Modern can be an expensive format for building decks. Powerful staple cards like Misty Rainforest can cost $30 or $50 apiece, and most decks rely on hard-to-find mythic rares or older cards that can drive deck prices through the roof. What is a budget mage supposed to do?
Modern Horizons 2 is a new set that hit the market this summer, and it’s offering some new options for budget Modern players! These four decks have new tools, and they can function without expensive lands. Try one at your next Modern tournament!
Merfolk are a perennial favorite of Magic: The Gathering players, and they’ve gotten some new options in Modern thanks to Modern Horizons 2 and other recent sets. Because Merfolk only play blue mana, you can avoid the expensive lands that most top Modern decks need to be competitive. And now we have a cheap and modern-legal version an expensive and powerful land, Rishadan Port: a Merfolk named Rishadan Dockhand.
Rishadan Dockhand helps this aggro-tempo deck keep opponents off balance and unable to cast their spells quickly enough to combat your fast armies of merfolk. Counterspell and Suspend are two more additions that help the Modern version of this archetype play more like Legacy and Vintage versions from years past. Jim Davis has a list that can help you get started.
Arclight Phoenix aggro-combo decks put up great results back when Faithless Looting was still throwing your copies of Arclight Phoenix in the graveyard and flashing back to bring them back into play. Faithless Looting was too powerful for the format and got banned two years ago, and Phoenix decks fell off the radar. But Modern Horizons 2 brings a new weaker-but-still-good version in Faithless Salvaging—red meat’s back on the budget menu!
The basic idea of the deck is this: discard Arclight Phoenixes, cast cheap draw spells and burn spells, and combine spells and flying attacks to deal 20 damage before your opponent knows what hit them. Scott Cullen has been playing Phoenix for years and offers tips on how to build the deck affordably—and he has some other deck suggestions for budget Modern as well.
Enchantress is a prison-style combo deck that way be familiar to Magic: The Gathering players from decades past. The deck never really took off in Modern because so many key cards were not available in the format. That has now changed, thanks to Modern Horizons 2, making the deck accessible and affordable for budget Modern players. You can read this article by Adam Yurchick to find decklists and explanations of how to adjust the deck to fit your budget.
Reprints of key cards that are now Modern-legal include Sterling Grove, Enchantress’s Presence, and Solitary Confinement make the core of the deck readily available. The real star is the new addition pictured above, Sanctum Weaver. Make tons of mana, prevent your opponent from doing anything with your lock pieces, and power out giant animated lands with Destiny Spinner from the recent enchantment-focused set, Theros Beyond Death.
Affinity was once a feared deck at the top Modern tables—and my personal Modern deck of choice—but shifts in the metagame over the years made the old versions obsolete. Then Mox Opal was banned and the deck fell off completely. Modern Horizons 2 offers some new tools that may bring it back to viability while also keeping the price under control.
Nettlecyst combines versatility of Cranial Plating with the creature-in-a-box of Arcbound Ravager. That means budget affinity decks can drop Arcbound Ravager and lean into the actual Affinity mechanic with affordable creatures. The new flying-and-card-drawing Thought Monitor wears equipment well, and once you are casting it for one or two mana, the bonuses for each artifact you control make it a lethal threat in two or three turns. Adam Yurchick helps show you the way again.