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Budget Magic: Light-Paws Mono-White Auras (Modern)


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to Modern to check out one of the most powerful cards from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty—Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice—with a mono-white auras deck that's free to play on Magic Online and just $86 in paper. Thanks to the addition of Light-Paws, we now have three strong two-mana payoffs for an auras deck in Modern along with Sram, Senior Edificer and Kor Spiritdancer. This is a huge deal because if we can get any one of these cards to stick on the battlefield for just a turn or two, we should be able to load them up with auras and win the game in short order. The problem is that all of our payoffs are two-mana, two-toughness creatures, and our opponent is going to try their best to kill them, which is part of the reason why Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice is such a big deal. With 12 payoffs rather than just eight, it's much harder for our opponent to kill them all, making it more likely that we will get one to stick! How strong is Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice in Modern? Can a free (on Magic Online) deck compete in the super-expensive Modern format? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Light-Paws Auras

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The Deck

Light-Paws Mono-White Auras is an aggro deck. Our main goal is to stick one of our three payoffs (Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, Sram, Senior Edificer, or Kor Spiritdancer), protect it, load it up with auras, and win with just one or two attacks with a huge Voltron threat!

The Payoffs

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The core of our deck is three two-mana payoffs, all of which reward us for casting auras. Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice is the newest and likely the best of the bunch, allowing us to tutor up an extra aura every time we cast an aura, which does some pretty impressive things—for example, casting an All That Glitters and grabbing a Daybreak Coronet for free, or casting Ethereal Armor and getting a bonus Hyena Umbra for protection. If we ever untap with a Light-Paws, we'll likely win the game in just one or two turns. Next up is Kor Spiritdancer, which is nearly as strong as Light-Paws, drawing us a card each time we cast an aura and also growing into a massive threat thanks to its ability to get +2/+2 for each aura attached to it. Finally, we have Sram, Senior Edificer, which is a solid if unspectacular payoff. It draws us a card whenever we cast an aura, like Kor Spiritdancer does, but doesn't have any additional upside. Of course, as I mentioned in the intro, the biggest upside of all of these cards is redundancy. If we can untap with any of them, we're likely to snowball enchantments and win the game, but untapping them isn't especially easy because they are so small and fragile. Overloading on payoffs helps us fight through our opponent's removal and helps ensure that, sooner or later, we keep one on the battlefield long enough to get it enchanted and protect it with Karametra's Blessing to win the game.

The Auras

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We've got a few different groups of auras in the deck, with perhaps the most important being our finishing auras. All That Glitters and Ethereal Armor are essentially the same card in our deck, with each adding an absurd amount of power and toughness to the battlefield. If we can get both on the same creature (which is especially easy with Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice), it will quickly grow into a threat big enough to kill our opponent with just one attack. Meanwhile, Daybreak Coronet is way above the curve for two mana, offering lifelink, vigilance, first strike, and +3/+3, but it comes with a downside: it can only be put on a creature that is already enchanted. Thankfully, this typically isn't a problem in a deck like ours that is stuffed full with auras, making it one of the best auras for our deck.

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While making a massive threat is nice, a 20/20 isn't all that useful unless it can actually hit the opponent. Thankfully, we have some evasion-granting auras to help make sure our massive Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice or Kor Spiritdancer actually gets through at our opponent. Gryff's Boon offers flying, which is often good enough, although we can use Spirit Mantle to give our biggest threat protection from creatures if our opponent has some flying blockers, ensuring that we'll get through for combat damage on any board state.

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Up next are our protection auras. Hyena Umbra protects from targeted removal—if our opponent manages to kill our payoff, the totem armor is destroyed instead. Meanwhile, Cartouche of Solidarity offers protection against edicts, which are pretty strong against a deck looking to build one massive Voltron threat like ours, by giving us a 1/1 token to use as sacrifice fodder.

We also have a full playset of Karametra's Blessing, which is amazing protection. For just one mana, it offers hexproof and indestructibility to an enchanted creature, which means it fizzles everything from wraths to targeted removal to bounce. While leaving up a mana each turn to be able to cast Karametra's Blessing can be annoying at times, it's usually worth it, especially against decks with lots of removal.

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Sentinel's Eyes is just a one-of utility aura, but it does offer some upside in the deck thanks to escape. Since payoffs like Sram, Senior Edificer and Kor Spiritdancer care about us casting auras and don't care about where we cast them from, having an aura that we can cast repeatedly from the graveyard in the late game is quite powerful. We can play Sentinel's Eyes early and, if our payoff dies, recast it later from the graveyard to draw some cards and hopefully restart our enchantment snowball.

