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Budget Magic: $99 (32 tix) Modern Knowledge Pool Combo


Ẹ n lẹ Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we are heading to Modern for a Budget Magic first! A couple months ago we played Hard Lock Helix on Against the Odds, a deck built around the hard lock of Knowledge Pool and Curse of Exhaustion with Helix Pinnacle as the finisher. The problem with Hard Lock Helix is that it is rather expensive, costing $460 in paper and 240 tix online, which is a lot for a relatively untested, off-the-wall combo deck. Today we have a more budget friendly version of the same combo, costing only $99 in paper and 32 tix on Magic Online. So if you've been looking for a way to get the salt flowing at your next Modern FNM (and maybe even win some matches) without spending the big bucks, this just might be the deck for you!

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about the deck. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Knowledge Pool Combo Intro

Knowledge Pool Combo vs Naya Burn

Knowledge Pool Combo vs Bogles

Knowledge Pool Combo vs Affinity

Knowledge Pool Combo vs Gifts Tron

Knowledge Pool Combo vs Zoo

The Deck

The Lock

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Let's start with the most important part of the deck: the combo of Knowledge Pool and Curse of Exhaustion (or Rule of Law). While it's a little bit wordy and confusing, when we get this combo on the battlefield, the bottom line is our opponent can no longer cast spells. Knowledge Pool exiles every spell cast, and when our opponent goes to cast one of the other spells exiled under Knowledge Pool, Curse of Exhaustion shuts them down by not letting them cast more than on spell each turn. Basically, Knowledge Pool says "to resolve a spell, you have to cast two spells" and Curse of Exhaustion says "you can only cast one spell." When we put this together, the final product is "your opponent can't cast spells." 

Rule of Law is a little bit tricky because it impacts both players. Not only is our opponent unable to resolve a spell, but we lock ourselves out of the game as well. Thankfully, our deck is built in such a way that we can win the game even when we are locked under Knowledge Pool and Rule of Law.

So what beats the Knowledge Pool lock? Not very much. The only common main deck answers is Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and calling either Ulamog "common" isn't really accurate (some versions of Tron play a single Ulamog). Ulamog gets around the lock by triggering when cast, so even though Knowledge Pool will exile Ulamog, the trigger can still exile the Knowledge Pool. Other possible ways to beat the lock is by having an answer already on board when the lock comes down, like a Qasali Pridemage or Seal of Primordium, or having an Ancient Grudge in the graveyard since Knowledge Pool only triggers on cards being cast from the hand. So while there are a couple ways of beating the lock, the answers are few and far between, and most decks don't have any answers at all. 

The Counters

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The main goal of our ten counterspells is to keep us alive long enough to get the game locked up with the combo. Once we get the combo online we have no need for counterspells (since all of our opponent's spells get exiled), feel free to fire off counters at just about anything in the early game. I know it might be a stretch to play four copies of Remand in a budget deck, but its interaction with Curse of Exhaustion is so strong that I can't imaging playing the deck without it. With a Curse of Exhaustion on the battlefield, the opportunity cost of casting any one spell is our opponent's entire turn. As a result, when that one spell gets hit by Remand, Remand morphs into a Time Walk that cycles — one of the most busted cards I can even imagine — since our opponent can't recast the spell that was hit by Remand (or any other spell for that matter). 

Mana Leak and Condescend, on the other hand, are in the deck to counter two- and three-drops to hopefully buy enough time to get Knowledge Pool and Curse of Exhaustion online. Typically soft counters get weaker as the game goes on (because the opponent eventually has enough mana to pay the mana tax), but assuming we get our combo online, we don't need counters in the late game at all. As such, both Mana Leak and Condescend are better in our deck than most other decks since the fact that they diminish in value turn-by-turn isn't really problematic. 

The Removal

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As I mentioned earlier, the Knowledge Pool lock is only really effective if we get it down while we are not too far behind on board. If an opponent can beat us with what they have on the battlefield, not being able to cast spells isn't really all that devastating. As such, this group of cards helps us stabilize the board while we are looking to get the lock online. Condemn is purely a budget consideration. While it is serviceable, playing the fourth copy of Path to Exile is clearly the right choice when budget isn't a consideration. The problem with Condemn is that it does nothing against creatures that can beat us without attacking (for example, Eidolon of the Great Revel or Dark Confidant). On the other hand, it's better than Path to Exile when we are being attacked by a Goblin Guide on turn one or a Tarmogoyf on turn three. So far playing a 3/1 split hasn't been that troublesome; I've been able to use Condemn in situations where it is good, and save the Path to Exiles for creatures that stifle Condemn — although sooner or later I expect to run into a situation where I really, really need Condemn to be Path to Exile.

Supreme Verdict is clearly the best wrath in Modern, although in 85 percent of matchups it plays exactly like a Day of Judgment. On the other hand, in the other 15 percent of matches (like against Merfolk, for example), it wins games where Day of Judgment would do nothing because it would get countered. We need some number of wraths to help keep the board clean, and while I think Supreme Verdict is the best choice, you don't lose that much by going ultra budget with Day of Judgment (or Wrath of God if you have them sitting around) in this slot. 

