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Budget Magic: $99 (13 tix) Hammer Time (Modern, Magic Online)


Shwmae, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Over the last couple of weeks, we've been exploring Core Set 2020 Standard, but we are shifting gears this week to play a new Core Set 2020 card in Modern, in a deck called Hammer Time! The main idea of the deck is to get a Colossus Hammer on a double-strike creature as quickly as possible—with a bit of luck, we can kill our opponent with an attack for 22 damage as early as Turn 2! Is it possible to kill opponents on Turn 2 with a $100 deck in Modern? Just how good is Colossus Hammer in the format? Let's find out! Then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Hammer Time

 

The Deck

Hammer Time is a combo deck, but unlike most Modern combo decks that are spell-based, our combo is getting a Colossus Hammer on a double-striking creature as quickly as possible and hopefully killing our opponent on Turn 2 or 3 with one big attack. To break down the deck, probably the best thing to do is to simply walk through the three key parts of our combo and then talk about the rest of the deck.

Step One: Hammer Time

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Step one of our combo is finding a Colossus Hammer. Without our namesake equipment, our deck is full of underpowered double-strike creatures that will never win a game of Modern on their own. As such, finding a Colossus Hammer every game is extremely important. Ideally, we'll just draw one naturally in our opening hand, but if we don't, we have what is essentially four extra copies of Colossus Hammer in Open the Armory. If we don't have a Colossus Hammer, Open the Armory finds one for just two mana, and if we already have our Hammer, we can use Open the Armory to tutor up some backup equipment or even some aura-based removal to deal with our opponent's blockers. 

Step Two: Double-Strikers

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The next step of our combo is getting a double-strike creature on the battlefield. For this, we have three options in Kor Duelist, Boros Swiftblade, and Swiftblade Vindicator. On one hand, all of these creatures are basically the same in our deck: when wearing a Colossus Hammer, any one of them represents 22 damage in a single attack as an 11/11 double-strike creature. On the other hand, each of our double strikers has different upsides.

Kor Duelist is the scariest double-strike creature in our deck since it comes down on Turn 1. This means if we can play and equip a Colossus Hammer on Turn 2, we can attack and, assuming our opponent doesn't have a chump blocker, win the game immediately. Speaking of chump blockers, the biggest upside of Swiftblade Vindicator is that it has trample, which allows it to easily swing through whatever defenses our opponent might have. While going on the Swiftblade Vindicator plan does mean we need to wait until Turn 3 to try to win the game, in some matchups, a Turn 3 win through blockers is even better than a Turn 2 win that gets chump blocked. As for Boros Swiftblade, it's the worst double striker in our deck, but it does fill an important role by upping the number of creatures in our deck. Without Boros Swiftblade, we'd have too many hands where we didn't have a threat, leaving our Colossus Hammer and other combo pieces as dead cards. Boros Swiftblade ups the number of double-strike threats in our deck from eight to 12, which means odds are in favor of us having one or two in our opening hand each game.

Step Three: Equipping the Hammer

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The final piece of the puzzle is getting a Colossus Hammer equipped to one of our double-strike creatures. Since Colossus Hammer is eight mana to equip naturally, playing it fairly is out of the question—it's simply too slow for Modern (or any format, for that matter). Thankfully, we have two ways to get a Hammer on a creature for just a single mana in Sigarda's Aid and Magnetic Theft. While the two cards work slightly differently (we need Sigarda's Aid on the battlefield before we play Colossus Hammer, while Magnetic Theft can equip a Hammer already on the battlefield), the end result is the same: one of our double-strike creatures smashing our opponent with a huge Hammer for just one mana.

When you add this all together, it gives us a legitimately scary nut draw. If we can play Kor Duelist on Turn 1 and then Colossus Hammer plus either Magnetic Theft or Sigarda's Aid on Turn 2, we can immediately attack with a (potentially) lethal 11/11 double-striker. Meanwhile, if we replace Kor Duelist with Boros Swiftblade or Swiftblade Vindicator, we can kill on Turn 3, which is still fast, even by Modern's standards!

