Sports Betting Odds Explained - Lootmeister Sports

How to not get ruined with Options - Part 3a of 4 - Simple Strategies

Post 1: Basics: CALL, PUT, exercise, ITM, ATM, OTM
Post 2: Basics: Buying and Selling, the Greeks
Post 3a: Simple Strategies
Post 3b: Advanced Strategies
Post 4a: Example of trades (short puts, covered calls, and verticals)
Post 4b: Example of trades (calendars and hedges)
Ok. So I lied. This post was getting way too long, so I had to split in two (3a and 3b)
In the previous posts 1 and 2, I explained how to buy and sell options, and how their price is calculated and evolves over time depending on the share price, volatility, and days to expiration.
In this post 3a (and the next 3b), I am going to explain in more detail how and when you can use multiple contracts together to create more profitable trades in various market conditions.
Just a reminder of the building blocks:
You expect that, by expiration, the stock price will …
... go up more than the premium you paid → Buy a call
… go down more than the premium you paid → Buy a put
... not go up more than the premium you got paid → Sell a call
... not go down more than the premium you got paid → Sell a put
Buying Straight Calls:
But why would you buy calls to begin with? Why not just buy the underlying shares? Conversely, why would you buy puts? Why not just short the underlying shares?
Let’s take long shares and long calls as an example, but this applies with puts as well.
If you were to buy 100 shares of the company ABC currently trading at $20. You would have to spend $2000. Now imagine that the share price goes up to $25, you would now have $2500 worth of shares. Or a 25% profit.
If you were convinced that the price would go up, you could instead buy call options ATM or OTM. For example, an ATM call with a strike of $20 might be worth $2 per share, so $200 per contract. You buy 10 contracts for $2000, so the same cost as buying 100 shares. Except that this time, if the share price hits $25 at expiration, each contract is now worth $500, and you now have $5000, for a $3000 gain, or a 150% profit. You could even have bought an OTM call with a strike of $22.50 for a lower premium and an even higher profit.
But it is fairly obvious that this method of buying calls is a good way to lose money quickly. When you own shares, the price goes up and down, but as long as the company does not get bankrupt or never recovers, you will always have your shares. Sometimes you just have to be very patient for the shares to come back (buying an index ETF increases your chances there). But by buying $2000 worth of calls, if you are wrong on the direction, the amplitude, or the time, those options become worthless, and it’s a 100% loss, which rarely happens when you buy shares.
Now, you could buy only one contract for $200. Except for the premium that you paid, you would have a similar profit curve as buying the shares outright. You have the advantage though that if the stock price dropped to $15, instead of losing $500 by owning the shares, you would only lose the $200 you paid for the premium. However, if you lose these $200 the first month, what about the next month? Are you going to bet $200 again, and again… You can see that buying calls outright is not scalable long term. You need a very strong conviction over a specific period of time.
How to buy cheaper shares? Sell Cash Covered Put.
Let’s continue on the example above with the company ABC trading at $20. You may think that it is a bit expensive, and you consider that $18 is a more acceptable price for you to own that company.
You could sell a put ATM with a $20 strike, for $2. Your break-even point would be $18, i.e. you would start losing money if the share price dropped below $18. But also remember that if you did buy the shares outright, you would have lost more money in case of a price drop, because you did not get a premium to offset that loss. If the price stays above $20, your return for the month will be 11% ($200 / $1800).
Note that in this example, we picked the ATM strike of $20, but you could have picked a lower strike for your short put, like an OTM strike of $17.50. Sure, the premium would be lower, maybe $1 per share, but your break-even point would drop from $18 to $16.50 (only 6% return then per month, not too shabby).
The option trade will usually be written like this:
SELL -1 ABC 100 17 JUL 20 17.5 PUT @ 1.00
This means we sold 1 PUT on ABC, 100 shares per contract, the expiration date is July 17, 2020, and the strike is $17.5, and we sold it for $1 per share (so $100 credit minus fees).
With your $20 short put, you will get assigned the shares if the price drops below $20 and you keep it until expiration, however, you will have paid them the equivalent of $18 each (we’ll actually talk more about the assignment later). If your short put expires worthless, you keep the premium, and you may decide to redo the same trade again. The share price may have gone up so much that the new ATM strike does not make you comfortable, and that’s fine as you were not willing to spend more than $18 per share, to begin with, anyway. You will have to wait for some better conditions.
This strategy is called a cash covered put. In a taxable account, depending on your broker, you can have it on margin with no cash needed (you will need to have some other positions to provide the buying power). Beware that if you don’t have the cash to cover the shares, it is adding some leverage to your overall position. Make sure you account for all your potential risks at all times. The nice thing about this position is that as long as you are not assigned, you don’t actually need to borrow some money, it won’t cost you anything. In an IRA account, you will need to have the cash available for the assignment (remember in this example, you only need $1800, plus trading fees).
Let’s roll!
Now one month later, the share price is between $18 and $22, there are few days of expiration left, and you don’t want to be assigned, but you want to continue the same process for next month. You could close the current position, and reopen a new short put, or you could in one single transaction buy back your current short put, and sell another put for next month. Doing one trade instead of two is usually cheaper because you reduce the slippage cost. The closing of the old position and re-opening of a new short position for the next expiration is called rolling the short option (from month to month, but you can also do this with weekly options).
The croll can be done a week or even a few days before expiration. Remember to avoid expiration days, and be careful being short an option on ex-dividend dates. When you roll month to month with the same strike, for most cases, you will get some money out of it. However, the farther your strike is from the current share price, the less additional premium you will get (due to the lower extrinsic value on the new option), and it can end up being close to $0. At that point, given the risk incurred, you may prefer to close the trade altogether or just be assigned. During the roll, depending on if the share price moved a bit, you can adjust the roll up or down. For example, you buy back your short put at $18, and you sell a new short put at $17 or $19, or whatever value makes the most sense.
Now, let’s say that the share price finally dropped below $20, and you decided not to roll, or it dropped so much that the roll would not make sense. You ended up getting your shares assigned at a strike price of $18 per share. Note that the assigned share may have a current price much lower than $18 though. If that’s the case, remember that you earned more money than if you bought the shares outright at $20 (at least, you got to keep the $2 premium). And if you rolled multiple times, every premium that you got is additional money in your account.
Want to sell at a premium? Sell Covered Calls.
You could decide to hold onto the shares that you got at a discount, or you may decide that the stock price is going to go sideways, and you are fine collecting more theta. For example, you could sell a call at a strike of $20, for example for $1 (as it is OTM now given the stock price dropped).
SELL -1 ABC 100 17 JUL 20 20 CALL @ 1.00
When close to the expiration time, you can either roll your calls again, the same way that you rolled your puts, as much as you can, or just get assigned if the share price went up. As you get assigned, your shares are called away, and you receive $2000 from the 100 shares at $20 each. Except that you accumulated more money due to all the premiums you got along the way.
This sequence of the short put, roll, roll, roll, assignment, the short call, roll, roll, roll, is called the wheel.
It is a great strategy to use when the market is trading sideways and volatility is high (like currently). It is a low-risk trade provided that the share you pick is not a risky one (pick a market ETF to start) perfect to get create some income with options. There are two drawbacks though:
You will have to be patient for the share to go back up, but often you can end up with many shares at a loss if the market has been tanking. As a rule of thumb, if I get assigned, I never ever sell a call below my assignment strike minus the premium. In case the market jumps back up, I can get back to my original position, with an additional premium on the way. Market and shares can drop like a stone and bounce back up very quickly (you remember this March and April?), and you really don’t want to lock a loss.
Here is a very quick example of something to not do: Assigned at $18, current price is $15, sell a call at $16 for $1, share goes back up to $22. I get assigned at $16. In summary, I bought a share at $18, and sold it at $17 ($16 + $1 premium), I lost $1 between the two assignments. That’s bad.
You will have to find some other companies to do the wheel on. If it softens the blow a bit, your retirement account may be purely long, so you’ll not have totally missed the upside anyway.
A short put is a bullish position. A short call is a bearish position. Alternating between the two gives you a strategy looking for a reversion to the mean. Both of these positions are positive theta, and negative vega (see part 2).
Now that I explained the advantage of the long calls and puts, and how to use short calls and puts, we can explore a combination of both.
Most option beginners are going to use long calls (or even puts). They are going to gain some money here and there, but for most parts, they will lose money. It is worse if they profited a bit at the beginning, they became confident, bet a bigger amount, and ended up losing a lot. They either buy too much (50% of my account on this call trade that can’t fail), too high of a volatility (got to buy those NKLA calls or puts), or too short / too long of an expiration (I don’t want to lose theta, or I overspent on theta).
As we discussed earlier, a straight long call or put is one of the worst positions to be in. You are significantly negative theta and positive vega. But if you take a step back, you will realize that not accounting for the premium, buying a call gives you the upside of stock up to the infinity (and buying a put gives you the upside of the stock going to $0). But in reality, you rarely are betting that the stock will go to infinity (or to $0). You are often just betting that the stock will go up (or down) by X%. Although the stock could go up (or down) by more than X%, you intuitively understand that there is a smaller chance for this to happen. Options are giving you leverage already, you don’t need to target even more gain.
More importantly, you probably should not pay for a profit/risk profile that you don’t think is going to happen.
Enter verticals. It is a combination of long and short calls (or puts). Say, the company ABC trades at $20, you want to take a bullish position, and the ATM call is $2. You probably would be happy if the stock reaches $25, and you don’t think that it will go much higher than that.
You can buy a $20 call for $2, and sell a $25 call for $0.65. You will get the upside from $20 to $25, and you let someone else take the $25 to infinity range (highly improbable). The cost is $1.35 per share ($2.00 - $0.65).
BUY +1 VERTICAL ABC 100 17 JUL 20 20/25 CALL @ 1.35
This position is interesting for multiple reasons. First, you still get the most probable range for profitability ($20 to $25). Your cost is $1.35 so 33% cheaper than the long call, and your max profit is $5 - $1.35 = $3.65. So your max gain is 270% of the risked amount, and this is for only a 25% increase in the stock price. This is really good already. You reduced your dependency on theta and vega, because the short side of the vertical is reducing your long side’s. You let someone else pay for it.
Another advantage is that it limits your max profit, and it is not a bad thing. Why is it a good thing? Because it is too easy to be greedy and always wanting and hoping for more profit. The share reached $25. What about $30? It reached $30, what about $35? Dang it dropped back to $20, I should have sold everything at the top, now my call expires worthless. But with a vertical, you know the max gain, and you paid a premium for an exact profit/risk profile. As soon as you enter the vertical, you could enter a close order at 90% of the max value (buy at $1.35, sell at $4.50), good till to cancel, and you hope that the trade will eventually be executed. It can only hit 100% profit at expiration, so you have to target a bit less to get out as soon as you can once you have a good enough profit. This way you lock your profit, and you have no risk anymore in case the market drops afterwards.
These verticals (also called spreads) can be bullish or bearish and constructed as debit (you pay some money) or credit (you get paid some money). The debit or credit versions are equivalent, the credit version has a bit of a higher chance to get assigned sooner, but as long as you check the extrinsic value, ex-dividend date, and are not too deep ITM you will be fine. I personally prefer getting paid some money, I like having a bigger balance and never have to pay for margin. :)
Here are the 4 trades for a $20 share price:
CALL BUY 20 ATM / SELL 25 OTM - Bullish spread - Debit
CALL BUY 25 OTM / SELL 20 ATM - Bearish spread - Credit
PUT BUY 20 ATM / SELL 25 ITM - Bullish spread - Credit
PUT BUY 25 ITM / SELL 20 ATM - Bearish spread - Debit
Because both bullish trades are equivalent, you will notice that they both have the same profit/risk profile (despite having different debit and credit prices due to the OTM/ITM differences). Same for the bearish trades. Remember that the cost of an ITM option is greater than ATM, which in turn is greater than an OTM. And that relationship is what makes a vertical a credit or a debit.
I understand that it can be a lot to take in. Let’s take a step back here. I picked a $20/$25 vertical, but with the share price at $20, I could have a similar $5 spread with $15/$20 (with the same 4 constructs). Or instead of 1 vertical $20/$25, I could have bought 5 verticals $20/$21. This is a $5 range as well, except that it has a higher probability for the share to be above $21. However, it also means that the spread will be more expensive (you’ll have to play with your broker tool to understand this better), and it also increases the trading fees and potentially overall slippage, as you have 5 times more contracts. Or you could even decide to pick OTM $25/$30, which would be even cheaper. In this case, you don’t need the share to reach $30 to get a lot of profit. The contracts will be much cheaper (for example, like $0.40 per share), and if the share price goes up to $25 quickly long before expiration, the vertical could be worth $1.00, and you would have 150% of profit without the share having to reach $30.
If you decide to trade these verticals the first few times, look a lot at the numbers before you trade to make sure you are not making a mistake. With a debit vertical, the most you can lose per contract is the premium you paid. With a credit vertical, the most you can lose is the difference between your strikes, minus the premium you received.
One last but important note about verticals:
If your short side is too deep ITM, you may be assigned. It happens. If you bought some vertical with a high strike value, for example:
SELL +20 VERTICAL SPY 100 17 JUL 20 350/351 PUT @ 0.95
Here, not accounting for trading fees and slippage, you paid $0.95 per share for 20 contracts that will be worth $1 per share if SPY is less than $350 by mid-July, which is pretty certain. That’s a 5% return in 4 weeks (in reality, the trading fees are going to reduce most of that). Your actual risk on this trade is $1900 (20 contracts * 100 shares * $0.95) plus trading fees. That’s a small trade, however the underlying instrument you are controlling is much more than that.
Let’s see this in more detail: You enter the trade with a $1900 potential max loss, and you get assigned on the short put side (strike of $350) after a few weeks. Someone paid expensive puts and exercised 20 puts with a strike of $350 on their existing SPY shares (2000 of them, 20 contracts * 100 shares). You will suddenly receive 2000 shares on your account, that you paid $350 each. Thus your balance is going to show -$700,000 (you have 2000 shares to balance that).
If that happens to you: DON’T PANIC. BREATHE. YOU ARE FINE.
You owe $700k to your broker, but you have roughly the same amount in shares anyway. You are STILL protected by your long $351 puts. If the share price goes up by $1, you gain $2000 from the shares, but your long $351 put will lose $2000. Nothing changed. If the share price goes down by $1, you lose $2000 from the shares, but your long $350 put will gain $2000. Nothing changed. Just close your position nicely by selling your shares first, and just after selling your puts. Some brokers can do that in one single trade (put based covered stock). Don’t let the panic set in. Remember that you are hedged. Don’t forget about the slippage, don’t let the market makers take advantage of your panic. Worst case scenario, if you use a quality broker with good customer service, call them, and they will close your position for you, especially if this happens in an IRA.
The reason I am insisting so much on this is because of last week’s event. Yes, the RH platform may have shown incorrect numbers for a while, but before you trade options you need to understand the various edge cases. Again if this happens to you, don’t panic, breathe, and please be safe.
This concludes my post 3a. We talked about the trade-offs between buying shares, buying calls instead, selling puts to get some premium to buy some shares at a cheaper price, rolling your short puts, getting your puts assigned, selling calls to get some additional money in sideways markets, rolling your short calls, having your calls assigned too. We talked about the wheel, being this whole sequence spanning multiple months. After that, we discussed the concept of verticals, with bullish and bearish spreads that can be either built as a debit or a credit.
And if there is one thing you need to learn from this, avoid buying straight calls or puts but use verticals instead, especially if the volatility is very high. And do not ever sell naked calls, again use verticals.
The next post will explain more advanced and interesting option strategies.
Post 1: Basics: CALL, PUT, exercise, ITM, ATM, OTM
Post 2: Basics: Buying and Selling, the greeks
Post 3a: Simple Strategies
Post 3b: Advanced Strategies
Post 4a: Example of trades (short puts, covered calls, and verticals)
Post 4b: Example of trades (calendars and hedges)
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NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020

