If you’re new to MTG Arena, building a cheap budget competitive deck can be challenging, especially if you’re looking to spend as little real-world gold as you can! This can already be difficult if you’re breaking into Standard, but it can feel insurmountable if you’re looking to get into eternal formats such as Explorer!
Magic’s myriad of different cards can be overwhelming, and Wildcards are a precious resource that you can’t always afford to waste on the wrong decks, no matter how enticing! Placing small bets on crafting and gradually opening cards until you find an expensive deck you’re sure you’ll love is the best way to go, at least while your resources are so limited.
In this guide, you’ll find our exclusive curated list of some fantastic budget Explorer decks from various archetypes, with a brief explanation of the deck, an upgrade guide, and sample decklists for each one. Visit our Explorer deck page if you’d like to see what some of the finished products look like. For more similar decks, check out our Historic Budget Decks that overlap with a lot of cards here. You can also go straight to the Budget deck section itself for the complete list
Budget Deck Aims
Here’s a set of parameters we build our budget Explorer decks around, to ensure they’re at their most useful to you:
- The base deck will aim to have as few rares as possible, but if one or two different cards are exceptionally important to the archetype and there’s no easy replacement, then you might see them. For each deck, we provide pathways or a link to upgrade into more competitive versions. Upgrades depend on your collection and Wildcard availability, so we’ll provide different options to tailor to your specific needs!
- Each deck is geared towards best-of-one, and players can now have up to seven cards in their sideboard.
- The Rare Dual Lands generally speaking will be pivotal in most Explorer decks both now and moving forward.
Before I continue, I do want to address something that’s going to come up every single time a multicolored deck is brought up.
When Do I Craft Lands?
Likely the largest inhibitor for most players getting into Explorer is the manabases. With so many rare lands available, it’s hard to get them all for even one deck much less multiple. Despite that, lands will always be extremely helpful and that is what I would always recommend you craft first no matter what deck you’re looking to upgrade. So which ones should you craft first? In terms of color combinations, I would say whichever one has the most applications in other decks, the ones for the deck you enjoy the most, or the lands that would update your deck the most. With that, I also have an order to which types of dual lands you craft first as well.
- Fast Lands
*NOTE*: This advice is for those who aren’t looking to follow the deck upgrade guide specifically. If you have a limited budget on what you can craft, then follow this list. If you’re looking to create the most competitive version of a deck, you should prioritize that deck’s lands first which will generally be Shocklands, Pathways, and Fastlands if they play them.
If you’re not familiar with the lands I’m referring to, I’m talking about the ones from Innistrad like Haunted Ridge and Rockfall Vale. Although these are some of the weaker lands you have access to in Explorer, the upside of crafting the is you can use them in Standard for over a year! When wildcards are short, you need to spend your resources wisely!
Checklands are one of the hallmark lands in Explorer and you’ll see functionally every 2+ color deck using a decent amount of these. For those unaware on what checklands are, I mean ones like Glacial Fortress, Drowned Catacomb, or Hinterland Harbor. Any land that comes into play untapped if you have a land out of a certain type is a Checkland.
Checklands are excellent to craft early as they work really well in basic heavy mana bases, making them the perfect blend between budget and competitive. The only downside to crafting checklands is that they’re the most likely to be reprinted into Standard in the future, but they just rotated out a few years ago so it’s not terribly likely they’re coming back anytime soon.
Shocklands are the other hallmark land in Explorer and you’ll also seem them in every 2+ color deck. For those unfamiliar on what shocklands are, I mean lands like Hallowed Fountain, Watery Grave, or Breeding Pool. Any land that can come into play untapped if you pay 2 (or Shocking yourself) is a Shockland.
I would consider Shocks the best lands in Explorer as if you look at the average mana base, you’ll pretty much always see full sets of Shocklands where the checklands can be a bit more sporadic. That being said, Shocklands don’t play as nicely in budget mana bases as check lands so it is still a bit of a toss up between these and checks.
Pathways are a very helpful land to have, but they are a relatively weak land. That said, decks can still pretty happily play these, they are still Standard legal for 5 more months, and you can play them in any deck that is using those colors. Not ideal, but far from bad.
Fast lands are a relatively new addition to Explorer (through Kaladesh Remastered) and are very powerful in the right decks. Fastlands are lands like Concealed Courtyard and Inspiring Vantage, any land that comes into play untapped if it’s land 1-3. Although these lands are strong, they are definitely worse than the proceeding lands for a lot of reasons: they only see play in low curve decks, they’re the least transferable, and they’re relatively likely to be reprinted eventually. I would focus on rounding out your Shocks/Checks even in colors you aren’t currently playing over getting any Fastlands.
As a quick note, the only guilds with fast lands are Boros/Lorehold (Red/White), Orzhov/Silverquill (Black/White), Izzet/Prismari (Red/Blue), Golgari/Witherbloom (Green/Black), and Simic/Quandrix (Green/Blue).
Triomes are the tricolor cycle from Ikoria and Streets of New Capenna which are fantastic in 3+ color decks, but have no real utility otherwise. If you’re on a budget, I would generally steer clear of decks that are more than two colors, but if one really strikes your fancy, these will be a fine pickup. However, if you want to get more utility out of your wildcards, the new triome cycle from Streets of New Capenna would be a great craft as you’ll be able to use them in multiple formats.
Snarls are so underwhelming they didn’t even make the list. I would not craft these for Explorer, but you can consider playing them if you already have them.
