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Budget Magic: $99 (18 tix) Martyr Proc (Modern)


Dobry den, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! There's one deck in Modern that I've wanted to play on Budget Magic for a long time, but every time I tried to build it, I found there was one really important card that drove the price out of the budget range. The deck is Martyr Proc, and the card is Serra Ascendant. Finally, thanks to a reprinting in Iconic Masters, Serra Ascendant is cheap, dropping from about $20 to around $8 (and falling). 

If you're not familiar with Martyr Proc, it's basically a strange mono-white control deck that also has some free-win potential from turning Serra Ascendant into a 6/6 flying lifelinker as early as Turn 2! The primary game plan is to slow down the game by gaining life and then take things over in the late game thanks to the absurd engine that is Proclamation of Rebirth! Can we make Martyr Proc work on a budget? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Martyr Proc (Deck Tech)

Martyr Proc vs. Naya Burn (Match 1)

Martyr Proc vs. Tron (Match 2)

Martyr Proc vs. UW Control (Match 3)

Martyr Proc vs. Free-Win Red (Match 4)

Martyr Proc vs. Ad Nauseam (Match 5)

The Deck

As I mentioned in the intro, Martyr Proc is basically a really unique take on mono-white control. While it sounds strange because the deck is overloaded with cheap creatures, it actually has one of the strongest late games in Modern. Most of the time, we are playing to make the game go long, knowing that we can take over the game with some really strange sources of card advantage along with oodles of lifegain, but we occasionally just win on Turn 4 by playing multiple 6/6 flying lifelinkers. 

Martyr Proc

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While the newfound cheapness of Serra Ascendant is the reason we can finally play Martyr Proc on Budget Magic, to really understand the deck, we need to start with the namesake cards: Martyr of Sands and Proclamation of Rebirth. While these cards do a bunch of things for our deck, the main combo is that in the late game, we can use Proclamation of Rebirth to reanimate Martyr of Sands every turn, keep holding the white cards we draw in hand, and sacrifice Martyr of Sands to gain somewhere between 15 and 21 life, which makes it really hard to die against most decks. We also have a handful of other one-drops in the deck, including Serra Ascendant, so if we don't need a huge chunk of life, we can always just reanimate a 6/6 flying lifelinker to beat our opponent down or even a Kami of False Hope as an infinite Fog. Together, these cards give us an almost unbeatable late-game engine that is hard for most Modern decks to keep up with, assuming we get to the point where we are forecasting Proclamation of Rebirth every turn. 

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While Martyr Proc is our engine, Serra Ascendant is the most powerful card in the deck. The one-drop does two extremely important things. First, it occasionally gives us free wins when it ends up being a 6/6 flying lifelinker on Turn 2. If we play a Serra Ascendant on Turn 1, we can play and sacrifice Martyr of Sands on Turn 2 and reveal at least four white cards in our hand, and Serra Ascendant ends up being one of the strongest one-drops ever printed. The second thing Serra Ascendant does is give us a great threat to Proclamation of Rebirth back in the late game, which means we can play Serra Ascendant on Turn 1—we don't really mind if it happens to die to Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt because eventually we can reanimate our Serra Ascendant as a 6/6 and use it to close out the game. 

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Ranger of Eos doesn't do much on its own, since a 3/2 for four isn't all that powerful, but it does add a ton of consistency to our deck because we can use it to tutor up some combination of Martyr of Sands and Serra Ascendants. In some matchups, finding a copy of Martyr of Sands is essential, and Ranger of Eos giving us eight copies makes sure that we always have a copy. On the other hand, if we already have Martyr of Sands and a bunch of life, then using Ranger of Eos to tutor up two copies of Serra Ascendant is extremely powerful, giving us a total of 15 power (12 with lifelink and flying) split across three bodies for just six mana. In the mid- to late game, Ranger of Eos is almost never a bad top deck and is occasionally the single card we want to draw the most.

