Army of Ghosts

Posted in Reconstructed on May 27, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

If you're interested in a unique infinite-combo deck that's also built on a budget, then you've come to the right place.

Budget weeks here on ReConstructed are always some of my favorite weeks to write. First of all, when you all are on a budget, it always generates some cool ideas. And then, secondly, the budget restriction on me when revising forces me to dabble into some unique choices. As Mark Rosewater always says, restrictions breed creativity!

There were a lot of great submissions this week, but through them all this one in particular really caught my eye as something pretty cool and fun you could do on a budget. Let's take a look:

Exodus King's Going Infinite

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Budget Rules

Before I get into how the deck plays out, let's take a quick look at my rules of thumb for budget deck building:

  • I will not add any new rares or mythic rares to the decklist. I'd rather make the deck extra budget-y and then let you season to taste with delicious rares than cook it so rare you won't eat it at all.
  • The one exception to the above is mana fixing. You'll get a lot of mileage out of acquiring a mana base: lands can go in many decks and are one of the crucial elements. Your cards probably aren't going to help you if you can't cast them!
  • I try not to make substitutions. Budget doesn't need to mean making a worse version of a current deck—it just means building toward an archetype that has easier-to-obtain cards. Cards like Master of Waves and Sphinx's Revelation simply can't be replaced in decks that need them.
  • Budget doesn't mean bad. I'm not setting out to make a deck we know will be suboptimal through this process. There have been plenty of highly successful low-rare decks throughout Magic's history, and there are certainly ways to follow in their footsteps.

If you want more explanation on any of those points, check out the beginning of my first budget article.

Now, with that out of the way, let's move onto exploring the deck's battle plan!

The Battle Plan

So, clearly, there's some kind of combo here—but what is it?

Well, disembodied voice, I'm glad you asked! Let me run through it.

First, you need Axebane Guardian and Mnemonic Wall on the battlefield. Simple enough: those tend to just sit around anyway, being defenders and all.

Axebane Guardian

Then you cast Twinflame on both of them. Mnemonic Wall brings back Twinflame, and you have an Axebane Guardian that taps for (at least) four mana. Pay five mana, Twinflame again to repeat this process, and suddenly Twinflame is netting you mana as your new Guardian taps for more than five mana. Do this as many times as you want to generate "infinite" mana!


At that point, you can win in a couple different ways! Either copy a creature that can attack (like Elvish Mystic) on each iteration and then attack for one billion, or, copy your Mnemonic Wall tokens and start returning any other instant and sorcery in your graveyard and casting that on each iteration as well. With any card draw in your hand or graveyard you can draw as many cards as you want, and with a burn spell you can cast it as many times as you want. Voilà: you have one verydead opponent.

Your combo can actually be pretty fast. Not only do you have plenty of mana acceleration, but it only takes six mana total to go off—and considering Axebane Guardian gives you at least two, really that's only four mana. You can win as early as turn four!

The key here in modifying this deck is going to be twofold. First, how can we add consistency? And, second, how can we make this deck survive well enough until the combo gets online?

Let's take a look!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards can stay and which ones should get the axe? It's time to go through card by card and find out!

Axebane Guardian

This is a crucial piece of this deck's strategy, and I couldn't imagine cutting any copies. You can't really win without it, and the acceleration is plenty good on its own. I'm definitely sticking with all four here.


Similarly to Axebane Guardian, this card is necessary for this deck. What's worth noting, however, is that with the right removal spells added, this deck can play enough of a convincing control game to buy a bit of time. Kill a creature or two, draw some cards, Mnemonic Wall a removal spell back and start blocking, and you can actually control the board a bit. Definitely keep this angle in mind when playing: it isn't always about firing off the hyper-combo finish as fast as possible.

I'm always a fan of looking for redundancy in combo pieces where I can, and there is another card in Standard that serves a similar role to Mnemonic Wall: Archaeomancer!

The major difference is that the Wall counts as a defender for Axebane Guardian, which is a big deal when you're looking for mana to combo off—although, on the flip side, Archaeomancer is a self-contained win condition, since a million Archeomancers can also attack for lethal.


The number I want to play? Three. I don't want to play the full four because a hand full of Archeomancers and Mnemonic Walls isn't going to do much, but as long as you have other action, the 'mancer is going to be a fine card that can help play the more attrition-based control game I was talking about earlier.

Also, for those curious about how the math works out to combo with Archaeomancer, since it's not a defender, you need six mana, her, plus an untapped Axebane Guardian. Keep Axebane Guardian untapped when you cast the first Twinflame, then the original one will also make two mana when it's time to cast the second Twinflame.

Sylvan Caryatid

While you could play this deck without Caryatid if you had to really stick to a budget, as long as you have copies (which you probably should, considering its versatility and its impact at the recent Block Pro Tour—which might predict its popularity next year) you definitely want to play four. Not only is it the format's premier way to ramp mana, but it also just so happens to be a defender! It's a perfect mix for this deck.

Gatecreeper Vine

The curve of Gatecreeper Vine into Axebane Guardian has always been exciting to me. Not only does it give you a mana boost, but the Vine also ensures you hit your land drops and suck up some damage if need be.

