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Hour of Devastation: Budget Magic Updates


I wasn't sure I wanted to write a Budget Magic update article for Hour of Devastation. The combination of Hour of Devastation being a small set with the fact that some of our more Kaladesh-influenced Budget Magic decks (built around artifacts and the energy mechanic) don't really like Hour of Devastation cards all that much means there are fewer changes to be made for Hour of Devastation than there are for most sets. However, Budget Magic updates is the one thing I've gotten the most questions about over the past week or two, which means the endeavor is probably worthwhile. 

As such, today we'll be updating Budget Magic decks for Hour of Devastation but in a way that's a bit different than usual. In all honesty, there's a fairly high number of decks that don't really get significant improvements or updates from Hour of Devastation, so rather than talking about every single deck individually, we're only going to update decks that actually get meaningful upgrades from Magic's newest set. However, we'll also be adding a couple of twists to the update article.

Here's the plan for today. First, we'll start off by talking about a couple of broad themes from Hour of Devastation that impact a lot of different decks but in a comparatively minor way. These are things you should consider for all of your budget decks but are too small or repetitive to make it worth actually updating each list to reflect the changes. Second, we'll have upgrades for a handful of Budget Magic decks that get some sweet new toys from Hour of Devastation. While the number of decks that get major upgrades is small, a few decks get really important improvements. Finally, we'll wrap up by talking a bit about the impending Standard rotation. 

When it comes right down to it, the main reason I do these Budget Magic update articles is because part of playing Magic on the cheap is being able to play the decks you build for as long as possible. Our yearly rotation (happening the end of September, when Ixalan releases and both Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks drop from the format) throws a wrench into this plan. With rotation happening so soon, it might not be worth spending money to update a deck if the deck is going to cease to exist in a couple of months anyway. So, our final topic today will be a brief discussion of which of our Budget Magic decks are most and least likely to survive rotation and still be playable come September.

Meta-Considerations

Deserts

While I'm not going to update every single deck just to add some Deserts to the mana base, these lands are really good and really important to many different decks. We have two cycles of Deserts from Hour of Devastation: the ones that enter untapped and work like one-color pain lands, and the tapped Deserts that also cycle. Both of these lands are very playable and have low opportunity costs but go in different types of decks. 

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The enters-untapped cycle featuring Hashep Oasis, Ifnir Deadlands, Ipnu Rivulet, Ramunap Ruins, and Shefet Dunes can easily slot into just about any deck. As for power level, Shefet Dunes is near the top, followed by Ramunap Ruins and Ifnir Deadlands, with Hashep Oasis and Ipnu Rivulet bringing up the rear. These lands, while expensive to activate, work sort of like spells, but instead of taking away a spot from a "real" card in our decks, they just replace another land. While all of these lands have additional upside if you are looking to cast colorless spells like Thought-Knot Seer or Spatial Contortion, I plan on slotting them into just about any deck that can support them—the opportunity cost is just too low not to take advantage of them. For example, Shefet Dunes is insane in Mono-White Servos and WB Aristocrats but worth playing in just about any base-white deck that's looking to win with creatures. Hashep Oasis is fine in any green creature deck, and Ifnir Deadlands is an easy inclusion in just about any black deck (with Zombies coming to mind).

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As for the cycling Deserts, I'll play them in just about any mono-colored deck (like Mono-White Servos and Mono-U Reservoir) and in some two-color decks as well. We've seen some decks playing off-color cycling duals just for the cycling ability, and the new common Deserts work the same way, except they are so cheap that this plan now works for budget players too! While they do get better if we have some Desert synergies (like Hour of Promise) or cycling synergies (like Drake Haven), they are fine on their own as well.

Best at What They Do

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The other meta-theme I wanted to mention are a few cards that are really, really good at what they do, to the point where they slot into any deck that's looking for their effect. Abrade is the new default red removal spell for any deck that's isn't heavily invested into energy or really in love with damage (like Two-Tix Red, which we'll talk about in a minute), which means it slots into the main deck of things like Combustible Ramp and Temur Summonings, and into the sideboard of just about every red deck. Sunscourge Champion is a great sideboard card against aggressive decks, and I'll likely have it in the sideboard of a lot of white decks moving forward. Crook of Condemnation is the same way—a great sideboard card that can fit into a lot of decks. While we'll have to see what the post-Pro Tour metagame looks like, right now Crook of Condemnation is solid against WU Monument and various Emerge decks, not to mention Torrential Gearhulk, which is still an extremely popular control finisher.  

