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Budget Magic: $99 (53 tix) Ponzamonicon (Modern)


Ẹ n lẹ, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Last weekend, we had a Modern Grand Prix where Titan Shift and Tron were the two big decks. What do these decks have in common? They rely on their lands to win. This means the time is right for a mashup of two of my favorite things in Magic: Panharmonicon and making opponents miserable by blowing up their lands! As such, we're heading to Modern this week to play a deck I'm calling Ponzamonicon. The main plan is to play a Panharmonicon as early as Turn 2 and then follow it up by playing Avalanche Riders and Acidic Slime to blow up not just one but two of the opponent's lands. In theory, this means that on Turn 3 or 4, our opponent should have zero lands on the battlefield, which means we can beat them down with our random dorks (or tutor up an Inferno Titan) to close out the game! Can a mashup of Panharmonicon and land destruction work in Modern? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Ponzamonicon (Deck Tech)

Ponzamonicon vs. Ad Nauseam (Match 1)

Ponzamonicon vs. UB Thing (Match 2)

Ponzamonicon vs. UR Storm (Match 3)

Ponzamonicon vs. Jund Death's Shadow (Match 4)

Ponzamonicon vs. Burn (Match 5)

The Deck

The basic idea of Ponzamonicon is simple enough: we start blowing up lands on Turn 2 or 3 and hopefully blow up enough lands that our opponent can't really play Magic. Once we get to the point where our opponent has very few (or even no) lands on the battlefield, it should be pretty easy to figure out a way to win the game.

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Panharmonicon is the centerpiece of the deck, and since you probably know what it does by now, I'm not going to spend too much time explaining it. In our deck, we're using it to double up our enters-the-battlefield triggers, mostly for creatures that destroy lands when they enter the battlefield, but we also have some other value creatures to use with Panharmonicon. While we don't need to Panharmonicon to win, when we do get a copy of the artifact on the battlefield, our deck can be extremely explosive and do some crazy things.

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Before we talk about all of the sweet enters-the-battlefield creatures we use with Panharmonicon, we first need to talk about our ramp. One of the challenges of building a Panharmonicon deck in Modern is that Panharmonicon is slow and Modern is fast. It's challenging to take a turn off to play a four-mana artifact that doesn't do anything right away. Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl help to solve this problem. If we can play an Arbor Elf on Turn 1 and a Utopia Sprawl on Turn 2, we can tap and untap the enchanted land to make four more mana (on top of the mana we spent to cast the Utopia Sprawl) and cast our Panharmonicon on Turn 2, which means we are set up for a double-land-destruction creature on Turn 3. 

Of course, we won't always have both Utopia Sprawl and Arbor Elf in our opening hand, which is where Wood Elves comes in. If we have either Utopia Sprawl or Arbor Elf on Turn 1, we can play a Wood Elves on Turn 2 and be up to five mana on Turn 3, which is enough to cast a Panharmonicon or either of our land-destruction creatures. Wood Elves also works well with Panharmonicon, pulling two lands from our deck and increasing our odds of drawing action rather than lands. Plus, the lands enter the battlefield untapped, which means we can use them right away to cast something else.

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After we ramp into our Panharmonicon, our most important cards are Avalanche Riders and Acidic Slime, either of which allows us to blow up two of our opponent's lands. In theory, if we can do this on Turn 3, we'll have our opponent to either one or zero lands, depending on if they are on the play or on the draw, and if we can follow up with another Avalanche Riders or Acidic Slime the next turn, we'll almost certainly have our opponent to zero lands, which makes it pretty hard for our opponent to play Magic. While for the most part Avalanche Riders and Acidic Slime are the same card in our deck, both have an upside and a downside.

The upside of Avalanche Riders is that it only costs four mana, which means if we don't have a Panharmonicon but have our Utopia Sprawl and Arbor Elf, we can cast it on Turn 2, making it a Sinkhole that also gets in some hasty damage. The downside of Avalanche Riders is that we often don't pay the echo, which means it works more like a spell that blows up a land or two and maybe deals two damage than a real creature (although if our opponent attacks us the turn after we play Avalanche Riders, it is a good chump blocker, especially if we know we aren't going to pay the echo). 

As for Acidic Slime, the downside is that it's a bit expensive at five mana, although it helps make up for this cost by having a bunch of benefits. First, the body is actually weirdly relevant. With a lot of decks using Fatal Push as their primary removal spell, it's hard to kill an Acidic Slime, which means it often ends up stonewalling Death's Shadows and Tarmogoyfs thanks to deathtouch. Second, in some matchups, having a main-deck spell to destroy artifacts and enchantments is a big deal, especially against Lantern Control and Affinity, but Modern is a huge format with a ton of decks, so you never know when randomly blowing up a Ghostly Prison or Ensnaring Bridge will end up being a game-winning play.

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Beyond our land-destruction creatures, we have a bunch of creatures that work well with Panharmonicon. Elvish Visionary and Merfolk Branchwalker give us early-game chump blockers that generate an absurd amount of card advantage once we get a Panharmonicon online. Elvish Visionary is the better of the two, since it always draws us a card, while Merfolk Branchwalker gives us a bigger body thanks to explore but only draws us lands (otherwise, it gives us a strange pseudo-scry thanks to explore). 

