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Budget Magic Updates for Kaladesh

Last weekend, we saw the official release of Kaladesh, which—along with the rotations of Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins—gives us a brand new Standard format! As a result, Standard today looks a lot different than it did just a few short weeks ago. Whenever we have a set release, and especially when we have a rotation, I get a ton of questions about upgrading old Budget Magic decks, which makes sense. Playing Magic on a budget isn't just about building decks on the cheap but playing them for as long as possible before having to put out more money to buy a brand-new deck. Plus, when you find a deck you really like, it's hard to give it up unless it's absolutely necessary. 

With this in mind, our goal for today is simple: update old Budget Magic decks so they will be legal and (hopefully) playable in Kaladesh Standard. I was surprised to find that, even with rotation, most of the decks we've played over the past six months are still functional and still come in under budget, with a handful of changes. So, here's how this will work. First, we'll have the updated deck list (and I'll link to the original, in case you want to see the old list or watch the videos). Then, we'll have a list of the changes to the main deck (all of the sideboards and mana bases have been updated as well, but they aren't that interesting to talk about), followed by a brief discussion of what the changes do to the deck, before wrapping up by talking a little bit about how playable the deck may be in Kaladesh Standard. Then, it's on to the next deck! Since we have a ton of decks to cover today (I updated every Standard Budget Magic deck all the way back to the release of Oath of the Gatewatch), I'm not going to go super in-depth on any individual deck, so if you have questions or suggestions, make sure to let me know in the comments. Anyway, let's get to it!

Mono-U Brains

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $20 (9 tix) Standard Mono-U Brains


Down: −2 Grip of the Roil, −1 Disperse, −4 Mage-Ring Network.

Up: +3 Metallurgic Summonings, +4 Island


Oddly, the biggest loss for Mono-U Brains is a land: Mage-Ring Network. Basically, Mono-U Brains had two plans, the first being to use Brain in a Jar to cast a Rise from the Tides on the opponent's end step, which allows us to untap and immediately attack with 10, 15, or even 20 Zombie tokens, which is almost always enough to finish the game. The second plan was to get all the way up to 12 mana, which lets us cast Rise from the Tides and Part the Waterveil in the same turn so we can attack (and kill) our opponent during our extra turn. Essentially, to make Mono-U Brains work, we want to be able to attack with our Zombie tokens without letting our opponent untap, because if they get to untap, it's pretty common for all of our Zombies to die to sorcery-speed removal like Fumigate, Declaration in Stone, and the like. 

Without Mage-Ring Network, it's very unlikely that we'll ever get all the way up to 12 mana, so we have a different Plan B: Metallurgic Summonings. While we can't keep our opponent from untapping, we can simply make a bunch of Construct tokens, which means we don't get blown out by a single Declaration in Stone, and even if our opponent wraths our board with a Fumigate, we can rebuild by casting a bunch of card-draw spells (to make more Constructs) and use the second ability on Metallurgic Summonings to get all of our instants and sorceries back from the graveyard to try again. 

The Verdict: 

I think this build of Mono-U Brains is still quite playable, but if you've been playing the deck for a while, you'll need to adjust the way you play. Before rotation, the plan was pretty much to stall out for as long as possible, because with enough stalling, the combo of Part the Waterveil and Rise from the Tides in the same turn would almost always win the game. With this build, we have a much more incremental game plan. If we cast a Metallurgic Summonings on Turn 5, it's very possible that we win without either Part the Waterveil or Rise from the Tides by making a bunch of Constructs with our mythic enchantment. The point is: make sure to get in some games before taking the updated build to an FNM. You'll probably have some problems if you play it like the pre-rotation build, but with practice, the potential is there for the upgraded build to be very strong. 

Insolent Red

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $45 (13 tix) Standard Insolent Red


Down: −3 Fiery Impulse, −1 Zurgo Bellstriker, −1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar, −1 Lightning Berserker, −2 Skin Invasion, −2 Sin Prodder.

Up: +1 Avacyn's Judgment, +1 Lightning Axe +1 Stromkirk Occultist, +4 Key to the City, +3 Harnessed Lightning.


