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Budget Magic: Five-Color Plants (Standard)

გეგაჯგინას, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! For the first time in a long time, Standard is actually extremely diverse and fun! As such, we're heading back to the format today to play something that is truly rare: a budget five-color deck: Five-Color Plants! The idea of the deck is simple: use basic land–fetching ramp spells like Migration Path, Cultivate, and Roiling Regrowth, use Phylath, World Sculptor to make a ton of Plant tokens, and then use Felidar Retreat to make the 0/1s into massive threats to beat our opponent down. Oh yeah, and if things go poorly, we can always use Ruinous Ultimatum to Cyclonic Rift our opponent's board into the graveyard, either buying us time to catch back up or clearing the way for an alpha strike. How good is Phylath, World Sculptor in Standard? How many Plants can we make with the six-drop? Can a five-color deck actually work 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: Five-Color Plants

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The Deck

Five-Color Plants is a landfall-based ramp deck, with a bunch of cards to put extra lands onto the battlefield and several finishers with landfall to take advantage of the lands. Our primary plan is to spend the early turns developing our mana and then quickly take over the game once we have enough lands to start playing things like Phylath, World Sculptor and Felidar Retreat

The Plants

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Five-Color Plants only has two literal creatures in the main deck: Phylath, World Sculptor, which is our namesake Plant token producer, and Kenrith, the Returned King. Phylath, World Sculptor is the centerpiece of our deck. Thanks to a unique mana base that features only basic lands (along with Evolving Wilds and Fabled Passage to search for basic lands), when the six-drop enters the battlefield, we're getting a 0/1 Plant token for each land we control along with the 5/5 Phylath itself. While making a ton of 0/1s might not sound all that exciting, they are very good at chump blocking and keeping us alive against creature-based decks and before long they turn into massive creatures, thanks to the landfall triggers of Phylath, World Sculptor and Felidar Retreat. Meanwhile, Kenrith, the Returned King does a bunch of different things—drawing cards, gaining life, and pumping creatures—but its main purpose is to reanimate Phylath, World Sculptor in the late game. 

Most opponents correctly realize that they must kill Phylath, World Sculptor as soon as it hits the battlefield or else our harmless Plant tokens will quickly grow into massive threats. Because our deck is really good at ramping, in the late game, we often have enough mana that we can play Kenrith, the Returned King, pay five mana to reanimate Phylath and make a ton of Plant tokens, make a land drop to pump all of our Plants, and then use Kenrith, the Returned King to give our team trample and haste to win the game out of nowhere!

Other Landfall Stuff

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Outside of Phylath, World Sculptor, Felidar Retreat is the best and most important card in our deck, as a sort of super-powered Retreat to Emeria. Most often, when we first play Felidar Retreat, we use it to make 2/2 Cat Beast tokens for a few turns to stabilize the board. But eventually, we shift into creature-pumping mode, putting +1/+1 counters on our team whenever a land enters the battlefield under our control. While pumping the cards that Felidar Retreat makes is nice, the enchantment's true power is its synergy with Phylath, World Sculptor. As we talked about a minute ago, Phylath tends to die as soon as it hits the battlefield, which leaves us with a board of semi-useful 0/1 Plants. Felidar Retreat offers another way to pump the Plants and turn them into meaningful threats even with Phylath in the graveyard. 

As for Valakut Exploration, it's our primary card-advantage engine, essentially drawing us a card whenever a land comes into play, which makes sure we find our finishers, removal, and ramp spells. It can also be a win condition by itself against control decks, where we can slowly burn our opponent out of the game by making land drops and choosing not to play the cards that Valakut Exploration exiles. 

The Ramp

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Cultivate, Roiling Regrowth, and Migration Path are the cards that hold our deck together. Apart from putting additional lands on the battlefield to trigger Phylath, World Sculptor, Felidar Retreat and Valakut Exploration do several important things for the deck. In the early game, they ramp us into cards like Phylath and Ruinous Ultimatum. They also allow us to have a functional five-color mana base that features zero dual lands. Plus, they even thin our deck to increase our odds of drawing action (although this can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the situation, because we often want lands in our deck so we can use them to trigger our landfall payoffs). While all of these cards are quite similar, they all have some additional upside. Cultivate puts one of the lands it finds into our hand rather than on the battlefield, which is often a drawback but can be helpful by allowing us to save up a landfall trigger for the next turn. Roiling Regrowth only puts us up a single mana, but being an instant offers some blowout potential where we can generate two landfall triggers at instant speed to pump our team or make surprise blockers with Felidar Retreat. Finally, Migration Path is our most expensive ramp spell, but it has cycling, so if we are stuck on lands early in the game, we can always turn it into a new card.


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Last but not least, we have our removal. Soul Sear is pretty straightforward, hitting either a creature or planeswalker for five damage at instant speed, which is enough to kill most of the commonly played threats in Standard. As for Ruinous Ultimatum, in some ways, it's our budget-friendly version of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but I actually think that the sorcery might just be better than Ugin in our deck. Blowing up all of our opponent's nonland permanents is extremely powerful in our current meta since even in matchups (like against Yorion, Sky Nomad decks) where our opponent doesn't have many creatures, Ruinous Ultimatum can blow up artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers. This means outside of dedicated draw-go control decks, it is good to great against almost every deck in the format. The other big upside of Ruinous Ultimatum as compared to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is that Ruinous Ultimatum doesn't hit our permanents. In many creature matchups, the game devolves into a huge board stall where we have a bunch of Plants while our opponent has a bunch of random creatures. Ruinous Ultimatum allows us to blow up all of our opponent's blockers and win with one attack! While it might seem hard to cast Ruinous Ultimatum in a five-color deck with no dual lands, it's surprisingly easy and consistent thanks to Cultivate, Roiling Regrowth, and Migration Path.