Deck Updates

Two-Tix Red

See the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Sunscorched Desert, +4 Ramunap Ruins, +4 Earthshaker Khenra, +2 Trial of Zeal, +1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

Subtractions: 7 Mountain, 3 Borderland Marauder, 2 Bloodrage Brawler2 Shock, 1 Reckless Bushwhacker

Two-Tix Red gets the most exciting Hour of Devastation additions of any of our Budget Magic decks. If you remember the deck, the main plan was to play aggressive threats and force through damage with things like Cartouche of Zeal and Ahn-Crop Crasher to keep our opponents from blocking. Well, Hour of Devastation gives us the perfect two-drop for the plan in Earthshaker Khenra.

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Earthshaker Khenra does everything we are looking for in a two-drop. While it isn't as big as some of our other options like Bloodrage Brawler or even Borderland Marauder, getting in two damage right away is generally better than getting in three or four damage the next turn (assuming nothing goes wrong). Plus, the fact that Earthshaker Khenra keeps a creature from blocking (and sometimes twice if the game goes long, thanks to the eternalize ability) makes sure it's good even later in the game when other threats like Borderland Marauder start to lose their value. With the addition of Earthshaker Khenra, we now have a massive 12 cards that make one of our opponent's creatures not block, which means it should be pretty difficult for most opponents to play defense and stay alive against our early-game rush of creatures. But what if we can't get our opponent all the way to zero with our early-game threats? Hour of Devastation has the solution to that problem as well!

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While Earthshaker Khenra is amazing, the Desert package of Ramunap Ruins and Sunscorched Desert might be an even bigger addition to Two-Tix Red. One of the biggest problems with the deck is that we really struggle to win when things go wrong and we draw too many lands. Having lands that deal damage mostly solves this problem. Instead of being dead draws, just a single Ramunap Ruins and a single Sunscorched Desert combine for five uncounterable damage, which means we only need to get in 15 damage with our creatures and burn spells to close out the game. Most importantly, the opportunity cost of playing this package is really low. Both lands enter the battlefield untapped, and paying a little bit of life now and then for Ramunap Ruins isn't really an issue, since we aren't planning on winning the long game anyway. 

Otherwise, we get a couple of small, non-Hour of Devastation changes, with a single Kari Zev, Skyship Raider in place of a Bloodrage Brawler and a couple of Trial of Zeals over two copies of Shock. While I still like Bloodrage Brawler, I've come to appreciate the power of Kari Zev, Skyship Raider after playing against similar decks a lot in recent weeks, especially with the addition of Earthshaker Khenra making it even harder to block a creature with menace. As for Trial of Zeal, it is a bit more expensive than we would like, but it gives us another late-game engine, since we have the ability to pick it up whenever we cast a Cartouche of Zeal

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One last thing about Two-Tix Red. While I didn't do this for our update, since it would increase the budget quite a bit, it's worth noting that the Deserts give us access to a lot of free colorless mana, which means we have access to cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Obligator, if not in the main deck, at least in the sideboard, where we can transform into a Big Red deck

Bounce'n'Mill

See the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +3 Fraying Sanity, +4 Ipnu Rivulet, +4 Supreme Will, +2 Island

Subtractions: 4 Void Shatter, 1 Censor, 1 Crush of Tentacles, 1 Pieces of the Puzzle, 4 Mirrorpool, 1 Sea Gate Wreckage, 1 Geier Reach Sanitarium

The upgrades to Bounce'n'Mill are strange. While they are relatively small in number, they massively increase the power level of the deck. The biggest gain is Fraying Sanity—one of the most powerful cards for a mill deck printed in years. While the enchantment doesn't do anything on its own, doubling the effect of all of our mill spells helps us close out the game much more quickly than in the past. 

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The biggest question about Fraying Sanity is how many copies to play, and for now I'm going with three. While getting multiples on the battlefield can be powerful (with two Fraying Sanity, one copy of Startled Awake mills 46 cards—often enough to empty our opponent's library), there's also a concern that we draw all Fraying Sanity and no mill spells. I can see the argument for running a fourth copy (probably over the main-deck Negate), but I'd want to playtest some games before committing to running a full playset of Fraying Sanity

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Ipnu Rivulet in Bounce'n'Mill is actually very similar to Ramunap Ruins in Two-Tix Red, giving us just a little bit more reach in the late game if we run out of action. There is a real cost to play non-Island lands in our deck (since we are relying on Engulf the Shore to stay alive), but our upgraded build actually has more Islands than the original, since we can cut all of the colorless lands we used to support Mirrorpool (which often worked like a worse version of Ipnu Rivulet anyway, milling a few cards by copying a Manic Scribe or Minister of Inquiries). Finally, Supreme Will feels like a massive upgrade over Void Shatter. While it isn't as strong as a counterspell, the fact that we can use it to dig for a Startled Awake or Fraying Sanity is nice. Bounce'n'Mill isn't really looking to play the hard-control game anyway, instead just looking to tempo the opponent out long enough to put together our combo pieces and close out the game, and in this context, Supreme Will is a great card. 

