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Budget Magic: Is $35 Mono-White Soldiers the Best Deck in Standard?


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! People keep asking me about Soldiers in Standard, so last week, while I was watching the Pioneer Regional Championships, I decided to build the cheapest version of Soldiers possible—$35 Mono-White Soldiers—and do some testing for Budget Magic. Somehow, I ended up going 11-0 with the deck, moving all the way through Diamond and Mythic on Magic Arena without dropping a single match! So today, we're going to see if any mythic players on Arena can break our undefeated streak with the deck! Did we accidentally make the best deck in Standard, all on a $35 budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: $35 Mono-White Soldiers 

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The Deck

Mono-White Soldiers is a budget tribal aggro deck. While the main plan is to pick up aggro wins with Soldier synergies, the deck is also surprisingly good at playing the long game thanks to card advantage from cards like Recruitment Officer, Gavony Dawnguard, and Kayla's Reconstruction!

The Soldiers

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So, why play Soldier Tribal rather than just generic White Weenie? Well, there are two big reasons in Valiant Veteran and Siege Veteran. Valiant Veteran gives us a two-mana lord with some fringe upside (we occasionally exile it from our graveyard to put counters on our team), which allows us to get off to some really fast starts by growing our team. Meanwhile, Siege Veteran is basically a Luminarch Aspirant—one of the best cards in last Standard—that costs an additional mana but comes with the upside that, when another non-token Soldier dies, we get to replace it with a 1/1 Soldier token, which makes it an expensive Luminarch Aspirant mixed with a mini Soldier-y Xathrid Necromancer as wrath and removal protection. Considering there are a lot of other good Soldiers in Standard, the upside of being able to take advantage of these powerful tribal payoffs makes it more than worth the cost of filling our deck with Soldiers.

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Next, we have our card-advantage package. Current Standard is super grindy, and we'll play against a lot of removal-heavy black decks, so having ways to fight through removal and generate card advantage is important. Thankfully, Soldiers have some good ones. Recruitment Officer is pretty absurd, being a Savannah Lions that draws us cards in the late game. Considering that we have 30 creatures in our deck, all of them with mana value three or less, we're very unlikely to whiff with the activated ability and will often have multiple options to choose from.

Meanwhile, Gavony Dawnguard is one of my favorite cards in the deck. A three-mana 3/3 with ward 1 is already solid, and then the ability to draw creatures as day turns to night and night turns to day is super powerful against grindy decks. In the late game, it's pretty easy to skip a turn to trigger Gavony Dawnguard to draw a card and then cast two spells the following turn (with the help of the one we get from Gavony Dawnguard) to trigger Dawnguard again, quickly burying our opponent in card advantage!

Finally, we have Kayla's Reconstruction, which is basically a more expensive but more scalable sorcery-speed Collected Company, letting us dump multiple bodies onto the battlefield with one card. This makes it a powerful way to close out the game if we are ahead or a great way to rebuild from a sweeper when things are going poorly. Considering we have 30 "hits" in our deck for Kayla's Reconstruction, we're very likely to hit at least three creatures in our top seven (78%) and have a 50% chance of hitting at least four creatures in our top seven cards. This means that Kayla's Reconstruction is solid at everything from X = 2 to X = 4 (although, generally, spending more than seven mana on it isn't necessary because we're not likely to hit more than four creatures it can put on the battlefield anyway).

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Next up, we have our disruption package. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is great at slowing down our opponent's removal and sweepers, and since we only have a total of six noncreature spells in our main deck, it doesn't hurt us much at all. Brutal Cathar gives us a removal spell that happens to be a Soldier, and in the late game, it can sometimes exile multiple creatures if we can flip it back and forth a few times. Our last removal spell is Valorous Stance, which does double duty in our deck. Its main purpose is to kill big creatures like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, but it can also be used to save one of our creatures from a removal spell or in combat. We've got more copies in our sideboard along with Touch the Spirit Realm. One of the things I really like about the deck is that all of our removal either comes attached to an on-tribe body (Brutal Cathar) or can also be used to save our creatures from removal (Valorous Stance and Touch the Spirit Realm), which means these cards are rarely dead. If we don't have something we need to kill, we can usually get value from them by fizzling an opposing removal spell.

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Finally, we have Yotian Frontliner, which helps fill out our one-drop slot and lets us get off to aggro starts. Technically, Frontliner adds two power to the battlefield for one mana, but we need at least one other creature on the battlefield for this to work. Thankfully, this usually isn't an issue with our aggressive curve, making Yotian Frontliner solid enough for our deck, especially when you add in the unearth ability that lets it chip in for a bit more damage later in the game.

