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Budget Magic: Scute-tate (Standard)


Jó napot kívánok, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Last week, we got an early look at Zendikar Rising Standard with UG Kicker, but today, we kick off our exploration of the format proper (in best-of-three) with one of the most spectacular budget decks we've played in a long time: Scute-tate. The idea of the deck is simple: play Scute Swarm, get up to six lands with some mutate-based ramp spells, mutate something huge onto Scute Swarm, and start making land drops, with each land that comes into play making a copy of not just our 1/1 Scute Swarm but also the entire mutate pile! Thanks to Scute Swarm's ability to grow exponentially, we can easily end up with hundreds or even thousands of massive mutated Auspicious Starrix Scute Swarms on the battlefield in one big turn, which we can then use to beat our opponent down. What crazy things can Scute Swarm do in Zendikar Rising Standard backed by a pile of mutate creatures? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Scute-tate

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The Deck

Scute-tate is essentially a midrange combo deck built around the mutate mechanic. While we can win just by making a big board of mutate creatures and beating our opponent down, the most exciting thing our deck can do is to combo off by mutating onto a Scute Swarm, putting a bunch of lands into play, and making a truly massive board of mutated Scute Swarms all in one lethal turn!

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Scute Swarm looks pretty harmless as a three-mana 1/1 that makes a 1/1 token when a land comes into play. But it's proven itself to be an extremely scary card thanks to its ability to start duplicating itself, rather than making a 1/1 Insect token, once we get up to six lands. This allows the number of Scute Swarms we have on the battlefield to grow exponentially, from one copy to two, then four, eight, 16, 32, 64, and eventually hundreds (or even thousands), with each land that enters the battlefield. While making hundreds or thousands of Scute Swarms is pretty sweet, in Scute-tate, things can be even more spectacular thanks to the mutate mechanic...

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Let's say we mutate a Migratory Greathorn on our Scute Swarm. Now, we have a hybrid Scute Swarm / Migratory Greathorn. Whenever we mutate, we get to Rampant Growth a land from our deck and put it onto the battlefield, which triggers the Scute Swarm ability of our mutated creature to make a copy of itself (assuming we have at least six lands), but rather than getting just a 1/1 Scute Swarm, we get to copy the entire mutate pile! This means that rather than making 1/1 Scute Swarms, we get an ever-increasing number of 3/4 Migratory Greathorns or even 6/6 Auspicious Starrixs if we managed to add them to the mutate pile. This "combo" allows us to build a huge board of massive creatures extremely quickly once we get up to six lands.

Just as importantly, many of our best mutate cards allow us to put extra lands on the battlefield, so our Scute Swarm mutate pile will sort of snowball itself. Migratory Greathorn gives us a Rampant Growth whenever we mutate it. Parcelbeast is a cheap mutater that can also draw us a card and, if it's a land, put it directly on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Auspicious Starrix is the card that allows us to combo off. Whenever we mutate it, we get to put the top X permanents of our deck onto the battlefield, where X is the number of times we've mutated. Once we get going, this often means that every time we mutate, we are putting several lands into play to trigger Scute Swarm's ability. Plus, the lands come into play untapped, which means we can use their mana to immediately mutate again, putting a bunch more permanents onto the battlefield! 

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Of course, for our plan to work, we need a critical mass of mutate creatures so that we can keep adding to our mutate pile to tutor up more lands with Migratory Greathorn and put more permanents into play with Auspicious Starrix. While Sea-Dasher Octopus, Pouncing Shoreshark, and Illuna, Apex of Wishes don't directly ramp us or make more copies of Scute Swarm, they are solid mutate cards that trigger our ramp mutate abilities and offer some additional value. The main upside of Sea-Dasher Octopus is that it's only two mana to mutate, making it our cheapest way to trigger Auspicious Starrix's and Migratory Greathorn's abilities (and we do draw extra cards with it on occasion). Pouncing Shoreshark is our primary main-deck removal spell, allowing us to bounce one of our opponent's creatures whenever we mutate, while flash can do some cool tricks like letting us make Scute Swarm copies on our opponent's end step so we can untap and immediately attack for the win. Finally, Illuna, Apex of Wishes is one of the most powerful mutate cards in Standard but is only a two-of in our deck since it only puts non-land permanents into play (which is oddly a drawback because we'd often rather be putting extra lands into play to trigger Scute Swarm). Thankfully, we can use it to find more mutate creatures and choose to put them into our hand rather than on the battlefield so that we can cast them and trigger all of our "whenever this mutates" abilities another time.

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Rounding out our deck is some early-game ramp. One of the biggest downsides of playing a deck full of mutate creatures is that they are mostly overcosted if we have to cast them naturally. This makes having cheap creatures on the battlefield to mutate onto essential to our deck's success. Pollywog Symbiote is the best of the bunch, often adding multiple mana each turn by reducing the cost of our mutate creatures while also allowing us to loot away dead cards in search for action as we cast our mutaters. Gilded Goose has the upside of flying, making it a good mutate target by allowing creatures like Auspicious Starrix to take to the air. Finally, Tangled Florahedron gives us a mana dork that can also be a land to trigger our Scute Swarm. While we don't have any other DFMCs in our deck because they don't work with Migratory Greathorn or Auspicious Starrix, Tangled Florahedron is solid, allowing us to get up to 28 total lands in our deck while also being another cheap creature to mutate onto in the early game.

