Building On My Budget: I’ve Got A Notion!

Ben Bleiweiss returns with a new weekly column exploring fun budget decks!

Once upon a time, there was a column on Daily MTG called Building on a Budget. This column ended on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008. Building on a Budget (or BoaB) is fondly remembered by many in the community. If only someone would pick up the torch and find cheap ways to play Magic!

Fast forward to 2013. An aspiring young author contacts the current editor-in-chief of Daily MTG. For the sake of security, we will assign this editor the alias of "Trick Jarett" (obviously a made-up name). Below is the actual real email transcript between "Trick" and our author-to-be.

Me: "Hey Trick (real name redacted), if I wanted to start writing a budget deckbuilding column again, do you think I could use the old ‘Building on a Budget’ name?"

Three seconds after I hit send, a Hasbro lawyer showed up at my doorstep to beat me with a sack full of Hurloon Rocky Mountain Oysters. Whack, whack, whack he went until the sweet bliss of dark unconsciousness overwhelmed my total being.

So welcome to my new column called Building On My Budget! This is totally different than a previous column that I am now legally prevented from mentioning because it has a much better acronym: BOMB! Each week I’ll be taking a budget deck for a drive on Magic Online. We’ll find out if the deck BOMBs or will be the BOMB!

Yes, I went there. I implore you, hit the back key now. Then reclick this article, so my hit count goes up and I can get paid more for this series!

So here’s some ground rules about this column.

1. I will build decks that cost $25 or less on Magic Online. $1 = 1 Event Ticket.

2. That’s the only really ground rule. If my maindeck is 60 rares and my sideboard is 15 mythics, it doesn’t matter as long as the cost is 25 Event Tickets or less.

3. No seriously—Magic Online is very cheap to play right now. $25 goes a long way, as you’ll find out in today’s column.

Why $25? We’re looking at about four decks a month, so this allows for $100 a month to play Magic. Can’t afford $25? Follow my foolproof method for raising money:

A) Live somewhere it snows. If you don’t live where it snows, invest in a snow cannon.

B) Knock on the door of your sweet elderly neighbor Ms. Jenkles.

C) While you’re making an offer to shovel the snow off her walk, have your friend go in the back door and raid her purse for $25.

Note: Results may vary depending on the gun control laws in your country.

This week’s deck was inspired by a Reddit post by /u/vanbacon:

I love decks that can blow out an opponent with a well-timed Mind Twist / Braingeyser combo. I did notice a few things in vanbacon’s list that had me worried:

  • There didn’t seem to be enough lands in this deck. Twenty lands is just asking to get mana screwed multiple games in a row.
  • There were a lot of expensive-looking cards in the deck. This especially included the mana base, which still needed more lands.
  • There were only fourteen cards listed in the sideboard.

I decided to do some research on pricing and ended up settling on mtgowikiprice.com. Based on research, here are the prices I found for this deck:












Free Cards ($0.05 each or less): Dissolve, Doom Blade, Horizon Chimera, Opportunity, Psychic Spiral, Shambleshark, Syncopate, Whispering Madness
Total Cost: 68.1 Tickets
Shock Land Cost: 44 Tickets
Total Cost (Non-Shock Land): 24.1 Tickets

So without shock lands, this deck is already budget on Magic Online! I had two directions I could take this deck—either drop it to two colors or find a budget mana base. My first inclination was to swap out the shock lands one-for-one with Guildgates.




Since Guildgates slow down the deck by a full turn, I wanted to add a little more pop to the deck.



To make room for these, I took out four Shamblesharks (since I’d rarely be able to make optimal use for them with all my lands coming into play tapped), two Abrupt Decays (to free up 4.4 tickets of budget), and one Psychic Spiral (which I viewed as an unnecessary win condition).

I also added in four Forests to bring my land count to 24 lands. To make room for these, I took out a Doom Blade (which I moved to the sideboard), a Skylasher, a Far // Away, and a Boon Satyr.

Here’s the first budget build of "I’ve Got A Notion":

Maindeck: 20.3 Tickets
Sideboard:  4.5 Tickets
Total Deck Cost: 24.8 Tickets

Match 1:  Hotcakes

Game 1: Wow, it felt weird to be back in the saddle! My first opponent was Hotcakes, who was running a Maze’s End deck. They played Guildgates on their first three turns and dropped Maze’s End on turn 4. I started with Sylvan Caryatid and made double Skylasher on the third turn. They then got a land with Maze’s End, and I cast Whispering Madness, put it on Skylasher, and then cast Notion Thief. Putting blue cipher spells on a protection from blue creature for the win! I attacked and put Boon Satyr on my guy. They tried Riot Control, but I had Syncopate to seal the match. (They were at eight Gates, with two active Maze’s Ends.)


