Growing up as a casual Magic player, I have always been a little taken aback by the stagnant nature of competitive play. I would stare with both admiration and contempt as the same five or six decks wreaked havoc through regionals and nationals. This left me feeling somewhat disenchanted. There is a certain point where Magic ceases to be something fun. The shift from casual Magic to competitive Magic is largely visible by the transition from originality and intrigue to statistics and cold calculations. For example, the mechanics and judgment of Player A and Player B may be identical, but Player A will play with a deck that he or she enjoys, regardless of being statistically incongruent, whereas Player B will play with a deck that gives him or her a proven advantage, but does not necessarily enjoy with. To put it simply, a casual player wants to have fun, and a competitive player wants to win. I’m sure that this is self-evident, but the question that has always lingered in my mind is: Why can’t I be both?
The reality of the situation today is that if you cannot afford Snapcaster Mage x4, you are fighting an uphill battle. As with anything, money talks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good card as much as the next guy, that’s not the issue. My issue is paying a few hundred dollars every six months to remain viable. I have better things to do with my money. (Grey Knights army with two Nemesis Dreadknights! For the Emperor!)
Ahem. I digress. So how exactly, you may ask, do I compete with Snapcaster Mage constantly bringing sexy back?
To address that, let’s take a look at these five easy steps to building a cost efficient and monetarily productive deck.
Step I: Understanding Your Limitations
While three dollars and a ball of pocket lint isn’t going to do a whole lot outside of inducing sadness, $15-50 could net you a very efficient deck. Deciding beforehand how much you can afford to shell out is a good way of eliminating cards and deck ideas out of your budget. Never spend what you can’t afford. A budget deck is something which is supposed to be cheap, yet efficient. If you find yourself thinking of buying too many “money cards” take a step back and reconsider your options. Always remember: Yes, the card is good, but you are on a budget!
Step II: Intrinsic Card Values
Although the card market can be volatile, it is important to note while building on a budget the intrinsic value of a card. An easy question to ask is: If you are making a standard deck, will any of the cards hold value when it rotates out of standard? While this may not jump out as important, it may pay off later in your deck building efforts, or even as a resale for a profit.(Rumor has it that both Lightning Bolt ($0.05) and Counter spell ($0.64)are going to make it into M13. Now if you have say, 20-30 Counter spells sitting around from the last time they were legal…Kaa-ching!)
Step III: Consider Your Options
The best part about playing casual Magic (If you’re like me) is the fact that you have largely been playing with horrible cards, or at least have encountered said cards in game. This is a big plus. You know how to make things work which never were meant to work. (I’m looking at you, Chimney Imp.) Improvisation will be one of your greatest allies. Example: Player A couldn’t afford Baneslayer Angel, used Serra Angel instead. Serra Angel is instantly written off by Player B as inefficient; though any Player A could tell you that Serra Angel is a decent if not serviceable card. Never be afraid to ask other players their opinions about a questionable card. If they say it sucks, ask them why. Always get a second opinion if you are not sure.
Step IV: Mechanics
Perhaps the most important step to remember is to keep your mechanics sound. Playing an affordable deck is in no way a cop-out to playing poorly. Retaining your deck building prowess/play skill is a must. (Respect the mana-curve, etc.) Don’t be intimidated by flashy cards. It’s easy to get distracted by cards that make you envious or enraged, but as much as you want to, (and I do too) don’t waste your kill spell on a Snapcaster Mage. If you can’t tell, I really hate that card.
Step V: The Sideboard
The sideboard is a foreign and meaningless word to most casual players. This is mainly because of the “If it’s not in your deck, that’s your problem” rule so often used by the easy-going fans of casual. Tourney decks? Nay, good sir, the sideboard is more often than not what your nightmares are made of. As a general rule, when building a competitive deck, your sideboard should be filled with answers. Nihil Spellbomb is a must. Take a look around; ask people what they are playing. This is what your sideboard should be built against. Hateboarding is important, but don’t forget to add those one or two crucial cards that didn’t make the cut.
The following is an example of suicide black Vintage (Type I) legal deck that I run that gets hit with the budget stick (I love this deck!)
Grinning Demon x4-$2.16
Braids, Cabal Minion x3-$1.65
Dross Harvester x3-$0.36
Mesmeric Fiend x3-$0.06
Hypnotic Specter x3-$0.75
Avatar of Discord x3-$2.37
Grand Total=$17.27 courtesy of TCGPlayer!
That’s all for this week, folks!
Come back for next week’s installment as I explain my picks for this deck, discuss a standard budget deck, and drop some ideas about budget EDH!
Don’t forget to comment!
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