The Ramp

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I have no idea if Azorius Signet or Mind Stone is better in this deck (which is why I'm playing the odd-looking 3/2 split). We do have to play a lot of colorless lands, so sometimes being able to tap Azorius Signet for colored mana is really important. Other times, the ability to cycle Mind Stone from the battlefield gets us out of some jams by digging us one card deeper for a wrath or combo piece. 

What I am fairly confident in is that this deck wants five two-mana mana rocks. Since our lock is relatively expensive (a four-mana enchantment and a six-mana artifact), having a mana rock in the early game increases the speed of the deck significantly. I guess the bottom line is that you should be playing five total copies of Mind Stone and/or Azorius Signet, but I don't especially care which five you play (i.e. four Mind Stone and one Azorius Signet is fine, as is four Azorius Signet and one Mind Stone, or any mixture in between). Run whatever you have access to; the difference is really slight. 

The Finishers

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Probably the most challenging part of building the budget version of the Knowledge Pool lock was figuring out the finishers. In a non-budget build, I'd just overload on creaturelands like Celestial Colonnade, Stirring Wildwood and Creeping Tar Pit. But those cards are way too expensive for our deck. We do get a couple copies of Faerie Conclave which can do a good job of finishing off a game, but this plan runs into problems when our opponent is playing Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge.

We also have Elixir of Immortality, which is a great way to win the game assuming we have the Curse of Exhaustion lock. We need to get it on the battlefield early since it doesn't do anything when we lock ourselves out of the game with Rule of Law. The idea is that we can use it to shuffle our graveyard back into our library, and then keep playing until our opponent decks themselves naturally one card at a time from their draw step. While this is effective, it also leads to some really long, time consuming games, and we could potentially end up getting some unintentional draws by going to time.

The finisher I'm most proud of is Chronosavant, which can win even through the Rule of Law lock. With Chronosavant in our deck, we can lock ourselves (and our opponent) out of the game with Rule of Law. Eventually we will draw into our Chronosavant and discard it to handsize. Then we get to return it to the battlefield and skip our next turn. Typically Chronosavant is unplayable because skipping an entire turn is such a massive cost, but with the Knowledge Pool lock in place, skipping a turn isn't a cost at all. I mean, what's our opponent going to do with an extra turn when they can't resolve any spells? The correct answer is nothing. 

The Mana

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Our manabase is actually pretty simple: eight budget UW duals (I've got Glacial Fortress and Tranquil Cove because they are inexpensive, but you can play whatever you have on hand) and a bunch of basic lands. I want to briefly highlight Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge because they are super important to the deck. One thing that the Knowledge Pool lock cannot stop is lands, so if our opponent is playing creaturelands like Inkmoth Nexus, Celestial Colonnade or Shambling Vents, they have a way of winning the game even though they can't cast any spells. As such, having access to good clean answers to creaturelands is essential to the deck, so don't try playing without them! Plus, we randomly get free wins against Tron and Amulet Bloom, which is never a bad thing. 

Ultra Budget Knowledge Pool Combo

The ultra budget version of Knowledge Pool Combo is in an interesting place. On one hand, it still has the lock, and the lock is just as devastating as ever. On the other hand, it loses some of the cards that are really good at keeping us alive until we get the lock online. Downgrading Remand into Rune Snag is painful, simply because Remand is so good with Curse of Exhaustion, but I think the deck can survive without it. Likewise, turning Path to Exile into Condemn means a savvy opponent can avoid attacking into open mana to keep their creatures alive. All in all, I think the ultra budget version is worth playing, but I would try to upgrade into Remand and Path to Exile as soon as possible because they are fairly important to the deck. 

Non-Budget Knowledge Pool Combo

While the non-land cards in the non-budget version of Knowledge Pool Combo look almost exactly the same as the budget build (with the exception of four copies of Thoughtseize in the sideboard), the manabase undergoes a massive change. Most noticeably, we are now Esper, both for Thoughtseize and more removal, but also because we want access to more creaturelands. We still have Elixir of Immortality and Chronosavant to finish the game in the worst case scenario (for example, a Blood Moon shutting down all our creaturelands), but in most games we will win with some combination of Celestial Colonnade, Creeping Tar Pit and Shambling Vent. The benefit of the creatureland plan is that it not only closes out the game faster than Elixir of Immortality (going to time could be an issue), but they are also good blockers for whatever creatures our opponent has on the battlefield when the lock comes down. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. I've had a blast playing Knowledge Pool Combo this week. Not only has it been reasonable successful (slightly over a 50 percent match win percentage), but the befuddled look on our opponents' faces make playing the deck incredibly fun. Sometimes it takes an opponent a few turns of casting spells into the lock before they realize what's up, at which point they almost always concede (sometimes with a splash of salt). Who says Magic should be fun for both players? Not me! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 


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