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Budget Magic: $99 (36 tix) Sunmare White (Standard)

Hola, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Hour of Devastation is finally here, so this week, we are starting our exploration of the brand-new Standard format! First up, we're playing one of my picks for the most powerful (and definitely most underrated) card from the set: Crested Sunmare! The new white mythic is a strange card, it has a lot of text on it, which I think serves to hide its true power. People tend to get caught up on triggering it during their opponent's turn to maximize the Horse token value, or even on Horse synergies (which are pretty much non-existent in Standard), but when I look at Crested Sunmare, I see a white Broodmate Dragon coming down and offering 10 power and toughness across two bodies right away (which is already an insanely good deal), with the upside of maybe making us some more tokens as the game goes along. Just how good can Crested Sunmare be in Hour of Devastation Standard? Let's get to the videos and figure it out, and then we'll talk more about the deck!

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Sunmare White (Deck Tech)

Sunmare White vs. WU Monument

Sunmare White vs. Jund Torment

Sunmare White vs. Temur Pummeler

Sunmare White vs. WB Sunmare

Sunmare White vs. GR Ramp

The Deck

While Sunmare White is basically an aggressive mono-white midrange deck, the premise of the deck is that it doesn't actually rely on Crested Sunmare. I've seen some Crested Sunmare decks recently that go really deep on the Horse token plan, and while some of these decks look fun, they seem to fall into the trap of playing bad cards to make a good card better. Our deck is overflowing with good cards that are Standard playable on their own but also happen to support Crested Sunmare as our finisher.

The Horse

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Crested Sunmare, at least in our deck, is a pretty simple card. We aren't doing anything crazy to support it, and we aren't trying to make a Horse token during our opponent's turn. Instead, our goal is to turn Crested Sunmare into a five-mana 5/5 that comes along with another 5/5 (which is already super powerful). It's awesome if we happen to make some more Horse tokens over the course of the game, but Crested Sunmare is a great card even if all we get is a single Horse token. 

Making other Horses indestructible is an interesting upside. While it makes the Horse tokens we create with Crested Sunmare even better, it also gives us a pretty devastating lock if we can get two copies of Crested Sunmare on the battlefield at the same time, since they both give each other indestructible. With this setup, barring an Hour of Devastation or Descend upon the Sinful, we have an nearly unbeatable, unkillable board that keeps growing every time we gain a bit of life. 


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As far as making Horse tokens, we have a ton of powerful creatures that just happen to have lifelink. The most important part of all of these cards is they are good on their own, even if we never draw a Crested Sunmare. In fact, we won a ton of games where we just played a good, solid curve of evasive lifelink creatures and beat our opponent down without making a single Horse. Thankfully, these cards are even better when we do draw a Crested Sunmare, not just giving us powerful threats and helping us win the race thanks to the lifegain but also ensuring that we can make a Horse token for free on each of our turns. 

Glory-Bound Initiate is a solid card on its own and gives us a legitimate nut draw with Always Watching where we start attacking with a 5/5, vigilant lifelinker on Turn 3. If our opponent doesn't immediately have a removal spell, it's very possible that combo of Glory-Bound Initiate and Always Watching wins us the game all by itself. Aerial Responder is a lot stronger than it looks, partly because most popular Standard decks are fighting on the ground, so we can usually get in with our vigilant flier every turn. It also works incredibly well with Crested Sunmare, since we can attack during our turn to gain life and make a Horse and still have Aerial Responder on defense, so if our opponent tries to attack us, we can block, gain more life, and make another Horse on our opponent's end step. Finally, Gisela, the Broken Blade dies to a lot of removal but is a great threat when she sticks around. 

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While not technically a lifelink creature, Aethersphere Harvester is one of the most important card in our entire deck for a few reasons. First, it can work as a lifelink creature when we need it to by paying a bit of energy (just be careful—our deck doesn't produce any extra energy; in the early game, it's often better to not give Aethersphere Harvester lifelink even if we are attacking with it, so that we can save the energy for when we have a Crested Sunmare). Second, unlike the rest of our threats, it survives sweepers like Hour of Devastation and Fumigate, which is key to helping us rebuild quickly after a sweeper by triggering Crested Sunmare. Third, it has some sneaky good synergy with Crested Sunmare. Say we have an empty board apart from an Aethersphere Harvester. We can play a Crested Sunmare and use it to crew our Aethersphere Harvester to deal some damage and gain some life, which then triggers Crested Sunmare on our end step and gives us a 5/5 indestructible Horse token to use on defense during our opponent's turn.

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As I was building Horse White, I tried really hard not to include Lone Rider because it felt like the "playing bad cards to make good cards better" trap we talked about before. Eventually, I tested it and found out it was actually amazing in this deck. The problem with Lone Rider is the front side just isn't very big—a 1/1 for two isn't really Standard playable even with a couple of keywords, but Lone Rider starts to look a lot better when you consider that Glory-Bound Initiate, Aethersphere Harvester, and Gisela, the Broken Blade all flip Lone Rider in just one attack, and even Aerial Responder can get the job done with the help of an Always Watching.

After playing a bunch of games with the deck, I found that I was often just holding Lone Rider until we could immediately flip it to dodge removal. While it's sometimes right just to slam it on Turn 2, holding it until Turn 3 or 4 so we can attack with a Glory-Bound Initiate or Aethersphere Harvester and then play a Lone Rider post-combat as a 4/4 trample, lifelink, first strike is actually quite strong. 

