You didn't really think I'd be gone forever, did you?

Hello again, duelists! I'm thrilled to be back, and today I want to jump into something that I know can be a touchy subject for many players who want to compete in Yu-Gi-Oh: budget cards.

Let's be real, this game is expensive. If you aren't incredibly fortunate to be blessed with the luck of the Yu-Gi-Oh! gods, or you don't make enough money to comfortably drop large amounts of money on a set of Forbidden Droplet, Lightning Storm, or whatever the new tournament hotness may be, you might find yourself wondering, "How am I going to keep up with these powerful cards when I can't afford them?"

For the purposes of today's discussion, we're going to give the term "budget" the definition of "costs $100 or less for the complete set." We aren't going to be diving into specific strategies today, although I'd love to do so soon! Instead, we're going to focus on cheaper alternatives to those premium priced cards that lots of decks depend on, so you can win some events, get some big pulls from your prize packs, and trade for those awesome cards you need!

Forbidden Droplet's Really Expensive

Starting with the proverbial elephant in the room, Forbidden Droplet is currently the best negation card in most decks. As a Quick-Play Spell, it can effectively let you turn off the opponent's ability you chain it to, on top of negating their field. Crazy!

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing Forbidden Droplet a whopping $140 for ONE COPY, even with public knowledge of the upcoming reprint in product-hover id="243710". That's a lot of money. But luckily, there are several great alternatives that won't cost you more than a Nintendo Switch.

First up, Forbidden Chalice is an immensely popular card currently used in tandem with Forbidden Droplet, so why not just use that if you can't get Forbidden Droplet anyway? Clocking in at roughly $2 a copy and also being a Quick-Play Spell, it fills that void quite well. Obviously, it can't stop specific types of cards from being chained to it, which is a downside. But hey, you just saved over $400!

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You'll find Forbidden Chalice to be weirdly perfect for certain scenarios, too. Take Baronne De Fleur. Say you're trying to resolve a key spell card and your opponent chains Baronne De Fleur to negate it? Just chain your Forbidden Chalice and you've effectively accomplished the same thing as a Forbidden Droplet in that situation.

Dark Ruler No More is another powerful option available to duelists everywhere. The $7.50 price tag isn't too bad, for a card that let's you basically go "nah" to your opponent after all their hard work. Being a Normal Spell is a downside, sure. However, that isn't always going to be a bad thing.

While Forbidden Droplet requires you to send other cards to the graveyard, you can play Dark Ruler No More entirely on its own. It's a fantastic card to own a playset of, it's really easy to play in all sorts of decks, and it can secure many wins for you on your path to acquiring more expensive options. At one point, Dark Ruler No More was even the better option in competition!

Dark Ruler No More often shifts in and out of favor over the more expensive cards that work in the same space. During the spring of this year, it was actually the preferred form of negation over Forbidden Droplet because it could take care of all of your opponent's monsters at once and didn't require additional resources to do it. Always be sure to look at your expected metagame; you might find that Dark Ruler No More is actually better in your area than the Forbidden Droplet would be anyway!

Pot of Prosperity's Not Getting A Reprint Anytime Soon

Pot of Prosperity a pretty penny, and for good reason! Being able to peek six cards deep into your deck makes your plays far more consistent than they would be otherwise. However, I wouldn't fault anyone for not wanting to spend $375 or more for a playset. Thankfully, Pot of Extravagance just got a stunning reprint in product-hover id="246446", after already getting previous reprints. The downside to Pot of Extravagance is that you can't control the cards you banish with it, so it's riskier to use.

Many decks that run Pot of Prosperity could also use Pot of Extravagance with a few changes in the Extra Deck. Take the Eldlich strategy, one that Hanko and myself are fond of revisiting: it's arguably better to play Pot of Extravagance than Pot of Prosperity in Eldlich, because the additional card is more valuable than the precision grab. The same is true for Altergeist, another strategy where the additional card economy holds more value than getting just one copy of a more specific card. Typically, decks that rely on raw card advantage and not specific pairings of cards, can use Pot of Extravagance really well.

But what if your Extra Deck's pretty set in stone? If you're using a combo strategy, and you need to keep all the cards there, Pot of Extravagance is likely a no-go. Thankfully Pot of Desires has your back. Banishing ten cards from your Main Deck to draw two can be painful, but the upside is that if most of your Main Deck is redundant so you can make your combos more consistently, you can afford the risk.

While you won't get to pick the exact card you want for the situation, you get another card. You also won't lock yourself out of drawing more cards for the rest of the turn with other effects, a definite downside of Pot of Prosperity. Take the Tri-Brigade strategy for example: If you were to play Pot of Prosperity there, then you couldn't get the extra draw with Tri-Brigade Ferrijit the Barren Blossom. However, with Pot of Desires you get full value out of that effect.

We saw some evidence of the power of Pot of Desires over Pot of Prosperity in the last format, when the Tri-Brigade Zoodiac Deck ran rampant post Lightning Overdrive. Players were opting to use Pot of Desires instead of Pot of Prosperity because they valued the additional card and the higher power ceiling. The same point is relevant for stuff like Drytron Delta Altais, Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage!, and Knightmare Unicorn.

Lightning Storm, Still Way Up There

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Okay, for this last entry I'll admit that Hey, Trunade! is kind of a joke. It's the weakest replacement for Lighting Storm available, but if your area's dominated by a large number of trap-heavy decks, it has a place! Lightning Storm currently over $60 a copy for the lowest rarity version of the card. That's a hefty price to pay for removal. Luckily, the format's shifted in a way where I would argue that Lightning Storm isn't all that great right now anyway.

Most of the fields you'll want to break with Lightning Storm are going to be anchored by monsters. The reason for that being simple: Anti-Spell Fragrance and Imperial Order crush Normal Spell cards, making Lightning Storm a non-option. For that reason, you wouldn't really be using Lightning Storm against backrow strategies; instead, you'd hold it for decks like Tri-Brigade Lyrilusc, Phantom Knights, and similar strategies.

But here's the kicker: Dark Hole? Does the same thing. Raigeki? Also does the same thing. If you're looking to save money, then you can use those extremely cheap alternatives that at least do the same thing in current metagames, for a fraction of the price! Unfortunately, the main selling point of Lighting Storm is its flexibility in destroying either monsters or spells and traps, but hey , we're working with what we've got. Harpie's Feather Duster, Cosmic Cyclone, Twin Twisters, and Red Reboot are all playable and arguably better anyway.

Luckily, the game today is a far cry from the beast that it was before, back when I was an intrepid young duelist. Cards are reprinted at a breakneck pace compared to the old days, and there are some incredibly strong alternatives to those "staples" that you see in Top Cut decks. Unlike 10+ years ago, the term staple just means "the best option available," as opposed to a card used to literally hold an entire strategy together.

This format's incredibly wide open, with a myriad of options readily available to players and decks of all styles, budgets, and goals. What have you been using lately? I've been loving the Phantom Knight deck lately, as well as Sky Strikers again! Let me know over on Twitter @zbutlertcg1, and I'll see you next time.