MTG Arena Budget Standard Decks – October 2020
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! 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! Fortunately, we’re just past rotation so there are far fewer cards to collect and the opportunity to catch up is yours right now. 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 a curated list of some fantastic budget Standard decks from various archetypes, as built by our site author and avid brewer Drifter (that’s me!), with a brief explanation of the deck, an upgrade guide, and sample decklists for each one. We also have a budget sideboard guide at the end, if you want to hone your best-of-three game and see what basic sideboard construction entails! Visit our Standard deck page if you’d like to see what some of the finished products look like, or go straight to the Budget deck section itself to find even more.
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:
- For more budget decks, be sure to visit our Standard Artisan section, a format where you are only allowed commons and uncommons.
- This guide works best in conjunction with our Standard Wildcard Crafting Guide.
- 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. This time round, I haven’t included any Mythic Rares in the decks I’ve built. For each deck, we provide pathways to upgrade into more competitive versions. Each deck is geared towards best-of-one, so do check out our budget sideboard guide at the end to help you build a sideboard. Upgrades depend on your collection and Wildcard availability, so we’ll provide different options to tailor to your specific needs!
- The Rare Pathways (e.g. Clearwater Pathway, which flips into Murkway Pathway, and therefore produces black or blue mana) are more important than they might seem. They’ll go into every deck that can play those colors as they come into play untapped and improve the consistency of your decks. Make crafting these lands a high priority as your collection grows!
- Budget decks will often revolve around aggressive tribal creature-based synergies and powerful mechanics supported by flagship uncommons (for example, Watcher of the Spheres for Azorius Flyers and Alpine Houndmaster for Boros Aggro).
- Here are the sets in Standard right now, which all these cards come from:
Budget Zendikar Rising Standard Decks – October 2020
Azorius Flyers is our favorite deck when brewing for events and especially more so as a staple budget deck. It took a major blow when it lost Empyrean Eagle in the recent rotation, but the core of the deck is still incredibly powerful. We add in some replacement 1-drop fliers to replace those we lost, some sweet spell-lands which will keep us from flooding, and some extra disruption to handle those pesky removal spells on our Staggering Insight-ed creature and stop our opponents in their tracks!
This deck’s only rare is Skycat Sovereign, which is a really powerful card that gets bigger and bigger with each flier you play, and has a fantastic mana sink ability, but feel free to replace that with another 2-drop flier if you don’t have the wildcards!
Dimir Rogues has been the format’s break-out deck since Zendikar’s release, on the tip of everyone’s tongues! It’s a tempo deck seeking to use great threats alongside efficient countermagic to put your opponents on the backfoot and ensure they never recover. There are tons of enablers for the mill eight cards payoffs it wants to enable, and all of its cards become terrifying threats in their own right once you do! While Zareth San is an incredibly fun card and strong in the deck, he doesn’t hold a candle to the Thieves’ Guild Enforcer, the only must-craft in being an incredible 1-drop that enables the whole strategy and is terrifying early and late.
Mono Red (Aggro, Bombardment, or Burn)
Mono Red is the gold standard for budget players who enjoy aggressive strategies, as the best color for dealing direct damage and turning your small creatures sideways. This deck translates well into the ladder, especially in best-of-one (BO1) queues, which makes it an ever-popular option. The deck has two major flavors: a creature-based version and a couple which are more burn-intensive.
From Zendikar Rising, Akoum Hellhound is a fantastic one-drop for any aggressive deck, attacking as a 2/3 for most of the game especially since we get to run some fantastic spell-lands like Spikefield Hazard these days, so our land count is higher than the Red decks of old. Roil Eruption is another strong burn option we picked up – while we won’t be able to kick it very often, 2 mana for 3 damage is a good rate even at sorcery speed! Raid Bombardment was added to the Arena base set as our Cavalcade of Calamity replacement, and the burn decks on show today are centred around it, since the effect is powerful enough to easily warrant paying an extra mana.
White Aggro (Boros Houndmaster or Selesnya Landfall Counters)
Boros Houndmaster is your classic aggro deck, combining immense pressure with sticky creatures and tricks, and has been a returning player ever since Core Set 2021 came out. Zendikar Rising brings us a truly tremendous number of good dogs, which lead me to believe that a focused Pack Leader build is the best one now, the card synergising with almost every card in the deck now.
Selesnya Landfall Counters is a deck I’m really excited about, combining two different mechanics which have a lot of overlap – Landfall creatures have a tendency to produce +1/+1 counters naturally, which leads to some degenerate nonsense when you throw Conclave Mentor into the mix. Felidar Retreat is one of the major players in Standard right now, and isn’t quite as absurd in this deck as the ramp decks but pretty close! It’s a bit expensive on wildcards, but both of its rares are fantastic in a variety of decks and extremely safe crafts.
Izzet Spells gained a ton with Zendikar Rising, with the spell-lands being at their very best in this kind of strategy – staving off both screw and flood! Izzet is one of the few decks which I’m confident is stronger post than pre-rotation, having kept most of its great spells payoffs (with the unfortunate exception of Dreadhorde Arcanist) while gaining a bunch of new options and some interesting rares and mythics to upgrade into, from Sea Gate Stormcaller to Shatterskull Smashing. It’s one of those archetypal decks which you can never really keep down, and Stormwing Entity is an incredible payoff and its lynchpin, so do invest those four rare wildcards if you find yourself drawn to this strategy!
