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Budget Magic: GB End (Modern)


Kopisanangan, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Since Amonkhet released a little over a month ago, we've been focused almost exclusively on Standard, but this week, we are changing things up and heading back to Modern (ironically to play not one but two cards that are too good for our current Standard)! If there's one thing that we learned about Emrakul, the Promised End and Smuggler's Copter during their short time in Standard, it's that both of these cards are incredibly powerful. The question is, are they powerful enough for Modern? I think the answer is yes, but this week we are putting it to the test and going all-in on casting Emrakul, the Promised End as quickly as possible, with Smuggler's Copter in a support role helping us fill our graveyard with different card types to reduce the cost of Emrakul herself in a deck I'm calling GB End. If you like filling your graveyard, crewing looter scooters, and stealing your opponent's turn, this one's for you! Let's get to the videos, and then we'll talk more about the deck!

First, 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 of the latest and greatest.

GB End Deck Tech

GB End vs. Grixis Shadow (Match 1)

GB End vs. Living End (Match 2)

GB End vs. Jund (Match 3)

GB End vs. Burn (Match 4)

GB End vs. UB Mill (Match 5)

The Deck

On one hand, GB End is simple. Our entire deck is built with one goal in mind: to cast Emrakul, the Promised End as cheaply as possible as often as possible. On the other hand, the cards in the deck are actually pretty complicated because we need to play a lot of odd card types to help reduce the cost of Emrakul, the Promised End, which means we're playing a lot of cards that don't show up in Modern all that often. Probably the easiest way to break down the deck is to start by talking about Emrakul, the Promised End herself and the goal of our deck and then to break down the rest of the deck by card type to see how we are reducing the cost of our Emrakuls.

The Promised End

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Emrakul, the Promised End is a super-powerful Magic card—that much we know from its brief stay in Standard. Oddly, at least in some ways, the Eldrazi Titan has the potential to be even more powerful in Modern for a couple of reasons. First, unlike Standard, where people play whatever removal happens to be in the format (which often means enchantments like Cast Out and sorceries like Never // Return), in Modern, nearly all of the removal is instant speed, which means that Emrakul, the Promised End is impossible to kill for most decks, allowing it to close out the game in just one or two attacks, even through blockers thanks to trample. Secondly, it's a lot easier to get different card types in the graveyard in Modern, which means Emrakul, the Promised End should consistently cost just six mana in our deck. Third, stealing an opponent's turn is very strong in Modern. While, much like Standard, there can be times when we are so far behind that Emrakul, the Promised End can't save us, a lot of the time, the Mindslaver effect wins us the game by killing a couple of our opponent's creatures and emptying their hand of relevant spells. 

The Backup Plan

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While Emrakul, the Promised End is the primary focus of our deck, Smuggler's Copter is super important as well for a couple of reasons. First, it gives us a way to get various card types into our graveyard to get the cost of Emrakul, the Promised End as low as possible (in our deck, six mana is the floor). Secondly, Smuggler's Copter is our backup plan for winning the game when we can't win with our Eldrazi. While nowhere near as fast as Emrakul, the Promised End, getting in for three in the air (especially backed up by Lingering Souls) is a fairly effective way to win a game of Magic. Plus, in our deck, having a backup plan is important because one of the biggest downsides of the Emrakul, the Promised End plan is that it gets ruined by graveyard disruption, which is fairly common in the sideboards of Modern decks. 

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Lingering Souls is amazingly good in our deck. In fact, it's so good that we are willing to splash white just for the sorcery. What makes Lingering Souls so good in GB End? It does a little bit of everything. While we are waiting to set up our Emrakul, the Promised End, it gives us a bunch of flying chump blockers to keep us alive. When we are looking to win with Smuggler's Copter, it not only helps with the air assault but also provides a ton of bodies to make sure we can consistently crew our vehicle. It also takes advantage of the fact that we're playing a bunch of cards to fill our graveyard to reduce the cost of Emrakul, giving us a card we can mill and flash back. All around, Lingering Souls is great and one of the most important cards in making GB End work. 

Filling the Graveyard

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Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage help us stock our graveyard with card types to reduce the cost on Emrakul while generating a bit of value along the way. Satyr Wayfinder is a reasonable chump blocker in the early game, can crew a Smuggler's Copter, and finds us a land to make sure we have the mana we need to cast Emrakul, the Promised End. Meanwhile, Grisly Salvage gets us five cards deep in our library and, apart from finding a land, can help us find our Emrakul, the Promised End as well, since it can hit creatures too.

