About a year ago, a friend introduced me to MTG Arena. I played very often over the course of the pandemic and as a result have gotten pretty into Magic. My friend has been playing for three or four years, both tabletop and Arena and has a decent collection of cards.
Fast forward to a couple months ago and I discovered another friend of mine also plays Magic, mostly tabletop. He has been playing for over 10 years and could probably become a Magic judge if he put some time into it. He has a massive collection of cards and 15-20 constructed decks for standard, modern, and commander.
Realizing we all played, I got everyone in contact with one-another and we decided to try commander. I bought two precon commander decks just for this, watched a bunch of videos on how to play commander (I'm more familiar with standard), and even bought a couple singles to upgrade my precons. Needless to say our 10-year friend completely dominated with a couple really powerful combo decks, but it was such a good time. Our group got along great and we all had a blast despite the games being pretty lopsided. We had so much fun that we've continued doing a commander night each week, and even found a fourth friend on par with my 3-year friend skill and card collection-wise.
Over the past two months, I've invested a fair amount in MTG cards, all of them singles, and tried to put together a deck that can at least hold its own. I'm not super competitive, I just like being able to play and see my deck do a cool thing or two each game. My decks are budget in the truest sense, and I think the market value between my 4 decks is less than $200 (thank you Commander's Quarters!). I'm in a tight spot financially, so I'm maxed out on upgrades for the time being.
The problem has only started to arise in the last few weeks. Each week, everyone plays mostly the same decks, but recently everyone has been bringing some significant upgrades. For example, one person came this week with The Great Henge (~$50), Hullbreacher (~$28), and Rhystic Study (~$40) added to their deck. I am the only person in the past couple weeks that hasn't spent a lot of money on singles or packs to upgrade their decks, and I'm starting to be completely outgunned. I haven't won a game in the two months we've been playing, which doesn't bother me by itself, but its to the point where I'm out first pretty consistently. If I stay in any longer it's because I'm a non-threat not worth being dealt with, and even then any of the tiny combos I manage to produce get shut down easily.
I know it's not 100% the power of the cards that's causing this as I am pretty new, but I can't help but feel a little defeated. I'm watching a bunch of videos on how to get better at magic, watching them play and trying to learn, and trying to learn about historic cards to know what's out there for reasonable upgrades. But I know that my budget is definitely "holding me back", as I need to settle for the budget versions of particular cards that just make them less effective. For example, I run Verdant Force (~$0.80) instead of Tendershoot Dryad (~$16) as a token generator in my green token deck. Tendershoot is objectively a better card, but I could never justify spending ~$16 on a single card I may never play, let alone draw, in a game.
My question is, what can I do to address the power creep in our weekly play group when I can't afford to keep up? I really want to stay involved because I love playing with everyone and they're all really good friends, but I also don't have the most fun sitting on the sidelines for an hour or more each game. Some of the solutions I've thought of are:
- Asking to play my friend's decks instead of my own
- Asking to do a "budget challenge" one week, where everyone's decks must be below, say $50
- Finding a new playgroup to play with in addition to my current group that is more my level
I'm not particularly fond of any of those solutions because for (1), my friend's decks are so combo-heavy that I don't know what cards are in them/how to use them. It isn't really fun to play when it's constantly being pointed out which triggers you missed, which card you could have played instead, or just topdecking through a deck to figure out what there even is. For (2), that's more on me because I'm probably too proud to admit I don't have any money to spend. I'm also afraid it could come off as me asking to play my custom budget deck against something less powerful for the sake of trying to win a game. And for (3), I do really like my friends in my current playgroup and I don't want to ditch them because "I'm not winning". I want to play with them but also find a way to not get functionally shut out because I'm not spending money on upgrades.
All my research yields questions from the opposite perspective, like, "What do I do when my decks are too powerful for my playgroup?". I don't even know what other solutions there might be, especially because I'm newer at the game.
I know there's probably not a best answer to this question, but given I can't find any other solutions and given that this is likely a common problem, I figured it would be a good question.