A $250 Modern Deck that WINS

Greetings, planeswalkers! Yes, you read that title right—there is a sub-$300 Modern deck that is capable of winning events. It recently took down a 538-player SCG Modern Open and is fun, skill-testing, and resilient to hate. Here is Paul Muller’s U/R Gifts Storm deck.

U/R Gifts Storm

Today’s discussion examines what this deck brings to the table in Modern. Financially speaking, it is unprecedented that there is a top tier deck available for so low a price. You can build budget decks in Modern and you can build decks that win, but finding a combination of the two is rare.

U/R Gifts Storm hits all the selling points for me:

  • Budget/affordable? ✓
  • Highly Competitive? ✓
  • Will the deck be good/retain value going forward? ✓

Being Up Front

I often get questions from aspiring Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage players about getting into the format. Many times, these questions come down to finances and how they can afford to play the format. What decks are good on a budget? What is a good introductory deck in X price range? By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen questions like this and may even have such questions yourself.

When players come to me, I am always straightforward with them. I don’t tell then necessarily what they want to hear, but rather, I tell then what I believe the actual truth is. For example, if you want to get into Legacy at a competitive level, you will have to spend more money. You will not have a winning Legacy resume if you don’t use cards like original dual lands, Force of Will, Wasteland, etc. Sure, there are players who play a $150 Burn deck or $200 Dredge deck in Legacy, have fun, win a bit, and are content, but I can’t recommend decks like that. Those decks tend to have few movable pieces into other decks, and truly competitive players will eventually outgrow them. It is better to take that $200-$300 and invest it into a Volcanic Island.

The same holds true for Modern. Find a deck that interests you and that captivates your attention and makes you want to play the format. The deck should encapsulate you as a player and be everything you want to do in Modern. If you find a cheap deck but don’t end up liking how it plays, you will have just wasted money.

How Does the Deck Work?

Despite the complicated lines and sequencing, the game plan is straightforward. Get a spell reducer (Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer) in play, cast a Gifts Ungiven finding rituals and Past in Flames, and then Grapeshot your opponent to death. The only difference between this version and other Gifts Storm decks is the mana base.

One of the biggest reasons we don’t see more of this deck is because of the skill required to pilot it. U/R Gifts Storm is hardly the deck to just pick up and run with to a large event and expect to do well. Many Magic players simply don’t have the time or lack the desire to put in the hours required. Practice and patience are the keys to being a successful Storm pilot.

Initial Thoughts

The first thing I consider when dissecting a deck list is to review its performance. Paul Muller has put in considerable hours with U/R Gifts Storm in Modern and has worked with Storm aficionado Caleb Scherer. Combined with a strong showing taking down a 538-player field, this list gets the green light from me for tried and tested. If you don’t see the results, don’t buy into hype *ahem Popeye, cough cough Stompy*

The next thing that strikes me when looking at this list is the lack of fetchlands. Great—that means cheap! Taking a look at the pricing for the deck, it seems relatively easy to assemble and the total of the singles, including sideboard, comes out to around $250 (with the potential to be lower). It’s to be expected from a deck made up almost entirely of commons/uncommons. Most top tier Modern decks clock in at over $500 and some have even crossed the $1,000 mark! $250 for a top tier deck piques my interest.

Lastly, I look at the deck’s staying power. Does this deck have what it takes to compete for years to come? Sure, it may be cheap, but if you have to sell it back because the deck is bad in a few weeks, then you’ve lost money where you shouldn’t have. Suffice to say, I believe this deck does have staying power, which will be explored shortly.

So the deck is cheap because it is fetchless, but is that optimal?

This may be a 2-color deck, but historically it has been proven that fetchlands are the superior form of mana fixing, even in 2-color decks. Paul had stated that the mana base was designed to take as little damage as possible, which makes sense considering your life total is your main clock when attempting to storm off in Modern.

Compare this pressure to how Storm decks operate in other formats. In Legacy, Delver of Secrets and gang put your life total under pressure, but Force of Will and powerful counterspells plus discard are the primary reasons for your urgency. Vintage has crazy lock pieces like Null Rod, Ethersworn Canonist, and Sphere of Resistance to apply pressure, so the challenge comes in racing those cards, not necessarily your life total.

Seeing as how, in Modern, there is a piddling amount of counterspells or lock pieces, your deck is under far less pressure and your life total becomes the primary concern. Discard spells are good versus Storm, but your redundancy and cantrip count really smooth things along to recover from these spells.

In conclusion, if your mana base doesn’t suffer from a lack of fetchlands, and your life total is a high priority, it can be correct to not play fetchlands. Especially when drawn in multiples, fetchlands do rack up damage and can even shorten your opponent’s clock by a whole turn. This can give Paul Muller’s version of U/R Gifts Storm a competitive advantage over other lists.

