Budget Magic: $70 Mono-Red Powerstone Tribal (Brothers’ War Standard)

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Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it’s that time once again! The Brothers’ War Standard is finally here, and thanks to an invite from Wizards, we got a sneak peek at the set during the Magic Arena early-access event last week! When Dominaria United unleashed Karn, Living Legacy and the Powerstone mechanic on the multiverse, it was pretty widely mocked (in part by me) but with the caveat that Powerstones (although probably not Karn himself) might look a lot better once The Brothers’ War offered some massive artifact finishers. Well, today, on Budget Magic, we’re going to find out if powerstones are good now, with a $90 Mono-Red Powerstone Tribal ramp deck that’s looking to flood the board with Powerstones as quickly as possible and use them to ramp into huge finishers like Portal to Phyrexia and Cityscape Leveler! Oh yeah, and we can also randomly just burn opponents out of the game with Dragonspark Reactor thanks to Powerstones giving us an endless stream of artifacts entering the battlefield. Are Powerstones good now thanks to The Brothers’ War? Let’s get to the video and find out; then, we’ll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Mono-Red Powerstone Tribal

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The Deck

Mono-Red Powerstones is essentially a mono-red ramp deck. The plan is that we’ll flood the board with Powerstoness in the early game, which will ramp us into big artifact finishers and also add counters to our Dragonspark Reactor to burn our opponent out of the game directly!

The Powerstones

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We kick things off with our Powerstone producers. In a perfect world, we’ll curve out Horned Stoneseeker, Thran Spider, and Visions of Phyrexia, giving us three Powerstones on the battlefield over the first four turns of the game, potentially getting us to our big artifact finishers quickly. Horned Stoneseeker is probably the worst of the bunch since we have to sacrifice a Powerstone if it dies, but thankfully, most opponents aren’t too focused on killing a random 2/2. Thran Spider has the downside of also giving our opponent a Powerstone, which sometimes can be a problem if our opponent is also playing artifacts or has expensive activated abilities. But a 2/4 reach for three isn’t bad, and its seven-mana “dig for an artifact” ability is actually a lot cheaper than it looks since we can use Powerstones to pay for it. Finally, Visions of Phyrexia is one of my favorite cards in the deck, offering us an extra card each turn, but we can get a Powerstone if we don’t use that card. This means that on the turn we play it, we’ll get a Powerstone for sure since we don’t have any other ways to play cards from exile, and on future turns, we can choose if we want the card advantage or the ramp mode.

Treasures

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Backing up our Powerstone makers are a couple of Treasure producers. Reckoner Bankbuster gives us some card draw while eventually ramping us with a Treasure. Meanwhile, Big Score is basically our budget-friendly Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, filtering through our deck while also making two Treasures. Considering some of our best finishers cost nine mana, the two Treasures are actually super impactful by helping us get down cards like Portal to Phyrexia or a full-price Skitterbeam Battalion early in the game.

Finishers

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When it comes to finishing the game, we have two plans: ramping into huge artifacts and burning our opponent out of the game with Dragonspark Reactor, which gets a ton better thanks to The Brothers’ War. If you look at our decklist, every card (minus our removal spell Obliterating Bolt adds at least one artifact to the battlefield, and many—Skitterbeam Battalion, Reckoner Bankbuster, Thran Spider, and Big Score—add multiple artifacts to the battlefield. If we can get Dragonspark Reactor on Turn 2, it’s pretty easy to get it up to 10 or more counters in just a few turns. And if we manage to get down two Dragonspark Reactors early together, they can burn an opponent all the way out of the game!

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Skitterbeam Battalion walks the line between stabilizing support card and finisher thanks to prototype. For five mana, it adds three 2/2s to the battlefield, which is a great way to clutter up the battlefield and stay alive for a couple of turns while getting to our bigger finishers (while also adding three counters to Dragonspark Reactor). Meanwhile, for nine mana, it makes three 4/4s with trample and haste, which are a solid way to close out the game with a couple of big attacks.