We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them.
Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now.

1. Arizona Cardinals

Why they can win the division:
Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other.

Why they could finish last again:
Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league.

Bottom line:
I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020.

2. Detroit Lions

Why they can win the division:
Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough.

Why they could finish last again:
Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive.

Bottom line:
I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark.

3. Miami Dolphins

Why they can win the division:
When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game.

Why they could finish last again:
As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams.

Bottom line:
As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here.

4. Los Angeles Chargers

Why they can win the division:
First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy.

Bottom line:
In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division.

5. Washington Redskins

Why they can win the division:
These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game.

Why they could finish last again:
Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you.

Bottom line:
These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

Why they can win the division:
I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period.

Bottom line:
The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now.

7. Carolina Panthers

Why they can win the division:
Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7.

Why they could finish last again:
Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season.

Bottom line:
The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

Why they can win the division:
We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates.

Why they could finish last again:
As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year.

Bottom line:
I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air.

If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) -
You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube -
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[Primer] The Nightmare Hive: A Five-Colour Lurrus Slivers Guide

Humans don’t have it easy in fantasy settings. They tend to be cast either as strictly worse versions of other races in all qualities that actually matter, or they’re just the jacks-of-all-trades lacking both the strengths and weaknesses of the others. In many games, this lack of specialization makes humans boring, and keeps them away from presence in minmaxed munchkin builds, but here? They do have one strength.
A band of humans from all five colours trek across the countryside. The finest specimens that the species has to offer. They come from all walks of life: noble priests, veteran soldiers, pirates with even less respect for you than for your property rights. There’s one chick who makes stuff cost more mana somehow. (Do any of the Innistrad novels explain that?)
All march together for a common purpose: using their combined powers, they must exterminate a hive of interplanar rodents. The slivers have expanded their territory in recent months, terrorizing the farmers whose grain the kingdom relies on. The exterminators are well-equipped, bringing magic found in their faith, strength found in the arrival of their comrades, and giant praying mantises found God-knows-where. Discard, +1/+1 counters, ramp - they have it all. If there’s a need that has to be met, you can bet there’s a human somewhere willing to do it for enough coin. But through it all, these bipedal mammals still have one weakness.
Humans are pack animals, you see, but still individuals. Social ones to be sure, but they also appear determined to love their shortcomings more than their potential greatness, and cringe away from the pinnacle of evolution: the parasocial. Their flesh-brains have come so far, but without an omnipresent psionic link, they’re little more than their unicellular ancestors. Limited to a single life. A single existence. You can dismantle an entire army of them just by breaking down their fragile communications systems. Once that’s done, you can just sit back and watch as disorganization dissolves their ranks and their differences drive them to tear each other apart. This is the eternal flaw of the Self: it implies a lack of perfect union with the Whole.
And as these humans, less of a people than a cobbled-together mass of persons, reach the top of the hill and see the outline of the Hive on the horizon, they will know the failure of their species. They will bear witness to the accomplishments of the Whole and even as they fail to articulate it in words, they will know that the Self is the Flaw.
We have long since mended this Flaw. They sent their finest ones, but the fact that their finest are confined to being ones, with gifts that only apply to singular specimens, is their fatal limit. That is why their final stand against our expansion can only ever be that: a final stand.
"bro wtf that was cringe, ur gonna lose karma"
Sorry, I’m a wannabe fantasy writer on Reddit. Get used to awful prose.
Welcome to a primer for my particular brew of 5C Slivers in Modern: the Nightmare Hive. It’s something I’ve been somewhat surprised to not see more Slivers players dabbling in. If you ask me, I think they have an unhealthy attachment to 3-drops. 🤮
I’m going to focus on deckbuilding/card choice and playstyle notes. It’s probably not going to be a ton of new information for experienced players, but it can call attention to some micro. I’ll throw some attention to matchup notes but that’s not what’s as fun for me to write. This is also the first time I’ve ever written an MTG primer. Well, a primer that isn’t for a deck that’s actually just a shitpost made of cardboard. (Ask me about 95-land Vendilion Clique EDH!)
There’s not much I have to say for an introduction or a “Why Slivers?” in general. You guys already know it. Slivers have a certain reputation among casual players for being OP. Maybe this is because they’re the truest embodiment of what a tribal deck is. Slivers sacrifice a lot of individual power in order to maximize group power. But really the reason for this is that building a functional Sliver deck for casual is one of the easiest things in the world. As far as fair decks go, you can get a ton of mileage in terms of effectiveness out of relatively little money spent just by rooting through the foul-smelling dumpster that is your LGS’s bulk commons bin, throwing any slivers you find at some lands and calling it a deck. You also get more insight by comparing them to other creature types like Humans or Elves: plenty of those creature types will show up incidentally in more generalist decks, but the instant an opponent plays their first Sliver, you know exactly what’s going on and you know you should be afraid. Consequently, casual circles often have the one Sliver deck of the friend group whose player loves to be feared and who everyone else loves to fear.
This shifts a lot once one goes into competitive environments. Slivers have clear weaknesses, and in my view, many of the common modern Sliver builds fail to really play to their strengths enough to make up for this. I don’t even know if the deck I’m about to describe to you is any different, but I can attest to this deck having a good matchup against other Sliver decks by virtue of sheer speed. Vroom vroom.
Do keep in mind that while I’m hyping this deck up because it’s mine and I’m proud of it, it’s far from perfect. But you know what it is? Consistent, easy to play and fun as SHIT for smoothbrains like me. HAHA TURN CREATURES SIDEWAYS EVERY TURN, WORLD’S BEST STRATEGY GAME, NOW FREE TO PLAY ON MTGARENA
Alright bois, get ready. Strap in, set aside your existential identity as a Unique and become one with the Hive. Click your talons together when you’re ready and brace yourself for some card choice analysis. Truly the funnest part of Magic, at least if you’re like me and spend hours honing a theoretical build for your D&D character without caring to ever actually play it.
If all you care about is the list, here's the summary by a helpful Goyf.

The 0-Drops:

In this deck, our only 0-drops are lands, and you’re probably familiar with what the best choices already are. Where this gets a tad spicy is in the land count: 18. One of the reasons this deck stands at an advantage against other Sliver decks is precisely from the pseudo card advantage provided by being able to draw fewer lands than our opponent and still have a functional deck. Curving lower than burn out here.
4x Cavern of Souls: Surprising literally nobody with this one. In the Bant snowpile meta that hasn't quite gone away with Astrolabe, your opponent will have plenty of countermagic, and this card will be pulling a lot of weight for getting you on even footing with them.
4x Unclaimed Territory: Discount Cavern. The color-fixing is just this valuable, letting us draw on Slivers from every color to create an optimized horde without stressing about our mana sources.
4x Sliver Hive: Here’s something we have over other tribal decks: Twelve different lands that can all tap for colorless as well as one of any color to spend on our creatures. Sliver Hive has a final ability stapled on, but I legitimately feel that this card would be buffed if that ability was replaced with flavor text. That would improve Slivers as a whole by adding to their aesthetic while also removing an ability that literally never gets used, at least in this build. Requires you to draw a third of the lands in your whole library to use, and if you’ve reached that point, you’ve probably already lost.
0x Ancient Ziggurat: WHAT? Yeah yeah, I know. Here’s the thing: With the above lands doing so much for our mana fixing, and a number of other lands we want, there’s little room for Ancient Ziggurat. Which is a shame, because ziggurat is an awesome word that you should strive to use at least once every day. The inability to be used on noncreature sources matters more often than you’d think, usually in the case of sideboard cards but also for a number of hands in which one would be keeping a single land and an Aether Vial.
“But isn’t it better for Lurrus since it can produce any colour to cast it, unlike Sliver Hive?”
Before the nerf, this was correct. However, now that you have to pay 3 generic mana to put your companion into your hand, a cost that Ancient Ziggurat can’t contribute to, it’s no longer worth it.
In short, Ancient Ziggurat is good, but “good” isn’t good enough for the Hive. We demand more.
3x Mutavault: Unfortunately, playing 4 Mutavaults here is suboptimal. Five-color deck needs its five-color sources, and in a deck with 18 lands, we don’t want more than one-sixth of our lands failing to produce colored mana. A number of creatures in the deck are ones Mutavault can’t be used to pay for even if we want to. That said, the 2/2 body that benefits from all the Sliver buffs is commonly the difference between winning and losing a game. In playtesting I’ve found 3 to be the optimal number, but you wouldn’t be totally insane for playing 2 or 4.
2x Silent Clearing: Apparently 18 lands is sometimes too many. The pain from these is usually insignificant, while the card draw can help us pull a clutch win out of nowhere. This particular horizon land is chosen since out of the ones available, it most lines up with our mana requirements. Shoutout to the times you crack it at EoT, draw a creature you can drop with Aether Vial, untap and swing for lethal because of that new Sliver.
1x Snow-Covered Plains: Yes, this deck is very, very bad against Blood Moon. Good thing the Astrolabe ban makes Ponza worse, right? Blood Moon only gets less common in the meta from here, right guys?
The single Plains is mostly a formality, something to fetch off of opponents’ Paths, Assassin’s Trophies and Fields of Ruin. Why Snow-Covered? Mind games. It might cause your opponent to think you run something that makes the snow quality relevant. In truth, it’s because it adds possible variance in your opponent’s mind that they might account for, at zero mechanical downside. I actually don’t like the fact that snow-covered basics are strictly better than standard basics. I’d like to see a modern-legal Snow hoser that’s good enough to use, making snow lands something to use only if your deck actually cares about them rather than making them the optimal default for every single deck.
So, that’s our manabase. Nothing too surprising or exciting, but had to be done.

