3, Jun, 24

MTG Best Budget Decks - June 2024

Article at a Glance

Unfortunately, while it is a lot of fun, MTG can be an incredibly expensive game to play. Thanks to the Reserved List, it’s not uncommon to see single cards selling for thousands of dollars. Mercifully, these ultra-expensive cards can only be played in MTG’s Eternal formats. While this is good news, sadly, competitive formats aren’t much better.

Right now, decks in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern are all incredibly expensive. Easily fetching upwards of $500, these decks require a considerable investment, to say the least. Considering the meta can change at a moment’s notice, this investment isn’t always secure either. Thanks to this, it’s no wonder that a lot of players are hesitant to spend so much money on an MTG deck.

Mercifully, while prices are high, MTG does have a saving grace. Thanks to the growing prevalence of powerful commons and niche off-meta cards, budget decks also exist. While these rarely win Pro Tours, they’re nonetheless capable of winning games and even topping tournaments.

If you’re in the market for a budget deck, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ve got a rundown of all the best decks in each major format. No matter what format you’re interested in or which style of deck you’re after, we’ve got

MTG Best Budget Modern Deck

8-Whack Banner

8-Whack is an incredibly old strategy that has seen play repeatedly throughout MTG’s lifetime. The deck has not been competitively viable for a while, especially since the release of Modern Horizons Two caused the format to flip on its head. Luckily, thanks to some new Standard-legal Common and Uncommon cards, Mono Red 8-Whack is affordable and powerful against most of the Modern metagame!

This deck revolves around two types of cards: the Kuldotha Rebirth and Goblin Bushwhacker effects. The combo is simple: create a ton of 1/1 tokens using Kuldotha Rebirth and Gleeful Demolition and convert them into massive damage using Bushwhacker effects! Alongside having oodles of Goblins, this deck works incredibly well with Memnite, which can either be an attacker or a token generator. 

As if this deck wasn’t compelling enough already, 8-Wack also utilizes aggressive spells such as Shrapnel Blast and Goblin Grenade. Thanks to these burn spells, 8-Wack is surprisingly resilient to removal, making it surprisingly effective within the Modern metagame. This is especially true following the release of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. 

Even with Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring causing a ruckus, 8-Wack is still a very compelling strategy due to the board it creates. Easily able to overwhelm opponents in just a few turns, it can be incredibly hard to keep pace with this rather novel budget deck. 

Unfortunately, as you might expect, there are a number of bad matchups that 8-Wack can face. Rakdos Scam, for instance, is dominant in the meta for a reason and can crush 8-Wack thanks to cards like Fury. Alongside this, Living End is an incredibly punishing match-up that you really won’t want to face. 

While these poor matchups are obviously a problem for 8-Wack, the deck still has a foothold within the Modern meta. Thanks to this, it’s a great option if you’re looking to get into the format without breaking the bank. Considering most Modern decks cost around $1000 if not more, the fact that 8-Wack is only around $200 is a very compelling detail. 

Read More: The Top 10 Best Modern Decks in MTG

MTG Best Budget Pioneer Deck

Mono-Blue Spirits Banner

Mono Blue Sprits was, once upon a time, one of the best decks in the Pioneer format. Depending on your local metagame, Mono Blue Spirits can heavily overperform. Mono Green Devotion Combo is quite the popular archetype, and Mono Blue was its worst matchup by a mile. With recent changes, that may not remain the case, but your matchup against them should be decent at worst.

Your strategy is traditionally what Mono-Blue wants to do: create pressure in a way where you can react to your opponent’s game plan. Most of the Spirits in this deck have Flash, which allows you to dodge Sorcery speed removal and gives you plenty opportunity to protect your threats with counterspells. Ideally, you want to attach a Curious Obsession to one of your early creatures since it can accumulate a ton of advantage over a game and make fighting through your counterspells incredibly difficult.

The big reason why Mono Blue Spirits has fallen off in recent times is that it does not have a great matchup with two of the best decks in the format – Rakdos Midrange and Rakdos Sacrifice. They have all the tools needed to disrupt your gameplan: cheap instant-speed removal to remove your Curious Obsession creatures and Thoughtseize to figure out what cards that they need to play around in your hand. All of their cards also generate a ton of advantage, allowing them to grind effectively against one-for-one trades – something your deck loves to utilize.

Mono Blue Spirits has now generally been traded for the Azorius variant, but this deck is still serviceable. Mono Blue Spirits builds all tend to float around the price range of $150-$200. The list above goes for about $200. Alternatively, this Mono Blue deck list went 6-2 at a less recent NRG event, and was worth about $115 at the time. For reference, the average price for a top tier Pioneer option seems to be around $450-$500 currently.

