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Budget Magic: Rhythm Stompy (Modern, Magic Online)


你好, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! As we wait for War of the Spark to officially release and shake up Standard, we are heading to Modern this week once again for one of the sweetest decks we've played in a while: Rhythm Stompy. We played Hydra Tribal on Much Abrew a couple of weeks ago, and while the deck was sort of middling in terms of competitiveness, we did learn that Kalonian Hydra can be extremely powerful in Modern. Today's deck is all-in on making Kalonian Hydra as scary as possible, by ramping into it with a bunch of fast mana and giving it haste with Rhythm of the Wild. Throw in backup finishers like Inferno Titan and Deus of Calamity to make sure we have a steady stream of massive, hasty threats, and the end result is Rhythm Stompy! Is slamming Kalonian Hydra, Deus of Calamity, and Inferno Titan into our opponent with Rhythm of the Wild a legitimate Modern play? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Rhythm Stompy

The Deck

Rhythm Stompy is basically a weird combo of ramp and beatdown. The main plan is to play a bunch of mana dorks to ramp in the early game, stick a Rhythm of the Wild to give all of our creatures haste thanks to riot, and then smash in with massive threats like Kalonian Hydra, Deus of Calamity and Inferno Titan, all of which give additional benefits when they attack or deal combat damage, which will hopefully allow us to smash our opponent with huge beaters before they get a chance to recover.

The Ramp

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Step one for Rhythm Stompy is to ramp in the early game. For this, we have three options, all of which end up adding one additional mana for just a single mana. Llanowar Elves allows us to get to three mana on Turn 2, which is just the amount of mana we need for Rhythm of the Wild. Meanwhile, both Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl are solid on their own but even better together with Arbor Elf untapping the land enchanted with Utopia Sprawl, which can add four extra mana as early as Turn 2.

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Sylvan Caryatid gives us an extra mana dork. While not as explosive as our one-mana ramp, it offers the upside of being more resilient, with hexproof allowing it to dodge all targeted removal. More importantly, Sylvan Caryatid adds a mana of any color. One of the drawbacks of budget Rhythm Stompy is that the mana base is a bit clunky. We need a lot of basic Forests to support Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl, which sometimes leaves us pinched on red mana. Sylvan Caryatid helps to make sure we can cast our red finishers like Inferno Titan and Bloodbraid Elf.

Rhythm of the Wild

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Rhythm of the Wild is the centerpiece of our deck. While making our creatures uncounterable is a nice upside, especially against control decks, the main reason we're playing Rhythm of the Wild is to give our finishers haste, which allows us to trigger their attack (and combat damage) triggers immediately. This allows our deck to do some extremely scary things, getting in for massive amounts of damage, blowing up lands, and even killing most (or all) of our opponent's creatures by surprise. Thanks to all of our one-mana ramp, we can often get Rhythm of the Wild on the battlefield as early as Turn 2, which sets us up to start crashing in with massive, hasty creatures on Turn 3 or 4 to close out the game quickly.

The Finishers

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Bloodbraid Elf is sort of a pseudo-finisher. While it isn't nearly as powerful an attacker as the cards we'll talk about next, our deck has a lot of good cascade hits in Rhythm of the Wild and our mana dorks. As such, Bloodbraid Elf gives us a solid source of card advantage that would otherwise be missing from our deck. It can also do some cool tricks with Rhythm of the Wild since if we cascade into the enchantment, it will be on the battlefield by the time Bloodbraid Elf finishes resolving, which means we can give our Bloodbraid Elf a +1/+1 counter, making it a solid 4/3 haste for four while also giving our Bloodbraid Elf some additional synergy with our next finisher...

