Historic Mardu Magda: Beating Turn 2 Ugin and Other Info

My cold, calculating drafter’s heart has very few soft spots for 60 card decks. This Historic Magda list posted by Raph Levy, however, looked similar to Mardu Vehicles – the lone Standard deck I piloted during my brief stint as a tournament grinder in Southern Maine a few years back. Hello, heartstrings. Didn’t realize you were there.

Raph Levy’s Boros Magda

Boros Magda didn’t hold my interest, but the potential to play Mardu Vehicles in Historic got the wheels in my brain turning.

The Framework

Vehicle decks of all varieties were prevalent during Kaladesh standard and evolved over time. Consequently, there’s no singular list that represents the Mardu Vehicles archetype. Credit where it’s due: Lee Shi Tian innovated and piloted the Mardu version to a PT Top 8 finish, so he’s the originator as far as I’m aware. That deck, however, contained four copies of Inventor’s Apprentice, a card I hated playing then and grimace at now. My mental version of Mardu Vehicles looks more like these lists from Ondrej Strasky and Reid Duke:

Ondrej Strasky PT list

The general idea: Bottom of the curve is efficient creatures to establish early pressure. Play a planeswalker in the middle turns. Handle your opponent’s threats with efficient spot removal. Finish with a big creature if necessary.

With that in mind, here’s my current build of Mardu Magda.

*Importable Arena decklist available below

Mana Base

Astute Constructed players will likely have questions about the mana base, so here is the answer to all your questions: These are the lands I own and I’m fresh outta wildcards after building this deck.

Truth be told, tuning a Constructed mana base isn’t in my skillset. I wouldn’t know how to put together the ideal mana base for this list even if I owned all the cards. So if there’s a Constructed player out there who knows what the ideal mana base would be, I’d love to hear it!

Raph’s list had 18 lands, 3 Shatterskull Summoning, and 2 Emeria’s Call. I cut one Emeria’s Call and replaced it with a land.

The deck can function on two lands, but three is the sweet spot. Like any Magda deck, its capable of producing absurd amounts of mana even when you’re land-light.

The Core

*This entire article should have a disclaimer just in case people think they’re reading the thoughts of an elite Constructed player – You aren’t. So while I have some strong opinions about this deck thus far, they’re the opinions of a casual Constructed player who just so happened to play a lot of Mardu Vehicles.

All that being said, I wouldn’t change any of the following:

Toolcraft Exemplar (4)

Your best turn 1 play. This little dwarf artificer hits so hard with a little bit of help. Without that help though… there are few things sadder than your aggro deck attacking for 1 damage on the second turn of the game.

Triggering the Exemplar on turn two is often the difference between the artificer dealing two damage or dealing six. The current list above has 13 ways to play an artifact on turn 2 not counting Magda.

Note: The Toolcraft Exemplar’s buff happens before the treasure is created with Magda, so the dwarf’s stats won’t get boosted unless you already have an artifact on the battlefield before combat.

Thraben Inspector (4)

Thraben Inspector sparked joy in Shadows Over Innistrad draft and I’ll clutch on to any opportunity to play the human soldier again.

Provides an artifact for Toolcraft, replaces itself eventually, blocks a surprising number of early threats in the format, and usually chump blocks to protect a planeswalker. I’ve always loved Thraben Inspector and it’ll take a lot of convincing before I take them out.

Bomat Courier (3)

No card that I enjoy playing gives me more anxiety. I’m never sure if I’ve played it optimally and the card is still fantastic somehow. Three couriers seems correct based on my games so far. I won’t be stunned if the ideal list contains a different number but I won’t be messing with them anytime soon.

Fatal Push (3-4)

Access to Fatal Push is part of the incentive for playing Mardu over Boros. After watching some of this weekend’s Mythic Championship coverage, it seems like killing a 1/1 in response to Indomitable Creativity will be of paramount importance in Historic. Killing big shark tokens also important.

Fatal push obviously can’t hit players like Lightning Helix can but I think the cheaper mana cost and ability to deal with threats after they’ve grown out of hand (e.g. Scavenging Ooze, Sprite Dragon) is worth the tradeoff. Plus, you can cast Fatal Push with revolt after you’ve declared attackers if you make a treasure with Magda. Between treasures, clues, and regular game actions taking place, triggering revolt usually isn’t difficult.

Scrapheap Scrounger (2-4)

If I owned a playset of Scroungers on Arena, I’d be playing them. Another incentive for adding black to the mana base is getting Scrounger back from the graveyard. It enables Toolcraft Exemplar, crews Heart of Kiran, attacks for 3 all on its own, and can come back to the battlefield untapped at your leisure.

