Building Your Budget Deck

bud·get

nounˈbə-jət

: an amount of money available for spending that is based on a plan for how it will be spent

: a plan used to decide the amount of money that can be spent and how it will be spent

Most people  have a set amount of money to spend on things like hobbies. Magic players are no different. Magic can be a very expensive investment if you have the money and the means to acquire cards. Growing up, my allowance was very small but my interest level in Magic was very high. I would take my fresh $5 from my dad’s hand and scour boxes of common cards at my local game store. With some wheeling and dealing I could make a deck from the garbage I found there and turn it into something spectacular. The idea of the $5 budget deck was born and this was something I would do weekly.

I would take this magnificent pile of unwanted cards to my friends and challenge them to games. They would often have more money then I and would scoff at my worthless 60 card rabble.  When I beat then in the first game they would call it luck, the second loss they took would be a fluke, the third a miracle.

What made these cheap decks I built work? Two things, knowledge of what every card in my deck was fully capable of and synergy. This was something my opponents and their expensive decks lacked.

Let’s start with the knowledge of cards in your deck. Name a card in your deck. How many copies of that card is there? If you play a basic land, how many more chances at drawing that same color land do you have? If an opponent has a creature that is threatening you, what cards are in your deck that can deal with that threat? These are the types of things you need to know to gain advantages over opponents who buy the best decks out there and play, without a decent amount of practice.

The second key is synergy. Synergy is card interaction within it’s 60 card confines. Synergy can make or break a deck. Synergy brings a basic deck to a higher standard and is an absolute must in higher level play. Synergy in aggro decks, ones that rush opponents with a horde of creatures, is often in the form of mana providing creatures and pump spells. In combo decks, synergy can be found in the way the combo is sought out and then eventually played and carried out for the win.

Every card in your deck must have a purpose, regardless of it’s price tag or synergy is lost and the deck becomes bogged down with spells that don’t matter, useless draws or abilities that just don’t matter. Let’s take the most expensive card in the Modern format right now, Tarmogoyf.

In a mono-green deck Tarmogoyf would reasonably be a 0/1 or 1/2 on turn 2.  That may seem like a waste of cardboard and not worthy of such a high price tag but what makes this card shine is synergy. Most decks that play this card are using three colors and many fetch lands that sacrifice themselves to put another land from your deck into play. Depending on what the opponent does, this creature could be as high as a 3/4 on turn 2 without much effort, even larger in longer games where many different card types go to the graveyard. A creature this large early in a game is tough to beat. I’ll talk more about synergy in later posts.

Tarmogoyf is not a budget card, but there are many like it that are. Granted, if all cards were as good as it was then they would be expensive also, but this is where synergy in your budget deck is vital. You must have synergy in your deck to survive against the top decks in your format and finding it may not come in the form of a single card like Tarmogoyf but from multiple cards all working together to find the deck’s goal.

Look at each card in your deck. Does it interact with other cards in your deck to achieve it’s goal? If not you may want to consider other options and cards that do.

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