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We usually don’t touch on the financial side of things on this blog, but this thoroughly researched guest post by Felix Kämmler is an exception. Enjoy! / Martin


Today we will look at the wide range of available archetypes and meta decks in Premodern, and dispel some misconceptions about the format’s prohibitive cost. Top tier lists can be cheaper than Standard decks, and even some of the most expensive decks can be functionally recreated for a fraction of the cost! I will show you how to build your budget-friendly Premodern collection and find the best deck at the right price point for you.

Premodern is a young format with a lot of brewing space, and the banlist really makes for a balanced metagame. The format keeps growing in this time of physical distancing: The Premodern Online Play Facebook group has just reached over 700 members, and the Premodern Facebook group now has over 2,000 members! Many new players have been asking how they could get into the format on a budget, so I thought I’d collect some metagame data and share my own experiences of building up a Premodern collection through this article.

The price level of Premodern

Many people think of expensive Reserved List cards like Mox Diamond or Gaea’s Cradle when they first hear about Premodern. In fact, there’s a number of expensive cards in Premodern (cf. the full list of Premodern-legal cards worth €5 or more). However, those expensive cards are not needed for each and every deck. Some of them look even unplayable in Premodern—often the price point comes solely from the interaction with newer cards or the special nature of the EDH rules as compared to other formats.

There are tons of Premodern staples that cost next to nothing, more often than not because their relative power level has withered over time. Creatures have experienced the biggest power creep in Magic since the Premodern era. Cards like Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Masticore used to be the hot thing, but today they cost no more than a couple of bucks. The price curve of many Premodern decks also falls drastically once you’ve assembled the often small number of expensive cards that you feel are necessary for the deck.

The average price for a Premodern deck is much lower than for an average deck in Legacy, a format that otherwise shares some similarities with Premodern. It’s definitely possible to build a budget Premodern deck that will show solid tournament results. If you’re still looking to buy expensive cards, I’d recommend you to start with cards that can be played in many different decks. For example, while Serra’s Sanctum is an essential card in an Enchantress deck, it’s pretty useless in other decks. A playset of fetch lands or Wasteland, on the other hand, allows you to play a wide variety of decks.

Dreaming of a playset of Mox Diamonds.

Before I start with specific decks, let me give you some general advice first:

  1. Check which cards you already own. If you’ve played other formats before, there’s a good chance you might already have some Premodern playable cards. Look for the lands first. Maybe you’ve got some fetch lands or some copies of City of Brass, Gemstone Mine, Undiscovered Paradise, Wasteland or Ancient Tomb? Great, these cards are a good starting point for many decks. Double-check which cards from your collection are Premodern-legal: Look at the legal sets and the ban list. You can also use the powerful card search on this website or set a bookmark to this ultimate Scryfall search for all Premodern-legal cards (remember to update the link in case of changes to the ban list).
  2. Get some nice-looking basic lands. Premodern has some of the most beautiful basic land illustrations. You should get some basic lands of an old-frame expansion or core set of your choice. It will only cost you a couple of bucks, and the aesthetics are really worth it. If you’re unsure which basic land version you want, Mtgrex lets you look through all available basic lands from Magic’s history.
  3. Consider using reprints. Premodern already includes Chronicles and the Core Sets from 4th to 7th Edition which were white-bordered, reprint-only sets. Many cards from these sets had been originally printed in 1993/1994 and are much more affordable in white border. There are also many post-Scourge reprints of Premodern-legal cards. For me the new card frame is not as aesthetically pleasing as the old frame and I like to have “uniform” old-frame decks if possible. However, not everybody always has access to the old-frame cards. You can actually save a good amount of money by buying Khans of Tarkir fetch lands instead of Onslaught—you can still sell them later and upgrade to the old frame if you wish to. Personally, I’d rather play someone with new-frame cards than not play at all.