Magda, Brazen Outlaw (4)

What. A. Card.

This is my favorite turn 2 sequence with the deck: Turn 1 Toolcraft Exemplar, Turn 2 Magda, attack for two, creature a treasure, cast another Exemplar. You won’t have an artifact in play at the beginning of the next combat step, but again, there are 13 artifacts or ways to produce artifacts that cost 1-2 mana in the deck so you can produce one fairly reliably.

My turn 2 over. Opponent’s Turn 3 now.

If you get an artifact on the battlefield pre-combat, not only do you attack for 10 but you make three treasures! You can play a Heart of Kiran pre-combat and Gideon Blackblade post-combat all while playing around Censor on turn 3.

Magda’s forgotten ability is sometimes relevant. Don’t forget that you can grab Embercleave or Glorybringer if you have five spare treasures.

Heart of Kiran (4)

Hits hard, protects planeswalker, trades with dragons, loves to be crewed by dwarves with Magda on the battlefield.

*Yes, you can crew this with Toolcraft Exemplar after it triggers. It’s much easier than in paper, where you have to say Movetocombattriggermytoolcraftexemplartothencrewmyheartofkiran without breathing to get the effect.

Heart of Kiran is best friends with this next guy.

Gideon Blackblade (2)

I’d never played with this Gideon and initially had some doubts it would be too vulnerable on the battlefield. Nope. Being wrong is great sometimes.

This Gideon in tandem with the vigilant vehicle is a nightmare for opponents. Attacking for 8 while also gaining 4 life is, well, as good as it sounds.

Gideon’s second ability has been surprisingly relevant. The threat of exiling a nonland permanent becomes a very real consideration for your opponent very quickly.

I could see playing a third. Definitely wouldn’t play fewer than two.

Depala, Pilot Exemplar (2)

Depala often didn’t make the cut in old Standard versions of Mardu Vehicles, so I was immediately skeptical of the playset in the Boros list. I crafted two to start and haven’t considered adding a third, though cutting hasn’t been a consideration either.

You get the added bonus of your opponent not knowing what Depala does. My 5/5 Heart of Kiran has eaten quite a few unsuspecting dragons on the Arena ladder.

Depala’s ability to search for Dwarves or Vehicles is a great place to put an additional 1-2 mana if you weren’t going to spend it anyway.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

What’s to say? She’s absurd, as usual.

Magda lets you play Chandra on turn 3 in some games which a lot of decks simply can’t recover from.

I’ve been having a lot of success with Chandra and Gideon because I have an elite Constructed thought process: Planeswalker usually win game. Win game good. Play planeswalker. The best turn to resolve your planeswalker against a blue deck is whenever you’re able to.

Scrapheap Scrounger gives you another relevant way to use Chandra’s mana ability and further pressure your opponent while adding a planeswalker to the board.

Glorybringer

Of the two top-end dragons, Glorybringer has felt more important than Goldspan Dragon mainly because clearing away a blocker is often a higher priority than making more treasure. And it’s even better now that I’ve figured out how to Exert instead of just attacking and hoping Arena will ask me if I want to.

Embercleave

A perfect one-of to go fetch with Magda. Finding Embercleave after sacrificing Bomat Courier in combat is filthy but oh so satisfying.

Flex Cards

Robber of the Rich x2

Rimrock Knight does not spark joy. This could just be personal preference, but I found Rimrock to be underwhelming despite the dwarf syngery and ability to crew Heart of Kiran. This deck already has a 2-drop that can’t block called Scrapheap Scrounger.

Robber of the Rich is just a generically good fill-in with haste for now. I don’t even know if Robber-of-the-Rich formats are a thing, but this sure doesn’t feel like one. A lot of the most popular cards being played are useless – Memory Lapse ain’t doing a whole lot in or after combat.

Maybe I’ll try going back to two Rimrock Knight but I’ll probably just craft two more scroungers when I can and play those instead.

Veteran Motorist has been on my mind as a replacement but I haven’t tried it yet.

Kolaghan’s Command

As an Affinity player, this might as well be called “Kolaghan’s Blowout,” so I have a hard time evaluating this card objectively

I have no idea if this inclusion is cute or correct. There are times when it’s great because it’s a fantastic card but I’m not sure if it’s ideal.

Goldspan Dragon

Cute or correct? This card has won me games but that’ll sometimes happen even in the wrong deck because it’s so good. I’m not sure Goldspan is better than the second Glorybringer or if the deck even needs a second 5-cost creature.

Spikefield Hazard

Considering running one of these instead of the third Shatterskull Summoning to give the deck another cheap way to disrupt the Indomitable Creativity combo.

Lightning Helix

Removed from the original list, I could definitely see some number of Helix being correct.

Beating Ugin

I knew this deck would be fun and win some games but beating a turn 2 Ugin highlights a strength that not many Historic archetypes can claim: diversity of threats.

Middle of my third turn

When a Tibalt’s Trickery player resolved a turn-2 Ugin, I was ready to sit back and let them have their fun. But when I looked at my hand, I realized Ugin can’t answer Heart of Kiran. We had an actual game on our hands.

Heart of Kiran and the backup Gideon took care of Ugin, I continued to add to the board and eventually won before my opponent could play another threat.

Obviously I was lucky to have the right combination of cards to get the job done in this case, but Mardu Magda’s diversity of threats make it difficult to stop with a single answer – even one as good as Ugin.

The Problem

As long as Izzet decks are everywhere, playing against Prismari Command is a certainty one just has to accept. I’m not a Constructed expert, but it doesn’t seem like a deck is very well positioned when the most popular decks are running four copies of a clean 2-for-1 against you.

That being said: Planeswalker usually win game. Win game good. Play Planeswalker.

If your opponent is forced to answer your early threats with removal, there’s often a window of opportunity to resolve Gideon or Chandra, at which point it’s difficult for control players to answer.

The Sideboard

4 Thoughtseize

11 Other Cards

I’ve only played BO1 so didn’t build a sideboard (I don’t have the wildcards to craft new rares anyway) but it will certainly have four Thoughtseize.

Those who have read my tournament reports know that I’m a big dumb-dumb when it comes to sideboarding. After April’s Historic MIQ I joked that I might start all of sideboard plans with a playset of Thoughtseize from now on. Turns out, I was not joking.

The switch from Mardu to Boros gives future Schaab access to hand disruption in the sideboard. I don’t know much, but I know how to take the wrath or whatever card my answer my opponent is planning to play next turn.

This is another area of potential growth for me as a player, so I’ll be quite pleased if a real Constructed player takes a shot at building a 15-card sideboard for this deck.

The Finish Line

If you like aggro decks with options, look no further. This deck is gas, has a lot of decisions to be made, and can kill your opponent in a variety of ways.

It’s not perfect – and it’s not well positioned- but it can kill on turn 4, can beat a turn 2 Ugin, and is a blast to play. Maybe it could even be competitive given a more competent Constructed deck-tuner. I’d love to know what an ideal mana base would be so I can build it when the time comes.

Historic Mardu Vehicles is a work in progress – not a work of art. I’ll be tuning the list to the best of my abilities while I do my dailies and would love some help if you’re willing and able, dear reader. For now, I’m resisting ending this article with something like “start your engines!” or “Vroom! Vroom!” so I’ll just say thanks for reading and see you next time!

-Schaab, Draft Enthusiast, Mardu Vehicles Pilot

Arena Importable Decklist


4 Thraben Inspector (SOI) 44
4 Toolcraft Exemplar (KLR) 35
3 Bomat Courier (KLR) 225
4 Magda, Brazen Outlaw (KHM) 142
1 Goldspan Dragon (KHM) 139
4 Heart of Kiran (KLR) 242
3 Shatterskull Smashing (ZNR) 161
2 Gideon Blackblade (WAR) 13
2 Depala, Pilot Exemplar (KLR) 192
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance (KLR) 117
1 Glorybringer (AKR) 157
1 Embercleave (ELD) 120
1 Emeria’s Call (ZNR) 12
4 Inspiring Vantage (KLR) 283
4 Needleverge Pathway (ZNR) 263
4 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254
3 Fatal Push (KLR) 84
2 Scrapheap Scrounger (KLR) 268
2 Concealed Courtyard (KLR) 282
2 Blightstep Pathway (KHM) 252
1 Godless Shrine (RNA) 248
2 Robber of the Rich (ELD) 138
1 Kolaghan’s Command (DTK) 224
2 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245

About the Author

Schaab fell in love with Draft when he came back to Magic in 2016. Having recently downloaded Arena, he’s been hanging out in the top 1200 Limited rankings and loves playing against the Arena elite. Life responsibilities prevent him from being a tournament grinder, so he happily considers himself a successful casual player.

To directly promote more content, check out the Let’s Talk Limited Patreon page.

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You can contact me with comments, feedback, or coaching inquiries at BeBoring@letstalklimited.com

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