Angel and equip it with Lightning Greaves to give it shroud. While only a 4/4 flier, which means it will take us a few turns to actually kill our opponent, a reasonable number of decks in Modern can't beat (or at least, really struggle to beat) a shrouded creature that makes it so they can't win the game and we can't lose the game. To actually kill the Angel, our opponent will either need a wrath or two removal spells (one to remove Lightning Greaves and then another to kill Platinum Angel). While most decks can do this after sideboarding, a reasonable number of decks are literally drawing dead to a Platinum Angel wearing Lightning Greaves in game one, and even after sideboarding, most decks only have a small number of answers. When we combine the Angel attacks in the air with our second finisher, we force our opponent to find these answers in a very short period of time.

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While the ideal finisher for our deck is Blightsteel Colossus since it can kill with one hit, Darksteel Colossus is a fine substitute, since we're a budget deck and Blightsteel Colossus is over $30 for a single copy. After we tutor up our Platinum Angel to stay alive, our next tutor target is Darksteel Colossus to kill our opponent as quickly as possible (before they can find an answer to our Platinum Angel lock). The combination of trample and indestructible (and possible haste and shroud from Lightning Greaves) makes Darksteel Colossus extremely hard for most decks to deal with, and its huge stats mean we can attack through just about anything in the Modern format. Even if our opponent has blockers, we'll eat through them in short order as our opponent is forced to chump block, and on an empty board, Darksteel Colossus kills our opponent in just two attacks! 

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The Antiquities War does double duty in our deck. When it comes down, it finds us an artifact like Kuldotha Forgemaster or even just a random mana rock to make another Thopter with Sai, Master Thopterist, and then it also works as a backup finisher by turning all of our mana rocks and Thopters into 5/5s when it gets its third lore counter, usually allowing us to kill our opponent with one big attack. It's also a good way to fight through Stony Silence, which shuts down Kuldotha Forgemaster and Lightning Greaves, making our primary plan of winning with Platinum Angel and Blightsteel Colossus much more difficult. Even when none of our artifacts actually function as intended thanks to Stony Silence, they can still beat down as 5/5 creatures with the help of The Antiquities War

Support

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The rest of our deck is artifacts to support Sai, Master Thopterist and Kuldotha Forgemaster along with some removal and counters. Izzet Signet and Mind Stone give us some early-game artifacts to trigger Sai, Master Thopterist that also ramp us into Kuldotha Forgemaster a turn faster (and can even be sacrificed to Kuldotha Forgemaster to tutor our Platinum Angel and Darksteel Colossus). With eight mana rocks, it's also possible that we just ramp into Platinum Angel and hard cast it if we don't happen to find a copy of Kuldotha Forgemaster in a timely manner. Izzet Signet also helps to fix our mana, which is important because we are playing a bunch of colorless utility lands, and Mind Stone can turn into a desperation card if we are looking for a specific piece to stay alive or close out the game.

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Ichor Wellspring does nothing, but it works extremely well with both Sai, Master Thopterist and Kuldotha Forgemaster. With Sai, Master Thopterist, we can cast it to make a Thopter and draw a card, and then spend two mana to sac the Ichor Wellspring and the Thopter to draw two more cards (one from Sai's ability and one from Ichor Wellspring itself). Then, with Kuldotha Forgemaster, it gives us a random artifact sitting on the battlefield that we can sacrifice to activate its ability, while also drawing a card along the way.

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When it comes to interaction with our opponent, we have two cards that take advantage of all of the artifacts in our deck. Galvanic Blast gives us a Shock on Turn 1 that quickly turns into an even better Lightning Bolt once we have three or more artifacts on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Metallic Rebuke is usually a one-mana Mana Leak, since we can tap our random Thopters and Ichor Wellsprings to improve it for just a single blue mana. Together, these cards give us ways of slowing our opponent down just a bit while we are looking to set up our powerful mid-game with Sai, Master Thopterist and Kuldotha Forgemaster

The Mana

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One of the benefits of playing a mostly colorless deck is that you get to play a ton of sweet utility lands. Here's a quick rundown.

