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The Most Expensive $75 Deck in Modern | Calibrated Blast | Budget Magic


Howdy, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to Modern to see if we can Calibrated Blast some opponents to death! The Modern Horizons 2 rare is pretty unique. It has the potential to offer 15 damage for just three mana, which is the best rate in all of Magic, although turning Calibrated Blast into a 15-damage burn spell takes some careful deck-building and a bit of luck. How can we maximize the power of Calibrated Blast on a $75 budget? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Calibrated Blast

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The Deck

Calibrated Blast is essentially a combo deck, but the combo is to resolve Calibrated Blast twice, which will (hopefully) give us enough damage to burn our opponent out of the game! Here's the plan:

Step 1: Find Calibrated Blast

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Calibrated Blast is a really unique card. For three mana, at instant speed, it reveals the top nonland cards of our library and deals damage equal to its mana value to any target; later, we can even flash it back to do it again for five mana. The primary goal of our deck is to resolve Calibrated Blast (which can be casting Calibrated Blast and flashing it back or resolving two different copies), which will hopefully give us enough damage to win the game. 

However, this plan comes with one big problem: to maximize Calibrated Blast's damage potential, we need to play a ton of lands (40 to be exact) and have nearly all of the nonland cards in our deck be as expensive as possible. What this means is that, in practice, our deck only has three cards that it can actually cast, and Calibrated Blast is quite literally our only way of winning the game. As such, the first and most important step to making our deck work is to find a Calibrated Blast. We do this by mulliganing extremely aggressively (we'll go all the way down to one card, if necessary) to find either Calibrated Blast or Throes of Chaos, which works as Calibrated Blasts five and six since Calibrated Blast is the only card cheap enough to cascade into. 

Step 2: Cast Calibrated Blast (Twice)

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The second step of our combo is to cast Calibrated Blast a couple of times, which hopefully should give us lethal damage since the rest of the non-land cards have extremely high mana values. We don't plan on ever casting Volcanic Salvo, Blinkmoth Infusion, or Autochthon Wurm. In fact, we hope that we never draw them. They are in our deck simply because they are the highest-mana-value cards in Modern that fit into our budget, offering between 12 and 15 damage with Calibrated Blast. We do cast Commit // Memory on occasion, with the front side giving us a pseudo-counterspell that can also get a hate card like Leyline of Sanctity or Void Mirror off the battlefield, although it's still a fine "hit" with Calibrated Blast since the mana value of a split card adds together both sides of the card. So even though we can cast the Commit half for four mana, it's technically a 10-mana-value card, as far as Calibrated Blast is concerned. 

These cards have such high mana values that no matter which ones we hit, if we resolve two copies of Calibrated Blast and reveal any of them, we'll deal at least 20 damage to our opponent and win the game. If we get lucky and our opponent cracks some fetch lands and plays some shock lands untapped, it's possible that we can win with just one Calibrated Blast as early as Turn 3, although generally, it takes two copies and we win on Turn 5.

Step 3: Lands

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The rest of our main deck is all lands. We can't really afford to play "real" cards like removal and counters because if we do, we'll end up spinning into them with Calibrated Blast, making the instant deal just a couple of damage and fizzling our combo. Thankfully, we do manage to squeeze a bit of extra value out of our land. Ramunap Ruins and Sunscorched Desert offer a bit of extra damage to help us close out the game after a Calibrated Blast. (They are especially helpful in games where one of our Calibrated Blasts fizzles by spinning into another Calibrated Blast or Throes of Chaos, leaving us just short of lethal damage.) Mishra's Factory can chip in for damage and is also a really strong blocker since it can pump itself into a 3/3, allowing it to block things like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. We also have Kher Keep to make chump blockers, Radiant Fountain and Swiftwater Cliffs to help make sure we can stay alive until Turn 5, and Forgotten Cave for some cycling value.

Playing the Deck

As I mentioned before, the first rule of playing Calibrated Blast is being willing to mulligan until you find a copy of Calibrated Blast. Under no circumstances should you keep a hand without a Calibrated Blast or Throes of Chaos, unless you've already mulliganed all the way to one. Thankfully, between having six copies of Calibrated Blast thanks to Throes of Chaos as well as London mulligans, finding a copy of Calibrated Blast usually isn't a problem.

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Other than mulliganing into Calibrated Blast, there isn't really a whole lot to do other than cast it and pray really hard to the Magic gods that it doesn't fizzle. The way our deck is constructed, we have 20 non-land cards that we potentially can spin into with a Calibrated Blast (actually, 19 because the Calibrated Blast we're casting won't be in our deck). Of these 19 cards, 14 are "hits" (i.e., they deal at least 10 damage—the amount we need for two Calibrated Blasts to be lethal) with Calibrated Blast (Autochthon Wurm, Commit // Memory, Volcanic Salvo, and Blinkmoth Infusion), while the other five (the three other copies of Calibrated Blast and two Throes of Chaos) are whiffs. Assuming we haven't drawn any other nonland cards (drawing more copies of Calibrated Blast and Throes of Chaos increases our odds of hitting, while drawing our high-mana-value stuff decreases them), this means that when we cast Calibrated Blast, we have a 74% chance of hitting a high-mana-value card that deals at least 10 damage. Our odds are even better if we're using Throes of Chaos to find Calibrated Blast, increasing to 78%, since we'll have two whiffs out of our deck. Even considering that we need to hit with both Calibrated Blasts to guarantee 20 damage, the odds are in favor of us winning the game if we can resolve two Calibrated Blasts.

