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Budget Magic: Demon Stompy (Modern)


大家好, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Core Set 2021 is here, and next week, we'll kick off our exploration of new cards, but for this week, we're heading to Modern for a deck I'm super hyped for: Demon Stompy! Demon of Death's Gate is one of the most unique creatures in the Modern format, potentially offering a 9/9 flying, trampler on Turn 2 if we're willing to jump through a few hoops, sacrifice a few creatures, and pay a bit of life. Demon Stompy is all-in on making this happen, and then we cross our fingers that our opponent doesn't have a Path to Exile or another way to deal with our massive threat, allowing us to smash our opponent to death with Demon of Death's Gate in just a couple of huge evasive attacks! How good is Demon of Death's Gate in Modern? What's the best way to build around the sometimes-free nine-drop? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Demon Stompy

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The Deck

Demon Stompy is a combo-ish aggro deck. Our primary plan is to get Demon of Death's Gate on the battlefield on Turn 2 by sacrificing three black creatures and hoping that the 9/9 flying, trampler will lead us to victory!

The Demon(s)

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Demon of Death's Gate is the centerpiece of Demon Stompy. Our primary goal is to play Demon of Death's Gate on Turn 2 as consistently as possible by using its alternate casting cost of sacrificing three black creatures and paying six life. To make this happen, we need to overload our deck with black one-drops since we need one on Turn 1 and two more on Turn 2 to be able to cast Demon of Death's Gate. Once Demon of Death's Gate hits the battlefield, we cross our fingers and hope that our opponent doesn't have an answer. In general, Demon of Death's Gate should kill our opponent in just two attacks, which means we mostly need to dodge removal like Path to Exile or Assassin's Trophy for just a couple of turns to pick up the free Demon Stompy win.

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Backing up Demon of Death's Gate are a couple of other big stompy creatures, although sadly, they aren't technically Demons. Torgaar, Famine Incarnate is basically a bad version of Demon of Death's Gate. If we can sacrifice three creatures (the same as our Demon), we can cast it for just two mana, set our opponent's life total down to 10, and get a 7/6 out of the deal. The problem with Torgaar, Famine Incarnate is that unlike Demon of Death's Gate, it doesn't have any form of evasion, so even if we manage to get it on the battlefield, there is a risk that it will end up getting chump-blocked and we will end up not being able to close out the game. Meanwhile, Rotting Regisaur not only is just huge, as a 7/6 for three mana, but also has some sneaky synergies with the rest of our deck since many of the one-drops we play to support Demon of Death's Gate either like being discarded (since they can come into play from the graveyard), which negates Rotting Regisaur's drawback, or have Zombie synergies.

The One-Drops

The rest of our main deck is all one-mana black creatures. In some sense, all of these cards are the same—we can sacrifice any of them to get Demon of Death's Gate on the battlefield on Turn 2 or Torgaar, Famine Incarnate down on Turn 3. On the other hand, our one-drops break down into three interrelated but separate packages: sacrifice fodder, Zombie synergies, and sacrifice synergies.

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First up, we have our sacrifice-fodder one-drops. While we can technically sacrifice any of our one-drops to pay Demon of Death's Gate's alternate casting cost, Bloodsoaked Champion, Dread Wanderer, and Gravecrawler are our best sacrifice fodder since they can all come back into play from the graveyard for a fairly low cost. One of the risks of going all-in on Demon of Death's Gate is that if our opponent can deal with the Demon, we've essentially four-for-one'd ourselves (since we sacrificed three creatures to cast Demon of Death's Gate and ended up losing the Demon anyway). These recursive one-drops help us get around this problem.

It's also worth mentioning that all of these cards are solid discard options for Rotting Regisaur. Take Gravecrawler, for example. We can essentially discard it to Rotting Regisaur for free since it costs one mana, whether we cast it from the graveyard or our hand. It's also important to note that both Gravecrawler and Dread Wanderer are Zombies, which is important to our next package of one-drops...