Insolent Red had to undergo quite a few changes to be playable in Kaladesh Standard. While many of them are easy swaps (for example, Harnessed Lightning takes the slot of Fiery Impulse), some of them are rather impactful. As far as additions go, Key to the City is a huge one, giving the deck another free discard outlet for its madness cards while also making its powerful creatures unblockable and even drawing some fresh cards for a reasonable price. It's pretty much the perfect card for the deck. As for losses, it's mostly a bunch of one-ofs like Zurgo Bellstriker and Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which were good, but as one-ofs, they didn't actually show up in games all that often. 

The Verdict: 

Insolent Red is one of the decks that I'm the least excited to play in Kaladesh Standard for a couple of reasons. First and most importantly, we'll have an update to our Alchemist Burn deck coming up shortly, and if you want to play a burn-based red deck, I think Alchemist Burn is simply a better deck. Of course, if you really love madness and Vampires, there's nothing wrong with continuing on with Insolent Red; it might actually be better than it was pre-rotation—Key to the City is that good—it's just not my preferred burn deck. The second reason I'm not a huge fan of Alchemist Burn anymore is that we've seen some other good and similar options emerge, like the RB Aggro deck that performed well on week one of Kaladesh Standard. While RB Aggro isn't as budget friendly thanks to Smuggler's Copter, if you're looking to splurge a bit, it does offer a more tested option that will play somewhat the same as Insolent Red. 

Ever After Reanimator

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $99 (75 tix) Standard Ever After Reanimator


Down: −4 Gather the Pack, −1 Languish, −3 Dragonlord Kolaghan, −3 Dragonlord Atarka, −2 Duress, −2 Tormenting Voice, −1 Corrupted Grafstone.

Up: +1 Greenwarden of Murasa +3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, +3 Omnath, Locus of Rage, +1 Radiant Flames +4 Cathartic Reunion, +4 Grapple with the Past.


Ever After Reanimator might be the strangest upgrade on our entire list. On one hand, the support cards in the deck are way, way better than they were when we originally played Ever After Reanimator back in May. Back then, we didn't have access to Grapple with the Past or Cathartic Reunion, which are both incredibly powerful ways to fill the graveyard and set up reanimation. On the other hand, one of the reasons we built Ever After Reanimator in the first place was because reanimating Dragonlord Kolaghan and Dragonlord Atarka at the same time was so powerful, giving us 14 hasty, evasive damage, while also killing some of our opponent's stuff, and now both Dragonlords have rotated into the great beyond. 

In Kaladesh Standard, the reanimation targets are horrible, especially when trying to build on a budget. The biggest problem is that nearly all of the "fatties" in Standard have "when cast" triggers, which means reanimating things like Decimator of the Provinces and Desolation Twin just isn't that exciting. Emrakul, the Promised End is an option, even though we wouldn't get to steal our opponent's turn, but we really only have the budget for one Eldrazi Titan, so I decided to go with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, which has the upside of being indestructible along with being able to win through blockers by exiling away the opponent's library. As our secondary target, the best I could come up with is Omnath, Locus of Rage, which I'm not sure is very good. If you have any other ideas for better reanimation targets, make sure to let me know in the comments, because right now, the lack of "I win" reanimation targets is the biggest problem with the deck. 

The Verdict: 

I want my Ever Afters to say "you win the game," but right now, they say something like "you get a a slight discount on Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger." We put so much work into filling our graveyard, but when the payoff isn't immense, it may not be worth the effort. For now, I'm keeping this framework for Ever After Reanimator on the back burner—all of the key pieces survive the Battle for Zendikar rotation this spring as well, and if we get an amazing reanimation target in Aether Revolt or Amonkhet block, the deck has all of the enablers to be very, very good. So, play it now for fun, but keep watching for a new reanimation target to push the deck over the top.

Mono-White Angels

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $98 (40 tix) Standard Mono-White Angels


Down: −4 Hallowed Moonlight, −4 Pacifism, −3 Knight of the White Orchid, −4 Archangel of Tithes, −1 Emeria Shepherd, −1 Linvala, the Preserver, −4 Tragic Arrogance.

Up: +3 Hedron Crawler, +2 Thalia's Lancers, +1 Bruna, the Fading Light, +1 Gisela, the Broken Blade, +3 Gideon's Reproach, +3 Stasis Snare, +4 Declaration in Stone, +2 Cataclysmic Gearhulk, +1 Hedron Archive, +1 Quarantine Field.