The 1-Drops:



One of Slivers’ main weaknesses as a tribe is their one-drops. There aren’t many, and the ones we get aren’t absolutely spectacular. No 1 mana 2/2s with haste or anything. (God can you imagine how OP a 1 mana 2/2 with haste would be?) But they do get the job done, providing the keyword soup that makes this deck favourable against other fair decks. Just to fluff this out and address some bad possibilities people might want to account for, I’ll also be rating every one-drop sliver. I know you’re desperate for my opinion.
4x Aether Vial: When I first got into Magic, I didn’t understand what was so good about Aether Vial. Sure, you can get some cards into play faster, but it also takes up your first turn as well as a card to use. You’re just kneecapping yourself in the long run. What I didn’t understand is that much of the time, there is no long run in Modern. The added speed is worth it, as is the instant timing and the immunity to counterspells. Aether Vial is our only noncreature spell maindeck and we’ll drop it turn 1 if it’s in hand. They’d better counter it then, or the combination of Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial itself will make counters useless. This card is also what lets this deck survive at all against Blood Moon.
0x Metallic Sliver, Plated Sliver: The earliest slivers weren’t that powerful. We’re not missing much from being unable to use these.
0x Mindlash Sliver: I do wish this was somehow playable, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. You’re spending mana to 2-for-1ing yourself, unless your hand is empty, but even then this probably isn’t worth it. You don’t want to rip apart hands, you want to rip apart FACES. Doesn’t make the cut. Maybe one day we’ll get a better version of this that’ll be useful against control.
0x Screeching Sliver: If someone manages to make Sliver Mill good, let me know. It’s certainly not viable now given all the Uros and dredge.
4x Sidewinder Sliver: Now we’re talking! Costs 1 white mana, meaning it works with any of our non-Mutavault lands. Flanking essentially makes this a lord for combat only, but there will be places where the fact it gives others a minus instead of your own creatures a plus is relevant: opposing lifelink becomes less powerful, Ice-Fang Coatls die before they get to deal damage, even 1-toughness first strikers die before getting to deal damage. Flanking only works against creatures without flanking, but the only time that’ll come up in Modern is the mirror, and in that matchup this will essentially just be vanilla since it grants the ability to all slivers, not just yours.
0x Virulent Sliver: Maybe in the past you could’ve made the case for this. Maybe you could argue that in some very niche cases like against soul sisters or decks that can continuously pick off your lords, the poison will kill before the damage. Especially if you get multiple of these out. But nowadays our selection of one-drops isn’t quite that terrible, and we don’t have to use this.
4x Galerider Sliver: The best one-drop Sliver in most cases. Little to say, makes them unblockable to most creatures. Being able to block enemy fliers sometimes matters, but usually your playstyle is just HAHA TURN CREATURES SIDEWAYS, MAGIC IS THE WORLD’S BEST STRATEGY CARD GAME. If your opening hand has multiple one-drop slivers, you might want to drop one of the other one-drops first in order to bait the removal on that one. To use Sidewinder Sliver as a point of comparison: making your opponent’s blocking choices less optimal isn’t as good as taking away their option of blocking at all.
4x Striking Sliver: Now this is interesting. Most Sliver decks I’ve seen run 2 of both this and Sidewinder, but since this deck is meant to be faster and more aggressive, we want 4 of both. Especially since both of them are equally good against one-toughness blockers like Snapcaster Mage or Ice-Fang Coatl. Let’s compare them for interest’s sake. First Strike works on both attacks and blocks, unlike flanking, and you can Aether Vial the Striking Sliver in as a combat trick after blocks. Can’t do that with Sidewinder since flanking is a triggered ability. By contrast, Sidewinder Sliver is easier to cast given our mana base, works better as a combat trick in more cases (a 2/2 sliver with first strike blocked by a 2/2 successfully turns a trade into a win, while being blocked by a 3/3 fails to turn a loss into a trade; flanking succeeds for both) and as the slight nudge into superiority for me, flanking stacks. Also importantly, many of your opponents will not know that flanking stacks until after you inform them of this once they’ve already formally declared blockers. For me, flanking stacking makes it more valuable to get multiple Sidewinder Slivers as opposed to multiple Striking Slivers, and in most matchups if I’m boarding out 1-drops, I’ll start taking out copies of Striking before Sidewinder. Exceptions do exist: against 8-ball you will be very thankful for your 1/1 first striker that totally negates their single-toughness attackers.
Well I guess that’s all of them. Time to move on to-
2x Changeling Outcast?!: That’s right folks, you heard it here first. We’re this aggressive. We’re committing so hard to our lord and savior The Fast that we’re throwing in a couple of 1-mana unblockable changelings who will benefit from all pumps given to slivers. The fact they can’t block is hardly ever relevant in a deck that intends to do no blocking, and the unblockable clause makes this a clock that gets surprisingly fast once you have a couple of the two-drops down. Costing black mana means there’s only four lands in the deck that can’t cast it, making it a reliable first-turn play if you really have nothing else to put down, and they’ll let you win through a number of board stalemates. All of that said, these will usually be your first cuts when it comes to sideboarding. Not that they’re bad, just that everything else is better - these are essentially flex slots. Try them, and if you find them underwhelming, I have other suggestions in their stead for the two-drops. Do note, however, that this can make your curve a bit too high to be truly speedy.

The 2-Drops:

The reason this build works, and arguably the reason the whole tribe works, is that Slivers have such an abundance of 2-mana lords. (Basically, if you wish Rat Colony.dec was a good deck, play this. That's why I do.) They wind up buffing each other and creating monstrous attack phases in a short number of turns. The consistency is phenomenal since they’re all so interchangeable and redundant. Not all of them are created equal, but all of them will nonetheless serve you well in ripping people’s midsections open.
4x Unsettled Mariner: This time we’ll just get the one changeling out of the way upfront: this guy is good. 2 mana 2/2 makes it a reasonable rate for a body, and you can drop it early in place of a lord without actually losing much damage. Many opponents will be tunnel visioned on killing this in order to free up mana, which will also take up their removal that should have been saved for killing lords. It makes life noticeably harder for burn, 8rack, Jund as long as they have to let it live, and so on. An excellent addition to the deck from Modern Horizons, instant 4-of. Be sure not to forget that it doesn’t just prevent the spellcasting, but counters it as a triggered ability, so you won’t just have to correct your opponent that they’re unable to cast their spell given the mana they have like with Thalia - their spell is directly countered if they screw up. Also remember that the counter applies to spells that target your nonsliver permanents, such as land destruction, as well as to you! Delaying Cryptic Command for a turn is super helpful in the control matchup. Lastly, it applies to abilities as well. Planeswalker abilities, Fields of Ruin, Thought-Knot Seer ETB trigger, even Gifts Ungiven, all of it has to have extra mana paid or it does nothing.
0x Clot, Heart, Muscle, Talon, Winged, Acidic, Crystalline, Hibernation, Victual, Crypt, Hunter, Mistform, Quick Sliver: None of them are modern legal. The most unfortunate loss is Crystalline Sliver, which could be out here giving all of them shroud and thus making removal totally pointless. At least Unsettled Mariner does an acceptable impression.
0x Ghostflame Sliver: WHAT DO WE NEED TO BE COLORLESS FOR? GET OUTTA HERE COLORLESS BOY (might be fun tech against all is dust or ugin, but by that point you’ve already lost)
0x Spined Sliver: This is an interesting one to me, and I’ve come very close to running it. The 2/2 body makes it attractive, as does the ability acting similar to flanking. Two things contribute to it not being worth running: the fact that at the end of the day its ability is a worse flanking, and the fact that casting it is too awkward for the utility we get out of it. We need either Vial or two lands that can tap for any colour to get Spined Sliver out, and while we actually do meet that criteria the majority of the time, the minority is large enough to be worthy of consideration.
0x Two-Headed Sliver: It sometimes gets close to kinda viable-ish, but the fact it’s a 2 mana 1/1 that doesn’t pump itself as well as the fact that we already have several flying sources and a few unblockables in here means that this ability is very often pointless. You will feel the pain when it’s absent, and you’re unlikely to notice the pain of it being present and wishing it was something else, but trust me - the damage is there even if you don’t feel it. It’s not good enough for the main deck, and the sideboard has much more important circumstances to concern itself with than whether or not menace would be good in this matchup. We already run over most other go-wide decks, and are unlikely to lose due to a lack of menace.
0x Cautery Sliver: You just get so much more out of any given sliver from its quality of improving other slivers than you get from sacrificing them to ping stuff.
0x Darkheart Sliver: I legitimately believe this one can be viable. If you’re in a particularly aggressive meta, you can pull wins out of the extra life from this. Against burn, each sliver can directly cancel out a burn spell. Against Jund, you can respond to all removal spells by gaining some extra life. Sac everything in response to a boardwipe to buy time for your recovery, including dodging the exile clause on Anger of the Gods. Chump and sac before damage if you manage to be losing for some reason. There was a time when I ran a single one mainboard as a better game 1 against burn decks, and I wouldn’t fault you for running it as a one-of, though I now consider the loss of consistency for doing so to be a bit too much. Especially since Unsettled Mariner is already a card that makes it more awkward for your opponents to remove your slivers, you already have some protection from this angle.
4x Sinew Sliver: And now we’re off to the races! Drop it turn 2, cast it with an extremely easy mana cost for this deck, Aether Vial it in before damage to screw over opponents’ blocking decisions, pump your Mutavault, save creatures from damage spells. Sinew Sliver puts in a ton of work, and is easily one of the best cards in the deck. PUT IT DOWN, MAKE ALL YOUR SLIVERS RIPPED, TURN YOUR CREATURES SIDEWAYS, YOU CANNOT LOSE.*
\you can sometimes lose)
4x Frenzy Sliver: I don’t like Frenzy Sliver. I just don’t. It’s a 2-mana 1/1 that only adds power and only for unblocked creatures. Can’t even Aether Vial it in after blockers are declared. Sinew Sliver sparks joy. Frenzy Sliver does not spark joy. However, it’s very easy for this deck to cast and it comes close enough to being a lord for this highly aggressive list that it makes the cut as a 4-of. If you’re considering cutting two-drops for your sideboard cards, these will be among the first to go, unless your opponent plays so few targeted spells and abilities that Unsettled Mariner isn’t worth it.
4x Predatory Sliver: Yes… YEEEEEESSSSS! One-sided Sinew Sliver STRONK! Costs green instead of white, but being one-sided matters more often than you think, and not just for the mirror. Sinew Sliver will also be buffing opposing Mutavaults and Unsettled Mariners. Predatory Sliver is consistently a house against decks of all kinds, being cast turn 2 or being dropped by Aether Vial at instant speed to wreak havoc on opponents. Many question why one would even play Slivers when options like Merfolk and Goblins are available, and the answer is that we’ve already touched on 12 different damage-boosting 2-drop slivers, and we’re not even done!
0x Sentinel Sliver: Similar to Darkheart Sliver, I used to run this as a one-of and I’m quite convinced it’s viable depending on meta. Easy to cast, 2/2 body, and without being able to use the 3-mana lifelink sliver, this does a lifegain impression by allowing us to threaten blocks where we couldn’t before. That said, its benefit is situational and its presence raises our curve as well as potentially the need for more lands. I leave it out, but you wouldn’t be insane for including one if you have an aggressive creature-based meta.
0x Diffusion Sliver: Other Slivers players will maul me for this choice, but it comes back to how aggressive this deck wants to be. 2 mana 1/1s really need to earn their place, and this doesn’t quite do it, especially with Unsettled Mariner already present in the deck. Diffusion Sliver is an absolute house in more midrangey or ramp-focused sliver builds to protect the big boys, but this list doesn’t lean so heavily on any individual component, and it would typically rather draw another lord than a diffusion sliver. Especially when it’s already late game or when it’s trying to recover from a wiped board. So what I’m getting at is something you probably already knew: defense is for wimps.
4x Leeching Sliver: This is a better version of Frenzy Sliver. It still has many of the same problems, but the advantages of life loss as opposed to a damage boost are crucial: the life loss bypasses effects like Worship, isn’t prevented by Fogs, still applies even if the attacking creature is blocked, and the triggers can finish off a nearly-dead opponent even if they have enough creatures to block everything. 16 2-mana lords. This is why you play slivers.
0x Venom Sliver: This can work as a one-of if the stars align and you have an extremely weird meta full of big creatures that aren’t Uro and Kroxa. But in most metas the deathtouch just isn’t going to be useful enough. Your creatures should get big enough to kill with combat damage, and you’d rather have a lord instead of this to boost said combat damage.
0x Bladeback Sliver: Slivers that are tapping to deal direct damage aren’t benefiting from the 16 lords. We don't like your type 'round these parts.
4x Cloudshredder Sliver: Oh-HOOOOH, this thing is spicy. This absolute MADMAN acts as Galeriders 5-8 for much more consistent evasion, as well as haste. This is the quality it takes to let a 2-mana 1/1 that doesn’t pump itself be viable, and it earns its place unquestioningly. Seriously, this allows for absolutely ridiculous plays. Turn 1 Aether Vial, turn 2 Cloudshredder Sliver, Vial in Sidewinder Sliver and swing for 2, turn 3 Striking Sliver, Predatory Sliver, Vial in another Predatory Sliver, swing for 15, flying, flanking, first strike. There are many decks that just cannot handle this pressure, especially if they’ve already shocked themselves. If they Anger of the Gods now, they’ll still be low enough for you to rebuild and kill with a second wave later.
0x Dregscape Sliver: This may or may not be the correct choice. It’s what I’m currently using due to trying to avoid the unearth being a nonbo with a certain nightmare cat. No question that these are good, and might actually warrant a place here, but this specific build performs just fine without them. Like the other 0-but-viable slivers, you can play around with cutting the Changeling Outcasts for a couple copies if you wish.

