My Top 3 Modern Budget Decks
Is Playing MTG Modern on a Budget Possible?
My Top 3 Decks for the end of 2021
Author: Sebastian Rosenauer
Modern is an expensive format where the best decks can easily cost €1000, and above. A large part of this price is due to the manabase which consists of a mix of Fetch- and Shocklands as well as other utility lands or fixing.
Additionally, new and power-creeped staples from recent premium sets, that define the current metagame, can costs over €50 per copy, pushing players to buy these cards if they want to compete at higher levels.
But do you need the most expensive deck to win a Modern match or to compete at your local game store?
The answer is a clear no.
There are several ways of playing Modern on a budget, and each has its own strengths and disadvantages. To be clear, money matters and there is a very real pay-to-win component in Modern MTG.
It does make a difference whether you invest tens, hundreds or thousands of Euros in your deck. But on the bright side, money cannot guarantee you winning and if you do it right, your cheaper deck might even outclass an expensive one.
There are three ways to play Modern on a budget:
- The first option is to play a cheap deck. This might sound obvious, but what this means is to choose a deck that is affordable even in its best form. An example is Burn or Prowess, since the crucial cards of these decks are cheap spells and small creatures. Thus, there is no need to substitute worse cards for better ones to reduce the price. Playing a cheap deck might be the solution for someone who does not want to pay a great deal of money to compete but still wants to play a very good and streamlined deck without having to make concessions due to budget.
- The second way to play on a budget is to take an expensive deck and then make some changes, replacing very expensive cards with cheaper alternatives. This allows you to play strategies that are very good in the current metagame by only giving up a bit on consistency. An example would be Temur Rhinos without Force of Negation. You could substitute it with Spell Pierce or any other card with a similar effect. Of course, this makes your deck considerably worse, especially against some interactive opponents, but the overall cost of the deck is reduced by around €300. This leaves you with a deck that is very similar to the metagame version, and you can still play some high level magic.
- The third way to play MTG for less, is to replace expensive lands with cheaper options. As mentioned above, manabases are among the most expensive components of Modern decks. As with the second option, you can save a lot of money for the price of giving up on consistency. The best way to do this is to replace Fetch-and Shocklands with other dual lands, such as Fast-or Checklands. This might lead to some hard feelings in some games where you absolutely need an untapped mana source, but if you are the type of player that rather has the most powerful spells than perfect mana, this strategy might be for you. Clearly, this option works best in two-color decks, where you can play a high number of basic lands as well and still get there on your colors.
In today’s article, I have tried to capture these three strategies of playing modern on a budget.
Together, we will take a look at three deck lists that cost around €200 or below and have a very real chance of getting good results at your local FNM. They each exemplify one of three options above.
Option 1: Play a cheap deck
Estimated Total: €179.80
This deck is a classic. It has been a competitive Modern deck for several years, always staying true to its original spirit: Kill. Fast.
Can we stay below €200?
With Prowess, it is not difficult to stay well below €200 and still have a strong and truly competitive deck, depending on the local metagame. The prowess ability of the one-drops is notoriously dangerous, especially in the early turns, which is where most Modern matches are decided.
This allows the deck to play cards that would otherwise hardly be worth a card: Lava Spike, Lava Dart, or Crash Through. The new addition of Dragons Rage Channeler (DRC) adds card selection to the mix while also turning into a flying threat later on.
Why not four copies of Mishra’s Bauble?
Playing four DRC’s in a deck that does not run a playset of Mishra’s Bauble is controversial, and I am not 100% set on the right numbers yet. Given that Bauble triggers Prowess for our other one-drops, running four copies might be the right thing to do.
On the other hand, it is also strong to have 4 DRC’s since its ability helps us no matter which non-creature spell we cast. Given that Mishra’ Bauble does not deal damage and DRC does, I opted for three copies of the artifact and a playset of DRC’s. This is not set in stone, though.
Stockpile it is
The rest of the deck is very much a stockpile, given that the strongest cards of the deck are simply not debatable: Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage, Lightning Bolt and Lava Spike, Manamorphose and Light up the Stage make up the backbone of this archetype and your strongest draws typically contain a good mix of the above cards.
Card Advantage is hard to get by
Bedlam Reveler and Bonecrusher Giant are added for additional card advantage (a traditional weak point of the archetype as you have to deploy your hand quickly to win) while Crash Through and Lava Dart are instrumental to grow your prowess creatures and beat down quickly.
But what about the lands?
Den of the Bugbear is added as an experimental Land-upgrade, and it will remain to be seen how this plays out. In the first few games I played with this list, it did not have a crucial impact, but it also did not hurt having it.
I think it is here to stay in this archetype, as it does not hurt your mana very much while considerably increasing your late-game options (another weak point of the deck).
The game plan is so simple that it does not even deserve explicit mention, just keep the credo in mind: Kill. Fast.
Option 2: Play a downgraded version of an expensive deck
Estimated Total: €210
With a price tag of just above €200, depending on your supplier, this deck is the most expensive one on my list.
A few concessions…
I had to make a few concessions to stay within the financial limit, but unlike other watered-down versions of tier-decks, this version does not lose much compared to the original.
The Italian Pro Andrea Mengucci is always up to try Affinity as soon as new options pop up with new sets. This time around, it is Blood Fountain from the newest Standard Set: Crimson Vow.
New in town
The cheap black artifact is an interesting addition to the deck since it puts two artifacts into play for just one mana. Getting back a Thought Monitor or even just a Myr Enforcer later in the game is a handy upside as well.
Whether the card will earn its permanent spot in Affinity will remain to be seen, but it undoubtedly makes for some cool games.