Why This Deck Is Good Going Forward

Players are still dancing around with how to sideboard against this deck properly. Everyone knows to keep/bring in discard and disruptive spells against U/R Gifts Storm, but what is the right number of removal to keep in? How many Fatal Pushes do you want to keep in your deck? Galvanic Blast? Path to Exile? These decisions can be difficult because of U/R Gift’s powerful Baral plus Goblin Electromancer suite. Other format’s Storm decks don’t rely on creatures, so the sideboarding swaps are simple—out with Swords to Plowshares, in with my Flusterstorms. Here, the decisions are much more complicated, especially when deciding how far to dilute your deck. You have to make sure you can still apply pressure in a reasonable fashion.

Additionally, the nature of Modern and the copious number of decks in it, often mean that it is incorrect to board specifically against U/R Gifts Storm. Many problematic “speed bump” cards just don’t see much play in Modern. Cards that would otherwise be problematic, but not game-ending for Storm, are simply metagamed out at the moment.

When these are common threats in the format:

These spells are not terribly ideal:

A lack of useful counterspells in the format makes Storm an excellent choice going forward. Craft your game plan to beat discard spells as well as the occasional Stubborn Denial/Spell Pierce.

I often hear players saying things like, “Oh I am prepared for Storm—I have a few Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize main deck.” Or, “Yep, I have 2 copies of Spell Pierce in the sideboard and a couple Surgicals to mess up their Past in Flames. I’ll be fine.”

This mentality often reassures players into a false sense of security. They may be including speedbumps for their Storm matchup, but what they really need are dedicated hate spells.

How to Beat the Deck

While there is no great way to always beat all the decks in Modern, the best way to beat your target decks is with powerful lock pieces. Many powerful lock pieces are cut from Modern sideboards because of how narrow they are. Sure, every white deck would love a playset of Kor Firewalkers in the board to beat Burn, but there simply isn’t room for all that, and Kor Firewalker’s utility against other non-Burn decks is laughable.

If your target is to specifically beat U/R Gifts Storm, you will need to pack hate pieces, not just soft disruption. A card like Leyline of Sanctity works great because it can also be useful against decks like Burn, Ad Nauseum, Scapeshift, and even Grixis Death’s Shadow. Against U/R Gifts Storm, it demands an answer before Grapeshot can be deployed and as long as you can handle Empty the Warrens, you can buy lots of time. Additionally, they can’t even cast the card Gifts Ungiven with it in play.

These are hate pieces. They shut down their target deck and often make winning elementary. Without a dedicated way to remove these cards, winning is incredibly unlikely:

These are not hate pieces. They do not prevent you from winning games and, as a Storm deck, your redundancy through cantrips makes combating them realistic:

Lastly, I will quote Sun Tzu: “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.”

Pick up the deck, even if proxied, and play with it a few times. Watch the deck on coverage (preferably in the hands of a skilled pilot) and get used to how it plays. Learn what the deck wants to do and how it accomplishes that. That way, when you sit down across from it at an event, you will already be in their mindset and be better prepared to take it down. Of course, this applies to any deck for any format, but in this instance, it’s helpful to do so against U/R Gifts Storm because the deck can be unconventional. Players tend to be fearful of and make mistakes against the unfamiliar. Don’t let that be you.

Learning how to play against the deck in combination with proper sideboard cards dedicated to the matchup will lead to success over time. Even with the deck’s recent success, I doubt the player base’s response will be swift or overwhelming.

What if…

There is the inevitable reaction to a deck doing well that the deck or a key card in it should be banned. Gifts Ungiven, Past in Flames, Manamorphose, the list goes on and on for cards that players think should be banned. Whether you believe a deck or card is too powerful or unhealthy for a format is your opinion and prerogative, but for those interested in investing into a deck, this is my advice.

Don’t prepare for the “doomsday scenario” of the deck being banned. Proper and optimal Magic should happen regardless of things outside of your control. Your deck being banned down the road is not in your control, so not getting into something on solely those grounds isn’t suggested. Considering your investment into this deck should be $300 or less, there’s no better bet in Modern.

Pros and Cons

U/R Gifts Storm may be a good deck choice if you:

  • Enjoy Gifts piles where no matter which pile they give you, you win. Plus, most Gifts piles only take several moments to conjure.
  • Want a high-power, competitive Modern deck capable of winning for under $300.
  • Enjoy still-testing decisions and on-the-fly judgments that can make or break a match.
  • Enjoy puzzles.

U/R Gifts Storm may not be the best fit if you:

  • Like attacking with (non-Empty the Warrens) creatures for the win.
  • Dislike making complicated lines and keeping track of storm/floating mana.
  • Encounter strong/overabundant hate in your local metagame for the deck (cards like Slaughter Games, Leyline of Sanctity, Rule of Law, and Ethersworn Canonist).
  • Enjoy winning in different ways each game.
  • Dislike needing to practice and put in the hours to master a deck.
  • Have a higher budget and want to try other decks.

That just about sums up U/R Gifts Storm for you. The deck is a ton of fun for those who enjoy it and still quite interesting for those who don’t. Which camp do you fall into? Do you think U/R Gifts Storm is a deck that you see yourself trying in the future? Let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for reading and until next time, remember, it doesn’t matter which Gifts pile you give them.

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