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Finally, we have our two biggest finishers: Cityscape Leveler and Portal to Phyrexia. Cityscape Leveler is pretty absurd—almost the artifact version of Titan of Industry—as an 8/8 trampler that blows up a permanent when it is cast or when it attacks; if it dies, we can do it again from the graveyard thanks to unearth. Blowing up the opponent’s best permanent, even at the cost of giving them a Powerstone, while also adding a massive body to the battlefield makes Cityscape Leveler one of the best payoffs for spending the early game playing Powerstone producers. As for Portal to Phyrexia, it’s more or less unbeatable if it stays on the battlefield for a few turns, triple Diabolic Edicting our opponent when it enters the battlefield and then doing a decent God-Pharaoh’s Gift impression by reanimating something from any graveyard each turn, giving us a steady source of bodies and threats. While the edict mode can be a bit hit or miss depending on the matchup (decks like Soldiers or Rakdos Anvil often have useless tokens to sacrifice), even when the matchup is bad, the reanimation mode is strong enough that Portal to Phyrexia is still solid. And the card is insane when the triple edict is killing real creatures!

Wrap-Up

I’m always hesitant to read too much into results from early-access day, in part because people are trying new things and in part because it’s best-of-one, but all in all, we ended up a bit over 50% in terms of match-win percentage with Mono-Red Powerstone Tribal, which is a solid record for a budget deck in general, let alone one built around Powerstones, of all things! While we do occasionally get run over by aggro, when the deck works, it can do some super-powerful things (see: our game against Soldiers where we had three Cityscape Levelers going at once!)

While we played the deck in best-of-one because that was the only option for early-access day, I don’t think you really have to change much for it to compete in best-of-three. The plan is the same: ramp, cast huge artifacts, win the game! If anything, best-of-three allows us to customize our removal for the matchup, which is nice because our deck is a bit light on early-game removal spells. 

All in all, the deck felt super fun and more competitive than I expected for a budget deck built around Powerstones. If you like unique takes on ramp and casting some of the biggest, splashiest artifacts in Standard, it just might be the perfect budget deck for you!

Ultra-Budget Powerstones

Getting Powerstones down near $50 in paper is easy but painful. We pretty much have to cut Portal to Phyrexia, which is currently $20 a copy (when I built the deck, it was around $12, but it’s almost doubled since then). The problem is there isn’t another big artifact to replay it with, but maybe that’s fine and the combo of Cityscape Leveler and Skitterbeam Battalion is enough to close out the game. If you’re trying to build the deck for around $50, I’d probably just play Abrade or another cheap removal spell in that slot.

As for Magic Arena, the current build of the deck costs 20 rares and mythics, discounting the three Burn Down the House in the sideboard, which you won’t need if you’re playing best-of-one. The easiest cut is Reckoner Bankbuster (for more removal), but beyond that, it gets tricky. If you already have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker in your collection, you could play that over Thran Spider, although it would take away from the Powerstone plan. I guess you could also just trim back on things like Cityscape Leveler, Skitterbeam Battalion, and Visions of Phyrexia, although those are some of the key cards in the deck, and losing them would hurt a lot. It might be that this deck can’t really get below 18 total rares and mythics while still doing its thing, which still makes it a lot cheaper than most Standard decks (which often run 40 or 50 rares / mythics) but still not cheap in a absolute sense.

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Finally, for our non-budget build, we get a few meaningful additions. First, in the main deck, we get Fable of the Mirror-Breaker over our budget replacement Big Score. Fable is one of the best cards in Standard, works with our theme by making Treasures, and is in our colors. Outside of budget reasons, there’s no reason not to play it. Otherwise, we get to upgrade the mana base with Blast Zone and Mishra’s Foundry, which take advantage of the fact that our deck can play a bunch of colorless lands since most of our non-land cards are colorless artifacts. Finally, in the sideboard, we get Unlicensed Hearse as graveyard hate over Lantern of the Lost, which is a meaningful upgrade in a format where graveyard hate is important thanks to unearth, Tenacious Underdog, and friends.

Conclusion

Anyway, that’s all for today! The Brothers’ War Standard feels awesome so far, and we’ll likely try some more of it next week! Until then, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.