Notably, there are cheaper budget options for the Pioneer format, but Mono Blue Spirits is the cheapest archetype that offers a competitive performance. There are incredibly budget Mono Red Burn strategies out there, but these heavily cut on the archetype’s efficiency to make ends meet financially. This decklist, for example, is an example of a cheap Mono Red deck that should be able to perform ok at your locals. This is worth about $40 and can be upgraded to a more competitive deck over time. Just note that, currently, Mono Red is not considered a super competitive strategy in the Pioneer format.

Bonus: Izzet Pheonix

Izzet Pheonix

Long having existed in Pioneer, Izzet Pheonix is one of the best decks in the entire format. Routinely performing well at tournaments, this deck is aggressive and devastatingly consistent. Outside of a few key staples, it’s also surprisingly cheap compared to other decks in the format.

Setting you back around $260 for a compelling list, Izzet Pheonix isn’t that budget compared to other decks here. Compared to the cheaper competition such as Boros Convoke and Gruul Vehicles, this deck is simply better. As a result, it’s worth dishing out the extra $20-$30 if you’re looking for something in the price range.

Within Izzet Pheonix, much of the cost is caused by three multiformat staples that are consistently in demand. These cards are Steam Vents, Ledger Shredder, and Otawara, Soaring City. Costing $13, $14, and $19 apiece, these cards make up at least $125 of the deck alone.

Unfortunately, while an effective means of cutting costs, removing these cards does dampen the deck’s effectiveness. This is especially true of Ledger Shredder since they’re one of the staple creatures that’ll win you games.

Overall, while Izzet Pheonix decks do come at a cost, they’re arguably well worth the price of admission. Since it’s one of the best aggressive decks in the format, you hopefully shouldn’t have to upgrade that quickly. With that in mind, Izzet Phoenix could potentially be a good investment if you want to drop a bit more than budget-level money.

Read More: The Best Pioneer Decks in MTG!

MTG Best Budget Standard Deck

Mono Red Aggro

In the Standard format, Mono-Red Aggro has always been a staple archetype. Offering a simple game plan and fast efficient games, it’s easy to see up upsides, especially on MTG Arena. Beyond being good to play digitally, this deck is also a delight on paper thanks to its affordability.

Currently, Mono-Red decks in Standard have gotten a little more expensive as of late thanks to a few new additions. While these cards have pushed the price up to the $150 range, the added cost is well worth it. Rather than just being a strong deck that could claim a Standard Showdown crown, this deck is now the real deal!

Thanks to Slickshot Show-Off Mono-Red Aggro decks in multiple formats have been supercharged. On turn three, this card can swing in for 14 damage in the right circumstance, which is insanely strong. Should your early game go right, you can even get turn three wins in Standard now!

Unfortunately, the one trouble with this added strength is that Slickshot Show-Off is rather expensive. Accounting for almost half the deck’s cost on its own, four copies of this card will set you back $60. Unfortunately, since they’re so key to the deck’s latest iteration, it’s hard to do without them in the current metagame 

Despite the added cost, the latest iteration of mono-red is well worth the cost of admission. While it’s not topping every best-of-three tournament, it’s still a cheap and efficient force to be reckoned with. Thankfully, once rotation happens in August, you won’t have to part with many of the deck’s most expensive cards, so the investment should be somewhat secure.

Read More: The Best Standard Decks in MTG!

Bonus: Bant Toxic

Bant Toxic

With variants of this starting at around $200 bant Toxic is unfortunately a fair bit more expensive than Mono Red. If you’re looking for a more competitive best for Best-of-Three matchups, however, this deck is arguably your best bet. Boasting a compelling and unique game plan on a budget, it’s no wonder that Bant Toxic is so popular right now.

At its core, this Bant deck unsurprisingly revolves around the Toxic mechanic from Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Only requiring ten poison counters to win, this deck threatens an incredibly aggressive strategy that life gain can’t avoid. For further strategic variety, Venerated Rotpriest threatens wins without even attacking.

Within the deck, the majority of cards, such as Venerated Rotpriest are rather inexpensive. Similar in price to Skrelv, Defector Mite and March of Swirling Mist these cards all cost around $5.50 – $7. Thankfully, while a playset of each of these is advised, the rest of the deck is practically Draft chaff!

Unfortunately, while this deck’s spells can be yours for around $110, the land bumps up the value dramatically. At almost $30 a piece, the inclusion of Otawara, Soaring City is sadly a necessary evil. The same is true for Mirrex, which synergizes heavily with the deck at almost $10 per card.

Ultimately, while the land base is rather expensive, Bant Toxic still doesn’t break the bank. The only potential trouble with investing in this deck is the lack of continued support. Unfortunately for fans of the archetype, Toxic likely isn’t going to get any new cards in Standard. While this may leave the deck lacking in the long run, for now, it’s an interesting and competitive option.

MTG Best Budget Commander Deck

Obscura Operation

There are a lot of ways to build a budget deck in Commander. This isn’t the most budget method out there, but many budget decks do require players to hunt down various cards that can be pretty difficult to track down. As a result, instead of scouring the internet for the best cheapest Commander deck out there, I will share a strong budget deck that I stumbled on. In order to build this particular budget Commander deck, all you need to do is find a Streets of New Capenna preconstructed deck and one additional card.

