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Budget MODO - Kendall Halman (3/29/2012)

Magic Online is an amazing thing.  I, like many people, was initially drawn to it so I could draft any time I wanted.  As much as I enjoy drafting, I can't always make it out to my local game store on Friday nights.  Most of my draft time starts at 10 pm on a random weeknight. Over time, I started accumulating a collection and built a handful of Standard decks.  The nice thing about playing Constructed online is that you don't have to pay every single time you want to play.

Then my summer job ended and I got on a much tighter budget.  Right around the time Innistrad came out, I stopped drafting altogether.  Then, even though I'd avoided getting money cards like Goblin Guide
Goblin Guide
Goblin GuideSet: Zendikar
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Goblin Scout
Rarity:
R
Number:
126
Artist:
Warren Mahy
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Haste Whenever Goblin Guide attacks, defending player reveals the top card of his or her library. If it's a land card, that player puts it into his or her hand.
that I knew would be rotating with Innistrad's release, many of my decks became unplayable and I basically stopped playing online at all.  Instead, I focused on my casual decks in real life Magic (I hate the term "Paper Magic.")  

A month or two ago, I felt the itch to start playing online again.  Due to my pay-schedule, I rarely had the money to go out to my local game store on a Friday, and when I did, my girlfriend wanted to hang out.  Also, some of the casual players I was playing with became somewhat less available.  My budget was still incredibly tight, so after a draft or two, I bought the singles I needed to play a Splinterfright
Splinterfright
SplinterfrightSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elemental
Rarity:
R
Number:
205
Artist:
Eric Deschamps
Power:
*
Toughness:
*
Text:
Trample Splinterfright's power and toughness are each equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. At the beginning of your upkeep, put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard.
deck.  The entire deck cost me around $10 and did well in the casual, "Just for Fun" room.  Since then, I've found some specific choices that can be made to keep the budget in check while still getting to play a ton of Magic.


Getting the Competitive Feel from Casual Play

I love playing in tournaments.  It's not even a matter of winning.  As I wrote in my previous article, I love playing against good players and just seeing everyone at their best.  Magic Online offers a similar experience in their "Tournament Practice Room."  This is where some of the best players go to tweak their decks.  It's a great place to get a feel for the meta-game.  Unlike the "Just For Fun" room, most people want to play best out of three matches.  I also have seen fewer complainers or people who randomly concede because of a bad draw.  These people tend to come at the game with a much more professional level in general.

Every night for a week, I made a point to play four matches in the "Tournament Practice Room."  It really felt like I was playing in a tournament every night.  Then, when I actually did play in a tournament, I was well prepared.  The decks I saw were very similar to those I played against in the practice room.  I lost that tournament, but did win a pack in a 2-man queue afterwards.  The only frustrating thing about the tournament was that I couldn't tweak my deck between matches as I was used to in the practice room.


Making Budget-Conscious Decisions in Limited

No, you should not rare draft.  If you pull a card with high enough value, it's probably good enough to build a deck around.  I once pulled a Jace, Memory Adept
Jace, Memory Adept
Jace, Memory AdeptSet: Magic 2012
Cost:
5
Color:
Blue
Type:
Planeswalker
Sub Type:
Jace
Rarity:
M
Number:
58
Artist:
D. Alexander Gregory
Text:
+1: Draw a card. Target player puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard. 0: Target player puts the top ten cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. -7: Any number of target players each draw twenty cards.
in pack 3 of an M12 draft when I was not in blue at all.  I simply used pack three to get a handful of blue cards.  That said, an off color bulk rare that's worth a nickle or even a dual land that's worth a few bucks is not the way to be budget conscious in Limited.  No matter the format, it is much more profitable to win matches in a tournament.  In Swiss, the budget format I recommend, if you win one match, that already makes up for passing a random off-color dual land.

Probably the best thing you can do to control your spending on drafts is buying boosters from bots, and using boosters you win in the next draft.  Bots rarely, if ever charge a full four tickets for a booster pack.  If one does, chances are someone else is selling the same pack for less.  I've found that, even playing popular formats like DII (One pack Dark Ascension, two packs Innistrad), you can save a dollar or two buying your packs from bots.  Along the same lines, drafting unpopular formats is a great way to save a few dollars while still getting your fix.  One of my favorite formats is triple M12.  It's not hard to find M12 packs for around three tickets a piece.  This means a draft costs eleven or twelve tickets instead of fourteen, assuming you don't have any prize packs laying around.

