Orson Welles once said,

The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.

Limitation often breeds creativity, which can apply to Magic in several ways. It translates to working with limited resources in a tight game, or figuring out how to build your sealed pool in a pre-release. Since writing for TCGplayer Infinite, I have discovered that budget Magic is the pinnacle of limitation as it requires creativity to find alternatives to expensive staples, while following through on the same strategy.

The reason I started the Modern on a Budget series is to demonstrate that you can play the format affordably. Usually, when players talk about Modern, they reference Jund, Death's Shadow or even Azorius Control and how expensive these archetypes are when optimized.

Highlighting this negative trait only frightens players from jumping into one of Magic's most popular formats. Yes, Modern can be expensive, but does it have to be? Absolutely not. You don't have to spend hundreds to have a fully optimized deck if you don't want to, and it's completely fine to run something budget or lower-powered that suits you.

I receive plenty of questions from beginner players wanting to jump into Modern through budget means. So this week, I'm offering a crash course on jumping into Modern if you are new to Magic or the Modern format. Modern is a broad format with so many options available it can be challenging to gauge a starting point. However, you don't need to throw loads of money into it to get something viable you enjoy playing.

Step 1: Decide if You Want to Play Modern

Before jumping in, this should be the first question you ask yourself–do you want to play Modern? There are many reasons you might. It's a non-rotating format where the metagame is usually diverse, and the options are almost endless. You can champion a fringe archetype to success if you understand the format and how your strategy functions. Modern is an underdogs format, which lends to its popularity and charm.

On the flip side, it can be quite intimidating as the card pool is extremely deep, especially if you are coming in from Standard. Modern rewards format knowledge and experience. You have to build that knowledge over time, and playing the format will benefit you long-term regardless if you are playing something budget or not. It's worth spending some time thinking about whether Modern is right for you before going any further as it will save resources going forward. And, there is nothing wrong with thinking Modern isn't right for you.

Step 2: Find Out What You Enjoy

You decided that you want to play Modern? Sweet! However, this process will take the longest if you are new to Modern or Magic in general. If you play formats such as Standard or Pioneer, you likely have a decent grasp of what archetype (and color) you enjoy playing, and that will shortcut the process. In the current climate, I recommend subscribing to either ManaTraders or Cardhoarder for a month or two and play a bunch of different archetypes on Magic Online. It's the cheapest and safest way to find out what you enjoy, as finding out what you don't like is just as important as finding something that you do like. Trust the process of elimination and take time to discover your deck—this will save you money going forward.

If you are fortunate to play Magic in a paper environment, I recommend borrowing a couple of decks from friends and jamming a bunch of games. Even proxying up a deck is a reasonable approach to take if you don't mind putting the effort in. However, if you want accessibility and ease, I recommend going the Magic Online route. You don't need to jump into any Modern Leagues or Challenges, but you can jam friendly games enough to identify whether the strategy is right for you—if not, rinse and repeat until you find it. If you truly cannot find something you enjoy, then perhaps Modern may not be for you. I don't intend for this to come across as discouraging, but not every format is for everyone. I'd add that jumping into Pioneer may be a decent compromise between Modern and Standard until you do see a Modern strategy that catches your eye.

However, if you just want to jump into playing as fast as possible, then I recommend starting with either Mono-Red Prowess or Mono-Green Elves.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Red Blitz ($70) by Emma Partlow

'Mono-Red Blitz ($70)' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Emma Partlow

Event:

Rank:

Modern

Market Price: $59.47

Cards

Dragon's Claw

Market Price: $0.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/47542_200w.jpg

Whenever a player casts a red spell, you may gain 1 life.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/magic-2012-m12/dragons-claw

Ghitu Lavarunner

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162163_200w.jpg

As long as there are two or more instant and/or sorcery cards in your graveyard, Ghitu Lavarunner gets +1/+0 and has haste.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/dominaria/ghitu-lavarunner

Mountain

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.43

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/235546_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {R}.)

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/strixhaven-school-of-mages/mountain-372

Light Up the Stage

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.42

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182127_200w.jpg

Spectacle {R} (You may cast this spell for its spectacle cost rather than its mana cost if an opponent lost life this turn.)
Exile the top two cards of your library. Until the end of your next turn, you may play those cards.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/ravnica-allegiance/light-up-the-stage

Bedlam Reveler

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.81

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/120430_200w.jpg

This spell costs {1} less to cast for each instant and sorcery card in your graveyard.
Prowess (Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)
When Bedlam Reveler enters the battlefield, discard your hand, then draw three cards.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/eldritch-moon/bedlam-reveler

Kiln Fiend

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216653_200w.jpg

Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, Kiln Fiend gets +3/+0 until end of turn.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/jumpstart/kiln-fiend

Abrade

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.34

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227309_200w.jpg

Choose one —
• Abrade deals 3 damage to target creature.
• Destroy target artifact.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-legends/abrade

Lava Dart

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190635_200w.jpg

Lava Dart deals 1 damage to any target.
Flashback—Sacrifice a Mountain. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/modern-horizons/lava-dart