The 3-Drops:

Why would anyone in their right mind play 3-drops in a non-ramp deck? This is modern. Format's too fast and degenerate for that, bucko.
With one exception.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

The benefit for the restriction, besides the lower land count. We all know how awesome Lurrus is. Format-breaking monster.
“But u/Yaldev, companions got nerfed!”
You call that a nerf?! Now we can pay 3 mana, the same as its normal cost, but now it’s colorless, and then put it into play at instant speed and uncounterably with Aether Vial! Combined with the fact that the hardest abusers of Lurrus are now considerably less able to abuse it themselves, while it actually got better for us specifically, and I think there’s never been a better time to play this deck!
If you do feel like casting Lurrus from hand, it costs 1 colourless and two hybrid black/white, so even our non-5C lands can contribute to casting it. Also keep in mind that it’s totally viable to play your “name a creature type” lands and name Nightmare for the sake of being able to cast Lurrus, AND keep in mind that those lands will still be able to be used to pay for your changelings since they also count as Nightmare Cats. Fun!
Lurrus is such a boon for this deck, despite not being a sliver. It has lifelink, working well against burn and prowess. It lets you come back from a number of different boardwipes. It frees up the space that would have been taken up by Dregscape Sliver to instead get other utility and one-mana spells while still having access to reanimation. You can recur your sideboard cards if they get destroyed. This card is just so GOOD and I can’t believe that other Slivers players are so delusional that they think it’s worth it to trade off Lurrus for cards that cost THREE mana!
But what about Collected Company?
Collected Company is indeed one of the best arguments against a Lurrus build, but there are a few details I want to call attention to, one of which is the impact of both the mana cost and the coloured requirement. Including Collected Company demands a retooling of the mana base, reducing consistency in exchange for potential pop-offs that have a ceiling that feels good to pull off, but is typically overkill.
The other issue is one that doesn’t have as much attention paid to it: it increases how many noncreature spells you’re running. Despite the bans, we’re likely still looking at a meta with a dominant snow-pile control feel. A deck with enough Dovin’s Vetos and Force of Negations to spare. By making these cards practically useless by sticking to almost entirely creature spells, we deprive our opponent of resources.
All of that said, you actually could still play around with including Collected Company as well as Lurrus. Remember, Lurrus’s restriction only applies to permanents, not to instants and sorceries. It’ll just require retooling your mana base a bit, probably including another land or two and dropping some of the any-colour producers in favour of green lands, Silent Clearings go out for Horizon Canopies, and it makes you more vulnerable to Grafdigger’s Cage, a card that opponents will already be boarding in against you if they have it in order to deal with Lurrus. You also won’t get maximum value since you have no 3 drops to get. This is essentially 4 mana for 4 mana at most.
Slivers isn’t a solved archetype. Feel free to be a scientist, do your own experiments, add to collective knowledge of the Slivers Player Hivemind.


For this sideboard, I’ve opted towards going hard against specific decks rather than having few cards for everything. This is in part out of necessity, since our options for diversifying legitimately are limited: the Slivers that are worth including in sideboards are 3+ mana, and that leaves only colourless spells that cost 2 or less. We can’t go wide, so we have to go deep.
4x Chalice of the Void: BEHOLD THE FUNSLAYER. Chalice on 1 is your answer to all the decks you already know are reliant on 1 drops, including but not limited to:
To account for this, you’ll typically be boarding out some 1-drops to account for strong likelihood of them being uncastable, though even then, there’s still a good chance you’ll get to use them anyway. Aether Vial turn 1 will let you get them in without casting, while Cavern of Souls will make your 1-drops uncounterable by Chalice.
Also keep in mind the super spicy Chalice on 0, which makes life difficult for UR Free Spells, Cascade, any cheesy strats trying to be Cheerios in 2020, Prime Time (NO PACT 4 U), and once again, Ad Nauseam. 0 stops them from casting Lotus Bloom from exile!
Overall, I think Chalice is the deck’s best sideboard weapon. Do not run less than 4. It’s too valuable.
4x Dismember: Sometimes there are creatures you genuinely have to worry about. Stoneforge Mystic fetched Batterskull and you can’t handle it being played on turn 3. Goyf needs to die before it gets massive. Against other tribal decks, taking out a key lord can be more valuable than yet another 1-drop sliver on your own side. 4 life is a lot to pay, but often this card will save you more than 4 life, or prevent more than 4 life gained for your opponent, or just secure a win that could have otherwise been thrown into question. Also keep in mind that because your Silent Clearings tap for black, they can contribute to the Phyrexian mana cost to save a teensy bit of life.
4x Soul-Guide Lantern: This can easily be substituted for Tormod’s Crypt if that’s your preference. I just like the Lantern for the ETB exile so that it doesn’t have to be cracked as early just to get rid of a single problematic card in a graveyard. In any case, this answers dredge, Uro, Jund and so forth. Can also be sacced to draw if you simply must win the game before your opponent’s next turn and desperately need to hit something to secure that. As a bonus, it can be recurred with Lurrus as both repeatable grave hate and card draw.
1x Damping Sphere: In all likelihood you’ll want 2 of these if Tron has relevant presence in your meta, but for my own deck I prefer to keep it to 1. Nothing special here, it hits all the same stuff you’d expect, such as Tron, Storm and Prowess. The annoying thing about it is that you also happen to be one of the decks that wants to put out several spells per turn, meaning that Damping Sphere will be slowing you down as well.
1x Torpor Orb: In all likelihood you’d rather drop this to double up on Damping Spheres, but I find that in longer games, you’ll get a ridiculous amount of mileage out of this bad boy. Your deck has exactly zero ETB triggers, so you’ll miss out on nothing, while simultaneously gimping Snapcaster Mages, Ice-Fang Coatls, Soul Sisters, Squadron Hawks, Rangers and Ranger-Captains of Eos, Seasoned Pyromancers, Silvergill Adepts, Harbingers of the Tides, Merfolk Tricksters, Thassa’s Oracle, Champions of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenants, Detention Mages, Freebooters, Thought-Knot Seers, those god-awful “turn your lands into artifacts and then Reclamation Sage them” decks, and need I even mention blink strats?

Piloting the Deck:

In many games, this deck plays out in quite similar ways: Turn 1 sliver, turn 2 lord and swing, turn 3 another lord and swing with second mainphase one drop, turn 4 play 2 more lords and kill. May take an extra turn or two depending on their removal and how painful their manabase is. Seriously, it’s impressively fast, while also being impressively consistent.
Because the creature spells in your library curve out at 2, you’re perfectly fine with keeping a hand consisting of a single land and an Aether Vial. You can leave the Vial at 2 charge counters for the whole game, and even if by some freak of probability you never draw a second land, you can cast your 1-drops with the single land. At the same time, drawing more than one Aether Vial isn’t redundant for you, since there are a number of times when you’ll want to tick a 2-counter vial up to 3 for the sake of dropping Lurrus.
Note that in most games, Lurrus won’t even come out. Deck is 3FAST. It’s more of a possibly-turn-losses-into-wins sort of card. In games you were going to win anyway, it’s rarely necessary.
Deck’s fun. Sometimes you do actually have to think about the attacks you’re making. Sometimes you have to play around your opponent’s open mana meaning they very likely have something to pick off a lord. That can impact whether you’re still willing to attack with your 3/3 that’ll be brought down to a 2/2 into their blocker. Sometimes you have multiple lords in hand and you play the weaker one first to bait removal. I can’t realistically cover every situation, but I can offer some general advice:

Matchup Notes

This primer's already approaching the character cap for reddit, so here's a separate document for any hotties who've made it this far.

Conclusion (ft. Shameless Self-Plug)

Thanks for reading this, ModernMagic lurkers! Apart from wanting to give back to all the primer writers who've helped me smash face in Magic and other games through the years, I wrote this in order to get my writing in front of people's beautiful faces. If you like my style, feel free to check out my fantasy/sci-fi writing project at Yaldev. It's got weaponized cyborgs, undead dinosaurs, sentient paper airplanes, Horse Meat, lots of pretty art, and if you're a Vorthos flavour-geek you'll definitely be seeing how MTG influences the worldbuilding. Hopefully that's a good thing.
Feel free to post comments and discussion, I should be around to provide responses of questionable value.
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Nifty Or Thrifty: Premier Cup (PvP Meta/Budget Review)

It's me, that PvP article guy again! I've been writing the "Nifty Or Thrifty" article series for a long time--it's actually the series that got me started, 150ish PvP articles ago, way back in February 2019--but I believe this is the first time it's shown up here on The Road. So, by means of introduction, the "Nifty Or Thrifty" series takes a comprehensive look at the meta for upcoming Cup formats--Premier Cup, in this case, now less than two weeks away!--particularly focused on Pokémon where you can save yourself some stardust. Normally I write this for Great League, where things do not often have to be maxed out, but of course here we're talking Master League, so yeah, everything will be maxed. Therefore I will spend extra time on those with cheaper costs for adding a second charge move, as it's really the ONLY place where we can hope to get "thrifty". Because for those on a stardust budget--and/or folks trying to save up some dust for the future--it can be daunting trying to figure out where to spend or not spend it. We all want to field competitive teams, but where can we get the best bang for our buck and where should we perhaps instead channel our inner scrooge?
We've got a lot to cover, so let's not waste any more time. Here we go, organized by Pokémon with the cheapest cost for adding a second move and moving on through from there.
(Do note that most of the linked simulation results below assume maxed out, 15-15-15 IV Pokémon on both sides of the equation. Your mileage obviously may vary depending on IVs on either side of a particular matchup, so watch out for the close matchups especially... a score of 500 is a tie, below is a loss, and above is a win. The closer the number is to 500, the closer the result!)

