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Budget Magic: Butts and Taxes (Pioneer)

Xsaqär, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we are heading to Pioneer to playing a deck I'm calling backbone...err...Butts and Taxes. The idea of the deck is to use cards like Huatli, the Sun's Heart and Assault Formation to allow our creatures to deal damage equal to their toughness (which is high) rather than their power (which isn't), an ability often called "butt fighting." If we can stick one of our payoffs, then suddenly, underpowered one-drops like Arboreal Grazer and Permeating Mass turn into Wild Nacatls, Nyx-Fleece Ram becomes a 5/5 for just two mana, and Lagonna-Band Trailblazer becomes the biggest one-drop in Magic! Along with big-toughness threats, one of the sweet aspects of building around Huatli, the Sun's Heart and Assault Formation is that we also get to play some really powerful taxing creatures in our main deck. Tocatli Honor Guard and Eidolon of Rhetoric are both really good in certain matchups (with Honor Guard shutting down Inverter of Truth combos and Eidolon of Rhetoric being great against big-turn combo decks like Lotus Breach), but most decks can't play them in the main because they just don't have enough power. Well, in our deck, Tocatli Honor Guard is an aggressive 3/3 for two while Eidolon of Rhetoric does a solid Loxodon Smiter impression! Can the combo of Butts and Taxes compete in Pioneer on a budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Butts and Taxes (Pioneer)

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The Deck

Butts and Taxes is basically an aggro deck, but an aggro deck that's built around high-toughness creatures rather than high-powered creatures. The idea is to play a bunch of cheap, high-toughness creatures, stick a Huatli, the Sun's Heart or Assault Formation to allow all of our creatures to fight with their toughness rather than their power, and then win the game with a couple of massive attacks!

Butt Fighters

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The two most important cards in our deck—by far—are Assault Formation and Huatli, the Sun's Heart. Without one of these cards on the battlefield, our deck doesn't do much at all since most of our creatures have very little (or even literally zero) power, which is problematic for an aggro deck. However, once we stick a Huatli or Assault Formation, all of our creatures suddenly become insanely powerful for their converted mana cost, allowing us to (hopefully) kill our opponent in just one or two attacks. If you decide to pick up Butts and Taxes, value these cards highly. Mulligan for them aggressively, and focus on getting (and keeping) at least one on the battlefield as soon as possible. These cards make the deck work.


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We have three options in the one-drop slot, with each card being—at worst—a Wild Nacatl once we get a Huatli, the Sun's Heart or Assault Formation on the battlefield. As much as I complain about Arboreal Grazer, this is the perfect deck for me to play it in. Even though it likely won't ramp us very often (although it does sometimes allow us to play Huatli on Turn 2, which is nice), as a 3/3 for one, it's a solid threat even if we don't have any extra land in hand, while reach is very relevant against Spirits and other decks with flying creatures. Permeating Mass gives us another Wild Nacatl that is also an effective way to deal with massive threats across the battlefield, turning things like Ghalta, Primal Hunger or Siege Rhino into a harmless 1/3. Finally, Lagonna-Band Trailblazer is just big, ending up as a 4/4 for one mana once we get a butt-fight card on the battlefield.


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As for the taxing part of our deck, we have Tocatli Honor Guard and Eidolon of Rhetoric. Most aggro decks can't play these cards main deck since they only have one power, but in our deck, they are both solid taxing effects and good attackers, as 3/3s and 4/4s with Huatli or Assault Formation on the battlefield. Tocatli Honor Guard is especially good against Dimir Inverter, where it keeps our opponent from comboing as long as it stays on the battlefield while also hitting on a lot of Mono-White Devotion threats (Knight of the White Orchid, Thraben Inspector, Arcanist's Owl, and other random cards like Spell Queller and Rattlechains. Meanwhile, Eidolon of Rhetoric is great against combo decks like Lotus Breach while also taxing various cantrip decks like Izzet Phoenix. 

