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Budget Magic: $99 (26 tix) Teferi's Pool (Modern)


Γεια σου, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we are heading to Modern for a deck that's only in the middle in terms of how likely it is to win but near the top in terms of making opponents super salty: Teferi's Pool! If you've been following the series for a while, you'll know that a long time ago, we played a deck that was looking to hard-lock opponents out of the game with Knowledge Pool and Rule of Law or Curse of Exhaustion. Today's deck is a twist on the same concept, with the clunky enchantments being replaced with the newly budget-friendly Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. If we can get Teferi and Knowledge Pool on the battlefield together, we form a lock where every spell our opponent casts from their hand gets exiled, which means they basically can't play Magic and also means we can win the game at our leisure. The rest of the deck is built to keep us alive until we can get the lock in place, find our lock pieces, and answer the handful of cards that can let our opponent win through the lock. How much salt can we shake from our Modern opponents with the combo of Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Teferi's Pool

The Deck

The basic idea of Teferi's Pool is simple: we play Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir; then, we play Knowledge Pool. At this point, our opponent can't cast spells from their hand (or rather, they can try, but the spells will all end up exiled), and then we figure out a way to win the game eventually, either by beating down with Teferi or with our single copy of Aetherling. Beneath all of this, we're basically a UW Control deck, with the lock as our primary plan for closing out the game.

The Lock

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The interaction between Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool isn't all that obvious at first glance, but the bottom line is that Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir makes it so opponents can only cast spells as sorceries and Knowledge Pool makes it so opponents can't cast spells as sorceries, with the end result being our opponent is hard locked out of ever resolving a spell from their hand. The trick is that for a spell to be considered a sorcery, the stack must be clear, so when our opponent casts a spell from their hand, it gets exiled by Knowledge Pool, which puts a trigger on the stack allowing the opponent to cast a spell from underneath Knowledge Pool. The problem for our opponent is that trigger being on the stack means the spell isn't a sorcery, so Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir won't allow the opponent to cast it, which means our opponent is hard locked from ever casting spells from their hand.

Apart from locking our opponent out of the game, both of our combo pieces have some weird additional value. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is naturally good against Bloodbraid Elf, since it stops cascade (for the same reason it locks opponents with Knowledge Pool—something is on the stack, making the cascade spell not sorcery speed), which has been one of the key cards in Modern since its unbanning. More importantly, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir actually protects our Knowledge Pool, which is one of the biggest reasons to play this lock over other Knowledge Pool locks. If we cast Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir on our opponent's end step, the sorcery speed restriction keeps them from being able to kill our Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and from being able to counter (or otherwise interact with) our Knowledge Pool when we cast it the following turn.

As for Knowledge Pool, the fringe benefits outside of the lock are small and strange. Technically, when we play Knowledge Pool, we are drawing six cards (three from our opponent's deck and three from ours), which means we can play a cheap spell like Serum Visions or Path to Exile and upgrade it to a wrath or Detention Sphere from underneath Knowledge Pool. While this doesn't come up all that often, it's worth keeping in mind when we are desperately digging for an answer. 

Winning the Game

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In theory, we can win the game by beating down with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, but as a 3/4, it's completely possible that our opponent has an effective blocker on the battlefield when we get the lock set up, which means even though our opponent can't cast spells from their hand, it's possible we won't be able to win the game and will eventually mill ourselves out. Aetherling solves this problem by being a fast way of closing out the game post-lock. Since we don't have to worry about our opponent casting anything with the lock in place, we can simply dump all of our mana into making Aetherling unblockable and pumping it to an 8/1, which should allow us to close out the game in somewhere between two and three attacks.