Some notes on gold-bordered cards

Some cards have gold-bordered reprints with a non-standard backside from the Pro Tour and World Championship Decks, produced by Wizards of the Coast between 1996 and 2004. These cards are not legal in sanctioned tournaments. For non-sanctioned tournaments, they must be explicitly allowed by the tournament organizer (and you must use opaque sleeves, of course). A good opportunity to use gold-bordered cards are the Premodern Online Monthlies, where they became allowed in May by the tournament organizer, Andrew Walker. You can also use them in casual games with friends.

Here are some of the most relevant gold-bordered cards for Premodern from a budget perspective. You might also want to take a look at the full list of Premodern-legal cards that are worth at least €5 and are also available in gold border. Remember, gold-bordered cards aren’t only available as singles on the secondary market, you can also buy a whole deck at once.

Cardmarket price trend TCGPlayer Market Price
original printing cheapest gold-bordered printing original printing cheapest gold-bordered printing
Gaea’s Cradle €229.02 €57.12 $371.23 $72.51
City of Traitors €123.66 €4.95 € $117.21 $6.71
Survival of the Fittest €51.69 €8.91 $104.05 $13.19
Scroll Rack €37.07 €13.27 $63.86 $26.68
Wasteland €21.85 €3.34 $29.62 $3.44
Flooded Strand €21.64 €6.12 $33.85 $9.24
Bloodstained Mire €21.63 €6.82 $36.22 $8.66
Rishadan Port €20.89 €1.49 $25.99 $1.70
Windswept Heath €13.57 €5.10 $22.14 $7.34

Recent demand for gold-bordered cards is mostly driven by playability and legality in EDH. Cards that aren’t played a lot in EDH aren’t worth much in gold border: The low prices of gold-bordered Legacy staples like City of Traitors and Rishadan Port show that there is no real demand from other formats than EDH.

Most played cards and their current price point

Let’s look at some tournament data to see which cards we’re going to need for Premodern. The most popular database for Premodern tournament results is called TC Decks. They’ve got a handy little tool called “Most played cards” that shows a list of the 50 most played cards for each month and how many copies of each were played. I added up the most played cards from the last six months and combined them with price data from Cardmarket and TCGPlayer, the most reliable sources for secondary market prices in Europe and North America. To keep it simple, I’ve always chosen the oldest printing of a card in a Premodern set, and I removed each card from the list that appeared with less than 15 copies on it. I used a colour-coding system to highlight what I feel can be called a low (lower than €2 on Cardmarket or US $2.50 on TCGplayer), medium (€2–10 on Cardmarket or US $2.50–11 on TCGPlayer) or high (above €10 on Cardmarket or US $11 on TCGPlayer) price level of a card. Each card with a low price level on either Cardmarket or TCGPlayer is also written in bold.

