You Too Can Play Modern: 10 Budget Modern Decks

The current economic crisis is being really hard on all our non-essentials, and Magic: the Gathering is an expensive game. Very expensive, in fact, when you decide to play a competitive format like Modern. Even if Wizard’s intention was creating a format that could be played by those who could not afford Legacy, the truth is tier 1 decks cost around 800 euros ($1,100) on average, and that’s a lot of money. Wizards is, I am sure, working on it and we’ll see reprints of the biggest offenders sooner or later. For the time being, though, it is difficult to start playing this wonderful format.

Or is it?

There are cheap decks that can be built for around 100€ ($135), and then there are versions of more expensive decks that can be built also for this approximate quantity. Which option is better depends on your priorities: I decided, when I built my first Modern deck, to start building a UR [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] deck, and to wait until I could afford [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]. But I have friends who decided to start with Burn or Soul Sisters, and they had way better results at the beginning, which allowed them to get some store credit, which allowed them to build more expensive decks afterwards.

Anyhow, let’s have a look at some lists!

[d title=”Burn”]
LANDS
10 Mountain
4 Mana Confluence
4 City of Brass
2 Gemstone Mine

CREATURES
4 Goblin Guide
4 Vexing Devil

SPELLS
4 Bump in the Night
4 Boros Charm
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Rift Bolt
4 Shard Volley
4 Skullcrack
[/d]

Stay with me for a while, and don’t dismiss Burn at first sight. It is a consistent deck, it doesn’t depend on any particular card, it works, it is fun to play, and it is cheap, especially if we don’t use the classic fetch/shock lands, which we don’t need to use. If the deck works, we can perfectly afford to lose some life using [c]City of Brass[/c] and [c]Mana Confluence[/c], as the opponent will be too busy losing to take advantage of the situation.

On the other hand, it is one of those decks where mulligans hurt bad, and every game is a bit of a lottery. You can trust your top-decks, and the deck does not tend to let you down, but there is little you can do if it does. Also, there is some very specific sideboard against burn, and we lose chances every turn. Despite all that, the deck wins, and punishes durdly and slow decks like no other.

[d title=”Living End”]
LANDS
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Forest
5 Mountain
5 Swamp

CREATURES
4 Deadshot Minotaur
2 Fulminator Mage
2 Jungle Weaver
1 Shriekmaw
4 Street Wraith
4 Pale Recluse
2 Beast Within
2 Avalanche Riders
4 Monstruous Carabid

SPELLS
4 Demonic Dread
3 Living End
4 Violent Outburst
[/d]

Living End is a pretty straightforward combo deck which had a recent spike in popularity thanks to the banning of [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c]. There is still a healthy amount of graveyard hate in Modern, but now graveyard-related strategies have a lot better pre-board situation, at least.

The combo goes as follows: we cycle big creatures, then we play a cascade spell (cascade spells allow you to reveal cards from the top of your deck until you find a spell that costs less than the one with cascade, then you play that spell), and that cascade spell can only hit [c]Living End[/c], which will be put in play without suspend, and bring back all the creatures we originally cycled, at the same time it puts all the creatures in the opponent’s side in their graveyard.

It is a fragile combo though. It is too easy for any deck with access to counterspells to counter Living End, and sometimes the deck just fails to work because we draw all our copies of [c]Living End[/c] before we can cascade into one (believe me, it happens!). But it is a really fun deck to play, and it has had some very solid results. Also, the deck can be built for extremely cheap if we substitute [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] for any other cheaper card.

[d title=”Soul Sisters”]
LANDS
21 Plains

CREATURES
4 Ajani’s Pridemate
3 Kitchen Finks
2 Martyr of Sands
2 Ranger of Eos
4 Serra Ascendant
4 Soul Warden
4 Soul’s Attendant
4 Squadron Hawk

SPELLS
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession
[/d]

This deck comes from a Standard list that appeared for a brief period of time during which [c]Soul Warden[/c] and [c]Soul’s Attendant[/c] were both legal in the format. That didn’t last, but then Modern became a good soil for this idea to grow, bloom, and give fruit in the form of games won and burn decks humiliated.