Mono-White Angels gets the award for most changes required to be legal in Kaladesh Standard, with 21 of the 35 non-land cards in the main deck being dropped and replaced by new cards. That's a full 60% of the deck! Despite all of these changes, the deck itself may be even more powerful than when we originally played it thanks to the addition of Thalia's Lancers to tutor up our Angels, the meld combo of Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade, and the price drop of Declaration in Stone, allowing it to fit in under the budget. 

My biggest question about the deck in Kaladesh Standard is how it matches up with the meta. Remember, the original deck was built with one purpose in mind: beating Bant Company. Now that the Bant Company menace has rotated, where does Mono-White Angels fit? On one hand, we get to drop a lot of cards that were only (or at least primarially) good against Bant Company (like Hallowed Moonlight and, to a lesser extent, Tragic Arrogance) and replace them with more flexible and powerful options. On the other hand, the current Standard meta looks pretty aggressive, which makes me wonder if Mono-White Angels will be fast enough to stand up. 

The Verdict: 

I'm really torn on Mono-White Angels. The good news is we are naturally good against Smuggler's Copter thanks to our endless big fliers, and if we can stabilize, we have a lot of standalone threats that can close out the game quickly. The bad new is that, with so many changes to the deck, it will take some testing to know just how good the updated build can be. I think that it's certainly FNM worthy because its power level is fairly high, but beyond that, I really have no idea. If you play some games with the updated build, make sure to let me know how they go, because I'm really curious!

Alchemist Burn

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $53 (51 tix) Standard Alchemist Burn


Down: −3 Zurgo Bellstriker, −4 Abbot of Keral Keep, −4 Fiery Impulse, −4 Exquisite Firecraft.

Up: +4 Flame Lash, +4 Harnessed Lightning, +3 Insolent Neonate, +4 Speedway Fanatic


Alchemist Burn was the easiest of all the Budget Magic decks to update, because every single change was a straight one-for-one swap. As a result, it's also pretty easy to tell whether the power level of the deck as a whole has increased or decreased, since we can compare each card we dropped directly with the card that replaced it. So, let's break down the changes one by one. 

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First off, we lose three copies of Zurgo Bellstriker and replaced them with three copies of Insolent Neonate, and overall, I think this change is essentially a wash. Zurgo Bellstriker has more raw power as a 2/2 for one, but Insolent Neonate has a lot more value in the late game and a lot more synergy with the deck. Basically, we give up the ability to dash and one power for the ability to block (especially chump in the late game), the ability to loot (and potentially discard madness cards like Fiery Temper), and of course, menace, which can occasionally be relevant. 

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Second, we lose four copies of Abbot of Keral Keep and replace them with four copies of Speedway Fanatic. All things considered, this is a meaningful downgrade to the deck. Abbot of Keral Keep was extremely difficult to block thanks to prowess, and generating card advantage is a huge upside for a mono-red deck. That said, Speedway Fanatic isn't all downside: having haste means it can get in damage right away on an empty board, which can help us close out the game quickly. 

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You'd think that Harnessed Lightning would be a downgrade over Fiery Impulse because both typically deal three damage at instant speed, while Fiery Impulse costs one less mana, but after playing with Harnessed Lightning for a while, I think the opposite is actually true. I've had situations where I used my first Harnessed Lightning to kill an x/1 like Rattlechains or Toolcraft Exemplar, which means that even with no additional energy sources, the second Harnessed Lightning can kill an Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Mindwrack Demon, which is a huge deal. 

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Even though Flame Lash is an instant, Exquisite Firecraft is clearly the better card. Not only is it almost always uncounterable in Alchemist Burn, which is important in a world of Revolutionary Rebuff and Negate, but the difference between three mana and four mana is huge in a 22-land deck. While being able to cast Flame Lash at the end of our opponent's turn is nice, there will be times where it rots in our hand because we can't draw our fourth land, which was rarely a problem with Exquisite Firecraft

The Verdict: 

All in all, I think that the Kaladesh version of Alchemist Burn is basically on par with the original build as far as power level is concerned, which means it's still a very competitive budget option. That said, if you are looking to play an even more spruced up build, look towards the UR Fevered Visions deck. While the fully powered version is nearly $200, most of this comes from Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the mana base, and Kozilek's Return in the sideboard, and while these cards are good, you can definitely play without them for a bit while you're waiting to upgrade. So, while I think Alchemist Burn is a fine budget option, if you are looking to spend a bit more, consider upgrading to the UR build—Fevered Visions is quite the card. 