Other Open the Armory Targets

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Apart from the combo itself, our deck is filled with cards to support the combo, with many of them being tutorable by Open the Armory. Flayer Husk and Ancestral Blade probably look strange in a Modern deck, but they are actually very solid one-ofs in our deck. One of the concerns with Hammer Time is that we don't have that many creatures, and until they are equipped with a Colossus Hammer, they are all small and easily killed by our opponent's removal. Flayer Husk and Ancestral Blade give us creatures that we can tutor up with Open the Armory, and while they aren't quite as scary as our other creatures since they lack double strike, building an 11/11 or a 12/12 on Turn 2 or 3 with a Colossus Hammer on the Germ or Soldier token is still good enough to win a lot of games. Plus, in a pinch, we can put Ancestral Blade and Flayer Husk on our double-strike creatures to force through some extra damage if we can't find a Colossus Hammer in a timely manner.

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We also have a couple of other backup equipment to find with Open the Armory. Swiftfoot Boots and Basilisk Collar are both just one-ofs but offer a lot of value in specific matchups. Swiftfoot Boots offers a way to protect our double-strike creatures from targeted removal. One of the risks of Hammer Time is that we have the potential to be blown out by cards like Path to Exile or Fatal Push as we are trying to equip our Colossus Hammer to a double striker. If we can get a Swiftfoot Boots on our double striker first, our opponent can't simply kill our threat and ruin our plan. Meanwhile, Basilisk Collar is mostly for aggressive matchups, especially aggressive matchups where the opponent has burn spells to close out the game. One way that we can lose to decks like Burn even after we get a Colossus Hammer on a double striker is that our opponent can chump block our attacks while killing us with Lightning Bolts and Lava Spikes to the face. If we can get a Basilisk Collar on our Colossus Hammer–bearing creature, we will gain at least 11 life each attack, even if our opponent chump blocks, which puts us out of the danger zone against aggro. It's also worth mentioning that if we can get a Colossus Hammer and Basilisk Collar on a Swiftblade Vindicator, we will get a sort of super-trample thanks to the combination of deathtouch and trample, which will make it almost impossible for our opponent to chump block since we only need to assign a single point of damage to each blocker and can trample over to send the rest to our opponent's face.

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For removal, we have On Thin Ice and Declaration in Stone. On Thin Ice (along with snow-covered basic lands) has become my favorite budget replacement for Path to Exile in Modern, but the plan is even better in Hammer Time than most decks. Technically, On Thin Ice is an aura that enchants a snow land, which means we can find it with Open the Armory, making it a sorcery-speed but tutorable version of Path to Exile in our deck. Meanwhile, Declaration in Stone is our backup removal spell, but it does have some upside. Cards like Lingering Souls that make a bunch of chump blockers can stonewall our "get in one big attack" plan for several turns, but Declaration in Stone gives us a main-deck way to answer a bunch of tokens (or small creatures) with the same name with just a single card, clearing the way for a big Colossus Hammer attack.

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our main deck are two copies of Brave the Elements and a playset of Faithless Looting. Since all of our double-strike creatures are white, Brave the Elements gives us a one-mana way to protect our threats from our opponent's removal. As we talked about before, one of the easiest ways our opponent can deal with our combo is by killing our double-strike creatures before we get to attack with a Colossus Hammer. Brave the Elements means a single removal spell doesn't ruin our day. In some matchups, it also gives us a way to attack through chump blockers by giving our Hammer-wearing creature protection from whatever color of blockers our opponent happens to have on the battlefield. As for Faithless Looting, it's simply a way to filter through our deck to find our combo pieces, increasing the consistency of our combo. If there's one thing I've learned about Modern over the past year, it's that I tend to win more when I have a playset of Faithless Looting in my deck, almost regardless of what archetype I'm playing.