Esper Haven

See the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +2 Countervailing Winds, +1 Desert of the Mindful, +1 Desert of the True, +1 Razaketh's Rite

Subtractions: 2 Spell Shrivel, 1 Island, 1 Plains, 1 Censor

While Hour of Devastation did include a bunch of cycling cards, Esper Haven only gets a couple of small upgrades. Countervailing Winds gives us another counterspell that we can also cycle away when we don't need it, which makes it mostly better than Spell Shrivel, even if it isn't as guaranteed to counter something on Turn 3, since we need cards in our graveyard (although it scales well to the late game, where it will usually be a hard counter). We get a couple Deserts as additional cycling, but we can't afford to play too many, since we already have a lot of lands that enter the battlefield tapped, along with a single Razaketh's Rite, which gives us a cheap cycle when we have our Drake Haven or Faith of the Devoted and a way to find our important enchantments when we don't. Otherwise, we add a couple of Bontu's Last Reckoning to our sideboard. While I generally don't like the cheap wrath thanks to the downside of not untapping lands, there is some upside in Esper Haven, since we can use the mana we save on our wrath to cycle and maybe make some Drakes with Drake Haven

Temur Summonings

See the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Beneath the Sands, +4 Abrade, +1 Struggle // Survive, +1 Hour of Promise

Subtractions: 3 Natural Connection, 2 Spring // Mind4 Harnessed Lightning, 1 Nissa's Renewal

Temur Summonings is another deck that gets a few small improvements. Since we don't really make much energy, Abrade takes over Harnessed Lightning as our removal spell of choice. Beneath the Sands becomes our three-mana ramp spell of choice. Running out of lands is a real concern with this deck, so having the ability to cycle away Beneath the Sands in the late game is a big advantage over Natural Connection. We also get one Struggle // Survive, which should be able to kill just about anything in Standard thanks to all of the lands we get on the battlefield, and being able to shuffle libraries into graveyard will be relevant every once in a while (and in the worst case, we can always use the aftermath to make another token with Metallurgic Summonings). Finally, we get one Hour of Promise over a copy of Nissa's Renewal, mostly because it lines up well with our three-mana ramp. While we don't have any Deserts because we need a ton of basic lands to support Beneath the Sands, Nissa's Renewal, and Spring // Mind, being able to search up a Lumbering Falls and a Wandering Fumarole isn't bad. 

Gearhulk Stompy

View the original list and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Ramunap Hydra, +4 Resilient Khenra, +4 Rhonas's Last Stand, +4 Greenbelt Rampager, +4 Attune with Aether, +4 Narnam Renegade, +2 Kessig Prowler, +4 Hashep Oasis, +4 Sunscorched Desert, +4 Desert of the Indomitable, +4 Lambholt Pacifist, +4 Longtusk Cub

Subtractions: 4 Woodland Wanderer, 4 Noose Constrictor, 4 Servant of the Conduit, 13 Forest, 3 Holdout Settlement, 3 Loam Dryad, 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 2 Clear Shot, 4 Verdurous Gearhulk, 4 Tireless Tracker, 4 Duskwatch Recruiter

I almost didn't call this deck Gearhulk Stompy because the changes are so massive that we don't even have Verdurous Gearhulk in the deck! Basically, thanks to additions from not just Hour of Devastation but Amonkhet as well, we can be an all-in aggressive Mono-Green Stompy deck. Instead of being an aggro deck that's also looking to ramp into Verdurous Gearhulk with Servant of the Conduit and playing some janky mana to make Woodland Wanderer work, we can cut all of the slow, unfocused cards and replace them with efficient, aggressive options. 