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Next up, we have our Zombie-themed one-drops. Stitcher's Supplier is pretty straightforward: it gives us a one-drop that mills three cards when it comes into play or dies, which generates card advantage in a weird way if we can mill over things like Gravecrawler, Dread Wanderer, or Bloodsoaked Champion that we can put into play from our graveyard. Meanwhile, Cryptbreaker does a bit of everything, giving us a source of card advantage if the game goes long and another way to discard cards like Gravecrawler, Dread Wanderer, and Bloodsoaked Champion for value. While we would rather not sacrifice Cryptbreaker to cast Demon of Death's Gate on Turn 2, if we don't have another option, both of these cards are fine things to sacrifice to get our namesake Demon on the battlefield.

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Rounding out our one-drops is a small sacrifice-themed package, which not only works well with our primary Demon of Death's Gate plan but also offers an interesting backup plan for winning the game. Mortician Beetle is a unique one-drop, growing whenever anyone sacrifices a creature. On level one, this means that if we wait until Turn 3 to cast Demon of Death's Gate or Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, we can get Mortician Beetle on the battlefield, sacrifice three other creatures, and immediately grow the Insect into a 4/4 to fight alongside our Demon. 

The other upside of Mortician Beetle is how it interacts with Carrion Feeder and Gravecrawler (or, to a lesser extent, Bloodsoaked Champion) to form an Aristocrats / sacrifice backup plan. Since Carrion Feeder is a Zombie, if we can get it on the battlefield alongside Gravecrawler and Mortician Beetle, we can use all of our mana to keep sacrificing and recasting Gravecrawler for just a single mana, growing both Mortician Beetle and Carrion Feeder with +1/+1 counters every time we go through the loop. (We can do the same thing with Bloodsoaked Champion as long as we attack to trigger raid, although it's a bit less exciting because it costs two mana to return Bloodsoaked Champion to play rather than one like with Gravecrawler.) While not as splashy as a Turn 2 Demon of Death's Gate, growing Mortician Beetle and Carrion Feeder into 8/8s over the course of a couple of turns is a legitimate way to win a game.

The Mana

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The mana for Demon Stompy is super-simple: 18 Swamps and three Castle Locthwain to help us refuel after we empty our hand, which normally happens pretty quickly since our deck has so many one-drops and even our big threats can all be cheated into play for two mana or less.

The Sideboard

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When sideboarding with Demon Stompy, I usually trim Torgaar and random one-drops (with Mortician Beetle and a copy or two of Bloodsoaked Champion usually being the first to go) to bring in about four cards based on the matchups. Here's a quick rundown.

  • Tormod's Crypt and Cling to Dust come in against graveyard decks like Dredge, while Cling to Dust can also be useful against very aggressive decks as a lifegain spell.
  • Duress comes in against control and non-creature combo decks.
  • Damping Sphere is our main hate for spell-based combo decks like Storm and also our best answer to big-mana decks like Tron or Amulet Titan.
  • Victim of Night gives us removal for creature-based midrange and aggro decks.

Playing the Deck

Perhaps the most important aspect of playing Demon Stompy is knowing the matchups and what answers your opponent could have to Demon of Death's Gate. In some matchups, going all-in on Demon of Death's Gate as quickly as possible is correct, while in others, it's actually better to just focus on the one-drop beatdown plan and the sacrifice / Zombie synergies. For example, against a deck like Blue-White Control, slamming Demon of Death's Gate on Turn 2 is likely to end in disaster since Path to Exile and Teferi, Time Raveler both offer easy answers that our opponent is likely to have in their deck. On the other hand, cards like Bloodsoaked Champion and Gravecrawler are super effective against control decks since they are recursive and fight through removal and wraths. On the other hand, against combo decks or decks playing non-white removal, focusing on an early Demon of Death's Gate is usually our best plan, to the point where mulliganing to six or occasionally even five to find Demon of Death's Gate can be correct. 