The Sideboard

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Wrap-Up

Hammer Time was absurdly good. Heading into our matches, I figured the deck would be fun and hopefully win some games, but we played five matches and won all five (many of them fairly easily), picking up a couple of Turn 2 kills and a bunch of Turn 3 kills along the way. Matchup-wise, we took down 8 Whack Goblins, Storm, Izzet Kiki, Naya Burn, and Boros Prison, a good mixture of aggro, control, and combo. 

The London mulligan rule is huge for Hammer Time. Perhaps the most impressive part of the deck is how consistently we were able to find all of our combo pieces. If you decide to pick up the deck, don't be afraid to mulligan to six or even five in search of a hand that can kill our opponents quickly. The fewer turns we give our opponent to draw into answers, the better. 

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I don't think I'd make any. Curse of Exhaustion in the sideboard might be ambitious, but otherwise, I'd run the deck back exactly as it is. While there are some ways of improving the deck, they all add to the budget. That said, probably the biggest way to upgrade the deck without breaking the bank is to upgrade the mana with another dual land (something like Sacred Foundry would be ideal) over some of the basic lands. We had a few games where we struggled to cast our spells on time because we were missing one of our two colors of mana, which is basically a product of only running eight dual lands to keep the cost as low as possible.

All in all, Hammer Time felt great. We cruised to a fairly easy 5-0 record and killed opponents extremely quickly in a lot of matchups. If you're looking for a new combo deck to play at FNM, Hammer Time seems like a solid option, and with some non-budget upgrades, the deck might actually be a real, competitive deck in Modern. In a format where many decks are trying to goldfish into kills while ignoring their opponent, killing opponents on Turn 2 seems like a pretty effective strategy.

Sadly, there isn't really a good way to make Hammer Time ultra-budget. The big problem is that Sigarda's Aid and Magnetic Theft are both awkwardly expensive, and the deck can't really function without them. The above version is about as cheap as the deck can get while still functioning, but it only knocks $30 off the price, and at the cost of playing tapped dual lands, worse sideboard cards, and worse removal. Honestly, I wouldn't spend my money on the ultra-budget version of the deck. If possible, find the way to scrape up the extra $30 and get the budget build from the videos.

For our non-budget build this week, we reach into green to increase our chances of getting a Turn 2 kill draw with the addition of Glistener Elf. Normally, playing a mixture of infect and normal damage is a bad idea, but Hammer Time is the exception to the rule since we're planning to win with one big attack anyway. Glistener Elf is essentially more copies of Kor Duelist, as a one-drop that can kill our opponent with just a single unblocked attack. 

Otherwise, Steelshaper's Gift is an upgrade over Open the Armory since it's a mana cheaper, and efficiency is at a premium in our deck since our main goal is to kill our opponent as quickly as possible. Since Steelshaper's Gift only finds equipment, we drop On Thin Ice for Path to Exile, which also allows us to play a more traditional fetch land–for–shock land mana base without worrying about having a snow-covered land to enchant with On Thin Ice. Speaking of the mana base, we also get a couple of copies of Inkmoth Nexus. While going all-in on equipping an animated land isn't ideal, it is a nice backup plan and a way to squeeze another one-shot-kill creature into our deck without cutting other important non-land cards. Otherwise, we get a copy of Ranger-Captain of Eos. Not only does it find Glistener Elf or Kor Duelist, but we can also sacrifice it to protect our combo on the turn we're trying to kill our opponent by keeping them from casting non-creature spells. 

All in all, the non-budget build seems like a pretty meaningful upgrade. While the plan is essentially the game as the build we played in the videos, the non-budget build is even faster and more consistent, with twice as many ways to kill the opponent on Turn 2, which is the most powerful thing Hammer Time can do. If you're looking for a midrange upgrade that sticks to Boros, consider starting with the mana base (adding more dual lands, preferably shock lands and fetch lands, if you can), Path to Exile over On Thin Ice, and Steelshaper's Gift over Open the Armory, along with more staple Modern sideboard cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence

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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