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Budget Oathbreaker: Kaya's Path to Win

Today's Budget Oathbreaker deck is inspired by an episode of Against the Odds which really stuck with me: Kaya's Extraction. While we have several extra hurdles to jump through that Seth's original deck did not (limited to color identity and need to buff our deck up for multi-player), I think we can turn Kaya's Extraction into a fun and budget-friendly Oathbreaker deck.

Obviously, our Oathbreaker is none other than Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, but what Signature Spell should accompany her?

Kaya, Orzhov Usurper [RNA]

Let's look at our win condition in a bit more detail:

-5: Kaya, Orzhov Usurper deals damage to target player equal to the number of cards that player owns in exile and you gain that much life.

Unfortunately, that "target player" bit means we will likely struggle to take out everyone at once. In addition, if we spend the turns prior to Kaya's activation picking on a singular player (to amass the necessary exiled cards for the kill), we might draw more ire than we can handle.

So how are we going to let Kaya, an assassin, rampant on a killing spree? Well, we need to make sure all of our opponents are viable at all times.  While mass-exile is not a common effect, it does exist; namely in the form of mass removal of a specific card type (Merciless Eviction) or mass graveyard removal (Morningtide).

We are going to center our build around the latter effect. Why? 1. Mass graveyard removal is a more plentiful effect and 2. We can not control how many permanents and types thereof our opponents play. We can, however, mill cards into their graveyard directly to be removed or use board wipes for a similar effect.

Morningtide is a great candidate for our Signature Spell at only two cmc. However, with Modern Horizons we received a better option: Kaya's Guile.

Kaya's Guile [MH1]

While Kaya's Guile does have a higher cmc, that extra one{B} mana gets us a lot. Foremost, we now have an instant instead of a sorcery. Instant speed spells let us hold up mana during our opponents turns and, should removal be headed our way, use our Signature Spell in response. Kaya's Guile also offers us more flexibility. We can choose another effect in addition to removing all of our opponents' graveyards, such as forcing them to sacrifice a creature if they are attacking Kaya, or creating a 1 / 1 Spirit to block if we need an extra blocker. In addition, Kaya's Guile has entwine, which means for an extra {3} mana we can do everything!

Kaya, Orzhov Usurper and Kaya's Guile provides the core effects our deck needs to function, but we would benefit from some redundancy. Even though Kaya's Guile is an instant spell, as our Signature Spell, we can only cast Kaya's Guile when Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is in play. So what are some other ways to ensure we have plenty of our opponents' cards in exile?

Planar Void and Samurai of the Pale Curtain are great budget options to Leyline of the Void (which may be hard to come by due to a certain Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis). While not as powerful Remorseful Cleric gives us both a blocker to keep Kaya's loyalty up while threatening only a singular player (probably whoever attacked us).  Unfortunately, unlike Kaya's Guile which deprives only our opponents of their graveyards, in exchange for mass exile Planar Void and Samurai of the Pale Curtain will affect us as well. To support our rerouting of graveyard to exile, Mindcrank will turn that early chip damage into fuel for our mass graveyard exodus.

Since we know our aim is to either statically (Planar Void) or constantly (Kaya's Guile) exile graveyards, we can use this to our advantage by excluding cards in our deck which leverage the graveyard. For example Deadeye Tracker would normally be a great card. Yet if we play Deadeye tracker on turn one and wish to activate on turn two, we will likely struggle to find an opponent with two cards in their graveyard. If we play Deadeye Tracker in the late game, we may already have exiled our opponents graveyards several times, leaving the Deadeye Tracker with no viable targets.

On the flip side, we can include cards that leverage the fact that we are expecting our opponents to not have cards in their graveyards. For example, Gravestorm lets us pick an opponent, and if they can not exile a card from their graveyard, we are guaranteed to draw a card. Lucky for us, most of the time their graveyards will be in exile, giving us an effect similar to Phyrexian Arena for a fraction of the price. In addition, creatures like Eternal Scourge can be cast from exile and as long as Epochrasite dies, Epochrasite will come back, even if Planar Void is in play.

