Kaladesh Standard Budget Magic Deck: Mono-Red Madness Bugwhacker (Only 5 Tix!), Video Article
Hello, readers! I’m trying something new this week that I’m hoping to start doing on a regular basis – budget decks.
You may be familiar with some of the more popular Magic: the Gathering content creators who consistently create fun budget decks for Standard and Modern. The typical price range for these decks is usually around 30 tix on MTGO (“tix” is short for MTGO Event Tickets, which is an in-game currency worth $1), and anywhere from $50-80 on paper. I set out with a goal recently to brew up a decent aggro deck for Standard that cost less than 5 tix.
That’s right, 5 tix.
First thing’s first, it’s not going to be winning a Grand Prix anytime soon, but if you’re looking for a fun, quick deck to take to a casual FNM, or help you get started on MTGO, you should definitely check out this deck: Mono-Red Madness Bugwhacker.
Match 1: Jeskai Refurbish (1-2)
Match 2: BW Control (2-1)
Match 3: BR Madness Amalgam (1-2)
Match 4: GR Energy (2-0)
Match 5: Esper Control (1-0)
Decklist: Mono-Red Madness Bugwhacker
Maindeck ($4.50 MTGO, $24.50 paper)
[d]2 Geier Reach Sanitarium
[d]3 Bomat Courier
4 Inventor’s Apprentice
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Insolent Neonate
3 Furyblade Vampire
3 Lupine Prototype
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
3 Pia Nalaar[/d]
[d]4 Galvanic Bombardment
3 Skin Invasion
4 Fiery Temper
2 Renegade Freighter[/d]
Sideboard ($3.20 MTGO, $11.00 paper)
1 Bomat Courier
1 Skin Invasion
4 Lightning Axe
2 Key to the City
2 Harnessed Lightning
3 Inner Struggle
2 Structural Distortion[/d]
The sideboard I opted to use here drastically increases the total price of the deck, simply because [c]Lightning Axe[/c] and [c]Harnessed Lightning[/c] are quite popular. There are certainly other budget options, and you should tailor your sideboard to the decks you expect to play against.
Now let’s take a look at the different parts of the deck, and why it’s called Mono-Red Madness Bugwhacker.
First off, I wanted to abuse [c]Reckless Bushwhacker[/c], a card often used as the centerpiece of budget aggro decks. I built around Bushwhacker and kept the deck mono-red to make it as affordable as possible.
The mana base is a simple 17 Mountains and 2 [c]Geier Reach Sanitarium[/c], a card I love to use in most of my brews. Sanitarium is especially good with Madness cards, which is the next part of the deck’s name.
If you’re looking for a good mono-red aggro shell, vampires are a great place to start. I started off with Neonate to enable madness and filter cards, then added in Gorger and Furyblade to give the potential for some really explosive games. Not only does Furyblade also enable Madness, but it allows me to pitch cards that aren’t immediately relevant to get some quick damage through.
Madness or not, Fiery Temper is a must-have for any budget red deck (and it’s a pretty effective answer to Smuggler’s Copter). In testing, Bombardment has shown itself to be pretty important in current Standard, complementing the deck’s quick tempo strategy. As the first Bombardment you cast is a little awkward against a lot of creatures, if there is no 1-2 toughness target you can always pitch it to a discard outlet for value.
Obviously, the latter half of “Bugwhacker” derives from the deck’s finisher, [c]Reckless Bushwhacker[/c]. The “bug” part of the name is twofold.
First off, [c]Bomat Courier[/c] was put in the deck as a card advantage engine and potential Madness enabler – and it kind of looks like a bug. This opened up the possibility for artifact synergy, as I quickly discovered [c]Pia Nalaar[/c] costs 0.06 tix on MTGO – 6 cents! Pia abuses a dashed Bushwhacker to the fullest by providing an additional flying body. With two artifacts already in the deck, [c]Inventor’s Apprentice[/c], already a strong 1-drop, looks like a very appealing addition to the deck.
In a deck full of discard and artifact synergy, [c]Lupine Prototype[/c] really pulls its weight as a 3-of in this deck. In some games, it’s completely viable to play out Prototype and Bushwhacker on the same turn, emptying your hand and swinging for a huge amount. Under the right circumstances, Prototype provides a Modern-level tempo advantage. On the play, [c]Renegade Freighter[/c] is a great on turn 3 in preparation for a turn 4 Bushwhacker. Unfortunately, Freighter never came out to play while I was recording the videos linked above, but I assure you it performed well in testing.
