A Modern Budget for a Modern World

Well, Modern season is in full swing all around the world, with a fair number of events having taken place in the past few weeks. There’s pages and pages of data to pore over, deck lists to process, and new cards to evaluate. And I’m going to leave all of that to the writers that want to do that. Instead of tournament reports dripping with statistics or match-ups and sideboarding guides, I’m instead going to do something a little different. I’m going to get you out there playing Modern for less than you’d think. Modern can be quite daunting, and, yes, the top decks seems to have budgets akin to the latest Marvel escapade (no Civil War spoilers; I haven’t seen it yet), but you’d be surprised how much fun you can have and still be competitive on a made-for-TV budget (I recommend the The Librarian movies).

Now, it’s perfectly possible to just go to a Modern tournament with your standard deck, enter, and lose in a few rounds. I’m not talking about doing a total pre-con deck budget. If you want to play Modern, you do have to get a little bit invested. But there’s no reason to go out and grab playsets of Tarmogoyfs and Scalding Tarns. I’m going to show you three lists that I feel can be competitive and enjoyable. Not only that, but I put myself on a budget of $250 dollars. Yeah, that seems a little high, I know, but for essentially the trade price of two Tarmogoyfs, or a playset of Snapcaster Mages, you can have a full deck. Even on a budget, Modern is not Standard; but with these decks, you can have a decent starting point, and, even if you don’t know the format, you won’t feel embarrassed sitting down at a tournament, playing a few rounds, and having a good time. If a few things align, each and every one of them can get hot and spike a tournament, and then you should have some prize money to build the decks you really want to play. Everyone wins. (Well, I guess only you, but hey, that’s what matters, right?)

The first deck I have is no secret to anyone who has played any amount of Modern. I guarantee everyone who plays will eventually get absolutely destroyed by a version of this deck at some point while they stare helplessly at a hand of Lightning Bolts and Path to Exiles. I’m talking, of course, about everyone’s favorite Hexproof creatures, the Bogles.

Budget Bogles – $205

Creatures:12
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Slippery Bogle
4 Silhana Ledgewalker

Spells:29
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Hyena Umbra
2 Keen Sense
4 Path to Exile
4 Rancor
4 Spider Umbra
4 Daybreak Coronet
1 Spirit Mantle
2 Unflinching Courage

Lands:19
4 Brushland
4 City of Brass
3 Forest
3 Plains
3 Razorverge Thicket
2 Temple Garden

Sideboard:15
2 Ethersworn Canonist
3 Kor Firewalker
3 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Natural State
3 Spiritual Visit

This deck is simple enough to play and takes advantage of the typical cards people play. Removal spells are essentially dead draws against this deck, and once one of these piddly little 1/1’s puts on some pants, slides into a Daybreak Coronet, and starts crashing in for eight lifelinking, trampling, first striking, totem armoring, vigilancing, bone-crushing,  mouth-smacking, world-breaking damage, the game ends fast. This list is pretty much stock, with a few changes in the essence of keeping the budget. Kor Spiritdancer, while an amazing card, is currently $15, so a set of them is too rich for our blood. In their place is Keen Sense, a fantastic color-shifted version of Curiosity from my absolute favorite set in my favorite block. I also found room for a set of Path to Exiles. They are expensive to be sure, but they’re staple cards, and you’re going to need them at some point if you plan on playing Modern. The other big change I made was to the mana base. Modern mana bases are expensive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have options. Razorverge Thicket does nice work here since any land past the third one is a flood anyways. You don’t have a fetchland mana base, so you’re going to have to make do with painlands. If you like this deck, the first thing I would change is getting a set of Windswept Heaths, a few Wooded Foothills, a third Temple Garden, and one Dryad Arbor. That puts you essentially four Horizon Canopys away from optimal. One little side note about the board: I really am glad I remembered the card Spiritual Visit. That one is strictly for those matches against Liliana of the Veil. I love the idea of a common from Saviors of Kamigawa completely trumping one of the best Planeswalkers ever printed.

My next deck is a creation from one of my teammates, Arya Roohi. He put this deck together one night and proceeded to 5-0 a Modern Daily event. That isn’t the most amazing tournament pedigree, but it shows that the deck has legs. I have affectionately come to call it Nickel Sandwich.

