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Modern Budget Magic Updates (Part 1)


While we update Standard Budget Magic decks quite often, one thing we get a ton of requests for (but rarely do) is updating Modern Budget Magic decks. Well, today we are going to start to tackle the Modern update problem with some of the oldest Modern Budget Magic lists. 

Unlike Standard, which is constantly shifting and changing due to rotation and new sets entering the format, Modern moves at a much slower pace. While all of the new cards printed in Standard-legal sets are also legal in Modern, it takes a lot more for a card to impact the older format, thanks to its massive card pool. There are a lot of cards in Modern that are simply the best at what they do, and it's unlikely that Wizards will put a card in Standard that does the job better. 

This being said, some of our Modern Budget Magic decks are more than three years old at this point, which means a ton has happened since we played them, with new sets, metagame shifts, and bannings. As such, even though there might not be a ton of changes to all of these decks, there's certainly some tuning to do. So, today's plan is simple: we're going to work our way through 10 of our old Budget Magic decks and update them for play today by getting rid of banned cards, adding in some new additions from more recent sets, and just generally fixing them up, with the goal being to make them as good as possible for our current Modern meta while still remaining budget friendly.

As you look over the lists, keep in mind that the changed listed are for main deck non-land cards only, however the sideboards and manabases have been updated as well, even though these changes don't show up on the additions and subtractions lists. Take special care to examine the manabases which have improved a ton in the past few years through cheap check lands, and pain lands as well as the printing of the enemy fast lands. 

One last thing before we get to the lists: moving forward, I'm planning on playing an updated Modern Budget Magic deck for the series once every month or two so we can see how the updates work in the current Modern meta, so if you have a favorite among the lists we update today, make sure to let me know so we can play it on video in the future!

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Chart a Course, +4 Avatar of the Resolute, +1 Remand, +2 Unsubstantiate

Subtractions: 4 Gitaxian Probe, 4 Mana Leak, 1 Become Immense, 2 Boon Satyr

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

UG Evolve needs a fairly big evolution, thanks to the banning of Gitaxian Probe. While losing the free cantrip isn't a huge deal in and of itself, it does mean that it's much harder to get enough cards into the graveyard to delve a Become Immense, so we end up cutting the pump spell too. Thankfully, Chart a Course is a great addition to the deck, actually generating card advantage rather than just cycling. Meanwhile, Boon Satyr is weird, and I can't even remember why we were playing it in the original list—it simply isn't powerful enough for Modern. Thankfully, Avatar of the Resolute is a great two-drop for a deck that puts +1/+1 counters on all of its creatures, making it a great replacement. Remand is cheap enough now that we can play the full four copies, with Unsubstantiate filling in as a bad Remand and a bad Unsummon to replace Mana Leak. Finally, the mana takes a huge step forward, with the original relying on Evolving Wilds to cast its spells. Today, we get three playsets of dual lands, most of which come into play untapped, all while staying under the $100 budget!

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Bomat Courier, +1 Springleaf Drum, +2 Smuggler's Copter, +2 Master of Etherium

Subtractions: 3 Thoughtcast, 2 Ensoul Artifact, 3 Myr Enforcer, -1 Frogmite

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

UW Tempered Steel is basically a budget version of Affinity that uses Tempered Steel as a payoff rather than more expensive options like Arcbound Ravager. Thanks to all of the artifacts in Kaladesh block, the deck gets a couple of big new additions. First and more important is Bomat Courier, which is the perfect card from the deck, getting in hasty damage on Turn 1, attacking for three once Tempered Steel is on the battlefield, and eventually refilling our hand after we empty it of cheap artifacts. Along with Bomat Courier, we get a couple of sweet new lands to help activate it in Aether Hub and Spire of Industry. Thanks to having more colored mana we can sneak in a couple of copies of Master of Etherium as a backup version of Tempered Steel that also ends up being our biggest creature in most situations. Meanwhile, Smuggler's Copter is just a two-of but gives us another threat that also helps to ensure we never run out of action thanks to looting. To make room for these new upgrades, we cut Thoughtcast, which is basically a Bomat Courier that can't attack, and Myr Enforcer, which can be clunky if our other artifacts die, since we only have 18 lands in our deck. Otherwise, we make a couple of small changes, maxing out on Springleaf Drum for even more sources of red mana and tossing in another free 2/2 (or 4/4 with Tempered Steel) in Frogmite, while cutting the risky Ensoul Artifact, which can easily be two-for-oned in a world of Fatal Push and Kolaghan's Command

