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Budget Magic: $98 (23 tix) Sultai Muldrotha (Standard)


Dydh da, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Lately, we've played quite a few aggressive lists looking to kill our opponent quickly with burn spells, Champion of the Flame, and the like, so we are heading the opposite direction this week. Rather than looking to win quickly, we're looking to take our opponent out in the late, late, late game with an overwhelming tide of value from one of the sweetest cards in Dominaria: Muldrotha, the Gravetide. The deck, while featuring a bunch of one-ofs, is pretty simple: we are looking to survive the early game with creatures and removal, eventually play our namesake Muldrotha, the Gravetide, and figure out a way to piece together the win by replaying a bunch of stuff from our graveyard. Can Muldrotha compete in Standard on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Sultai Muldrotha (Standard)

The Deck

Sultai Muldrotha is a hard deck to explain because it doesn't really have a specific combo or focus; instead, it's just overloaded with graveyard synergies and value cards. The primary plan is that we survive the early game and then take over in the late game with an insane amount of value from Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Since Muldrotha itself cares about different permanent types, probably the easiest way to break down the deck is to work our way through, card type by card type.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide

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Muldrotha, the Gravetide is our primary finisher. While it's fine as a creature—a 6/6 for six is a pretty reasonable rate, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide often ends up being the biggest creature on the battlefield—the real power of Muldrotha is that it allows us to generate a ton of card advantage by casting several cards from our graveyard each turn. Our deck has a ton of permanents that put themselves into our graveyard in various ways, which means that by the time Muldrotha, the Gravetide comes down, we can usually cast at least two or three cards from our graveyard along with making a land drop the turn after it comes into play. The only real problem with Muldrotha is that it's so scary and offers so much potential value that it tends to eat a removal spell right away, and for Muldrotha, the Gravetide to take over the game, we really need it to stick on the battlefield for a turn or two. It's really hard to lose if Muldrotha manages to survive for several turns, since we are not only essentially drawing three or four extra cards each turn but drawing three or four good cards because we get to play the best card of each type from our graveyard, and even just one or two turns with Muldrotha, the Gravetide on the battlefield is usually enough to win the game.

Creatures

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Llanowar Elves doesn't really interact with our graveyard plan, but it does really help Sultai Muldrotha work by ramping us into our more expensive and powerful cards a turn earlier. Especially against aggressive decks, casting Muldrotha, the Gravetide on Turn 6 is often too slow, and Llanowar Elves helps to speed up the process. Plus, it's almost impossible to have too much mana once we have Muldrotha, the Gravetide on the battlefield, since we have an entire graveyard full of sweet expensive things to cast each turn.

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Merfolk Branchwalker and Dusk Legion Zealot give us good value-generating two-drops. Most of the time, we play them, draw a card, and then use them to chump block to stabilize until we get our big late game online. Then, once we have Muldrotha, the Gravetide, we can recast them from the graveyard for even more chump blocking and card drawing. Merfolk Branchwalker specifically works well in our deck because we can mill some expensive cards with the explore trigger knowing that we can always get the cards back later, with the help of Muldrotha.

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Hope of Ghirapur and Siren Stormtamer are just one-ofs, but they do some sweet tricks with Muldrotha, the Gravetide in the late game. Hope of Ghirapur can lock control decks out of the game. We can attack with it, sacrifice it to keep our opponent from casting non-creature spells during their next turn, and then immediately recast it with Muldrotha, the Gravetide so we can repeat the process again the next turn. More importantly, since Hope of Ghirapur is both an artifact and a creature, we can cast it as either type with Muldrotha, which most often means choosing artifact (which we only have a few of in our deck) so that we can cast another creature with Muldrotha's ability during the same turn. Meanwhile, Siren Stormtamer offers a cheap, repeatable way to protect our Muldrotha, the Gravetide. As we talked about a few minutes ago, Muldrotha is a lightning rod for removal, so being able to sacrifice Siren Stormtamer to counter a Cast Out or Vraska's Contempt targeting our Muldrotha and then recasting the Siren Stormtamer for more protection in the future is extremely helpful in keeping Muldrotha around for a few turns.

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Banewhip Punisher and Thrashing Brontodon are two of our best combo pieces with Muldrotha, since both creatures are fairly powerful on their own and naturally put themselves into the graveyard so that we can recast them later with Muldrotha, the Gravetide. In the late game, when we have Muldrotha, Banewhip Punisher gives us a repeatable four-mana removal spell for creatures (since we can cast it and sacrifice it every turn), while Thrashing Brontodon offers the same but for artifacts, which makes it great against the various Vehicle decks that are pretty popular in Dominaria Standard. Being good on Turn 3 or 4 and great on Turn 10 with Muldrotha makes both Banewhip Punisher and Thrashing Brontodon key pieces of our deck.

