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With Wizards of the Coast pushing the format again, building budget-friendly decks to compete in the local scene becomes relevant. How can one approach the construction of budget decks for competitive local play of Standard (Friday Night Magic tournaments)?

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    "Competitive" and "budget" are somewhat contradictory requirements. The most competitive cards are usually the least budget-friendly, precisely because everyone will want them and drive the price up.
    – Hackworth
    Mar 5 at 13:34
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    @Hackworth while that's true, the cost of MtG cards is much more determined by whether they are popular in Commander and Modern than in Standard which does give a potential niche. Mar 5 at 13:40
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    The question was flagged as opinion-based, the mater is not opinion-based, though. There is data that shows competitiveness in a deck, and budget-friendly, although relative, is not opinion-based as well. How can I better approach the question so that it can be reopened? Mar 12 at 14:08
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    @pietro_molina you could define "competitive" (are you hoping to win an event, and if so, how strong a field will that event have?) and also budget (how much money are you willing to spend?).
    – Allure
    Mar 12 at 14:55
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    I have to agree with Pietro here, this question was wrongly closed as opinion based. There are reams of data on the strengths of particular decks and the costs of the cards those decks use over time, that makes the answer to competitive and budget very much data driven. It could have been closed as needing details (and this was my close reason, no idea of what the budget is was given) but that's a different close reason entirely.
    – Andrew
    Mar 19 at 14:24

3 Answers 3

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An attempt to write a somewhat timeless answer, rather than one which just happens to give an answer for Standard as of March 2024.

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Generally red aggro decks are lower cost than other deck types while still being able to compete. Taken from the standard meta list published on MTGGoldfish as of the writing of this answer, mono red aggro is the only deck in the top 50+ that costs less than $100 in paper and is still meta relevant at around 5.5% of the meta.

For even more of a budget, there's a list for those too. Budget decks won't be as good, usually, as the more meta defining ones, but they definitely can stand up and put in a decent showing.


I have no affiliation with MTGGoldfish, they just tend to have pretty good and accurate resources in my experience.

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If you're aiming to be competitive I'll recommend mtgtop8 instead of MTGGoldfish, since the former indexes only the winner's metagame. mtgtop8 separates decks into archetypes, but for the price of each individual deck, you'll have to click on them to find out.

If you're really aiming to be competitive, look in particular at the events listed under "last major events" because it's at major events that people are most incentivized to win. Here's the list of top decks from the last major event, the 75k Open @ Magic Con Chicago, with 511 players. You can see for example that the mono red aggro deck mentioned in Philip Kendall's and Andrew's answers didn't even place in the top 16 of that event. Among the decks that did finish in the top 8, the one linked is the cheapest - UW control @ $253.

Do note that this price tag is only a ballpark estimate, and if you really want to be competitive you'll need to tune your deck as the metagame churns, maybe even swap decks entirely (shudder) - which necessarily involves more cards and hence more $.

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    You may be putting too much weight on being competitive and ignoring the idea of playing on a budget. If the cheapest deck you're bringing up here is over $250 that's a big ask for a lot of people.
    – Andrew
    Mar 6 at 6:21
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    @Andrew one could also argue you are doing the reverse, by recommending a deck that is very underrepresented at the top tables of major tournaments. Ultimately it's really up to the OP to decide what they want to do.
    – Allure
    Mar 6 at 6:33
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    "Competitive at FNM" is generally a significantly lower level than "competitive at a major tournament". Yes, it can depend on your FLGS. Mar 6 at 11:21
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    @PhilipKendall it still depends on the definition. I don't know how large OP's LGS is, but if it's say 10 players, and "competitive" is defined as "within the top two", then it's still not fair to say mono red is competitive (based on recent results).
    – Allure
    Mar 6 at 12:07
  • Great discussion here, would you make suggestions to make the question less speculative? Mar 12 at 14:44

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