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Budget Magic: $99 (69 tix) Modern Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain


Hafa Adai Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. Since we are still waiting for Shadows over Innistrad to release on Magic Online (it comes out Friday), this week we are heading to Modern one last time for a deck I'm pretty excited about, Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain. Don't worry Standard players, starting next week, I plan to have several Standard Budget Magics to explore and celebrate the sweet new cards from Shadows over Innistrad!

Anyway, as far as this week's deck, we are looking to destroy some lands in Modern. Now, I hear you saying, "Didn't we try this already on Against the Odds?" The answer is yes and no. While we did play a Modern Land Destruction deck for Against the Odds, the one we are playing this week is a ton different. Firstly, it isn't trying to win with Dingus Egg, so the jank-o-meter has moved down a couple notches. Second, when we played the Against the Odds version, Goblin Dark-Dwellers wasn't even a card yet, and now it's  the centerpiece of the deck. The problem with the Against the Odds version of land destruction was that, while very good at destroying lands, it was very bad at closing out games after destroying lands. Well, with our Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain version this aspect changes. Now our land destruction spells come with a 4/4 menace body attached. Plus we have an excuse to dust off our playsets of Inferno Titan, which is a great way to close out the game quickly!

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain. 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.

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain Deck Tech

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain vs Mardu Burn

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain vs UR Kiki

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain vs Affinity

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain vs Doran's Ascendancy

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain vs Tron

 

The Deck

The deck is straight forward. We look to start playing land destruction spells on turn two, which keeps our opponent at one land (if we are on the play) or two lands (if we are on the draw). After a couple of turns we start playing Stone Rains that are attached to bodies, like Goblin Dark-Dwellers or Acidic Slime, before we finally finish off the game with one of the fastest clocks in Modern: Inferno Titan. Probably the best way to understand the function and theory of this deck is by looking at the curve and discussing what cards we are looking to play each turn.

Turn 1

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Games we win almost always start off with one of our ten one-drop mana producers. Any of these cards allow us to jump the curve and start playing three-drops on turn two, which is key for our deck to reach its full potential. 

Arbor Elf is the highest variance mana dork in our deck, mostly because of our budget friendly mana base. In a world of shock lands and fetch lands, Arbor Elf is often an improved Birds of Paradise, but in our deck the only land it can untap is basic Forest. This downgrade sometimes leads to awkward situations where we need double-red on turn two, but are forced to play Forest into Arbor Elf on turn one. On the other hand, Arbor Elf becomes the best mana dork in our deck when we have a Utopia Sprawl enchanting a Forest. When we can play Arbor Elf on turn one and then Utopia Sprawl on turn two, we immediately have access to four mana, which allows us to ramp into Inferno Titan as early as turn three. 

Considering our mana base, I probably would have played four Birds of Paradise and cut a couple of Arbor Elfs if possible, since Birds of Paradise is more likely to give us double Red mana on turn two. However, since Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain is maxing out the budget in its current form, I decided to stick with just two copies of Birds of Paradise. The upside of Birds of Paradise is it's our most consistent mana producer since it can make any color, allowing for the sometimes important double Red mana on turn two. The downside is that it's our least explosive mana producer, since it only taps for one mana, no matter what. 

Apart from the powerful synergy with Arbor Elf, Utopia Sprawl is solid color-fixing for our two color deck. Most often we set it on Red to help us cast our Molten Rain, Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and Inferno Titan. The main issue is that it can get blown out by Ghost Quarter (although I expect this downside will be less of an issue moving forward with Tron and Eldrazi hit by the recent banning of Eye of Ugin). One last word of warning: Utopia Sprawl can only enchant a Forest, so keep that in mind during mulligans and choosing which land to play. 

Turn Two

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Turn two is where the real fun begins, as we start to cast our 11 three-mana land destruction spells. Assuming things go as planned, we can keep our opponent at one or two lands (depending on if we are on the play or draw) for the rest of the game, which makes it extremely difficult for our opponent to win. 

Typically we want to lead on Molten Rain or Stone Rain if we have a choice, since Beast Within leaves behind a 3/3 Beast token. Assuming we have access to double-Red mana, I'll usually cast Molten Rain first even if I'm targeting a basic land. If our opponent can kill our Birds of Paradise or Utopia Sprawl, we may lose the ability to pay Molten Rain's double-Red mana cost. While getting the two damage is nice, it isn't essential to our plan. If we can keep our opponent with minimal resources, our five and six drops will close out the game regardless of whether our opponent took two damage from Molten Rain

Beast Within is the most interesting of our land destruction spells, mostly because it can hit any permanent and not just lands. While we will often use it on turn two to kill a land (just make sure to wait until your opponent's upkeep so they can't attack with the Beast token right away), it really depends on our hand. If we can follow up our Beast Within with another land destruction spell on turn three, it's usually correct to cast it on turn two. However, if we can't, it might be better to deviate from the land destruction plan and save Beast Within for a more impactful target. 

