MTG Arena Budget Standard Decks – May 2020
If you are new to MTG Arena, building a cheap and competitive deck can be challenging. This is especially true if you are a beginner and/or free-to-play because the amount of cards in Magic: The Gathering can be overwhelming and Wildcards are a precious resource that you want to save up as much as possible. Fortunately, the Standard rotation system allows players to catch up eventually but sometimes you also just want to try a different kind of deck without having to pay up.
In this guide, you will find a curated list of our best budget Standard decks, followed by a brief explanation on the deck, an upgrade guide and sample decks for each one (and a link to the full guide if available). We also have a budget sideboard guide at the end as well if you want to hone your best-of-three game and want to see what options you have for building a sideboard! You can visit our Standard deck page for the complete collection of fully upgraded decks as a reference as well, or go straight to the Budget deck section itself.
Budget Deck Requirements and Goals
Our budget Standard decks will generally have the following requirements and aim to meet the following goals for players that play these decks:
- The base deck will aim to have no rares or mythic rares to start with but will provide pathways to upgrade into more competitive decks as well as sideboard options, taking into account the cards that may be useful elsewhere as well. This depends on an individual’s collection and Wildcard status, so we will advise accordingly.
- The rare dual shocklands (e.g. Godless Shrine) are more important than it looks. They will go every deck that can play those colors as lands that come into play tapped is a huge downside and also obviously improves the consistency of your deck’s mana requirements. Make crafting the lands a high priority as you progress in game.
- Budget decks will often revolve around aggressive tribal creature based synergies and powerful mechanics supported by flagship uncommons (for example, Edgewall Innkeeper for Adventures and Inspiring Veteran for Knights).
- These decks aim to achieve at least a 50% win rate and get you into Platinum (noting that Gold ranks will now progress two pips per win) ranking on the ladder, enough wins on the Constructed Events and good enough to use on other play queues to complete Daily Wins and Daily Quests.
- The decks are designed for best-of-one (BO1) game modes, but building a sideboard can also be very budget friendly if you wish to delve into BO3. You will find a sideboard guide below.
- The constructed format that only allows common or uncommon cards is called Artisan, and we also recommend checking out the deck page there if you want more inspirations for budget deck ideas! Do note that it is a separate format as it has its own banlist that applies to its own events.
Budget Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Standard Decks – May 2020
- May 7, 2020: Updated and reviewed a variety of decks, particularly the newer decks. They will now more closely mirror the current metagame decks. Added some new decks as well.
- April 16, 2020: Major guide update for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. All decks have been revised and new ones added! Issue with deck pages not being viewed correctly has also been fixed.
- January 20, 2020: Guide refurbished for the release of Theros Beyond Death. The decklists will require further tuning as time goes and will be reviewed at least once a week.
What’s New in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths?
Ten rare legendary creatures with the new Companion mechanic has been introduced in Ikoria, and some of them look to make a huge impact to most Magic: The Gathering formats. Essentially, they act as an additional card in your starting hand that you can access at your will, similar to how Commanders work in Brawl. Their power levels range from warping the format, build-arounds, to something you can include in your deck for free without compromising deck power.
These cards can be a boon to budget players as you only need a single copy to get you started, and you can craft more for the main deck if necessary. Companions will be a core part of many decks going forward (pending a ban), and especially in budget decks in order to at least match the power level of complete metagame decks.
The first place to look for budget decks usually starts with exploring the new mechanics, since we can scrape together all the different cards that synergize with each other to build a formidable deck. Cycling offers some decent payoff cards that we can build around, with the best ones in White, Blue and Red colors. In Ikoria the Cycling costs can go as low as , which means you can rip through your deck very quickly.
The next place we look are what signpost uncommons are in the set. They are essentially the bread and butter for budget decks since they will provide majority of the power level and give us ways to finish off the game. In Ikoria, we don’t have too many of these, but creatures like Sprite Dragon, General’s Enforcer and Parcelbeast offer an above average power level.
The supporting cast is just as important, since as a budget deck we will need a way to go head to head with the fully powered rares and mythic rares. While these cards don’t help you win you the game directly, they will at least offer a one-for-one trade with your opponent’s most powerful cards. In Ikoria, we have some new options for each color. Of significance is Heartless Act, a premium removal spell that should have valid a target most of the time.
It’s not often we get constructed playable commons, but they still serve an important support role for budget decks. In Ikoria, we have cards like Aegis Turtle for High Alert decks, Serrated Scorpion as a great aggro card that can be recurred with Lurrus, Forbidden Friendship is good for Mono Red Cavalcade and Humble Naturalist as another mana accelerant alternative to Paradise Druid. There are other very flexible sideboard options with Cycling such as Wilt and Shredded Sails.
