With Modern Horizons on…. well, on the horizon, some of you may take an interest in the Modern format. But maybe it’s always seemed like you could never afford to buy into it. Aren’t decks like hundreds or thousands of dollars?
Well, yes and no.
It’s true that if you want to get the cash to buy into one of the very best, highly competitive, Tier 1 decks, you’ll probably have to sell your kidneys on eBay. But all is not lost. Modern is a wildly diverse format, and almost anything goes for decks you can play. I’m going to give you some tips on how to make decks more affordable, and I’ll finish with an example of a true budget build. Granted, you won’t be taking down a Mythic Championship, but you won’t get completely run over, either.
Mana, Mana, mo Mana
Much like in real life, one of the biggest money pits in Modern is the land. One good strategy here is to play a mono-colored deck, and there are a ton of classic archetypes available. However, if you really just need to go 2+ colors, you have some options. As an aside, multicolor lands that produce Blue tend to be higher in price than the others in any given cycle. So you may want to keep that in mind when designing or selecting a deck.
Despite some recent reprints, Fetch lands – especially the Zendikar fetches are frightfully expensive, with some being almost $100 each.
The Shock lands are much more reasonable these days, thanks to heavy printing in the three Ravnica blocks. They’re sitting anywhere from $8-$15, but even that’s a bit too much for a true budget build.
The Check lands (or Buddy lands) are also quite good. They’ll very frequently enter untapped, and they’re fairly inexpensive at around $3-$5. But we can do better.
A good place to start to really go budget is with the Pain lands. These were the old go-to Rare duals before the Shock lands were printed (well, besides the OG Alpha Duals). They tap for colorless, and can tap for two colors, but deal 1 damage to you in the process. They’re super cheap, often just a dollar or two apiece because of frequent printings and low demand.
Another good set of lands is the Scry lands or Temples from Theros. They enter tapped, but they Scry when they enter, so if you don’t need fast Mana, there’s some value add there. These are sometimes fairly cheap, but sometimes more around the price of the Check lands. It depends entirely on which one you’re buying. If you want to go super-budget for your color fixing, there are a huge number of dual-color common lands that enter tapped. Almost every set or block has a cycle of them. You don’t get the scry, but if you’re playing a slower deck, these can still work in a pinch.
And then there’s the Slow lands. This is a pair of cycles of lands from Tempest and Kamigawa that enter untapped, tap normally for colorless, and can be tapped for color, except they won’t untap on your next turn. They aren’t great, but they work and they’re pennies each.
There are also a whole bunch of different cycles and styles of color fixing lands available at Common and Uncommon, like the “Tainted” lands, that tap for colorless, or two colors (one of which is always black) if you control a Swamp, or the “Vivid” lands, that enter with charge counters which you can spend for colored mana. I highly encourage you to hop onto the Gatherer and browse through the “land” card type. You may find something there that peaks your interest 🙂
Tribes can definitely be your friend when looking to budget build. In Magic, “Tribe” basically just means making all the creatures in your deck the same type, and it’s very popular among Magic players. So much so, that people were building tribes before they were actually supported by the creatures in the game in any meaningful way. One great boon that budget Tribal decks just got is Unclaimed Territory from Ixalan. You name a creature type when it enters, and then you can use it for any color to cast creatures of that type, and it’s under $2.
The more famous Modern Tribes, like Elves, Humans, Spirits, and Merfolk are great decks but can be prohibitively expensive to build. Fortunately, there are literally dozens of others to choose from. You can go budget Humans – since they’ve been in the game since Alpha. Werewolves, Vampires, Ninjas, Snakes, Kor, and so many more. You can also go with the creature “class” and build Tribal (in Magic, creatures generally have a “race” like human, and a “class” like wizard). There’s Artificers, Rebels, Wizards, Pirates (which just got a HUGE boon in Ixalan), Allies, Barbarians, Warriors, and – as with races – so many more.
Stick with the Classics
As I mentioned in regards to mono-colored decks, there’s a bunch of classic decks that you can look to for budget builds. White Weenie (a “swarm” style deck, nothing but small, white creatures), and Burn (erm – do I really need to explain how Burn works 🙂 ) come immediately to mind. They both have been historically viable decks, with low cost to entry points. In fact, right now (as I’m writing this) you could pick up the mono-White Challenger deck, and have the foundation for a decent White Weenie deck. With a few little, and inexpensive upgrades, like Glorious Anthem, or Thraben Inspector, you can really amp up its power.
None of that Digital crap for me
Another strategy for lowering the cost of a deck is to look for analogs to more powerful cards. The favored Black discard spells in Legacy are Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. However, in a pinch, you could sub in cards like Duress, and Despise. Can’t afford Fatal Push and Dismember? Well, there’s tons of cheap, Black removal with Doom Blade (a classic), Terror, Snuff Out, Ghastly Demise, Sinister Concoction, Vendetta, and so much more. Can’t afford Force of Negation and Remand? There’s Mana Leak and Logic Knot.
For almost every card printed there’s an analog version of it. Some of them are really bad, but some are definitely playable.
You can also look to other formats for inspiration for building a Modern deck. For example, in Canadian Highlander, there’s a deck called “Flying Men” (so named after the card Flying Men). It’s a Tempo deck that looks to resolve evasive 1/1 creatures (in this case, flying) that cast for 1 CMC, and just protect them with counterspells until you win.
Blast from the Past
Check out winning Standard decks from past years. The Modern format includes cards from 2003 on forward, so there’s like 16 years worth of Magic to look through. Many of those decks basically disappeared when they rotated out of Standard – hence dropping in price – but some may still be viable.
Lastly, take a look at Limited synergies and archetypes. Many of the cards in Limited (Drafts and Sealed), are very fun to play with, even if they’re not quite Tier 1. In Dominaria, for example, there’s a great Black/Green Saproling deck, which you might almost be able to build for free, if you know someone who drafted the set heavily. In Shadows Over Innistrad, the “Clue” deck was great fun to play.
Modern is a fantastic format, which you can have great fun playing, even if you’re not rolling in cash. Hopefully, this guide will help get you on your way.
Now here’s the sample deck that I promised. It’s a budget version of the “Soul Sisters” deck. The purpose of it is to gain so much life, that your opponent doesn’t have enough cards in their deck to finish you off. I’ve left out a couple of powerful cards, like Serra’s Ascendant to keep the costs down. There’s no single card in the deck over $6, and the total cost of the deck I have listed is around $36 (not counting Basic Plains). I’ve also added Aetherfulx Reservoir, because it’s a funny alt-win condition.
Thanks for taking the time to hang with me.
Have fun, Play on, and Be kind to one another.