Casual Budget Building

Written by Tzenesh


What is casual Magic? The term casual is such a broad term that almost everyone will have a different definition. I have friends who believe that casual Magic is simply not playing with a sideboard. They will literally bring a pro-built deck to the table…news flash…this is not casual. What happened to the day when you had an idea for a deck and built something around that idea? Now the first step to building a deck is to look for the most recent Top 8 lists. Just take a look at your local FNM scene. When this first started people showed up and played to have fun. They brought their favorite deck that they had created and played for a few hours and went home. That is completely different from now. If I walked into a store, sat down with a piece of paper, and had a recent Top 8 list from the Pro Tour, I can almost guarantee that I would be able to accurately predict, to the last card, everyone’s decklist. Not only would I be able to guess the decklist, I can guarantee that there is at least someone there attempting to increase their DCI rating. I will never understand what happened to this game.

When I put together a list to play at a kitchen table I have a certain set of rules that I set for myself to make sure I stay in line with what I consider to be casual. My friends like to call this a handicap, but I prefer to think of it as creating fun decks. One of the things that my friends don’t seem to understand is that casual Magic doesn’t mean playing with a bad deck.


My Rules:
1. Create a theme for the deck. The deck doesn’t have to marry this theme, but the theme needs to be present at the end.
2. Be creative. It is certainly ok to look for ideas online. Inspiration is not netdecking.
3. Don’t use Vanilla cards. My definition of vanilla is different from most. Why use Counterspell when you can use Familiar’s Ruse?
4. Make an interactive deck. Here’s a fun idea. Everyone gather around the table while I play Stasis / Smokestack / 36 Counterspells.dec.
5. Make the deck play differently each game. Don’t create a deck that uses draw spells to find your tutor that finds your win condition.
6. Set a Restriction of some kind. Make it budget, format, card type, alphabetical, tribal, etc…
7. Use basic lands. Unless a land provides utility I prefer to use basics.
8. Have fun. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is a game. If you and the people that you are playing with aren’t having fun…what’s the point?


I will admit that I don’t always stick to everyone one of these self imposed rules. I do however use these as guidelines. At the end of my deck I make sure that I am close enough to my rules to feel comfortable.

Now that you understand my rules for building a deck, let me show you the process that I go through when actually building a deck. For this deck I want it to be a sacrifice based black deck with a budget of $3.00 per card (According to TCGPlayers median price). Here is my process.

The first thing that you want to do is to find all the cards that are relevant to your theme. Just remember that your theme is a very broad term that is only used to help keep you on tract. Here are the cards that I found to be my starting point.



Sacrifice Outlets
Disciple of Bolas – $0.29
Minister of Pain – $0.20
Qarsi Sadist – $0.12
Rakshasa Gravecaller – $0.21
Sidisi, Undead Vizier – $1.33
Silumgar Butcher – $0.13
Vulturous Aven – $0.12

Opponent Sacrifices
Anowon, the Ruin Sage – $1.95
Butcher of Malakir – $0.25
Desecration Demon – $1.42
Dictate of Erebos – $1.74
Fleshbag Marauder – $0.20
Merciless Executioner – $0.21

Apprentice Necromancer – $1.07
Champion of Stray Souls – $0.71
Doomed Necromancer – $1.55
Grim Harvest – $0.17
Hell’s Caretaker – $1.77
Soul Stair Expedition – $0.14
Victimize – $0.23

Blood Artist – $2.70
Gray Merchant of Asphodel – $0.18

Card Draw
Ambition’s Cost – $0.71
Ancient Craving – $0.43
Dark Deal – $0.25
Dark Prophecy – $0.33
Footbottom Feast – $0.14
Graveborn Muse – $0.74
Gravepurge – $0.13
Grim Haruspex – $0.49
Infernal Tribute – $0.74
Night’s Whisper – $2.02
Read the Bones – $0.12
Shadows of the Past – $0.20
Sign in Blood – $0.15
Skeletal Scrying – $0.18

Over Budget
Erebos, God of the Dead – $3.78
Grave Pact – $6.99
It that Betrays – $4.13
Recurring Nightmare – $11.10
Sheoldred, Whispering One – $8.00

Once I have a list of all the cards that I am interested in, I will scan the list and make sure I have enough to work with. In this case I can see several different directions to take the take. The direction that I have chosen to go is going to be based around the Exploit mechanic.

Now we have reached the whittling process. There are a lot of cards on the list that just aren’t going to work in an Exploit deck.



1. & 2. Ambition’s Cost & Ancient Craving – These cards are just over priced considering the other cards that we have to work with.

3. Anowon, the Ruin Sage – Honestly I never expected Anowon to make the cut. But he did stick with the sacrifice theme so he made the initial list.

4. Dark Deal – In a more reanimator based deck this would probably be a really good fit. I feel that straight card draw fits better though.

5. Desecration Demon – The deck needs to have creatures that can bounce in and out of play. This just doesn’t fit with that theme. It’s a great card but just not the direction I am looking to go.

6. Graveborn Muse – As much as I love Phyrexian Arena on a stick…the other draw spells in this pool are just more on theme. I really do like the idea of being able to exploit her in a pinch though.

