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Ravnica Allegiance Budget Magic Updates


When it comes to playing Magic on a budget, building cheap, functional decks is only half the battle. The other half is making sure you can play and compete with those decks for as long as possible, which means that updating decks when a new set comes out is essential. While rotation comes for us all, and sooner or later, every Standard deck will become unplayable, we still have a long time before the next rotation in September 2019. As such, it's more than worthwhile to update some of our past Budget Magic decks with new Ravnica Allegiance cards.

Since the release of Ravnica Allegiance (which came with a Standard rotation), we've played nine non-Ravnica Allegiance Standard Budget Magic decks. Our plan for today is simple: update those decks with new Ravnica Allegiance cards to keep them running as well as possible. While some of our decks today will get a ton of changes, thanks to the "five guilds in Ravnica Allegiance, five guilds in Guilds of Ravnica" structure of Standard, others will only get slight improvements. 

One last thing before we get to the decks: the main goal is to keep the decks as budget friendly as possible, so even though Hydroid Krasis is a perfect fit for a deck like Bant Climb, we won't be adding it to the deck. The same goes for some of the other most expensive cards from Ravnica Allegiance. Anyway, let's update some Budget Magic decks!

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Izzet Drakes here.

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Izzet Drakes is an interesting deck to update. While we change quite a few cards, most of this is simply reshuffling spells to better suit the Ravnica Allegiance metagame. For example, our original deck didn't play Lava Coil, which is an essential removal spell in our current format. As far as Ravnica Allegiance goes, the big new addition is Pteramander, which is essentially Drakes 9–11. Since our deck is overflowing with cheap cantrips and removal, it's pretty easy to get enough spells in our graveyard to cast Pteramander for one mana and adapt it into a 5/5 for another mana, giving us another massive flying threat. Otherwise, we update the sideboard for the current meta, including Entrancing Melody, which is sneakily one of the best blue sideboard cards in the format at the moment, since it steals Hydroid Krasis (no matter how big it might be) for just four mana. Toss a Blood Crypt into the mana base for the backside of Discovery // Dispersal, and we're good to keep janking people out with massive, undercosted fliers!

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Elfball here.

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Elfball undergoes a ton of changes with the release of Ravnica Allegiance—in fact, rather than being Selesnya, the deck goes Gruul thanks to the power of Rhythm of the Wild, which is the perfect card for the deck. While beating counterspells is nice, the main power of Rhythm of the Wild in Elfball is that it gives all of our mana creatures haste, which makes it even easier to combo off with cards like Beast Whisperer and Vanquisher's Banner, since now a card like Llanowar Elves is essentially a free (since we can tap it for mana the turn it comes into play) way to trigger all of our "draw a card when you cast a creature" effects. 

While dropping white does hurt a bit, since we lose Flower // Flourish as a finisher, this isn't actually a major problem. Thanks to Ravnica Allegiance, we can play one copy of End-Raze Forerunners to close out the game by pumping all of our Elves and giving them trample, while going into red allows us to play the potentially devastating combo of Grand Warlord Radha and Banefire, which, combined with all of our random mana Elves, can allow us to kill our opponent with just a single huge spell.

All in all, while the Elves themselves mostly remain the same, these changes represent a huge increase of power to the deck and make the snowballing spiral of card advantage and mana even more effective.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Golgari Reanimator here.

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Golgari is one of the Guilds of Ravnica guilds that didn't get a ton of new cards in Ravnica Allegiance, so there are not a ton of updates to make here. This being said, Golgari Reanimator did get one massive new addition in Priest of Forgotten Gods. While it might not look like much, Priest of Forgotten Gods is perfect for the deck, giving us sort of an aristocrats backup plan alongside Midnight Reaper where we can sacrifice our graveyard filler creatures like Stitcher's Supplier and Glowspore Shaman to keep our opponent's board in check and generate card advantage, while also filling our graveyard for our Izoni, Thousand-Eyed—our main payoff. Speaking of Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, Priest of Forgotten Gods also gives us a way to ramp into her naturally if we happen to draw a copy, so even though reanimating our big finishers is still our primary plan, our backup plan of winning the game by casting things fairly is a lot more realistic with our Ravnica Allegiance updates. 