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We have a few Hour of Devastation cards, including Ramunap Hydra, which is basically a Woodland Wanderer that requires a lot less work. Instead of playing a ton of different colors of mana to make our four-drop huge, all we have to do to make Ramunap Hydra work is play a bunch of Deserts that we want anyway. Rhonas's Last Stand gives us the biggest two-drop in Standard, and while it's a risky play because it costs us the opportunity to play things on Turn 3, there's a reasonable chance the Snake token can win the game all by itself if our opponent doesn't have a Fatal Push. Finally, we have Resilient Khenra, which helps us force through some damage and gives us something to do if we flood out thanks to eternalize.

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Probably the easiest way to think of this deck is like Two-Tix Red, but instead of being built around making our opponent's creatures unable to block, we look to go over the top of our opponent's creatures by playing the biggest, fastest creatures in the format. I'm not sure whether the deck is as good as Two-Tix Red, but it's worth mentioning that earlier this week, I was emailed a similar deck from a reader who managed to 5-0 a competitive league with his build! Either way, this build of the deck seems much better than the original Gearhulk Stompy deck. While Verdurous Gearhulk is a great threat on its own, it's also at its best when we have access to black mana for things like Winding Constrictor or at least Walking Ballista to dump the counters on for direct damage, and it's hard to go either of these directions while staying on budget. 

Combustible Ramp

View the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Abrade, +4 Magma Spray, +3 Ramunap Ruins, +3 Hashep Oasis, +4 Naga Vitalist, +4 Hour of Promise, +1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, +1 Tireless Tracker, +2 Sanctum of Ugin

Subtractions: 4 Harnessed Lightning, 4 Shock, 4 Evolving Wilds, 1 Blighted Woodland, 2 Timber Gorge, 4 Servant of the Conduit, 4 Wild Wanderer, 2 Rishkar's Expertise

For our last update, we have Combustible Ramp. While most of the changes are small and involve moving around removal spells and mana dorks, we do get one big change: the combination of Hour of Promise for ramp and Deserts to make some Zombie tokens. Hour of Promise is an amazingly powerful ramp spell, to the point where it's likely right to run some number of Deserts to maximize its value. The other big upgrade is we get one copy of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as an additional finisher. While one copy isn't a lot (we'd play more if budget weren't a concern), we still have a reasonable chance of finding the big Eldrazi when we need it thanks to Sanctum of Ugin, which we can tutor up with Hour of Devastation and then trigger when we cast Decimator of the Provinces.

Rotation

Another topic I've gotten a lot of questions about lately is rotation. Specifically, which Budget Magic decks can survive rotation, and which Budget Magic decks will likely fade away? This is important from an update perspective because you probably don't want to spend money updating a deck if it won't be a deck anymore in just two short months (also because if a deck is likely to fade away at rotation, you might be better off trading or selling some of the more expensive cards in the deck now and using that money to fund your post-rotation Standard decks). So, to wrap things up today, let's quickly go over all of our Budget Magic decks released since Kaladesh and discuss the chances that they survive rotation. If the deck was released before Kaladesh (which was the last time Standard rotated), it's pretty safe to assume that it won't be a thing after rotation this fall, although something similar could come along to make use of new cards.