The other problem with Lone Rider is that it isn't very good off the top in the late game, since it's only a 1/1, but our deck naturally solves this problem with Crested Sunmare. On Turn 10 (for example), when Lone Rider is overshadowed by our opponent's creatures, in the very worst case we can chump-attack with it to gain life and essentially turn our 1/1 into a 5/5 indestructible Horse with the help of Crested Sunmare

Other Stuff

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Always Watching is great in our deck for a few reasons. First, as we talked about before, it gives us some random free wins when we play it on Turn 3 after playing a Glory-Bound Initiate on Turn 2. Second, it's key to our "beat down with random fliers" plan for when we don't have a Crested Sunmare. While all of our creatures are reasonable on their own, Aerial Responder and Gisela, the Broken Blade specifically are much better with an Always Watching out because they dodge Abrade and Harnessed Lightning without extra energy. Finally, Always Watching is one of our best protections against Hour of Devastation, since it makes our Crested Sunmare into a 6/6, which means even though our opponent can wrath away all of our other creatures, we can rebuild our board super quick by making more Horse tokens.

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Cast Out and Stasis Snare gives us some removal, and both cards are great in our deck. Since we don't have room to play too many removal spells, having all of our removal be both instant speed and non-conditional is key. As for Thraben Inspector, it doesn't really do anything with our lifegain / Crested Sunmare plan, but it's just too good to not play in a mono-white deck. It gives us something to do on Turn 1, generates card advantage, and can end up being a pretty reasonable threat with the help of Always Watching.


So, the deck is great. Not only did we finish our video matches 5-0 but with a 6-1 record overall (losing an additional match against GR Ramp and beating New Perspectives, which I decided not to include in the videos because the match wasn't very interesting—our opponent just couldn't find a New Perspectives, and we beat them down). 

Crested Sunmare was insane. I think there was only a single time during all of our matches where we cast it and didn't immediately get the Horse token at our end step, and there were several times where playing Crested Sunmare essentially ended the game on the spot. While there were a couple of games where it ended up getting out of control (especially the Crested Sunmare mirror, which was pretty strange), just getting 10 power and toughness for five mana was enough in most situations. 

More importantly, our deck performed really well without Crested Sunmare—we had a lot of games where we simply beat our opponent down with flying threats, and having so many lifelink creatures made it really difficult for our opponent to race. Even if we didn't have Always Watching for vigilance, we could swing out with our team and just take whatever damage our opponent could muster without much worry. 

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As far as changes to the budget build, there actually isn't very much I'm unhappy with. I considered playing Oketra's Monument, and while it could be good in the deck, we are already overloaded on three-drops, and Always Watching seems more important to our plan (and Oketra's Monument doesn't work very well with Always Watching, since it doesn't pump tokens). Another possibility is a single Bruna, the Fading Light for meld shenanigans, but seven mana is a lot for our deck. Otherwise, the sideboard could probably be touched up a bit. Solemnity might be unnecessary, since energy seems to be on the downswing, and Hour of Revelation was probably a bad idea, since we are relying on Stasis Snare and Cast Out as our main removal spells, but that's about it.

Ultra-Budget Horse White

Getting Horse White down into the ultra-budget range isn't too hard. Cutting the Solemnity from the sideboard is an easy way to start—don't feel like you have to buy Solemnity if you decide to pick up any version of the deck. While it's a good sideboard card, my main motivation for playing it was to see how good it actually is in Standard. Otherwise, we have to cut Gisela, the Broken Blade and trim back on Always Watching. In their place, we get a few copies of Oketra's Monument and a couple of Fairgrounds Wardens for additional removal. While this version is a bit less powerful than the one in the videos, mostly because cutting back on Always Watching minimizes our odds of getting the random Glory-Bound Initiate nut draw, it should still be a fine starting point for around $50. 

Non-Budget Horse White-Black

Upgrading Horse White while staying mono-white is actually pretty tricky. The main addition would be Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which is not just an extremely powerful standalone threat, but also fills out the four-drop slot in our curve and works like an Always Watching if we ultimate to protect our Crested Sunmares from Hour of Devastation (actually, a better Always Watching, since it also pumps our Horse tokens to 6/6s). I'd probably just slot three copies into the main deck by trimming back on an Always Watching, an Aethersphere Harvester, and maybe a Gisela, the Broken Blade. As such, a more exciting upgrade might be to add another color—here's the non-budget Wb Horse deck I've been playing the last couple days. 

As you can see, we don't actually play any black cards in the main deck, but getting four copies of Shambling Vent is huge, since it gives us another lifelink threat that survives a sweeper to help us rebuild. The bigger benefit of reaching into black is that it gives us more good sideboard options to fight control decks like Transgress the Mind and Collective Brutality, along with Fatal Push for some early-game removal if we run into Mono-Red or other aggressive decks. While I'm not sure how much better this build is compared to the ones we played for the videos, a light splash is close to free in the deck, so adding another color to gain access to some things that white doesn't have access to makes a lot of sense. Plus, Shambling Vent is so good I'd be willing to play some black dual lands just to have access to the creature lands, even without the black sideboard cards.


Anyway, that's all for today. Hour of Devastation is awesome, and so is Crested Sunmare! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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