MTG Arena Budget Standard Decks – January 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.
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.
- Some decks are based on past or current Standard meta decks, or are upgrades of the New Player Experience decks. Naturally, some decks are more powerful than others the closer to the meta deck they are. We have included our subjective ranking on these decks below.
- These decks aim to achieve at least a 50% win rate and get you into Gold (or higher) 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 rare dual lands (e.g. Godless Shrine) are more important than it looks – they will go every deck that can play those colors, and will improve the consistency of your deck’s mana. You will find out as you play the decks below! Make crafting the lands a high priority as you progress in game.
- Our aim is to get 15 decks running here, one for each color and dual color combination that highlights their strength.
- 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!
Budget Theros Beyond Death Standard Decks – January 2020
Theros Beyond Death is quite generous on the playable commons and uncommons compared to other sets. Firstly, each color receives a Demigod (such as Daxos, Blessed by the Sun) that contributes to the Devotion mechanic and although the associated Gods are at mythic rare level, they can still stand on their own right and some cards such as Gray Merchant of Asphodel is all you need to create a decent Black Devotion deck to start you off with.
The set is also all about enchantments, and we receive some powerful build around cards such as Staggering Insight and Hateful Eidolon that involves Auras. There aren’t that many relevant Constellation cards, but this should be enough to get us started regardless. The uncommon Sagas of each color (maybe except the Red one, The Triumph of Anax) are also filled with value, which may suit slower controlling strategies better.
There are also some decent cards and sideboard cards sprinkled in the set such as Destiny Spinner which can be suitable for the main deck as well, Banishing Light which should replace Prison Realm going forward and Agonizing Remorse which gives black another strong discard spell outside of Thought Erasure. Overall, budget decks should get a nice boost with this set!
Budget Mono White Aggro
Mono White Aggro 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. This current build is a hybrid lifegain synergy version that relies on Ajani’s Pridemate to grow big. Luckily in Theros Beyond Death, the deck received some strong white cards to make the deck competitive, especially when fully upgraded.
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, which will make the deck slightly more expensive in terms of Wildcards. You can forgo that and go for the straight aggressive route which favors putting +1/+1 counters on your creatures directly with Venerated Loxodon and Unbreakable Formation.
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 creature-based deck (and subsequently weaker) compared to the version before the previous Standard rotation. 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 to get maximum mileage. As it stands, the deck is certainly not tier one with the current card pool and especially now that Mono White Devotion lifegain decks are prevalent. It is recommended for newer players who prefer a quick and aggressive budget friendly deck that can be played well with a bit of practice.
Budget Mono Red 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.
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 a great metagame choice at times, where it shines against slower decks. It did not add too much in Theros Beyond Death except for Staggering Insight, which adds a bit of card draw. We await further efficient flying creatures to boost this archetype even further in future sets before Empyrean Eagle rotates!
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.
Theros Beyond Death does not have any new knights to add specifically but there are cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis, Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Eidolon of Obstruction that can potentially further strengthen the deck. Whether the deck archetype will remain competitive among the Rakdos builds or even the three-color Mardu versions remains to be proven but it definitely can be played to high levels in the right hands.
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.
The introduction of Ashiok, Nightmare Muse in Theros Beyond Death tips this deck over its usual power level, with the planeswalker being compared to the likes of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria so look for that as one of your first upgrades. The next priority goes to Thassa’s Intevention, which is a very flexible card draw and counterspell tacked on to one card that can be used elsewhere as well.
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.
We also cheated and included Murderous Rider and Midnight Reaper in the budget build, because they are almost essential to this deck’s success. The rider is a pretty ubiquitous card that is widely used, so we think most players should have it anyway. Unfortunately, Theros Beyond Death neither adds any knights or Adventure cards to bolster the deck and as new sets are added to Standard, the deck looks to lose its position in the metagame. It will look to eventually lose its dependence on the Adventure cards and instead go for a more traditional midrange deck that green and black are typically good at.
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.
Although the deck is one of the best Standard decks at present, the metagame may change and the full deck itself can be quite Wildcard heavy. Theros Beyond Death adds some depth to the deck with cards like Klothys, God of Destiny and Phoenix of Ash and increase its chances against more controlling decks.
Budget Orzhov Auras
This is a new deck based on RatsRelyk’s Theros Beyond Death deck and looks to take advantage of the card 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 deck will most likely be a niche, non-competitive archetype as the metagame settles but we will keep an eye on this one for further enhancements to the deck and possible shift to a different theme rather than focusing on Auras.
Budget Rakdos Sacrifice
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 deck also receives some nice gifts with Theros Beyond Death, given that the black and red limited archetype is the sacrifice theme. Starting with Blood Aspirant and Slaughter-Priest of Mogis at uncommon, Woe Strider at rare and potentially Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger at mythic rare as well.
Budget Selesnya Auras
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. 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.
The deck only truly wants Setessan Champion as one of the essential rares, but you can experiment further with cards like Starfield Mystic, Bronzehide Lion and Calix, Destiny’s Hand as well. The deck will most likely be a niche, non-competitive archetype as the metagame settles but we will keep an eye on this one for further enhancements to the deck and possible shift to a general Enchantment theme rather than focusing on Auras.
Budget Simic Flash
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 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:
Some more color specific ones for consideration:
- 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.
- 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.