While a deck that has fallen on rough times of late, having lost its best one-drop in Knight of the Ebon Legion, Devotion is one of the cheapest options out there. There’s nothing quite like pecking away at them slowly with your creatures and slow burn options until a giant Gary (that’s Gray Merchant of Asphodel for the uninitiated!) blasts them away for 10 or so. With so much recursion, it’s hard to count a deck like this out, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den is a solid craft that has seen a truly colossal amount of play through his cat years already, a card once so powerful that it was the main reason for one of the most controversial decisions in Magic’s history… still, that was only enough to take off one of his lives, and here he is, claws clipped a little but far from done.
The Orzhov colours tend to incorporate a ton of lifegain into their strategies, especially at the common and uncommon level, and all of their decks feature it to some degree here. We lost Ajani’s Pridemate, but Hallowed Priest has emerged from the Arena Base Set to join us, and it’s not too much worse!
Auras takes the most popular Theros: Beyond Death draft archetype to a whole new level, churning through card after card with Hateful Eidolon + removal spells or by just reanimating your stuff over and over, until you can one-shot them with All that Glitters, usually on an evasive unit.
Clerics is the new and hot strategy, emerging from Zendikar Rising, where this particular party type is a major theme for the Orzhov anyway. Cleric of Life’s Bond is the lynchpin of this strategy, enabling your other lifegain payoffs while growing himself. Bloodchief’s Thirst is the most powerful removal spell in the whole format, and it shines in this sort of tempo-based deck, being fantastic early and still good late.
Lifegain is the more generic sort of Orzhov approach, simply jamming all the enablers and payoffs in without worrying too much about more specific synergies, but it’s a tried and tested strategy that can beat even the best with the right matchup and a little luck!
It’s rare that we see aggro decks cheating on mana, but that’s the theme in this all-in Party Aggro deck! Using Zendikar Rising’s intricate new mechanic, the deck is capable of explosive starts that lay on some incredible pressure and seal the game away before your opponent even knows what hit them. Imagine going turn 1 Fireblade Charger into turn 2 Acquisitions Expert or Malakir Blood-Priest.. and then on turn 3, you drop every copy of Ardent Electromancer in your hand alongside a Shatterskull Minotaur and hit them for a million.
It’s a glass-cannon strategy, in that it’s very weak to sweepers (cards that remove every unit on the board at once), but those are at an all-time low right now. With the format being dominated by Ramp, going really explosive with efficient beaters might just be the best way to take advantage of all those set-up turns those ramp decks need! This is a deck that benefits exceptionally from its upgrades, so do check those out – Robber of the Rich and Embercleave really wipe out their replacements!
So this may be a game-crashing number of Scute Swarm tokens, but what if they were all giant Mutated creatures instead? Scutate is already a deck that’s seeing some success, and this budget-friendly version keeps all this server-warping madness, while keeping your wallet out of the action and unharmed. Sure, you do need eight rare wildcards, but Lotus Cobra is literally being used in every Green deck (and you can replace it with Ilysian Caryatid if you want) and the only rare that’s strictly necessary is father to many, lover to all, Scute himself!
Shrines is the premier for-fun deck of the format, a board control/ramp deck that seeks to use its namesake enchantments in combination to produce an absurd advantage over your opponents, which piles up every single turn. The name of the game is to buy enough time to play your enchantments and for them to take over, so some rare sweepers are really useful. This is fairly expensive for a budget deck, since unfortunately playing the full 5-colours does really want you to have some rare lands, but Triomes are crafts you’ll get plenty of use out of anyway!
Budget Sideboard Options
Sideboard cards aren’t going to be as important to you when you’re starting out, as most of your farming can be done in best-of-one games. For those that want to learn about sideboards or are used to playing Magic in paper and wouldn’t dream of doing without them, you could write several books on the subject! Luckily, sideboard cards don’t usually require a huge investment, so do try best-of-three matches out – they have their advantages and disadvantages, which I covered in this article! As an example, here are some core sideboard cards that are widely used and easily accessible:
- Glass Casket
- Mystic Repeal
- Essence Scatter
- Light of Hope
- Shredded Sails
- Soul-Guide Lantern
- Agonizing Remorse
Throne of Eldraine included some spells which hate on their own colour at uncommon, so they’re a bit more limited in nature but are still useful if you’re looking for cards to fill out your sideboard:
- Archon of Absolution
- Mystical Dispute
- Specter’s Shriek
- Redcap Melee
- Oakhame Adversary
Here are some other Rare and Mythic options, but powerful enough that you may want them eventually:
- Grafdigger’s Cage: Against graveyard-based strategies, such as the ever-present titans Uro and Kroxa.
- Elder Gargaroth: Exceptional versus aggro decks, also sometimes a maindeck card.
- Confounding Conundrum: Against ramp decks.
- Scavenging Ooze: Against graveyard-based strategies, also a powerful maindeck card.