Card Number of copies in “Most played cards” on TC Decks in the last six months Cardmarket price trend TCGPlayer Market Price
Tormod’s Crypt 222 €0.86 $0.57
Swords to Plowshares 213 €1.39 $1.53
Duress 188 €0.35 $0.91
Counterspell 164 €0.69 $1.40
Mana Leak 146 €0.37 $0.35
Impulse 138 €0.45 $0.36
Wasteland 129 €21.85 $29.62
Mishra’s Factory 122 €1.02 $1.44
Adarkar Wastes 120 €4.55 $7.36
Flooded Strand 116 €21.64 $33.85
Birds of Paradise 113 €5.51 $7.39
Cabal Therapy 106 €1.65 $2.08
Naturalize 101 €0.12 $0.12
City of Brass 99 €8.11 $12.98
Fact or Fiction 94 €0.84 $1.53
Enlightened Tutor 90 €16.91 $36.02
Lightning Bolt 89 €1.56 $1.48
Standstill 84 €1.35 $2.05
Stifle 82 €2.74 $6.06
Hydroblast 81 €0.82 $0.59
Llanowar Wastes 75 €2.54 $5.51
Powder Keg 72 €2.72 $2.04
Defense Grid 71 €5.45 $7.69
Disenchant 70 €0.13 $0.14
Engineered Plague 67 €0.33 $0.28
Gemstone Mine 64 €4.86 $10.93
Mox Diamond 61 €154.69 $310.54
Treetop Village 59 €0.55 $0.79
Wooded Foothills 57 €21.06 $31.44
Meddling Mage 56 €8.05 $11.37
Pernicious Deed 54 €3.27 $4.59
Dark Ritual 52 €0.23 $0.42
Ravenous Baloth 51 €0.36 $0.32
Winter Orb 50 €5.83 $7.97
Seal of Cleansing 46 €0.17 $0.21
Windswept Heath 45 €13.57 $21.14
Annul 43 €0.29 $0.19
Wrath of God 43 €4.04 $6.18
Yavimaya Coast 43 €2.84 $6.51
Decree of Justice 40 €0.60 $0.76
Cursed Scroll 39 €6.76 $6.58
Chill 38 €0.37 $0.34
Daze 38 €1.16 $0.93
Undiscovered Paradise 37 €5.10 $6.32
Opt 35 €0.79 $1.05
Phyrexian Dreadnought 35 €22.94 $30.24
Mogg Fanatic 34 €0.23 $0.35
Gush 33 €0.95 $0.91
Rishadan Port 33 €20.89 $25.99
Wall of Blossoms 32 €0.77 $1.03
Mother of Runes 31 €1.90 $2.43
Wall of Roots 31 €0.31 $0.28
Underground River 30 €3.91 $5.82
Bloodstained Mire 29 €21.63 $36.34
Red Elemental Blast 29 €0.38 $0.47
Pyroblast 27 €1.82 $2.69
Lotus Petal 25 €5.02 $8.69
Accumulated Knowledge 24 €0.30 $0.30
Careful Study 24 €0.82 $1.04
Llanowar Elves 24 €0.43 $0.23
Tangle Wire 22 €3.30 $6.46
Blue Elemental Blast 21 €0.17 $0.15
Polluted Delta 21 €24.83 $39.59
Goblin Lackey 20 €7.41 $6.85
Goblin Piledriver 20 €3.48 $5.64
Snow-Covered Mountain 20 €1.21 $1.47
Vindicate 18 €3.84 $5.18
Portent 17 €0.22 $0.33
Ancient Tomb 16 €17.70 $42.62
Hypnotic Specter 16 €0.66 $1.26
Land Tax 16 €16.58 $29.36
Survival of the Fittest 16 €51.69 $104.05
Aura of Silence 15 €1.63 $3.59
Coastal Tower 15 €0.37 $0.52
Ramosian Sergeant 15 €0.17 $0.22

There you go. The most played cards in competitive Premodern decks. Before I’ll go into more detail, let me make something clear: While it’s a good starting point to look at what other people played, I can’t encourage you enough to start brewing on your own! Premodern is still a young format: The first bigger tournaments date back only two years ago. Premodern was in fact created by Martin Berlin in 2012, but it didn’t take off internationally until the website was launched in 2018. This means that 1) a good portion of possible archetypes might still be unexplored and 2) people might not have assessed their card choices correctly, which would leave room to improve existing archetypes.

Looking only at the results of the Spring Fling 2020 and the Online Monthlies from the last eight months, five out of nine (!) tournaments in total were won by new decks that didn’t show any top 8 results before: Esper Control (Anthony Harrison) won the October 2019 Monthly, Slaq Raq (Bryan Manolakos) won the November 2019 Monthly, Angry Hermit (Flint Espil) won the January 2020 Monthly, MUD (Antonio Fiscarelli) won the February 2020 Monthly and 4c Lands (Flint Espil) won the Spring Fling 2020. So be creative and try to build your own deck!