Finding the Lock

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One of the risks of playing a deck built around a two-card combo (and with only four copies of each combo piece) is that we simply won't draw a Knowledge Pool or Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir in some games. Thirst for Knowledge and Serum Visions help solve this problem by giving us cards that can dig through our deck to find our combo pieces. Serum Visions gives us something to do on Turn 1 and helps set up our removal and counters in the early game, and then in the late game, it helps make sure we find our combo pieces in a timely manner. Meanwhile, Thirst for Knowledge is great in our deck, not only digging three cards deep for combo pieces but, as an instant, allowing us to leave up removal like Path to Exile or counters like Mana Leak and Negate. Then, if we don't need to interact with our opponent during their turn, we can Thirst for Knowledge on their end step. Plus, thanks to Azorius Signet and the fact that we typically only need one copy of Knowledge Pool, we often have an artifact we can discard to Thirst for Knowledge, which means it actually generates card advantage rather than just filtering through our deck.

Strengthening the Lock

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Apart from assembling the lock, the rest of our deck is dedicated to staying alive long enough to get the lock in place and strengthening the lock. Supreme Verdict and Day of Judgment are extremely important because if our opponent can get a bunch of creatures on the battlefield in the early game, it's possible they will be able to piece together a win even after Teferi and Knowledge Pool lock them out of casting spells. If we can sweep the board before assembling the lock, it becomes much harder for our opponent to win with their leftovers. As such, the "nut draw" for Teferi's Pool, at least against creature decks, is something like Turn 2 Azorius Signet, Turn 3 wrath, Turn 4 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (during our opponent's end step), Turn 5 Knowledge Pool.

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Condemn and Path to Exile give us additional ways of cleaning up creatures before we assemble the lock while also helping us survive the early rush against aggressive decks. In the late game, they are also cheap enough that we can cast a Knowledge Pool to get the lock in place and then immediately cast a Path to Exile or Condemn to play the best card exiled with the Knowledge Pool. Otherwise, there isn't really a specific purpose for either card. Both are just efficient and necessary for staying alive long enough to get Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool on the battlefield to lock up the game.

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Mana Leak and Negate do double duty in our deck. On one hand, they are part of the "stay alive until we get the lock" package, allowing us to counter our opponent's plays in the early game. On the other hand, they help make sure that our opponent can't break out of the lock once we get it assembled. While Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool lock our opponent out of playing spells from their hand, they don't stop cards from being played from the graveyard, which means one of the few potential outs an opponent can have to the lock is a flashbacked Ancient Grudge, which they can get in the graveyard by discarding to hand size, since they can't resolve spells anyway. If we think our opponent could have Ancient Grudge, we can simply hang on to our Negate to counter it, to make sure our opponent can't sneak out from under the Teferi's Pool lock.

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Detention Sphere is almost exactly like Negate. We're more than happy to use it to kill something in the early game to keep our life total high while we are looking for our lock pieces, but it has a couple of more specific purposes as well. First, while we have a ton of removal for creatures, we don't have many ways to stop a planeswalker once it hits the battlefield, and something like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nahiri, the Harbinger, or Liliana of the Veil can easily win our opponent the game, even while they are locked out of playing spells. Detention Sphere gives us a clean answer to these cards if they manage to slip through our counters. Second, Aether Vial is really good against our deck because it gives our opponent a way to keep putting creatures on the battlefield even through the lock, which means decks like Merfolk, Humans, and Death & Taxes can be challenging matchups. Here again, Detention Sphere comes down and cleans up any number of Aether Vials to make sure that our lock is as hard as possible. 

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Most of our lands are pretty straightforward, adding mana to help us cast our spells, but Ghost Quarter deserves special mention because it shores up one last weakness for our lock: creaturelands. Even if our opponent can't cast any spells, cards like Celestial Colonnade, Inkmoth Nexus, and Raging Ravine can still enter the battlefield (since lands aren't cast but played), and they can even steal the game if we don't have the right removal. Having a playset of Ghost Quarters helps us cut off this out, making sure our opponent can't get the sneaky creatureland kill.