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +3 Manic Scribe, +4 Glimpse the Unthinkable, +4 Fraying Sanity, +4 Cast Down

Subtractions: 4 Dream Twist, 4 Jace's Phantasm, 2 Crypt Incursion, 1 Trapmaker's Snare, +4 Doom Blade

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

UB Mill is a weird deck to update. The deck was $94 when we originally built it back in 2015, and it's $225 today, in large part thanks to a huge spike from Surgical Extraction, which was a four-of in the sideboard. As such, while our updated version is significantly over our $100 budget, it's actually cheaper than the original build is today. 

Apart from price weirdness, UB Mill gets a ton of huge changes. Glimpse the Unthinkable used to be extremely expensive, but thanks to a Masters set reprinting, it's now cheap enough that we can sneak it into the budget build, which is great since it's the most efficient mill spell in the format. Perhaps more importantly, Fraying Sanity gives the deck a huge payoff by doubling up all of our mill spells. These additions allow us to drop Dream Twist, which is a horrible mill spell, and move Jace's Phantasm to the sideboard. While Jace's Phantasm is a great backup plan for winning with damage, trying to kill the opponent in two different ways in the main deck isn't ideal. Dropping Jace's Phantasm gives us room for Manic Scribe, which has proven to be a staple in non-budget builds of mill in Modern. Otherwise, Cast Down is mostly an upgraded Doom Blade, so we make the switch. 

In the end, UB Mill seems significantly more powerful today than it was when we first played it, although Ensnaring Bridge is still too expensive to make it in the deck, which is a bit disappointing because the artifact is one of the best ways for a mill deck to stay alive against creature strategies. Still, the additions of Fraying Sanity and Glimpse the Unthinkable specifically make the current mill build much better than the original.

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Soul-Scar Mage

Subtractions: 4 Blistercoil Weird

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Blistering Rage (which probably needs a new name at this point) is a pretty simple upgrade: Soul-Scar Mage is a strictly better version of Blistercoil Weird thanks to an additional toughness (along with making our sideboard burn spells better). Otherwise, we update the sideboard a bit, with Tormod's Crypt replacing Gut Shot. Back when we first played the deck, Infect and Affinity were two of the most popular decks in the format, making Gut Shot a great sideboard card, but today, with Hollow One, Vengevine, and combo decks like Storm and KCI on the top of the metagame, dealing one damage for free simply isn't all that exciting.

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!.

Additions: +4 Steel Leaf Champion, +4 Blossoming Defense

Subtractions: 1 Dismember, 1 land, 2 Leatherback Baloth, 4 Vines of Vastwood

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mono-Green Stompy doesn't get a ton of additions by number, but the couple of new cards it does get are extremely impactful. The biggest addition by far is Steel Leaf Champion, which is perfect for the deck. Leatherback Baloth has long been a staple three-drop in the archetype, and Steel Leaf Champion is almost strictly better, offering more power and a pseudo-evasive ability that works really well with pump spells like Aspect of Hydra. While we do need to cut a couple of copies of Leatherback Baloth to make room for Steel Leaf Champion (just so we don't have too many three-drops), it's more than worth the cost. Otherwise, Blossoming Defense comes in to replace Vines of Vastwood. While Blossoming Defense offers less pumping power in the best-case scenario, it makes up for it with more efficiency, allowing us to pump a creature and (hopefully) deploy more threats in the same turn. For Mono-Green Stompy to be successful in our current format, we need to be as aggressive as possible to race fast combo, so dumping our hand as quickly as possible (and hitting our opponent for as much damage as possible) is essential.

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Remand, +4 Serum Visions, +2 Anger of the Gods

Subtractions: 3 Mana Leak, 1 Repeal, 4 Anticipate, 2 Pyroclasm

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The update for Eminent Domain is weird. We haven't gotten any new, efficient ways to steal the opponent's lands, so we're mostly focused on utility cards. While this might not be weird in and of itself, the strange part is that all of the "new" cards were actually around when we first built the deck—they were just too expensive for the budget. Remand replaces Mana Leak, and Remand is even better in Eminent Domain than in most decks, since our focus on stealing our opponent's lands makes it difficult for our opponent to recast spells after we return them to our opponent's hand. Meanwhile, Serum Visions replaces Anticipate, which really helps the curve of the deck. Ideally, we'll be playing a mana rock on Turn 2 and then stealing a land on Turn 3, which makes finding time to cast Anticipate hard. Meanwhile, we can cast Serum Visions on Turn 1 to set things up and curve out normally. Finally, Anger of the Gods over Pyroclasm is mostly a shout-out to our current Modern metagame, with lots of recursive threats like Bloodghast and Vengevine. Having a way to deal with these creatures permanently is important and makes Anger of the Gods a far superior option for Modern at the moment. 