Watch out for the unexplored places of Premodern

Most played budget cards

The top 8 most played cards contain a whole of 7 budget cards. Tormod’s Crypt was by far the most played card. It’s an important sideboard card against the high amount of graveyard shenanigans in Premodern. As it can go into almost any deck, you can never have enough copies of it. Swords to Plowshares is probably the most efficient removal spell in the format. Duress is another card you can never have enough of, because it’s one of the most powerful cards in Premodern and it can go into almost every deck with access to black, often alongside some copies of Cabal Therapy. Counterspell and Mana Leak are probably the best counterspells in the format, and Impulse is one of the format’s most efficient spells to dig through your library.

Mishra’s Factory is an important manland in Premodern and you should definitely get a playset of it. If you’re playing green, also get a playset of Treetop Village, and blue mages can consider to play some copies of Faerie Conclave. Naturalize, Disenchant and/or Seal of Cleansing are a must for every deck with no other means of dealing with enchantments, as there are very many pesky enchantments (and artifacts) in Premodern. In the current meta, you can actually consider maindecking disenchant effects.

Fact or Fiction is one of the best spells in the format to refill your hand, it’s a key card in blue-based control decks like Landstill. Lightning Bolt is the best burn spell in the format and another card you should have a playset of. Standstill gave its name to Landstill, one of the most powerful decks in the format. Powder Keg is another card often used in Landstill and many other decks as a versatile board sweeper.

Next, we have a cycle of cards that I call the “red blasts” (Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast) and the “blue blasts” (Blue Elemental Blast and Hydroblast). They are important sideboard cards in red and blue decks, and you can never have enough copies of them. If you’re going to play more than one blast, it’s best to play a split of both versions because of cards like Cabal Therapy and Meddling Mage. Blue mages also have access to Chill, another staple you should have enough copies of. Personally, I think the red blasts are slightly more relevant since it’s a unique and strong effect for red, and because I prefer Chill over the blue blasts against Sligh. Blue Elemental Blast, however, plays around Naturalize and lets you hard-counter a Fireblast or a Goblin Piledriver.

If you intend to play green, I’d recommend you to get playsets of Llanowar Elves and/or Fyndhorn Elves. Besides that, Ravenous Baloth is among the best green fatties in the format. It’s often played alongside Blastoderm (which you can sacrifice to Ravenous Baloth before it dies from fading), a card that for some reason didn’t show up in the top played cards, but it’s definitely one of the best available creatures in Premodern.

Other important budget staples include Engineered Plague, Dark Ritual, Annul, Decree of Justice, Daze, Opt, Mogg Fanatic, Gush, Wall of Blossoms, Wall of Roots, Mother of Runes, Accumulated Knowledge and Careful Study.

Non-budget cards to consider

Some of the more expensive cards are really worth a consideration if you want to be more competitive. The good thing about it is that once you own these cards, they usually enable you to build a lot of different decks.

First of all, you should strongly consider buying some fetch lands. Even without the original dual lands, they’re essential for every allied-colour mana base, and they support graveyard-based cards like Grim Lavamancer or Nimble Mongoose. While making you more vulnerable to Stifle (e.g. maindecked in Stifle-Nought decks), they don’t deal as much damage as the pain lands and, most importantly, they keep you safe from cards like Wasteland or Price of ProgressIf you need to avoid fetches for budget reasons, you could try enemy-colour decks like The Rock. Deck lists that use fetches to fill the graveyard should be adjusted, e.g. by playing fewer Grim Lavamancer in Sligh. For two-colour decks, you could just play basic lands instead. In decks with three or more colours, don’t play too many pain lands instead—the damage actually adds up, and the pain lands aren’t an equal replacement for the original dual lands, as some might think. Still, the pain lands are an important part of many mana bases, and having a playset of each comes in very handy.

Next, we have three of the most important multicolour lands in Premodern: City of Brass, Gemstone Mine and Undiscovered Paradise can all tap for one mana of any colour and enter the battlefield untapped. These lands let you play with three or more colours or with enemy colours more easily. Therefore it’s often important to have playsets of City of Brass and Gemstone Mine. Undiscovered Paradise is not always played with a full playset because of its drawback.