The Mana

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The mana base of Soldiers is pretty simple: 20 Plains and fourMishra's Foundry. Mishra's Foundry is interesting. In some matches, it doesn't matter at all, but in other matches (especially against control), it can be super important for pushing across the last few points of damage after a sweeper or a bunch of removal. I wouldn't say it is 100% necessary (if you are trying to cut down on the number of rares for Magic Arena purposes, this is probably the place to start), but when it is good, it's very good.

The Sideboard

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  • Cathar Commando: Usually comes in over some number of Resolute Reinforcements or Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens in matchups where blowing up artifacts and enchantments is important.
  • Valorous Stance and Touch the Spirit Realm: Usually come in against decks with big creatures that we have to kill, like Sheoldred. Remember, both have the upside of being able to save one of our creatures from a removal spell, so if you are on the fence about bringing them in, it's usually correct. That said, it's hard to bring in more than three or four of these cards because we'll have to cut too many creatures. In matchups where we go super spell-heavy, it's often necessary to cut a copy or two of Kayla's Reconstruction, which gets weaker as we cut creatures for spells.
  • Gavony Dawnguard: Comes in against removal-heavy decks as an additional source of card draw. Think of it like the Reckoner Bankbuster of Soldiers—if you would bring in Bankbuster in a matchup, you should probably bring in Dawnguard.
  • Lantern of the Lost: Doesn't come in very often, but you occasionally will run into a Urborg Lhurgoyf–style graveyard deck or an Invoke Justice–style reanimator deck. In these matchups, having some graveyard hate is a lifesaver.
  • Loran's Escape: I like Loran's Escape a lot, but it might get cut from the sideboard just because we usually use Valorous Stance or Touch the Spirit Realm if we trying to bring in a way to protect a creature since they are more flexible. Still, one mana to save something and scry is a good deal against removal-heavy decks. 

One important note on sideboarding: don't bring in too many cards! We need a critical mass of Soldiers for our deck to work, and bringing in six or eight noncreature spells for creatures can leave us without enough good threats to win the game. As I mentioned before, if you do decide to bring in a bunch of noncreatures, you should probably cut most or all of the Kayla's Reconstructions. 

Wrap-Up

Well, we finally managed to lose a match with $35 Mono-White Soldiers, getting a mana flood into mana screw draw against Mono-Black. The good news is that we ended up going 4-1 with the deck at Mythic, bringing our overall record to 15-1 across Diamond and Mythic, which is pretty absurd for a $35 deck. In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the deck was tier one. It seems to crush all of the black decks at the top of the format and is pretty good against everything else too. The combination of aggro starts with a ton of card advantage means that we have game in pretty much every matchup!

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, other than maybe replacing Loran's Escape in the sideboard, I wouldn't change anything. The deck's crushing it!

So, should you play Mono-White Soldiers in Standard? I think the answer is clearly yes. The deck isn't just good for a budget deck; it seems just straight-up good. The only downside of the deck is that while it is ultra-budget in paper at $35, it does have 24 rares on Magic Arena, which isn't expensive compared to most tier decks (that usually have 40, 50, or even 60 rares / mythics), but also isn't as cheap as I'd like for an Arena budget deck. (I usually shoot for 15 total rares and mythics.) The good news is that it is possible to make the deck a bit cheaper on Arena...

Arena Budget Mono-White Soldiers

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So, how cheap can we get the deck on Magic Arena while still keeping its power? Well, first, we can cut Mishra's Foundry (–4 rares, to 20 total). While the creatureland is great and mostly a free roll in a mono-colored deck, it also isn't 100% necessary. While there will occasionally be games against control that we'll lose without Mishra's Foundry, these shouldn't come up too often. Beyond Mishra's Foundry, things get tricky. Most of the rare Soldiers are uncuttable—they are key to the deck working—but we can do a bit of trimming, like dropping one Thalia and one Kayla's Reconstruction to move Cathar Commando or more Gavony Dawnguards into the main deck. This would get the deck down to 18 total rares, but I'm not sure it would be possible to go much lower than that before really starting to eat into the deck's win percentage.

Non-Budget Mono-White Soldiers

The good news is that there isn't really much to add to the non-budget build of the deck. I could see tossing a couple of copies of The Wandering Emperor into the sideboard because it's a strong white card, but I'm unsure how often I would bring it in. The same is true of something like Wedding Announcement, which I'm not sure is even better than Gavony Dawnguard in a deck built around Kayla's Reconstruction. The easiest upgrade is probably tossing a Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire into the mana base. Otherwise, I think the deck is pretty close to optimal as it is—it just happens that the optimal version only costs $35!

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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