It is a good deck, in my opinion, even though it is rather non-interactive (which is something that can apply to many of the decks here, to be honest). The life gain gives it an edge against aggro decks, and it tends to have good top-decks as everything synergizes with everything.

There is a rather interesting variant using [c]Norin the Wary[/c], which ensures constant Enter The Battlefield triggers. Also, having red allows for some other tools, like [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] and [c]Boros Charm[/c].

[d title=”Mono U Tron”]
LANDS
1 Academy Ruins
8 Island
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Tectonic Edge
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

CREATURES
1 Platinum Angel
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Sundering Titan
3 Treasure Mage
1 Wurmcoil Engine

SPELLS
4 Condescend
1 Cyclonic Rift
4 Expedition Map
2 Mindslaver
1 Oblivion Stone
4 Remand
3 Repeal
1 Spell Burst
3 Talisman of Dominance
4 Thirst for Knowledge
[/d]

I have not tried this one personally yet, but I have played against it and I can confirm it is very, very effective. It’s a mix of control and ramp, and a very good one at that: the opponent will find themselves facing huge creatures and difficult board states in no time.

There is a combo inside this deck too: [c]Mindslaver[/c] + [c]Academy Ruins[/c] means our opponent will never control his own turns again, which means we have won. It has the usual weaknesses of ramp decks: early game is not fantastic, and the engine has to be set up. Blue allows for some control and tempo which make it easier for the deck to get into the mid- and late-game though, as well as some card draw/selection, so we can trust the deck to deliver the cards we need.

[d title=”Stompy”]
LANDS
22 Forest

CREATURES
4 Experiment One
4 Dryad Militant
4 Scavenging Ooze
2 Kalonian Tusker
2 Skylasher
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Leatherback Baloth
2 Thrun, the Last Troll

SPELLS
4 Rancor
4 Giant Growth
4 Vines of Vastwood
2 Beast Within
[/d]

This is right up my alley. Aggro, creatures, tricks. This deck has not yet proven itself to be a big contender in the Modern metagame, but I consider this to be a solid list. Graveyard hate is built-in thanks to [c]Dryad Militant[/c] and [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c], the creatures are abundant and big, and green is also a great color for sideboarding, having access to artifact and enchantment hate.

Stompy, however, is a new deck and as such it could very well fizzle and just not work well enough. I am stoked, but it could pay to be cautious.

[d title=”WB Tokens”]
LANDS
10 Plains
4 Swamp
4 Isolated chapel
4 Godless shrine

CREATURES
2 Doomed Traveller
3 Tidehollow Sculler

SPELLS
3 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Zealous Persecution
4 Lingering Souls
2 Midnight Haunting
4 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Spectral Procession
[/d]

First things first: this list was made before the Modern Event Deck was released. If you like this deck and can find the Modern Event Deck for a good price, by all means start there. It is a good value.

WB tokens is as full of tools as the night full of terrors. Black and white is a very good color combination and makes dealing with anything a breeze. Also, this deck plays so many creatures the opponent has to be prepared against this or just lose: spot removal just won’t work.

Keep in mind though, there is a good amount of sideboard available for the kind of board states WB tokens creates, and it is extremely devastating.

[d title=”GU Infect”]
LANDS
4 Breeding Pool
3 Gemstone Mine
4 Forest
3 Hinterland Harbor
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Pendelhaven

CREATURES
4 Blighted Agent
4 Glistener Elf
4 Ichorclaw Myr
2 Plague Myr

SPELLS
4 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Groundswell
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Rancor
2 Distortion Strike
4 Vines of Vastwood
[/d]

Infect takes a shortcut on the aggro approach, makes pump spells twice as effective, and makes the whole metagame understand how important it is to have early removal against this. It has never been a tier 1 deck, but still it has won tournaments and is a constant threat against any unprepared opponent. This is the sort of deck that keep players on their toes, and that’s a good thing.

