Modern can be a very expensive format depending on what decks you like to play. Sadly, this was not always true. Many Modern decks have doubled in price over the last year or so. If you hadn’t figured it out by now, Modern is my favorite format, and I always want more people to play with.
So how can someone work their way into Modern without dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars just to get started?
Cards You Have
First, look at your own collection. Do you have an old Standard deck that you could upgrade? Perhaps you still have a few Modern staples from when they were in Standard? See what cards you have that may be seeing play and determine if you would enjoy playing the Modern decks that they are played in.
If you have cards that have risen in value but you are not particularly keen on playing them, you can always try to trade those for cards in a deck you do want to play. Talk to other Modern players in your area. If they don’t have cards for trade, they may know someone who does. Network! We’re a community!
You don’t have any cards? No problem. There are still other ways you can get into the Modern format without breaking your bank. My biggest tip for you is to choose what deck–or kind of deck–you want to play before buying a bunch of cards. Buying cards that you will play for a few months while you save up for other decks will likely leave you spending more money in the long run.
First, do your research. Look at the decks that are popular in Modern. Do you really like any of them instinctively? Do you have an idea for a brew that can beat all of the top tier decks? Start with learning about the format, either by reading articles or talking to your friends. Once you have a deck in mind, it is often a good idea to make or print out playtest cards to get the feel of a deck before purchasing it.
Once you have found a deck that you like, now it’s time to get the cards. Most decks can be budget-ized and then follow an upgrade plan as you are willing to invest more into it. If you know you will likely not be able to invest more later, then choose a deck that will require little upgrading.
Some decks are easy to set an upgrade plan for. If you are interested in Jund, you can start with a much cheaper deck — 8-Rack. To be fair this is still not a cheap deck, but it can also be made even less expensive with some small changes. Necrogen Mists can be used as a replacement for Liliana of the Veil and have a similar result in this deck. With only the four-card difference it is now $250 instead of $600. If you’re easing into the format, that’s a huge price difference. Other changes can be made as well such as not playing Death’s Shadow in the sideboard or playing more Swamps in place of the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Each substitution makes the deck a little less tuned, but it can be a solution for while you slowly upgrade the cards.
The most expensive cards on my budget list are cards that you will likely continue to use in future Modern decks. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are used in tons of black-based decks. Mutavault goes in virtually any tribal strategy. These cards should not lower in price much and can be traded easily later if you decide you want to play something else.
When it is time to upgrade I would change these cards out in this order:
When it comes to sideboard cards, don’t forget that you can cater things to your local metagame. Don’t just copy someone else’s fifteen! That could cost you way more than you need to spend.
When it is time to upgrade to Liliana of the Veil, you’ll have tons of cards for other archetypes.
- 3 Dark Confidant
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 3 Fulminator Mage
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 2 Grim Flayer
When moving to a different deck, find the key card and prioritize. In this example, Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, and Scavenging Ooze as well as removal like Abrupt Decay are crucial. Lands can be substituted for cheaper ones until you are able to get the fetchlands you want. Try out the new lands from Kaladesh or Battle lands. If all else fails, start with what you have, then upgrade.
The jump from just black and green to full on Jund is mostly in the lands. Once you have a three-color mana base, it is essential that it works efficiently. At this time, prioritize getting fetchlands and shocklands along with your red removal.
Do know that as the metagame shifts there will always be some change you will want to make to your deck. I currently have over 100 cards for my Merfolk deck that get moved in and out of the 75 based on the tournament. Most decks are not quite this flexible, but you will probably want more than your base 75.
If upgrading is not something you are looking to do, there are still decks for you. Here are some suggestions at various price points if you are looking to jump right in. Unfortunately, most of the cards in these decks will not see play in other Modern decks, so they may not upgrade or resell very well.
If you are looking for a fun and somewhat competitive deck around the $50 mark, you should look into Mono-Green Stompy. Stompy is an aggressive creature deck that uses pump spells to try to get in damage as quickly as possible. It stays cheap by only being one color, not requiring a complex mana base. Think a streamlined Infect strategy.
- 4 Leatherback Baloth
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Kalonian Tusker
- 4 Avatar of the Resolute
A tribal deck at only $100 is exciting to see. These synergistic Zombies work way better as a team than they do on their own. This can be upgraded into a better mana base if you are interested, but it also plays very well with the one it already has. Everyone knows Zombies are never alone for long, so swarm your opponent with recurring threats and tokens.
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 3 Cemetery Reaper
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Cryptbreaker
Ad Nauseam is a fun combo deck that prevents you from dying to damage with Angel’s Grace and Phyrexian Unlife. You then draw your entire deck with Ad Nauseam and finish the game by throwing lands at your opponents with Lightning Storm. It is powerful and not very easy to interrupt, which makes it a great choice if you want to play a combo deck.
Tron is a deck that ramps using the Urza lands into big creatures and planeswalkers to control the battlefield and play ahead of curve. If you want to learn more about the variations of Tron that exist, you can read more about them here.
Coming in at just over $800 is what I feel is the top deck in the Modern metagame right now: Infect. It is a powerful aggressive strategy with a combo-like finish. Pump and protection spells work with infect creatures to race to lethal poison damage.
Control decks are more expensive than aggro decks because there are fewer excellent answers than there are excellent threats. This leads to playing three colors, which increases the price significantly. If you want to play the control role, you should consider Grixis Control. It is the most consistent and prominent control deck in Modern at the moment. Most of the value is tied up in a few cards, so it is possible to wait to purchase Snapcaster Mage and Ancestral Vision until later, but these are very important to the deck—optimal performance demands them. You can also replace some of the Scalding Tarns with other fetchlands to keep the price a bit lower as well.
You can keep prices of cards even lower if you are willing to get slightly played or moderately played cards. These cards may not be as beautiful as ones straight out of a booster box, but they are still tournament legal. StarCityGames has a very strict grading scale for the amount of wear on the cards, so you can trust that a slightly played card will be in fantastic condition.
If you are willing to be patient, there are often sales on cards as well. StarCityGames has a sale each week, and you can find some really good deals in them. The holidays were paradise for anyone looking to get cards on the cheap this year. Something to keep in mind for next December!
I hope these tricks can help you to find a new deck you love and that you can afford. Magic isn’t cheap by nature, and Modern is no exception. But it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. Have a wonderful week, and as always; happy gaming!