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When it comes to closing out the game, the main plan is to take advantage of big, powerful creatures that also get some benefit from attacking or dealing combat damage, to maximize the power of Rhythm of the Wild. A couple of weeks ago, we played Kalonian Hydra in Hydra Tribal, and while the deck itself was sort of middling, Kalonian Hydra felt really good and hard for a lot of decks to kill. Well, Rhythm Stompy gives us a chance to put our "Kalonian Hydra is good" theory to the test. With a Rhythm of the Wild on the battlefield (and hopefully with some mana dorks to speed up the process), Kalonian Hydra is a scary card, coming down with haste. This means we can attack for eight with trample immediately while also doubling up whatever random +1/+1 counters we have on other creatures thanks to Rhythm of the Wild. The next turn, Kalonian Hydra doubles up again to 16 power, which means it's often lethal in just two attacks and almost always bigger than anything else on the battlefield. Things get even crazier if we happen to draw two Kalonian Hydras, with the first attacking for eight right away and then each doubling each other's counters the following turn. This means we can be attacking with a 32/32 trample and a 16/16 trample as early as Turn 5!

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Next up is Deus of Calamity, which is another creature that's especially scary when it comes down with haste thanks to Rhythm of the Wild. As a 6/6 trample for five, Deus of Calamity already has solid stats. But the bigger payoff is that if we can get in a full hit of combat damage, we get to blow up one of our opponent's lands for free! Normally, this is tricky since our opponent will see Deus of Calamity coming and either have a plan to kill or block it. But with Rhythm of the Wild, it gets much easier to sneak in a big hit of combat damage, while blowing up a land along the way. Even when we aren't blowing up lands, Deus of Calamity is bigger than most creatures in Modern, so it's just fine as a beater, especially coming down on Turn 3 with our endless ramp.

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Finally, we have Inferno Titan, which is pretty absurd with Rhythm of the Wild. The trick here is that Inferno Titan gives us an Arc Lightning whenever it enters the battlefield or attacks, which means if we can give it haste with Rhythm of the Wild, we can get two Arc Lightnings in the same turn. If our opponent has blockers, Inferno Titan is a great way to get them out of the way so we can keep smashing in with our huge creatures. And if our opponent is lacking in defense, Inferno Titan represents 12 damage to our opponent's face between the Forked Lightnings and the 6/6 body, and this doesn't even include the fact that we can pump Inferno Titan if we have extra red mana. Altogether, this makes Inferno Titan one of our best finishers and also one of our best removal spells—against decks with a lot of small creatures, it often ends up being a Wrath of God that also hits our opponent for a massive chunk of combat damage!

Other Stuff

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Last but not least is Burst Lightning, which gives us an early-game removal spell that offers some flexibility thanks to kicker and can go to our opponent's face to close out the game in a pinch. Ideally, Burst Lightning would be Lightning Bolt, but the deck is already pushing the upper limit of our $100 budget, which means that even a small cut (like $10 / playset for Lightning Bolt) goes a long way to keeping our deck near our $100 limit. The good news is that even though Burst Lightning is worse than Lightning Bolt, it's still good in our deck. On turn 1, it still kills anything our opponent could have, and later in the game, being able to kick it to kill something like Thought-Knot Seer does offer some upside, even if five mana is a lot for four damage.

Wrap-Up

As for our record, Budget Rhythm Stompy sort of crushed it. We played five matches and won four, only losing to Affinity. While we did play a couple of strange brews (like Rakdos Legends and some sort of Naya deck, where we killed our opponent before they really played anything except mana creatures), we also took down Mono-Red Prison and Death and Taxes. More impressively, in a lot of our matches, we absolutely crushed the opposition. In fact, except for our three-game win against Mono-Red Prison, we 2-0'ed in all of our other victories, and most of the games didn't feel especially close!

