MTG Arena Budget Historic Decks for Beginners – July 2021

MTG Arena Budget Historic Decks
Adanto Vanguard Art by Anna Steinbauer

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 Historic! Magic’s myriad 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 Historic decks from various archetypes, with a brief explanation of the deck, an upgrade guide, and sample decklists for each one. Visit our Historic deck page if you’d like to see what some of the finished products look like. You can also go straight to the Budget deck section itself for the complete list, and for more ideas, be sure to visit our Historic Artisan section (a format where you are only allowed commons and uncommons).

If you need any help, you can always join the MTG Arena Zone Discord server, leave a question in the comments, or follow the site’s Twitter to catch up on any updates!

Budget Deck Aims

Here’s a set of parameters we build our budget Standard 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 Historic 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?

Barkchannel-Pathway-Variant-Kaldheim-MtG-Art
Barkchannel Pathway Art by Grady Frederick

Likely the largest inhibitor for most players getting into Historic 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 or the ones for the deck you enjoy the most. With that, I also have an order to which types of dual lands you craft first as well.

  1. Pathways
  2. Checks
  3. Shocks
  4. Fast Lands
  5. Triomes

Pathways

Pathways are a very helpful land to have, but they are likely the “weakest” land out of all the ones listed besides Triomes. So why do I recommend you craft these first? These are Standard legal lands! Not only are they solid in Historic, you’ll be able to use them for at least another year in Standard as well which gives you the most bang for your buck.

A quick note, there are another legal land cycle in Standard, the Snarls, but those are pretty bad. I wouldn’t recommend crafting them with the intention of playing them in Historic, but if you have a few of them, they’re better than the tap lands or a bunch of basics.

Checklands

Checklands are one of the hallmark lands in Historic 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

Shocklands are the other hallmark land in Historic 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 Historic 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.

Fast Lands

Fast lands are a relatively new addition to Historic (through Kaladesh Remastered) and are very powerful in the right decks. Fast lands 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. 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

Triomes are the tricolor cycle from Ikoria and see a lot of play in Standard currently, but are rotating out soon and don’t see too much Historic play. Triomes are lands like Ketria Triome or Indatha Triome for reference. I would craft these last unless you’re specifically playing a 3 color deck or a deck that needs them.

Snarls

Snarls are so underwhelming they didn’t even make the list. I would not craft these for Historic, 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.

Budget Historic Decks – July 2021


Cycling

(H) Budget Cycling 

Creatures (20)
4
Flameblade Adept
4
Flourishing Fox
4
Drannith Healer
4
Drannith Stinger
4
Valiant Rescuer
Spells (8)
4
Go for Blood
4
Zenith Flare
Enchantments (8)
4
Footfall Crater
4
Cast Out
Lands (24)
4
Forgotten Cave
6
Mountain
10
Plains
4
Secluded Steppe
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Fight as One
2
Soul-Guide Lantern
4
Baffling End
1
Shredded Sails
4
Forsake the Worldly
2
Reptilian Reflection

Cycling has been an amazing budget option in Standard and Historic alike. With a proactive game plan that can be fast, grindy, and hard to interact with, this is a great option to break into the format. If you’re looking for improvements for this deck, I actually wrote an entirely article on the topic here! Out of all the budget lists, this is definitely one of the strongest right off the bat.

Mono Red Aggro

(H) Budget Monored Aggro 

Creatures (22)
4
Fanatical Firebrand
2
Fireblade Charger
4
Ghitu Lavarunner
4
Burning-Tree Emissary
4
Rimrock Knight
4
Viashino Pyromancer
Spells (14)
4
Shock
2
Lightning Strike
4
Light Up the Stage
4
Wizard's Lightning
Enchantments (4)
4
Anax, Hardened in the Forge
Lands (20)
16
Mountain
4
Ramunap Ruins
Cards (60)

If you’re looking to break into a format, it’s hard to beat going for a solid Monored aggro deck! With a strong curve and a good amount of reach, this deck can provide a lot of a punch without even a single rare! A nice feature of Monored in Historic is that a lot of powerful cards are commons and uncommons anyway, so the base level of this deck is still quite high!

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Mono Red Burn

(H) Budget Monored Burn 

Creatures (16)
4
Fanatical Firebrand
4
Ghitu Lavarunner
4
Thermo-Alchemist
4
Viashino Pyromancer
Spells (22)
1
Spikefield Hazard
3
Pillar of Flame
4
Shock
2
Lightning Strike
4
Light Up the Stage
4
Skewer the Critics
4
Wizard's Lightning
Enchantments (2)
2
The Flame of Keld
Lands (20)
16
Mountain
4
Ramunap Ruins
Cards (60)

Similar to Monored Aggro, we have one of my personal favorite archetypes: Monored Burn! Although there’s a high concentration of strong commons and uncommons, Burn has the unique advantage where most of their good cards are commons and uncommons! Along with Cycling, this is one of the stronger budget decks and you don’t even need too many upgrades to get to the most competitive version of this deck.