Another card I would strongly consider buying is Wasteland. Many people thought it wouldn’t be very good in Premodern at first because of the lack of the original dual lands. But as it turned out, many decks rely on nonbasic lands. Standstill decks have built their strategy around manlands, Stasis decks are abusing Forsaken City, Lands decks use Glacial Chasm as protection, and multicolour decks usually play a very high number of nonbasics, e.g. pain lands, City of Brass, Undiscovered Paradise and Gemstone Mine. A lot of decks, like Tinker and MUD decks, play a playset of Ancient Tomb, and green decks often play Gaea’s Cradle as a means of quick ramp. Wasteland is a nice counter to these cards. Of course, there are also other nonbasic-hate cards like Dust Bowl, Price of Progress, Back to Basics, Choking Sands or Hidden Herd.

Competitive decks and their price point

After all, a Magic collection isn’t enough to play a game, you need a deck. To find out which decks are competitive, we can again use the tournament results from TC Decks. The following archetypes made at least three top results on TC Decks  in the last six months (the number of reported top results varies between 4 and 16 for each tournament). For each archetype, I chose an example deck list (which may also be one from a previous month) and ran it through Cardmarket’s Shopping Wizard to determine its price (English, EX+, cards from any set, without basic lands). Deck prices mentioned in the text are also from Shopping Wizard. The prices have been categorized into low (below €200), medium (€200–500) and high (above €500) cost decks, and decks with a low price level are also written in bold.

Archetype Number of top results on TC Decks in the last six months Example list Price (article value + shipping costs) with Cardmarket’s Shopping Wizard
The Rock 18 Michael James Heup, Online Monthly (March 2020) €150.39
Landstill 12 Flint Espil, Online Monthly (February 2020) €186.09
Stifle-Nought 11 Santiago Guzman, II Liga Madrileña de Premodern – 6 jornada €478.02
Survival 7 Robert Wyatt, Spring Fling 2020 €491.52
(€407.35 without Gilded Drake)
Burn 6 Flint Espil, Online Monthly (March 2020) €209.38
Goblins 6 Felix Kämmler, Spring Fling 2020 €270.66
Oath 5 Francisco Cumplido, II Technoliga valenciana online Technovid19 €100.30
Pox 5 “Pox” €993.53
(€190.78 without Mox Diamonds)
Tax Rack 5 Jonas Bjärnstedt, Online Monthly (February 2020) €1,188.93
Devourer Combo 4 Roberto Martinez, V Technoliga valenciana online Technovid19 des-fase €1,448.14
Rebels 4 Stjepan Pavuna, April 2020 Online Double Elimination Bracket EAST €72.43
Deadguy Ale 4 Joe Zubek, Online Monthly (February 2020) €73.94
Psychatog 3 Piscu Carranza, Online Monthly (November 2019) €161.49
Madness 3 Jared Doucette, Online Monthly (September 2019) €189.01
Mono Blue 3 Rémi Ouellette, Online Monthly (March 2020) €132.06
Mono Black 3 Rémi Ouellette, Spring Fling 2020 €119.54

What we can see is that two popular archetypes almost always show up in top 8s: The Rock and Landstill (deck tech). Both of them are very solid against a wide variety of decks, and you should always prepare yourself against these two properly. The good news is that both The Rock and Landstill are budget decks! Be warned though that they are not easy to pilot, they require you to have some knowledge about the format to make the right decisions.

Next, we have Stifle-Nought decks that want to Stifle or Vision Charm a Phyrexian Dreadnought to get a 12/12 trampler for 1U. Some versions play Grim Lavamancer and Lightning Bolt or Werebear and Nimble Mongoose as side threats. Stifle-Nought decks have recently risen in popularity, so you should always prepare yourself against them. This might not be your deck of choice if you’re on a budget though, also consider that it’s hard to find a place in other decks for your playset of Phyrexian Dreadnoughts.