The other big change to the deck isn't new, but it does correct what was probably an oversight when we initially played the deck: the lack of the Molderhulk / Memorial to Folly loop. In the late game, the combination of these two cards allows us to recast Molderhulk whenever it dies, with Memorial to Folly getting it back to our hand, Molderhulk being cast for free thanks to the number of creatures we'll have in our graveyard, and Molderhulk returning Memorial to Folly to the battlefield with its enters-the-battlefield trigger. This combo gives us a lot of inevitability while we're waiting to draw into our game-ending Izoni, Thousand-Eyed or a copy of The Eldest Reborn to get our reanimation plan going.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for UW Mill here.

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If you remember UW Mill, the game plan is simple: we play Drowned Secrets and Psychic Corrosion, keep our opponent's board in check with wraths and removal, and cast as many blue spells (preferably blue spells that draw us cards) as possible as quickly as possible to mill our opponent out of the game with our enchantments. While Ravnica Allegiance didn't bring with it any new mill spells for the deck, it does offer a couple of great utility cards.

Depose // Deploy is perfect for UW Mill. The front half offers a blue card-draw spell that also saves us a bit of damage by tapping down a potential attacker, while the back half gives us a couple of flying chump blockers that also gain us a bit of life. Meanwhile, Warrant // Warden is pretty much a strict upgrade over Seal Away for multiple reasons. First, it's blue, so unlike Seal Away, it triggers Drowned Secrets. Second, in our mill deck, putting a creature on top of our opponent's library is often better than exiling it under a Seal Away (which dies to Mortify, Knight of Autumn, and a bunch of planeswalkers), since we can simply mill it into our opponent's graveyard and be done with it forever.

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This being said, UW Mill does have one huge problem: Nexus of Fate. In game one, we pretty much can't beat Nexus of Fate (although in theory, our new additions help here too: if we can mill the rest of our opponent's library, we can win with the Sphinx from Warrant // Warden or the Thopters from Depose // Deploy). After sideboarding, we have Syncopate as a pseudo-answer, although in general, Nexus of Fate is still a problem. The best solution is to splash into black for Unmoored Ego, but this increases the cost of the mana base a ton, since we'd need a bunch more shock lands and check lands. If you have the necessary lands, I'd suggest going Esper to beat Nexus of Fate (playing as many blue–black dual lands as possible, with three Unmoored Ego in the sideboard), but for our budget build, just be warned that Nexus of Fate decks are a challenging matchup. We can win with our janky creature beats with some luck, but this is generally a matchup we'd like to avoid, if possible.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Draft Chaff White Weenie here.

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Draft Chaff White Weenie is all about playing aggressive, cheap white creatures; attacking as much as possible; and using some mass-pump spell like Pride of Conquerors to close out the game before the opponent finds a sweeper to disrupt our plans. The original deck was heavy on cheap fliers like Healer's Hawk and Rustwing Falcon, but this plan seems to have gotten worse, since there are a lot of powerful Angels and Drakes floating around in Ravnica Allegiance Standard to block our small fliers. As such, rather than evasion, the updated build of Draft Chaff White Weenie relies more on power, with cards like Snubhorn Sentry (a potential 3/3 for one) joining the fray. 

As for new Ravnica Allegiance additions, the biggest are Tithe Taker and Unbreakable Formation. Tithe Taker gives us an on-curve two-drop that also slows down our opponent's instant-speed removal (like Settle the Wreckage) and leaves behind a 1/1 flier if it dies, making it a solid addition to the deck. Meanwhile, Unbreakable Formation joins Pride of Conquerors as a mass pump spell. While not as aggressive as Pride of Conquerors since it only gives our creatures +1/+1, the upside of Unbreakable Formation is that it also gives us a way to counter sweepers like Fiery Cannonade, Kaya's Wrath, and Cleansing Nova, all of which are devastating to our deck. This flexibility—as a way to force through more damage when we need to along with giving us an out to some of the hardest cards for Draft Chaff White Weenie to beat—makes it perfect for the deck.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Overflowing Omniscience here.