Now we come to the final reason for the “bug” in “Bugwhacker”, [c]Skin Invasion[/c]. When finalising the decklist, I told myself Skin Invasion just wasn’t good enough. It started off in the sideboard, until I realised I was siding in 3-4 copies every match. Against control, if the opponent is tapped out and can’t respond, Skin Invasion provides security against removal and sweepers. Against creature-based decks, it provides a 3/4 for 1 – you just have to cash it in by killing your opponent’s creature. If all else fails, it’s a viable play to throw it onto a Neonate or Courier and create a 3/4 at your leisure.
[c]Skin Shedder[/c] provides the same type of board tempo as [c]Lupine Prototype[/c], getting way more than you pay for and hitting for a huge amount with a surged Bushwhacker. Thus the name Bugwhacker: infect the host, whack the bug, watch it angrily burst forth and attack your opponent.
Previous Iterations of Bugwhacker
Through the course of testing, this deck took a few different forms until I found the final list. The original list looked something like this:
[d]4 Bomat Courier
4 Inventor’s Apprentice
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Insolent Neonate
4 Furyblade Vampire
4 Village Messenger
4 Kessig Forgemaster
4 Borderland Marauder
3 Endless One
4 Reckless Bushwhacker[/d]
[d]4 Fiery Temper[/d]
[d]4 Lightning Axe
4 Built to Smash
4 Skin Invasion
3 Inner Struggle[/d]
The deck’s premise from day one was to use Bushwhacker to its fullest potential. I threw in every red 1-drop I could find, and any two-drop that had the potential to get bigger. [c]Endless One[/c] was thrown in because it could be as big as I needed it to be, and an Endless One for x=0 could turn on Bushwhacker if needed. As changes were made to the list, Endless One and the werewolves were slowly weeded out of the deck.
I went to my Ten Minute Magic co-host Joe Butcher, and former co-host Ben Cottee, for feedback and advice. Immediately [c]Key to the City[/c] was brought up as a discard outlet and late-game reach. [c]Scrapheap Scrounger[/c] was also suggested as a strictly better 2-drop, but it was a no-go as it required a black splash and also costs $1 on MTGO, significantly driving the price of the deck.
The next suggestion was [c]Lupine Prototype[/c], since the deck’s low curve enables it to attack fairly quickly. At worst, Prototype could crew a vehicle, and [c]Renegade Freighter[/c] had already been added to the deck. I also discovered that [c]Pia Nalaar[/c] cost a mere 6 cents online, which was perfect as the deck sorely needed a [c]Dragon Fodder[/c] effect.
The land base was also improved, as 17 lands proved to be unreliable. 2x [c]Geier Reach Sanitarium[/c] were added, bumping the land count to 19. After another few days of testing, the decklist was nearly complete. The final touch was swapping in 3x [c]Skin Invasion[/c] and putting [c]Key to the City[/c] in the sideboard. Skin Shedder proved to be too good of a tempo play to pass up on, and gave Bushwhacker one more creature to pump.
At the last second, I briefly considered throwing in the [c]Hanweir Garrison[/c] / [c]Hanweir Battlements[/c] combo. I liked Garrison’s ability to go wide and Battlements’ utility, but ultimately I shied away from having too many colourless mana sources, and also decided to stick with Freighter’s ability to go big in the late game. I would have tested the [c]Writhing Township[/c] combo if I had more time, and I’m certain it has a place in a budget Red Deck Wins list somewhere.
Making Bugwhacker Non-Budget
There are a few directions to go with a non-budget upgrade to Bugwhacker. The first and most obvious choice is to splash black for a vampire madness deck – only slightly more expensive monetarily, but also a little slower.
Another direction is to shape the deck around vehicles or artifacts. RW Vehicles has the vehicle game locked up pretty well, but there are some good artifact synergy decks out there waiting to be discovered. Maybe a black splash for [c]Unlicensed Disintegration[/c] and more madness cards that can really abuse [c]Bomat Courier[/c].
If you want to stay mono-red, you can convert Bugwhacker into a solid Red Deck Wins list, replete with solid threats and tons of burn spells. Depending on your ratio of spells to creatures, you might drop Bushwhacker in favor of [c]Bedlam Reveler[/c], another shining example of getting maximum value for minimum mana investment. If you build the deck as a tempo creature-based strategy, Skin Invasion might still have a home here.
Just prior to Kaladesh, John Galli finished at 13th place at the Milwaukee SCG Regionals in August with a strong pre-rotation Red Deck Wins list. The list lost quite a bit with the Kaladesh rotation, but plenty of the deck is still there and worth exploring if you want to move beyond the budget restrictions of Bugwhacker. The goal of staying below $5 in the maindeck kept me away from great burn cards like [c]Collective Defiance[/c] and [c]Incendiary Flow[/c] (cards that were an integral part of the deck I took to win my local game store’s Kaladesh Game Day), but they are well worth investing in for anyone wanting to play an aggro/burn strategy.
Now then, what improvements would you make to Madness Bugwhacker? What cards would you add to make it non-budget? I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading,