I can’t afford four Mind Sculptors; so I QUIT!

A list of ten ways you can save money while playing Magic.

You can play good competitive Magic the Gathering without the most expensive cards in the format. My name is William Hessian, and I play Magic…. on a budget. Learning how to spend your money in Magic will help you make the game more affordable and make the money you do spend…go further.

At my local Friday Night Magic (FNM) a young player made the remark that he quit playing Magic because he could not afford to buy four Jace the Mind Sculptors. I was sitting there playing for first place without any Mind Sculptors. I surveyed the room to realize only 2 players out of 8 (we have a small group) were playing Jace in the standard tournament. In fact, only 5 copies of Jace TMS were in that room at the time. At the same time, I understood his frustration about wanting to play the best deck, or in this case, the best card in the format and not having the money to buy it.

Magic the Gathering is an expensive game to play, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to make the game less expensive, nearly free or even have the game pay for itself (although this is a rare case). That is why my first article for Magic on a Budget is going to be a list of ways for the average player to save money while playing Magic.

Before I start the list, I want to mention that list is meant to help make the game more affordable to the casual/competitive player. This list only slightly covers how a new player should start his collection or learn the game; this list also does not talk about investing hundreds of dollars in cards or give you insight to winning a Pro Tour.

10 ways to make Magic: the Gathering more affordable

1. Sell your big money rares– If you pull a Jace the Mind Sculptor and you are struggling to make a competitive standard or extended deck, sell the Jace and invest in cards to build a good solid deck. Any big money rare that I do not plan to use in the near future I will sell in order to help pay for events or buy singles that I need for my deck.

2. Busting Packs will Bust your Wallet– One of the hardest things for me, was realizing that opening packs was a bad investment. Like the rest of the world I love opening packs, but it loses me money. If I didn’t have to worry about money, I’d be opening packs like a mad man. When a new set comes out, buying a box or a bunch of packs is a fun way to start your collection. But when you have a limited budget for Magic you want to do less pack buying, and more singles buying. If you can, play in events like draft and sealed, this way you are paying for packs with the chance to win more packs instead of spending your extra cash to bust more packs; save that cash and pick up the singles you want instead. I am pretty extreme about this rule because it is the best way to save money each week. All prize packs I win at events go into my trade binder for trade, sell or to use in future drafts.

3. Buy Important Cards– Magic on a Budget is a GREAT place to buy your singles. Buying singles is important! If you search winning decks from PTQ tournaments, Pro Tours, and Magic Online events you will find that while the decks have very expensive cards in them, there are also a lot of important commons and uncommons that you should have in your collection. Luckily for you David Leavitt writes articles giving you tips on which rares and commons and uncommons you should own. This is very valuable information which I use when building my collection.

4. Win Events– The better you are at the game of Magic, the better chance you can save money when you play. Basically the more prize packs you win, or rare drafts you win, the better your ‘entry fee’ investment is. Even if you are just playing casually with friends, being a better player will help you win games with less expensive cards.

5. Make good trades– I could write an entire article on making good trades (in fact I will write that article). Arrange your trade binder correctly. Never rip anyone off. Definitely don’t get ripped off yourself. It is best to understand what you need for you collection, or for building a certain deck and then trade accordingly. If you aren’t sure what you want, don’t trade. The more you know about what cards are good from the new sets the better chance that you will have 2 Fauna Shamans, instead of 4 Ancient Hellkites in your binder at the end of the day. Understanding that some cards are worthless, or may be bombs when an old set rotates out is how you plan ahead and have good cards/decks in the future. It is never fun scrambling to get back good cards that you traded away a few weeks ago.

6. Build Budget Rogue Decks– When I first started playing, I just wanted to learn the game, so I barely spent any money and played my first 2 FNM’s with a rareless rogue deck. It was a blast. I had spent a lot of time coming up with my own simple aggro deck. It was probably the most fun I’ve had playing magic. I knew I wasn’t supposed to win, yet I was beating expensive decks piloted by good Magic players. I never did better than breaking even, but innovation often comes from necessity. I will also be writing a lot about the inexpensive top tier decks (like Red Deck Wins and Home Brews), or ways to turn a 600 dollar tourney deck into a cheaper deck that you could build for your local events.

7. Make friends & share collections– I could never play Magic when I was in high school, because I could not afford the game. If I would have understood sharing cards, the fun of building rareless rogue decks, playing cube events, pauper, EDH, mock drafts, multiplayer, singleton etc. I would have invested my allowance to get enough cards to play. Sadly I didn’t, and it took me over a decade to finally start playing Magic.

8. Create you Own Events– Invite your friends over and play cube events, mock drafts, multiplayer, singleton, standard tourneys. If you cannot compete with the players at your FNM or card shop, make your own events. It costs nothing to invite your friends over to play Magic with you. If one friend has a better collection than everyone else, then make rules to make it fair: only 2 rares per deck, singleton, pauper, everyone has to agree on how many rares, or play round robin style- where everyone plays everyone else’s deck equal amounts of time. A small investment in cards and a good group of friends you could play endless Magic for almost nothing.

9. Pauper– Magic the Gathering Pauper is a format where everyone plays decks consisting of only commons. This is a competitive format, but also a great format for new players, and kitchen table games. You could buy a bunch of cheap commons for 10 bucks and build a number of pauper decks. For under ten bucks you could be playing competitive Magic against friends, and if you are new its a great place to learn the basic rules of the game and not feel like you invested hundreds a dollars. Pauper is just good cheap fun.

10. Budget– Last but not least… budget yourself. When I started doing this, to keep myself from spending beyond my means I began having to make conscious choices about how I play and approach Magic. Personally, I love playing in events (draft, standard, sealed, extended) and I wanted to play in pre-releases and larger events if possible. So I knew it was going to be hard for me to collect the expensive cards I needed for my decks from new sets and pay entry fees. It was budgeting that started me thinking about other ways to save money playing Magic and eventually resulted in this list.

If you have other good ways of saving money when playing Magic, or additional tips or stories based on some of the tips I provided above, I would love to hear about it.

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