Speaking of draw we could use a relatively new card Bag of Holding. Bag of Holding does not work with Planar Void in play, but since most of our exile graveyard effects are activated by us (e.g. Kaya's Guile), we can time our use of graveyard removal to provide us some extra utility. There is also another great budget ramp option in the form of Dowsing Dagger. However, I opted to replace these two cards with Diabolic Tutor and Razaketh's Rite. Directly getting the card we need can be better than Bag of Holding as we can only hideaway one card each turn. Further, if we do not leave up {4} to utilize Bag of Holding it could be blown up, not giving us any card advantage. Similarly, while Dowsing Dagger is a good budget ramp card and we have a few cheap creatures that might be able to get through to an opponent, we will more often than not need them back playing defense. Especially since if some of them die, whatever they exiled returns.

Going for the Kaya kill is no doubt a slower strategy than what would be ideal. Especially as we need to uptick Kaya enough to use her 3 times. So how are we going to make it into the late game? First, we need to pillowfort. While Ghostly Prison is an epitome of pillowfort cards, it is outside of the budget range.  Instead we will be using Orzhov Advokist and Oath of Kaya to either ensure that our opponents can not attack Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, or are punished for doing so. Coupled with the seldom seen Farsight Mask, our opponents will have to think twice before sending damage our way. Sanguine Bond will help double up the Oath of Kaya and Kaya, Orzhov Usurper life drain effects, making it just a bit easier to get by. In addition, we will utilize a favorite wall of mine. Wall of Nets, a 0 / 7, is hard to remove via combat damage and as long as we have it around, we can pick off incoming creatures.

Despite all of these pillowfort effects and dissuasion, 20 life is easy to lose. So we will also be relying on the "golden pig" of our deck, Crumbling Sanctuary.

Crumbling Sanctuary [MM]

Why is Crumbling Sanctuary good? First, it replaces all damage with exile. Perfect! Crumbling Sanctuary is a superior mill.  Crumbling Sanctuary effectively takes our life starting life total from 20 to 50 (7 cards in hand, 2 in the Command Zone and Crumbling Sanctuary in play).  Further, any and all combat damage done to our opponents now turns into gasoline for when Kaya, Orzhov Usurper can finally go off. Not to mention the fact that the damage replacement effect might even discourage combat altogether. With tricky cards like this in our deck, who is to say we don't have a damage redirection spell to reflect back at aggressors (we don't but it is a nice bluff).

For board wipes we will be relying on the classic Akroma's Vengeance and False Prophet. False Prophet is particularly noteworthy as any card that can serve as a blocker for Kaya and exile multiple cards is pure value.

What else is in the deck? We have a small collection of creatures that double up value and take our deck into exile tribal territory like Triad of Fates, which can serve as targeted removal, card draw, or flicker effects. Dark Impostor, if we make it to the mid / late game, will pick away our opponent's best creatures while improving itself. Fiend of the Shadows and Kheru Mind-Eater will not only permanently exile our opponents' cards, but let us play them as well, given us perhaps some card advantage (they do not let us use our mana as if it were mana of any color).

So what does our budget deck look like:


To recap, let's go over the game plan. We are going to

  1. Reroute cards in the graveyard to exile, either statically via Planar Void or at choice moments via Kaya's Guile,
  2. Reroute damage to exile with our jank-tastic card Crumbling Sanctuary,
  3. Keep our opponents' graveyards full with wraths and mill.
  4. Pillowfort into the late game,
  5. Pick off key creatures and cards in hand with exile tribal, and finally
  6. Ultimate Kaya for the kill


Not on a budget? Let's check out some upgrades.

First, we can improve our pillowfort plan with Ghostly Prison and No Mercy. Our opponents can attack us, but only for the cheap cost of {2} and sacrificing whatever creature actually makes it through.  Our rerouting of the graveyard to exile plan can be improved with Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, and Relic of Progenitus. Sword of Body and Mind and Bloodchief Ascension will improve our mill plan. 

Of course our mana base can get overhauled. All the usual suspects for Orzhov lands Scrubland, Godless Shrine, can be welcomed in. For utility lands, I would add Myriad Landscape for ramp and color fixing as well as Vault of the Archangel. The Vault of the Archangel turns our somewhat weaker creatures with exile effects, into threats. Speaking of creatures Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a great inclusion and God-Eternal Oketra is a better Epochrasite. Eldrazi Displacer adds some eldrazi goodness and let's us start blinking creatures to the nether void if we have Containment Priest. Containment Priest powers up all of our temporary exile target creature effects, by making them permanent, should that creature try to return.  We will also toss in two more efficient tutors, Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor, to help us find our key cards or answers to whatever ails us at the moment.

So what does a no holds barred version look like?



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