Creative deckbuilding on a budget is a way to spend less money deckbuilding, make more money deckbuilding, or simply get to experience deckbuilding when we otherwise wouldn’t.
Here are some keys to creative deckbuilding on a budget which have helped me achieve all of the above.
Deckuilding With High Supply Commons
A deck’s price is the sum of the individual card prices. The individual card prices are a function of supply and demand. The greater the supply, the cheaper the good. The greater the demand, the more expensive.
Commons may be in high demand but they are in such abundant supply they are almost free. Basic lands, for instance, are Pro-Tour-winning cards that can fill out 1/3rd or more of a deck for nothing!
Commons often provide simple effects, and the best ones at a very efficient rate. So many of the best 1- and 2-drops have been commons.
Commons often provide redundant effects, or cards that do functionally the same thing. So you can fill out another chunk of the deck in the same way as basic lands.
A fast way to identify staple commons to build around is by skimming tournament lists. Even in the highest demand, commons for tournament decks are in such high supply that prices are low.
However, the popular commons are not the only good commons, so keep your mind open when going through cards or drafting.
There is a high abundance of efficient commons to fill out a competitive deck. Finding and identifying staples is a simple key to creative deckbuilding on a budget.
Deckbuilding With Low-Demand Rares
Rares are printed at lower supply, and since they offer unique and powerful effects, they are often in high demand, making them very expensive!
However, most rares have enough supply to still be very cheap with low enough demand. Low demand does not necessarily mean lower power level, it just means individuals don’t have a desire to hold their copies and play with them.
Low demand rares may be weak, but they may simply be unpopular from being different or unknown. If a card is unknown, it may remain unknown, and in low demand. If a card is known, it may continue to be known, and grow in demand.
Thus, the key to building with low demand rares is to find cards through means other than tournament lists. Tournament lists are known and in demand. Most of the rares in published tournament decks will be in demand and therefore expensive.
You want to get your card information through sources like Gatherer or old card boxes. Combined with a knowledge of tournament lists you can identify low demand rares that are cheap to build around.
For instance, you may come across Living End while searching “suspend” in Gatherer and identify it as a card that has not yet performed in tournament. A cheap potential build-around.
Or you may flip to Greater Gargadon while going through old cards and identify it as a card that used to perform in tournaments but has not seen play for some years. Another cheap potential build-around.
There are many, many unique and powerful rares without tournament/knowledge-driven demand. You have to search to find them but their discovery is a key to creative deckbuilding on a budget.
Creative Deckbuilding on a Budget Exercise
I’m 16-years-old and find out that there is a Junior Nationals Qualifer (JSS) tournament TOMORROW that I can play in. I have no experience with the format, no cards, and no way to borrow cards on such short notice.
The tournament pays out $500 college scholarship and Nationals invites to the 2 winners. I want to play but the only way is to show up to the store early tomorrow and buy a deck for $30 or less. I’ll have to have a tournament-winning list by then, and they will have to have the cards on site.
It’s a long shot, but with creative budgeting, it may be possible.
I start by going through Gatherer looking for commons (and uncommons) to build around. A low rarity deck will be cheap and likely available on site.
I showed up to the store early to get the cards, which they had.
At $20 for Lotus Blooms and $10 for the rest of the lot I was in my $30 budget (plus $20 tournament entry).
Over the course of the tournament I played against other kids building on a budget, but many of them with a higher budget than mine. My high-speed, high-synergy, high-velocity common deck could overpower decks full of individually powerful rare creatures, spells, and lands.
I won every game of this tournament for a $500 scholarship and an invite to Nationals. A $450 profit from creative deckbuilding on a budget. This was a pivotal moment for me in my deckbuilding career in developing a process which I later used to qualify for the Pro Tour with several decks, one of them Living End.
In this example creative deckbuilding on a budget saved me money and made me money. But more importantly if it wasn’t for creative building on a budget, I wouldn’t have even played, and I may not be writing this.
Creative Deckbuilding on a Budget
Creative deckbuilding on a budget is a way to spend less money deckbuilding, make more money deckbuilding, or simply get to experience deckbuilding when you otherwise wouldn’t.
The keys to deckbuilding on a budget are to fill the deck with high-supply staple commons and build around low-demand unknown rares.
This isn’t the definitive guide to building on a budget, but I hope this breakdown helps you in your journey.