Doom Blade Doom Blade Ultimate Price Ultimate Price Ultimate Price


Pithing Needle Pithing Needle Pithing Needle Mistcutter Hydra Mistcutter Hydra

Game 2: We went back and forth, and it looked like they’d sided in an entire board of Fog effects. On the turn when they got their ninth Gate onto the board, I drew and landed Pithing Needle.

In true Magic Online fashion, I misclicked on "Otaria" and lost the next turn.

Game 3: I Annuled his turn 2 Elixir of Immortality and dropped an ever-growing army of creatures. They proceeded to cast Fog effects for the next eight turns in a row, and I died to Maze’s End.

Record: 0-1

An auspicious beginning! I chalked this one up to misclick jitters and went on to my second match.

Match 2: Ban049

Game 1: My opponent was on Slivers. They dropped Sliver after Sliver after Sliver, and I got run over with a horde of 5/3 double striking slivery Slivers.

Game 2: I sided in a bunch of removal. I got run over by Slivers again.

Record: 0-2

No offense to anyone who likes Slivers, but if you’re looking to Slivers in Standard while playing a suite of removal spells, there’s issues with your (my) deck. Still, I didn’t want to make changes until I got to three full matches played.

Match 3: CamoCamo

CamoCamo was playing a U/R Sorcery deck based around Spellheart Chimera. They got stuck on three mana, and I got a Skylasher enchanted with Boon Satyr. They conceded the entire match.

Record: 1-2

Since this wasn’t a full match, I went for one last try.

Match 4: Oracle384

Game 1: My opponent was playing a W/R Aggro deck. All my comes into play tapped lands were no match for his two-drop creatures and burn spells, and I ended up getting smashed quickly.

Game 2: While I’d like to report something interesting here, instead I’ll just say "a winner was not me."

Record: 1-3

I was playing black, so I shouldn’t have been losing to decks full of small creatures. I had lots of access to removal spells! I decided that the green wasn’t really adding much to the deck now. In a world where I have lots of shock lands, green makes sense—I can often drop turn 2 aggressive creatures with that build. With a budget build, I want this to be the control deck. This also means that I really don’t need the green anymore. Instead, I want to focus on early game control (through both discard and removal) so I can take complete control of the game with Notion Thief later on.


3 Boon Satyr (1.5 Tickets)
3 Chromatic Lantern (1.2 Tickets)
4 Forest (Free)
4 Golgari Guildgate (Free)
4 Horizon Chimera – OUT (Free)
2 Mistcutter Hydra (0.8 Tickets)
4 Simic Guildgate (Free)
3 Skylasher – OUT (8 Tickets)
4 Sylvan Caryatid – OUT (2 Tickets)
4 Temple of Mystery (2.4 Tickets)
3 Ultimate Price (0.3 Tickets)
Total: 15 Tickets

This is 38 cards out (36 maindeck), which makes for a major overhaul to the deck. Here are the changes to make "I’ve Got A Notion V. 2.0."


3 Frostburn Weird (great defense for early game)
4 Notion Thief
4 Woodlot Crawler (the same, plus it has pseudo-evasion with Whispering Madness)
Total: 11 Cards


3 Dimir Keyrune (another unblockable creature for Whispering Madness)
2 Dissolve
4 Doom Blade (I found this was a lot better than Ultimate Price against most of the decks I was playing against)
4 Duress (take out early spells from my opponent so I can establish the board)
1 Far // Away
3 Hero’s Downfall (1.9 Tickets Each = 5.7 Tickets Total)
2 Opportunity
2 Syncopate
3 Whispering Madness
1 Whip of Erebos (0.25 Tickets and a way to get back Notion Thief in a pinch)
Total: 25 Spells


4 Dimir Guildgate
7 Island
7 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit
2 Watery Grave (3.5 Tickets Each, 7 Tickets Total)
Total: 24 Lands


4 Annul
2 Cyclonic Rift
4 Devour Flesh
3 Pithing Needle
2 Swan Song
Total Cost: 22.75 Tickets (yes, with two shock lands it’s still under $25 on Magic Online—what a great country!)

Match 5: Bibliophobia

Game 1: My opponent was on U/B Control. I Duressed them for a bunch of counterspells. They eventually tried tapping out to cast Opportunity during my end step, and I responded with Notion Thief. This was enough to just blow them out, and I wore them out with my own countermagic.

Game 2: I double mulliganed. I led with Duress, which got rid of a Keyrune of their own. I then fished out Notion Thief at their end of turn, which I followed up with Whispering Madness on my turn. I eventually overwhelmed them with countermagic and discard and won with Frostburn Weird + double Keyrune attacking.

Record: 2-3 (Back on track!)