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Overflowing Omniscience was probably the sweetest Budget Magic deck we played during Guilds of Ravnica Standard, and it gets even better (and spicier) with the release of Ravnica Allegiance. By far the biggest addition to the deck is Growth Spiral. While the ramp spell is very powerful in a vacuum, it's especially strong in our deck, since combined with more copies of Gift of Paradise, it allows us to cut creatures altogether (minus one Pelakka Wurm for lifegain) to blank all of our opponent's targeted removal.

The other big addition to the deck is Mass Manipulation. One of the weaknesses of Simic is that the guild doesn't get much real removal, with the original build needing to rely on River's Rebuke to stay alive while we were waiting to get Omniscience on the battlefield. In conjunction with all of our ramp, Mass Manipulation gives us a way to deal with multiple creatures with a single card. More importantly, rather than just killing or bouncing the creatures, it lures them over to our side of the battlefield, allowing us to block whatever creatures our opponent happens to have left over. 

Otherwise, the deck is basically the same: ramp into Overflowing Insight and Omniscience as quickly as possible, draw through our entire deck at lightning speed, and then finish our opponent by looping Overflowing Insights with the help of Gaea's Blessing until we force our opponent to draw their entire deck!

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for QuasidupliDrakes here.

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QuasidupliDrakes is the deck that changes the least with the release of Ravnica Allegiance. In fact, we swap out a single card, with the one copy of Beamsplitter Mage turning into a copy of Mesmerizing Benthid. While Beamsplitter Mage is sweet with Quasiduplicate on paper, in practice, it tends to die easily. Meanwhile, Mesmerizing Benthid, while more expensive, gives us another resilient and potentially game-winning Quasiduplicate target. Hexproof means that our opponent can't blow us out in response to Quasiduplicate with targeted removal, and once we start copying Mesmerizing Benthid, we'll not only build an army of 4/5 hexproof threats but also get a ton of 0/2 Illusions for chump blocking while we wait to close out the game by attacking with a huge Crackling Drake or a board full of Murmuring Mystic Bird tokens.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Bant Climb here.

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Bant Climb might be the hardest deck to update for Ravnica Allegiance. While it gets a ton of sweet new options, the biggest problem with the deck—bad mana—remains. In theory, the deck can have perfect mana now, with 12 shock lands, nine or 10 check lands, and a handful of basic lands, but with perfect mana, the lands alone would cost $160. Considering that the recent Hadana's Climb price spike has already pushed the build over budget, there simply isn't a way to make the good mana work while keeping the deck somewhat budget friendly. Likewise, perhaps the best new card for the deck—Hydroid Krasis—is simply too expensive for our budget build. If you're looking for a fully optimal tier build of Bant Climb, this $500 deck seems pretty solid.

The good news is that, despite the mana base problem, budget Bant Climb still gets some very powerful additions from Ravnica Allegiance. Incubation Druid gives us a mana dork to ramp into our bigger plays that can also end up with three +1/+1 counters to flip Hadana's Climb. Growth-Chamber Guardian gives us a sneaky source of card advantage that works incredibly well with our namesake enchantment, since we can use Hadana's Climb to put a counter on our first copy of Growth-Chamber Guardian to tutor up another for free, and Incubation // Incongruity gives us a removal spell that can also help us dig for our powerful payoffs. Oh yeah, and this doesn't even include one-ofs like Deputy of Detention and Zegana, Utopian Speaker

All in all, the updated version of Bant Climb, while far from optimal thanks to the mana base, still gets a huge boost of power from Ravnica Allegiance. Perhaps more excitingly, if you picked up the budget build back when we first played it, you now also have a path to upgrade to a tier Standard deck if you happen to have all of the shock lands and check lands (and preferably Hydroid Krasis) you need to make the mana work.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Dimir Winds here.