The Mana

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One of the unique aspects of Five-Color Plants is the mana base: we have zero dual lands. In fact, the only non-basic lands in our deck are Evolving Wilds and Fabled Passage, which tutor up basic lands (and are insane in our deck since they generate two landfall triggers all by themselves). While it might seem risky to play five colors without any dual lands, the mana is surprisingly functional. While not needing rare dual lands does help to keep the deck's price down, I actually think it's the optimal way to build the deck since Phylath, World Sculptor and all of our ramp spells care about basic lands specifically. Even if budget weren't a concern, I'd still play the deck without any dual lands.

Playing the Deck

In some matches, Five-Color Plants is super easy to play: we ramp, cast a finisher or two, our opponent can't answer the finisher, and we run away with the game. Other times, things can be a bit tricky, with small choices about when to start growing the game with Felidar Retreat or what lands to tutor out of our deck being the difference between winning or losing the game. 

While the mana of Five-Color Plants is good, it does require a bit of thinking. Even though we have more basic Forests than any other land, we usually only need one Forest on the battlefield (so we can use it to cast our ramp spells). As a result, when you are resolving a ramp spell or fetching with Evolving Wilds / Fabled Passage, it's important to be thinking ahead about what you might draw and want to cast in future turns. We lost one game by mistapping and not being able to cast a Soul Sear that we hit with Valakut Exploration. In general, the best plan is to focus on being able to cast our main payoffs first (so one green mana, followed by white and red) and then focus on getting the mana needed to cast Ruinous Ultimatum. The basic Island doesn't do anything except let us draw a card with Kenrith, the Returned King before sideboarding (after sideboarding, it becomes somewhat more important if we bring in Mystical Dispute), so it is usually the last land we want to tutor up after we have the mana for all of our other plays. 

Keep in mind that if we trigger Valakut Exploration at instant speed (with Fabled Passage, Evolving Wilds, or Roiling Regrowth), the cards will stay in exile until our end step. If we are pinched on mana, it's often better to wait until our opponents turn to trigger the enchantment since we'll have all of our mana available during our turn to cast the cards that we exile. 

Wrap Up

Five-Color Plants killed it! We went 5-0 pretty easily with the deck, crushing a bunch of midrange decks, various Adventure builds, and UB Control along the way. The deck felt extremely strong! As far as updates to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm really happy with how it turned out. I wouldn't change a thing about the main deck, although I'm sure that some of the sideboard slots could be switched around or improved, depending on the meta. 

All in all, Five-Color Plants felt legit. Considering the weird mana of the deck, it was surprisingly consistent. We seemed to always have the colors we needed to cast our spells (outside of a couple of obvious mana-tapping errors), and it also seemed quite powerful. Phylath, World Sculptor is an extremely strong finisher, and doubly so with Felidar Retreat as a backup way to pump the plant tokens. Not only does the deck feel strong for a budget brew, but it also seemed powerful enough that it could be a legitimate deck in Zendikar Rising Standard 3.0! Most importantly, it's super fun to play, with tons of card draw, some sweet shenanigans thanks to Kenrith, the Returned King; and big, splashy plays that make the deck feel a bit like playing Commander in Standard!

Ultra-Budget Five-Color Plants

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Since Five-Color Plants is already pretty cheap in paper, our focus here is reducing the number of rare and mythic wildcards you need to build the deck on Arena from its current 25 (with 23 rares and 2 mythics). Unfortunately, most of the rares and mythics are locked in and can't be cut. Our landfall payoffs (Phylath, World Sculptor, Felidar Retreat, and Valakut Exploration) are essential and don't have replacements, so they can't be cut. Fabled Passage is really strong in the deck and necessary to make our all-basic mana base work. Ruinous Ultimatum is already a budget Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and any wrath we'd replace it with would be worse and still cost a rare wildcard, so there isn't really any point of making the changes. This means a full 20 of the 25 rares and mythics are basically locked in.

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If you want to trim around the edges, you could cut Kenrith, the Returned King, although I'm not sure what to play in its place. There really isn't another card in Standard that offers the flexibility of Kenrith. Another random ramp spell like Wolfwillow Haven might be the way to go, or a cheap removal spell like Shock or Heartless Act. Otherwise, in the sideboard, Scavenging Ooze could turn into Cling to Dust or Tormod's Crypt, and Heliod's Intervention could be another copy of Return to Nature or Thrashing Brontodon, depending on what you have in your collection.

Non-Budget Five-Color Plants

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I'm honestly not sure I'd change anything about the deck, even in non-budget form. I'm sure there could be some sideboard upgrades, but the main deck feels extremely solid as is. The only main deck change that I'd even consider is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon over Ruinous Ultimatum, but I'm actually not sure it's worth it. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon exiling all of our Plants and enchantments is a pretty big downside, while Ruinous Ultimatum often reads "you win the game" as it clears away our opponent's blockers and allows us to attack for lethal.


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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