Match 6 (Single Game): Raphaelrgd

My opponent was playing R/B Aggro. I mulliganed again to start this game but Duressed Demolish out of their hand. I got down Frostburn Weird and Woodlot Crawler. They used Flames of the Firebrand and Shock to clear my board. I killed their creatures with Far // Away, Doom Blade, and Hero’s Downfall. I took control with Dimir Keyrune and Notion Thief, and they couldn’t get any other creatures to stop the bleeding.

Record: 3-3

Match 7: pinjockey8

Game 1: My opponent played turn 1 Selesnya Guildgate, and I had double Woodlot Crawler. They then dropped Elvish Mystic. I Duressed them and got Collective Blessing. They played Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, and I Duressed them a second time for Primeval Bounty and played my first Woodlot Crawler.

I got down my second Woodlot Crawler and Frostburn Weird. They had Wayfaring Temple and a second Guildmage. I dropped Whip of Erebos and started racing. They cast Slime Molding for three and started populating, but I was too far ahead thanks to double Forestwalking creatures plus lifelink.

Game 2: I sided in all my removal and took out two Dimir Keyrunes and two Frostburn Weirds. I got Woodlot Crawler + Notion Thief and proceeded to kill five creatures with removal spells. That’s game folks!

Record: 4-3

Match 8: Pictonite

Game 1: I got run over with Slivers. Dammit.

Game 2: I brought in all of the removal again. This game I get Notion Thief with Whispering Madness on turn 5 and ended up taking out their entire hand while drawing five cards. They couldn’t recover from that, and I beat down with a bunch of guys.

Game 3: I got Notion Thief with Whispering Madness again and just ran them over. Mind Twist + Braingeyser is still just plain unfair.

Record: 5-3

Match 9 (Single Game): odi1109

My opponent was on U/G/R Evolve with Gates. They burned out most of my guys, but I eventually landed a couple of Woodlot Crawlers. I got them down to six life, and then they cast Blast of Genius and hit me with Worldspine Wurm. Ouch!

Record: 5-4

And hereabouts is when Born of the Gods was released on Magic Online. Hooray! I was overjoyed and filled with happiness to add Drown in Sorrow and Bile Blight to the deck so I would stop dying to weenies. Unfortunately, Bile Blight was selling for three tickets each.

Maindeck out:

1 Whip of Erebos
1 Doom Blade
1 Far // Away

Maindeck in:

3 Drown in Sorrow (0.4 tix each)

Sideboard out:

2 Swan Song

Sideboard in:

1 Doom Blade
1 Drown in Sorrow

Match 10 (Single Game): leafend

Game 1: Leafend took a mulligan and dropped two early Temples but stalled on two lands. I got a turn 3 Keyrune on the board and followed it with Duress. Their hand? Garruk, Caller of Beasts; Ashen Rider; double Supreme Verdict; and Chromatic Lantern. I removed their Lantern. We both passed the turn, and then he played Sylvan Caryatid. At end of turn, I cast Notion Thief and then ciphered the Madness to wipe out leafend’s entire hand. The rest of the game ended up being elementary given my hand was now eight-cards large and theirs was zero-cards small.

Record: 6-4

Match 11 (Single Game): 3ME

I mulliganed but ended up with a hand of Syncopate, Duress, Drown in Sorrow, and three lands. 3ME played two shock lands in the first two turns, so I opted to wait until turn 3 to cast my Duress (so I had Syncopate backup). 3MEs hand was pretty insane: Kiora, Elspeth, Underworld Connections, Supreme Verdict . . . and just one land. I decided to take Kiora (since I couldn’t remove it easily off the board) assuming that 3ME will try to land Underworld Connections the next turn to draw out of a mana screw. Sure enough, this line of play happened, and I was able to Syncopate. This was followed by a Keyrune and an Opportunity. 3ME never got past three lands before conceding the game to a steadily growing number of creatures on my side.

Record: 7-4

Match 12: MaoTingYang

Game 1: I got an early Duress, and their hand was a bunch of lands and an Anthousa, Setessan Hero. After I killed the Hero with a removal spell, MaoTingYang conceded.

Game 2: I sided in a ton of removal. The game went back and forth with me removing creature and MTY answering with Hammer of Purphoros and even more creatures. Finally Mao tapped down to two mana, and I went for Notion Thief and Whispering Madness. He killed my Notion Thief with Spark Jolt, and I ended up with a hand full of basic lands. I then died to Hammer of Purphoros Golems.

Game 3: Hammer of Purphoros singlehandedly won the game for MaoTingYang. He traded all of his lands for an army of Golems. I stabilized at six life, and MaoTingYang went down to two lands in play. Unfortunately, this was also matched with a hand full of burn spells.

Record: 7-5

I hope everyone had a great time reading the first BOMB column. I’ll see you all next Thursday right after I make bail on my arrest for petty theft at Ms. Jenkles’ house!