One of the hardest things about crafting a new deck on Arena is the fear that it’s not worth the investment. If you are anything like me, you worry about using your precious mythic wildcards. Especially on a deck that winds up being less fun than expected.
On top of that, a few significant cards were banned or suspended from multiple formats, making some very popular decks weaker or less consistent:
What if you were mainly playing one of those decks and now need to find something else to play between now and the next standard rotation in September?
That’s why, I compiled a list of some budget decks that are unaffected or even improved by the recent bans.
What is a Budget Deck?
A “budget deck” refers to any deck that doesn’t use a large number of rare or mythic rare cards. The reason for this is that those rare and mythic cards are pretty hard to get.
Newer players and returning players can play these decks even without all of the fanciest cards of the last few sets to release. If you’re want to save Gold and Gems, but still try a new deck, this decks are great for you.
These decks can serve as a starter decks. If you’re a new player you can definitely finish your quests with them on Arena.
For the purposes of this list, we have limited each deck to a maximum of 4 rare/mythic rare cards.
As I discuss include my thoughts regarding each deck, I will focus on how the deck is a light, low-risk investment (the “budget” in “budget deck”) and how the deck fares competitively (the “deck” part). This will keep me from ending up on a tangent about card art or creature types.
Standard Budget Decks
So with all that in mind, let me present you five budget decks that can work well enough in the post-ban Standard.
Jeskai Cycling Budget Deck
In case you haven’t seen it before, the term “Jeskai” refers to the color combination of red, white, and blue.
This decklist is built around Zenith Flare and cards with the Cycling ability. This allows you to discard them and draw another card for generally low mana costs. It is also consistent because of its unique versatility.
Since you can discard your cards for value OR play them for their effect, the deck has this modular flexibility. This means it can respond to many different situations. Your Flourishing Fox can be an effective early creature or it can be cycled to draw something else. This adds firepower to Zenith Flare or activates some of your other creatures’ relevant abilities.
The Jeskai Cycling deck has further versatility with a few other win conditions in Irencrag Pyromancer, Improbable Alliance, and Drannith Stinger. These cards allow you to face a deck with counterspells and not automatically lose if your Zenith Flares get fizzled out.
This deck is also fairly easy to craft in Arena, requiring a maximum of 2 rare wildcards and 1 substitutable mythic wildcard. However, the real genius of why this deck is inexpensive is in the Cycling mechanic itself.
Cycling, as far as the Standard is concerned right now, all came out in one set, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Since most of these cards all come from the same pack, you can just buy that one. (Or play Ikoria Draft event once it returns to Arena.) This way you can get the bulk of your deck, as it’s made from commons and uncommons.
Secondly, cycling a card costs generic mana, that’s mana that does not need to be a certain color. That means that you can substitute some of the cards in this list with cards of other colors. For instance, maybe you don’t have uncommon wildcards but need Boon of the Wish-Giver. You could just slot in Memory Leaks to replace it in the meantime. Sure you won’t be able to play the card for its effect, as you won’t don’t have black mana, but you’re cycling Boon most of the time anyways.
Sidenote: This deck has an additional benefit for new players who want a starter deck to help build their collection. It doesn’t rely on any cards that will go away in the Standard rotation in September.
Boros Puppies Budget Deck
Boros, which refers to the red-white combination, is generally great at using synergy and beneficial effects to tun several low-cost creatures into a force worth much more than the sum of their parts. This deck is no exception.
Pack Leader is a card that begs to be built around. As soon as most of us saw this card for the first time, we all started checking to see if there were good “dog” creature cards to play alongside it. It turns out that there most certainly are.
Pack Leader can make your dogs indestructible in combat. Selfless Savior can protect it in a pinch. Alpine Houndmaster usually adds two decent dogs into your hand. You have good utility cards in Angelic Ascension and Conclave Tribunal to give you some much needed flexibility.
This deck plays fast and hard and can be a lot of fun for those who like the idea of tribal decks, or decks that focus on synergies within a particular creature type.
This deck is also easy on the Arena wildcards. Similarly to the Jeskai cycling (Ikoria), the cards mostly come from one set, Core Set 2021. As of time of writing, there are 3 different draft events for that set in Arena.