If you’re looking to craft the Rare lands and put them in these lists, cut the Uncommon tapped lands first, then cut the basics evenly for the amount of Rare lands you are adding. Furthermore, if you have to build the mana base piecemeal, don’t be afriad to substitute specific Rare lands out for others.If you’re a Standard player, crafting 4 Dreamroot Cascade before crafting Breeding Pool, despite it being slightly weaker, would be a more frugal investment of your wild cards.
What Cards Do I Upgrade in My Deck First?
Realistically speaking, there’s no great way to go about this. You could look at overlapping cards to try and get the most bang for your buck for your crafts, but a lot of the time, most cards for specific decks are rarely going to overlap.
The best thing I could recommend is that if you really like a deck and want the best possible version, you just craft it all at once or dedicate yourself to crafting it piecemeal until it’s completed.
Unfortunately, frugal and Explorer simply do not overlap, so unlike Standard budget decks, this has a lot more to do with your playing experience rather than expected value of a craft.
Budget Explorer Decks
Mono White Aggro
To start us off we have a classic with Mono White Aggro. Mono White has always been flush with a good amount of commons and uncommons which allows it to have a strong game plan without necessarily having the strongest cards.
While it’s not a direct analog, Selesnya Humans is probably the closest you could get if you’re looking to upgrade the deck. Selesnya has a similar speed to Mono White, but couples it with disruptive elements on top of synergistic creatures.
Mono Blue Tempo
Mono Blue Tempo is a prime example of a deck that does not mess around. You play a cheap creature, counter anything of relevance, and peck your way to victory. It’s unfortunate that a budget deck has to have some rares, but you may have noticed that there isn’t an updated version. Well, you don’t really need one!
The only change you could make is shaving some Brineborn Cutthroat or Spell Pierce for Brazen Borrower and some Otawara, Soaring City over an Island or two, but this is the closest to complete out of all of the decks on the list!
Mono Black Aggro
If you like being aggressive while having great interaction, this is the deck for you. Mono Black is the best deck for disruption and pressure which is always an extremely solid strategy in any matchup you would come up against.
Mono Red Aggro
If you like beating opponents to death quickly, this is the deck for you. Mono Red is known for its speed and this is definitely the speediest deck you can find whether you are on a budget or not.
Mono Red Burn
If you like the speed of Mono Red, but want slightly more reach and/or interaction, Burn is the way to go. With a more nuanced game plan, Burn is great for lovers of the color Red that want a bit more agency in their games. If you like this play style, you can easily branch into the list below or go for a more traditional aggro version like the list above.
Although the Explorer version is much less potent than the Historic one, Auras game plan is very powerful by combining value-oriented creatures with cheap auras to quickly overrun the opponent. You will need a minimum of 4 Rares to get the most out of the budget version of the deck, but if you’re very tight on cards, you can play Seasoned Hallowblade over the Srams.
A mostly forgotten archetype, Boros is definitely underappreciated but is likely the best deck you could play without any Rares. The game plan is hard to interact with, the creatures scale well, and you have insane late game with Zenith Flare that can kill opponents from nearly any life total.
If you are a fan of scrappy strategies like Heroic or Infect (which are my two favorite decks ever), this deck is for you. Play a bunch of small creatures, pump them up, and absolutely clobber your opponent before they have a chance to react.
While Rogues does require some Rares, it is also one of the strongest decks you can make on a budget. The deck doesn’t need fixing nearly as badly as other decks and it’s strongest cards (Soaring Thought-Thief, Fatal Push, Drown in the Loch, Into the Story) are surprisingly all uncommons! If you like the game plan of Mono Blue, but want to play more powerful cards, this is the deck for you.
When people think of Gruul, they think of aggro and for good reason. Gruul has some of the best aggressive cards around with access to fast mana and extremely efficient creatures. Unlike Mono Red, the strength of Gruul is all about the larger than average creatures so it is usually better in creature mirrors and can be more threatening to opponents who can’t remove each threat.
Izzet is all about casting spells and we have plenty of those alongside creatures who love to see them. You have a bevy of cheap interaction on top of cheap threats which gives you a lot of decisions each game you play. Unfortunately, as it stands, there is no competitive version of this deck particularly but I will update this if I find one!
Grindy decks your thing? Look no further than Rakdos Anvil! With a lot of synergy and a boatload of card draw, this deck is an excellent choice for those who like taking a lot of game actions. Furthermore, most of the deck is already budget which makes it one of the easiest transitions from budget to competitive in Explorer!
If you want a different take on sacrifice, this version is much more creature centric and built around Call of the Death-Dweller and Mayhem Devil. If you like ruining a creature deck’s day, this is a great strategy for you. Unfortunately, this version isn’t the most competitive one if you’re looking to upgrade, but the Anvil version from above will be a great choice.
While this deck does require some Rares to get started, it is one of the few decks that can be excellent with only a few rares. Similar to Mono Blue Tempo, this deck is looking to counter everything and stick a threat, but unlike Mono Blue, just resolving one threat can be enough to win the game! Thankfully for this deck as well, the main upgrades are just to the mana base and you don’t need to use many wildcards beyond that!
What About Best of Three?
These decks are optimized for Best of One play, but all of these decks can be ported into Best of 3 decks rather easily as well.
The easiest way is to find the base archetype these decks fall under on our page and take a look at what other players are doing.
There aren’t many ubiquitous sideboard cards so I would only worry about procuring those after you’ve optimized the main deck.
Decklists in this Article
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