Creating a Winning Deck for Less Than $100

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So you're at your local card shop and you've decided to build a new deck. After getting your head kicked in by your friends, you've decided to make a deck that might actually win. Ya know, instead of that massive, mana-sucking 200+ card deck where none of the creatures require less than six lands? But you only have around $100 and you really wanted to save some of that for trash-talking lessons. Is there no hope?

Well, yes, actually, there is! You don't have to burn through hundreds of dollars just to make a winning deck. A good deck can be like your opponent's mom, cheap and easy to come by.

First, you have to commit. 60 cards, bro. I know, I know, there are so many cards you want to play. If you can't commit to 60, you might as well go back to that behemoth loser deck.

Second, pick one color. One color means one strategy, not the 17 you imagine you can pull off in your head. With only 60 cards and one color, you'll be guaranteed to play something. And that's the real key: fast and effective.

Striking First

When you draw first blood, you immediately put lesser players on the defensive. Veterans know to stick with their strategy, but even they get rattled sometimes with an early, effective barrage. If you've knocked your opponent below 15 before he even gets a creature out, his mana-heavy cards may already be weighing him down. That's an indication of his strategy.

How to Buy

I went down to my local card shop and got myself a starter set along with two extra packs. Best card? Mogis, God of Slaughter. Not a bad pull, but my color choice was blue and black, so he doesn't really jibe with my color scheme since he's white and red. He guides at around $12, so I can throw him up on eBay to offset some of the $25 cost I spent on cards.

Which Color?

You can build a deck around any color, but keep in mind what each color does. White heals and prolongs the game. Blue is great for countering, but again, you're making the game longer. Green has lots of creatures, sure. But when your opponent also gets a bunch of creatures and/or token creatures, you're talking a long game. Red gets the ball rolling with damage. Probably a good choice. But there is no healing to be found. Sure, you can blast your opponent with an opening volley, but unless you get him under 10 in five rounds, he's probably going to come back and obliterate you. (For more on the Magic: The Gathering colors, check out Magic: The Gathering - Your Deck and You | Part 1: Colors)

Black is my choice. Black tends to drain life points from opponents. Yeah, I may have to lose a few here and there, but there's also cards to give me back life. The creatures also tend towards powers like Death Touch, which is a good way to clear a path and finish off your already injured opponent. So let's see what we have to work with for my first $25.

Okay, 24 cards are going to be mana. That leaves 36 cards to add. I sorted through all the black cards and here's what I got:

Plus three artifacts:

Let's immediately dump the Springleaf Drum. It's not going to do me any good since I'm playing all black. Perhaps as a sideboard against blue (in case my opponent has something that changes swamps to non-swamps) otherwise, it's pretty useless. In this mix we have five Defenders. The oaks, the phalanxes and the pillar. Goodbye. I'm not going to last against an opponent that's jazzed up with heavy hitters. I've got to bash him under 10 before any of his big guns come out. Right now we're at 20 cards, so we need 16 more. Let's stick with Born of the Gods cards and see what we have.

Spiteful Returned is only two mana and does 2 damage each time it attacks. It can also be bestowed upon a creature. Sign me up. Let's add four of these bad boys. The Felhide Brawlers can't block without a minotaur, but they are cheap 2/2 attackers at two mana. Let's add two more, plus a second Felhide Minotaur. The Marshmist Titan is 7 mana to cast, but you can subtract your devotion to black. We're all black, so definitely four of these! The Pain Seer is a bit dangerous to play, but it's cheap and it does get cards into your hand faster. Let's throw in two of them. Servant of Tymaret gives you a life each time it's untapped. It's fairly cheap, we got two, let's go the full four. The Fate Unraveler causes opponents to take damage for card pulls. Can't go wrong with that, let's throw in 2.

We're at 37. We could risk the mana, but I say commit! So something has to go. I say, dump Sanguimancy. Not much of a Sorcery card. And let's replace Eye Gouge. Sure it's cheap, but not very useful. For one mana, let's put out the Gorgon's Head artifact, also a 1 mana cost.

What's the additional cost for our new cards? $12.50, assuming you don't just trade for them. Cards this cheap are often given away or easily traded. Only the Fate Unraveler was more than a buck. Three black mana and I can play most of my cards. Six, which is inevitable, and I'm golden.

Now, if I'm going Vintage, here's my current black deck:

Demonic Tutor and Animate Dead are going to be the big cards to buy. You're looking at maybe $45. The rest are either cheap or can easily be replaced. It probably won't cost you more than $50 if you don't mind reprints.

Combining these two decks is going to be tricky. I'll probably stick mostly with Vintage. Swap in the Harpy, a Pain Seer, a Fate Unraveler and at least two if not all four of those sweet Marshmist Titans. They'll be coming out early with some Dark Rituals!

Time to go beat my nephew in Magic Cards (Don't get the reference? Check out Old Gamer Plays Magic for the First Time...Again). Until the next time.



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