Lastly, play Swiss.  Swiss is my preferred format for several reasons.  First, you get to play Magic.  There are plenty of times where I draft a bad deck, lose the first round, and still get to play rounds two and three and maybe get a pack or two.  Insanely good players can win one 8-4 or 4-3-2-2 after another, but that's probably not you if you are playing on an extremely tight budget.  I've found that the number of times I lose round one and win rounds two and three is much higher than any other combination of wins and losses.  Essentially the only times you win more packs in either single-elimination format are the times when you basically win it all.  The worst case scenario with Swiss would be winning the entire tournament, getting 3 packs, a qualifying point, and probably some good singles if your deck is that good.


Budget Formats

There are a handful of supported budget formats on Magic Online.  The two that I want to focus on are Block and Pauper.  Both of these formats have competitive events where you can win packs and qualifying points.  Also, you can build a deck fairly easily in either format for around $10 to start.

Pauper is a very popular format for budget players.  The only rule is that all cards in a deck must be common.  It is an eternal format, so once you are invested in it, you just have to keep up with new sets, since it does not rotate like Standard or Block.  Many people enjoy the format, because it is far less bomb-heavy.  One person I recently spoke with told me he felt it simply made him a better Magic player in general.  My only complaint about this format is that, being an eternal format, there seem to be a handful of very powerful established decks that dominate the metagame.  Also, some of the decks combo off very early, leading to very short, non-interactive games.

Block Constructed is the opposite of Pauper.  It is a rotating format consisting of only the cards from a given Block.  Many Standard decks can be easily altered to fit into Block Constructed.  The nice thing about Block is the very small card pool.  Decks tend to be fairly straightforward and interactive.  Rarely are there powerful infinite-combo decks, because this is a format that has cards that were designed to work together.  Also, for whatever reason, I've found that most cards gain their value because of their strength in Standard.  Therefore, a card might be insanely powerful in Block Constructed, but not worth as much because there is a better card in Standard.  For example, I just checked the price on Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
Mikaeus, the UnhallowedSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
6
Color:
Black
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Zombie Cleric
Rarity:
M
Number:
70
Artist:
Chris Rahn
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Intimidate Whenever a Human deals damage to you, destroy it. Other non-Human creatures you control get +1/+1 and have undying. (When a creature with undying dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it.)
.  It is around 4-5 Tickets.  I want him for a deck based around Unburial Rites
Unburial Rites
Unburial RitesSet: Innistrad
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
122
Artist:
Ryan Pancoast
Text:
Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. Flashback {3}{W} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)
, but because Elesh Norn (going for around $25) is the better choice in Standard, his price is reasonable.

Lastly, many people play Block Constructed as a way to eventually break into Standard.  I tried to do this when I first started playing in real life, but there just aren't enough people playing the format outside of Magic Online.  Online, however, there are enough people to support any crazy format.  You could start a deck in Block, edit it for Standard, then for Extended, then who knows?


Making Budget-Conscious Card Choices

Every format has its budget decks.  Even Legacy has fairly accessible mono red goblin decks, or so I am told.  Right now, in Standard, the main budget decks are the ones without Snapcaster Mage
Snapcaster Mage
Snapcaster MageSet: Innistrad
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
78
Artist:
Volkan Baga
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flash When Snapcaster Mage enters the battlefield, target instant or sorcery card in your graveyard gains flashback until end of turn. The flashback cost is equal to its mana cost. (You may cast that card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)
, Elesh Norn, or Primeval Titan
Primeval Titan
Primeval TitanSet: Magic 2011
Cost:
6
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Giant
Rarity:
M
Number:
192
Artist:
Aleksi Briclot
Power:
6
Toughness:
6
Text:
Trample Whenever Primeval Titan enters the battlefield or attacks, you may search your library for up to two land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
.  It seems like people are building Red Deck Wins, Temper
Temper
TemperSet: Stronghold
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
120
Artist:
Matthew D. Wilson
Text:
Prevent up to X damage to target creature. For each 1 damage prevented in this way, put a +1/+1 counter on that creature.
ZWQgU3RlZWw=, Burning Vengeance
Burning Vengeance
Burning VengeanceSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
133
Artist:
Raymond Swanland
Text:
Whenever you cast a spell from your graveyard, Burning Vengeance deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
, and Splinterfright
Splinterfright
SplinterfrightSet: Innistrad
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elemental
Rarity:
R
Number:
205
Artist:
Eric Deschamps
Power:
*
Toughness:
*
Text:
Trample Splinterfright's power and toughness are each equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. At the beginning of your upkeep, put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard.
for reasonable budget.  Also, most of those decks go from $10 to $40-$50 or more depending on specific card choices.