10,000 Dust/25 Candy

Mud Shot | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Earthquake/Sludge Wave
Likely the most common "cheap" Pokémon you'll see in the Cup, and the reason is simple: Swampert is a big player, and holds one of the best records against the core meta. The so-called "Mud Boys" (WateGround Pokémon) famously have only one weakness--a double one to Grass--and resistances to Steel, Electric, Fire, Poison, and Rock moves (all very relevant in Master League), and therefore can run absolutely rampant against unprepared teams. Swampy is the only one that has the stats/CP to play with the big boys. While it has no great answers for two thirds of the "axis of evil" of Premier Cup (Dragonite, Togekiss, and Metagross), Swampert abuses Metagross, as well as other Steels, Electrics, Fires, and Grounds that are likely to appear, and can even stand toe to toe with things like Machamp and Gardevoir and simply outslug them. And while Flyers like Dragonite and Togekiss evade it, Swampy can at least make Togekiss play honest if it's packing Sludge Wave (and usually has time to fire off two of them, so no baiting necessary). Wave is a little risky though, as Swampert barely beats Metagross without the generally preferred Earthquake... Hydro Cannon often gets the job done against most opponents, and does against Gross, but Earthquake is a great finisher against Gross (that's a difference of well over 100 HP!) and others like Snorlax and can OHKO things like Magnezone and Electivire. And again, the second move is only 10,000 dust... you've already invested enough to max out your Swampert, so what's another 10k? Swampert is the textbook definition of "getting the bang for your buck" in Premier.
Waterfall | Hydro Cannonᴸ & Flash Cannon/Blizzard
Empie can do your standard Water things, walloping Fires and Ices (Water resists Ice, but not the other way around!) and Steels and Grounds, which a smattering of other Water types can all handle as well. But Empoleon has something other Waters don't: a Steel subtyping. That means it resists Charm and can therefore beat Togekiss and Gardevoir, which is very handy and puts it a cut above the vast majority of other Water types that can play at this level. And it really does all that with just Hydro Cannon... Flash Cannon or Blizzard SHOULD be added, especially being so cheap to do so, but their applications will be more for shieldless scenarios.
Waterfall/Dragon Breath | Crunch & Hydro Pump
So everybody already knows that Gary is a player in Ultra and Master League, right? And Dragon Breath is the way to roll, right? Well, strictly by the overall numbers, yes, that looks like the better move than Waterfall. But I'm here surprising even myself by actually recommending you give strong consideration to Waterfall instead. Why? Because it seems better against the core meta--the Pokémon you are most likely to face--than does Dragon Breath. Waterfall wins all the same matchups there that Dragon Breath does--and usually with more remaining HP--and adds on wins against Rhyperior, Snorlax, and Gengar. I know, I've been convinced Breath is the move to go with in PvP too, but with the pool excluding Legendaries and Mythicals, Waterfall seems to pull ahead. May the Fast TMs be ever in your favor.
Razor Leaf | Sand Tomb & Frenzy Plantᴸ/Stone Edge
If you have played PvP for any amount of time, you have surely run across a Razor Leafer at some point. It is an extremely punishing fast move that often tears things apart without needing to trouble itself with charge moves... Razor Leafers tend to laugh at shields. Most don't get big enough for Master League though... but Torterra does. It has the CP, bulk, and typing that allows it to hang in there and earned it my first ever Master League spotlight article. And there is one charge move it has that comes frequently enough that it does make an impact: Sand Tomb. It is very nasty here, as it lowers the Defense of the opposing mon--even if shielded!--and makes subsequent Razor Leafs all the more deadly, typically making each one deal 3-4 more damage, and that adds up FAST. That makes "Torterror" a major force in Premier, absolutely obliterating things weak to Grass, but also Electrics (with its Grass/Ground typing--the only such Pokémon in the game, by the way--it TRIPLE resists Electric damage) and other relevant things like Snorlax, Gardevoir, and Machamp.
Bullet Seed | Earthquake & Leaf Blade
I'll keep this one simple: it's all about that Earthquake. If Sceptile is able to bait a shield with Leaf Blade (tied for cheapest move in PvP and highest damage output of any 35-energy move, at 70 damage a pop!) and then land a Quake, it does some very nice things. If it doesn't... well, at least it can still shred a few things with Blades, or just forgo baiting and double Earthquake the Electrics. You get Rhyperior and Swampert and such ether way, which is nice. This is more of a high risk/high reward option, I admit, but if you're comfortable with using Sceptile in the lower leagues, yeah, you may like it here too.
I did look at other Grass starters, but they just struggle up at this level. VENUSAUR and MEGANIUM are the most promising, each doing normal Grass stuff (Rhyp, Swamp, etc.) and Venu having a small anti-Charm, anti-Fighting niche and Meg Earthquaking Electrics, but they just can't really do anything beyond that. Too bad.
Shadow Claw | Blast Burnᴸ & Solar Beam/Overheat
With obvious applications against things like Metagross (and other Steel), Fairies, and Ices, Fire types are an intriguing option in Premier, but suffer from not having a lot of (non-Legendary) members that crest 3000 CP. Three of the best ones--all starters--don't even get that high. Typhlosion is probably the best of those three thanks to Shadow Claw, which is very widely unresisted here and a good move on top of that. It does all the things I mentioned before (beating Steel, Fairies, Ice, and of course other things like Grass), plus has advantages over other Fires like Charizard and just outdamages others like Conkeldurr. And don't forget the ever-present threat of Solar Beam which can win Typh things that NO Fire type has any right to, or at least force shields against things that have little to fear from other Fires.
Fire Spin/Air Slash/Wing Attackᴸ | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ
Charizard doesn't have Shadow Claw, but has its own advantages. It's typically run with Fire Spin, but Legacy Wing Attack and even Air Slash have legit play here and may be even better than Spin, giving Charizard wins against other Fire types while still holding up against the Steels you'd most want Fire Spin for and really only giving up a barely there win over Snorlax and holding all other wins, usually with about the same remaining HP too. (And the energy gain of Wing Attack in particular gives Zard its best chance of beating Glaceon...believe it or not, even super effective Fire Spin is arguably less reliable.) Charizard is a solid option this time, and with no Dialgas or Melmetals or the like in sight, I think it's actually with a Flying fast move this go-round.
Counter | Blaze Kick & Stone Edgeᴸ/Blast Burnᴸ
All of you who made yourselves a Stone Edge Blaziken with your precious Elite TM, pat yourselves on the back. It looks like potentially the best version of Blaze here, beating all the same things as Blast Burn minus a super close loss to Typhlosion (BB is 5 energy cheaper than SE, and that makes the difference there), and gaining a win over (Dragon Breath) Gyarados and a legit threat to things like Togekiss and Dragonite. Blaze is a bit boom or bust, as many of its wins rely on baiting a shield with spammy Blaze Kick, but the boom potential is quite high for anyone brave enough to max one out.
Volt Switch | Rock Blast & Stone Edge
This might be the first real "huh?" moment in this article. A-Golem is probably not one you've given serious thought to for Premier Cup, but maybe you should, as not only does it have a cheapo second move cost, but a rock solid (total dad joke there!) performance that includes wins over Dragonite, Togekiss, Gyarados (yes, even if it has Waterfall), Electivire, potentially Magnezone, and of course the Fires and Ices that want nothing to do with Rock damage. It's not the longest list of wins you'll find, but it's a darn good list for the lowest dust cost you can find in Master League. If you're hurting for affordable options, A-Golem might be JUST what you're looking for. I recommend it over one that IS generating a little more buzz: Aggron, which does better against the Faires but generally worse otherwise.
Counter | Shadow Ball & Power-Up Punch
I know, I know... "but JRE, Lucario's second move costs 75,000 dust!" True... but Riolu's second move costs only 10,000 thanks to the infamous Baby Discount™, and it only makes sense to buy that before evolving, so don't forget! Once you do, Luc becomes potentially the cheapest Fighter you can use in Premier (depending on how far you have to level up a good Machamp). And while not the best of the best, Luc puts in a solid showing for something that maxes well below 3000 CP, taking out all the major Steels (including Metagross), Ices, Snorlax, and conveniently Typhlosion as well. It's not the most expansive set of wins, but Luc does exactly what you want a good Fighter to do most and is a legit team player in Premier.
Counter | Night Slash & Hyper Beam
Yes indeed, it's more than viable, I'd say even moreso than Lucario. Goonie doesn't have a ton of great super effective targets for Night Slash, but it's a widely unresisted move that can go off for a big Attack boost at any time, and sets up a closing Hyper Beam nicely (which is necessary against Gyarados, Glaceon, Electivire and leads to blowouts over Snorlax, Rhyperior, and others). Candy shouldn't be an issue here, but whether all that dust is worth it is your call. Just keep it FAR away from Fairies and other Fighters.

50,000 Dust/50 Candy

Vine Whip | Rock Slide & Power Whip/Solar Beam
While other Vine Whippers fall short in Master League, one of my clever Patrons pointed me to Tangrowth. It wasn't on my intial list, but it would seem that was an unfortunate oversight. Growth creeps above the 3000 CP threshold and looks quite solid here in Premier. That is thanks not just to solid Grass damage (with Power Whip being a close approximation of the broken Frenzy Plant the starters get), but also the threat of newly added Rock Slide bringing it wins like Charizard that Grasses simply shouldn't be able to get (and being the preferred weapon against things like Gyarados too). If you're looking for a Grass that can bring serious pressure to shields and doesn't have the bust potential of Sceptile, Growth might be just your speed.
Fire Fang | Wild Charge & Crunch/FlamethroweBulldozeᴸ
There's one Fire type that works here outside the starters, and it's one that can really keep the opponents guessing! I have long been an Arcanine groupie, so it warms my heart to see that, yes, it is quite viable in Premier Cup. And the crazy part is that the vast majority of its performance hinges not on its Swiss Army like toolkit of charge moves (though Wild Charge pulls its weight against Flyers and leads directly to a win over Charizard), but instead on Fire Fang. Look at all those things it can beat with just fast moves, pocketing a ton of energy to throw at whatever follows. Note that list includes the popular Magnezone and Togekiss, and can even include mighty Metagross as long as Arcanine shields the non-Mash charge move. Arcanine is a good boy! Scratch him behind the ears and consider making him YOUR best friend in Premier.
Smack Down/Mud Slap | Surf & SuperpoweRock Wreckerᴸ
Ready to have conventional wisdom flipped on its head again? The overall best moveset for RhyPerrier does not include Community Day move Rock Wrecker... the best overall looks to be Smack Down (which does plenty of Rock damage on its own!) with charge moves Surf and Superpower, which ends up looking like this. Smack Down alone takes down all the Flyers (Nite, Kiss, Gary) and Fires you care about, plus Gardevoir, Glaceon, and Gengar (Triple G!), while SuperpoweSurf add on Snorlax and Magnezone (regular AND Shadow for each).
That all being said, there is a good case for the perhaps more standard Mud Slap/WreckeSurf. While it sheds Dragonite and Glaceon and even Snorlax, it gains one big, prominent name: Metagross, being able to simply Slap it to death. That is no small thing, though is it worth what you give up? Look over those sims--and create your own by playing around with various movesets--and decide for yourself. You know your OWN team best, after all, not me or anyone else!
And yes, I did look over the somewhat similar EXCADRILL, and while it plays somewhat like Mud Slap Perrier, it just doesn't do as much. If you have one already maxed, then yes, it IS viable, but given a choice between them, I think it's Rhyperior all the way.
Powder Snow/Mud Slap | Avalanche & Bulldoze/Stone Edge
Yes, as you may have guessed, sets with Powder Snow are generally best, with Avalanche combining with Stone Edge to hate on Fires (and DB Gary) or with Bulldoze to take out Magnezone(s). Either way, other Grounds, Flyers (though Dragonite usually remains frustratingly out of reach), most Electrics and Fires, and things like Gengar and Snorlax want nothing to do with it. Alternatively, as with Rhyperior, you can run a Mud Slap variant to hate HARD on Electrics and Metagross, and then take your pick of charge moves to threaten others as you see fit.
Ice Fang/Thunder Fang | Body Slam & Earth Power
I don't know that I'd recommend maxing one of these just for Premier Cup, but there are crazier things, I suppose. With Ice Fang it does abuse Dragons and Fairies and also manages to beat Snorlax, Scizor, and the big Electrics too. And wth Thunder Fang it trades the Dragons for Charizard and Gyarados (regardless of fast move). Again, not the greatest long-term use of dust, perhaps, but Hungry Hungry Hippo is a good enough flash in the pan for this format to at least consider.
Shadow Claw | Shadow Ball & Sludge Bomb
Oh, how I wish it was getting Shadow Punch in time for Premier Cup, but alas, it'll be a few short weeks too late. Instead, we'll have to make due with Shadow Ball and Sludge Bomb, which is obviously a step down but certainly still viable, handing Metagross, Charmers, and Fighters their lunch money, along with Gyarados and Typhlosion, which would seem to be things Gengar would want to avoid, what with their Crunches and Claws. It's a nice little niche to occupy, and one that will surely benefit some teams when Premier rolls around.
Spark | Mirror Shot & Wild Charge
'Zone has already been touted quite a bit as a top Premier Cup option, and I have friends who have already maxed theirs in preparation. And by the numbers, it's easy to see why. But I also see some red flags. Mirror Shot is largely responsible for those high numbers, as they just tail off without its bait potential. Now MS is not JUST a bait move, in fairness--it beats some good, relevant things with it--but if you turn off baiting... well, the results speak for themselves. The truth likely lies somewhere between those reduced numbers and the max potential result (with baits bringing in wins against Nite, Glaceon, Lax, and Shadow Gross & Zone). I am not trying to say Zone is bad, just that it requires some practice time to feel out when to bait and when to just go for broke. It's not one to pick up the day before you compete and expect to already have mastered. Practice makes perfect!
Charm | Flamethrower & Ancient PoweAerial Ace
Togekiss, on the other hand, you pretty much CAN pick up and use right away. As a Charmer, the name tells you everything you need to know: Charm stuff to death, and typically plan to pocket energy to throw a charge move at whatever follows. Flamethrower is probably the closest Kiss has to a "must have" move to have an answer to Metagross that is one of the very top counters to Togekiss. Beyond that, Ancient Power or Aerial Ace is kind of a matter of preference... Power can threaten Fires, but Ace puts out higher neutral damage for the same cost AND gets STAB on top of that. Whatever you roll with, there are literally no better counters to Dragonite (and only Dragonite itself is a better counter to Garchomp) and the Fighters... and also getting things like Swampert and Gyarados and Snorlax and fellow Charmer Gardevoir are very nice bonuses. There is a reason everyone and their mother are talking about running Togekiss... it is a VERY hard counter to some very good things, and almost singlehandedly keeps the Dragons from running amok.
Counter | Rock Slide & Dynamic Punch/Close Combat
Another one where you may be wondering why I'm recommending the moves I am. "Where's Cross Chop? Isn't that Machamp's best Fighting charge move?" Yes, it likely is... in Great and Ultra League. In Master, you usually want raw power over more bait-y moves, and few Pokémon exemplify that more. Just look at a move like Close Combat compared to Cross Chop. Close Combat and Dynamic Punch can get wins like Garchomp, Conkeldurr, the mirror (vs Cross Chop Champ), and big prizes Swampert and Metagross that Cross Chop cannot reliably replicate. The ONLY things in the core meta that can overcome DP or CC Champ in 1v1 shielding are Gengar, Gardevoir, Togekiss, and Dragonite, and Rock Slide can turn even those last two around quick. I will say that in my own personal experience, I like DP over CC just because the self-nerfing that comes with CC really hurts sometimes, but it's more just a matter of preference than anything.
Counter | Close Combat & Megahorn
Heracross lacks Machamp's awesome Rock Slide coverage, but it has Megahorn instead, which is a nice move with unique coverage all its own. Putting Horn together with the Fighting moves, Cross lies somewhere between Champ's max potential and the other Fighters... it is better than Conkeldurr and Lucario and XC Champ, and worse than DP or CC Champ. One big plus is that its Bug typing makes Heracross resistant to Fighting moves, so it beats all the other Fighters one on one. Beyond that niche--and having a good answer to stray Psychics thanks to Megahorn--it mostly just operates as your standard Fighter, albeit a very solid one.
Counter | Heavy Slam & Close Combat/Superpower
So good is Fighting in this meta that even a Fighter that tops out below 2900 CP is still quite good. Heavy Slam is really just here to provide neutral coverage... the Fighting moves are all Hairy Yama will need most of the time. His HP is so high that he can shrug off the self-nerfing of Close Combat and Superpower better than most, beating all the Steels, Normals, Ices, and Rocks you need a good Fighter to beat, plus Typhlosion and Swampert, and Hairy outbulks the other major Fighters too. If you can't or don't want to build a Machamp, Hairy may be your next best bet.
Counter | Drill Run & Megahorn
Escavalier has already made a name for itself in Great and Ultra Leagues, getting better and better over time as first Megahorn was buffed, and then Drill Run's cost was reduced. Combine all that with Counter, the best fast move in PvP, and it's easy to see why it's been a force in the lower Leagues. Can it do the same here? Despite maxing out below 3000 CP, it would appear that yes, it most certainly can. Counter takes out Ices and Shadow Magnezone (though that last one only shows up if you go straight Counter), Drill Run adds Steels and Rhyperior and Gengar, Megahorn adds Gardevoir and Snorlax, of all things, and the combination of it all puts together adds Swampert as a sweet cherry on top. It is perhaps not the most impressive volume of wins, but the quality of the wins it does get is impressive.

