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Budget Magic: $99 (9 tix) Battle Screech Tokens (Modern, Magic Online)


Tervhen eläd, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! While Core Set 2020 is just around the corner, we're heading to Modern this week to play another Modern Horizons–influenced deck: Battle Screech Tokens! The deck is actually pretty simple. We're playing all of the best token producers we can muster, with Battle Screech joining Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession, and a bunch of ways to pump our tokens into more meaningful threats, including one of our new Modern Horizons planeswalkers: Serra the Benevolent. The end result is a go-wide aggro deck that happens to be pretty resistant to spot removal thanks to a bunch of cards that put multiple bodies on the battlefield and the flashback of Battle Screech and Lingering Souls. How big of an upgrade are Serra the Benevolent and Battle Screech to Tokens in Modern? Is playing a bunch of efficient, go-wide threats a legitimate plan in the current Modern metagame? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Battle Screech Tokens

 

The Deck

Battle Screech Tokens is basically a go-wide aggro deck. We're overflowing with cards that put multiple creatures on the battlefield. We back them up with anthems to pump our 1/1 tokens into more meaningful threats and just a touch of removal to deal with our opponent's creatures. 

Token Producers

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The core of Battle Screech Tokens is three sorceries that put multiple 1/1 flying tokens on the battlefield, in Battle Screech, Lingering Souls, and Spectral Procession. While each of these cards is slightly different, at the end of the day, each one puts three or four 1/1 fliers onto the battlefield for a total cost of between three and five mana, making them all solid deals. Spectral Procession and Lingering Souls you probably already know—they have been in Modern for a long time and have seen quite a bit of play at various points in time, with Lingering Souls showing up in various graveyard decks and Spectral Procession being a key card in various token strategies. Meanwhile, Battle Screech is our big new Modern Horizons addition. And while it's perhaps not quite as good as Lingering Souls or Spectral Procession because it costs four mana up front and we occasionally get stuck on three lands, when we curve into four mana and can play it and flash it back for free (by tapping some random tokens we already have on the battlefield), it's pretty close to Lingering Souls in terms of power level, and having eight copies of Lingering Souls is perfect for our deck since all we really want to do is put a bunch of cheap, evasive bodies on the battlefield and use them to kill our opponent before they draw into an answer.

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Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk, much like our flying token producers, are pretty much the same card, with each putting two 1/1 ground creatures onto the battlefield for two mana. While both have upside—with Raise the Alarm being an instant, which sometimes allows us to ambush an attacker in combat, and Gather the Townsfolk making a bunch of tokens if we end up under five life (which rarely happens but is sweet when it does)—they are in the deck because they are the most efficient and budget-friendly ways to put multiple tokens on the battlefield as early as Turn 2. Having random bodies on the battlefield is always important for a token deck since our biggest payoffs are anthems, and the more creatures we have on the battlefield, the more power our anthems provide. But it's especially important in our deck thanks to Battle Screech. To flash back Battle Screech, we need one extra white creature on the battlefield (since we get two Birds when we cast it from hand), and we really want to be able to play and flash back Battle Screech all in the same turn to flood the board and also avoid graveyard hate. Cards like Raise the Alarm and Gather the Townsfolk help to make sure we've always got an extra white creature on the battlefield for flashback purposes.

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In the one-drop slot are two options. One is Thraben Inspector, which is just a one-of and is definitely a flex slot. I really like the card advantage that Thraben Inspector generates, and it is a white creature for Battle Screech, but it doesn't benefit from Intangible Virtue, so a random one-mana token maker could be better. Feel free to try whatever you want as long as it costs one mana. 

Our second option is great: Legion's Landing. While making a 1/1 lifelinking token for one mana is fine, the real power of Legion's Landing is how quickly our deck can flip it into Adanto, the First Fort. Thanks to Gather the Townsfolk and Raise the Alarm, we can often play Legion's Landing on Turn 1 and a card that makes two 1/1 tokens on Turn 2 and then flip Legion's Landing on Turn 3. Along with giving us a great late-game token-producing engine that is especially good in slower, grindier matchups against control and midrange, it helps to ramp us into the top end of our curve a turn early. Plus, the lifelink is surprisingly relevant against decks like Burn and some aggro archetypes.

Anthems

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The other big new addition to our deck from Modern Horizons is Serra the Benevolent, which is actually amazing in our deck. On level one, her +2 works as a one-turn anthem with Battle Screech, Lingering Souls, and Spectral Procession, allowing us to get in massive attacks with our fliers. While this isn't as good as a static anthem (and sadly doesn't pump our ground creatures), Serra the Benevolent makes up for this by having two more super-relevant abilities. The 3 on Serra the Benevolent sort of sets the floor for the planeswalker. In the worst case, on an empty board, Serra the Benevolent represents a Serra Angel token for four mana. While a 4/4 flier for four isn't especially exciting, it does give us a big, vigilant attacker that's also back on defense to protect Serra (and our life total), which is rarely bad. Finally, the 6 on Serra the Benevolent is actually super important to our deck. It's basically a Worship in emblem form, which means it doesn't get killed by Assassin's Trophy, bounced by Cryptic Command, or otherwise disrupted. We can't die to damage as long as we have a creature on the battlefield, which is pretty easy in a deck overflowing with cards that put multiple creature tokens on the battlefield (and can even make creatures at instant speed thanks to Adanto, the First Fort and Raise the Alarm). This ends up being one of our best ways to beat decks like Storm and Burn. While Tokens is incredibly powerful in grindy matchups thanks to being great at blanking targeted removal and generating card advantage with flashback, fast combo can be a problem. Serra the Benevolent gives us a card that supports our token beatdown plan while also shoring up some of our hardest matchups, thanks to the Worship ultimate.

