Druid Storm on a Budget in Pioneer MTG!

Phyrexia: All Will Be One has landed, and with as many highly impactful cards as there are in the set, a brewers mind begins to go into overdrive. While many flock to the obvious cards and strategies to attempt, like putting Phyrexian Obliterator into Mono-Black Devotion, others are attempting to get weird with it. Today’s deck is some such strangeness: a deck built around a common combat trick for draft and turning it into an engine to fuel a storm-based combo finish. Let’s get cracking on the Phyrexian brews with Druid Storm.


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Budget Pioneer Druid Storm by Darren Magnotti


The Deck

Druid Storm is a strange half-storm half-ramp deck that looks to use one-mana untap and +1/+1 counter effects like Burst of Strength to turn on an Incubation Druid, and use the Druid as a mana engine akin to Lotus Field to plow through the deck. The deck then draws cards and creates a tremendous board state so large that the opponent cannot possibly overcome it. The original idea stems from a post about nine months ago on the Pioneer Subreddit from user u/FewDistribution7802, who created the initial concept. It was then adopted and iterated on by user Dreamscribe, who is a pal of mine that can be found in the Chicagoland Pioneer scene. The original lists were trying to use the “combo” to draw through their entire deck in order to close out the game via Thassa’s Oracle or similar, but the plan turned out to be too fragile at the time. With the advent of Venerated Rotpriest however, the deck has some fresh invigoration and new ways to attack the format.

The deck can be considered a sort of “Simic Heroic” style deck that capitalizes on the things that Simic is good at rather than attacking directly like Boros is. It’s full of tricks and permanent manipulation, leaving an opponent to think more than they normally would against a more conventional strategy. I’ll be the first to admit that this idea is still very much in its testing phases, but so far it seens quite promising and more importantly, very fun.

The Druids

Druid creatures make the world go ’round in this latest iteration of the deck. While the original concept played more creatures that could add multiple mana at a time, it was found to be a better use of our time to secure a stronger backup plan than to focus in on the combo aspect, which meant that some more generically useful or sturdy ramp creatures would fit the bill better.

The star of the show is of course Incubation Druid, who when adapted can supply the deck with as much mana as it might ever need. As it turns out, creatures with adapt don’t particularly care where the +1/+1 counter comes from to use their special effects, they just care that it’s there. Paradise Druid and Llanowar Elves round out the ramp package, adding additional mana to help power out some explosive turns. The “combo” can technically be performed with either of these creatures as well given enough of the untap effects, but it’s typically less reliable. 

The other half of the Druid package are the creatures used to win the game, and unfortunately I’ve led you astray because only one of them is an actual Druid creature. Venerated Rotpriest, the newest and one of the shiniest cards from Phyrexia, has come to quicken the deck’s clock by about half. The ability to dish out a poison counter upon casting (not even resolving!) one of the untap effects can deliver huge amounts of pain that the opponent can’t defend against. In practice, it mostly means that the Rotpriest becomes the lightning rod rather than the mana-producing creature, but that’s more than enough for such a low mana investment.

Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief, while typically a build-around card in most other decks, is here as a means to deliver a fatal blow through combat damage. The upside of all of the untap effects is that they also grant a boost to a creature’s power, which means that by copying that to Ivy, you can essentially just build-your-own flying beatstick. Lastly is Stormchaser Drake, which is another flying threat that can close out a game, but also acts as a means to keep the cards churning. This deck is rather prone to running out of gas, which means that the Drake’s ability to reward targeting it with spells can keep the hand full while delivering chip damage to keep the opponent preoccupied.

The Storm

To make the combo of this combo deck happen, it needs two different supporting spell types: untappers and cards that reward the casting of these spells. For the untappers, fortunately there are two different printings of the same effect that we have access to. Burst of Strength and Stony Strength are cards typically seen in Limited to create a surprise blocker and mess up combat math on an opponent’s turn. However, here they fill the role of mana generation by untapping any of the myriad mana dorks while also making them permanently grow. These are the key cards in the deck and being able to play eight is what makes the deck function. Shore Up is a relatively recent addition to the build that splits duties as both an untapper and a protection spell. One aspect of any creature combo deck is its inherent weakness to cards that opponents will naturally be packing – targeted removal spells. Shore Up helps to protect the creatures in question while performing its role as an untapper in the process. 