Mono-Green Aurora

Unfortunately, rotation killed Mono-Green Aurora, which is sad because the deck was a blast to play. There simply isn't a replacement for The Great Aurora or Gaea's Revenge, which were the two most important cards in the entire deck. 

UW Clue Flash

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $82 (25 tix) Standard UW Clue Flash


Down: −3 Thopter Spy Network, −3 Ojutai's Command, −4 Dimensional Infiltrator, −4 Thraben Inspector, −2 Clash of Wills

Up: +4 Revolutionary Rebuff +4 Spell Queller, +4 Selfless Spirit, +4 Mausoleum Wanderer.


The upgrades to UW Clue Flash are probably the weirdest of the entire lot. The end result is an extremely competitive deck but a deck that doesn't really share much in common with the original Clue Flash deck. Here's the problem: we lose Thopter Spy Network to rotation, and Thopter Spy Network was the "clue" half of "clue flash." Without Thopter Spy Network to make us an endless stream of Thopter tokens, we really don't have any motivation to play things that make artifacts, so we cut Thraben Inspector as well. 

Once both Thopter Spy Network and Thraben Inspector were out, it seemed pretty clear that the right thing to do was make a UW Spirits deck to take advantage of cards like Rattlechains. As a result, we cut the "Clue" package all together, and what we have left is a straightforward UW Spirits deck. While we can still play the flash game, the original spirit of the deck is gone (ironically replaced by Spirits). 

The Verdict: 

While I hate calling this deck UW Clue Flash, I think the end result is actually very competitive. There's a reasonable chance that some sort of UW Spirits deck is strong in Standard, and while it's possible our build could use some more upgrades like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Archangel Avacyn, I could easily imagine winning an FNM-level event with the above list, the cards and synergies are quite good. 

Naya Evolution

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $91 (29 tix) Standard Naya Evolution


Down: −1 Eldrazi Displacer, −1 Eerie Interlude, −1 Impact Tremors, −4 Elvish Visionary

Up: +1 Servant of the Conduit, +4 Duskwatch Recruiter, +2 Wispweaver Angel, +1 Aetherflux Reservoir.


The changes to Naya Evolution are actually pretty minimal. We lose Impact Tremors, which was our backup win condition, and four copies of Elvish Visionary. The replacement for Elvish Visionary is pretty straightforward in Duskwatch Recruiter. While Duskwatch Recruiter doesn't immediately generate value when it enters the battlefield, over the course of a long game, it can draw us way more cards than Elvish Visionary. Meanwhile, the replacement for Impact Tremors is a bit more interesting: Aetherflux Reservoir! One of the fun aspects of Naya Evolution is the ability to gain infinite life with Pious Evangel and draw our entire deck with Soul of the Harvest, which means that when we combo off, sooner or later, we'll draw our single Aetherflux Reservoir and be able to 50 our opponent out of nowhere. 

We also get two copies of Wispweaver Angel as a second infinite combo. If we get two copies on the battlefield at the same time, they can blink each other, creating an infinite number of enters-the-battlefield triggers and gaining us infinite life with Pious Evangel. This means we have not one but two different ways we can go infinite in the same deck, in Standard!

The Verdict: 

Basically, this deck is unchanged. It should be almost exactly as good as it was before, and maybe even better thanks to the power of Duskwatch Recruiter and Cryptolith Rite (I've been scratching my head all morning trying to figure out why the original build was missing Duskwatch Recruiter and still can't come up with a good answer). Plus, killing someone with Aetherflux Reservoir has to be one of the best possible ways to win in Kaladesh Standard, so not only is the deck just as competitive, but it's even spicier than the original!

GU Emerge

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos and read the article here:Budget Magic: $82 (52 tix) Standard UG Emerge


Down: −4 Leaf Gilder, −4 Whirler Rogue, −1 Deathcap Cultivator, −2 Foul Emissary

Up: +4 Filigree Familiar, +4 Servant of the Conduit, +3 Cryptolith Rite.