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Squadron Hawk probably looks a bit weird in the deck, but it actually has a ton of sneaky synergy. If you think about the main plan of Martyr Proc, all we really want to do is slow down the game because we have a stronger late game than any deck in Modern thanks to the Martyr Proc engine, and Squadron Hawk giving us four flying chump blockers (and sometimes even more thanks to Mistveil Plains) fits the plan perfectly. It also gives us three more white cards in hand to power up the lifegain on Martyr of Sands. Finally, even though Squadron Hawks are only 1/1s, in conjunction with our flying Serra Ascendants, the evasive damage adds up, and they can even steal some games by themselves. 

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Kami of False Hope is just a two-of but can be extremely helpful against aggressive creature-based decks. While we have a great late game, our deck isn't very fast unless we luck into the Martyr of Sands / Serra Ascendant combo, so having a Fog on a body is sometimes just enough to buy us a turn or two to get the late-game engine online. Plus, thanks to the forecast on Proclamation of Rebirth, we can reanimate Kami of False Hope every turn in the late game and lock combat damage out of the game altogether. In other matchups (like against spell-based combo), Kami of False Hope is just a 1/1 for one, which isn't exciting, but the upside in creature-based matchups makes it worth a couple of slots.

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Rounding out our creature base is Sun Titan, which is basically a secondary finisher behind Serra Ascendant and also a secondary Proclamation of Rebirth, giving us an additional way to get back Martyr of Sands for more lifegain or Serra Ascendant to finish out the game. We can also lock our opponent's lands out of the game by getting back our seven Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruins. Many Modern decks skimp on basic lands, which means it doesn't take that many Ghost Quarters until our opponent runs out of lands to tutor up, at which point we have a bunch of recurrable Strip Mines in our decks. Even apart from the lands, all of the cards in our deck are three mana or less, and many sacrifice themselves for value, which makes Sun Titan a great addition to our deck.

Removal

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No control deck is complete without removal to keep the opponent's creatures in check and help make sure we make it to the late game. Since our build of Martyr Proc is already up against the budget limit, we don't have Path to Exile, so we're playing Declaration in Stone instead. Declaration in Stone is much worse at killing a Goblin Guide or Death's Shadow on Turn 1, and being a sorcery instead of an instant can be a problem in certain matchups (especially against decks with creaturelands like Affinity and Infect). On the other hand, killing a bunch of Lingering Souls tokens is great, and giving an opponent a Clue token is often less of a downside than giving an opponent a land, so Declaration in Stone isn't all downside. All around, Path to Exile is one of the hardest cards to replace in mono-white budget decks, and while I'm not sure that Declaration in Stone is the solution, we're going to give it a shot and see how it works. 

As for Oblivion Ring, it just gives us a catchall that not only gets rid of creatures but planeswalkers and graveyard hate as well. Graveyard hate specifically is really bad for our deck, since it completely shuts down our late-game engine and turns us into a really underpowered aggro deck. Oblivion Ring gives us a main-deck answer that isn't that far below the curve as a creature-removal spell when graveyard hate isn't a concern.

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Finally, Ghostly Prison helps us slow down go-wide decks. While we'll often have one or two big threats on the battlefield, there is a risk of losing to decks that can just flood the board with creatures, and Ghostly Prison helps to solve this problem. As for End Hostilities, being five mana is rough, but all of the four-mana wraths are just too expensive for the budget. In theory, thanks to our endless lifegain and Ghostly Prisons, having a five-mana wrath is less problematic for our deck than it would be for most, but there still will be games every once in a while that we'll lose because we're not able to sweep the board on Turn 4. This being said, End Hostilities will still be good enough to get the job done most of the time, especially with the help of Martyr of Sands to keep our life total high.