You can view the original list and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Dusk Legion Zealot, +1 Pawn of Ulamog, +4 Legion Lieutenant, +4 Carrier Thrall

Subtractions:  4 Gatekeeper of Malakir, 1 Mogis's Marauder, 1 Vampire Aristocrat, 1 Dismember, 2 Rally the Ancestors, 4 Geralf's Messenger

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Rally Vampires gets a ton of upgrades thanks to Ixalan block providing some sweet new Vampires, which allows us to cut a bunch of cards that didn't completely synergize with the main plan of the deck, either because they weren't Vampires (like Geralf's Messenger) or because they were too expensive for Return to the Ranks to reanimate. The main plan of the deck is to play a bunch of Vampires, sacrifice them to drain the opponent with Kalastria Highborn or Blood Artist, and then get all of our creatures back from the graveyard to do it again with Return to the Ranks and Rally the Ancestors, which makes creatures that double up our sacrifice triggers like Pawn of Ulamog especially powerful. Along with adding the fourth copy of Pawn of Ulamog itself, we also get Carrier Thrall, which is like a mini-Pawn of Ulamog that is cheap enough to Return to the Ranks back from the graveyard. Meanwhile, Dusk Legion Zealot is great for the deck, giving us another Vampire body that doesn't cost us a card, since it draws when it enters the battlefield, and Legion Lieutenant gives us a legitimate backup plan for when our opponent finds graveyard hate by allowing us to go on the Vampire tribal beatdown plan (while still being cheap enough to work with our reanimation). 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The cost for adding all these new cards isn't really that high. Gatekeeper of Malakir is fine, but its kicker ability doesn't work with our reanimation, making it cuttable. Meanwhile, Geralf's Messenger is powerful as a drain creature but isn't a Vampire and is too expensive for Return to the Ranks. In the past, we played Geralf's Messenger out of necessity because there simply weren't enough good options for the deck, but now with a ton of new, cheap, effective Vampires to choose from, we can afford to cut some of the less synergistic cards. 

All in all, this amounts to a pretty big boost in power for Rally Vampires. While graveyard hate is brutal, having a cheap lord to allow us to steal wins by attacking is nice. Plus, the combo itself is significantly stronger thanks to the new, cheap, reanimatable Vampires!

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Arbor Elf, +4 Utopia Sprawl, +1 Garruk Wildspeaker, +2 Ob Nixilis Reignited, +2 Go for the Throat, +1 Cast Down, +4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

Subtractions: 2 Haunting Echoes, 4 Search for Tomorrow, 2 Golgari Signet, 1 Solemn Simulacrum, 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder, 3 Doom Blade, 4 Smallpox

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Death Cloud gets a major rebuild, but not so much because of the new cards that have been printed over the past couple years but because with two more years of deck-building experience, I can see some of the flaws with the original build. Haunting Echoes is a fun idea but more of a spicy one-of sideboard card than something you build your entire deck around, and not including the best ramp package in Modern (of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl) in the original build seems like a pretty major oversight. 

The end result is that the plan of the deck is the same—make a bunch of mana, stick some threats that survive Death Cloud, like Thragtusk or planeswalkers, and then cast a huge Death Cloud to win the game—but the updated build should execute this plan in a much more efficient manner. With the help of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl, we have a legitimate nut draw that is fast enough to keep up with most decks in Modern: playing Arbor Elf on Turn 1, Utopia Sprawl and Garruk Wildspeaker on Turn 2, and then casting a Death Cloud x6 on Turn 3! The original build simply didn't have this type of speed or power, which might have been fine a few years ago in Modern, but in our current metagame, where there are a lot of decks than can either actually or virtually kill you by Turn 3 or 4, having the ability to do something powerful quickly is extremely important.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00   $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The only downside to the new plan is that we lose Smallpox, which doesn't work very well with the Arbor Elf / Utopia Sprawl plan, but we get to replace it with Mwonvuli Acid-Moss for extra land destruction and ramp. Otherwise, we tune up the removal a bit, with Go for the Throat and Cast Down replacing Doom Blade, throw in Ob Nixilis Reignited as another planeswalker (and some card draw to help us recover post-Death Cloud), and we're good to go!

