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Budget Magic: Swords and Artifacts (15-Rare Budget Standard)


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Last time we played a Standard deck for Budget Magic it was Mono-Green, and while the deck was sweet, it sadly wasn't all that budget friendly on Magic Arena thanks to the number of rares required to build the deck. As such, I promised myself that the next Standard budget deck would be more focused on Arena. So today, we're heading to Standard to see if we can smash opponents to death with cheap artifact creatures and Sword of Forge and Frontier with a mono-white artifacts deck that takes only 15 rares to complete! How good are our new Swords in Standard? Is getting aggro with artifacts the way to compete on a budget? Let's jam some Standard and find out on this week's Budget Magic!

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Budget Magic: Sword-ifacts

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The Deck

Sword-ifacts is a mono-white artifact aggro deck looking to win by smashing opponents with cheap artifact creatures and Sword of Forge and Frontier!

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The core of Sword-ifacts is cheap artifact creatures like Hotshot Mechanic, Swooping Lookout, and Yotian Frontliner. Ideally, we'll flood the board with cheap threats in the early game, which not only allows us to chip in for combat damage to start lowering our opponent's life total but also helps turn on some of our most powerful payoffs.

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As I mentioned in the intro, our deck contains just 15 rares and mythics. Eight of them are artifact creatures that are simply too good to pass up considering our deck's theme. Skrelv, Defector Mite protects our threats from targeted removal and also ensures we can get Sword of Forge and Frontier hits in through blockers. Meanwhile, Steel Seraph offers an on-curve three-drop that also gives us something to do in the late game if we happen to flood out, thanks to the prototype mechanic. Most of the time, it's a 3/3 flier for three, which is solid; plus, the ability to gain some life or play offense / defense with vigilance is super helpful, especially against the various aggro decks that have become popular in Standard since the bannings.

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We only have a single removal spell in the main deck (although we have a bunch of additional removal options in the sideboard) in Annex Sentry, which is perfect for our deck since it's an artifact creature. While Annex Sentry isn't great at killing expensive, large creatures, that's fine—we're mostly hoping to tempo our opponent out with early damage anyway. We're probably in for a bad time if the game goes super long, especially if our opponent is playing control and has access to wraths. Annex Sentry offers a solid way to snipe a cheap creature, removing a blocker that's slowing down our offense while also upping our artifact count and adding a body to the battlefield. Even though we don't really care about poison counters, it's perfect for our deck.

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So, why are we filling our deck with cheap artifact creatures? We have two big payoffs that really want our deck to play as many artifacts as possible. The first is Patchwork Automaton, a two-mana 1/1 ward 2 creature that grows every time we cast an artifact. While Patchy might not look like much, in a deck like ours that is playing 29 artifacts in the main deck, it quickly grows into a massive, difficult-to-kill threat that dominates the battlefield. Sometimes, we draw multiples, and the Patchwork Automatons win the game more or less by themselves. We also have Michiko's Reign of Truth, which offers an absurdly powerful pump spell to force through extra damage. Pumping a creature equal to the number of artifacts and enchantments we control means it's often giving a creature +5/+5 or more, greatly speeding up our clock; then, it leaves behind a massive creature when it eventually flips. This flexibility—being a pump spell that turns into a creature—means Michiko's Reign of Truth is almost never bad. The extra damage helps us close out games by surprise, while we can also just run it out on Turn 2 if necessary, to get to the creature side as quickly as possible.

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In both paper and on Magic Arena, a huge portion of our budget is dedicated to two powerful support cards in Sword of Forge and Frontier and Invasion of Gobakhan. Sword of Forge and Frontier is an artifact, so it helps power up Patchwork Automaton and Michiko's Reign of Truth. More importantly, it offers a way to force through even more damage to our opponent as well as a steady source of card advantage. Plus, recent metagame shifts thanks to the bannings make the protection from red and green even more relevant, with Mono-Red currently being the most played deck in the format and Mono-Green showing up on occasion. On the other hand, Invasion of Gobakhan is mostly helpful against control. We can use it to snag a Sunfall or Farewell from our opponent's hand to slow down the sweeper by a couple of turns, which hopefully will give us enough time to close out the game with our janky artifact beats. It's also worth mentioning that because of Michiko's Reign of Truth and all of our one-drops, we're better at defeating the battle than most decks are. In our dream world, we play Swooping Lookout on Turn 1, Invasion of Gobakhan on Turn 2, and then Michiko's Reign of Truth on Turn 3 to pump the Swooping Lookout and defeat the battle, giving us a way to grow our team that can snowball into an easy win and additional wrath protection. While these cards are expensive, they are so important to making our strategy work that they are worth spending half (or even more, in paper) of our budget on.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we finished 3-3 with the deck at Mythic on Magic Arena, and the record is even a bit better than that because the one loss you didn't see was a duplicate matchup against UB Control where I scooped on Turn 3 once I realized what our opponent was up to. While we probably would have lost anyway because control is a tricky matchup, we'll never know for sure. We also came super close to beating Esper—arguably the best deck in Standard—coming just one point of damage short of closing out the game before our opponent managed to stabilize with a Raffine, Scheming Seer.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I'm not sure there are any that wouldn't add more rares to the budget. That said, if you have some extra wildcards laying around (or are playing in paper, where the card is dirt cheap), you should add a playset of Mishra's Foundry to the mana base. The card is perfect for the deck, offering a threat that survives wraths, and it's even an artifact for Michiko's Reign of Truth purposes. Otherwise, I'd run the deck back as is.

So, should you play Sword-ifacts in Standard? I think the deck is a really solid budget option, especially for Magic Arena players looking for a low-rare-count deck. The deck clearly showed that it can compete at the highest levels of Standard, and smashing people with a Sword is strangely nostalgic. Actually, if there's one big takeaway from the deck, it's that Sword of Forge and Frontier might be underrated in our current post-ban Standard format. The equipment is pretty absurd in a deck full of cheap, sometimes evasive creatures, and it was the card we wanted to draw most in a lot of matchups. The combination of extra damage and extra cards is super powerful.

Ultra-Budget Sword-ifacts

As far as paper is concerned, there are really only two expensive cards in the deck: Invasion of Gobakhan and Sword of Forge and Frontier. Sadly, those are also two of the most important cards in the deck. If necessary, you could cut some of them and replace them with more removal like Ossification, but the deck will be a lot less explosive and fun.

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As far as the non-budget build of Sword-ifacts, the changes mostly come to the mana base and sideboard. One of the toughest matchups for the deck is sweeper-heavy control like Domain and UW or Esper. Adding Skrelv's Hive and Wedding Announcement to the sideboard should help solve this problem, while cards like Mirrex and Mishra's Foundry help us get some extra value from our lands. In paper, these changes only add about $65 to the budget, with a big chunk of that being a single The Wandering Emperor, which isn't 100% necessary. On the other hand, on Arena, the deck price more than doubles from 15 rares to 31 rares, although many of the additions are Standard staples that you might already have in your collection, which could help keep the price down.

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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