Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man! In this article I plan to look at getting into Modern on a budget. I've seen quite a few articles looking at how you can get into Modern on a budget and it was suggested to me by a reader that I add my voice to these discussions.
Firstly, I suppose it's important to define terms. In terms of budget. people have varying definitions of what is budget and I can't say that what I suggest will be appropriate for everyone's budget. In terms of what types of deck I will be looking at, I will be trying to find strong competitive decks. That's not to say they have to be tournament winners but I do want to stand a chance at winning games against tournament decks.
Where to start?
Modern covers a vast range of cards from Mirrodin all the way to Magic 2014. There are pretty much limitless possibilities as to what you can play but if you want to be competitive, particularly as someone who is new to Modern, it's best to see what is/has been successful in the format. If you think you have a deck that will break the whole metagame then by all means try it but on the whole it's much better to go with something tried and tested.
As with most formats it's pretty important to start by looking at the available manabases. Modern has a very strong set of cards for making varied manabases - the key cards being the Zendikar fetchlands, Arid Mesa and its ilk, and the Ravnica duals, Steam Vents and pals. Thanks to the reprinting of the Ravnica duals in Return to Ravnica these are fairly reasonably priced and if you haven't already picked some up it would be a good idea. Conversely, the Zendikar fetchlands are very expensive, particularly at the moment with the Modern season starting up. Therefore, in many respects the easiest approach is to go for a very simple manabase.
There are a few viable mono-coloured decks in Modern. There manabases tend to consist of mostly basic lands which means you don't have to worry about investing in those expensive duals and fetchlands. Personally I think this is a great place to start with Modern, particularly if you have very little experience with the format.
Red Deck Wins
First off we have Red Deck Wins. In most of the older formats there is the possibility of making a burn deck. The premise is very simple, put all the best burns spells in the format in one deck and kill your opponent as fast as possible.
This is a sample idea of what a budget Red Deck Wins list might look like. By all means make changes to adjust to your play style or to fit in with the cards you own.
The Pricey Stuff
Red Deck Wins isn't the absolute cheapest deck at the moment with a playset of Goblin Guides and Vexing Devils setting you back about 20 tickets each. However, playsets of pretty much every other card will cost less than a ticket for a playset. I'm not sure if Vexing Devil will see a price drop when Innistrad Block rotates out but it's certainly possible - keep an eye out for that.
In terms of adding value to the deck, the versions of RDWs that are finding most success these days are splashing black for Bump in the Night and Deathrite Shaman, as well as some other cards. You don't necessarily need fetchlands and Blood Crypts to make the black splash as cards like Blackcleave Cliffs and Dragonskull Summit can also achieve the same aim.
Next, we have another mono-red deck in Goblins. Here's a list that went 4-0 in a Modern Daily a while back.
Goblins isn't a deck that I'm a massive fan of in Modern but it has had some tournament success and can be fast enough to crush opponents.
The Pricey Stuff
This version of Goblins doesn't even run the pricey Goblin Guide meaning there isn't anything of particular expense in this deck. Legion Loyalist is just over a ticket each but that's not too bad. Dismember in the sideboard is probably the most expensive card in the deck at just under 3 tix each.
This deck is probably about as good as it's going to get. However, you might want to start building into a Red Deck Wins deck if you enjoy running Goblins.
For those that aren't interested in going down the aggro route this is a Mono-Black Control deck that I covered in this series a while back. Again being Mono-Black means that the manabase isn't too complicated, although you will need to pick up a playset of Inkmoth Nexus.
The Pricey Stuff
Inkmoth Nexus is far and away the most expensive card in the deck at about 4.5 tix each. The rest of the deck is all pretty cheap. Inkmoth Nexus is a decent pickup in Modern as it's a staple in Affinity and other Infect-based decks.
Liliana of the Veil would be a great addition to this deck but at over 40 tix a piece she's not really a reasonable target for a budget player.
Merfolk is another deck which is pretty cheap with the exception of manland Mutavault. However, with Mutavault about to take a plunge in price thanks to its reprint in M14, Merfolk looks like it might become a more budget friendly archetype. Merfolk is quite a fun Aggro-Control deck and one that I plan to cover in this series once Mutavault's price falls.
The Pricey Stuff
This isn't the most budget of decks. AEther Vial is still about 3-4 tix a piece despite its reprint in Modern Masters. Lord of Atlantis and Phantasmal Image are also in a similar price range. As I've mentioned Mutavault is still very expensive, about 15 tix each, but I'm hoping to see this fall considerably with the M14 reprint.
Cryptic Command is a very powerful counterspell and Control card in general. I don't know if it is necessarily better than any of the other cards in the deck, the sample decklist here seems more focussed on tempo than countering spells but I've seen more controlling builds of Merfolk with Cryptic and Mana Leak etc. Vedalken Shackles is another powerful card that rewards you for playing an Island heavy manabase and might be of interest to this deck.
