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Budget Magic: UW Phasing Tribal Pseudo-Heroic (Standard)


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading back to Standard to take advantage of an extremely old mechanic that has recently been given new life: phasing! If you've been playing Magic for a while, you might remember the Heroic mechanic from the original Theros. Well, today's deck is looking to combine a couple of pseudo-heroic creatures—Stormchaser Drake and Illuminator Virtuoso—with the protective power of phasing, in the forms of Slip Out the Back and March of Swirling Mist. Since both Stormchaser Drake and Illuminator Virtuoso draw us cards when they are targeted by a spell, we naturally snowball and keep drawing through our deck until we eventually build Illuminator Virtuoso into a massive double-striking threat and kill our opponent in a couple of huge attacks! Is phasing powerful enough to power a pseudo-Heroic deck on a $97 / 13 main-deck rare / mythic budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Phasing Tribal UW Pseudo-Heroic

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The Deck

As the name suggests, Phasing Tribal UW Pseudo-Heroic is basically a heroic deck, even though there aren't technically any creatures with the heroic keyword in Standard. The idea is that we can play creatures like Illuminator Virtuoso and Stormchaser Drake that draw us cards when they are targeted with spells, overload our deck with cheap instants that can target and protect our pseudo-heroic threats, and snowball into a Voltron-ish beatdown kill, most often with Illuminator Virtuoso.

Creatures

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The core of our deck is our two pseudo-heroic creatures: Stormchaser Drake and Illuminator Virtuoso. Because both cards draw us a card (or connive) whenever we target them with a spell, and because our deck is overloaded with cheap targeting spells, Stormchaser Drake and Illuminator Virtuoso are absurd sources of card advantage, allowing us to churn through our deck at lightning speed once we get them going. And since most of our cheap targeting spells also protect our creatures from removal, they become extremely hard to kill. While Stormchaser Drake is solid in our deck as a card-draw engine, the real all-star is Illuminator Virtuoso. In fact, you could argue that the primary goal of our deck is to find, protect, grow, and win with Illuminator Virtuoso. Thanks to its ability to grow itself as it connives as well as some other cards in our deck (like Homestead Courage), it usually only takes two Illuminator Virtuoso attacks to deal the full 20 damage to our opponent and win the game!

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Rounding out our creature package are Delver of Secrets and Mavinda, Students' Advocate. Delver is pretty meh in our deck. While we do have enough spells that it should flip eventually, it doesn't do anything special with all of our protection and phasing spells, and, as a 3/2 flier, it isn't likely to be able to win the game by itself like Illuminator Virtuoso can. The main reason it's in the deck is that we needed another creature and it was the best out of middling options, especially if we're trying to avoid rares and mythics to keep the budget down. In a perfect world, the deck would have one more pseudo-heroic creature, but there just isn't another one in Standard right now. In reality, Delver's main superpower in our deck is that it often eats a removal spell, which is actually great for us because it's one less removal spell our opponent has to kill our good creatures.

On the other hand, Mavinda, Students' Advocate is absurd in the late game. In general, we don't want to play it until we get up to four, five, or six mana so we can use its ability to flashback a phasing or protection spell from our graveyard immediately to protect it, so it doesn't do much in the early game. But once it gets going, it quickly becomes unbeatable as we can reuse all of our protection spells to grow Illuminator Virtuoso and protect our board. Think of it like a weird not-quite-as-good-but-still-very-powerful version of Feather, the Redeemed that happens to be Standard legal.

Protection

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One of the unique things about our deck is that since our pseudo-Heroic payoffs offer card draw, we can overload on protection spells and still draw a ton of cards. While both You See a Guard Approach and Sejiri Shelter are solid, offering hexproof or protection, they don't protect against everything. A The Meathook Massacre or Farewell can still deal with our creatures, even if they have protection or hexproof. This is what makes our phasing spells—March of Swirling Mist and Slip Out the Back—so important. Since phasing essentially makes it like our creature doesn't exist until our next upkeep, it protects against quite literally everything legal in Standard, including sweepers and wraths that our other protection spells miss. Even better, we get to keep all of the counters on our creatures, and any auras we might have on them are protected as well. While the main plan of March of Swirling Mist and Slip Out the Back is to protect our own creatures, it's also worth mentioning that they can work as temporary removal spells if we phase out our opponent's creatures. This is especially relevant with March of Swirling Mist, which can target multiple things. We don't have any true removal in the main deck, so one way we can stay alive against a big board of creatures is by using March to phase out our opponent's attackers, buying us an extra turn of attacking to (hopefully) close out the game.