Remove some expensive cards
Mengucci’s list features two copies of Chalice of the Void in the Sideboard, four Memnites, and a Shadowspear. To reduce the price, I had to cut the Chalices for a Pithing Needle and an Aether Spellbomb in the Sideboard, I took out two Memnites and the Shadowspear in the Maindeck and instead opted for one more copy of Welding Jar and one more Myr Enforcer as well as an Aether Spellbomb.
These changes are not ideal and maybe Andrea would be angry about watering down his list so much, but I believe the deck still stays true to its powerful original.
Affintiy is a budget staple since… EVER
Affinity is usually not an expensive deck, since it historically does not run any expensive lands (save Inkmoth Nexus and now Urza’s Saga) and the majority of the deck is made up of cheap artifacts, both mana- and moneywise.
Cards like Memnite or Shadowspear have seen price spikes in the last year due to the overwhelming success of Hammer Time, so I opted to cut them.
An important payoff has just recently been printed and is thus still very affordable: Thought Monitor. Getting the flyer down on turn 2 or 3 still feels a little unfair sometimes, as it is both threat and card draw in one.
The overall gameplan is straightforward: Flood the board with cheap artifacts such as zero-mana creatures or cards like Blood Fountain and Welding Jar. Play a Springleaf Drum on turn one to get mana out of your zero-drop and deploy your hand as quickly as possible.
Refill with Thought Monitor and then try to land a lethal attack with Cranial Plating or go wider with free 4/4s in the form of Myr Enforcer.
A chapter on Urza’s Saga
Urza’s Saga, the legendary enchantment land from Modern Horizons 2, really shines in this deck. It is the defining card of the deck, as it pushes the power level just above the threshold of being competitive in Modern.
The constructs it generates quickly grow out of control while fetching out a silver bullet or simply a hasty creature provides the necessary gas to overwhelm your opponents.
Affinity is a perfect deck for Urza’s Saga. Therefore, the expensive rare cannot be cut under any circumstance, even if it hurts your wallet. The card is a power horse, however, and has various uses outside Affinity and even potentially in other eternal formats, so it is a valuable addition to any collection.
The sideboard (missing two Chalice’s) is balanced and provides countermagic, graveyard hate, and evasion/burn resistance in the form of Etched Champion. Additionally, I have included two targets for Urza’s Saga to fetch out that come in handy against many opponents.
Depending on the metagame, Affinity has the ability to include various artifacts in its sideboard such as Torpor Orb or Void Mirror, should Elementals or Cascade decks dominate your local playing environment.
Its position in the metagame
It is not ideally positioned in the current metagame on Magic Online, as the Hammer Time decks continue to put up good results and cards like Engineered Explosives or Force of Vigor are still widely played.
But then again, Affinity players should not expect to get away without having to deal with artifact hate. Usually, you can win your first game on the play and then fight the opponents’ sideboard strategies in games two and three.
Option 3: Replace those expensive Lands
Estimated Total: €100
The original list, taken from SaffronOlive costs only a ridiculous €56.5 with current prices.
Given this super-budget version really cuts down on the manabase quite radically, I decided to go for an intermediate version, where we preserve the spirit of the deck while reintroducing a few of the good lands to increase consistency.
I substituted 2 Temple Garden and 2 Windswept Heath for 2 Canopy Vista and 2 Sunpetal Grove. However, the manabase still clearly remains the weak part of the deck.
This change puts us at a clean €100 making it by far the cheapest deck on my list.
Tweaking the mana base
Other than the manabase, this deck does not need to make a lot of concessions to be cheap, since the most important pieces are either traditionally affordable or just saw recent reprints. Given that it is a two-colored deck, it lends itself nicely for saving in terms of mana.
Enchantress is a controversial archetype, loved by many players, but also hated by equally many. The deck consists exclusively of enchantments and lands and is thus a very synergistic deck.
The components of the deck can be categorized as:
The deck has got major upgrades with MH2 in almost all of the above categories.
Sythis, Harvest’s Hand sets a new standard for what an “Enchantress” should do for two mana while Sanctum Weaver is bringing new dimensions of ramp to the archetype.
Reprints lower the price point
The reprinting of the originals Enchantress’s Presence, Solitary Confinement, and Sterling Grove contribute to the low price of the most critical pieces of the deck.
A crucial finisher of the deck, and my personal favorite, was introduced with Theros, Beyond Death: Destiny Spinner.
Three copies are enough to draw it consistently, and one copy on the battlefield is enough to animate your lands and go for the beatdowns.
This is not an easy deck to play
In contrast to the two other decks on my list, Enchantress is more difficult to play. Although the game plan is simple with abundant card draw and ramp powering out your finishers while at the same time building up an unbreakable protective shield of shroud and damage prevention, the decisions that come up in many games of competitive Modern can be intricate.
Most of the time, you will fall behind in the beginning due to your needing to set up effective defenses and card draw engines before going off.
This catching up from a disadvantaged position can be challenging and demands some knowledge of the deck’s workings and possible outs. Nevertheless, it is a great deck for casual play as well, given that it has a distinctive flavor to it that many players can appreciate.
About the Author
Sebastian Rosenauer is a Masters student of philosophy and economics and an avid Magic: The Gathering player. He learned the game in high school, but it was not until Throne of Eldraine that he started playing more competitively.
His favorite format is Modern, as he enjoys the high power level combined with extensive deck building options, and he loves the ever-changing metagame that Modern offers nowadays, as it presents new puzzles every week.
Magic is an intellectual challenge for his, as well as a wonderland of imagination. He likes to engage with the more theoretical aspects of the game just as much as he enjoys being a master artificer that leads his army of constructs to the battlefield.
Sebastian is constantly learning more about the game as he tries all kinds of different decks and learns more about newer and older cards. He is looking forward to taking you with him on his learning adventure so that we all can become better Magic players together.
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