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Rivals of Ixalan: Budget Magic Updates

It's release weekend for Rivals of Ixalan, and thanks to this week's bannings, we not only have a ton of new cards entering the Standard format but a bunch of old cards leaving as well! This means it's time to dig through the treasures of Rivals of Ixalan and update some old Budget Magic decks! While buying cheap decks is one important aspect of playing on a budget, being able to keep old decks running efficiently for as long as possible is just as important because the longer you can play your favorite old decks, the less you will have to spend on new decks and cards! 

Thanks to the Temur Energy-infested Ixalan Standard format, we only had seven Standard Budget Magic decks since rotation back in September, and while we'll talk about all of them today, this means we have a bit of room left over to discuss a few Modern decks as well! While updating all of the Modern decks is a big project that will take several articles, we can at least get the process started today. 

One last thing before we start talking about the decks: remember that we are working with budget decks here, which means we won't just be adding Rekindling Phoenix and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca to every deck we update. While the goal is to update the decks to make them as powerful and playable as possible in our current format, we're also trying to keep the price tag to a minimum, so you won't have to spend an arm and a leg to keep your favorite Budget Magic deck up and running. Anyway, without further ado, let's get to the decks, starting with Standard!

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $43 (25 tix) Favorable Pirates

Additions: +4 Warkite Marauder, +1 Chart a Course

Subtractions: 2 Blight Keeper, 2 Hope of Ghirapur, 1 Never // Return

While we got a ton of new Pirates in Rivals of Ixalan, only a few actually have flying, which means that Favorable Pirates only got one new addition from the set. Thankfully, it's a good one in Warkite Marauder. Not only does Warkite Marauder gives Favorable Pirates another flying Pirate, but it also gives the deck a way to force through damage against opposing flyers, by turning them into 0/1s without any abilities. Otherwise, we add in another copy of Chart a Course to have the full playset, which mostly fixes a deck-building error from the original build. When Favorable Pirates originally came out right after the release of Ixalan, we knew that Chart a Course was good but still underestimated it. In a deck full of cheap flying creatures, it's the perfect card-draw spell, and running less than four seems silly in hindsight. 

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The other Rivals of Ixalan cards considered for Favorable Pirates were Kitesail Corsair and Siren Reaver, although both fall just short of making the deck. The problem with Kitesail Corsair is that it only has flying when it attacks, which means it's pretty bad when we want to play defense, and it's still only a 2/1, which makes it strictly worse than a card like Skyship Plunderer (which also isn't in the deck). As for Siren Reaver, it might be good enough as a 3/2 flier if we always cast it for three mana, but without any extra abilities, it's hard to cut another creature from the deck to make room.

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $100 (61 tix) Temur Miracle Grow

Additions: +4 Riddleform, +1 Shock, +1 Flood of Recollection, +2 Dive Down, +3 Lands, +4 Harnessed Lightning, +1 Invigorated Rampage

Subtractions: Green cards, 1 Unsummon, 2 Censor

Temur Miracle Grow is probably the strangest upgrade on our list. While it is one of the most changed decks, it's also one of the decks least impacted by Rivals of Ixalan, with a single Flood of Recollection being the only card from the set to make the deck. The reason for the upheaval is that the banning of Attune with Aether hit the deck hard. Rather than trying to make the deck work without its best green card (which is perhaps possible but would require a much more expensive mana base, and with Blossoming Defense being the only real payoff for being in green, it's simply not worth it), we instead just drop green altogether and turn Temur Miracle Grow into a UR Prowess build.

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The biggest change is Riddleform replacing Deeproot Champion, and while Deeproot Champion is a fun and powerful card, Riddleform is also very strong, especially on offense, where it gets in for three in the air every turn. Otherwise, we mess around with the removal a bit, adding Harnessed Lightning to support Aether Hub, add in a handful of more lands because Attune with Aether was counted as a land in the original deck, and use Dive Down as a replacement for Blossoming Defense, although it's much better at protecting our creatures than at getting in for extra damage. 

The biggest problem with the deck moving forward is that Attune with Aether was really, really good. Not only did it fix our mana, but it was essentially a land that also counted as a spell in our graveyard to pump Enigma Drake and trigger our prowess creatures. As a result, losing it really hurts. The good news is that there are still a lot of pieces to make an aggressive, spell-based deck work. The combination of Enigma Drake and Riddleform can steal a lot of games all by itself, and we actually have better burn spells and removal spells than we did in the original deck. All in all, this build of the deck should essentially be a more consistent but maybe slightly less powerful version of the original, but even with the changes, it still seems like a reasonably competitive option for Rivals of Ixalan Standard.