Other Spells

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Homestead Courage and Security Bypass, in tandem with an Illuminator Virtuoso, are essentially our finishers. Homestead Courage potentially can add four power and toughness to a Illuminator Virtuoso for just two mana, thanks to the +1/+1 counters it gives and the ones we can get from connive, which is exactly the amount of power we need to add to Illuminator Virtuoso to turn it into a two-shot kill threat as a 5/5 double striker. It also offers a ton of card advantage if we are targeting a Stormchaser Drake, basically giving us a two-mana Divination that also grows our creature. As for Security Bypass, its main purpose is to give Illuminator Virtuoso unblockable, making sure it can finish the game even through a board full of blockers. Turn 2 Illuminator Virtuoso into Turn 3 Security Bypass plus a protection spell is really difficult for most decks to beat!

The Mana

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In general, the mana in UW Phasing Tribal Pseudo-Heroic is fine for a budget deck (although Skybridge Towers is annoying because tapped lands are especially punishing for aggro decks that need to leave up as much mana as possible to cast protection spells), but I did want to mention it for one reason: the six rare dual lands in our deck are super expensive. We've got a playset of Deserted Beach and two copies of Hengegate Pathway, which together cost $68 of our deck's $96 budget. This means that the other 69 cards in the deck cost less than $30. As such, if you already have your Standard-legal dual lands, you can put this deck together for almost free since the next most expensive card in the deck is Sejiri Shelter at $1.23 a copy.

Playing the Deck

The main challenge of playing UW Phasing Tribal is figuring out when to deploy our threats. Delver of Secrets is fine to run out whenever. Mavinda, Students' Advocate shouldn't (usually) come down until we have enough mana to cast a protection spell from our graveyard. This leaves Stormchaser Drake and especially Illuminator Virtuoso. It's tempting to just run out these creatures on Turn 2. But the biggest problem with the deck is that we only have a handful of good threats, so running out a Virtuoso on Turn 2 and having it immediately die to removal is especially painful and can be game-ending in some situations if we don't have a good follow-up. With Illuminator Virtuoso specifically, I often try to wait another turn to play it so we can leave up a protection spell. It should win us the game if we can keep it on the battlefield for two or three turns, so playing off-curve is often worth it. That said, if we have a threat-heavy hand with multiple copies, it's usually fine to run one out on Turn 2. If we happen to untap with it, we are incredibly likely to win the game. If it dies, we can deploy the second one the following turn with protection. Oh yeah, if we have both Stormchaser Drake and Illuminator Virtuoso in hand, it's usually best to run out Stormchaser Drake on Turn 2 because if it eats a removal spell, it will help clear the way for Illuminator Virtuoso to stick around and win us the game. 

Another somewhat counterintuitive trick of the deck is to use our phasing spells during our own turn. Let's say it's Turn 3. We run out Illuminator Virtuoso with a Slip Out the Back in hand. If we're up against a removal-heavy deck, it's often best just to phase out Virtuoso right away (assuming our opponent is tapped out) to make sure it will be alive the next turn, when we should have multiple ways to protect it. If we try to do it on our opponent's turn, there's a chance we'll end up losing it to double removal or to removal plus counter.

Security Bypass should pretty much only go on Illuminator Virtuoso, unless we are really desperate to connive to find action. None of our other creatures are all that great at killing our opponent, and they all already have a form of evasion in flying. While it might be tempting to run out Security Bypass on a Delver of Secrets or Stormchaser Drake to start conniving, in general, it's best to wait until we draw a Virtuoso. Remember, the main goal of the deck is to find, protect, and attack with Illuminator Virtuoso to win the game in two attacks. Most of the time, we want to take the line that maximizes our odds of pulling this off.