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Rounding out our anthem package are four copies of Intangible Virtue and two Force of Virtue. Intangible Virtue is the best anthem in Magic for a token deck since it is only two mana and gives our tokens vigilance along with +1/+1, which allows us to get in massive attacks (especially with our fliers) and still have blockers back on defense to keep our life total (and Serra the Benevolent's loyalty) high. Meanwhile, Force of Virtue is interesting. While four mana is a lot for an anthem, having flash does allow for some blowouts where we can cast it after blocks are declared and potentially kill our opponent by forcing through extra damage or at least kill some of their creatures. Plus, if we happen to have an extra card laying around, we can always cast it for free, although in practice, we often hard-cast it since we don't really have many sources of card advantage beyond our token producers themselves. Still, there are some games where we can flood the board with tokens on Turns 1 and 2, play multiple anthems by casting Force of Virtue for free, and pick up the aggro win before our opponent has a chance to recover.

Other Stuff

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For removal, we have Declaration in Stone. While Path to Exile is the optimal option, Declaration in Stone is a fine budget substitute and offers the upside of getting rid of multiple creatures with the same name. While being two mana and sorcery speed can be annoying, it's good enough to get the job done, and it's especially appealing for a budget deck since a playset costs about 1/4 the price of a single copy of Path to Exile

The Lands

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I wanted to mention the lands from Battle Screech Tokens briefly for two reasons. First, Orzhov has a really solid budget mana base in Modern. Apart from the two Shambling Vents, all of our lands come into play untapped (for the most part), and discounting our two colorless utility lands, the entire mana base costs around $16, which is about as good as it gets for a Modern budget deck. Second, Vault of the Archangel and Westvale Abbey add some extra value to the deck. While we only have one copy of each since colorless lands are clunky with Spectral Procession, Vault of the Archangel can swing games against aggressive decks and is also help against decks with big creatures since it allows our 1/1 tokens to trade up for Tarmogoyfs, Death's Shadows, and Thought-Knot Seers thanks to deathtouch. As for Westvale Abbey, it gives us a backup Legion's Landing as a way to make 1/1 tokens in the late game, when we run out of cards. And it can steal games out of nowhere if we can play it and flip it into Ormendahl immediately. 

Wrap-Up

Battle Screech Tokens killed it. Not only did we finish 5-0 in our matches but we beat Tron, Hogaak, UW Control, and The Rock / GB Midrange along the way, a solid list of some of the top decks in the Modern format, which is an extremely impressive performance for a budget deck. The plan of going wide and beating down was extremely effective, and the new Modern Horizons additions were great!

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the list, in general, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The core of the deck is cheap enough that we can run some semi-expensive sideboard all-stars like Stony Silence and still come in under $100. While there are upgrades to be made for the non-budget list, other than small things like maybe trading Thraben Inspector for a different one-drop or maybe running 22 lands instead of 23, I'd run the deck back exactly as it is now. It felt really solid.

All in all, Battle Screech Tokens felt like a really good budget deck. The addition of Battle Screech makes the deck incredibly redundant, while Serra the Benevolent helps to fix some hard matchups in a way that doesn't take away from our deck's primary token plan. I'm pretty confident this is the best of the budget tokens decks we've played on Budget Magic over the years, and it can get even better with some upgrades. If you like going wide and beating down or if you're looking to update one of the old tokens lists from a past Budget Magic, this might be the Modern budget deck for you!

Getting Battle Screech Tokens down near $50 is pretty easy. Unfortunately, it does require cutting Serra the Benevolent, which is still $12 a copy even though it hasn't seen much play yet (although maybe it should; the card was really impressive this week). To replace Serra, we go from two to four copies of Force of Virtue. While Force of Virtue doesn't help fix the combo matchup like Serra the Benevolent, it's even better as an anthem since it pumps our ground creatures along with the fliers. Otherwise, we drop the two colorless utility lands from the mana base for Plains and turn Stony Silence into Disenchant, and we're good to go! While losing Serra the Benevolent is painful, the token beatdown plan of the deck is every bit as good in the ultra-budget build as it was in the budget build we played for the videos, and outside of specific bad matchups, you probably won't even notice that Serra the Benevolent was missing. The ultra-budget build should still be able to win a decent amount of games on the kitchen table or even at FNM.

Our non-budget build this week mostly gets upgrades around the edges, although both Bitterblossom (over Gather the Townsfolk) and Thoughtseize enter the main deck, along with Path to Exile, which replaces Declaration in Stone. Bitterblossom is a bit annoying with Battle Screech since the tokens it makes are black and can't help flash back our namesake sorcery, but it is so powerful as a token producer that it is worth the slight anti-synergy. Otherwise, we upgrade our mana base with fetch lands and shock lands (although I should tell you that since we don't have a basic Swamp in the deck, you don't really need Marsh Flats and any white fetch land will do) and the sideboard with Leyline of the Void and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (for control and other grindy midrange matchups). While this build does represent an upgrade and Thoughtseize specifically is very good in the deck, with how well the budget build performed, I don't think you need to rush out and spend $500+ to make Battle Screech Tokens better.

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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