Decks built around Survival of the Fittest are a bit costly because of this card (English, EX+ black-bordered playset: ca. €270 on Cardmarket/US $470 on Ebay). Luckily it’s also available in gold border, in case you’re going to play casually or in a tournament that allows gold-bordered cards. The price of the FEB list linked above goes down to €201.70 if you use gold-bordered Survival of the Fittest, City of Brass, Gemstone Mine, Reflecting Pool and Birds of Paradise. I don’t know how much this deck would suffer from cutting Gilded Drake, but it would result in a price of only €117.53 for this deck, provided you use the mentioned gold-bordered cards.

Another archetype that constantly shows up in top 8s is Burn/RDW/Sligh. Its straight aggressive gameplan is a solid strategy against most decks, and it’s one of those decks you should always be prepared for. With just slightly over €200, the Sligh list linked above sits on the lower end of medium-priced decks (if you use gold-bordered copies of Bloodstained Mire and Cursed Scroll, the price goes down to €145.23). Most of the deck’s price comes from the eight fetch lands for Grim Lavamancer and Barbarian Ring. It should easily be possible to adjust the deck to play fewer to no fetches. For example, you could replace 4 fetch lands with Mountain and 2 Grim Lavamancer with 2 Shock. Lists with fewer to no fetches can also play Ankh of Mishra, which would be a bit too painful if you were playing with 8 fetches.

Goblins (deck tech) are another very strong aggro deck, with interesting decision lines and high versatility. Most of the deck’s price usually comes from 4 fetch lands and 2–4 each of Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Bloodstained Mire (if you’re playing RB Goblins), Wasteland and Rishadan Port are all available in gold border (Wooded Foothills is not, unfortunately). If you use gold-bordered Wastelands and Rishadan Ports, my RG list linked above costs only €137.40, which would make it a budget deck.

Oath of Druids decks can be built as Oathstill decks like the one linked above, which looks like a strong budget deck. Another popular Oath deck would be Turbo Oath (example list, price: €300.25) which is a bit more costly because of Exploration, Intuition and Scroll Rack.

The three most expensive decks on the list, Pox, Devourer Combo and Pink Prison (a popular take on the Tax Rack archetype), have the biggest part of their price coming from playsets of Mox Diamond. A playset currently sets you back about €800 on Cardmarket or US $1,200 on Ebay, which makes the card not very accessible to many players. The price level of Pink Prison (deck tech), a deck that also plays a couple of other costly cards, could actually be a reason why this deck is not played more. Otherwise, Pink Prison looks pretty strong.

Pox (deck tech) decks have five TC Decks results playing Mox Diamond and two without. I don’t know whether the deck really needs Mox Diamonds or not. If we compare it with Legacy, only 13 out of 110 Pox/Smallpox decks on Mtgtop8, and 6 out of 51 on TC Decks, played Mox Diamonds. In any case, we can push Pox to a budget price level if we cut the Mox Diamonds.

The initial Devourer Combo deck by Mikael Lindén didn’t play Mox Diamonds, but it did play 2 City of Traitors and 4 Ancient Tomb. The price for Lindén’s list is €481.30, which you can reduce to €183.95 if you use gold-bordered versions of City of Traitors, Ancient Tomb and City of Brass. Devourer Combo recently showed more results on TC Decks with Mox Diamonds though. But this deck is not played very often nowadays, because most people have prepared themselves properly against the combo, after a short period of surprise when the combo was new.

The Psychatog (deck tech) list linked above is a budget deck that made top 8 in one of the Online Monthlies. As you can see, this deck was good even without Intuition. Other Psychatog lists are slightly more costly, because they play Intuition and more fetch lands. (The fetches aren’t only needed for mana fixing in this deck, but also for Circular Logic and Ghastly Demise).