Keep in mind that Stitcher's Supplier is often the best first one-drop to play on Turn 2 because it can mill over Gravecrawler, which we can immediately cast as our second one-drop to feed to the Demon. If you're stuck with a Cryptbreaker or Mortician Beetle in hand as the only other option, seeing if Stitcher's Supplier mills something helpful is a nice free-roll that sometimes lets us avoid sacrificing a better creature to Demon of Death's Gate.

Otherwise, playing the deck is pretty straightforward: our main goal is to put our opponent to the test on Turn 2 with Demon of Death's Gate. If we lead with Bloodsoaked Champion, Dread Wanderer, or Gravecrawler on Turn 1, we can attack for two on Turn 2 (to put our opponent to 18) and then sacrifice our board to play Demon of Death's Gate during our post-combat main phase, which means that two Demon attacks are exactly lethal. Our opponent will probably win if they can answer Demon of Death's Gate immediately, but if they can't, our Demon Stompy plan should end the game in short order. Basically, while we try to be careful if we think our opponent's deck is likely to have a bunch of answers to our Demon, our primary plan is to force our opponent to have the answer and hope that they don't.

Wrap-Up

Video-wise, we went 3-2 with Demon Stompy, although another loss to Amulet Titan dropped our overall record to 3-3 (not counting about five matches vs. Tron where I scooped on Turn 1 after we already played the deck once). In general, the deck felt sort of medium in terms of how competitive is it against the top tier of the Modern meta. It's the definition of a high-risk / high-reward strategy. We pick up some spectacularly quick wins, although if our opponent has an answer to Demon of Death's Gate (see game one of our Ad Nauseam match for an example), we can also end up with some brutally fast loses.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the only card I really disliked was Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, which simply wasn't strong enough to close out most games due to the lack of removal. One thing that could really improve the deck in the future would be another Demon of Death's Gate–style creature that is more powerful than Torgaar, Famine Incarnate

All in all, Demon Stompy is super fun. Demon of Death's Gate is a really powerful (although somewhat matchup-dependent) creature, and our deck does a good job of maximizing its power while still having a reasonable enough backup plan for games when we don't draw the Demon. I'd recommend the deck if you like the potential for hilariously fast wins (and also equally hilarious fast losses), Zombies, and sacrifice synergies. While I don't think it's top tier or even one of the most competitive budget decks in Modern, it can win a decent amount of matches and is a blast to play!

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Getting Demon Stompy down near $50 is tough, mostly because Demon of Death's Gate is $20 a playset by itself, which doesn't leave much room in the budget for semi-expensive one-drops like Gravecrawler and Cryptbreaker. As a result, while the primary Demon Stompy plan remains the same for the ultra-budget build of the deck, the backup plans change a lot, with cheaper one-drops like Serrated Scorpion, Sanitarium Skeleton]], Whisper Squad, and Slitherhead entering the fray. The end result is that our backup Zombie plan is completely gone, and our sacrifice plan is less effective without Gravecrawler (although we still have Carrion Feeder, Mortician Beetle, and some recursive one-drops to make it work). Basically, the ultra-budget build might be slightly better at winning with Demon of Death's Gate than the budget build (scavenging Slitherhead onto Demon makes it a two-turn clock no matter what) but worse in games where we don't draw Demon of Death's Gate or when we do draw it but our opponent can immediately kill it.

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Meanwhile, Demon Stompy gets a few big additions in non-budget land, with Liliana of the Veil joining the main deck alongside Fatal Push and Thoughtseize over some of the worst-performing cards from the budget build (Torgaar, Famine Incarnate and Mortician Beetle, which is spicy but maybe a bit too cute for what we're trying to accomplish). We also get Mutavault in the mana base and some major sideboard improvements, with Leyline of the Void replacing the lesser graveyard hate spells alongside more copies of Fatal Push and Thoughtseize

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Next week, we'll start exploring Core Set 2021. In the meantime, 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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