However, in this deck, you really just want to find your two combo pieces. While the extra ramp is nice, unlike Sylvan Caryatid, the ramp only works if you have Axebane Guardian next. There are only so many slots in the deck for cards that don't help you survive or set up your combo. If I could just snap my fingers and put a Gatecreeper Vine into my hand, I certainly would (although if I had that superpower, I'd probably build every deck, ever, a lot differently), but I'm not as interested in it at the expense of playing another card in the deck that will do more of what I need.

Elvish Mystic

Elvish Mystic gives you a solid turn-one play, and also speeds up everything else you want to do by a turn. Plus, some games, you'll just win with an infinite swarm of Elvish Mystics. I'm perfectly happy playing all four copies here.


One of the deck's key combo pieces you have to draw to win, and not something I'm eager to cut. I'm definitely keeping the full four copies here.


While casting Twinflame at instant speed is a nice perk, it's not enough on its own to want Quicken. One of the actual big reasons to play Quicken is that it's an instant that draws a card and gets into your graveyard right away, meaning that when you combo off you already have a way to draw as many cards as you want sitting in your graveyard from turn one. Since it essentially "cycles" for one mana, it also digs you to your combo faster.

However, those reasons aren't enough to play what is essentially a non-card to me. If I could play a fifty-six-card deck I would, but the one-mana investment to cycle Quicken isn't always trivial—and while mulliganning, the fact you don't know what card Quicken actually is makes for a huge problem. There are plenty enough spells in this deck that you can go infinite with that you don't need Quicken to win. All of those points made, I'd rather have something else.


We don't have Sphinx's Revelation (although it's certainly something to consider if you're de-budgetizing), but Opportunity is actually a pretty solid card here. One of the big dangers with a deck like this is that you'll ramp into nothing, and Opportunity helps ease that terror by giving you a huge draw spell. And, unlike something like Divination, which is used more to smooth your draws early, Mnemonic Walling this back really helps you dig for whatever you need. Considering how fast this deck can cast one, I'm fine playing all four here.

Ready // Willing

While making all of your creatures indestructible to foil mass sweepers is nice, that's something I'd rather have in the sideboard. Here in the main deck, it doesn't do nearly enough: the Willing side is a blank, and Ready can either save your creatures in narrow situations or be a ritual for your combo if you're one mana short of going off. Those aren't enough to save it to me.

Instead, I'd rather have some removal spells to help play a longer game when you need to. (As mentioned earlier, they work well with Mnemonic Wall and Archaeomancer.) I've freed up nine slots, so which ones do I want?

First and foremost, a great fit for this deck is Izzet Charm.

Izzet Charm

This card does a ton of different things that this deck wants. Make sure you don't die to an early swarm of small creatures? Check. Help you find your combo pieces? Check. Let you draw endless cards once the combo is in place? Check. Offer some protection with a counterspell mode? Check. This is one card I know I want four of.

Another big concern with this deck is huge creatures. I don't really want a Polukranos to put me on a fast clock that's hard to outrace. Fortunately, there's a pretty flexible burn spell we can use here. In fact, it's literally a burn spell: Turn & Burn.

Turn // Burn

Not only can this card serve as your game winner when you're comboing out, by repeatedly going to your opponent's dome, but it also answers just about every creature at instant speed. I'm happy to play the full four of these.

That leaves one spot, and the card I want there is Magma Jet. While 2 damage doesn't do as much in this Standard format as some others (and is one of the big reasons why I chose only one Magma Jet instead of three Turn & Burn and two Jets), there are still some creatures to kill (especially Mutavault) and killing off a creature while also digging for the right combo pieces is still plenty good.

With those changes made, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Axeflame

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With that decklist, I took what was a rareless mana base and just added a bunch of dual lands to it, which I know isn't feasible for everyone. And, while they do add a lot (especially the scry lands), a common note on these budget articles is to include budget mana bases. So, if you don't have those lands, I'd use:

4 Izzet Guildgate
1 Simic Guildgate
11 Forest
3 Island
5 Mountain

And then fit in whichever dual lands you own. You want the most untapped green sources for Elvish Mystic, and then you're going to want a little more red than blue, since you need to be able to cast your burn spells early.

If you're looking to do the opposite and de-budgetize this deck, two major cards to look at would be Courser of Kruphix and Sphinx's Revelation. But really, there aren't that many rares I want to play here anyway! That makes it a great budget candidate.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this fun take on Standard! It's a combo deck that can come out of nowhere, and is certainly a blast to play.

Honorable Mentions

If you're looking for budget inspiration, then check out some of these great jumping off points that people sent in!

Chris Bogie's Boros Heroic

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Scott Schloss's Land Deck Wins

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POSValkir's Ticking Lifebomb

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Jeremy Lee's Rakk 'em Up!

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Itou Kazunari's Alpha Syndrome

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Matt's The Power of One

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Andrew's Brotherhood of Mutants

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Nekomata-sensei's Token Spell

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Seiya Iino's Debt to Karametra

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Iizuka Hiroshi's Dimir Rock

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William's "Nyx Blight"

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In two weeks from now, let's shift the focus back to Modern and see what you all can come up with!

Format: Modern
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: May 27, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

Modern weeks are usually full of all kinds of exciting decks—and I can't wait to see what you send in! Should be fun.

If you have any thoughts, feedback, or questions, feel free to send them my way! You can always reach me by posting in the forums, sending me a tweet, or asking a question on my Tumblr. I read everything I receive, so if you have something to say, go for it.

I'll be back next week with a look at Standard. Talk with you again then!


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