Lands

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We already talked about Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin, so we won't rehash everything here, but we have a couple of other interesting lands in the deck that are worth mentioning. Emeria, the Sky Ruin is just a one-of but gives us another strong late-game engine, getting back a creature each turn and taking advantage of the fact that we have a ton of Plains in the deck. Meanwhile, Mistveil Plains lets us grind out value, mostly by putting Squadron Hawks on the bottom of the library and then tutoring them up when we cast a Squadron Hawk. If we do this right (and dodge graveyard hate), then we essentially have an endless stream of chump blockers to help stabilize in the late game. 

Wrap-Up

Overall, our budget build of Martyr Proc was solid, finishing with a 4-1 record and beating a lot of good decks along the way, including Tron, Burn, and UW Control. Even more impressively,  we didn't even lose a game in most of our wins. While we probably got a bit lucky in the sense that most opponents didn't draw into graveyard hate, the deck generally felt very competitive, even with some strange budget-influenced choices like End Hostilities over Wrath of God and Declaration in Stone over Path to Exile

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Speaking of Declaration in Stone, it was actually pretty impressive in our games. Even in matchups where it's much worse than Path to Exile (like against Burn), it was still good enough, and it was legitimately great against some decks (like UW Control, where we were able to sweep away a ton of tokens for just two mana). While Path to Exile is still the gold standard for cheap white removal, and you should pick up a playset if you're planning to play Modern, Declaration in Stone seems like it might be the best substitute available at the moment if budget is a concern. 

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Of course, our budget build of Martyr Proc isn't without problems: as we saw in the Ad Nauseam match, we really struggle with spell-based combo decks. While having Nevermore and Witchbane Orb in the sideboard helps, they really aren't enough to make those matchups good, especially when you consider that most of our main-deck cards are based on slowing down creatures. The good news is that this isn't so much a Martyr Proc problem but a "mono-white budget deck" problem, and while Martyr Proc will always be somewhat soft to combo, adding in things like Leyline of Sanctity, Gideon of the Trials, and Surgical Extraction can go a long way toward shoring up some of these issues in a non-budget build.

All around, Martyr Proc seems like a solid budget option for Modern thanks to the newfound cheapness of Serra Ascendant. It crushes most creature decks, it can outgrind control decks, and the combo matchup can be improved by slowly making some non-budget upgrades. If you like slow, grindy decks with great late games but with the ability to randomly have a 6/6 flying lifelinker on Turn 2, it just might be the Modern deck for you!

Ultra-Budget Soul Sisters

For our ultra-budget build this week, we have a slightly different Serra Ascendant build: Soul Sisters. While Soul Sisters plays a lot of the same cards as the deck we play for the videos, instead of looking to go long, it's looking to be aggressive with Ajani's Pridemate backing up Serra Ascendant as a huge threat that cares about lifegain. The upside of Soul Sisters from a budget perspective is that we get to drop some of the more expensive, slower cards in the deck like Proclamation of Rebirth and Ghostly Prison and replace them with cheap commons. The general game plan is to play as many Soul Wardens and Soul's Attendants as possible, gain a bunch of life, and grow some huge threat early in the game and use them to kill the opponent. The big upside of this deck is that it can easily be upgraded into Martyr Proc or a less budget-friendly version of Soul Sisters, so there are lots of opportunities for upgrades and improvements. While it will play differently than the deck in the videos (being aggro rather than control), it's still the best ultra-budget starting point available as far as Serra Ascendant decks are concerned. 

Non-Budget Martyr Proc

For our non-budget list this week, we have a build of Martyr Proc that recently managed to Top 8 an SCG IQ. The foundation is the same as the build in the videos, but there are some upgrades to help fix the combo problem, including Gideon of the Trials in the main deck along with a bunch of sideboard cards. The deck also gets more traditional removal with Path to Exile over Declaration in Stone and Wrath of God over End Hostilities, which represents another bump in power for the deck. Generally speaking, the non-budget build should play exactly like the one in our videos but with more game in bad matchups and with a handful of more powerful cards.

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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