Forgotten Cave

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.00

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/236153_200w.jpg

Forgotten Cave enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {R}.
Cycling {R} ({R}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-2021/forgotten-cave

Tormod's Crypt

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215346_200w.jpg

{T}, Sacrifice Tormod's Crypt: Exile all cards from target player's graveyard.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/core-set-2021/tormods-crypt

Shrine of Burning Rage

Market Price: $0.68

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/39578_200w.jpg

At the beginning of your upkeep or whenever you cast a red spell, put a charge counter on Shrine of Burning Rage.
{3}, {T}, Sacrifice Shrine of Burning Rage: It deals damage equal to the number of charge counters on it to any target.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/new-phyrexia/shrine-of-burning-rage

Anger of the Gods

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $1.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145342_200w.jpg

Anger of the Gods deals 3 damage to each creature. If a creature dealt damage this way would die this turn, exile it instead.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/iconic-masters/anger-of-the-gods

Apostle's Blessing

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98735_200w.jpg

({W/P} can be paid with either {W} or 2 life.)
Target artifact or creature you control gains protection from artifacts or from the color of your choice until end of turn.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/modern-masters-2015/apostles-blessing

Crash Through

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.12

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215891_200w.jpg

Creatures you control gain trample until end of turn. (A creature with trample can deal excess combat damage to the player or planeswalker it's attacking.)
Draw a card.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/core-set-2021/crash-through

Forked Bolt

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.35

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/104246_200w.jpg

Forked Bolt deals 2 damage divided as you choose among one or two targets.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/duel-decks-zendikar-vs-eldrazi/forked-bolt

Burst Lightning

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98810_200w.jpg

Kicker {4} (You may pay an additional {4} as you cast this spell.)
Burst Lightning deals 2 damage to any target. If this spell was kicked, it deals 4 damage instead.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/modern-masters-2015/burst-lightning

Alpine Moon

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.46

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/169066_200w.jpg

As Alpine Moon enters the battlefield, choose a nonbasic land card name.
Lands your opponents control with the chosen name lose all land types and abilities, and they gain "{T}: Add one mana of any color."

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/core-set-2019/alpine-moon

Lightning Bolt

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $2.45

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216484_200w.jpg

Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to any target.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/jumpstart/lightning-bolt

Smash to Smithereens

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $0.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/100330_200w.jpg

Destroy target artifact. Smash to Smithereens deals 3 damage to that artifact's controller.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/magic-origins/smash-to-smithereens

Mutagenic Growth

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.78

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98842_200w.jpg

({G/P} can be paid with either {G} or 2 life.)
Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/modern-masters-2015/mutagenic-growth

Monastery Swiftspear

Color Identity:R

Market Price: $5.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145323_200w.jpg

Haste
Prowess (Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/iconic-masters/monastery-swiftspear

Whenever anyone asks what deck they should pick up for Modern, I always go with Mono-Red Prowess. It's cheap, potent and the upgrades are straightforward enough that you can easily compete at an FNM-level. It's a simple strategy to pick up that also promotes quick games, making this an ideal option for someone new to Modern and Magic.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Green Elves (Budget) by Emmmzyne

'Mono-Green Elves (Budget)' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Emmmzyne

Event:

Rank:

Modern

Market Price: $167.89

Cards

Shapers' Sanctuary

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/142026_200w.jpg

Whenever a creature you control becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, you may draw a card.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/ixalan/shapers-sanctuary

Heritage Druid

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $12.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118605_200w.jpg

Tap three untapped Elves you control: Add {G}{G}{G}.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/eternal-masters/heritage-druid

Lead the Stampede

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212626_200w.jpg

Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal any number of creature cards from among them and put the revealed cards into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/ikoria-lair-of-behemoths/lead-the-stampede

Elvish Champion

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $14.35

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/15114_200w.jpg

Other Elf creatures get +1/+1 and have forestwalk. (They can't be blocked as long as defending player controls a Forest.)

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/10th-edition/elvish-champion

Elvish Archdruid

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $2.00

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/231206_200w.jpg

Other Elf creatures you control get +1/+1.
{T}: Add {G} for each Elf you control.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-kaldheim/elvish-archdruid

Reclamation Sage

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/231255_200w.jpg

When Reclamation Sage enters the battlefield, you may destroy target artifact or enchantment.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-kaldheim/reclamation-sage

Westvale Abbey // Ormendahl, Profane Prince

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $8.55

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/115917_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{5}, {T}, Pay 1 life: Create a 1/1 white and black Human Cleric creature token.
{5}, {T}, Sacrifice five creatures: Transform Westvale Abbey, then untap it.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/shadows-over-innistrad/westvale-abbey

Elvish Clancaller

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $3.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/168678_200w.jpg

Other Elves you control get +1/+1.
{4}{G}{G}, {T}: Search your library for a card named Elvish Clancaller, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/core-set-2019/elvish-clancaller

Imperious Perfect

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/231227_200w.jpg

Other Elves you control get +1/+1.
{G}, {T}: Create a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-kaldheim/imperious-perfect

Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $3.99

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/235548_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G}.)

