Have you ever played 21? Also called Blackjack, it is a classic game using a standard deck of 52 playing cards. Face cards are worth ten points, aces are worth either one or eleven points, whichever serves you best, and other cards are valued at their printed number. The highest objective is to match exactly 21 points without going over.

Essentially, it’s nothing like the game of Magic.

Let’s forget about that for a second. I want to tell you guys that I think I have the best financial advice available to you on MTGO. This isn’t speculation. I’m not going to tell you cards that I think you should buy (most likely because I already bought them and would like the price to go up). I’m not going to tell you cards I think you should sell (most likely because I’d like to buy them and would like the price to go down). I haven’t stocked up on a nickel rare that has an occasionally-broken effect that I can record some videos of to make it spike. Instead, this is simple money and ticket management.

[Here’s an aside: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to show disrespect to the speculation writers or brewers and their articles. I respect them; they make money doing what they do, and it’s a pretty clever way to do it. You have to understand while sorting through any non-fiction writing: writers have, whether internally or because of supply and demand, a pressure to be unique and present new ideas. Because of this, not all the ideas are good. This is true with Magic just like articles about fitness, dieting, politics, management, etc. You can drown in Budget Modern articles out there. My “new thing” here is to suggest a good deck to you.]

I’m going to start with dispelling some myths about Magic’s eternal formats.

1) There is no “entry-level” deck.

At least, there isn’t one in its traditionally used sense. People use this term to describe a deck that is competitive and cheap. Unfortunately, the decks are not made for “entry” into real competitive play. They cannot consistently cash in events. If a deck does consistently cash, then usually it costs a fair amount more than 100 tix.

2) One cannot metagame at entry-level.

This is a mistake that I feel like MTGO players are elbows-deep in right now. Formats have gone kaput, and formats are exploding. The elimination of some Daily Events and the printing of Vintage Masters has made two formats obsolete: Pauper and Classic. Vintage Masters has made price points available to many players of Legacy, and it has totally opened the door to Vintage. For some reason, people are taking a couple of looks at these formats (or Block, Standard, and Modern) and deciding what the format is weak to. It’s most likely not. The format may be new to you, but it is not new to deckbuilders and people who have been investing time and money for years. These options have been explored and are worth passing over.

3) One cannot hate at entry-level.

So you’ve brewed up a Vintage deck that works somewhat consistently, and you think you can jam 8 graveyard hate effects, 4 cards that hate blue, and 3 cards that hate artifacts, and you’re set, right? After all, that’s the format! Moxen are everywhere, shops are everywhere, and everyone else is either playing Bazaar of Baghdad or Jace the Mindsculptor. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. First of all, your deck probably won’t work consistently with the amount of disruption that the established decks are playing, and secondly, your hate won’t do the trick.

4) On that note, hate isn’t enough.

You checked the results page and found that yesterday’s Modern event was lousy with Affinity, so you want to play Soul Sisters and load the sideboard with Stony Silence. Fair enough. But what if you don’t draw your four-of in the very limited time that Affinity gives you before poisoning you out? What if you do draw it, but if you’re on the draw, they’ve already had access to three requisite mana to play and equip it? Meanwhile, because the hate has influenced your opening hand decisions, what if you don’t have access to any of your three aggressive strategies?

5) Pressure isn’t enough.

Ok, so what if you go the other direction? Forget hating what your opponent is doing; just hate the opponent. Many players have tried Goblins for this strategy. Jam a bunch of them into play and win with lords, Shared Animosity, whatever. Sadly, it isn’t new, and it isn’t consistent. Come on guys, you have to assume that every tribal strategy has been attempted; the decks are practically built for players by Wizards. If it were good, we would know. So the aggressive strategies include cards like Path to Exile, Remand, Dismember, and even Affinity is running Thoughtseize from time to time.

6) Hate and pressure aren’t enough.

At least, they aren’t enough to have in your deck without a card advantage engine, whether it is Thoughtcast, Snapcaster Mage, or Dark Confidant. Without these, you can draw just hate and no pressure or the other way around and be unable to interact with your opponent.

7) The Tournament Practice Room.

It is a misnomer. Don’t be excited about your results here. I wouldn’t even be too confident if I went undefeated for a few matches in 2-man queues. The Daily Events are a totally different environment from these places.

These are 7 mistakes, or at least misunderstandings, that I find either new players or players to new formats making all the time. Usually, there is one of two (possibly both) reasons: to save money or to attack the format from a new angle. Neither objective is met most of the time, or if it is, the deck is not consistently able to continue functioning at that level, and the player must take a loss switching over to a new list.

So what do we do then, with all of this in mind? Well, if we want to save money, we find the cheapest consistently placing list available in the format we want to play. For you all that want to play Legacy or Modern on a Budget, that list is Burn. If you can buy into something better across formats, I strongly recommend you to do so (Merfolk, for example, will be discussed in a future article).

Like Blackjack, playing Burn is not like playing Magic: The Gathering. Your opponents’ hate is often shut down (achieving a sort of card advantage), and your objective is totally different from creature-based aggro decks, mill, combo, or infect: play Lightning Bolt seven times, which brings us back to 21. Burn’s rules are like those of another game.