7. Infernal Tribute – I love this card. It just isn’t as useful with most of the other cards also wanting to have sacrifice targets.

8. Skeletal Scrying – Exiling our graveyard goes against the strategy of the deck.

9. Soul Stair Expedition – I really like this card but it just pales in comparison to Grim Harvest and there just isn’t enough room for both.

After the first round of cuts you can really begin to see a deck forming. At this point in the whittling process, each of these cards could potentially make the deck. Now we need to resort all the cards into functions to compare them and see which cards are good enough to make the final 60. Here is all the cards sorted by function and in order of usefulness.



1. Blood Artist
2. Gray Merchant of Asphodel
3. Qarsi Sadist

1. Disciple of Bolas
2. Grim Haruspex
3. Sidisi, Undead Vizier
4. Vulturous Aven
5. Shadows of the Past
6. Dark Prophecy
7. Night’s Whisper
8. Read the Bones
9. Sign in Blood
10. Gravepurge
11. Footbottom Feast

1. Grim Harvest
2. Hell’s Caretaker
3. Champion of Stray Souls
4. Victimize
5. Doomed Necromancer
6. Apprentice Necromancer

1. Dictate of Erebos
2. Fleshbag Marauder
3. Merciless Executioner
4. Butcher of Malakir
5. Minister of Pain
6. Silumgar Butcher

1. Rakshasa Gravecaller

Although a simple solution would be to simply cut all the bottom cards…sometimes the less “valuable” cards are needed to fill certain rolls. With that being said…here are my next round of cuts.



1. & 2. Apprentice Necromancer & Doomed Necromancer – These guys are just too slow. Their effects are amazing…but having to wait an entire turn for them is just too long to wait.

3. & 4. Butcher of Malakir & Dictate of Erebos – These are cuts that are really going to confuse people. Butcher of Malakir simply costs too much. I don’t know as though I will need to defend myself on cutting him. However Dictate of Erebos is a cut that I will need to explain. This card goes against one of the rules that I have. This card creates a Smokestack like deck. I am sure that this is not a popular opinion among those that are reading this but…this is precisely why I set certain rules for myself when building a deck. For those of you that haven’t sat across from someone who correctly abuses Grave Pact…which this deck is built to do…it is extremely frustrating and unfun. So…for this reason I have decided that this card simply cannot be in the deck.

5. Dark Prophecy – I really like this card…but it seems rather redundant when the deck already runs the much better Grim Haruspex.

6. & 7. Footbottom Feast & Gravepurge – When I first started this list…I was sure that these were going to make the list for sure. The problem with them is that they don’t help you when you need it now. I would much rather draw several cards now than I would filter cards over the next few turns.

8. Minister of Pain – This seems a little lackluster to me. Sure it wipes out tokens but…this deck already has better removal.

9. 10. & 11. Night’s Whisper, Read the Bones, Sign in Blood – These cards are simply out classed by Disciple of Bolas. They are great cards that just don’t fit this particular deck. However the M10 version of Sign in Blood has my favorite flavor text in Magic.

12. Rakshasa Gravecaller – While I currently have this guy as being cut…this will be one of the cards that I will consider testing. The fact that he brings extra sacrifice targets really puts me on the fence with him.

13. Silumgar Butcher – Much like Minister of Pain…I just don’t like this guy. He doesn’t do enough.

14. Victimize – This was the hardest cut for me. It came down to this and Champion of Stray Souls and Victimize lost simply due to not being a creature. Everyone that knows this card can thank EDH…much like Reincarnation. EDH brought some awesome cards back to life.

Well…now that we have the deck…let’s take a look at the land options.



There really aren’t a lot of choices as far as lands are concerned.
1. & 2. Evolving Wilds – $0.14 & Terramorphic Expanse – $0.18 – I really like a 3/3 split with these cards. People often ask me why I split these cards when they are functional reprints. My answer is simple…I prefer diversity. If they printed this six times…I would do one of each.

3. Haunted Fengraf – $0.13 – At first I thought that maybe this would help the deck out…but I just don’t think that it is needed.

4. Myriad Landscape – $0.81 – I am a huge fan of this card…but I feel like it is much better in green. It is just a little too slow for my taste.

5. Springjack Pasture – $0.42 – This card is awesome. It provides sacrificial tokens, life, and most importantly a mana dump. What’s not to like about this card?

6. Terrain Generator – $1.35 – In mono color decks I actually believe that this card is better than the Evolving Wilds / Terramorphic Expanse split because allows you to ramp in the early game.

Lands: 24
2 Springjack Pasture
20 Swamp
2 Terrain Generator

Creatures: 31
4 Blood Artist
2 Champion of Stray Souls
4 Disciple of Bolas
2 Fleshbag Marauder
2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
3 Grim Haruspex
4 Hell’s Caretaker
2 Merciless Executioner
4 Qarsi Sadist
2 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
2 Vulturous Aven

Spells: 5
2 Grim Harvest
3 Shadows of the Past


So…what do you think? The total cost of the deck is $30.97 which is very reasonable when sticking to a budget. The real question becomes…how will the deck actually play? Let me know what you think. Would you have made the same decisions that I made? Until next time…

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