For example, I'm currently working on a mono-red deck.  Like any Red Deck Wins deck, it's got fast, aggressive, possibly hasty creatures and some burn spells.  I really wanted 3x of some combination of Hellrider
Hellrider
HellriderSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Devil
Rarity:
R
Number:
93
Artist:
Svetlin Velinov
Power:
3
Toughness:
3
Text:
Haste Whenever a creature you control attacks, Hellrider deals 1 damage to defending player.
($4) and Hero of Oxid Ridge
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Hero of Oxid RidgeSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Knight
Rarity:
M
Number:
66
Artist:
Eric Deschamps
Power:
4
Toughness:
2
Text:
Haste Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.) Whenever Hero of Oxid Ridge attacks, creatures with power 1 or less can't block this turn.
(a lot).  Then I remembered Instigator Gang
Instigator Gang
Instigator GangSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Werewolf
Rarity:
R
Number:
149
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
2
Toughness:
3
Text:
Attacking creatures you control get +1/+0. At the beginning of each upkeep, if no spells were cast last turn, transform Instigator Gang.
.  Like the other two cards, Instigator Gang
Instigator Gang
Instigator GangSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Werewolf
Rarity:
R
Number:
149
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
2
Toughness:
3
Text:
Attacking creatures you control get +1/+0. At the beginning of each upkeep, if no spells were cast last turn, transform Instigator Gang.
pumps my other creatures very well and is a four drop.  Of course, he does not have haste, so I did not want to play all three Instigator Gang
Instigator Gang
Instigator GangSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Werewolf
Rarity:
R
Number:
149
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
2
Toughness:
3
Text:
Attacking creatures you control get +1/+0. At the beginning of each upkeep, if no spells were cast last turn, transform Instigator Gang.
s.  However, I did purchase two Hellrider
Hellrider
HellriderSet: Dark Ascension
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Devil
Rarity:
R
Number:
93
Artist:
Svetlin Velinov
Power:
3
Toughness:
3
Text:
Haste Whenever a creature you control attacks, Hellrider deals 1 damage to defending player.
s and one Instigator Gang
Instigator Gang
Instigator GangSet: Innistrad
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Werewolf
Rarity:
R
Number:
149
Artist:
Greg Staples
Power:
2
Toughness:
3
Text:
Attacking creatures you control get +1/+0. At the beginning of each upkeep, if no spells were cast last turn, transform Instigator Gang.
.  The latter cost $.25.  When constructing the deck, you just have to ask yourself how much difference one card can make.  Also, like in the example, it's not all or nothing.  Playing three copies of Elesh Norn instead of four saves $25.

Overall, Magic Online, like all aspects of Magic, can cost as much or as little as you want it to.  If you are this far into the article and have never tried it, I strongly recommend it.  The interface leaves some to be desired and some people think the shuffler leads to mana screw/flood, but once you get used to its imperfections it really is a remarkable program.

If you like what you read or have any comments, you can e-mail me at Kitchenfinkspodcast@gmail.com.  Also, follow me on twitter @khalman, and listen to "Kitchen Finks
Kitchen Finks
Kitchen FinksSet: Shadowmoor
Cost:
5
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Ouphe
Rarity:
U
Number:
229
Artist:
Kev Walker
Power:
3
Toughness:
2
Text:
When Kitchen Finks comes into play, you gain 2 life. Persist (When this creature is put into a graveyard from play, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to play under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)
," my podcast at mtgcast.com.  Thanks for reading!


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