It is a bit weak against removal, and edict effects tend to kill it dead (the deck usually runs fewer than 15 creatures), but it still is a very good option that will deliver swift kills.

[d title=”Melira Pod”]
LANDS
3 Evolving Wilds
6 Forest
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Plains
7 Swamp
2 Temple Garden

CREATURES
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Eternal Witness
1 Farhaven Elf
2 Fauna Shaman
1 Gravedigger
1 Harmonic Sliver
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
3 Murderous Redcap
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Safehold Elite
1 Shriekmaw
3 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
3 Viscera Seer

SPELLS
4 Birthing Pod
[/d]

This is more of an experiment than an actual deck. You see, Melira Pod is arguably the best modern deck in existence, and there are people who fall in love with it the second they look at the Modern format, only to be let down by the price tag attached to it. It made sense to try and make a budget version, and the core of the deck is not especially expensive.

The good thing about Pod is its toolbox approach. This also makes getting the pieces for the deck easier, as they are a lot of times one-ofs. The bad part is it requires three colours, which, in Modern, means fetchlands. And you’re going to need play-sets of those. Also, [c]Chord of calling[/c] is really expensive, as is [c]Noble Hierarch[/c].

So, take this as a starting point. And pray [c]Birthing Pod[/c] doesn’t get banned.

[d title=”Hexproof Auras”]
LANDS
7 Forest
6 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Sunpetal Grove
2 Temple Garden

CREATURES
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Slippery Bogle
4 Kor Spiritdancer

SPELLS
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Hyena Umbra
4 Keen Sense
3 Path to Exile
4 Rancor
4 Spirit Mantle
4 Unflinching Courage
[/d]

This is essentially the full deck minus [c]Daybreak Coronet[/c] and with a cheaper land base. It is a beautiful deck and the definition of both Voltron and Timmy. This is, of course, my opinion: some people use this deck to explain why the Modern format is essentially flawed.

Hexproof Auras puts a lot of pressure on the opponent. It builds a huge, untargettable beast, attaching auras to a hexproof creature. Spot removal is useless, dealing X damage tends to be insufficient, and blocking is futile – hence the success of the deck. Edicts and counter-magic can still hurt us, of course, but your opponent has to have it in his hand.

I needn’t convince you, though. There is a type of player for this type of deck. If you’re that type, you already know it.

[d title=”PyroDelver”]
LANDS
10 Island
2 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

CREATURES
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Young Pyromancer

SPELLS
2 Electrolyze
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mana Leak
2 Pillar of Flame
4 Remand
4 Serum Visions
2 Spell Pierce
2 Vapor Snag
[/d]

UR Delver, or PyroDelver as I sometimes call it ([c]Young Pyromancer[/c] is just as central as [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] in this deck), is a great, great deck that has to be practiced and studied but which rewards the pilot with options against every deck in the meta. It does not deliver as many free kills as some other decks in this list (even though a couple of flipped delvers in the first couple of turns can mean a quick death for the opponent if they don’t have adequate removal), but it is consistent thanks to its card draw and selection, and is a very difficult deck to deal with while we are ahead in the game. It has some good recoveries too, thanks to [c]Young Pyromancer[/c].

The bad part is I had to cut some pretty important cards to make it a budget deck, and I’m not sure about this new list. [c]Spellstutter Sprite is great[/c], but its slot is normally occupied by [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c], which is really important to the deck; [c]Blood Moon[/c] is a central card here which improves the chances against some important decks; and fetchlands are pretty much a must too, as they improve the deck’s consistency.

Well, there you go. 10 Modern lists you can try out that won’t break the bank. Do you have a favorite? Do you play a different budget deck in Modern with any success? Let me know if the comments!