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Last but not least, we have Dimir Winds, our final Standard Budget Magic deck before the release of Ravnica Allegiance. While the Dimir guild wasn't supported in Magic's newest set, we still got a couple of powerful new additions to the archetype. By far the biggest is Pteramander, which gives us a Flying Men on Turn 1 to start our Favorable Winds beatdown plan that turns into a massive 5/5 flyer as the game goes along. This flexibility—being good on Turn 1 and on Turn 10—makes Pteramander the perfect one-drop for the deck. The other new addition is more tricky than outright powerful: Faerie Duelist. In some ways, Faerie Duelist gives us a flying version of Merfolk Trickster. While it enters the battlefield not quite as good, it does gives us a way to prevent some damage and maybe even kill a creature by making our opponent's attack unprofitable. Plus, unlike Merfolk Trickster, Faerie Duelist comes attached to a flying body, so it works with Favorable Winds

The cost of these new additions is that we lose some of the lesser flying Pirates (like Storm Fleet Aerialist), which means we also can't play Lookout's Dispersal at full power. Thankfully, Ravnica Allegiance solves this problem too with Quench. While not as good as Mana Leak, Quench provides another cheap counterspell to protect our creatures and disrupt our opponent while we are beating down with our evasive threats. 

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Finally, the sideboard gets a boost of power too, with the addition of Drill Bit and Thought Erasure. Unlike Duress, which is situational, having eight Thoughtseize effects is extremely powerful after sideboarding against most decks, taking threats against midrange and sweepers or removal against control. Since we have so many evasive threats starting on the first turn of the game, in some ways, Dimir Winds is the perfect deck for Drill Bit, which we should be able to spectacle with regularly, to the point where it might be worth moving the sorcery into our main deck.

Bonus—Modern Updates

As you probably know, we're slowly working on updating old Modern Budget Magic decks, but there are a couple of specific decks that get huge upgrades from Ravnica Allegiance, so rather than waiting until we get around to making them into videos, I want to leave them here for you now so you can get a head start. First up, we have Mono-Red Burn, which now gets to play a massive 20 Lightning Bolts along with Light up the Stage and Risk Factor, for an absurd amount of card draw for a Burn deck!

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Mono-Red Burn here.

Next on our list is Mono-White Humans, which is so out of date that we were playing Elite Vanguard over Dauntless Bodyguard. Along with the upgraded Savannah Lions, we also gain Tithe Taker to slow down our opponent and give us some resilience to sweepers as well as Unbreakable Formation as a way to save our team from wraths.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Mono-White Humans here.

While we played a spicy Hero of Precinct One deck for Much Abrew last week, Five-Color Mono-White Aggro didn't feel all that competitive (although it certainly was spicy). However, Hero of Precinct One felt like it had the potential to be very good in Modern in the right build. Thankfully, we already have a perfect budget home for the two-drop in Little Kid Green–White!

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Little Kid GW here.

Meanwhile, if you're a fan of making it so your opponent literally cannot play Magic (like with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Knowledge Pool, for example), Teferi Pool gets a huge boost of power, with Lavinia, Azorius Renegade giving us eight copies of Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to support the combo, while also improving our matchup against decks like Tron by keeping our opponent from casting expensive non-creature spells without a bunch of lands.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for Teferi's Pool here.

Finally, if you'd rather be beating down than locking your opponent out of the game, GR HasteBraid picks up some spicy new Gruul cards, with Gruul Spellbreaker being close to strictly better than Boggart Ram-Gang and Rhythm of the Wild offering a way to pump our creatures that also functions as main-deckable, budget-friendly hate for control decks playing a bunch of counterspells.

You can see the original deck and check out the gameplay video for GR HasteBraid here.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Hopefully, these updates will be helpful in keeping your Budget Magic decks fun and competitive in Ravnica Allegiance Standard as we head toward the release of War of the Spark in a couple of months! If you have some other ideas for updating these decks, make sure to 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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