Considering that UG Emerge was pretty close to a Shadows over Innistrad block deck, it's not surprising that the changes are minimal. What's more surprising is that most of the changes are actually upgrades. We lose Leaf Gilder but get Servant of the Conduit in it's place, which is a pretty big deal because our deck is pretty mana intensive, needing double blue for Elder Deep-Fiend and then triple green for Decimator of the Provinces

Meanwhile, Whirler Rogue is replaced by Filigree Familiar, and while Whirler Rogue was very good in the deck, I'm a huge fan of Filigree Familiar in emerge-based strategies. Not only does it gain us some life while we are looking to set up our devastating end game, but it also draws us some cards while we are chaining together Elder Deep-Fiends. Finally, we throw in some copies of Cryptolith Rite, which means we now have the ability to hard cast our big emerge creatures like Elder Deep-Fiend and Decimator of the Provinces

The Verdict: As weird as it sounds, UG Emerge seems to have gotten significantly better thanks to rotation, with all of the changes being upgrades. Better yet, the costs of the updates are extremely minimal, so if you have the original version of UG Emerge already built, you can toss in just a few extra cards and be good for another six months!

GW Bloodbriar

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos and read the article here:Budget Magic: $83 (52 tix) Standard UG Emerge


Down: −4 Tragic Arrogance

Up: +4 Cataclysmic Gearhulk


Not much to say about this one—we simply swap four copies of Tragic Arrogance for four copies of Cataclysmic Gearhulk. While I think Tragic Arrogance is generally the more powerful card, since you get to leave the opponent with the worst of everything (while Cataclysmic Gearhulk leaves them with the best of everything), the fact that Cataclysmic Gearhulk comes along with a 4/5 body is a nice upgrade. More importantly, the combo of sacrificing a bunch of stuff to make a huge Bloodbriar still works with Cataclysmic Gearhulk, and when you make a 20/20 Bloodbriar, it doesn't really matter what creature your opponent chooses to keep with Cataclysmic Gearhulk

Evolutionary Dredge

See the original list, watch the gameplay videos, and read the article here: Budget Magic: $93 (23 tix) Standard Evolutionary Dredge


Down: −4 Den Protector, −3 Evolutionary Leap, −3 Gather the Pack, −4 Deathmist Raptor.

Up: +3 Noose Constrictor, +4 Scrapheap Scrounger, +3 Ghoulsteed, +3 Perpetual Timepiece, +2 Decimator of the Provinces.


Last but not least, we have Evolutionary Dredge, a deck that I was dreading to upgrade since it lost so many of its main pieces at rotation, including not only the namesake Evolutionary Leap but also the Den Protector / Deathmist Raptor package. Then, at this past weekend's SCG Open, a GB Graveyard deck made it all the way to the Top 32, and my hope was renewed that Evolutionary Dredge could work in Kaladesh Standard. 

Basically, Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor get replaced by Ghoulsteed and Scrapheap Scrounger (to trigger Prized Amalgam from the graveyard). While losing Den Protector hurts, it seems likely that the updated build will be even more effective at dredging. Meanwhile, Gather the Pack and Evolutionary Leap, two of our graveyard fillers, get replaced by Noose Constrictor (which works extremely well with Voldaren Pariah) and Perpetual Timepiece

Finally, we get additional copies of Decimator of the Provinces. With the old build, we could get away with playing a single copy because we had four Den Protectors and four Grapple with the Pasts to get it back from the graveyard when we needed it, but now that we only have Grapple with the Past (which we want to fire off on Turn 2 to start filling our graveyard with Haunted Deads and Prized Amalgams), we want to increase our odds of naturally drawing a Decimator of the Provinces because it offers a sure-fire way to close out the game with all of our random graveyard-based threats. 

The Verdict: 

Thanks to the fact that Wizards decided to print another set without any real graveyard hate, it looks like Evolutionary Dredge is good to go in Kaladesh Standard. While we lose a bit of the grindiness along with Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor, the updated build has even more potential to close out the game quickly, thanks to aggressive threats like Scrapheap Scrounger and Noose Constrictor. I'd feel more than comfortable playing this build at an FNM, and based on the performance of a very similar deck at last weekend's SCG Open, it may have the ability to keep up with even the best decks in Kaladesh Standard!


Anyway, that's all for today. If you decide to upgrade any of these decks, don't forget to change the sideboard and mana base too! While our discussion focused on the main deck and non-land changes, the lists should be 100% legal for Kaladesh Standard! As I mentioned before, if you have any more ideas for upgrades or any questions about the decks, make sure to let me know in the comments. As always, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at 


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