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Modern on a Budget

It all started with a quiet day at work, and some avid conversation in a group chat filled with players from my LGS, Athena Games.

The conversation primarily revolved around the ever relevant topic of barrier to entry in Magic The Gathering. Playing Devil’s Advocate as I often enjoy, I was flying the flag for Modern being more of a budget format than it’s perceived, and blaming ‘netdecking’ the best decks in the format around the perception of excessive cost.

Is Magic The Gathering too expensive? Of course it is, but like any hobby there will always be a barrier to entry. My main thought is that when the ‘entry level’ rotating format has multiple decks costing way over £250, and draft is effectively a £60 monthly subscription (assuming weekly attendance), it may be better looking elsewhere for your gateway in to competitive MTG.

I think Modern as it stands is noticeably cheaper than when I first entered the format personally, back in 2019. Paying £80 for a playset of Goblin Guide to enjoy the ‘budget’ competitive deck before I’d even started on a mana base was a rough purchase. With that said, my entry to the format was in stages.

  1. Borrow someone else’s deck.
  2. Build mono red burn, with Ghitu Lavarunner in place of Goblin Guide, and cheaper burn spells such as Shard Volley.
  3. Slowly purchase pieces towards optimizing the deck and converting into Boros.
  4. Become cripplingly addicted to the format.

I remember loving the look of other players decks, particularly Jund, but upon seeing the £1500 ballpark price point instantly discounting it. That’s the main driver for this series, and my thoughts on the topic in general.

Does it suck that some decks are unobtainable? Yes. Can you play significantly cheaper decks or compromise with sub-optimal replacement cards? Hell yes.

With all of that said, my stubborn personality and desire to prove a point came to a head, and I began researching lower cost Modern decks to start bringing to FNM.

What’s the point in all this? Well, really there isn’t one.

I enjoy the variance of playing different decks as much as possible, and I also want to build up a collection of budget decks that I can lend to newer players looking to get started at FNM. Perhaps I’ll brave a larger scale event with one of these decks to see how it ‘really’ fares on the Modern stage, but the end goal is to present deck options with some context as to how fun they were to play, and how they performed for an average Friday Night Magic experience.

Athena Games, my LGS of choice for FNM, has a fairly competitive mindset of players in attendance each week. Due to this, most of the matches will be against heavily optimized decks, and high skill level opponents.

Saffron Olive’s budget lists on MTG Goldfish have been a huge boon in this quest, and I highly encourage any players looking to journey into Modern to start there.

You’ll notice that some card choices are very unusual for a ‘budget’ deck (such as Overgrown Tomb in my Week Two deck), but I’m going to be using cards I already own as much as possible to mitigate personal cost.

I’ve started out with ‘Stage One’ of the budget adventure, which has been attending FNM with ‘decks that cost less than Ragavan. Have I stretched this a little? I have indeed, but I’m gonna aim for around a regular non-foil monkee, and if we have to stretch it to a foil so be it. I’m effectively aiming for £100 as the absolute top end.

When ‘Stage One’ comes to an end, I’ll be attempting to use a ‘This Deck Cost Less Than A Draft’ choice, at £15 or less. Following this finale, we’ll be altering the criteria for ‘Stage Two’ as to budget and deck building choices.

I hope you enjoy following my budget adventure as much as I have partaking in it, and as always all feedback is greatly appreciated.

Stephen (Nicolas Rage)

June 2023 Update:
You may be wondering why the page for Artifact Whack never came, and why the updates stopped flowing…

In some ways, so am I.

I’ve continued my ever-changing deck choices for FNM, but they haven’t been fitting within the budget constraints. If I see a list I can netdeck that I own the cards for, I’ve been trying it out. It’s been ranging from out of left field picks such as Humans, to top tier metadecks such as Rakdos Scam.

I think really I’ve simply been enjoying FNM, and honestly it was the budget challenge and variety of decks that got me back on the horse.

Will the challenge ever return? Of course! And, I’ll even write up the Artifact Whack article one day – I still have the deck boxed up and ready to lay out. I am putting that one off though – the TLDR is that it just felt like traditional 8 Whack but worse. Maybe it was a bad day at the office though, who knows.

Much Love, Stephen

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