Other Creatures

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Rounding out our creatures are Nyx-Fleece Ram and Bygone Bishop. Nyx-Fleece Ram is massive, being a 5/5 for two with a butt-fight card on the battlefield, while gaining a life each turn is helpful against various aggro decks. Meanwhile, Bygone Bishop is one of our least powerful attackers even with a Huatli or Assault Formation on the battlefield (as just a 3/3, although being evasive is nice) but makes up for this by being a great source of card advantage, making a Clue token whenever we cast one of our other 26 creatures. Earlier builds of Butts and Taxes didn't have Bygone Bishop, and they had a tendency to flood our or not find another copy of Assault Formation or Huatli, the Sun's Heart if our first one got Thoughtseized or killed. Bygone Bishop goes a long way toward solving the problem by giving us a steady source of card advantage in case the game goes long. 

The Finisher

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While we win most games by simply beating down with our high-toughness creatures, if we need to speed up the process, Tower Defense gives us a way to potentially kill our opponent in one attack with just a handful of creatures. With a Huatli or Assault Formation on the battlefield, Tower Defense technically gives all of our creatures +5/+5, which is an absurd deal for just two mana, often just killing our opponent on the spot after they decide not to block.


All in all, we went 3-2 with Butts and Taxes, although there was another game not featured in the video against UB Mill that we likely would have won, but our opponent had to leave and scooped halfway through game three, making it a pretty anticlimatic match, so I decided to record another match to replace it, making our overall record closer to 4-2. 

Overall, the deck felt powerful, although as we saw in our match against Sultai Midrange, things can go wrong in a hurry if our opponent has cards that can kill Assault Formation and Huatli, the Sun's Heart since without one of our butt-fight cards on the battlefield, we're left with a bunch of zero- and one-power creatures, which is embarrassing for an aggro deck. Thankfully, most decks can't kill an enchantment (at least with their main deck), and Huatli, the Sun's Heart has a lot of loyalty, so this isn't a huge concern most of the time, but can be problematic in specific matchups.

As far as ways to improve the budget build of the deck, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, considering the cards available in the Pioneer format. Having another butt-fight card or two could be nice to add more consistency, but there aren't any other efficient options in the format that don't require splashing a third color (High Alert), which just isn't feasible on a budget thanks to the cost of dual lands. 

Speaking of dual lands, it's also worth mentioning that our mana base is actually very close to optimal. The non-land cards in Butts and Taxes are super cheap, so we actually have full playsets of Temple Garden, Sunpetal Grove, and Fortified Village in the deck and still come in under $100. If you play the same exact deck with cheaper lands, you can easily get the price down to under $40, which is a great deal for casual play. 

All in all, Butts and Taxes feels fairly competitive, although it does come with a lot of risk since we are so dependent on drawing and keeping a Huatli, the Sun's Heart or Assault Formation on the battlefield. The good games with the deck are hilarious and very good, but the bad games (where our opponent can kill our butt-fight card and we don't draw another) can be pretty bad. Still, I could see the deck doing well at an FNM-level event for sure. Playing a bunch of Wild Nacatls seems like a pretty effective aggro strategy in the Pioneer format!

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Getting Butts and Taxes down into the ultra-budget price range is really easy: we cut the expensive dual lands and replace them with Blossoming Sands and Evolving Wilds. This by itself brings the price of the deck down to $33 without any other changes at all!

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For our non-budget build this week, we splash into blue for Bant Butts and Taxes. The biggest upgrade blue offers is High Alert, which not only allows us to up the number of butt-fight cards in an absolute sense but also to replace some copies of Huatli, the Sun's Heart with a harder-to-kill enchantment. To splash blue, we upgrade the mana with more shock lands and Fabled Passage while also upgrading the sideboard with Gideon of the Trials, Mystical Dispute, and Selfless Spirit. While this build does add consistency and power, I wouldn't recommend rushing out to spend $330 on the deck. It's not that much better than the budget build. But if you already have the cards for the upgrade in your collection, it does add some consistency and extra power, especially after sideboarding.


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

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