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Next up, we have three very powerful one-of four-drops in Ravenous Chupacabra, Hostage Taker, and Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Each creature serves a slightly different role, and which is best depends mostly on the matchup. Ravenous Chupacabra is great at taking down big creatures like Glorybringer and Lyra Dawnbringer. Hostage Taker gives us a way to not only deal with creatures but also annoying artifacts like Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester. Meanwhile, Gonti, Lord of Luxury is great against control, drawing us a card from our opponent's deck when it enters the battlefield and potentially messing up our opponent's Approach of the Second Sun plan if we get the timing right. The downside of all of these creatures is that they sometimes get stuck on the battlefield when we want to get them into the graveyard so we can recast them with Muldrotha, the Gravetide and reuse their powerful enters-the-battlefield triggers. Thankfully, we have a trick to make this happen...

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Our last creature is Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, which is amazing in our deck. In Sultai Muldrotha, Torgaar, Famine Incarnate works in one of two ways. First, thanks to disposable two-drops like Dusk Legion Zealot and Merfolk Branchwalker, we sometimes just sacrifice two creatures to cast Torgaar on Turn 4 and have a massive 7/6 early in the game. Second, and more importantly, since we have two copies of Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, the Avatar gives us a loopable sacrifice outlet from our graveyard late in the game. The idea is pretty simple: once we have Muldrotha, the Gravetide, we can cast Torgaar, Famine Incarnate from our graveyard for two mana by sacrificing things like Hostage Taker, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and Ravenous Chupacabra. We can then recast those creatures to reuse their enters-the-battlefield triggers and then eventually use our second Torgaar, Famine Incarnate to sacrifice the first Torgaar along with some more creatures to keep the graveyard fun going. Plus, as we go through this loop, we keep resetting our life total to 10, which makes it hard for some decks to ever kill us and keeps us out of the range of random burn spells and the like. 

Enchantments

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As far as enchantments we can recast with Muldrotha, the Gravetide, we lean mostly on Sagas, which work amazingly well with Muldrotha, since they sacrifice themselves after getting their third lore counter. 

Take Phyrexian Scriptures, for example. We can cast it normally on Turn 4, wrath the board on Turn 5, and then exile our opponent's graveyard (which is actually super helpful in some matchups) on Turn 6. Then, in the late game, we can repeat this process over and over again with the help of Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Rite of Belzenlok offers a ton of value with Muldrotha, the Gravetide, giving us two chump blockers right away, two more the next turn, and eventually a huge flying Demon token (that also doubles as a sacrifice outlet to get our Hostage Takers, Gontis, and Ravenous Chupacabras back into the graveyard for Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Then, once Muldrotha comes down, we can simply recast the Saga and do it all again.

The Mending of Dominaria, on the other hand, is a bit weird. The first two modes are great, and the third mode is fine the first time, since it usually ramps us into our Muldrotha, the Gravetide, but in the late game, shuffling our graveyard into our library is a downside, since we want cards in our graveyard to cast with Muldrotha. Thankfully, we do have a trick to solve this problem: once we have a Muldrotha, the Gravetide, we can cast The Mending of Dominaria, let the first two lore counters resolve to generate card advantage and stock our graveyard, and then cast a Thrashing Brontodon from our graveyard and blow up The Mending of Dominaria before it gets the third lore counter and shuffles everything back into our library. Then, we can start the process over again by recasting The Mending of Dominaria with Muldrotha to keep the graveyard value flowing!

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Journey to Eternity is just a one-of, but it gives us a strong backup graveyard value engine. It's fairly easy to flip thanks to self-sacrificing creatures like Thrashing Brontodon and Banewhip Punisher, and then once we have Atzal, Cave of Eternity, we can start reanimating a creature every turn. Plus, Muldrotha, the Gravetide helps to minimize the drawback of Journey to Eternity, in that we sometimes get blown out by having the creatures we are trying to enchant killed in response. When this happens, we can always recast Journey to Eternity in the late game, with the help of Muldrotha, the Gravetide. It's also worth mentioning that when we manage to flip it early in the game, even if we don't have any creatures to reanimate, the extra land is helpful in ramping us into our Muldrotha, the Gravetide and by making sure we have enough mana to cast everything we want from our graveyard once we have our Muldrotha.