Of course, we sometimes fizzle. While 74% or 78% is a solid rate, it's not 100%. Part of the fun of playing the deck is that there's a huge burst of fear and excitement every time you resolve a Calibrated Blast because even though odds are in favor of it dealing a ton of damage, you never know when you'll flip into another Calibrated Blast or Throes of Chaos and fizzle. 

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The only other thing we can do to increase our odds of winning is to try to deal some amount of damage with our lands. On Turn 1, it's usually best to play Mishra's Factory, if possible, because getting in an attack with it on Turn 2 is a really big deal. Even just two extra damage can combine with our opponent's fetch lands and shock lands to get their life total low enough that we can win with one Calibrated Blast (or win with two, even if one fizzles). It's also worth keeping in mind that Sunscorched Desert, as its name suggests, is a Desert, so we can sacrifice it to Ramunap Ruins to hit our opponent for two. While one or two extra damage here or there might not seem like a big deal, it all adds up, and there are plenty of games where the difference ends up being one attack from a Mishra's Factory or one extra Desert sacrificed to Ramunap Ruins.

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Oh yeah, the sideboard probably looks pretty strange, being three lands and two more split cards. While it would be nice to play more traditional sideboard cards, we can't really afford to bring in low-mana-value cards, or else our Calibrated Blast will fizzle. Blast Zone comes in as removal against decks with a lot of low-mana-value permanents, Scavenger Grounds fits graveyard decks (with the upside of being a Desert for Ramunap Ruins), and Nephalia Academy helps fight discard. As lands, they are easy to bring in since we can swap them for other lands, leaving the average mana value of our deck unchanged. Meanwhile, Consign // Oblivion gives us a way to bounce hate cards, while Rough // Tumble works as a bad Pyroclasm against aggro. Most importantly, both are split cards, so even though we're planning on casting their two-mana sides, their mana values are seven and eight, respectively. However, seven and eight aren't 10, which is the magic number for Calibrated Blast, so while it might be tempting to bring in all four copies of Rough // Tumble and Consign // Oblivion as removal, in general, it's best to sideboard as little as possible because bringing in Rough // Tumble or Consign // Oblivion will lower the average mana cost of our deck and make it less likely that two copies of Calibrated Blast will be lethal.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we finished 3-2 with Calibrated Blast, although we got the full Calibrated Blast experience along the way, with a bunch of tense moments of us waiting to see if Calibrated Blast would give us enough damage to kill our opponent. As the math suggests, it worked most of the time, though we did have a couple of brutal fizzles along the way. We lots to Affinity and Death & Taxes, both of which felt like really tough matchups. Affinity is fast enough that, with a decent hand, it potentially can kill us before we get enough mana to cast Calibrated Blast twice, while Death & Taxes has cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which are really tough for our deck to beat. On the other hand, we beat Esper Control, Abzan, and Enchantress. In general, Calibrated Blast is great against slower decks that allow us to live long enough to cast our namesake card, but it can struggle against very aggressive decks or specific hate cards.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck now that we've played some games, I'm not sure there's really much to change. The utility lands could probably be tweaked, depending on your local meta, but I think the build we played for the video is about as good as Calibrated Blast can be on a budget. We've got all of the highest-mana-value cards possible with the exception of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Emrakul, the Promised End, which are both just way too expensive for the budget, especially considering that we'd just be using them for Calibrated Blast fodder and not actually casting them.

So, should you play Calibrated Blast in Modern? I think the answer is yes, although I don't think I'd want Calibrated Blast to be my only Modern deck. In many ways, Calibrated Blast reminds me of a more competitive version of Zombie Hunt. The deck is funny and surprisingly powerful, although the gameplay can get pretty repetitive. It's a great deck to build and pull out every now and then for fun, but to play it day in and day out would probably get boring after a while since there aren't really many decisions to make. While the deck certainly has the potential to 5-0 a league or win an FNM if it runs well and hits the right matchups, it also has the potential to go 0-3 drop if it hits the wrong matchups and runs poorly. Regardless, the deck is hilarious and, at least in small doses, super fun to play because you never know exactly what will happen when you resolve a Calibrated Blast.

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Getting Calibrated Blast down under $50 only takes a single change: we drop the oddly expensive Blinkmoth Infusion for The Cauldron of Eternity. While this does lower our deck's average mana value a bit, the difference between 12 mana and 14 mana isn't that huge most of the time. If things go as planned and we double hit with Calibrated Blast, we'll win just as easily with The Cauldron of Eternity as with Blinkmoth Infusion, although hitting a 12-mana-value card rather than a 14-mana-value card could end up mattering in the games where things go wrong and we are trying to scratch out every point of damage possible to close out the game after we whiff with a Calibrated Blast.

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For our non-budget build, we have a version of Calibrated Blast that recently took SeiPokGai to a 5-0 finish in a Modern league on Magic Online. The biggest addition to the deck is Scion of Draco, along with a bunch of fetch lands, shock lands, and Triomes to support the Dragon, giving us a 12-mana-value card for Calibrated Blast that can also be cast for just two mana as a 4/4 flier. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn joins the deck as well, giving it another 15-mana-value card to spin into with Calibrated Blast. While these changes do improve the deck a bit, they also come at a huge cost, with the price of the deck jumping from $75 to over $900. Considering the jankiness of the archetype, it's hard for me to recommend spending $900 on a Calibrated Blast deck. If you have that much to spend on Modern, you'd probably be better off building the budget version of Calibrated Blast for fun and then sinking the other $825 into a tier deck like Hammer Time.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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