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Monastery Swiftspear, +4 Eidolon of the Great Revel, +4 Soul-Scar Mage, +4 Searing Blood, +4 Boros Charm, +4 Lightning Helix

Subtractions: 4 Hellspark Elemental, 4 Spark Elemental, 4 Keldon Marauders, 4 Searing Blaze, 2 Flames of the Bloodhand, 2 Magma Jet, 4 Shard Volley

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Burn benefits a ton from some semi-recent price decreases, which makes the deck way better today than when we first played it more than two years ago. The original deck was Mono-Red, not so much because that was the best choice but because we didn't have enough untapped budget-friendly dual lands to splash another color. Today, thanks to the printing of the enemy fast lands, we can be red-white rather than straight red and still fit (mostly) under the budget.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Apart from adding some powerful burn spells like Boros Charm and Lightning Helix, the biggest upside of reaching into white is that we get enchantment removal. Our original build of Mono-Red Burn was essentially drawing dead to a Leyline of Sanctity, but now thanks to Oblivion Ring and Wear // Tear in the sideboard, we have plenty of answers to the annoying enchantment. 

Otherwise, thanks to some reprints and new cards, we get to completely remake the creature base of the deck. Gone are Hellspark Elemental, Spark Elemental, and Keldon Marauders, and in their place we get two powerful prowess one-drops in Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage, along with Eidolon of the Great Revel. The new one-drops offer much more repeatable damage than the self-sacrificing Elementals they replace, while Eidolon of the Great Revel is hugely important for beating decks like Ironworks Combo, which are sometimes fast enough to race our burn spells without additional help.

The end result is that our updated Burn list is way more powerful than the original. Not only is it better in most matchups thanks to the addition of some more efficient burn spells and creatures, but it also improves in its worst matchups thanks to the white splash.

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Supreme Phantom, +4 Remand, +2 Detention Sphere

Subtractions: 4 Figure of Destiny, 4 Mana Leak, 2 Negate

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Spirits is a super-simple upgrade: we cut Figure of Destiny and add in the powerful new lord Supreme Phantom. Ideally, we'd play at least a couple of copies of Phantasmal Image too, but thanks to the clone's Humans-based price increase, it's tough on the budget. Otherwise, we make a couple of small changes to the utility spells, with Remand replacing Mana Leak and Detention Sphere coming in for Negate. Otherwise, the deck is pretty much good to go, since it already has all of the best Spirits. This being said, if you've got a bit more room under the budget, consider playing Path to Exile over some combination of Unsubstantiate and Vapor Snag (maybe four Path to Exile, two Unsubstantiate, and two Vapor Snag). 

You can view the original deck and watch the gameplay videos here!

Additions: +4 Metallic Mimic, +3 Wild Beastmaster

Subtractions: 4 Firedrinker Satyr, 3 Burning-Tree Shaman

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Finally, we have All-In Shaman, a deck that only gets a couple of new additions but big ones. The best new card for All-In Shaman is Metallic Mimic, which isn't just a pseudo-lord but a pseudo-lord that works extremely well with Rage Forger by putting +1/+1 counters on our Shamans as they enter the battlefield. The other change doesn't involve a new card; rather, we drop the underperforming Burning-Tree Shaman for Wild Beastmaster. I'm not sure why I overlooked Wild Beastmaster the first time around, but it seems like a solid three-drop for the deck. The primary plan of All-In Shaman is to go wide by dumping our hand as quickly as possible and hopefully win by attacking (and also by generating a bunch of Rage Forger triggers). Wild Beastmaster gives us a way to push through even more damage as we attack by pumping our team and works really well with both Metallic Mimic and Rage Forger, since every +1/+1 counter we get on it translates into additional pumping for all of our creatures!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! Which of the lists that we updated today should we play on a future Budget Magic? Which of our remaining (non-updated) Modern Budget Magic lists should we update next? Do you have any other upgrade ideas for these decks or questions? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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