One final note: several opponents brought in Archon of Emeria against us, apparently thinking we wanted to cast multiple spells in the same turn, but in reality, we're more than happy to cast just one spell each turn, to the point where I'm pretty sure having an Archon of Emeria on the battlefield is hugely beneficial for us since it makes it super easy to protect our creatures. If our opponent casts a removal spell, we can use a protection spell to save our Illuminator Virtuoso, and we don't have to worry about a second removal spell or our opponent countering our protection spell. Every time an opponent played Archon, we ended up winning pretty easily, which makes me want to try Archon of Emeria in our deck, probably over Delver of Secrets. While this change would add to the budget on Arena since we're trading a common for a rare, it doesn't really matter in paper since both cards are pretty cheap. If you happen to have some Archon of Emerias around, give them a try. I think they should be pretty good in the deck.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we finished 4-2 with the deck, with our second loss being a non-game to Jeskai Hinata where we learned that Hinata, Dawn-Crowned is a pretty absurd hate card against our deck since it increases the cost of all of our protection and pump spells, making it incredibly hard to protect our creatures. On game one, we lost to Hinata; on game two, we mulliganed to five, kept a one-lander, and never drew a second land. It wasn't an especially interesting match. Otherwise, the deck felt solid, with our other loss coming in that crazy topdeck war against UB Control where we almost managed to chain together enough March of Swirling Mists to stabilize at one life, only to have our opponent topdeck us back with a counter to force through lethal.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the worst card in the deck is very likely Delver of Secrets. It was decent at eating removal spells, but in a Standard with a very popular 1/4 flier in Raffine, it just isn't a very reliable threat. The problem is there isn't a great replacement. The deck would love to have one more pseudo-heroic threat to go along with Illuminator Virtuoso and Stormchaser Drake, but we don't really have one in Standard. I'm pretty sure whatever replaces Delver has to be a creature because 11 creatures (with three being Mavinda, Students' Advocate, which we really don't want to play in the early game) just isn't enough and leaves us at risk of the Bogles problem, where we end up with a hand full of spells that target creatures but no creatures to target. Next time I play the deck, I'm going to try Archon of Emeria, although that does increase the budget a bit on Arena. Regardless, feel free to experiment with the Delver of Secrets slot. Delver just isn't very exciting in our current Standard, even in a deck with a lot of spells and protection.

So, should you play UW Phasing Pseudo-Heroic in Standard? I think the answer is yes! As far as budget decks go, the deck felt super competitive. We had several Turn 4 kills, and the combination of card-drawing heroic creatures and phasing spells is really annoying for a lot of decks to deal with. If you like slinging spells, drawing cards, and growing big Voltron threats, the deck is probably the perfect Standard budget deck for you!

Oh yeah, as a bonus, the deck is pretty likely to survive rotation in September. We love Mavinda, Students' Advocate, which is a good finisher but not really foundational to the archetype, You See a Guard Approach and Sejiri Shelter are our two worst protection spells and will likely get replacements in Dominaria United (possibly with another phasing spell, which would be huge for the deck). So, if you do put the deck together, you'll get a solid budget option for the summer and possibly a decent deck to upgrade for the next year of Standard as well!

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We have two ultra-budget builds this week because what makes a deck friendly in paper and on Magic Arena is so different. In paper, turning UW Phasing Heroic into a $30 deck is easy: we just cut the six rare dual lands and replace them with Evolving Wilds and more basics. While this makes the deck incredibly cheap, it is worth keeping in mind that it does greatly lower its power. Because one of our main lines is playing Illuminator Virtuoso on Turn 3 with a mana up to protect it, adding tapped lands makes it more likely that we won't be able to leave up the protection mana, which, in turn, increases the odds of our Illuminator Virtuoso being killed, making it more likely that we'll lose the game. That said, if you are looking to put the deck together for as little cash as possible for casual play, this is a solid starting point. If you want a nice middle ground, plan to splurge on Deserted Beach since it survives rotation and will be in Standard for another year but forget about Hengegate Pathway for the time being and wait until we get a new rare land cycle in Dominaria United to finish upgrading the mana base.

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For our Magic Arena ultra-budget build, we make the same changes to the mana base but also an additional change: dropping Mavinda, Students' Advocate for Guiding Voice and a lesson plan in our sideboard. I consider March of Swirling Mist to be uncuttable and one of the most important cards in the deck, meaning you'll need to spend at least four rares to build the deck. The other mythic is a one-of Mascot Exhibition in the sideboard, which I assume most best-of-one Arena players already have in their collection since lessons are super popular in best-of-one. If you don't have a Mascot Exhibition, feel free to replace it with another lesson of your choosing. The mythic isn't essential—most games will end before we get to seven mana anyway—but it is a nice fallback in case the game goes super long for some reason.

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Finally, our non-budget build mostly gets an upgraded mana base, although it does get one big addition to the main deck and one to the sideboard. In the main deck, Ledger Shredder replaces Delver of Secrets. The Bird is super powerful in general, giving us another evasive threat that can keep us conniving through our deck to find our finishers. Meanwhile, in the sideboard, we get Archon of Emeria (with one copy sneaking into the main deck), for the reasons we talked about earlier. While both of these changes are great, the biggest improvement—by far—comes in the mana base, where all of our lands should now come into play untapped pretty much all of the time, with the exception of our MDFCs, which we often want to use as spells anyway.

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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