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The other reason we need a bunch random, seemingly underpowered creatures is Eldritch Evolution, which might be the most powerful card in our deck, since we can use it to tutor up whatever creatures we need in a given situation. For example, we can trade up an Elvish Visionary for an Avalanche Riders to blow up a land or two, while some of our most powerful draws involve playing a Panharmonicon and then using Eldritch Evolution to turn Acidic Slimes (or Avalanche Riders) into more Acidic Slimes as a sort of build-your-own-one-sided Armageddon. Apart from turning our random card-draw creatures into land-destruction creatures, and land-destruction creatures into more land-destruction creatures, the other huge upside of Eldritch Evolution is that it allows us to consistently find our finisher:

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While in theory we can close out the game with our random 1/1s and 2/2s after we blow up our opponent's lands, it's nice to have a way to speed up the process because sooner or later, our opponent will draw more lands. For this, we turn to Inferno Titan, which is great on its own and insane with Panharmonicon. Typically, Inferno Titan can close out the game in just two or three attacks while also shooting down blockers with the damage it gives us when it enters the battlefield or attacks. In combination with Panharmonicon, Inferno Titan's enter-the-battlefield ability can almost work like a Bonfire of the Damned on some boards, shooting down a whole bunch of small creatures against Affinity or Lingering Souls decks, or one big creature like Tarmogoyf. All around, Inferno Titan is great in the deck, especially considering we can tutor it up as needed with Eldritch Evolution by sacrificing our land-destruction creatures, which aren't that impressive once they are done attacking our opponent's mana base.

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The last non-land card in our main deck is a single copy of Thragtusk, which is mostly a tutor target for Eldritch Evolution against aggro and burn decks where gaining five life (or more if we have a Panharmonicon) is often enough to win a game by itself. Otherwise, it's a pretty reasonable threat when we ramp into it on Turn 3 or 4, and blocking twice thanks to the token it makes when it leave the battlefield is a good way of slowing down the game while we are looking to draw our Panharmonicon or land-destruction creatures. 

Wrap-Up

As for our record, we technically finished 3-2 in our video matches, but our total record was 3-4 thanks to a misclick loss to Mono-U Living End and a top-deck loss to Lantern Control. Overall, I was was pretty happy with these results, considering we didn't play either of the matches I was hoping for (Tron or Titan Shift) and because even our losses were incredibly close. Out of our losses, we'll probably never beat Storm (although we did win a game with a crazy nut draw), our loss to Death's Shadow was super close, and we probably would have won if we hadn't attacked with Inferno Titan (or had top decked a bit better).

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As far as changes I'd make now that we've played some games, I'm not sure there are any. Merfolk Branchwalker wasn't as good as I hoped, since explore doesn't really draw us cards with Panharmonicon, so it might be worth changing it to a Wistful Selkie or another actual card-draw creature. Otherwise, it might be worth trying to find room for one early-game removal spell in the main deck (probably Lightning Bolt), but I'm not sure what to cut to make room.

All in all, Ponzamonicon is one of the most fun decks we've played on Budget Magic in a while, but it's middling as far as level of competition. It has great matchups that it will almost never lose, but it also has some really bad matchups (mostly fast combo like Storm). If you want to have some fun (and make your opponent not have fun) or just want to do some crazy, explosive things out of nowhere, this is a great deck for you, but if your main goal is just to win as many matches as possible, you're probably better off playing something like budget Burn, 8-Whack Goblins, or Martyr Proc instead. 

Getting Ponzamonicon into the ultra-budget price range is weird, since most of the main-deck cards are either super cheap or, in the case of Utopia Sprawl and Panharmonicon, somewhat expensive but very important to making the deck work. As such, to get the deck down near $50, we cut the mana and sideboard to the bare minimum. The sideboard changes aren't a huge deal, although losing Bonfire of the Damned for Pyroclasm and Roast is a meaningful downgrade, but the mana-base challenges are problematic. Thanks to Utopia Sprawl and Arbor Elf only working with Forests, losing Cinder Glade is painful, although Evolving Wilds does tutor up a Forest, which helps to some extent. Overall, this build should play exactly like the one in the videos but will get a few more clunky draws thanks to the mana and have a handful of less-powerful sideboard options. Still, if you just want to have fun blowing up lands with Panharmonicon, it's a fine place to start. 

I went back and forth over what to do for the non-budget list this week before eventually deciding that a non-Panharmonicon GR Ponza / Land Destruction deck is probably the right choice. If you are looking to upgrade Ponzamonicon directly, there isn't really a ton to do outside of upgrading the mana with some fetch lands and Stomping Ground (just make sure as many lands as possible are Forests or fetch Forests) and perhaps adding some Kitchen Finks to the sideboard for more help against aggro (probably over the Obstinate Baloth and a Thragtusk). 

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As far as GR Land Destruction, there are no Panharmonicons, but the basic idea of the deck is the same. Ramp in the early game, blow up lands starting on Turn 2 or 3, and then finish the game with an Inferno Titan or another huge finisher. One of the big upsides of the build above is that it manages to play the Madcap Experiment / Platinum Emperion combo, which gives the deck a way to beat combo like Storm in game one, which is typically a problem for most decks looking to destroy lands. The good news is  that if you buy into Ponzamonicon, many of the cards in the deck can be used for GR Land Destruction too, so you have a good foundation to build upon!

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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