Wrap-Up

All in all, UR Sai-Master was pretty reasonable. We finished our matches 3-2, beating Eldrazi Tron, GR Eldrazi, and UB Mill while losing to Burn and Amulet Titan. While we can get some clunky draws and get run over by aggro or fast combo, the ability to tutor our Platinum Angel as early as Turn 4 (with Lightning Greaves protection) gives us a chance to beat just about any deck when we have a good draw. The end game of Sai, Master Thopterist and Kuldotha Forgemaster was especially impressive, even in budget form (while missing some powerful but expensive support pieces like Mox Opal, Mishra's Bauble, and Blightsteel Colossus). 

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As far as improvements to the budget build of the deck now that we've played some games, I'm not sure there are any. While there are a ton of potential upgrades to the deck, as we talked about a moment ago, they mostly involve expensive cards. The one change I would make is moving a single copy of Trading Post to the main deck. We ended up sideboarding it in most matches, and the synergy with Sai, Master Thopterist is strong enough that we should probably have it in the main deck. Apart from gaining us life against burn, the main power of Trading Post in the deck is that we get both an artifact and a creature whenever we cast an artifact with Sai on the battlefield, which means we always have access to every mode on Trading Post. While one is probably enough since we have lots of ways to find it, dropping one mana rock (probably Izzet Signet) for one Trading Post seems like a good plan. 

In sum, UR Sai-Master is a horrible name (if you have some suggestions, let me know in the comments!), but the deck is sweet and fairly competitive as well. It's really good at grinding through creature-based decks, has good threats against control, and has the Platinum Angel lock to steal games against combo, giving it a chance in most matchups (even though it's probably not heavily favored in many). If you like drawing tons of cards, tutoring out huge artifacts, and locking the opponent out of the game with Platinum Angels, give it a shot!

Getting UR Sai-Master into the ultra-budget range is pretty challenging. We start by cutting all of the sweet utility lands and somewhat expensive dual lands for the cheapest mana base possible of basic lands, Swiftwater Cliffs, and Izzet Guildgate. We then do the same for the sideboard, trading Abrade for Shatter. Finally, to get the deck down near $50, we also need to change up some of our finishers, going down a Platinum Angel for Spine of Ish Sah and the Darksteel Colossus for Myr Battlesphere. The end result is a deck that might be passable on the kitchen table but takes a big hit in terms of both power and consistency. While it's a fine starting point in a just-for-fun environment, I wouldn't want to play the ultra-budget build of UR Sai-Master at an FNM; it's missing too many pieces and is too clunky to find much success.

The non-budget build of UR Sai-Master undergoes a ton of changes—too many to write about individually. Basically, we keep the same engine of Sai, Master Thopterist and Kuldotha Forgemaster, with Blightsteel Colossus joining Platinum Angel as our finishers. Blightsteel Colossus is a massive upgrade over Darksteel Colossus, killing in one shot on an empty board rather than two, making Kuldotha Forgemaster even scarier. Otherwise, we move toward better fast mana (in Mox Opal), more zero-mana artifacts to make Sai, Master Thopterist even more explosive (with Mishra's Bauble for card draw and Welding Jar for protection), and some artifact-prison pieces, with Chalice of the Void to lock out combo decks, Ensnaring Bridge to slow down creatures (remember, we can always sacrifice it to Sai, Master Thopterist, Kuldotha Forgemaster, or Trading Post when we are ready to attack with our Blightsteel Colossus for the win), and a bunch of random one-of artifacts. The end result is a deck similar to UR Artifact Prison, but instead of taking 40 turns to close out the game with milling, we just one-shot our opponent with Blightsteel Colossus!

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If you're looking for a less drastic upgrade, the easiest changes to upgrade the budget deck are Blightsteel Colossus over Darksteel Colossus, better dual lands (like Scalding Tarn) in the mana base, and whatever zero-mana artifacts you can afford (Mox Opal gives the deck a huge boost in power but is super expensive, and Mishra's Bauble is good but less important without cards like Mox Opal and Ensnaring Bridge). This being said, just upgrading the dual lands slightly (with Spirebluff Canal over the tapped lands) and trading Darksteel Colossus for Blightsteel Colossus would give the deck a nice boost in power without spending a ton of money.

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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