Playing the Deck

The most important thing to realize about playing Scute-tate is that we can win without Scute Swarm. While the Insect can do some absurd things, just rushing out a quick Auspicious Starrix or Illuna, Apex of Wishes is sometimes enough to pick up the win. 

It's also important to know that we're going to get two- or three-for-oned on occasion when our opponent manages to kill our mutate pile. The good news is that many of our mutaters generate value immediately, so even if it does happen, we've hopefully gotten enough value that it won't be too painful. It's also important to be aware of what removal the opponent might be playing and try to organize the mutate pile to play around it. Sometimes, this means making some seemingly odd choices, like leaving Pollywog Symbiote as the top card of our mutate pile to play around Elspeth Conquers Death or putting Parcelbeast over a Pouncing Shoreshark even though it's less power, to play around Scorching Dragonfire. Thanks to Scute Swarm and the absurd value that cards like Auspicious Starrix can generate, we can win the long game in most matchups, so it's usually best to order our mutate piles in a way that is most likely to keep them alive, rather than in the way that gives us the most immediate power. 

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is a nightmare for the deck, and it might be worth adding more sideboard cards specifically to fight it. When we played against Four-Color Omnath, we were in an early position to out-value the landfall deck and win the match, but timely Ugin, the Spirit Dragons bailed our opponent out twice on the turn before they would take lethal. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished 3-2 with Scute-tate, losing to a UB Rogue-ish Flash deck that seemed like a really tough matchup, thanks to our opponent's endless counters and removal, and to Four-Color Omnath, in a match where we took game one and then lost games two and three after going off the turn before our opponent would die thanks to Ugin janking us out. Otherwise, we took down Clerics, Boros Cycling, and an aggressive Boros Warriors deck. In general, the deck felt solid. While I'm not sure it can be top tier thanks to the Ugin problem, it does seem good enough to rank up on the Arena ladder (especially against non-Ugin decks), and it's super fun to play, doing some truly spectacular things thanks to Scute Swarm!

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm pretty happy with the main deck. The sideboard, on the other hand, could use some tweaking. Bubble Snare is a solid removal spell in some matchups but lines up poorly with creatures like Lotus Cobra and Omnath, Locus of Creation that can generate a lot of value even while tapped down. While it adds more rare wildcards, Primal Might is probably a better option in the current meta. The other issue is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. More counterspells or Sorcerous Spyglass could help to buy us the extra turn we need to close out the game without getting our board exiled by the eight-mana planeswalker.

So, should you play Scute-tate? The deck is super fun and does some of the most spectacular things possible in Standard, so I think the answer is yes. While I don't think it's a true top-tier option, it is more than playable and can win a lot of games. Plus, as a bonus, you'll probably get to break Arena on occasion by Scute Swarming until its brain explodes! 

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Let's start with the bad news: there isn't really a way to make Scute-tate ultra-budget in paper because Scute Swarm itself spiked massively in price in the past week (when I first started working on the deck, it was ultra-budget, but that was when Scute Swarm was $1.50 rather than $11). Apart from Scute Swarm, the rest of the deck is already super cheap, and we can't really cut Scute Swarm because going off with its self-replicating ability is the big draw of the deck.

There is good news, however: we can make the deck super cheap on Magic Arena. By changing up the sideboard and replacing a couple of the less important main-deck mutaters, we can get the cost of the deck down to just eight rares (four Scute Swarm and four Gilded Goose—and if you wanted to go really deep, you could drop the Gilded Goose for something like Ilysian Caryatid, although I wouldn't recommend it) and zero mythics. This does mean replacing Sea-Dasher Octopus and Illuna, Apex of Wishes with Lore Drakkis, which looks weird in a deck without any instants or sorceries to return from the graveyard, but is still solid as a cheap way to mutate and trigger Auspicious Starrix and Migratory Greathorn. (Plus, we do have some instants and sorceries after sideboarding.) While the ultra-budget build of the deck is worse and there isn't any reason to downgrade in paper (the ultra-budget build is only $5 less than the budget build we played for the videos), it should be fine for less competitive unranked play on Arena, and you should be able to make just as many copies of Scute Swarm!

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As for our non-budget build, the non-land cards in the main deck remain unchanged, but we do get some meaningful upgrades in the mana base and sideboard. As far as our lands, we get Fabled Passage (which is great with Scute Swarm since it generates two landfall triggers) and some random Triomes. (I put in a mix of Ketria Triome and Zagoth Triome, but use whatever you happen to have in your collection. The important thing is that they tap for blue and green; the third color of mana isn't relevant.) Meanwhile, in the sideboard, we get Primal Surge as hard removal, Elder Gargaroth to shut down the battlefield against aggro creature decks, Confounding Conundrum to slow down the Omnath deck, and more counters and a Sorcerous Spyglass to fight our nemesis, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

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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