  • Temur SummoningsFor the most part, Temur Summonings looks solid post-rotation. The namesake Metallurgic Summonings sticks around, as do most of the ramp and card draw. While losing Nissa's Renewal hurts, Hour of Promise is a fairly reasonable replacement. The big question mark is Part the Waterveil, which gives the deck its combo finish. If we get another extra-turn spell in Ixalan, the deck should be fine in its current form; if not, it will likely still survive but as a grindier value deck thanks to the loss of the combo finish.
  • Poisonless Infect (GR Pummeler): Poisonless Infect is 100% safe through rotation. It's basically a Kaladesh Block Constructed deck already, and the only (somewhat) important card it loses is Uncaged Fury, which can easily be replaced with other pump spells (in fact, many Electrostatic Pummeler decks don't even play Uncaged Fury anymore).
    Energy Fog / Turbo FogThe question here is Fevered Visions. While we get to keep most of our Fogs and everything else (like random removal and wraths) can be replaced, I'm not sure the deck can function unless we get a Howling Mine effect in Ixalan. While it's possible it could survive, it would take a significant rebuild (possible into a more ramp-style deck with Pull from Tomorrow as the main card-draw spell). At this point, we'll just have to wait and see what we get in Ixalan.
  • Paradox EngineWhile most of the deck is safe, Hedron Archive does rotate in September, and it is one of the most important mana rocks in the deck. That said, we may already have a replacement in Pyramid of the Pantheon, which produces even more mana (and we can get it active pretty quickly thanks to untapping it with Paradox Engine), although we do lose the ability to desperately sacrifice Hedron Archive to draw cards. My guess is that the deck will be slightly less powerful without Hedron Archive but still playable.
  • Infinite Bantharmonicon / Marvelous Paradox: Both deck are already dead thanks to the bannings of Felidar Guardian and Aetherworks Marvel, although I expect some sort of Panharmonicon deck will still be playable this fall.
  • Mono-White ServosMono-White Servos is another Kaladesh block deck. In fact, it only loses a single main-deck card in Stasis Snare (and we already have a great replacement in Cast Out). 100% safe to keep through rotation.
  • Sram Aid / Mono-U ReservoirI'm pretty sure both of these decks die at rotation, even though both get to keep their most powerful cards. The big problem is that most of the zero-mana artifacts (including Bone Saw and Cathar's Shield) will rotate, which means even though we'll will have Aetherflux Reservoir and Sram, Senior Edificer, we lose most of the cards that support them. While zero-mana artifacts aren't printed very often, it's possible that Ixalan surprises us and gives us more support, but if it doesn't, both decks seem unplayable after rotation.
  • Inspiring U-DraziAll of the Eldrazi rotate, so all of the Eldrazi-based decks are dead.
  • ZombiesThis is a tough one to figure out. While Zombies loses its single best card in Cryptbreaker along with another important card in Relentless Dead, I think it's possible that the deck survives in some form. We just got a bunch more support in Amonkhet block, and we know that Ixalan has a "creature types matter" theme, so while Zombies may no longer be tier one, I expect that they will still be functional enough but with some major changes.
  • Esper HavenEsper Haven loses some random support cards like Blessed Alliance, but since all of the cycling cards (and payoffs) are from Amonkhet block, it shouldn't have any problem replacing the pieces that rotate and continuing on for another year.
  • WB AristocratsZulaport Cutthroat is the main enabler of Aristocrats, which means the deck is probably dead unless we get something similar in Ixalan. There is good news though: the deck can easily morph into a WB Tokens list built around Hidden Stockpile and Anointed Procession and still be very competitive post-rotation. So, while the actual Aristocrats plan will likely end, something similar without the sacrifice / drain subtheme will likely not just be around but be pretty competitive.
  • Bounce'n'MillThe good news is that Fraying Sanity will still be around, and the enchantment has the potential to be extremely potent in a dedicated mill deck. The bad news is that Bounce'n'Mill loses pretty much every other important card, from Startled Awake to Engulf the Shore. Our best hope is that Ixalan brings enough support that we can build a new Mill deck from the ashes of Bounce'n'Mill, but the deck in its current form will be unplayable after rotation. Let's cross our fingers for Ixalan and hope for the best!
  • Two-Tix RedTwo-Tix Red loses some cards like Falkenrath Gorger and Incendiary Flow, but most of its best cards (all the "make a creature not block" stuff) will still be around. Plus, the random cards we do lose are pretty replaceable—cards like Incendiary Flow and random two-power one-drops are fairly likely to show up in just about any set. As such, Two-Tix Red should still be very playable post rotation, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see it being hyped as a tier-one deck as soon as Ixalan releases (considering that aggressive decks tend to do well at the start of a new Standard format).
  • Deep BantDeep Bant will mostly die at rotation with the loss of Spell Queller, Elder Deep-Fiend, and Tamiyo, Field Researcher. The good news is that the energy cards like Rogue Refiner and Servant of the Conduit will still be around, so it's possible the deck can morph into some sort of Bant Midrange build.
  • Sunmare WhiteSunmare White is another hard one to figure out. It will lose Thraben Inspector, Gisela, the Broken Blade, Lone Rider, and Always Watching, which are all very good cards in the deck. Thankfully, Glory-Bound Initiate, Aerial Responder, and Crested Sunmare will still be around. If we get some good white lifelink creatures in Ixalan, we might be able to just directly replace the cards that are rotating and keep playing the deck (plus, we already have cards like Sacred Cat as well, which could fit in the deck, although it's a big downgrade from Thraben Inspector). While we'll have to wait and see what Ixalan specifically holds for Sunmare White, the Horse is still very powerful, and I expect that there will be a shell for it after rotation. I'm just not 100% sure what colors it will be or what exactly it will look like.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! If you have any questions about the upgrades or about other decks we didn't talk about, make sure to let me know in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer! Likewise, if you have some sweet updates or post-rotation ideas that I didn't think of, make sure to let me know about those as well! As always, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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