The only note about the cost of this deck is that the 4 copies of Pack leader are a must. So substituting them for something common or uncommon will be difficult. You may need to spend the 4 rare wildcards to craft them in order to draw that triumphant terrier consistently.
Izzet Spells Budget Deck
Izzet, or blue and red, has had a lasting identify of casting mostly instants and sorceries. By doing so it buffs creatures (like Sprite Dragon or Pteramander) and gets to use cards like Experimental Overload. This deck doesn’t go out of style and can be adjusted for a long time to fit the changing format. Especially with Teferi, Time Raveler being banned, it is a great time to enjoy some instant-casting.
This list is full to the brim with cheap spells. Most of your cards don’t cost more than two mana and even Stormwing Entity can have its cost reduced. So you have:
- a myriad of drawing options
- strong flying creatures that synergize with the rest of the deck
- good utility in the removal spells and counterspells.
The Izzet spell deck can also be inexpensive to craft. This list is composed mostly of commons and substituting is fairly easy here. The 4 rares are needed for Stormwing Entity. However, even these could be replaced with another significant flying threat, like Crackling Drake.
Pteramander will leave the Standard format in September, so you may choose to substitute that with another synergistic creature. Good options could be Tide Skimmer, Shipwreck Dowser, or Mistral Singer. These substitutions make the deck a bit more mana-intensive, but this is still a good option for saving gems, gold, and wildcards in Arena.
Orzhov Lifegain Budget Deck
Orzhov, the black-white combination, currently lends itself to a vampiric theme, gaining life by damaging your opponent and vice-versa. This list is built around a couple of win conditions: Indulging Patrician, Griffin Aerie, and if all else fails, Archfiend’s Vessel.
One of the major reasons why this deck can hold its own is that your healing effects are suddenly dangerous to decks other than super aggressive ones. Slower decks can’t afford to let you heal if they are getting swarmed by griffins or losing life multiple turns in a row.
This version of the list actually contains no rare cards at all, potentially making it the cheapest deck here for many players. If you want to spend 2 rare wildcards, you can spice things up a bit by playing Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose over Ajani’s Pridemate for a different win condition. Nevertheless, this deck should also function pretty well as is.
This deck can also be appealing to players who were affected by the ban of Cauldron Familiar. While I will not miss the sinking feeling of seeing my opponent play a turn 1 Witch’s Oven, you might be wondering what to do with your copies of Eliminate, Call of the Death-Dweller, or Archfiend’s Vessel. This is a great budget option for you if you had already crafted some of these cards for another deck.
Mono Red Aggro Budget Deck
- Anax, Hardened in the Forge
- Bolt Hound
- Rimrock Knight
- Scorch Spitter
- Other cost-efficient aggressive red cards
This may be the deck that players most expected to see in an article about competitive budget decks. Red aggro decks are a staple in Arena, like checking the Store for daily deals or muting someone for saying “Your Go” 3 times per second. Love it or hate it – red aggro decks are a fact of life in Arena, and the recent bans have done little to change that.
Red cards are just so good at being aggressive, and staying within one color makes your mana base that much more consistent. You get in fast and try to execute your plan earlier and more quickly than your opponent can execute theirs. This list strives to do just that.
Anax, Bolt Hound, and Rimrock Knight work together to make your creatures more threatening. Every little Goblin Arsonist or Scorch Spitter represents just a little more damage when it can be buffed or turned into a satyr on death.
The inclusion of Light Up the Stage also gives a semblance of card draw since you will likely find yourself emptying your hand quicker than most decks.
This version of the deck has no rare or mythic cards in it, but you could easily replace Infuriate with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or Embercleave if you have either. You might also consider trading Light Up the Stage with Thrill of Possibility if you are low on uncommon wildcards.
Additionally, since both Light Up the Stage and Tin Street Dodger are leaving in the next rotation, you might consider substituting either of those with cards that fill the same role to help get the most out of your investment in this budget deck.
These decks are just a small handful of options for budget decks in the aftermath of the recent bans. We hope you found one that interests you or that you can modify to better fit your playstyle. If you’ll be building your own deck, you can check our MTG Deck Building Guide. This way you’ll avoid some of the mistakes new players make.
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Until next time, good luck with your new budget deck, and have fun!