In mono black, players are still trying out different takes on the archetype. Rémi Ouellette’s “Suicide Black Midrange” list linked above is inspired from 1996 Necropotence decks. Ron Taylor’s Suicide Black deck (price: €69.73) from the December 2019 Online Monthly, on the other hand, plays more cheap and aggressive creatures. A spicy new mono black deck is Robin Lundh’s Zombie Clerics deck (price: €221.84, without Null Rods: €182.34) from the May 2020 Online Monthly. Other mono black lists play good ol’ Hatred and/or Cabal Coffers and Lake of the Dead for big black spells. These two lands are a bit costly nowadays (€27.62 and €21.26 on Cardmarket, or US $62.36 and $28.95 on TCGPlayer) because of their use in other formats, namely EDH, where you can e.g. play Cabal Coffers together with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. But as you can see, in Premodern most people don’t play Coffers or Lake at all. I can only guess why this is the case: Except for budget restrictions, Wasteland and Dust Bowl are real threats, especially for Lake of the Dead, and Cabal Coffers might be just a bit too slow sometimes, since it’s only better than a basic Swamp if you already have at least four Swamps in play.

If you look at the list above, there are many more competitive budget decks than the ones already mentioned—Rebels, Deadguy Ale (deck tech), Madness and Mono Blue all showed good tournament results in the last six months.

Further budget decks to consider

There are several budget decks out there that have shown good results in the past but just didn’t appear very often in the last six months. I’ll name some of them.

Stasis decks (deck tech, price: €88.16) have eight top 8 results on TC Decks, which is a good number. If you like control, play Stasis, but be aware that it leads to very long games, and it’s not very fun for your opponent.

Zoo is another strong archetype (deck tech, price for the 5c version: €168.09, with gold-bordered mana base: €122.28, with that and without Null Rod: €104.41). It was created by “Zoo Master” Kim Karl Pfeiffer. TC Decks has six top 8 results with Zoo, most of them from Kim Karl Pfeiffer himself. I guess the only reason why there aren’t more top 8 results from Zoo is that few other people have built this kind of deck. 5c Zoo looks like it’s lots of fun to play because you have access to some of the best spells in each colour. Getting WUBRG mana bases to work without Mox Diamonds is pretty cool, too. Personally, I also like aggressive strategies with control elements.

I don’t have experience with playing Astral Slide decks (example list, price: €57.49), but the archetype has actually shown some good results on TC Decks.

White Weenie decks (example list, price: €44.44) have made eight top 8s according to TC Decks, but two of them are Jeff White’s 5c Weenie deck that plays 4 Mox Diamonds. The other six top 8s showed good results without Mox Diamonds though, so I’ll count White Weenie as a strong budget deck here.

Elves decks showed good results in the past as well, but they usually require a playset of Gaea’s Cradle (English, EX+ playset: around €1,050 on Cardmarket and US $1,600 on Ebay). This card was also printed in Matt Linde’s Mono-Green Stompy WCD from 1999, but it’s the most expensive of all gold-bordered cards (EX+ playset: ca. €240 on Cardmarket and US $340 on Ebay). I have no idea how good “Cradle-less Elves” are, but it would make Elves a budget deck (example list, price: €1,183.40, without Cradles: €130.88).

Slivers decks aren’t very common at the moment, I guess because people don’t know how to build them in Premodern. The problem is that Premodern lacks the original dual lands, as well as Force of Will and Aether Vial, which would be needed for a classic Counter Slivers list. My top 8 list (price: €181.66, with gold-bordered mana base: €129.10) from one of the Online Monthlies combined Crystalline Sliver, Muscle Sliver and Blade Sliver with a WUBR control shell, which makes for a classic aggro-control strategy. I didn’t play Mox Diamond, partly because of budget reasons, but its absence made me also immune to artifact destruction and let me play Chain of Vapor, which is a one-sided effect if you have Crystalline Sliver in play. I would probably replace the Forest and the Windswept Heath with something else since this deck doesn’t feature many green spells, but in general, I’m pretty proud of the WUBRG mana base without Mox Diamonds. Slivers is definitely an archetype that needs to be explored more though.