Soul Sisters is a very popular deck in Modern. I have to say it's one of my favourite decks as an aggro deck with a slightly different strategy to your average deck.
The Pricey Stuff
Soul Sisters isn't quite a budget friendly as when I built it some time back. Ranger of Eos has risen in price since then as has Serra Ascendant and those cards will set you back. Path to Exile is another expensive card but one well worth investing in if you want to play Modern as it's a staple removal spell in a lot of decks. A lot of the most recent decks seem to have cut Windbrisk Heights which is a card I like to play in the deck but that certainly is a cost saving. Overall the deck isn't too bad but there is some investment required.
This deck is actually pretty powerful as is. I mentioned that I run Windbrisk Heights which might be an option worth exploring, though the Ghost Quarters are preferable in a Tron heavy field. In my experience this deck builds quite well into WB Tokens, which hasn't seen as much success in recent times but is an interesting deck if you want to vary things a bit.
For the sake of giving you a deck of each colour to choose from, here's a deck for green mages.
To be honest this deck isn't one I've looked at much since I originally wrote about it last year. I don't think it's quite as competitive as the other decks I've showcased but if you are a green mage then this is something to try out.
The Pricey Stuff
Dismember will set you back a bit at around 3 tix a piece but most of the other cards, at least in the main deck, are reasonably priced. The sideboard is actually somewhat more expensive but it's easy enough to substitute these cards with cheaper relevant sideboard cards.
I have to say I'm no expert in this area but I know that Romellos wrote a very interesting article about his experiences playing Mono-Green Aggro decks in the Modern PREs. Tarmogoyf would be a strong addition but it well out of most budget players reach, including myself. However, Swords and Kitchen Finks are among potential additions to the deck.
I've already discussed adding value to the decks I've suggested. From my point of view the next step is just to keep building up your Modern collection. Pick up duals and fetchlands where you can as these will open up a lot of deckbuilding opportunities. If you have a deck you particularly want to play then set that as your goal and pick up the cards you need for the deck slowly. Looking for budget substitutes for cards in the deck is a way you can get going with a deck before you have acquired all the cards, and you can continue build up to a stronger version of the deck in the meantime.
Keep an eye on prices and try your best to pick up on price drops. Also be alive to opportunities to buy cards at cheaper prices - for example Innistrad and M13 will be rotating when Theros Block comes in and so the cards in those sets will probably be taking a price drop when that happens.
It's good to be aware of how expensive a deck is before you try and build it just so you know what you're getting yourself in for. For example, Birthing Pod is a very fun deck to play but takes quite a lot of effort to put together a competitive version because there are a lot of expensive one-ofs and the manabase is quite complex.
There's really no substitute for experiencing the format and that's why I would suggest building one of the cheaper but competitive decks before really splashing the cash. This way you get a better feel for how the format plays, what you might enjoy playing and whether you even like playing the format in the first place.
Also if you are looking for inspiration as to decks to play then there are number of places you can look:
Event Coverage - The online event coverage on the What's Happening? page of the MTGO section of the mothership allows you to check out the results of the most recent Modern events. Here you can find many successful decklists and the occasional budget friendly list is likely to show up.
MTGTop8.com - This is a site I've been using more and more. It's a deck database recording the results of online events and the bigger events like Star City Opens, Grand Prixs and Pro Tours. If you're looking to build a particular deck you can search up all the versions of that deck that have put up results to check out different variants of the deck to suit your budget.
Gatherling - On Gatherling you can check out the decks people are playing in Blippy's Modern PREs. There are a lot of budget players in the PREs and seeing what those people are playing and working with can help a lot. I'd also suggest playing in these PREs is a great way to build experience of playing the format.
I hope this article was helpful in providing some guidance as how to approach Modern on a budget. I have to say I don't have all the answers when it comes to this subject as it varies widely from person to person in terms of the size of their budget, what they want to play and what their overall goals are in playing the format. If you want to build a something casual and fun there is a ton of room for doing that with any budget, however, if you're looking to start getting competitive I'd suggest this a way to start.
As a person who has slowly built up his Modern collection over time and on a budget I'd like to think I have some idea of what I'm talking about. In some ways I was fortunate in that when I started building my Modern collection the format was still pretty new and not as big a deal as it is now. Fetchlands in particular were a lot more reasonably priced but equally duals were more expensive so everything comes around in one way or another. All I can say is that I enjoy the format very much and my journey building up my collection, building new decks and writing about it has been one of the more fulfilling things I have done with Magic. If you put the time and effort in then I'm sure it will pay off.
That's all for this article. I hope you've found this useful. Please feel free to check back over the past articles in the Becoming A Modern Man series.
Thanks for reading,
Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)