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Last but not least, we have a couple of removal auras (with more in the sideboard). Oppressive Rays is much better than it looks. While it isn't hard removal, paying three to attack, block, or activate the enchanted creature is a lot, enough that it usually acts as hard removal—especially in the early game—stopping our opponent's best creatures for just a single mana. Meanwhile, Heliod's Punishment is only temporary, but removing all of the enchanted creature's abilities along with keeping it out of combat is a good way to stop creatures like Eidolon of the Great Revel or Dark Confidant that don't need to attack or block to be powerful. Plus, our deck is fast enough that if we can't win the game within four turns of Heliod's Punishment coming into play, things likely went pretty wrong and we weren't going to win anyway, so the drawback of eventually being destroyed isn't as meaningful as it might look.

Playing the Deck

The first and most important thing to realize about Light-Paws Auras is that our one and only goal is getting a payoff to stick on the battlefield. If we can untap with any of our payoffs, we should be able to protect it and parlay it into a win. What this means in practice depends on our hand and the matchup. If we only have one payoff creature, it's often better to try to wait until we can protect it before casting it, especially if our opponent is a removal-heavy deck. On the other hand, if we are overloaded on payoffs, it's usually best to run one out as quickly as possible and hope for the best, especially since both Sram, Senior Edificer and Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice are legendary, so we can only have one on the battlefield anyway. If you're playing against a removal-heavy deck and only have one payoff in hand, running it out on Turn 2 is an almost guaranteed way to lose the game. 

Once we untap with a payoff, the next order of business is protecting it. While it might be tempting to just put as much power on the table as possible, it's usually better to take a slightly slower path and try to get a Hyena Umbra on our threat or leave up Karametra's Blessing for protection. We're very likely to win the game if we can keep our payoff on the table—the challenge is getting and keeping it there.

On Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, it's important to note that while the aura it tutors up must be attached to Light-Paws (so we can't use Light-Paws to tutor up removal auras), Light-Paws triggers on any aura being cast, so we can play a Oppressive Rays or Heliod's Punishment on one of our opponent's creatures and still get a bonus aura on Light-Paws. 

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we ended up 3-3 with Mono-White Auras (not counting games I scooped immediately due to duplicate matchups). While the record was fine, the deck felt pretty matchup dependent. It's really tough to get one of our payoffs on the battlefield against decks like Bant Control or Grixis Death's Shadow that are overloaded with removal and / or discard, which in turn makes it really tough to win. On the other hand, the deck felt super powerful against more removal-light decks (see: Merfolk or Glimpse Combo), often killing the opponent by Turn 3 or 4. As much as I hate to admit it, perhaps the easiest way to fix the problem against removal-heavy decks is by adding Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. The deck already meets Lurrus's restriction, so it's a free-roll other than adding to the budget (especially on Magic Online, where a single copy of Lurrus costs more than our entire deck). While Lurrus wouldn't matter much in some matchups, against decks with a lot of removal and discard, being able to use Lurrus to recast a payoff from the graveyard seems like a huge deal.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the sideboard could be updated a bit. Oppressive Rays and Heliod's Punishment were both impressive, and playing more copies in the sideboard over things like Pacifism or Gelid Shackles seems like a good plan. Gelid Shackles in specific is pretty bad. Initially, I had snow-covered lands in the deck but ended up cutting them for budget purposes and forgot to take Shackles out of the sideboard. Otherwise, most of the big additions to the deck (Lurrus of the Dream-Den, Leyline of Sanctity, or going into a second color) would all add a decent amount to the budget.

So, should you play Mono-White Auras in Modern? I think the answer is maybe. The deck is good enough to win a lot of games and can get off to super-explosive starts, but the budget build also struggles against control and decks with a lot of removal and discard, which can be a problem, depending on the meta. I think the deck is a solid starting point for the archetype, especially if you are trying to play for free on Magic Online, although it could use a handful of upgrades to help improve some of its worst matchups. Basically, Mono-White Light-Paws Auras is fun and explosive, and Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice itself is absurdly powerful. Just be warned that you're likely to have a rough time if you run into a control deck.

Ultra-Budget Light-Paws Auras

No ultra-budget build this week since the deck is already so cheap on Magic Online. If you're looking to save a few more bucks in paper, you can cut the Stony Silences and Suppression Fields from the sideboard for more copies of Disenchant and maybe something like Banishing Light for unconditional removal.

Non-Budget Light-Paws Auras

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There are two big additions to the non-budget build of Mono-White Light-Paws Auras. First is Lurrus of the Dream-Den, which we talked about before. Second is Leyline of Sanctity, which offers protection from discard and edicts. Otherwise, we get Giver of Runes in the main deck for protection over Karametra's Blessing (which moves to the sideboard), mostly because Giver of Runes doesn't make us leave up mana each turn and also gives us a Turn-1 play, and some fringe upgrades like Horizon Canopy in the mana base and Rest in Peace in the sideboard over Tormod's Crypt. In general, the deck should play almost exactly like the build in the video but have a bit more game in its worst matchups against control and removal-heavy midrange thanks to some of the updates.

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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