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/strixhaven-school-of-mages/forest-374

Nettle Sentinel

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/161535_200w.jpg

Nettle Sentinel doesn't untap during your untap step.
Whenever you cast a green spell, you may untap Nettle Sentinel.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/masters-25/nettle-sentinel

Damping Sphere

Market Price: $1.79

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162250_200w.jpg

If a land is tapped for two or more mana, it produces {C} instead of any other type and amount.
Each spell a player casts costs {1} more to cast for each other spell that player has cast this turn.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/dominaria/damping-sphere

Llanowar Elves

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.93

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/168646_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {G}.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/core-set-2019/llanowar-elves

Ezuri, Renegade Leader

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $15.80

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162812_200w.jpg

{G}: Regenerate another target Elf.
{2}{G}{G}{G}: Elf creatures you control get +3/+3 and gain trample until end of turn.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/duel-decks-elves-vs-inventors/ezuri-renegade-leader

Essence Warden

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.93

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/133620_200w.jpg

Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-anthology/essence-warden

Dwynen's Elite

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216176_200w.jpg

When Dwynen's Elite enters the battlefield, if you control another Elf, create a 1/1 green Elf Warrior creature token.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/jumpstart/dwynens-elite

Elvish Mystic

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.56

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/231208_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {G}.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/commander-kaldheim/elvish-mystic

Dismember

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $2.46

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98390_200w.jpg

({B/P} can be paid with either {B} or 2 life.)
Target creature gets -5/-5 until end of turn.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/modern-masters-2015/dismember

Tormod's Crypt

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215346_200w.jpg

{T}, Sacrifice Tormod's Crypt: Exile all cards from target player's graveyard.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/core-set-2021/tormods-crypt

Chord of Calling

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $4.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218734_200w.jpg

Convoke (Your creatures can help cast this spell. Each creature you tap while casting this spell pays for {1} or one mana of that creature's color.)
Search your library for a creature card with converted mana cost X or less and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.

Buy This Card! https://shop.tcgplayer.com/magic/double-masters/chord-of-calling

Mono-Green Elves is another option with similar characteristics to Mono-Red Prowess. If you prefer to play something with a higher creature density, then Elves is a fantastic starting point. Plus, you can do some absurd turns that can win the game on the spot. Again, this is ideal in an FNM environment.

Step 3: Be Honest with Yourself

This is the only way to avoid disappointment. When beginning to build an established Modern deck on a budget, you have to make some compromises. By understanding this concept, you will acknowledge that the strategy will play out a little differently than predicted. You aren't going to be playing with Snapcaster Mage from the get-go, but Mission Briefing will do in the meantime. Patience is a crucial trait here, as it allows you to familiarize yourself with what you are playing.

Working with limited resources will improve your skill set as a player. Magic is about resource management, and honing this skill from a budget outlook will bring success in the future.

An example I like to use to understand compromise is Putrid Leech.

In a vacuum this card is far from astonishing, right? However, in the context of Modern, it's an excellent placeholder for Tarmogoyf, a longtime staple of the format.

On average, Tarmogoyf will be at 4 power, which is something Putrid Leech can achieve at the expense of 2 life. Most importantly, Putrid Leech offers similar play patterns to Tarmogoyf which helps the transition if you do pick up Tarmogoyf. Not to mention, Putrid Leech slots well in Jund, Death's Shadow and Golgari Rock with ease, which is where Tarmogoyf sees the most play.

When it comes to budget placeholders, you are looking for cards that have a relatively similar effect for the same converted mana cost. Granted, this may not always be an option as similar effects tend to cost more in mana. However, they do remain playable from a budget standpoint.

By playing with fringe cards you will become unfazed by rogue or off-beat cards you come up against. On the other side, your opponent will not likely be able to deal with rogue cards as they will almost always assume you are playing an optimal version. Lastly, playing a budget deck will teach you how to handle losing, which will help you grow as a player overall. It's an overlooked skill within Magic, but it's an important one to learn.

Step 4: Learn How to Budget

Take your time when you have found something you enjoy and ensure it's something you want to invest in long-term. If you choose to upgrade into the optimal pieces, then I suggest picking up the cheaper cards first. You're better off having a bunch of new cards than one expensive one as they will offer more consistency.

Then, look at the expensive pieces and slowly acquire these monthly or in whichever way works best for you and your budget. Going to an earlier point, it's all about patience. Once you have your deck built in the way you want it, it's such a rewarding feeling to have something completed over some time.

It's good to keep an eye on trends and see when cards bottom out due to circulation. Cassie LaBelle does a fantastic job of evaluating cards from a finance perspective. I recommend checking her content on the regular to ensure safe investments. Remember, you're doing this on your time with your resources, and there is no urgency to optimize your build straight away.

It may seem a huge leap to take, but Modern is one of Magic's best formats and will see continued support for years to come. There are so many decks in Modern that are viable, and there are different types of decks winning tournaments every week. It's easy to be caught up in netdecking or being told to spend an absurd amount of money to see any success, but this isn't necessary. Taking a budget approach allows you to enjoy what you do without feeling the need to over-invest for the sake of doing so.

Remember, Magic is your game, and you should play and invest in it how you want to.