Turn Three

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Our deck is actually a bit light on four-drop land destruction, with just one copy of Avalanche Riders and two copies of Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. Mwonvuli Acid-Moss is likely the more powerful of the two cards, just because it allows us to Nature's Lore along with killing a land, which sets us up for the turn four Inferno Titan. As far as Avalanche Riders, I don't think I've ever paid the echo cost, so it usually just kills a land and chumps for a turn. When we don't have a true four-drop, we usually fill our third turn with something along the lines of Arbor Elf / Birds of Paradise plus a Stone Rain effect, which is pretty much a "build your own Mwonvuli Acid-Moss" and is another way to set up the turn four Inferno Titan

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I've been back and forth about Thrun, the Last Troll in this deck. Sometimes I'm glad I have access to a copy, other times I wish I was playing a third Thragtusk. When it comes right down to it, which option is better is dependent on your local metagame. If you are playing in a meta where a lot of people are playing counterspell decks, then you definitely want Thrun, the Last Troll, and you may want a second copy in the sideboard. On the other hand, if your local metagame is filled with Burn, Zoo, and other aggressive decks, having access to the third Thragtusk, the best stabilization card in all of Modern, is clearly better. 

Turn Four

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We've finally reached the deck's namesake card, Goblin Dark-Dwellers. I mentioned before that our Against the Odds build of Modern Land Destruction didn't have a good way of finishing off the game after casting all of our land destruction spells. Well, the printing of Goblin Dark-Dwellers in Oath of the Gatewatch changes everything. In our deck, Goblin Dark-Dwellers is essentially a five-mana Avalanche Riders with a respectable 4/4 menace body and no echo cost. Better yet, when things are going well our opponent will be stuck on two lands, which means that Goblin Dark-Dwellers is really hard to block effectively. Regardless, Goblin Dark-Dwellers is the card that makes a competitive Stone Rain deck possible in Modern, and we always want to resolve a copy on turn four, with one exception:

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The one exception to our "we always want a Goblin Dark-Dwellers on turn four" rule is when we are playing against an aggro deck that doesn't care about our land destruction (Burn and Zoo are two good examples). In these matchups, we always, always, always want a Thragtusk on turn four, because the life gain (and ability to trade twice, thanks to the Beast token) offers us a way to stay alive long enough to seal the game with an Inferno Titan

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Acidic Slime is pretty much a bad Goblin Dark-Dwellers, since its body is much smaller. However, it does offer some upside by being able to hit an artifact or enchantment. It can also trade up in combat thanks to deathtouch. That said, the main reason it's in the deck is because we want more copies of Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and Acidic Slime is the best imitation we have available in Modern.

Turn Five (or Sometimes Turn Four)

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While Goblin Dark-Dwellers gets all the credit, Inferno Titan may be the most important card in our deck. In all the matches I've played, both on video and off video, my lasting impression of this deck is that if we draw an Inferno Titan we win, and if we don't we win much less often. Not only does Inferno Titan close out the game if we are ahead, but it's also another good way of stabilizing when we are behind. While I would rank true aggro decks among our hardest matchups, the ability to play Thragtusk on turn four into Inferno Titan to kill a couple creatures on turn five gives us at least some shot against decks like Zoo and Burn. 

Essentially, along with Goblin Dark-Dwellers, Inferno Titan is the card that fixes the problem we had with our Against the Odds deck. The Against the Odds build was very, very good at blowing up lands, but couldn't close out the game in a timely manner. Well, in Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain we are just as good at destroying lands, but we also have cards to kill our opponent before they can draw out of our mana denial strategy. 

 

Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain is extremely difficult to make ultra budget, just because most of the budget in the original build is tied up in cards that are pretty much impossible to replace, like Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Stone Rain effects. That said, I did manage to trim it down to $50, essentially cutting the paper price in half, but at a significant cost. The problem with the ultra budget build is two-fold. For one thing, the mana is even less consistent with Birds of Paradise being replaced by Llanowar Elves, which means casting Molten Rain on turn two is pretty much a pipe dream. Second, the deck slows down by almost an entire turn with Utopia Sprawl becoming Fertile Ground, so instead of keeping an opponent at one or two lands, the ultra-budget version will be keeping an opponent at two or three lands, which might not sound like much, but is a huge deal in Modern. The only good news is that we have even more ways to ramp into Infernal Titan on turn four, and this ability may be good enough to pick up some wins. 

Non-Budget RG Stone Rain

The non-budget version of RG Stone Rain is really interesting, mostly because it gets to play several more hard-to-deal-with finisher like Stormbreath Dragon and Batterskull, and it isn't as reliant on winning by land destruction as the budget version. However, the biggest benefit of playing the non-budget build is the manabase. Having the typical Modern fetchland for shockland manabase means that Arbor Elf is consistently great and able to produce double-Red mana by untapping Stomping Ground on turn two, plus we even get a miserly Kessig Wolf Run to turn our mana dorks into legitimate threats in the late-game!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. I had a blast playing with Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain this week. However I do have a word of caution. So far, the banned and restricted updates have not went into effect on Magic Online (they will on Wednesday), so it is fair to expect the metagame will shift quite a bit over the coming weeks. Assuming Eldrazi and Tron are on the downswing, Dark-Dwellers Stone Rain loses a couple of good matchups, which could make the deck worse overall. This said, we don't really know what the new metagame will look like. If a lot of people are playing control decks, destroying lands should still be very strong. If everyone shifts to Affinity, Burn, and Infect, things will be much more challenging. 

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments. You an reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com. 


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