Budget Boros Cycling
Cycling is a returning mechanic in Ikoria and comes with a bunch of cards that have very cheap Cycling costs and various payoff cards that all add up to be a deck that doesn’t necessarily need any rares to get you started. Cycling is an activated ability, so we can trade Jegantha for Zirda, the Dawnwaker if we take out Reptilian Reflection for something else like Glint-Horn Buccaneer that also synergizes with the deck.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Dimir)
Flash is one of the limited archetypes in Ikoria but introduces some neat cards just good enough to make a decent deck combined with cards from previous sets. Slitherwisp will be the major payoff card that is required for this deck (similar to Nightpack Ambusher in Simic Flash) but you will also want to try Sea-Dasher Octopus, Voracious Greatshark and Dirge Bat to have some better late game power.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Izzet)
The Izzet version gets a massive upgrade with Sprite Dragon in Ikoria and makes the deck somewhat more viable as a budget option if you like this color combination.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Simic)
Simic Flash is a decent option for new players that wish to explore the Instant speed and counterspell side of Magic: The Gathering since the only rare that is really required is Nightpack Ambusher. For those keeping up with the recent metagame, the deck had shifted to become a hybrid ramp deck to beat the slower Fires of Invention decks but in this version we will stick to the traditional build of having the cheaper Flash creatures to get you started off with. The deck is mostly complete other than adding Brazen Borrower and the rare lands if you enjoy this play style.
Unfortunately, Theros Beyond Death does not add too much other than Threnody Singer and Whirlwind Denial as potential sideboard cards and it will be interesting to see whether the ramp hybrid version will still be a force in the metagame. Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis are still widely used, powerful cards so it’s hard to go wrong even if you did go that route.
Budget Mono White Devotion
Mono White Devotion is all about using small creatures to get under your opponent. This strategy works well for budget purposes, since most of the creatures we want to use are commons and uncommons. There are two possible pathways you can go with the deck. You can make use of the new Devotion mechanic featuring the likes of Heliod, Sun-Crowned which works well with the existing lifegain strategy. You can forgo that and go for the straight aggressive route, distinguished on this website as Mono White Aggro. This Devotion deck also works well in Historic, where you can further make use of these cards.
Budget Mono Black Devotion
With Theros Beyond Death Mono Black has received a boost with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and even with no rares we can make the deck work quite well. In this deck we have some minor lifegain and sacrifice synergies. Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven is something that is hard to exclude especially in a budget deck. Whether the full deck is competitive is another question that remains to be seen, as it can be quite weak to control decks that interact with your creatures.
Similar to the white deck we have Bloodthirsty Aerialist as one of the win conditions, similar to Ajani’s Pridemate. Cards like Tymaret, Chosen from Death and Deathless Knight can provide both lifegain and Devotion pips and just being decent creatures themselves. Upgrading the deck is also quite affordable and useful, with rares such as Murderous Knight being ubiquitous cards in other decks as well.
Budget Mono Red Aggro
Mono Red Aggro should always exist in some form or another, and the deck has become a more of a creature-based deck. The addition of Anax, Hardened in the Forge makes the deck a bit more formidable, proving a strong body and resilience to board wipes which the deck is weak too. The upgraded deck also has nice potential though you may need some more rares and Embercleave and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell to get maximum mileage. Although Ikoria does not gain much in terms of upgrades, the deck will remain a strong option at least until Standard rotation.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Obosh)
Similar concept to the standard Mono Red Aggro, except here we have a potent finisher with Obosh, the Preypiercer especially if access to Embercleve and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is not possible right away (which we cannot use with Obosh anyway). Bonecrusher Giant however is pretty important as it allows you to fill the curve and it is a very widely used card outside of this deck.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Cavalcade)
This is a branch of Mono Red Aggro but based around Cavalcade of Calamity. This deck is more of a combo deck and prone to disruption as you rely on creatures that have one power, and if you don’t draw the namesake enchantment your individual components of the deck are much weaker. Your trump card in this deck is Chandra’s Spitfire, which can hit for a lot of damage combined with cards like Scorch Spitter.
This deck is currently recommended for new players that want a taste of a combo and aggressive deck, but currently not good for longer term, competitive use with the same reasons as Mono Red Aggro above. The deck does however, gets slightly stronger with Theros Beyond Death with the simple addition of Anax, Hardened in the Forge. It works well with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and when it dies it leaves 1/1 tokens that naturally work with Cavalcade of Calamity. Ikoria introduced Forbidden Friendship which may be worth trying here.
Budget Azorius Flyers
Azorius Flyers is a creature based and heavily synergistic aggressive deck that has been a great option for budget players. It has also featured in almost every one of our event guides, which means it’s easy to build but strong at the same time. It will definitely catch opponents by surprise as you can end games out of nowhere with cards like Rally of Wings or Sephara, Sky’s Blade should you to run it. Blue also adds a lot of depth to the deck in terms of main deck disruption or sideboard choices.