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Mono Blue Tempo

(H) Budget Monoblue Tempo 

Creatures (16)
4
Pteramander
4
Siren Stormtamer
4
Spectral Sailor
4
Brineborn Cutthroat
Spells (16)
4
Spell Pierce
4
Essence Capture
4
Lofty Denial
4
Lookout's Dispersal
Enchantments (8)
4
Curiosity
4
Curious Obsession
Lands (20)
20
Island
Cards (60)

Monored isn’t the only monocolored deck that can tussle! Considering the mana is the largest gatekeeper in Historic, playing a good monocolored deck is a great start into Historic. Although Monoblue hasn’t been amazingly positioned recently, the power level of the deck is very hard to deny. Furthermore, the power you get from exclusively Commons and Uncommons is extremely high.

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Mono White Aggro

(H) Budget Monowhite Aggro 

Creatures (39)
4
Dauntless Bodyguard
3
Faerie Guidemother
4
Selfless Savior
4
Skymarcher Aspirant
4
Snubhorn Sentry
4
Thraben Inspector
4
Adanto Vanguard
4
Seasoned Hallowblade
4
Fairgrounds Warden
4
Militia Bugler
Lands (21)
21
Plains
Cards (60)

The final monocolored deck I have crafted up. Monowhite Aggro has recently become one of my favorite archetypes as it has an extremely fast curve, hard to kill creatures, and disruptive elements. Although upgrading this deck will definitely cost you a pretty penny, it uses many rares that are relatively ubiquitous among other archetypes, including Standard decks! You can find an up to date Monowhite list here, but I would recommend you craft the Standard rares that will be legal post rotation first such as: Skyclave Apparition, Elite Spellbinder, Luminarch Aspirant, and Faceless Haven.

Rogues

(H) Budget Rogues 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures (16)
4
Merfolk Windrobber
4
Ruin Crab
4
Thieves' Guild Enforcer
4
Soaring Thought-Thief
Spells (20)
4
Fatal Push
4
Drown in the Loch
2
Heartless Act
4
Mystical Dispute
2
Of One Mind
4
Into the Story
Lands (24)
4
Dismal Backwater
10
Island
10
Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (1)
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

So unfortunately, we now have the first deck that does require a few Rares to be viable. Thieves' Guild Enforcer is a pivotal piece of the Rogues engine as well as Lurrus of the Dream-Den to grind later into the game. Although neither Enforcer nor Lurrus will be Standard legal come September, Lurrus is a single Wildcard investment that sees play in a wide multitude of strategies. With that, there are still plenty of upgrades this deck can go through to become an extremely competitive deck. If you want to see what the average Rogues list looks like, you can check out my article.

Unfortunately, beyond the Clearwater Pathway, none of the rares will be usable in Standard come September. On the bright side, functionally every rare this deck uses has a lot of applications across many Historic decks so it’s not a huge loss crafting any of them.

Auras

(H) Budget Monowhite Auras 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures (16)
4
Selfless Savior
4
Adanto Vanguard
4
Kor Spiritdancer
4
Sram, Senior Edificer
Spells (4)
4
Karametra's Blessing
Enchantments (20)
2
Alseid of Life's Bounty
4
Cartouche of Solidarity
2
Glaring Aegis
4
Sentinel's Eyes
4
All That Glitters
4
Angelic Gift
Lands (20)
20
Plains
Cards (60)
Sideboard (1)
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Ok so I know what you’re thinking, 9 rares is hardly a budget deck, especially when the rares don’t transfer to any other strategy beyond Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Well, you’re 100% right, but I have good reasons for including this deck. One, 9 Rares is really nothing in terms of a Historic deck where there can be 30, 40, or even over 50 rares in a single build. Secondly, Auras is one of the best decks and will likely continue to be so for a long time which wouldn’t require much investment out of you in the future. Furthermore if you want to stay with the monocolored version, then this is the final version of the deck (unless you’re looking to make a sideboard for Bo3).

The most competitive versions of this deck is generally Azorius or Orzhov (Silverquill), but the Azorius version is significantly fewer Rares than the Orzhov version. With that, you would need all the Rare lands (Hallowed Fountain, Glacial Fortress, and Hengegate Pathway), but beyond those, it’s all uncommons and commons. I’ll link a sample UW list below you can look at if you decide to splurge.