*Note* This is the old list. Don't play Ramunap Ruins, play two Mountains instead.

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $86 (52 tix) Revolt Treasure Ramp

No Changes

Revolt Treasure Ramp is one of the most unique decks we've played on Budget Magic in a while and also one of the hardest to update. While Rivals of Ixalan contains both huge Dinosaurs and more Treasure tokens, none of the options feels right for the deck. If you think back on Revolt Treasure Ramp, it cares about two things—big, expensive stuff that impacts the board immediately when we put it into play with Aid from the Cowl and cheap, repeatable ways to make Treasure tokens—and nothing from Rivals of Ixalan really hits the mark. The good news is that there are tons of cards you can try if you want. The combination of big mana and Aid from the Cowl means you can theoretically cast any huge, expensive thing you want, so let's talk about some of the cards you could test out for fun, but I'm leaving them out of the list, since I think they are sub-optimal.

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  • Form of the Dinosaur was the closest Rivals of Ixalan card to making the cut, since if we hit it with Aid from the Cowl, we're likely gaining some life right away, and then we are strangely well equipped to use the fight ability, since Verdant Sun's Avatar can gain us back the life we are losing. 
  • Zacama, Primal Calamity misses the cut because Aid from the Cowl doesn't actually "cast" creatures, which means we don't get to untap all of our lands. Zacama, Primal Calamity would be an auto-include in the deck if we did untap and could immediately gain life and kill things, but when we actually have to cast Zacama, Primal Calamity from hand to get the ability, it's slightly worse than Burning Sun's Avatar and Verdant Sun's Avatar, which do something immediately when they enter the battlefield. 
  • Zetalpa, Primal Dawn is similar to Zacama. It's great if we manage to untap with it, and it does give us a good blocker, but we really want creatures that do something immediately when we cheat them into play with Aid from the Cowl so if our opponent untaps and uses removal we are still getting at least some amount of value. 
  • Nezahal, Primal Tide would probably be in the deck as a one-of, since even though it doesn't have an enters-the-battlefield ability, it's really hard to kill and can draw us cards, but the fact that it requires two blue mana is a killer. While the mana of Revolt Treasure Ramp might be able to support it thanks to all of the enchantments that let our lands tap for any color of mana, running a double-off-color card still feels weird. 
  • The Immortal Sun probably deserves a sideboard slot, just because it offers a sneaky way to shut down planeswalkers and draw extra cards, but it's a bit too matchup dependent as a main-deck card to really be worthwhile.

As I said before, since Revolt Treasure Map has tons of mana of all colors, feel free to experiment with any or none of these Rivals of Ixalan cards. My guess is that they will be just barely on the outside looking in as far as the optimal versions of the deck, but playing Revolt Treasure Map isn't really about being optimal anyway. It's a crazy, fun deck more than it is a competitive one, so having a bunch of sweet new things to slam into play for free with Aid from the Cowl should at least keep the deck fresh for a few more months.

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $95 (15 tix) GW Cat Tribal

Additions: +3 Huatli, Radiant Champion,  +4 Radiant Destiny

Subtractions: 1 Heroic Intervention, 2 Vanquisher's Banner, 2 Lifecrafter's Bestiary, 1 Blossoming Defense, 1 Shapers' Sanctuary

GW Cats only get two new Rivals of Ixalan cards, but thankfully they are good ones. Huatli, Radiant Champion stretches our budget a bit, but it's worth it because the planeswalker is perfect for the deck. Not only does it naturally support the Cats theme of going wide with tokens, but it also fills out the four-drop slot, which was one of the biggest weaknesses on the Cats' curve. In theory, thanks to Pride Sovereign and Regal Caracal, along with our cheap embalm Cats, if we can keep Huatli, Radiant Champion on the battlefield for just a single turn, we should be able to ultimate, which should just win us the game, since we'll draw our entire deck in short order. Plus, using the minus ability gives us a way to not just get in huge chunks of damage but also gain huge chunks of life if we target our lifelink creatures. Basically, all around, Huatli, Radiant Champion is the perfect card for the Cat deck in just about every possible way and increases the power level of the deck significantly.