While it usually is not a tier one deck, it is streamlined and a great metagame choice at times, where it shines against slower decks. Skycat Sovereign and Jubilant Bonder are fantastic upgrades for this deck from Ikoria, should you continue playing with it.
Budget Boros Knights
Knights were one of the tribal synergies that was activated with the release of Throne of Eldraine and the introduction of Inspiring Veteran. While the budget version of the deck lacks a bit of depth without the key rares such as Acclaimed Contender and Embercleave, it aims to combine the strength of both traditional mono white and red archetypes and you are relying on the strength of the army boosting power of Inspiring Veteran.
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths has a Human tribal subtheme, which a lot of the existing Knights happen to be. Splashing for Black seems to be a great option where you have access to General Kudro of Drannith or stick to Boros and make use of Winota, Joiner of Forces – or even use both!
Budget Dimir Control
This version of Dimir Control is based on the Twitch Prime deck, and includes some rares and Liliana, Dreadhorde General that comes with the deck but can easily be tailored to your preference and collection. Traditionally, the blue black color combination has a hard time breaking into the metagame as usually there are better control options that include white that has better board wipes and planeswalkers. The advantage here is that the upgraded deck can be cheaper than the three color Esper versions.
Budget Golgari Adventures
Golgari Adventures, as the name suggests, makes use of Adventure cards but there is a little bit more to that! While these decks all have Edgewall Innkeeper in common for the powerful card draw engine, there is a lot of diversity in building this particular deck archetype. For budget concerns, we combine the Knight cards with the Adventure mechanic and Lucky Clover to further enhance this strategy and aim to kill opponents with Smitten Swordmaster.
Budget Gruul Aggro
The budget Gruul Aggro deck at its core is not at its best when it cannot use its powerful big rare and mythic rare creatures, and is likely too easy to disrupt since you cannot pressure the opponent enough. If you enjoy the play style of the deck, then you will have fun as you progress in the game and find powerful upgrades such as Questing Beast and Embercleave.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Orzhov)
This deck takes advantage of the drawing capabilities of Hateful Eidolon, similar to Edgewall Innkeeper. Luckily, Auras are a bit less specific and can potentially be strengthened from previous and future sets. This deck also does not require further upgrades other than the actual land base, and since it is not already an established deck archetype it can be further improved and catch opponents by surprise. The introduction of Lurrus of the Dream-Den has given the deck immense strength, being able to replay your creatures and Auras over and over.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Selesnya)
Selesnya Auras is another new deck that came with Theros Beyond Death, and it does not require much investment to get you started off with similar to above. The goal is to stick as many enchantments on to your creatures, protect them with Alseid of Life’s Bounty or Karametra’s Blessing and quickly attack for lethal. Paradise Druid and Sentinel’s Eyes is a potent combination.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Rakdos / Jegantha)
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Rakdos / Lurrus)
Rakdos Sacrifice is one of the strongest budget deck options and once upgraded has the potential to become one of the top tier Standard decks and is one of our highest recommended decks for beginners to start with. Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven combined with Mayhem Devil is a deadly combo and you can even sacrifice your opponent’s creatures with Claim the Firstborn – up to and including Rotting Regisaur! The deck is aggressively slanted but is very resilient as well since it does not always rely on creatures attacking your opponent. It can also be quite tricky to play effectively and can be a fun learning curve for beginners.
The first version uses Jegantha as the bonus companion, though it does not synergize directly with the deck. The Lurrus version of the deck is another alternative, giving up Mayhem Devil but allowing us to make use of this powerful Companion.
Decklist and Upgrade Guide (Orzhov / Lurrus)
Budget Sideboard Options
Sideboard cards are probably not going to be as important especially to new players as most farming can be done on best-of-one games. For those that want to learn about sideboards, it will deserve a whole guide on its own! Luckily, sideboard cards do not require a huge investment if you ever wanted to try best-of-three matches out. As an example, these are some core sideboard cards that are widely used and are easily accessible:
- Glass Casket
- Lava Coil
- Mystic Repeal
- Essence Scatter
- Light of Hope
- Shredded Sails
- Dovin’s Veto
Core Set 2020 introduced some excellent sideboard cards at uncommon rarity that target the “enemy” colors. These will be used throughout their Standard cycle.
Throne of Eldraine also includes some “self” hate spells at uncommon, which are a bit more limited in nature (the white and green ones are not as good) but are still useful if you are looking for cards to fill the sideboard.
That’s all the decks we have to share so far, and remember you can view all our Standard decks here and Artisan decks here for the complete collection other than the ones listed in this guide! If you have any feedback or suggestions, let us know in our Discord community or leave a comment below. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to get all the latest decks, news and updates on MTG Arena Zone.