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Spreading Like Wildfire

Spreading Like Wildfire

Modern doesn’t have to be expensive. In a format of midrange decks costing more than a rent check and sets of Chalice of the Void going for more than a car payment, it’s a daunting task to just jump in head first. If you’re smart about it, you can build an entire deck for less than a couple packs. Over the years there have been numerous challenges online to build Modern decks for as cheap as humanly possible. One such challenge was designed with the restriction of building for less than $8.00 TCGPlayer Low price. While this often forces players to forego things like cantrips, fetches, or even sideboards, it’s a breeding ground for innovation.

One of the most interesting decks I’ve seen was a budget land destruction deck created by @Hackworth on Twitter which was centered around the card Wildfire. For six mana, you get to force each player to sacrifice four lands and deal four damage to each creature. This kind of effect can be backbreaking, and when implemented correctly it can win games on the spot, as demonstrated by the various Blood Moon and Ponza-style decks that have popped up recently. So how does one build around such a powerful effect on a budget? By minimizing the impact of Wildfire on yourself while maximizing it on your opponent, you end up with something like this:


Through a combination of mana rocks and bouncelands, this deck is capable of ramping into Wildfire as early as turn 4. Due to the nature of current Modern, this can clear away a majority of threats save for the odd Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Reality Smasher. Modern is also considerably land-light, so an early Wildfire often reset an opponent back to turn 1.

The deck also features several other ways of shutting down the opponent’s mana. Frost Titan is one of the biggest threats you can play on a budget, and its ability to keep permanents tapped down can easily disrupt an opponent for as long as it’s in play. Frost Titan also has a protection effect that taxes the opponent when they try to remove it, so when used with our mana denial plan it becomes incredibly difficult to actually get rid of it. Ember Swallower acts as additional miniature copies of Wildfire while also providing a big, cheap body to defend with. Finally, Annex is a key piece of disrupting an opponent’s manabase while ramping up our own deck. By straight up stealing a land, we set the opponent back a turn, advance ourselves a turn, and set up the necessary six mana to Wildfire on the following turn.


Rounding out the deck are Hanweir Watchkeep, Burst Lightning, Supreme Will, and Mana Leak. Hanweir Watchkeep is a seriously undervalued threat in a mana denial deck like this, and having had success with it in Legacy Red Stompy in the past, I know just how brutal it can be when the opponent can’t cast their spells. Hanweir Watchkeep has the necessary five toughness to survive Wildfire, and when your opponent can’t cast any spells, it transforms into a massive 5/5 threat that has to attack every turn. Burst Lightning is often called the poor man’s Lightning Bolt, and while being significantly cheaper than Bolt is a factor for inclusion, being able to scale up to four damage after the kicker gives Burst Lightning a bit more flexibility, especially since we can usually get to five mana so quickly.

Supreme Will and Mana Leak give the deck a way to protect itself against opposing interaction, as well as buying time against opposing threats before we can set up a Wildfire. Supreme Will also has the added bonus of being able to dig for threats with its first mode to keep us drawing into the cards we need.

Despite the budgetary restrictions, the manabase is surprisingly powerful for what we’re trying to accomplish. Swiftwater Cliffs gives us additional life in addition to tapping for both colours of mana. Izzet Boilerworks helps ramp us up to the necessary six mana to go off, as well as saving one of our lands from the impending Wildfire. Dunes of the Dead is a recent development from Hour of Devastation that has already put in work in Standard Desert decks. When destroyed, Dunes of the Dead gives us a 2/2 Zombie token, so we get to have a board presence even after we Wildfire the board. This goes a long way to putting the opponent on a clock and actually winning the game.

An ideal hand with this deck is one that aims to curve a turn 2 mana rock into turn 3 Annex into turn 4 Wildfire or Frost Titan. We typically want to have at least three lands in hand, or barring that, some of our cheaper interaction like Mana Leak and Burst Lightning. With these draws, we tend to slow down the opponent, hopefully with Hanweir Watchkeep as a blocker and try to draw out more of the opponent’s threat in the hopes of walking them into a board wipe.

If you feel like adding a bit of money into the deck, I would prioritize adding more mana denial cards such as Spreading Seas and Blood Moon. While this does have the drawback of turning off your own Dunes of the Dead, Blood Moon does a tremendous job of slowing an opponent down and sometimes just shutting certain decks out entirely. As well, additional board wipes like Sweltering Suns and Anger of the Gods can provide a lot of breathing room against creature-heavy decks, and even something simple like adding Lightning Bolt can handle manlands or planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil.

Building Modern decks on a budget can be a challenge, but they’re incredibly rewarding when they work. The look on someone’s face when their $200 manabase gets swept away by a 50 cent bulk rare is just precious, and jamming Frost Titans and Ember Swallowers feels like playing Commander in Modern. If you hate lands and you’re looking to dip your toes into Modern without breaking the bank, give Wildfire a try!