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The other big addition is Radiant Destiny, which works really well with all of our Cat tokens, since they not only benefit from the enchantment with a power and toughness boost but help the enchantment as well by turning on ascend, after which Radiant Destiny is basically a less restrictive Intangible Virtue, which is a Modern-staple anthem for tokens. While making a bunch of 1/1 Cat tokens is fine, turning all of those tokens into 2/2s gives us a legitimate plan for closing out the game quickly.

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As for subtractions, we basically take out all of the weird card-advantage artifacts and enchantments, and move them to the sideboard. While the upside of cards like Lifecrafter's Bestiary and Shapers' Sanctuary is that they generate huge amounts of card advantage in the right matchups, the downside is they can be too slow against aggressive decks like Merfolk, Ramunap Red, and Vampires. Moving them to the sideboard lets us bring them in against midrange and control, where they really shine, and miss out on the clunky main-deck draws against aggro. In sum, while only getting two cards, GW Cats might be the Budget Magic deck that benefits the most from Rivals of Ixalan because the two cards it does get are amazing in the deck, and their existence lets us move some of the more situational cards from the main deck to the sideboard.

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $93 (20 tix) Mono-Black Monument

Additions: +4 Pitiless Plunderer, +2 Yahenni, Undying Partisan, +3 Oathsworn Vampire, +1 Bontu the Glorified

Subtractions: 2 Arguel's Blood Fast, 3 Weaponcraft Enthusiast, 4 Syndicate Trafficker, 1 Vraska's Contempt

Mono-Black Monument gets a pretty significant upgrade with Rivals of Ixalan, since it can easily incorporate a second combo: Oathsworn Vampire and Pitiless Plunderer. Since we are already running sacrifice outlets and Bontu's Monument thanks to the deck's primary game plan of winning with Marionette Master, adding in the ability to infinitely drain the opponent out of the game by repeatedly sacrificing Oathsworn Vampire with a Pitiless Plunderer and Bontu's Monument on the battlefield is pretty straightforward and gives the deck another line of attack. More importantly, Pitiless Plunderer is good in the deck even without the combo, since it works like a backup version of Ruthless Knave, giving us another way of flooding the board with Treasures to draw cards with Treasure Map and eventually win the game by sacrificing them all with a Marionette Master on the battlefield. 

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To make room for the new combo, we cut back on Weaponcraft Enthusiast and Syndicate Trafficker, which provided our old backup plan (of sacrificing Servo tokens to Syndicate Trafficker with a Marionette Master on the battlefield), but this is likely fine because the new backup combo seems better in the deck anyway. Probably the best part of the update is that it adds an entirely new dimension to the deck, which will hopefully keep it feeling fresh and new for a few more months without spending much more money (since most of the cards we're adding are uncommons).

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $87 (36 tix) Mono-Green Monument

Additions: +3 Thrashing Brontodon, +3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Subtractions: 4 Crocodile of the Crossing, 1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade, 1 Servant of the Conduit

Mono-Green Monument gets the biggest (literally) addition from Rivals of Ixalan in Ghalta, Primal Hunger, which is naturally at home in the deck. Not only do we already have a ton of high-power creatures to get the cost down on Ghalta, Primal Hunger, but Rhonas's Monument is also extremely helpful, since it reduces the cost on Ghalta while also pumping creatures for an even greater discount. Otherwise, Thrashing Brontodon moves into the deck, offering a good body and a main-deck way to blow up things like Heart of Kiran or any of the flips-into-legendary-land enchantments. To make room for these powerful new additions, we trim back on Servant of the Conduit and Rishkar, Peema Renegade (dropping back to one copy is nice because it eliminates the legendary downside) along with Crocodile of the Crossing, which is powerful but not as powerful as Ghalta, Primal Hunger.

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The other exciting thing about Mono-Green Monument is that is seems to benefit slightly from the banning of energy cards. One of the biggest problems with Mono-Green Monument in the past is that is simply wasn't very good at passing the Longtusk Cub test thanks to the lack of removal, but now the Longtusk Cub test is much less important. This seems to give Mono-Green Monument a slight bump in playability, eliminating one of the biggest flaws with the deck and potentially opening the door for a huge Ghalta Stompy-style deck to actually compete in Rivals of Ixalan Standard!