Balancing Tings (example list, price: €78.66) is a sweet combo deck built around Balancing Act, Anurid Brushhopper, Terravore and lands that can be sacrificed for mana. It doesn’t show up very often, but Michael James Heup made top 8 with it in one of the Online Monthlies, and it looks like a strong budget deck.

There aren’t many results from another cool combo deck, Fluctuator (deck tech, price: €69.26), but it actually won a Magic Time Ravenna tournament once and it’s for sure fun to play, so why not give it a try. Fluctuator decks usually contain very little cards that can be played in other decks, but the deck doesn’t cost a fortune anyway.

More Premodern content

Before you actually buy cards for a deck, you might want to see how it performs. You can watch games of Premodern here:

If you’re interested in further deck techs, also check out Mountainwalk‘s videos.

Where to acquire new cards

Of course, you also need a source to acquire the cards from. I probably don’t need to tell you that buying singles online is the fastest and cheapest method if you’re looking to assemble a specific deck.

If you want to build up a Premodern collection, however, I recommend you to buy other people’s collections. On Ebay, Facebook or your local classified ads website (Ebay Kleinanzeigen, Craigslist etc.), collections are offered in any size, for any budget. You’ll be surprised how many of them contain mostly Premodern cards. Make sure though that it’s a legit collection where the good cards haven’t been removed, otherwise you should be looking for bulk prices. Also tell the people in your LGS or local playgroup that you’re buying collections, and you might get some offers from there as well. After you’ve bought a collection, you can sell the cards you don’t need (looking at you, new-frame cards).

Also look out for old-frame basic land collections. Cardmarket, for instance, has product pages for each basic land set in Magic’s history. This is a good way to get some beautiful and uniform-looking basic lands at once.


I hope you enjoyed this article and got some ideas on where to start with your Premodern collection, as Premodern offers many options for players looking for budget decks. Of course, your feedback is very welcome on the Premodern Facebook group or the Premodern Discord server. Hope to see you there!

Take care and stay healthy,


Thanks to Robin Lundh and Josh Alexander who helped me to edit this article, and to Martin Berlin for publishing it!


About myself

My name is Felix, and I am a Premodern player from Germany. My biggest achievements so far are top 8s in the Premodern Spring Fling (with RG Goblins) and in two Premodern Online Monthlies (with Sligh and 5c Slivers).

I grew up with board and card games—Catan, Bohnanza and Carcassonne to name a few*. I got introduced to Magic around the age of 10, when 7th Edition was the latest set. Playing Magic was very popular at my primary school—a free alternative school where we pupils could stay in the afternoons for hours to socialize and play freely. The decks and cards played in our local meta were very similar to today’s Premodern format. However, I then moved to a new town, 8th Edition with its less appealing new card frame came along, and ultimately I found other interests as a teenager. But you never really quit this game. Around 2013/2014, I found myself back in Magic, via playing the Planechase 2012 decks and drafting Conspiracy and Magic Origins with my brothers and friends of mine.

I tried out different Constructed formats. I played a lot of EDH for a while, but the more I played it, I felt that the number of viable strategies was too limited due to the free-for-all, 40-life rules. EDH games also tend to be overly long, and it’s hard to find a 4-player pod with the same expectations about the game. Modern, on the other hand, didn’t allow me to play most of my old cards. Legacy had been mainly outside of my price range (except for a mono red goblins deck I built), and it was dominated too much by Force of Will. When I finally heard of Premodern, I was hooked immediately, and it became my absolute favorite format.

*As it turns out, there was an early connection to Magic—the popular board game “Drunter & Drüber” by Klaus Teuber (winner of the 1991 “Spiel des Jahres”/“Game of the Year” award) was illustrated by none other than Franz Vohwinkel, who would later become a popular Magic artist.