We’ve talked so far about creating budget substitutions for existing Modern archetypes. However, budgets aren’t the only thing that limits the available card pool from which you build your decks. Different formats will limit your choices, and force you into finding substitutions for various cards and combos. So today we’re going to import a Legacy deck into Modern, and see what we can build from a smaller available set of options.
The Legacy deck we’re going to work with is called Stiflenought. The core combo is pretty simple:
Cast the Dreadnought. Immediately respond to yourself with Stifle, which will shimmy around that pesky sacrifice requirement. Enjoy your 12/12 trample for two mana and no downsides. So yeah, that looks pretty fun; lets give it a whirl. The last couple decks we built, the core combo turned out to be pretty inexpensive. Let’s see what this one costs, maybe it’s cheap too!
*looks up price*
Oh, I see. Excuse me a moment.
*returns with mug*
That, regardless of format, is a deck we won’t be building today. But I dunno, maybe we can still find a combo in Modern that approximates the deck, without having to spend somewhere in the range of $150 before we even get past eight cards. There’s a deck floating out around in Modern now that uses a similar combination, but has never risen to any real competitive standing:
Just as straightforward as Stiflenought, and practically the same concept at the heart of it… cast cheap, powerful creatures that trigger a downside when they enter the battlefield, and stop the downside from triggering. But this combo, good people, costs less than $20 for a full playset. And that’ll be where we start building.
A lot of the builds I’ve seen around the Internet for this deck try too hard to make it a one-for-one substitution. More specifically: they use Trickbind in the place of Stifle and call it a day. I don’t love the idea. Trickbind has some applications outside of the combo, but it also costs two mana, which cuts into the whole point of casting big creatures for as little mana as possible. Torpor Orb costs two mana as well, but Trickbind needs to be cast alongside the creature to be effective; you can drop Torpor Orb on turn two, Hunted Phantasm on turn three, maybe use turn four to think about what you might want for lunch.
More than that though… without Legacy’s sorting power, the Trickbind option seems fragile to me. You get one shot, and let’s hope it works. I want a deck that supports the combo at every stage. There’s no reason your build can’t use Trickbind, of course. But as a matter of personal preference I’m going to leave it out. What I want is more cards like Torpor Orb… cards that reproduce the effect of the combo, without necessarily taking the same route to get there.
Sundial of the Infinite
What a funny old card this is. It seems odd to even call it a combo piece, since what it essentially does is say, “NOPE” to everything else that’s supposed to happen. So you cast your Hunted creature, let the token effect go on the stack, then NOPE. End the turn, stack disappears, sorry buddy. No tokens for you.
That being said, while it has the benefit of being a reusable permanent, Sundial has the same problem Trickbind does: it requires a (slightly smaller) mana investment at the time you cast your creature. So we’re not going to depend on it too heavily.
Illness in the Ranks
This is our most situational combo piece. The Hunted creatures, as we see above, create tokens for your opponent. Illness in the Ranks knocks tokens down by -1/-1. In the case of Hunted Phantasm and Hunted Troll, that means the tokens come into play as 0/0s, and just drop dead on the spot.
Unfortunately, in a great bout of cosmic unfairness, the tokens produced by Hunted Horror (which shares a color with Illness in the Ranks) are 3/3s. (If that weren’t the case, there’s a solid chance this would just be a UB deck.) So Illness isn’t going to support everything, but it will help with a good number of cards.
Okay now, this bad boy is the real enabler of the deck. If you don’t draw into your Orb, your Illness, or your Sundial, this will do the job just fine. Cast it for two, crack it at zero, and all nonland permanents with a mana cost of 0 blow up real good.
You know what’s got a mana cost of 0? Tokens.
That being said, maybe you already drew your Torpor Orb, and your opponent isn’t managing to get rid of it. Your Illness and your Sundial can turn into dead draws, but focused mass removal is a solid option no matter what you’ve got on the board already. Ratchet Bomb will enable your combo or knock back your opponent’s board state, depending on when it’s drawn.
How about our support staff, though? Are there any cards that will synergize well with the pieces already in our combo?
Glissa, the Traitor
It’s unlikely that I won’t recommend Glissa for any budget deck with her colors. First strike and deathtouch on a reasonably-costed creature will always be a good stalling tactic. In this deck, however, she serves another purpose: she combos out very nicely with Ratchet Bomb. Sacrifice the Ratchet Bomb to take out your opponent’s creatures, Glissa triggers, brings the Ratchet Bomb back to your hand. Repeat.
Tezzeret the Seeker
Between Sundial, Ratchet Bomb, and Torpor Orb, we’ve got a lot of artifacts in this deck, and Tezzeret tutors for them all. And if your opponent is well prepared to deal with your combo in game two, Tezzeret provides an alternate win condition.
It’s not easy building a three-color land base in a budget deck, especially across wedge colors. It’d be a lot easier with a land that provides one mana of any color with absolutely no downsides. Forbidden Orchard, unfortunately, puts a creature token into play under your opponent’s control every time you tap it. To get around that, you’d need a deck that was already running cards like Illness in the Ranks that take out tokens as soon as they appear.
And the very idea is so silly, it makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.
It’s worth noting, some builds of this deck tend to include Eater of Days, Leveler, or Sky Swallower. All worth running if you’re focusing on Torpor Orb and Trickbind, but our deck is heavily dependent on Illness in the Ranks and Ratchet Bomb, neither of which will work with that stable of creatures. And while Eater of Days offers a pretty solid return on investment, I don’t personally think the other two cards pay off as strongly as they should for five mana and a combo.
So how do we play this deck? Nowhere near as subtly as our last two. This deck is pretty damn straightforward. You drop your protection, you drop your creature, you watch out for removal and counterspells. Especially be on the lookout for instant-speed removal that will take out your protection while your creatures are still resolving.
After that: turn sideways, my friends. Turn sideways.