Vessel of Nascency is the worst of our graveyard enablers in terms of mana cost and effect, since it costs three total mana instead of two, but it does have the important upside of being an enchantment that sits in the graveyard, and enchantment is one of the more difficult card types for us to get in the graveyard for Emrakul. The clunkiness of taking up our first two turns instead of just one turn is why it's only a two-of in our deck, but it is a necessary evil. From a broader perspective, while we don't necessarily need to mulligan until we find one of these cards, most of our best hands have at least one of them to get our graveyard synergies going. 

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Sakura-Tribe Elder probably looks weird in our deck, but it's actually quite strong. Since our deck can consistently get seven different card types in the graveyard with the help of Grisly Salvage, Satyr Wayfinder, and Smuggler's Copter, we need six actual sources of mana to cast an Emrakul, the Promised End, and using the Rampant Growth mode on Sakura-Tribe Elder helps us get to six lands. More importantly, in some games, Sakura-Tribe Elder is actually plus-two mana for Emrakul, the Promised End because along with the land, it also gives us a creature in the graveyard to up the card-type count. 

Finding Emrakul

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You probably noticed that we only have two copies of Emrakul, the Promised End in our deck because they are really expensive, both in terms of mana cost and budget. Thankfully, we have some additional ways of finding our Emrakuls, which means we should normally have one in hand by the time we are ready to cast one. Traverse the Ulvenwald is great. In the early game, we can use it to find a land; in the mid-game, we can tutor up a Sakura-Tribe Elder for ramp or Satyr Wayfinder to stock our graveyard; and then in the late game, it finds us an Emrakul, the Promised End for just one mana. Meanwhile, Eternal Witness gives us a way to get back an Emrakul, the Promised End that we happened to mill with Satyr Wayfinder or looted away with Smuggler's Copter.

Artifacts

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Apart from our Smuggler's Copters, we have a few one-of artifacts to help increase the number of card types in our graveyard. Hangarback Walker does double duty, being both an artifact and a creature, and has the upside of actually being a good card. In the early game, it blocks (and crews Smuggler's Copter) twice, and it can get out of control if our opponent doesn't have an answer, eventually making a board full of Thopter tokens. It's also worth mentioning that we can always cast it for zero mana just to get it in the graveyard and reduce the cost of Emrakul, the Promised End

Chromatic Sphere is basically our budget version of Mishra's Bauble. While it's a bit slower, it's a one-mana way to get an artifact in our graveyard that doesn't cost us a card. Meanwhile, Darksteel Citadel has a very low opportunity cost, since it comes into play untapped (and being colorless usually isn't too problematic, since we only have a single double-colored-mana card in Eternal Witness). Plus, much like Hangarback Walker, it puts two card types in the graveyard with just one card: land and artifact. 

Enchantments

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Apart from Vessel of Nascency, the only other enchantment we have in our deck is Dead Weight, which is extremely high variance. Most of the time, it's a sorcery-speed Disfigure. Disfigure isn't a horrible card in Modern, and it's actually pretty good when it's killing a Delver of Secrets or Dark Confidant. On the other hand, in some matchups (against combo and control decks, especially), Dead Weight doesn't kill anything. Thankfully, even at its worst, we can mill it with Grisly Salvage or discard it to Smuggler's Copter to get another card type in our graveyard for Emrakul, the Promised End

Tribal

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Nameless Inversion isn't a great removal spell, although it is passable against most early-game creatures. However, it's one of the most important cards in our deck just because of its "tribal" card type. Out of all of the card types in Magic, tribal is the hardest one to get in the graveyard because there have only been a few tribal cards ever printed and even fewer good tribal cards. Even though something like Dismember would do a better job of killing creatures, making our Emrakul, the Promised End a mana cheaper (while also helping to turn on our Traverse the Ulvenwald) makes Nameless Inversion the right call for our deck over more powerful removal spells.  