(H) UW Auras 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures (16)
4
Selfless Savior
4
Adanto Vanguard
4
Kor Spiritdancer
4
Sram, Senior Edificer
Spells (4)
4
Spell Pierce
Enchantments (19)
4
Arcane Flight
4
Cartouche of Solidarity
4
Sentinel's Eyes
1
Aether Tunnel
2
All That Glitters
4
Staggering Insight
Lands (21)
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
4
Hengegate Pathway
1
Island
8
Plains
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Unsummon
4
Cerulean Drake
4
Dovin's Veto
1
Entrancing Melody
4
Heliod's Punishment
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Rakdos Sacrifice

(H) Budget Rakdos Cat 

Creatures (24)
4
Archfiend's Vessel
4
Cauldron Familiar
4
Fanatical Firebrand
4
Serrated Scorpion
4
Blood Artist
4
Mayhem Devil
Spells (12)
4
Claim the Firstborn
4
Village Rites
4
Call of the Death-Dweller
Artifacts (4)
4
Witch's Oven
Lands (20)
4
Bloodfell Caves
7
Mountain
9
Swamp
Cards (60)

Cat Oven strategies are as old as Historic itself and have always been a solid option throughtout. One of the best parts of this deck is that most of the cards the competitive version wants to play is mostly Uncommons! Beyond the lands that can obviously be upgraded happily (Blood Crypt, Dragonskull Summit, Blightstep Pathway, and one Phyrexian Tower). You have like no upgrades you really need.Although there isn’t a direct tier port from this list into Historic, this should still serve you rather well.

UPGRADES

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+4 Dreadhorde Butcher

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-4 Serrated Scorpion

Gruul Aggro

(H) Budget Gruul Aggro 

Creatures (31)
4
Llanowar Elves
4
Narnam Renegade
4
Burning-Tree Emissary
4
Voltaic Brawler
3
Zhur-Taa Goblin
4
Ahn-Crop Crasher
4
Clamor Shaman
4
Goblin Ruinblaster
Spells (5)
2
Collision/Colossus
/
3
Domri's Ambush
Lands (24)
9
Forest
4
Hashep Oasis
7
Mountain
4
Ramunap Ruins
Cards (60)

Gruul Aggro has been a mainstay in Historic since the format’s start and it’s still going strong today. Although the most competitive version is a bit rare intensive, we still have a lot of power in this version of the deck. With a strong curve and a reasonable amount of interaction, this is a great deck to beat through the competition and get under a lot of the format. If you want to see the most competitive version of the deck, I’ll link my list below.

(H) Bo1 Gruul Aggro 

Creatures (34)
1
Kazandu Mammoth
4
Llanowar Elves
4
Pelt Collector
4
Burning-Tree Emissary
4
Scavenging Ooze
4
Voltaic Brawler
3
Ahn-Crop Crasher
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Gruul Spellbreaker
2
Questing Beast
Spells (2)
2
Shatterskull Smashing
Artifacts (4)
4
Embercleave
Lands (20)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
4
Forest
3
Hashep Oasis
3
Mountain
2
Ramunap Ruins
4
Stomping Ground
Cards (60)

Similar to Rogues, unfortunately none of the Rares will be Standard legal come September (besides Kazandu Mammoth and Shatterskull Smashing), so I would prioritize the most ubiquitious ones like the lands, Bonecrusher Giant, and Embercleave.

Simic Flash

(H) Budget Simic Flash 

Creatures (12)
4
Brineborn Cutthroat
4
Frilled Mystic
4
Nightpack Ambusher
Spells (22)
4
Jwari Disruption
2
Opt
2
Essence Scatter
4
Growth Spiral
2
Negate
2
Mystical Dispute
3
Saw It Coming
3
Behold the Multiverse
Lands (26)
10
Forest
12
Island
4
Thornwood Falls
Cards (60)

If you’re looking to give your opponents a constant headache with your deck choice, Simic Flash is the deck for you. You do need Nightpack Ambusher to make this deck viable as it is your main win condition, but the rest you can get away with just Commons and Uncommons. Like many of the other decks, you would first want to get your mana base upgraded (in this case: Breeding Pool, Hinterland Harbor, Barkchannel Pathway, and Botanical Sanctum).

UPGRADES

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Boros Blitz

(H) Budget Boros Blitz 

Companion
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creatures (20)
4
Clever Lumimancer
4
Selfless Savior
4
Adanto Vanguard
4
Seasoned Hallowblade
4
Tenth District Legionnaire
Spells (20)
4
Defiant Strike
4
Gods Willing
4
Guiding Voice
4
Reckless Rage
4
Invigorated Rampage
Lands (20)
7
Mountain
9
Plains
4
Wind-Scarred Crag
Cards (60)
Sideboard (7)
1
Environmental Sciences
1
Expanded Anatomy
1
Inkling Summoning
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
1
Reduce to Memory
1
Spirit Summoning
1
Introduction to Annihilation

The final deck on the list, Boros Blitz combines the speed of Monored with the resilience of Monowhite to make a really powerful deck. This base list will be rather strong inherently as many decks struggle with indestructible creatures like Adanto Vanguard and Seasoned Hallowblade, but the fully upgraded list won’t be too hard on the wildcards either. However, like all the other decks, you want to prioritize the lands first: Sacred Foundry, Clifftop Retreat, Neddleverge Pathway, and Inspiring Vantage.

UPGRADES

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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.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is a streamer and high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, GW Company in Historic, and Temur Koma in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

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