To go Budget or Not?

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It's one of the age-old questions in Magic: If I want to build a deck to play, should I go for a cheaper option that wins less or an expensive one that wins more? It's a problem we all consider in this game when we're putting together a deck. Heck, I could maybe win a few games of Commander that I would otherwise lose if I replaced Watery Grave with Underground Sea, but personally it's not a tradeoff I'm willing to make. I'll pay the two life and save a few hundred bucks.

In Commander it's an easy choice. Where it gets more difficult is something like Modern, and the debate has come up again on Reddit.

Modern is an expensive format to break into, and if you don't have the (currently) expensive mana base your options can be limited. That leads players to building cheaper decks like Soul Sisters (the example used in the thread). Soul Sisters is a fun-ish deck that can pick up wins even if it's not truly "Tier 1." So is it a good idea?

Good or a bad idea?
Good or a bad idea?

My take on it is this: there exists a middle ground. Building the cheapest deck just so you can pay to enter Modern tournaments you can't win isn't going to get you anywhere. But there's also no need to go buy the most expensive deck on the market. For me, that middle ground is Merfolk. It's competitive even if it's not winning Grand Prixs, but I'm confident entering any tournament with it.

But the truth is, I've won local tournaments with Merfolk. I wouldn't feel the same confidence with a deck like Soul Sisters or GW Hatebears. And if you spend a bunch of money on a deck like that (or truly, even Merfolk outside of Mutavault), you're not getting any closer to truly competing in the top of the format. I would argue it's better to play Melira Pod without the best manabase than it is to have a perfect manabase in Soul Sisters.

The reason? You need to accumulate staples to set yourself up for the future of the format. Pods and a fetchland or two at a time will do that, but all the Norin the Warys in the world aren't helping you there.

I'm not here to say there is one right or wrong approach. But I do know that it depends on your goals. Do you want to play in a Modern tournament and have fun or do you want to be able to win a PTQ? One approach gets you closer to that goal than the other, and it's up to you to decide what you want to get out of it.

But that's my take. How do you feel about it?

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Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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Posted in Casual, Feature, Finance, Free, ModernTagged ,

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5 thoughts on “To go Budget or Not?

  1. I’ve been eyeing a Soul Sister deck lately as an intro, but I’d like to be a bit more competitive than casual. It doesn’t strike me as a deck that’s easy to convert with a splash of another color and some more expensive cards, so I’d hate to dump money into something that ends up being bad to play. I like the idea of a happy middle ground, because the high end decks are way out of the price range, but a Tier 2 that can at least pull even would be a good start.

  2. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to link to other website. If not, please remove my comment.

    I really liked the following article on TCG:

    It provides a short summary of 20 modern archetypes which is great if you’re not familiar with the modern format or if you’re deciding which deck to play/purchase.

    I have 2 modern budget decks: Merfolk (without mutavaults) and Soul Sisters. Personally, I find merfolk much more fun to play as you have much more options throughout the game. Whenever I play with my soul sisters deck I always feel like I’m playing the same game: I’m just dropping everything on the board and racing until i hit 30 life. Also, overall the merfolk deck feels much more powerful than Soul Sisters.

  3. The most important thing if you’re going to run a non Tier-1 deck (budget or not) is to know it like the back of your hand, and make sure it has game against at least a couple of the Tier 1 decks. Soul Sisters is actually not a bad choice right now, provided it runs 4 Auriok Champion (so much removal right now is red, and Twin can’t combo you out if you have 2 on the board). You also have access to Suppression Field for the SB, which is a broad answer against a lot of different decks, and can stuff as much Robots hate in as you need (Disenchant, Stony Silence, Kataki).

  4. I have to agree it depends on your goals. But you can also brew your own deck. I find that as long as the pilot is comfortable with the deck and the rules, t1 vs t2 line diminishes enough to make most decks viable in any tournament.

    I also think that building a budget deck and/or brewing with what you have, allows you to get your feet wet while saving for a t1 deck is the smarter way to go. The in game experience of playing in the meta is an invaluable tool of learning the format and the meta. This way when it comes time to buy that t1 deck, you have the most data to make the optimal choice on which deck is right for you.

    I see a lot of players look at the top 8 lists and pick a deck that’s fun and strong, but when they play it, they under-perform. Mainly due to the lack of knowledge on the deck the meta and struggle because of the way they play.

    This is where the advantage of saving and building to a t1 deck shines, you most likely will proxy it out and play it with your friends and be able to tweak it to your needs before your buy. In addition to getting the land base staples you’ll want for the majority of decks that exist.

    To sum it up, it’s ultimately best to do both, get in with a budget deck and take your lumps as a learning experience while saving and building that t1 deck that’s right for you.

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