Burn is the most consistent turn 4 deck in Modern. This hates all strategies that are a turn slower than it or any of equal speed that are on the draw. What’s more is it takes advantage of opponents who have a misstep in mana development, which is more common against Burn. Who will fetch a shockland when they know essentially that it is a free Lightning Bolt for the opponent who specifically aims to play it seven times?

You may be asking yourself how this works in accordance with #6 above: decks need hate, pressure, and card advantage. Of course, we have pressure: the consistent turn 4 kill. What about the hate? Hate essentially shuts down a portion of your opponent’s deck. If your opponent is playing Vapor Snag, Path to Exile, Doom Blade, Abrupt Decay, etc. like many opponents are, then they could have up to 8 cards that you have hated out. So, again, a 52-card deck is another reference to our opening paragraph. The parallels seem endless.

Still, what about the card advantage? Many players have tried things such as Wild Guess, Faithless Looting, and even Browbeat because they contain the magic words “draw” and “cards.” However, remember, Burn’s rules are not like other decks’ rules. What is a card worth to the Burn deck? The opponent’s life. Good burn cards spend one mana per three life or two or three mana for four life. One burn staple in Pauper and Legacy is Flame Rift, which reads:

– Deal 4 damage to all players.

This is worth one card.

It is important for me to articulate this so you can understand why Burn has suddenly become better: the reason is Eidolon of the Great Revel. Whereas Flame Rift allows a colorless and is worth one card, Eidolon can easily be worth 2-3 cards in terms of the opponent’s life total, reading:

– Deal 2-10 damage to all players. If only 2 damage is dealt, the opponent discards a card.

Sure, your opponent’s removal is suddenly “on” when you play him, but they will be down a card and two life (which is worth a card). Eidolon provides card advantage even if “draw” is never printed on the card.

Because of Eidolon of the Great Revel, Burn is now consistently placing 4-0 in Modern Daily Events and 3-1 in Legacy Events, whereas before it was a 3-1 Modern deck and a fringe Legacy deck. It is not too many printings away from being playable in Vintage, but I don’t encourage the attempt right now even if it may be close.

Knowing all this, we can invest in Modern and Legacy for under 100 tickets with a consistent winner. What if tickets aren’t our motivation, and we aren’t concerned with saving them? We just want to do something new and be published with a unique and innovative list. Is doing so mutually exclusive from ever having played a good deck? Can you not have fun winning, or at the very least, have fun winning with another list you were able to buy for free with your Burn winnings?

A number of budget Modern and Legacy decks have come from players that have more expensive Standard decks on their results page. Why is this? The good, consistent deck funded the brews. So here is my financial advice to you, and I genuinely think this is the best financial advice you can receive on MTGO: Start with the good deck, not with the brew. What good is it to buy into a budget Eggs deck with an amazing hateful sideboard if you spend $100 on the deck and its entry into tournaments and never get anything back? This advice is a little bit on the opposite side of a price spike, so I’m not telling you to buy these cards for a quick turnaround in tickets, but I’m trying to offer you wisdom in deck choices. Let the one good deck fund the dream decks. If you try to build some sort of Ensoul Artifact, Ichorclaw Myr deck but it fails, no problem, you just lost some of your winnings.

Nevertheless, I will suggest (in my very humble and inexperienced speculator opinion) that very few packs of Journey into Nyx have been opened because of Vintage Masters drafts and the new client coinciding with the set’s release. I think Eidolon is a fine pickup even at a high price.

Without further ado, use these decks as a platform to fund your creativity:

Modern Burn

Land (20)
20 Mountain

Creatures (12)
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Goblin Guide
Hellspark Elemental

Other Spells (28)
Flames of the Blood Hand
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
Shard Volley
Skullcrack
Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Combust
Molten Rain
Searing Blood
Smash to Smithereens

Legacy Burn

Land (20)
20 Mountain

Creatures (10)
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Goblin Guide
Grim Lavamancer

Other Spells (30)
Chain Lightning
Fireblast
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Price of Progress
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
Sulfuric Vortex
Sideboard (15)
Ashen Rider
Faerie Macabre
Pyroblast
Satyr Firedancer
Smash to Smithereens

Now, I prefer Rakdos Burn in both of these formats, but we’re going to save that for another article. You actually save money in Legacy playing it, and in my opinion, Tyrant’s Choice is better than Price of Progress enough to make it worthwhile.

The Pauper list has made its way through a number of Premier Events and player-run events, and it is a good contender as well:

Pauper Burn

Land (21)
Forgotten Cave
17 Mountain

Creatures (8)
Keldon Marauders
Spark Elemental

Other Spells (31)
Chain Lightning
Fireblast
Flame Rift
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Needle Drop
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
Sideboard (15)
Flaring Pain
Lightning Strike
Molten Rain
Pyroblast
Smash to Smithereens

Give yourself a few matches with these, run them through some dailies (with about 30 tix as a bankroll), and I promise you won’t be disappointed. When you’re finished, you’ll have leftover tickets for all the budget brewing you can imagine, but let a good deck fund the dream.

-drinkard

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