Artifacts

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Apart from Hope of Ghirapur, which we already talked about, we have two other artifacts to cast from our graveyard with Muldrotha. Orazca Relic is pretty sweet in our deck. On Turn 3, it helps ramp us into Muldrotha, the Gravetide, and then in the late game, we can simply sacrifice it to gain three life and draw a card and then recast it every turn with Muldrotha. While a card that says "pay three: gain three life and draw a card" might not sound all that exciting, the value gets out of hand pretty quickly when you can cast that card every turn from your graveyard. Meanwhile, Aethersphere Harvester just helps us gain a bit of life and block big fliers like Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer. If it happens to die, we can eventually get it back with Muldrotha, the Gravetide

Other Stuff

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Benefaction of Rhonas is the perfect card to tie Sultai Muldrotha together. Not only does it stock our graveyard with cards that we can eventually cast with Muldrotha, but thanks to our weird mixture of creatures and enchantments, it often ends up drawing us two cards for three mana, making it a weird green Divination in our deck. Since our deck is overloaded with one-ofs, Benefaction of Rhonas is also key to making sure we have the right card for the right situation, digging us five cards deep into our deck to find our powerful Sagas, removal creatures, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide itself.

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Finally, Vicious Offering and Never // Return give us some removal. Vicious Offering is especially sweet in our deck, since its kicker gives us another way of getting our creatures into the graveyard to recast with Muldrotha, while Never // Return lets us take down annoying planeswalkers as well as creatures and can even work like a graveyard hate spell against God-Pharaoh's Gift decks in a pinch. 

Lands

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While the mana base is pretty self-explanatory, I did want to quickly mention that we have a bunch of lands that sacrifice themselves so that we can play them from our graveyard in the late game with Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Evolving Wilds and Field of Ruin help fix our mana, and then in the late game, we are guaranteed to make a land drop for free from our graveyard each turn with Muldrotha. Meanwhile, Memorial to Genius and Memorial to Folly can sacrifice themselves repeatedly to generate value by drawing us cards or returning a creature from our graveyard to our hand (which is especially helpful if our Muldrotha, the Gravetide dies).

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 3-2, but only after some of the longest, grindiest games we've ever played on Budget Magic. On Magic Online, each player starts with 25 minutes on their chess clock (so 50 total minutes of game play at the maximum). Every single match was at least 40 minutes, and two broke the 50-minute mark. As such, if you're expecting fast games and free wins, Sultai Muldrotha probably isn't the deck for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy slowly grinding out incremental value and trying to piece together a win in the latest of late games, you'll have a blast with the deck!

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As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, it's hard to really say. One of the most fun aspects of Sultai Muldrotha is that because we have so many one-ofs, it's pretty easy to sneak a copy or two of your favorite card into the deck and trust that, because games go so long, you'll eventually find it. In theory, any on-color card could work, with bonus points for any sort of self-sacrifice synergy. Probably the biggest addition is more removal. While having Hostage Taker and Ravenous Chupacabra helps, having only four real removal spells is fairly light, especially considering that black has some of the best removal in Standard. The problem is that neither Fatal Push nor Vraska's Contempt fits into the budget, but if you have copies of those cards, fitting as many as possible (up to a full playset) into the deck would go a long way toward shoring up weaknesses to early-game fliers like Heart of Kiran and indestructible creatures / planeswalkers. 

Basically, Sultai Muldrotha is a ton of fun, especially if you like slow value-centric decks. While I'm still not sure how good the deck is—all of our matches were so close that we could have been 4-1 with a bit of luck, but we could have been 1-4 with a bit less—if you're looking for a budget-friendly way to grind out value and take advantage of the super-sweet Muldrotha, the Gravetide, this is a great place to start for Dominaria Standard!

I almost didn't post an ultra-budget build this week because Sultai Muldrotha is a really difficult deck to get into the $50 range, since it doesn't have just one or two expensive cards we can cut. Instead, we've got a ton of $2 cards that all add up to the $97 price tag. The end result is that we basically need to cut all of the rare dual lands and replace them with enters-the-battlefield-tapped duals. Because of this, I wouldn't really want to play the ultra-budget build of the deck. While this build is probably fine for the kitchen table, you'll have to play off-curve for most of the game, which means you probably won't have much success, even at the FNM level.

The non-budget build of Sultai Muldrotha gets one huge addition and some smaller tweaks. The biggest addition to the deck by far is Walking Ballista, which gives us a great way of closing out the game quickly with Muldrotha, the Gravetide. In the early game, the artifact works as a chump-blocking removal spell for small creatures, and then in the late game, we can spend our entire turn casting it with a bunch of counters and pinging our opponent's face once we have Muldrotha. After two or three turns, this should kill the opponent all by itself. Even better, Walking Ballista is an artifact as far as Muldrotha is concerned, so it doesn't use up our "creature" permanent type when we recast it. It's the perfect card for the deck.

Otherwise, we add a couple of fast lands to the mana base and upgrade the removal with Vraska's Contempt and Fatal Push. We also change a few things in the sideboard, adding Vraska, Relic Seeker and Deathgorge Scavenger. To make room for all of these upgrades, we mostly just trim cards like Dusk Legion Zealot and the lesser removal spells. All in all, these changes make the deck significantly more powerful, mostly because Walking Ballista is absurd in the deck. If you can only make one change, find a way to get Walking Ballista into the deck—it's that good!

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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