Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it’s that time once again! Lost Caverns of Ixalan is here, so today, we’re jumping into our new Standard format (during Early-Access Day with a free stocked account from Wizards!) to play some Caves! As you might already know, Gates is one of my all-time favorite budget decks, and the new Cave archetype shares a lot of similarities: it’s all about getting a bunch of lands with a janky type—in this case, Cave—on the battlefield to power up payoffs, all of which are random uncommons, making it a perfect budget deck! In fact, our deck today takes just five rares to put together on Arena and costs but $32 in paper! How good are Caves? What does Lost Caverns of Ixalan Standard look like? Let’s find out! But first, a quick reminder that if you enjoy Budget Magic and the other content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.
Budget Magic: Caves
Our deck today is all about our lands: Caves! While almost all random commons and uncommons (with Sunken Citadel being the one exception), Caves are actually pretty strong, especially in a deck built to harness their power. Apart from a few basic Forests for ramping purposes with Glimpse the Core, every single land in our deck today is a Cave. This includes a bunch of the common discover lands, Forgotten Monument to turn all of our Caves into City of Brasses to give us perfect mana, Cavernous Maw as a creatureland to finish the game, and Sunken Citadel to speed things up by giving us extra mana to activate Maw and the discover lands.
While having a solid budget mana base is nice, that’s not really enough to make a successful deck. Thankfully, much like Gates, Caves have some really solid payoffs that reward us for filling our deck with Cave lands. Calamitous Cave-In is a super-sweeper, killing all the planeswalkers and creatures on the battlefield for just four mana, assuming we have a bunch of Caves in play. Meanwhile, Bat Colony is essentially Cave Spectral Procession, giving us three 1/1 fliers for three mana with the bonus of growing our creatures as Caves enter the battlefield, which makes it the perfect way to stabilize the board early by making some chump blockers and a fine way to close out the game later by growing our Bats into big, evasive beaters.
While I’m not sure it really counts as a full Cave payoff since I’ve never actually won a game with it, we also have a playset of Gargantuan Leech. It often costs just a single mana in the mid-game once we have a bunch of Caves on the battlefield, which is a great deal for a 5/5 lifelink. While it does die to removal and typically doesn’t finish the game, it is a great blocker against aggro, and the lifegain it offers can help us stay alive long enough to get our powerful late game online.
Our final two Cave payoffs are ramp spells in Glimpse the Core and Cosmium Confluence. In all honesty, Glimpse the Core usually tutors up one of our basic Forests, but in the late game, it is a good way to get back one of the discover Caves we sacrificed or maybe a Cavernous Maw that died in combat. Meanwhile, Cosmium Confluence is probably the strongest card in our entire deck. In general, for the first copy or two we cast, we choose the first mode—tutoring up a Cave—three times to develop our mana and get all of our Cavernous Maws on the battlefield. Later, Cosmium Confluence becomes our primary finisher by growing a Cave into a massive threat with +1/+1 counters, with the help of a couple of other cards…
…like Spelunking. Spelunking is absurd in our deck. Since most Caves enter the battlefield tapped, Spelunking negates this downside while also ramping us, drawing us a card, and gaining us some life. That by itself would make Spelunking an easy inclusion in Caves, but it gets even better. Spelunking is doubly absurd with Cosmium Confluence since the lands it tutors up will come into play untapped. Technically, Confluence costs five mana, but if it grabs three untapped lands, we make three of that mana back immediately, which essentially makes it cost just two mana to ramp three times!
Once we get things set up and use Cosmium Confluence to ramp most (or even all) of the lands from our deck, the sorcery turns into a finisher with the help of Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and Colossal Skyturtle. The idea here is that we can channel Colossal Skyturtle to get Shigeki back to our hand from our graveyard and then channel Shigeki, Jukai Visionary to return Colossal Skyturtle and a couple of copies of Cosmium Confluence back to our hand. We can use our epic amount of Cave mana to cast the Cosmium Confluence in order to grow a Cave into a 9/9 creature with +1/+1 counters and then repeat this process again the next turn, essentially giving us an infinite stream of hasty, massive Caves to kill our opponent. Toss in all four copies of Cavernous Maw as a backup, and, along with powering up our Cave payoffs most games, our Caves—with the help of Cosmium Confluence—end up being our primary finishers as well!
So, I should start by saying that I don’t really put much weight into the record a deck has on Early-Access Day—people are trying our new cards and doing fun things, rather than trying to be as competitive as possible. That said, out of all the decks I played on Early-Access Day, Caves was—by far—the most successful, only dropping a single match throughout the day.
Heading into the games, I expected Caves to be a fun Gates-style budget deck. If you look at the pieces in the deck individually, they look a bit janky, but they are shockingly powerful together, to the point where now I’m wondering if Caves might have what it takes to be a real, competitive option in Lost Caverns of Ixalan Standard! The payoffs are good, the Caves themselves are surprisingly strong, and Cosmium Confluence is a pretty absurd card, as a hybrid ramp spell and finisher that sometimes also snipes an enchantment for fun.
Of course, take all this with a grain of salt because it was Early-Access Day. But at this point, I think Caves is an early front-runner for best budget deck in Lost Caverns of Ixalan Standard. If you’re looking for something unique and fun to take to the ladder or your local game store that’s super cheap to put together, Caves seems like a spectacular option for our new Standard format!
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.