Season of Growth is another lynchpin in the list for its ability to keep the hand stocked with fresh cards. Upon each target, another card is drawn, which can result in the untappers becoming cards that have “draw two,” “draw three” or even higher numbers attached to them with enough of these effects being compounded. One of the main ways to win a game is to develop a huge board state with a ton of creatures carrying multiple +1/+1 counters in a single turn, and the Season helps to make that happen reliably.

Vesuvan Duplimancy is an interesting addition that doesn’t seem super helpful on the surface until you consider the win condition of establishing a huge board state. One Incubation Druid is pretty whatever, but what about a wall of seven of them? What happens when you target a Venerated Rotpriest while the Duplimancy is in play? This card can take some fairly innocuous plays and turn them into backbreaking sweeps in advantage. While it’s not always going to be useful, I thought that the ceiling on the card was high enough that it was worth trying out.

Finally is a sneakily powerful card that is wholly unsuspecting to anyone looking at the list for the first time: Karametra’s Favor. This simple enchantment reads like any other Limited mana fixer, but pulls a ton of weight on the proper board state. Attaching this to a Drake will turn the Drake into a mana dork that you can then use to go off while also giving you two cards to get the process started. Throwing it onto a Drake with an Ivy in play nets three cards and gives you two mana dorks. Being a budget deck, we’re always in the market for additional color fixing as well, so at its very lowest its a card that can give you some necessary blue mana. Like the rest of the bad cards in this deck, when assembled in just the right configuration, Karametra’s Favor is incredibly powerful.

How Does It Play?

Back to that note from earlier, this is one of the more experimental brews that I haven’t gotten as much testing in with as I would usually prefer. In my few games with the deck though, I found that this is one of those lists where the pieces can just come together so perfectly that it feels like running a well-oiled machine. Even when it’s not “doing the thing,” it’s still doing something powerful. That said, I can’t ignore the fact that this deck is just inherently weak to removal in a way that a deck like Lotus Field isn’t. While highly synergistic amongst itself, the deck is much less capable of withstanding an onslaught of disruption.

Something about brewing with new cards that’s important to note is that not every deck needs to be an immediate banger. Sometimes to learn the ins and outs of a card, you need to just jam it into any old thing and see what it can bring to the table. Other times, it’s worthwhile to look back through the archives of old and discarded deck ideas to see what might have gotten something printed that could breathe some new life into it. For this list in specific, a little bit of both happened, with Dreamscribe messaging me a picture of the Rotpriest as it got spoiled and it taking a few minutes to connect the dots. Some decks are just one card away from being a legitimate option, either for the competitive scene or more likely for some reasonable success at the local level. Decks that utilize new cards to their fullest are frequently the champions in both of these spheres as opponents will have a much more difficult time working their way around your plan and properly assessing your threats. With the Pro Tour coming up in just a week or so, we’re sure to see some instances of this happening on the world’s biggest Magic stage. 


Pioneer Druid Storm by Darren Magnotti


There are actually a couple of ways to go with this deck once we’re freed from our chains of stipulation. I’ve decided to take it as a spin of a more commonly accepted Pioneer archetype, the Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy/Paradox Engine storm deck. Using Song of Creation as yet another means to keep the hand full, this iteration uses Kinnan to ensure the success of the untap effects while doubling up on them via Paradox Engine. While this version has less of the backup plan about it and is more focused on Rotpriest to get the job done in the main deck, it has a lot more redundancy and is therefore more likely to survive through hate spells and disruption as well. This may or may not be the correct path to take the deck, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting ones.

That’s all for this one! Phyrexia is shaping up to be one of the most impactful sets in recent memory with how wide sweeping its additions to various decks has been. There are plenty of powerful effects featured in the set, and I’m looking forward to bringing you even more brews featuring everyone’s favorite villains. Until next time, remember to stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading. 

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