With minimal packaging, the Obscura Operation preconstructed deck can be purchased from TCGplayer for just $35. According to mtggoldfish, the overall value of all the cards in this deck amounts to $67, an incredible deal!

This deck offers a powerful Esper go-wide strategy focusing on the Connive mechanic. This mechanic cares about looting but rewards the player for discarding nonland cards to the Connive ability. If you do so, the creature that is Conniving will receive +1/+1 counters equal to the number of nonland cards you discard.

Unfortunately, even though this deck can create a powerful board, the preconstructed Commander does not do the best job of synergizing with the deck’s capabilities. That reward, instead, goes to a Mythic Rare Standard staple from the Streets of New Capenna main set: Raffine, Scheming Seer.

Raffine is the perfect Commander for this aggressive Connive deck. You have a lot of small bodies that cannot be blocked, which scales incredibly well with Raffine’s attack trigger. The deck still cares a lot about Connive, which means your deck’s intended Commander becomes a powerhouse in the 99. Overall, Raffine speeds up the clock your deck presents while allowing you to Connive an insane amount of cards in a short time. This card is worth only $2, bringing up your total for this budget Commander option to $37. If you’re interested in reducing the price as much as possible and can find someone willing to buy your copy of Smuggler’s Share that comes in the deck, you could reduce your deficit to about $25. It’s incredible how much more powerful this deck becomes just by swapping Commanders.

Countless Commander Choices 

While Raffine, Scheming Seer does make for an excellent Commander, they are just one of the myriad options. To date, Wizards has released over X preconstructed Commander decks to choose from. Sure, not all of these are the best of the best, but they are at least options! 

Whatever theme you want to play, by this point, chances are that Wizards has made a deck for you. Thanks to this, it’s only a matter of picking the right deck, after all, if it’s not powerful, you can always upgrade it. While this does inherently demand spending a bit of extra cash, not every Commander card is $50. 

Should you spend your money wisely, you’re absolutely able to build a compelling Commander deck on a budget. Take Hidetsugu and Kairi, for instance. This Legendary team-up pair might not be many players’ first choice, but they’re still incredibly powerful. Capable of threatening turn-three kills, this cheap Commander option isn’t to be dismissed! 

Read More: Underrated $2 Lord of the Rings Card Could Make Waves in EDH!

An Entire Budget Format

Pauper Banner

If you want to play MTG on a budget while maintaining a high power level in gameplay, Pauper is your best bet. Because this format only allows cards printed at a common rarity to be legal, one can build incredibly powerful decks while not spending too much on them.

For reference, the most expensive Pauper deck in the current metagame according to mtggoldfish.com is Dimir Control. That clocks in at about $90 and is considered among the top decks in the metagame. In Pioneer, buying one of the best decks can cost north of $500. In Modern, more than $1000.

Players should expect to spend $60 on the average top-tier Pauper deck, which is a bit more expensive than some of the other options presented, but you get to do the best thing that the format is capable of for that money. You won’t be competing against a thousand-dollar deck with a fifty-dollar one.

The only issue here is that older cards may be tough to find. In exchange for cards being cheap, some supply issues can be seen since everyone else playing Pauper will also want access to those cards without money being a big issue. This is the best option to play Magic on a Budget at a high level.

Watch Out for Rotation

Ajani, Nacatl Avenger | Modern Horizons 3 | Art by Ilse Gort

For better or worse, multiple MTG formats have a rotation in one way or another. Some formats, such as Standard, have a literal rotation where old sets rotate out and stop being legal. Other formats, such as Modern, have a forced rotation which is prompted by overpowered sets such as Modern Horizons 3.

Unfortunately for many budget MTG players, both of these formats will be rotating soon. Between Modern Horizons 3 and Bloomburrow releasing in June and August, multiple formats are about to look very different. Sadly, this can make buying into these formats right now inadvertently expensive.

When rotation happens for a given format, typically, its metagame is completely shaken up with new decks and archetypes. Problematically, this can even push out safe decks such as Standard’s Bant Toxic. Despite only using post-rotation cards, the format’s metagame may warp so much that this deck is no longer relevant.

Due to this uncertainty, investing in formats prior to their rotation is an incredibly risky venture. If you guess wrong and your deck isn’t relevant, any investment made may be lost. Due to this, it’s probably a bad idea to buy into Modern right this second. Instead, we’d advise waiting until the dust has settled from the release of Modern Horizons 3.

Thankfully, while several formats will have a rotation in one way or another, not every format experiences this event. Pioneer, for example, does not currently have Horizons sets, and premier sets rarely invert the competitive order. Similarly, thanks to Commander being a casual format, players shouldn’t have to worry about rotation.

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