See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $83 (40 tix) Mono-Black Panharmonicon

Additions: +1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury, +1 Ravenous Chupacabra, +4 Kitesail Freebooter, +4 Dusk Legion Zealot, +4 Field of Ruin

Subtractions: 1 Disciple of Phenax, Nekrataal, 4 Ravenous Rats, 2 Shriekmaw, 2 Brain Maggot, 2 Swamp, 2 Ghost Quarter 

Mono-Black Panharmonicon is just over a year old now, and we've gotten a ton of new toys in the past 12 months. First off, Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Ravenous Chupacabra are basically straight upgrades over the cards they replace: the underpowered Disciple of Phenax and the restricted Nekrataal. The same is mostly true of Kitesail Freebooter and Ravenous Rats. While losing a Mind Rot might be troubling, the fact that Kitesail Freebooter allows us to choose our opponent's best card rather than allowing our opponent to choose and discard their worst cards makes it a significant power boost. However, the one card that is the biggest upgrade for Mono-Black Panharmonicon is also perhaps the least heralded, as a lowly common from Rivals of Ixalan:

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Having an Elvish Visionary in black is a huge deal for Panharmonicon decks, since two-mana creatures that draw a card when they enter the battlefield are the foundation of a lot of Panharmonicon strategies. In the early game, Dusk Legion Zealot replaces itself and gives us a chump blocker, and then in the late game, it turns into a Divination, then Concentrate, then Opportunity as we start stacking up Panharmonicons on the battlefield. Plus, it adds a black mana symbol to the battlefield to help power up our Gray Merchant of Asphodel kill!

All around, Mono-Black Panharmonicon seems to be significantly more powerful today than when we first played it back in December 2016. While all Panharmonicon decks are slow and grindy, which means we can still get run over by fast combo decks, having a ton of discard helps. Plus, these new additions mean the deck should function even better without the namesake Panharmonicon, which is another important aspect of making Panharmonicon decks work.

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $60 (17 tix) Mono-Green Aggro

Additions: +3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger, +2 Dungrove Elder

Subtractions: 4 Kalonian Tusker, 1 Dismember

Not a ton to say about this update. If there's a budget deck in Modern that can take advantage of Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Mono-Green Aggro is the one! Whether or not the Elder Dinosaur proves to be worth a slot in the deck remains to be seen, but it's at the very least worth testing out. The other big addition is Dungrove Elder, which is powerful in a format that relies heavily on targeted removal. Having a huge hexproof threat with a Rancor on it is enough to beat a lot of decks on its own. To make room for the new additions, we cut back to two copies of Dismember, which is fine since our pump spells (Aspect of Hydra and Vines of Vastwood) can often work like removal spells in a pinch, as well as cut Kalonian Tusker, which was probably the weakest creature in the old build of the deck. As sad as it is to say, Watchwolf just isn't that impressive anymore, especially in a format like Modern with Turn 3 Karn Liberated and huge Death's Shadows.

See original deck and gameplay videos here: Budget Magic: $72 (17 tix) Simic Evolve

Additions:  +3 Avatar of the Resolute, +3 Vines of Vastwood, +1 Remand, +4 Mutagenic Growth

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

Wrapping things up today, we have Simic Evolve, which is in desperate need of an update thanks to the banning of Gitaxian Probe. A few weeks ago, we played Temur Evolve for Much Abrew, which is pretty similar to Simic Evolve, and while our record with the deck wasn't great, the experience did help guide our updates. Probably the biggest additions to the deck are a bunch of pump spells, which help the deck push through damage after the board gets gummed up; plus, Vines of Vastwood gives us a way of protecting our creatures. Meanwhile, Avatar of the Resolute is a great way to pump our evolve creatures, especially since we get +1/+1 counters on all of our evolve and undying creatures, which makes Avatar of the Resolute a huge threat on its own. If you're looking for a fun, aggressive deck to get started in Modern, Simic Evolve is a great place to start!


Anyway, that's all for today. What new Rivals of Ixalan cards are you adding to your Budget Magic decks? Did I miss anything sweet? Let me know in the comments! We'll have more Standard Budget Magic updates when Dominaria is released, and I'm planning on doing an entire article to update 10 more Modern Budget Magic decks at some point in the next month or two! 

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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