75,000 Dust/75 Candy

I am going to try to cover these a bit more succinctly, as I have a Reddit character limit to account for AND these are obviously not thrifty picks anymore. So strap in for the final push!
Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Hurricane/Draco Meteorᴸ
Nite's future looks bright, with a ridiculous win percentage in Premier Cup, one that remains robust against the core meta, beating everything except hard countering Charmers, Ice, Metagross, and Shadow Magnezone. (Even regular Zone falls short.) Perhaps even more impressive is that Dragonite can do all this with just Dragon Claw if it wants to, with the sole exception of Scizor (barely!). Dragonite is--and should be--perhaps THE top option in Premier Cup, doing a ton of things very, very well.
Mud Shot | Outrage & Earthquake/Sand Tomb
Sand Tomb is obviously primarily a bait option, but amazingly, even if the baits go awry, Chomp still does well (and the sky is the limit if the baits DO work!). You can forgo all that and just go for the throat with big moves Outrage AND Earthquake... Mud Shot charges them both fast enough for that to be a legit possibility. Whatever you roll with, expect to have a leg up on Electrics, Grounds, Steels, Fighters, and Fires, but be ready to swap quickly at the sight of any Dragons, Charmers, or Ices. This is also one of the best cases for considering Dragon Breath on Gyarados, as DB Gary consistently terrorizes Chompy even more than Dragonite does.
Counter | Dragon Claw & Earthquake/Night Slash
If you have somehow managed to find a good one AND max it, you're gonna like what it can do. Sort of an unholy mix of Nite, Chomp, and a Fighter. It beats Steels, Fires, Electrics, Ices, AND things like Snorlax and Rhyperior, and then Scizor (with Night Slash) or Machamp (with Earthquake). I lean towards Earthquake and the surer win over Machamp personally, but there's not really a "wrong" way to go.
Bullet Punch | Meteor Mashᴸ & Earthquake/Psychic
The Steel moves do most of the work, handling Fairies, Ices, Fighters (sometimes, at least), Dragonite and Rhyperior and others. For the second move, while Psychic seems to be all the rage to really beat on Fighters, I continue to beleve in Earthquake, which gives Metagross an important leg up against Steels like Magnezone and, of course, enemy Metagrosses (Metagreese?). Its ability to handle Fairies and Dragonite in particular make it a BIG player in this meta, one you should expect to see on the majority of teams.
Lick | Body Slam & Superpower
Normal and Shadow are both very viable and very good, beating most things that don't wail on it for super effective damage (Fighters) or resist its moves, to include Metagross, Gardevoir, Ices, Electrics, and anything that relies on Ghost damage. If you REALLY want to go nuts, though--and had the foresight to TM away Frustration during the short window we had to do so--Shadow Snorlax is basically a straight upgrade, gaining wins over Togekiss, Garchomp, Rhyperior, Gyarados, and Charizard without giving up any core meta wins regular Lax achieves. If you want to break the piggy bank wide open, that might be the place to do it.
Thunder Shock | Wild Charge & Ice Punch/Thunder Punch
The only pure Electric that has legit play here, and that's a nice thing since Electrics are weak only to Ground damage and resist three very relevant types (Steel, Flying, Electric). Vire has the intriguing Ice Punch, but against the core meta, Thunder Punch is actually slightly better, getting all the same stuff plus Metagross. Vire beats Fires, other Electrics, Lax, and even the Steels... and Gyarados, but surely you already knew THAT one. It's a steady option that does a bit more than "just Electric stuff".
Fire Spin | Fire Punch & Psychic/Brick Break
Did you even KNOW that Mags gets Psychic? Yep, it's true, and combined with the Fire moves, it does alright for itself, taking out the things you'd expect your Fire to beat (Steel, Ice, Fairy, etc.) plus the other Fires too. Alternatively, you can replace Psychic with Break Break to trade in Typh and Conk for regular and Shadow Magnezone instead (as Fire Punch is just a hair too slow to get that job done).
Waterfall | Surf & Hyper Beam
Here's a Water type I bet you completely forgot about. But Milotic can break the 3000 CP threshold and puts in quite the impressive performance! Not only does she beat the Fires and Grounds and Ices and Steels you might expect, but Milly also overpowers Machamp, Gardevoir (and leaves Kiss with less than 5 HP too), Snorlax, Gengar, and fellow Water Gyarados. And she can do all that except Gary with JUST Waterfall and Surf. (Hyper Beam adds wins against other Waters, like Gary and Cloyster and such.) Nothing fancy, just big bulk wearing opponents down. Milotic should be on your radar, and I assume it hasn't been to this point, amirite?
Ice Shardᴸ/Water Gun | Surf & Blizzard/Skull Bash/Ice Beamᴸ
Lappie doesn't max out anywhere NEAR 3000 CP (doesn't even break 2700!), but it has such great PvP stats and moves that it finds a way to compete in Premier anyway. Dragons, Flyers, Fires, Ices, Grounds... they all have a long-standing restraining order out for Lapras. So good is Lapras that it even hangs in and competes with Water Gun, trading in the Gyarados and Swampert wins it gets with the more standard Ice Shard for Gardevoir, Typhlosion, and Scizor instead. And that is perhaps one of the best things going for Lappie... unlike Milotic and others that have no real surprises up their sleeves, Lapras can come at you with quite a wide array of moves and keep the opponent guessing every time they have to make a shielding decision. Use that, run with it, and consider being bold enough to dust off your favorite Lapras for the biggest of big leagues. It will earn your trust yet again.
Smack Down/Bite | Crunch & Stone Edge/Fire Blast
Keeping this one simple: with Smack Down, Tyranitar is basically a worse Rhyperior, gaining Dragonite but losing Togekiss and any realistic shot at Metagross. With Bite it gets Metagross but trades in Dragonite and Magnezone to do it. Maybe that has a role on your team, but it seems to me you can probably do better and cheaper elsewhere.
Just gonna do some QUICK HITS for the rest:
Other fun spice options to look at on your own time include (but are not limited to!) Feraligatr, Shadow Flygon, Golurk, and Gliscor.
And before I ramble on any further... that’s a wrap! As with all my articles, take all of this with a big grain of salt. I am not trying to persuade you on using any one 'mon or any one team, and of course everybody’s dust situations are different. But perhaps this can help you balance the cost of where to save yourself some hard-earned dust (and candy!).
Before I go, continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last year and a half and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game.
Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon which now has a tie-in exclusive Discord server you can access to get straight through to me. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I'll try to get back to you!
Thank you for reading! I very much appreciate you taking the time, and sincerely hope this helps you master Premier Cup, and in the most affordable way possible. Best of luck, and catch you next time!
submitted by JRE47 to TheSilphRoad [link] [comments]

Nothing is more horrifying to an adventurer than a Rust Monster, its mere touch turning their weapons to rust - Lore & History

This week we bring forward a horrifying bug! This strange monster is known as the Rust Monster, and as you may have gathered from its name, it has something to do with rust.
For all the monsters that have come and gone, it’s a little surprising that this strange looking creature has traveled through time. It certainly hasn't existed this long because of its good looks, but from the unique ability to destroy metal. Finally, we have a monster that doesn’t want to eat your face off but rather is interested in what you wear. This roach-like creature doesn’t bother trying to hurt you, instead, it focuses on corroding your weapon while it’s still in your hand.
Like the Owlbear, the Rust Monster is one of the original monsters created by Gary Gygax. Inspired by a toy he picked up for his game since most miniatures were for armies and not horrifying monsters, he created a creature that could not physically hurt you, but the mental damage it inflicted was far worse. In an interview with Dragon magazine, Gygax tells of how he came up with the Rust Monster.
When I picked up a bag of plastic monsters made in Hong Kong at the local dime store to add to the sand table array … there was the figurine that looked rather like a lobster with a propeller on its tail … nothing very fearsome came to mind… Then inspiration struck me. It was a Rust Monster.
Dragon Magazine #88 (1984)


No. Appearing: 1-2
Armor Class: 2
Move: 12”
Hit Dice: 5
% in Lair: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: Special
Treasure: Nil
The Rust Monster was introduced in the Greyhawk Supplement (1974) and might be one of the more interesting monsters to be introduced in this edition. Not only is it more than just a typical monster that goes around murdering in a dungeon, but it also has a special way of dealing with adventurers that helps it stand out. We can only imagine the look of confusion at Gary Gygax’s table as he puts down his little toy Rust Monster and told everyone to roll their initiative… promptly followed by his uncontrollable giggling. They had no idea what was heading for them.
Unfortunately for the rest of the Dungeons & Dragons community that bought the supplement there is no picture to giggle at and there is no information describing exactly what the Rust Monster even looks like. The closest we get to a description is that it looks like an “inoffensive creature” and that it is very fast, which is not exactly inspiring horrifying images of a bug-thing trying to eat your metal bits.
An encounter with the Rust Monster probably looked very different from table to table back then, but the mechanics of this monster would be similar. A group of adventurers is wandering around a dungeon when they stumble across 1 to 2 inoffensive but fast creatures. They decide this is a good time to put that fancy new magical sword to the test and the fighter goes to stab at this inoffensive looking creature. The blade then disappears into rust as it hits the monster, then it’s the Rust Monsters turn who inoffensively attacks the fighter turning all of their plate armor into rust immediately. We now have a naked fighter sprinting back to the party screaming about how the Rust Monster is invincible and that the magic-user needs to destroy it with a fireball.
Before we talk about what makes the Rust Monster so special, let’s look at their more generic statistics and how they stack up. Their AC is surprisingly high, as an AC 2 is equivalent to that of an umber hulk and even to some dragons. Their described “fast-ness” gives them a movement rate that allows them to keep up with most characters, if not chase them down. For such an inoffensive looking creature they also have a decent amount of Hit Dice, so that’s just one more surprise the party is in store for them when the fireball clears and these creatures are charging you, smelling that delicious sweet iron.
What truly makes the Rust Monster special though is their only attack that simply relies on them touching you. Their touch simply turns your armor into rust, this could be a metal shield, a holy amulet, or even a powerful magical artifact. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as it has that delicious ferrous material in it, meaning anything with iron content. Of course, that’s not the only problem when dealing with these annoying monsters. If you try to beat them away with your sword, your weapon turns to rust upon touching them, it doesn’t matter if it is magical or not.
All you are doing by using your iron weapons against a Rust Monster is simply feeding them. These creatures feed on the rust that was once a family heirloom passed down countless generations… Also, they can smell any iron-based metals and are attracted to it, so you might know to avoid them all the while they are specifically running after you, hungry for that delicious armor your fighter is wearing.

Basic D&D

Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 5*
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: 1
Damage: See below
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter 3
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 300
The Rust Monster appears in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977) with nothing new, luckily for the Rust Monster, it gets a few updates in the updated Moldvay/Cook Basic Set (1981) and the BECMI Basic Set (1983). The original Basic Set from 1977 still has no information describing what this ‘inoffensive’ creature looks like and the limited information provided in OD&D is cut down even further. It’s not until the next Basic Set in 1981 that those who play Basic are able to gaze with horror at this monster and get a more detailed explanation of what exactly it is.
The Rust Monster is described as a giant armadillo with a long tail, it has two feelers in the front that are more aptly described as long antennae. This description makes us question the ‘inoffensive’ tag that they had been described with previously, those who hail from Texas and similar southwestern states can attest that armadillos aren’t the prettiest of creatures. Combine that with an extra long tail and two long feelers on its face, that the artwork depicts as fuzzy, it makes us worried it is going to feast on our face. Despite the overall sense of danger we get from this creature, at least there is no new lore that it likes to eat people, so that’s a plus.
With little no new information provided in the BECMI Basic Set, let’s go over a change that is featured in the 1981 and 1983 sets with regards to the Rust Monster's only attack. Hitting or being hit by the Rust Monster causes normal metal armor or weapons to immediately rust on contact and, as the description so helpfully points out, they become completely unusable. Thanks for letting us know a pile of rust doesn’t function anymore!
Now, that’s all as before, but this time we get clarification on magical items that might make you feel a teensy bit safer in fighting them. If you strike out at the Rust Monster, which actually makes you the monster, they just want a snack, your +2 magical sword will be reduced by 1 step to a +1 magical sword. It’s not so mean to the fighters, and in fact, your magical sword and magical armor get a chance to save against this type of effect! When you hit or get hit by them, the item targeted by the Rust Monster’s effect gets a 10% chance for every magical bonus to its stats to save against being turned into rust. This means that a +2 shield would have a 20% chance of not being reduced to a +1 shield when struck, while a +1 weapon would have a 10% chance of not becoming a mundane sword.
In the 1983 Basic Set, there is a solo adventure to help teach new players how to play Dungeons & Dragons and features you assuming the role of a fighter and going around and clearing the nearby caves of baddies. The adventure is set up like a choose your own adventure and has you fighting goblins, ghouls, and the Rust Monster.
During the fight with this horrendous monster, it strips you of all your armor and weapons and then, as you stand their defenseless bracing yourself for the final blow… it loses interest in you and starts eating all the rust your equipment made for it. According to this adventure, Rust Monsters are not evil or mean, just hungry for rust, and have no intention of killing you. This is a great little tidbit hiding behind an adventure about the monster and how it operates inside of the world, it’s a little sad that this type of information wasn’t made available in the description of the monster. We might’ve saved even more of these strange monsters from being killed by murder-hobo players!


Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 1-2
Armor Class: 2
Move: 18”
Hit Dice: 5
% in Lair: 10%
Treasure Type: Q (x10)
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: Nil
Special Attacks: See below
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M
Psionic Ability: Nil
Unfortunately for the Rust Monster, it doesn’t change much in this edition, though it at least makes it into the Monster Manual (1977). Rust Monsters will only be found in dark, damp locations like dungeons, underground caverns, or potentially in a sewer. They spend their time wandering around, looking for food that, as mentioned previously, is made up of metal. For them, their ideal food is ferrous metals and they typically disregard metals like gold or silver, unlike the humanoids that wander the world murdering for it. The Rust Monster will hunt out these metal types, such as steel, iron, mithral, adamantine, and the like, being able to smell it from a fair distance away. Now we are sure they do other things other than just looking for food, like make more Rust Monsters, but we have no additional details. For all we know, they could be the life of the party at dungeon gatherings.
1st edition also uses the same rules as Basic does when it comes to how they deal with weapons and armor. Anything they touch with an antenna rusts away so long as it is a metal and anything you touch them with rusts away if it is a metal. If you are carrying out some magical items, you get that all-important saving throw to not lose it forever as it gets a cumulative 10% per magical bonus to the item. There is a big difference however, if the item fails the save, it immediately turns to rust. None of that wimpy being reduced by one so that your +2 sword would become a +1 sword. Fail that save and say goodbye to the magical flail your deity bestowed upon you. Good luck trying to explain that one.
The last bit of information you can squeeze out of the description is that Rust Monsters are easily distracted. When you decide to run away, and if your party is made up of only fighters clad in plate, and you should run away, you can distract the Rust Monster from chasing you down. You’ll finally have a use for those caltrops you’ve been carrying around forever as you throw them on the ground and the Rust Monster will pause to have a snack. It’s a quick eater though, as it will only stop for a single round to munch on them. So get behind a door and wedge it shut. Now only if you had some caltrops…
We find out much more information about the Rust Monster in Ed Greenwood’s Ecology of the Rust Monster (Dragon Magazine #88, 1984). We know exactly what the first thing you want to know about these Rust Monsters is, and don’t worry, we’ll let you know right after we talk about the important lore we learn about the Rust Monster. If you just can’t wait, skip this next paragraph.
Rust Monsters are highly dependent on their sense of smell, which makes sense as we know they can smell metals from a distance, but what you didn’t know is that if the Rust Monster can’t smell the object, they won’t know it is there. If some beautiful and tasty ferrous metal is hanging out in plain view, and for some reason they can’t smell it, it’ll completely ignore it and keep on walking past it. This ability to sniff out metals, and even to turn metals into rust, is thanks to a unique strain of bacteria that exists within the Rust Monster. It turns out, the Rust Monster is a host to this bacteria that produces sugar out of metals, more specifically ferrous metals, and then provides that nutrition to the Rust Monster. This, coupled with the energy of sunlight, which is weird as they hang out in dark, damp locations, keep the bacteria and the Rust Monster alive, rusting, and in good health. No one knows exactly what this bacteria is and it can’t live outside of the Rust Monster, but there are many interested in trying to grow their own and see what else they can do with such marvelous bacteria.
Now, for the information, you were dying to learn. If you skipped the paragraph above just so you could find this information out… well, we don’t know what that means about you. Rust Monsters reproduce by finding another one of their kind, the male Rust Monster will then begin making chittering noises. Because they aren’t very picky about who they propagate their species with, and that they mate very often, the female is more than likely down, and then 4 to 7 months later a baby Rust Monster will be born completely whole and ready to start devouring metals. It will stay with its mother for a few months before running off on its own and after a year of being alive, it’ll start chittering around to make more rust babies.


Climate/Terrain: Subterranean
Frequency: Uncommon
Organization: Solitary
Activity Cycle: Night
Diet: Metalalove
Intelligence: Animal (1)
Treasure: Q
Alignment: Nil [MC] / Neutral [MM]
No. Appearing: 1 -2
Armor Class: 2
Movement: 18
Hit Dice: 5
THAC0: 15
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: Nil
Special Attacks: See below
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: M (5’ long)
Morale: Average (9)
XP Value: 270
The Rust Monster is forced to wait until the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989) to get some love from 2nd edition and is later reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993). This edition goes to greater lengths to depict it more like an insect than in the previous versions, and outside of the metallic-like shell that covers it back, looks nothing like an armadillo. A yellowish-brown color, it now smells like wet, oxidizing metal. Yum. It has two freakishly long antennae extending out from its face, its legs look like they belong on a cricket, and its tail has a hammer or paddle-like extension in the back. It’s a very strange creature, but the text assures us it is still very inoffensive and just wants to eat.
This edition goes to great lengths to paint this monster as not an evil creature, but a misunderstood one that just can’t help its nature. Due to its ever-present hunger, it has little interest in anything that doesn’t have metal. In fact, it is quite excited when it smells metal, especially if it is forged and worked metal like your fighter’s plate armor. They prefer eating refined metal armor than just chunky raw ore, but that doesn’t make them an evil creature. Wouldn’t you rather have a meal from a fine dining restaurant than have to eat prison food?
Of course, you would, and your shiny +1 sword is a gourmet meal to the Rust Monster. If you don’t happen to carry any metal, looking at you wizards, it won’t bother you but will sniff at you curiously. If you have nothing of interest, read: metal food, it will leave you alone and continue looking for scrumptious morsels to feast on. Now if you’re a dwarf, these creatures are like roaches to you, a pest that you want to eradicate. Dwarves aren’t known to be the sharing type, and since our Rust Monster eats the precious metals they use in their forges, they must be eliminated with extreme prejudice.
Little changes for the Rust Monster, attacks against them with metal weapons will turn those same weapons into rust. Attacks by the Rust Monster don’t hurt you but do leave you naked as your armor turns to rust. All magical metal items get a chance of not turning to rust on contact, the same as the previous edition. The largest change is that now, there is a 30% chance per round that a Rust Monster will simply stop mid-combat to snack on any rust that has formed as you tried to keep it away. It doesn’t matter how much of your stuff it has turned to rust, or how much more stuff you have that would be tasty, it will always take one round to consume all the rust around it.
For the sake of argument, let’s say you kill a Rust Monster because there is no driving these creatures away. They are apparently too stupid to have a sense of self-preservation and only have the thought to consume more and more rust. If you kill one of these innocent and pure creatures, what type of treasure can you expect? Well, there is a very high likelihood you’ll find rust… from your own equipment. But also gems! Rust Monsters don’t collect treasures and don’t have a use for gems that are embedded into sword hilts or helmets, leaving them scattered around on the floor. Maybe their young like to play with gems like they are balls when they aren’t gorging themselves on rust.
Speaking of their young there is a small chance that you could find a happy little family, with the parents having a single offspring with them. Being an only child has its challenges, but at least it won’t have to share its meals. The kiddo may only be at the half-strength of a normal Rust Monster, but it eats as if it is fully grown. Creatures that eat organic materials and leave behind the metals, such as carrion crawlers and gelatinous cubes, are their best friends, following behind and eating the discarded metals.
The last new tidbit of information you can glean about the Rust Monsters takes us off the Prime Material Plane and out into the Outer Planes. On the first layer of the plane of Acheron, Avalas, you might stumble across a strange sight. That of an insectoid-dragon with its tendrils turning the metal cubes of Acheron to rust for it too greedily devour. These Rust Dragons are supposedly the imago, or adult, form of the Rust Monster, while the Rust Monsters we all know and love, well maybe not love, the larva forms of the Rust Dragons.
Rust Monsters will somehow journey, once they get incredibly old, to the Outer Plane of Acheron where they will gorge themselves for a whole year on the metal cubes located on Avalas. After a year passes, they will then spin themselves a metallic web and will go into the pupa stage inside of their chrysalis where they will undergo a metamorphosis for three years. Upon emerging out of their metal spun shell, they will take on the form of a Rust Dragon and begin a long life of happily gorging themselves on the metal cubes of Acheron.


Medium Aberration
Hit Dice: 5d8+5 (27 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (+3 Dex, +5 natural), touch 13, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple +3/+3
Attacks: Antennae touch +3 melee (rust)
Full Attack: Antennae touch +3 melee (rust) and bite -2 melee (1d3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5ft.
Special Attacks: Rust
Special Qualities: Darkvision, scent
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 8
Skills: Listen +7, Spot +7
Feats: Alertness, Track
Climate/Terrain: Underground
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 3
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 6-8 HD (Medium); 9-15 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: -
The Rust Monster moves on up in this edition and gets introduced in the Monster Manual (2000/2003). To some, it now looks more like an insect than in the previous versions, while others may think it now looks like an ugly mess of skin pudding. Looking at the artwork, Rust Monsters now have the coloring of reddish hues into a yellowish-brown color. It very much looks like it is rust, whether or not it is because of years of eating rust has stained its body.
3rd edition also introduces something new for the Rust Monster, it can now hurt you by biting on to you for a paltry 1d3 points of damage. Of course, its primary attack, corroding all your metal items, is now listed as a “Rust” attack. So much for originality, but it gets the point across. Also, we finally have a measurement of how much metal can be rusted in one attack, and that is a 10-foot cube of metal. That is over a ton of metal to destroy in one blow.
Magic items no longer get a percentage chance of being affected, rather you must make a Reflex saving throw or watch as your beautiful set of ancient plate armor from a lost civilization rusts away into a pile of delicious food. We suppose if we just watched what could only be called a priceless artifact get turned into chowder, we’d be a bit upset too.
Now, we aren’t opposed to change, in fact we enjoy seeing how monsters augment and morph throughout the many editions, even if we complain about it. We only mention this because of the great injustice that 3e piles onto the Rust Monster who just wants to eat all your delicious goodies. In the Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons (2003), there is an entry for the Rust Dragon and they are mentioned. You might think that that is appropriate, since the Rust Dragon is just a grown up Rust Monster, but no. This entry goes on to say that the idea that the Rust Dragon is from the Rust Monster is simply the “ravings of deranged lunatics.”
This injustice stands for three long years until Dragon #346 (August 2006) and the article Ecology of the Rust Monster is released and in it, they finally admit that there is probably some connection. The entire article takes a new look at the Rust Monster and is a great read that provides an interesting spin on how the Rust Monster rusts away metal. Instead of using bacteria to destroy metal, a Rust Monster uses its paddle tail to breath in lots of carbon dioxide where it’s body then turns that into pure oxygen. Across its feather-like tentacles and all over its body are tiny little nodules that the Rust Monster can use to eject pure oxygen, along with some pseudo-magic, to immediately oxidize and destroy metals, which explains how the Rust Monster can destroy gold, silver, and other non-ferrous metals.
Apart from their new explanation about the Rust Monster’s abilities, we also get information about how the Rust Monster has several different origin stories, with the widely spread one being that they were created by a god who was scared of technology. They created the Rust Monster as a response to the threat of greater technologies, and all that remains of their realm is a rusty wasteland as these cute little monsters destroyed absolutely everything. There’s a lesson to be learned in there somewhere, but we can’t stop to think about that as the article mentions two other important pieces of information.
The first being that there are different versions of the Rust Monster that reside in different environments, from the shaggy, blue Frostfell Rust Monster that destroys metal by super blasting it with cold and freezing it so it shatters, to the khaki-hued Waste Rust Monsters that turns metal into sand. These different variations of the Rust Monsters can be found all over, each giving the Rust Monsters different ways of destroying your favorite sword.
The second piece of information worth talking about is their relationship to dragons and Rust Dragons in particular. Now you might be groaning for our strange obsession with dragons, but hear us out. There is a small section that briefly mentions that the Rust Monsters might be attracted to the metallic dragons due to their affinity to specific metals. This has led to Rust Monsters, maybe, messing around with some of the metallic dragon eggs, either by tainting the egg itself and transforming it into a Rust Dragon or that the Rust Monster eats the contents of the egg itself, mistaking its metallic egg for metal to be feasted on, transforming them into a Rust Dragon. This is a fascinating look at how magical creatures could interact with each other, though we vastly prefer 2e’s version of events where they spun themselves a comfy metal cocoon and emerged as a pretty insect-dragon with cute little insect wings.