Nickel Sandwich by Arya Roohi – $248.50

Creatures:17
3 Akroan Crusader
2 Charging Badger
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Kiln Fiend

Spells:26
2 Assault Strobe
2 Brute Force
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Rancor
4 Titan’s Strength
2 Vines of Vastwood
3 Temur Battle Rage
1 Become Immense

Lands:17
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Karplusan Forest
2 Mountain
3 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Sideboard:15
3 Tormod’s Crypt
4 Lava Spike
2 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Destructive Revelry
2 Skullcrack

This deck is not nearly as resilient as Bogles, but it more than makes up for what it lacks in resiliency with explosiveness. This deck can sometimes just win. The basic plan is to play a creature like Satyr Hoplite or Akroan Crusader, put some pump spells into it, and swing for a billion damage. If that doesn’t work, Kiln Fiend + Titan’s Strength + Brute Force + Lightning Bolt is 19 damage. Monastery Swiftspear + Mutagenic Growth + Become Immense + Assault Strobe is 24 damage. Don’t be fooled by the creatures and pump spells: this is a combo deck. The sideboard even lets you turn into a burn deck. You can attack from two different angles. In this list, less of your money is tied up in the spells, so you can splurge a little on the lands and still come up with a decent mana base. Some quick changes if you have some cash would be more fetchlands (which allows a second Become Immense) and some Atarka’s Commands instead of Skullcrack for the board.

My last list is the closest thing you’re going to get to a midrange deck and still stay under budget. I would have to say that the reports of the Eldrazi menace being dead were grossly overstated.

Budget Eldrazi Tron – $241.50

Creatures:22
4 Endless One
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Reality Smasher
4 Oblivion Sower
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Spells:14
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Expedition Map
4 Spatial Contortion
2 Titan’s Presence

Lands:24
3 Brushland
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
1 Wastes

Sideboard:15
1 Kozilek, the Great Distortion
4 Natural State
3 Relic of Progenitus
3 Dragon’s Claw
3 Warping Wail
1 All Is Dust

This deck is a far cry from the Eldrazi from this winter, but that doesn’t mean that the cards are bad; they’re just not completely unfair. Thought-Knot Seer is still a very good card, even if you cast it on turn three or four; Oblivion Sower can still hit some lands to ramp; and, if you assemble UrzaTron, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger will still win the game. The game plan for this deck is pretty simple as well. Slam big dudes, and force them to have answers. If they don’t have answers, you win. If they do, Thought-Knot Seer takes them, and you win. The touch of green lets you dig with Ancient Stirrings and support some anti-Affinity anti-Blood Moon cards in the sideboard. If you fear a Blood Moon (and it’s easy to see one coming; if your opponent fetches two basics in a row, the moon will rise), use your Expedition Maps to grab a Wastes or Forest so you’re not locked out of a color (colorless is a color that Mountains do not make). Once the moon is under an eclipse, assemble your Tron, and eat their world.

Now that you’ve got a few decklists to work with, once you’ve got a few tournaments under your belt, it’s going to be time to put together some staples. Modern is oppressive if you’re going to go out and buy a new deck every week, but if you take some time and collect the staples, it can be much easier to swallow. Here is a list of some cards to keep an eye out for and work toward putting together.

  • Path To Exile and Lightning Bolt: These are the premiere removal spells of the format. You will need a playset of them, so it’s a good idea to just get them.

  • Khans of Tarkir fetchlands, and Ravnica dual lands: These are the bread and butter of Modern mana. Khans fetches are still all under $25 a piece, and there are a ton of them out there. Take it slow, and if you make a few trades, it won’t be long until you have a good collection. Focus on getting the blue ones first, and the rest will come easy. Keep in mind you will almost never need more than three of any shockland in a deck, so no need to make a full set. Save some cash and go for triplets.

  • Sideboard staples: Putting together some good cards to build sideboards is essential to being successful in Modern. Spellskite, Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, Engineered Explosives and the like are the kinds of cards that can pull a lot of weight in the right matches. They can get expensive for sure, but Modern sideboards are very powerful things. You have to try and maximize every slot. This is a definite area to spend some cash.

  • The big money cards: Once you’ve built a good stable of staples and lands, it’s going to be time to start spending. One card at a time is the best way to go, but eventually you’re going to need some Zendikar fetchlands; Liliana of the Veil; Thoughtseizes; Vendilion Cliques; Snapcaster Mages; and the big papa, Tarmogoyf. One card at a time, and you’ll get there.

Modern is an absolute blast to play, and it’s pretty amazing how diverse the metagame can get. That being said, on the surface, trying to build the best deck will seem overwhelming. That’s OK. You don’t have to build the best deck. Just take a look at a few top decks, look for spots where you can save some cash, and go have some fun. You’ll lose some percentage points for sure, but you’ll still have some fun, and you’ll learn the format. When you’re ready to start putting some decks together, check out www.snapkeepgames.com. Using these ideas, you should soon even be able to build a nice Jeskai control list. But not on a budget. I tried.

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