Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it’s that time once again! This week, we’re heading to our new Standard format to play a deck that’s absurdly cheap and maybe even pretty competitive: Four-Rare Virtue of Courage Burn! Virtue of Courage seems like an absurd card for a burn deck, being partly an overcosted Shock and partly an enchantment that offers an crazy source of card advantage (and maybe even some combo kills) in the late game. But is it strong enough to make a deck that’s essentially free to play everywhere (costing just $40 in paper and 6 tix on Magic Online along with only taking four mythic wildcards on Arena) competitive? Let’s find out on today’s Budget Magic! Oh yeah, 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: Four-Rare Virtue Burn
Virtue Burn, as its name suggests, is a burn deck built around the new Wilds of Eldraine adventure enchantment Virtue of Courage. The goal is to throw as much damage at our opponent as possible as quickly as possible and, if we end up a bit short, use the massive card-draw potential that Virtue of Courage offers to find enough action to close out the game!
We’ve played some budget burn decks in the past built around expensive payoffs like Urabrask or Solphim, Mayhem Dominus, but in general, the expensive payoffs have felt like the worst cards in our deck, in part because four or five mana is a lot for a burn deck with just 22 lands and in part because, as creatures, they tend to die a lot. Having Virtue of Courage as our payoff solves both of these problems. First, Virtue of Courage never gets stuck in our hand because of its adventure mode. While paying two mana for a Shock isn’t efficient, we’ve seen Bonecrusher Giant become a staple across formats thanks to the same ability. Plus, remember: we’re playing Standard. It’s not like Embereth Blaze is competing with Lightning Bolt. Dealing one damage less than staple burn like Lightning Strike is perfectly fine, especially since the enchantment side of the adventure is so powerful. Second, enchantments are much harder to kill than creatures, which means, in the late game, if we tap out to play Virtue of Courage, there’s a decent chance we’ll actually get to untap with it and that once we do, we are going to have a pretty spectacular turn.
Of course, to harness the power of Virtue of Courage, we need a bunch of non-combat damage. For this, we have a couple of different plans, with the most obvious being our burn spells Play with Fire, Lightning Strike,and Stoke the Flames. In the early game, these cards can kill the opponent’s creatures, if necessary, or just lower our opponent’s life total. Later in the game, once we have Virtue of Courage, all of these cards become absurd since they impulse draw equal to their damage, which means Play with Fire essentially becomes a one-mana Reckless Impulse that also deals two damage, while Lightning Strike does a solid Ancestral Recall impression.
But Virtue of Courage doesn’t just work with burn spells; it works with all non-combat damage, which means pingers like Kessig Flamebreather and Thermo-Alchemist are great in our deck. Whenever we cast an instant or sorcery spell (or, in the case of Flamebreather, any noncreature spell), they deal a damage to our opponent, which will also trigger Virtue of Courage to draw us a card. This, combined with our burn spells, allows for some wild storm-style combo kills in the late game where we cast a burn spell, drawing something like five cards with Virtue of Courage, which finds us another burn spell to repeat this process until our opponent is dead!
Speaking of card draw, we also have Reckless Impulse and Wrenn’s Resolve to keep us churning through our deck in the early game while also trigger our pingers. Oddly, these cards lose a lot of their value in the late game since, once we have Virtue of Courage, our burn spells have what is essentially the same effect. But they are still more than worth it to help us find our damage and creatures while we are waiting to get Virtue of Courage set up.
Rounding out the deck, we have a couple of powerful one-drops to help chip in for early damage. Kumano Faces Kakkazan also offers some non-combat damage the turn it enters the battlefield, which offers a little bit of extra value with Virtue of Courage, and Witchstalker Frenzy which is basically just a shout-out to Sheoldred since we really need to keep the five-toughness Praetor off the battlefield or else the lifegain it generates undoes all of our work.
The Mana Base
Our mana base is as simple and as cheap as they come: 22 Mountains. If you want to add a bit of extra power to the deck, playing a few copies of Mishra’s Foundry and one or two of the red channel land are more or less free-rolls, although it will cost you some rare wildcards.
Our main deck focuses on one thing: dealing as much damage to our opponent’s face as possible. Outside of the two Witchstalker Frenzy, which are a necessary evil, all of the burn in our main deck can hit our opponent’s face. The problem is this burn caps out at four damage, and really three damage since we’re only playing two copies of Stoke the Flames. Our sideboard is essentially all customizable removal options, especially cards that can deal with higher-toughness creatures. The idea is that if we run into a deck playing a bunch of fatties, we can trim back on pingers and some of the less impactful face burn and replace it with cards like Bloody Betrayal, Lithomantic Barrage, and more Witchstalker Frenzy that can deal with our opponent’s large threats.
All in all, we finished 3-2 with the deck, although two of the games we lost were due to mana trouble and getting stuck on a single land. In general, the deck felt solid and surprisingly competitive for a deck that is about a cheap as a deck can be. Virtue of Courage was especially impressive. The burn mode is good enough that we aren’t embarrassed to have it in our deck, and the games where we actually got the enchantment side online were pretty insane, with us often closing out the game the turn after we cast it by accidentally drawing through a huge chunk of our deck!
As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the only card I didn’t really like was Furnace Punisher in the sideboard. Even in matchups where it would trigger regularly, we didn’t bother to bring it in. I’m not sure what to replace it with, but it can probably be cut for more removal or, if budget is less of a concern, a planeswalker, perhaps.
So, should you play Virtue Burn in Standard? If you are looking for a fairly competitive ultra-budget deck, I think the answer is yes! Virtue of Courage is a wild card: super fun to play with and also incredibly powerful. While our sample size is pretty small, the deck felt pretty competitive. If you’re looking for a super-cheap deck that can actually keep up in Wilds of Eldraine Standard, Four-Rare Virtue Burn seems like a great option!
Ultra-Budget Virtue Burn
No ultra-budget build this week. The deck is already as cheap as humanly possible, both in paper and in digital.
Finally, the non-budget build of Virtue Burn looks a lot like the one we played in the video. It turns out we are already playing all the best burn possible in Standard. The upgrades come to the mana base and the sideboard, where we add planeswalkers in Chandra, Dressed to Kill and Koth, Fire of Resistance to help fight control and other grindy decks. Even with these upgrades, the deck is still super cheap, at just $67 in paper, 15 tix on Magic Online, and 12 total rares and mythics on Arena!
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.