Other Stuff

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Inquisition of Kozilek and Dismember are in our deck because they are good cards, not so much for their card types. While they still do help reduce the cost on our Emrakul, the Promised End, our deck has enough instants and sorceries that having one in our graveyard usually isn't a problem. Inquisition of Kozilek gives us something to do on Turn 1 and helps us get rid of a threat or, after sideboarding, graveyard disruption. Meanwhile, Dismember offers us a way to deal with bigger creatures that don't die to Nameless Inversion or Dead Weight

Wrap Up

All in all, we finished our video matches with a 3-2 record but also lost a second match against Jund in a close three-game set, bringing our total record to 3-3 (technically, there was a seventh match, but it was against someone who had wandered into the Modern queues with the new-player cards you get for creating an account, which meant their deck was filled with things like Ice Over and Press for Answers. I ended up scooping the match to the opponent after resolving Emrakul, the Promised End because I didn't feel right taking Play Points from someone who likely ended up in the Modern queues by accident. I know I'm getting off topic, but please, Wizards, add some sort of tutorial to help new players find the right events when they first join Magic Online so they don't lose all their tix and quit the game forever). 

The deck felt pretty good. I was very impressed with the power of Emrakul, the Promised End in the format—we won every single time we resolved it. Smuggler's Copter also feels very underrated. While the vehicle does die to Lightning Bolt and [[Fatal Push],] it only takes a couple of attacks to make it worth the investment, even if it eventually eats a removal spell. Our best matchups felt like creature-based decks like Jund and Death's Shadow. Lingering Souls is amazing against these decks; we have other weird blockers in Satyr Wayfinder and Sakura-Tribe Elder; and sooner or later, we'd find an Emrakul, the Promised End to take over the game. Control seems reasonable as well, mostly thanks to the strength of Lingering Souls

On the other hand, really fast aggro decks can be a problem, especially if our opponent can back up their early aggression with burn spells to close out the game. While we can find blockers for Goblin Guides and Wild Nacatls, we don't really have a good answer for Lightning Bolts to the face. One possibility would be to play a Thragtusk or two somewhere in the 75 to tutor up with Traverse the Ulvenwald when the situation calls for it. Combo can also be a challenge, although having Inquisition of Kozilek in the main deck and Duress in the sideboard gives us a chance. From a more meta perspective, graveyard hate is another huge concern. While it didn't happen much in our matches, cards like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void are super good against our deck because they make our Emrakul, the Promised End uncastable and cut our Lingering Souls in half. It's probably worth preemptively sideboarding for these cards with Nature's Claim if they are likely to show up. 

Most importantly, I found the deck super fun to play. Satyr Wayfinder is one of my favorite cards, and grinding out value from the graveyard is a blast. Strangely, even Emrakul, the Promised End and Smuggler's Copter—both of which were borderline oppressive in Standard—are actually really fun to play with in Modern. As such, if you are looking for a place to play your banned Standard cards or just like to have fun with graveyard synergies, you'll have a blast with GB End!

Ultra-Budget GB End

Getting GB End down into the ultra-budget range is actually pretty tricky, since our most expensive cards are Emrakul, the Promised End, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Smuggler's Copter, which are also the foundation of the deck. That said, with a bit of work, we can get things down to about $57. The biggest cut is one of the two Emrakul, the Promised Ends, but hopefully we'll still find our copy when we need it thanks to Traverse the Ulvenwald and Grisly Salvage. Also impactful is the switch from Inquisition of Kozilek to Duress, which won't matter in some matchups but will occasionally be a problem when we want to take a creature from our opponent's hand on Turn 1. We also drop a couple of dual lands from our mana base for Evolving Wilds, which shouldn't be too big of a problem and actually helps us get a card type in the graveyard. All in all, this build should play like the one in the videos but will have some consistency issues, so while it's probably fine for the kitchen tables, I'd want to make some upgrades (especially getting Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize back in the deck) before taking it to a tournament.

Non-Budget GB Delirium

In a weird quirk of fate, Pro Tour Champion Gerry Thompson published a deck pretty similar to ours this week on StarCityGames, which makes for a perfect non-budget build of GB End. The biggest change is that Gerry drops white altogether (which means no Lingering Souls) and instead splashes colorless mana for Thought-Knot Seer. Otherwise, the deck is basically a powered-up (and much more expensive) version of the one we played for our videos, right down to Traverse the Ulvenwald to find Emrakul, the Promised End to close out the game. The biggest additions are Liliana, the Last Hope in the planeswalker slot, along with better removal in Abrupt Decay and Fatal Push. He also plays a wide range of Traverse the Ulvenwald targets, including Shriekmaw, Brain Maggot, Tireless Tracker, and Scavenging Ooze as well as upgrading to a fetch-for-shock-plus-Eldrazi Temple mana base. If you are looking for something to build toward, this seems like a great option, and you even get the added bonus of seeing how the deck plays in Gerry's videos!

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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