One thing I wanted to mention is Gyre Sage, which we played in our first match before cutting it for Sylvan Caryatid. While Gyre Sage can grow into a bit threat and does work well with Kalonian Hydra specifically, for some reason, I thought the two-drop tapped to add mana equal to its power (like Marwyn, the Nurturer), but it actually taps to add mana equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it, which means it rarely adds mana until Turn 3 or 4. This is simply too slow, especially when you consider that it doesn't help cast cards like Rhythm of the Wild or Inferno Titan since it only makes green mana. Another interesting possibility is Incubation Druid, which might be better than Sylvan Caryatid since it does work well with Rhythm of the Wild and Kalonian Hydra

The biggest challenge of the deck is the mana. Thanks to Utopia Sprawl and Arbor Elf, we need a lot of Forests, but thanks to the budget, we can't simply fetch out shock lands. As such, we make do with a functional but far from ideal mana base, with Cinder Glade and Game Trail as dual lands. If you want to improve the deck, the easiest thing to do would be to upgrade the mana. The deck is extremely powerful but can be inconsistent, in large part due to the mana. 

Kalonian Hydra was awesome. This is the second deck in a row where we played the five-drop and it felt really strong. While Deus of Calamity and Inferno Titan are fine, Kalonian Hydra gets so big so quickly that it actually feels like a legitimate way to close out a game of Modern, especially with Rhythm of the Wild giving it haste. 

As far as upgrades to make to the deck while sticking to the budget, I'm not sure there's much to be done. Trying Incubation Druid over Sylvan Caryatid makes sense, although I'm not 100% sure which is better for the deck. Otherwise, most of the other issues with the deck (like clunky mana and a less-than-ideal sideboard) are simply a product of the budget and not something that can be easily fixed without spending at least some extra money.

All in all, budget Rhythm Stompy felt great. We not only posted a solid record but also crushed most of our opponents with ease. Modern is a strange format. Decks are so focused on being linear and efficient (and stopping other linear, efficient decks) that a surprising number of decks struggle with big, random creatures, especially when those creatures are both uncounterable and potentially hasty thanks to Rhythm of the Wild. If you like smashing face as you laugh at your opponent's counters and sorcery-speed removal, Rhythm Stompy feels like a surprisingly effective budget option for the format!

It's technically possible (although not easy) to get Rhythm Stompy down near the $50 price range, but it does require making some significant cuts. First, we go with an all-basic land mana base, which is a bit risky, just because some percentage of the time, we'll draw hands that have all Mountains and no green mana and be forced to mulligan (although hopefully, this won't come up too often since our basics are heavily weighted toward Forests). We also have to drop Kalonian Hydra, which at over $25 / playset is simply too much for the budget. In its place is Verdurous Gearhulk, which actually does a pretty good Kalonian Hydra imitation on Turn 1 (if we put all the counters on it, Verdurous Gearhulk ends up as a hasty 8/8 trample with Rhythm of the Wild, just like Kalonian Hydra) although it lacks the ability to keep growing turn after turn. We also drop Sylvan Caryatid for Fertile Ground, which is mostly an even trade, although it does increase our risk of getting blown out by land destruction. Finally, we cut the sideboard as much as possible while keeping Cindervines, so that we have at least some chance in the unfair matchups post-board. This leaves us with a deck that can still have the explosive turns we saw in the budget build but will struggle with consistency thanks to the mana. While the ultra-budget build is fine to mess around with, the inconsistency probably means some upgrades will be needed (especially to the mana base) before it will be able to compete at the FNM level.

For our non-budget build this week, we have a build heavily inspired by a deck CalebD played on his stream (which, along with our experiences with Kalonian Hydra, was one of the inspirations for the budget build of Rhythm Stompy). The plan is essentially the same as the build we played on video, but there are some non-budget upgrades across the board, with a traditional fetch-lands-and-shock-land mana base; Lotus Cobra as another explosive mana dork (over Sylvan Caryatid); and a powerful, hateful Modern sideboard featuring prison pieces like Blood Moon and Trinisphere along with cards like Surgical Extraction and Cindervines to keep up with the unfair decks. The deck should play very much like the budget build, but the inconsistency issues should be mostly fixed thanks to the better mana and Tireless Tracker to draw us extra cards.

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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