Level 6 Skirmisher
Medium Natural Beast / XP 250
Initiative +10 / Senses Perception +5; low-light vision
HP 66; Bloodied 33
AC 20; Fortitude 16, Reflex 21, ** Will** 17
Speed 8
Bite (standard; at will) +11 vs. AC; 1d10+5 damage, and if the target is wearing heavy armor, the armor is rusting until the end of the encounter. While the armor is rusting, the target takes a cumulative -1 penalty to AC, to a maximum penalty of -5.
Dissolve Metal (standard; encounter) Reliable. Targets a creature wearing or wielding a rusting magic item of 10th level or lower or any non-magic rusting item; +9 vs. Reflex; the rusting item is destroyed.
Rusting Defense (when the rust monster is hit by a weapon attack; at will) The weapon used in the triggering attack is rusting until the end of the encounter. While the weapon is rusting, the target takes a cumulative -1 penalty to damage rolls on attacks that use the weapon, to a maximum penalty of -5.
Residuum Recovery A rust monster consumes any items it destroys. The residuum from any magic items the monster has destroyed can be retrieved from its stomach. The residuum is worth the market value of the item (not one-fifth the value).
Alignment Unaligned / Languages -
Str 8 (+2) Dex 20 (+8) Wis 15 (+5) Con 10 (+3) Int 2 (-1) Cha 12 (+4)
Unfortunately for the fan-favorite Rust Monster, it is forced to wait 2 long years before it arrives in 4e with the release of the Monster Manual 2 (2009). Ok, so the Rust Monster may not be a fan favorite, but it’s probably a favorite of DM’s everywhere, that’s for sure. We usually complain that the 4th edition provides little to no information about the monster we look at, but it’s the exact opposite for our favorite monster, Rusty. We are introduced to not only the Rust Monster but a Young Rust Monster Swarm and the magic loving Dweomer’s Eater. We still won’t forgive them for putting the Rust Monster in the second book of monsters, but it’s a start.
The Rust Monster’s abilities get new fancy names in 4th edition, but they remain the same in what they do. The Rust Monster still isn’t the smartest creature you’ll run into, but it remains one of the hungriest. When encountered, it will immediately head towards the party member wearing and or wielding the most metal, that it can see. See!? Now, Rust Monsters can see your metal, which means no layering dung on you in a desperate attempt to not be smelled.
Now, when it sees all that beautiful metal, which is typically worn by you, Mister Fighter, and it begins to charge you down, how should you respond? If you’ve never run into one of these creatures before, you’ll probably do what you do best… swing your big old sword at it until it dies or you die. By now we all know what happens. Hit Rusty or get hit by Rusty and your fancy metal starts to rust.
The difference now is that the game has become a kinder, gentler game, which is a little sad. Your magical stuff no longer immediately rusts into a small snack for the Rust Monster to feast upon. It will continue to rust over the length of the encounter and it is possible that it too will become a pile of rust, but losing it immediately on a failed save is no more. While its horrifying to watch your Mace of Disruption slowly disintegrate before your eyes throughout an encounter, it’s better than watching it dissolve in your hands in 6 seconds.
In fact, their Dissolve Metal attack only works on equipment that can rust as the statblock specifies “…wearing or wielding a rusting magic item… non-magic rusting item…”. This means if you make a sword completely out of silver for those werewolves, it’ll be fine, at least how we are reading it. Except there’s a small hang up to that, as their defensive ability Rusting Defense has no text about the weapon being able to rust, it simply states that any weapons hitting it take a penalty the more the Rust Monster are struck as the weapon ‘rusts’. At the end of the encounter, your weapon stops rusting.
Of course, what happens if you had used a Mace of Disruption and it died during this knockdown fight with the Rust Monster? That brings us to the biggest change for the Rust Monster, more specifically its Residuum Recovery ability. Unlike many creature abilities, this one doesn’t provide any benefit for the creature, but it provides the player with a massive benefit. When Rusty eats the pile of rust that was once your amazing mace of death, not surprisingly it ends up in its stomach. Now, after eating its fill of metal, the Rust Monster will scurry off, retreating to digest its meal, and we bet most likely he’ll take a nap. Now, we aren’t suggesting that you track down and kill this poor little guy with extreme prejudice, but if you do, you have a chance of saving your precious items.
By slicing the Rust Monster open, you can cut open its stomach, and scoop out the ‘residuum’ that was once your all-powerful weapon and you have a chance to ‘rebuild’ it. 4th edition provides a very handy way of doing so with the Create Magic Item feat which will allow you to recreate the lost item from the residuum. The text of the Rust Monster strongly suggests that the DM allows the player to be able to recover their lost items. It goes on to say that you can make the player suffer for a bit by making them use a plain old weapon before they find the time or person to recreate the item. A newer DM probably thinks this is a great idea, but grognards might start screaming bullshit upon reading this. This, while annoying, is not quite the same awfulness of past editions and just makes the Rust Monster an annoyance and not that dangerous.
We are also introduced to the Young Rust Monster Swarm and Dweomer Eater. The swarm is an interesting creature, when you think of a swarm, you think about a large number of creatures attacking as one. Since Rust Monsters only have 1 to 2 young, the question is how do you find that many children? Do they all go to the same high school and once they hit those teenage years become an unruly pack of angry and disillusioned Rust Monsters? No matter how it happens, it isn’t fun for the poor group that runs into the swarm. Look no further than its primary attack, Swarm of Teeth to understand just how deadly the swarm is. The name alone sounds horrible, and if you happen to be wearing heavy armor, your day truly is ruined. We should point out, no equipment can be destroyed by the swarm, you simply take a penalty until the end of the encounter.
Next up is the Dweomer Eater, which is every sentient magic item's worst nightmare. Not only do they love the taste of metal, but their favorite side dish is arcane energy. Its Magic Consumption defensive ability sucks the magic out of a weapon when you strike at it, of course you can sit back and relax because it comes back by the end of the encounter. If the Dweomer Eater can turn your item to rust and devour it, repeat the previous steps of murdering it in cold blood, dissecting it, and then scooping out your residuum. At this point, it's worth pointing out that when you sold stuff in 4e, you’d get about one-fifth the value of the item, not so with this residuum as you can sell this magical rust for its full market value. You can go up to a merchant with rust in hand, give a small shrug and they’ll pay you for the total amount of that Mace of Disruption you lost. You can then turn around and spend that exact amount the merchant gave you and buy a brand new Mace of Disruption free of all rust, it’s like you never lost your mace at all… which… is… let’s move on to a different topic!
Dragons! Oh wait, there are two Draconomicons (2008/2009) in 4e and neither one has information on the Rust Dragon? Sigh. We regret to inform you that the Rust Dragon has been removed, and every baby Rust Monster’s dreams of metamorphosing into a fearsome dragon is just rust in the wind.
The last thing we should mention about the Rust Monster doesn’t actually have to do with the Rust Monster directly. There is a section at the end of the Rust Monster’s stat blocks called “A Guide to Using Rust Monsters” that has some good pointers in there but also creates a very ‘safe’ atmosphere. The good pointers are that if you include a Rust Monster, come up with ways for the adventurers to carry on their adventuring day, otherwise, the players will feel like they must end the action and return to town to buy new weapons. This could be by providing less optimal equipment early on in the dungeon that the PCs could use or letting them fashion makeshift weapons out of what they can find. It makes sense and is important for DMs to think about.
One of the problems it creates, while not necessarily a problem of the game itself, is that this turns the Rust Monster into a very ‘safe’ encounter. There is no risk of losing your equipment, really its more of an annoyance than anything else, and the players, if they want their stuff back must simply go to town, sell some rust and get all their equipment back. All it takes is time not playing the game for them to do this. While we understand this was done because of the importance of the magic item treadmill in 4e, which was also present in the previous editions, the Rust Monster stops being the threat it once was and just becomes annoying.


Medium monstrosity, unaligned
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 27 (5d8+5)
Speed 40 ft.
STR 13 (+1) | DEX 12 (+1) | CON 13 (+1 ) | INT 2 (-4) | WIS 13 (+1) | CHA 6 (-2)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages -
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
Iron Scent. The Rust Monster can pinpoint, by scent, the location of ferrous metal within 30 feet of it.
Rust Metal. Any non magical weapon made of metal that hits the rust monster corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon take a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to -5, the weapon is destroyed. Non magical ammunition made of metal that hits the rust monster is destroyed after dealing damage.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) piercing damage.
Antennae. The rust monster corrodes a non magical ferrous metal object it can see within 5 feet of it. If the object isn’t being worn or carried, the touch destroys a 1 foot cube of it. If the object is being worn or carried by a creature, the creature can make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw to avoid the rust monster’s touch. If the object touched is either mental armor or a metal shield being worn or carried, it takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers. Armor reduced to an AC of 10 or a shield that drops to a +0 bonus is destroyed. If the object touched is a held metal weapon, it rusts as described in the Rust Metal trait.
The Rust Monster is introduced for 5th edition in the Monster Manual (2014) and it is nerfed quite a bit. 5th edition strips away everything that makes them a creature worth fearing, causing grown goliaths to weep like children when their favorite toy is taken away. It now has a mediocre Armor Class, hit points that a 2nd level character could wipe out in a few turns, and the same CR as a giant goat. All this plus the fact that the picture of the Rust Monster is worse than the previous editions, we have to wonder… where was the love for the Rust Monster?
The most damaging blow to the Rust Monster’s greatness involves its Rust Metal ability. No longer does this ability have any effect on magic items. That’s like taking away a dragon’s breath weapon attack or saying that griffons have wings but can’t fly. While you could easily strip the Rust Monster of its ability to destroy magic items and claim it is for game balance as magic items are so rare in 5e, that doesn’t explain the rest of the stat block, nor the Zorbo in Tomb of Annihilation (2017) who can destroy magic items.
If you attack with your non-magical weapon, you get five hits in with it before it is destroyed completely, which probably isn’t going to happen as four average attacks with a shortsword (d6) with just a +3 modifier will end up with you dealing 25 points of damage to the Rust Monster, and because you are an adventuring party of 4, you don’t even have to hit that many times. This just means that your weapon will, instead of being destroyed, just have a permanent penalty to it until you toss it away and buy a new one, or steal the dead goblin’s shortsword. We’d say that this is more of an annoyance than anything else.
Of course, weapons aren’t the only things that a Rust Monster is interested in as armor can be made of metal too. When metal is struck by the Rust Monster, you get a chance to avoid the equipment getting touched by the Rust Monster that is pretty easy to make. If you have no modifier to your Dexterity, there is a 50% chance you won’t get touched by the Rust Monster, and then the Rust Monster’s turn is over and then you wail on it and it dies. If you are unlucky and your armor gets touched, it takes a minus to the AC bonus it provides and is only destroyed if it is reduced to a bonus of 0. Shields would take two turns to destroy completely while most armor would take anywhere from 3 to 8 turns to destroy, though again… it’ll pry take a lot longer as it is such a low DC to succeed.
Looking at the lore for the Rust Monster, we are disappointed that there is no mention of its rightful place as the larva stage of a Rust Dragon, but at this point we weren’t holding our breath. The lore stays pretty much the same, though it does specify the Rust Monster is only interested in ferrous metals, which includes mithral or adamantine, but they no longer can eat silver, gold, and other metals.
The Rust Monster has the Iron Scent ability which allows it to smell metal, which is better than in 4th edition at least, but its range is reduced from 90 feet to a mere 30 feet. Rust Monsters are still inoffensive, even if they aren't described as such anymore, and aren’t likely to attack you unless it smells some delicious ferrous metal on you. If you treat a Rust Monster with love and respect, it could become a pet or a companion. That does mean that if your druid won’t let you kill Rusty for slightly damaging a random weapon you found lying around on the ground, the druid will have to keep a constant eye on it and ensure it doesn’t eat the plate-clad paladin while they are napping.
The Rust Monster was created from a random toy and its legacy had a lasting impact on every character that would run into it. Adventurers would flee in fear from it and, while it was incredibly weak, created an interesting challenge that a party had to face with very real consequences for not planning properly. Throughout the editions, the Rust Monster was slowly pulled back until the main ability that makes it fearsome ends up being useless. By 5th edition, only low-level characters need to be careful if they encounter one as they probably don’t have magical items yet. But then again, losing your longsword at level 2 isn’t that big of a deal. With the way the gold economy works, what else do you have to spend your money on?
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As you can see, Dallas is the 4.5-point favorite, which means the Cowboys would need to win the game by five points or more to win the bet. Conversely, New York is a 4.5-point underdog, which means to win the bet the Giants would need to win outright or not lose the game by more than four points. What Does -110 Mean in Sports Betting? The minus and plus signs are really important to pay attention. Along with the number, they tell you tons of information about the bet and the match. Keep reading for more detailed explanations of what the plus and minus signs mean and how to read them. How To Bet on Sports Online How to Read Sports Odds and Betting Lines. I’ve titled this Sports Betting For Dummies. It’s a tutorial for those who want to start betting on sports or those who want to gain a better understanding of some of the terminology and theory behind it. Using our 60% example, we need to check to see if the odds are going to allow us to be profitable if Jones does win 60% of the time in this fight. You can use our betting calculator to check what the odds mean in percentage terms. To break even betting on an outcome that is predicted to hit at a 60% rate you need to be getting odds of -150. The short answer to the question of "what do the plus and minus signs before the odds number mean" is: a minus sign indicates a favourite to win, while a plus sign indicates an underdog. For instance - let's say that a team is -145 to win a game.

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