Wrap-Up

As we talked about in the intro, Teferi's Pool isn't near the top of the most competitive lists as far as Budget Magic decks are concerned, and our record backed this up, going 2-3 for our videos and 2-4 overall. This being said, we managed to lock four of our five opponents and came really close to picking up wins against Eldrazi (our opponent had a timely Karn Liberated in game two to keep from losing the match) and Death's Shadow (where, after locking our opponent in game one, we got our opponent within a single Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir attack of winning before they top-decked Kolaghan's Command to get back Death's Shadow and then another Death's Shadow to steal the game), so even though the record wasn't great, it also wasn't as bad as it looked. More importantly, the good news is that Teferi's Pool isn't really about winning—it's about shaking some salt from our opponents. And when it comes to shaking salt, there might not be a better budget deck in all of Modern. 

Almost every opponent reacted to the lock in one way or another, ranging from amusement to swear-word-fueled rage, while nearly all of them were utterly confused by what was happening, with some casting multiple spells into the lock before figuring out what was happening. These reactions and this salt are the reason to play a deck like Teferi's Pool. 

As far as improvements to the deck after playing some matches, I'm not sure there is much we can do with the budget build. There are cards that would go a long way toward improving the deck (like Leyline of Sanctity in the sideboard), but they are all too expensive for the budget build, considering the version we played for the videos was already at the max budget, coming in just a few cents under $100. As such, if you're looking for some upgrade ideas, make sure to check out the non-budget list coming up in a minute. Since upgrading the deck is mostly about adding generically good cards rather than synergies, even if you add just a few of the non-budget upgrades, it will still improve the deck significantly.

So, should you play Teferi's Pool in Modern? It depends on your goal. If you're hoping to win a Grand Prix or FNM, Teferi's Pool would probably be near the bottom of the list as far as Modern Budget Magic decks I'd recommend. On the other hand, if you want to cause some confusion, shake some salt, and have everyone at your FNM talking about your deck, then Teferi's Pool is near the top of the list! While I wouldn't want Teferi's Pool as my only Modern deck, it's a great second or third Modern deck to take off the shelf every once in a while when you are in a particularly mean mood. Sometimes, it's not so much that you want to play Magic; it's that you want to make your opponent not play Magic, and there's where Teferi's Pool comes in.

Getting Teferi's Pool down near $50 is pretty simple. We can't touch the lock, since that's the entire idea of the deck, so instead we strip back the mana base, making it as cheap as possible (although keeping the Ghost Quarters, since they are an important part of the lock), and then downgrade our utility spells. Path to Exile becomes another Condemn and two Declaration in Stones, while Supreme Verdict becomes Day of Judgment. Overall, the ultra-budget build of Teferi's Pool is worse than the build we played in the videos, but apart from the clunky mana base, you won't really notice the differences most of the time. For example, in most Modern matchups, Day of Judgment and Supreme Verdict are exactly the same card, but some relatively small percent of the time, you'll play against Merfolk or a Stubborn Denial deck and lose a game because of the downgrade. Still, if you're just looking to jank out your friend on the kitchen table, the ultra-budget build should work just fine. 

The non-budget version of Teferi's Pool gets some major additions, especially in the mana base and the sideboard but a handful in the main deck as well, so let's run them down briefly. First, we upgrade to a tier Modern mana base with fetch lands and shock lands along with Mystic Gate, which helps us cast our triple-blue Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Second, we get Elspeth, Sun's Champion as our primary finisher over Aetherling. While not as fast at closing out the game after the lock, Elspeth, Sun's Champion is much better at stabilizing us before the lock by making chump-blocking tokens and wrathing away big creatures. Third, we get Remand over Mana Leak, which is great since drawing a card helps us find our combo pieces and Remand is just as effective at permanently countering flashback spells like Ancient Grudge, since they get exiled anyway. Fourth, we add in a couple of Snapcaster Mages for value, giving us additional copies of our wraths, counters, and card draw. Finally, we play all of the good white sideboard cards, with Rest in Peace as another way to shut down flashback, Stony Silence for Affinity and Tron, and Leyline of Sanctity, which is great at helping us stay alive against combo and protecting our combo pieces from discard against decks like Jund and Death's Shadow. All around, these upgrades do a lot to make the deck more competitive, although they don't really do much to increase the salt level, so I'm not sure how worthwhile they are from a meta perspective, considering Teferi's Pool is more about shaking salt than winning anyways.

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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