Cheap Budget Cards for Your Next Casual Night

There are a lot of cheap cards out there that have a lot to offer any player. As sets leave Standard, we are used to their prices dropping unless they are going to be hits in other formats. Believe it not, there used to be two price drops: one from when a card rotated from Standard and another after it rotated from Extended. No one played Type 1.5 (to become Legacy), so if a card was not up to par in Vintage, its price dropped. I remember Vindicate post-Extended rotation sitting at $3 (I snatched up a play set, too!).

From this era are a lot of useful cards that just never were worth much. Even though there are not a ton of copies sitting around today (as there are of a recently-printed rares, which have many more copies running around due to larger print runs), low demand has kept prices really low.

What I want to do today is to share with you a bunch of strong casual cards you may not know about. Every single one of these pre-Modern-era cards will have a near-mint version that clocks in at $1 or less at (Note that all prices could change from the writing of this to its publication, or even from its publication at midnight through later on that day.)

So, let’s begin looking at some winners!

FosterTake a look at this prime Mercadian Masques card. It’s a humble 4-mana enchantment, and when one of your dorks dies, you pay a mana, flip over cards until you hit a creature, and put the creatures into your hand and the rest into your graveyard. I hope your juices are already flowing! There is a lot to recommend here. First of all, note the absence of a keyword in the text. Nowhere does is say “nontoken.” So, when a Saproling token dies, just pay 1 mana and replace it with a real creature card in your hand. That’s pretty incredible. Plus, imagine how often you lose creatures naturally. They die to Wrath of God and combat and Murder. Just spend 1 mana to put another creature card to your hand. Finally, this thing fills up your graveyard with noncreature goodies. You can set up all sorts of tricks, from flashback to a quick threshold or more. Enjoy!

ScalpelexisCasual players love their milling! They enjoy smashing people’s libraries. Scalpelexis is a great way of adding to that theme, but I think its age hurts it. (It’s not seen print since Tenth Edition after all, although that does technically make it Modern-legal). If you or someone you know enjoys milling, allow me to suggest this winner. First of all, when you hit someone with it, the cards are not simply milled—they are flat-out exiled. This means that should someone have a way of shuffling cards back into his or her library, that ability won’t here. It also ends graveyard tricks a player might roll against a dedicated mill strategy. Of course, the Scalpelexis is also keen at taking out four cards every time you hit someone, with the potential to do a lot more. I’ve seen it go to twenty once and twelve many times. You just flip two basic lands with the same name, repeat, and exile at least eight cards. Then, roll again with another double a second time, and you have just exiled twelve cards in a snap. The combination of a flying body for the red zone, exiling instead of milling, the cheap cost to purchase some, and the potential for a huge hit all make this a nice adjunct to your milling decks.

Sigil of the New Dawn
Sigil of the New DawnCreatures die a lot at the kitchen table, especially in multiplayer. For just 2 mana, bring one back onto the battlefield! This is one of those cards that has surprised me with the lack of play it’s received over the years. As any player of Nim Deathmantle will attest, it’s quite good!

StatecraftAnother entry into the 4-Mana Rare Enchantments from Mercadian Masques That You Never Head of Club is this interesting card. All damage to and from your creatures is prevented. Why would you want that? Well, it keeps them alive through a lot of things. Damaged-based removal or sweeping removal is right out. Cards such as Magmaquake, Lightning Helix, Pestilence, and Blasphemous Act are not going to smash your creatures. (Which makes this both good against those strategies and good with them). Then, all of your creatures become amazing walls of blocking and are rough to penetrate. Even a simple 1/1 is a powerful blocker with this out. Trample is the only commonly-played ability that can smash through it with Statecraft in play. Now, if you have it out, you won’t kill off attackers, and you can’t swing for game easily. So, it works best in a deck that intends an alternate path to victory. (Or you could just bounce it and win once you have established dominance.)

Divine Presence
Divine PresenceWhile on the subject of odd enchantments that keep your stuff alive in unusual ways, consider this. All damage is reduced to 3. Now all creatures that have 4 or more toughness are difficult to kill in combat. So, your simple Wall of Omens is a virtual lock to stay alive combat after combat. You have no fear of being X-spelled out, and massive damage-dealing is reduced. Meanwhile, your small little guys are not impacted at all, and you can have some small shadow, horsemanship, or unblockable dudes to swing through for game.

PyromancyWell, at least we broke out of Masques for the 4-mana spot! I can remember playing against multiple Pyromancy decks when this was printed. They would put together decks with some higher-cost cards to discard and smash face. Today, I would build a deck with this, cards like Explosive Revelation, and maybe even Sneak Attack and some reanimation (Dread Return and Unburial Rites seem like good choices). That seems like a powerful deck that breaks out the big guys for a powerful amount of potential damage. (Perhaps Seismic Assault would be good—discard the lands for Shocks and then have a better chance of hitting a business card with the Pyromancy). Shoot, let’s just build it right now.

So, we have Chartooth Cougar to cycle our lands or for 6 damage, Greater Gargadon for early suspend and beats, or a high Pyro-Sneak-Revelation hit, the obvious Draco and Ulamog. I have some reanimation via Unburial Rites (which works if discarded—Cougar can search up a dual land for the right mana for it), and so forth. You can drop the price of this deck considerably to make it budget-happy by pulling Sneaks, Ulamog, Tops, and dual lands for other cards of various sorts that do similar things. Feel free to swap out Ulamog for another beater (perhaps Darksteel or Blightsteel Colossus), Tops can be subbed for other draw or manipulation (perhaps Magma Jet to give you early removal and scry to set up a Revelation), and Sneak Attack could sub out for more reanimation or something.

I know that wasn’t the point of today’s article, but hey. It was in my head, so I built it. So, let’s hit up some more cheapies.

Scorched Earth
Scorched EarthThis is crap except for one purpose that jumps out at me. If you are one of those people who has a land-happy deck using tools such as Life from the Loam, you tend to have a hand clogged up with lands. Plus, you can recur them back with ease. So, play this, discard a few lands, and blow up some serious landage. Everyone else can just skip to the next card.

Grafted Skullcap This card has a long history of being a powerful engine for various decks, including with Ensnaring Bridge. You can make it work in many others as well—it’s quite good for several specific decks and needs. (In a deck where you have no instants or flash cards, there’s no need to keep things in hand, and if you can play the extra cards, there’s no need to fear the discard—so, any deck that meets those conditions will adore a Skullcap).

Opal Acrolith This uncommon dork from Urza’s Saga is just a 2/4 after someone plays a creature. I like it in decks that are heavy on mass removal because it will turn back into an enchantment; you can cast your Wrath of God and save it to become a creature again as soon as someone plays another dude. It’s one of those cool little tricks, like Gideon Jura or Guardian Idol, that really make a mass-removal deck go.

Blessed Wind
Blessed WindRemember this puppy to reset someone’s life total if they do egregious things to it? You can use it to regain some life, and in Commander, it can cut someone from 40ish to 20.

Kavu LairThe sad thing about Kavu Lair is that anyone can draw a card when he or she meets the condition (dropping a 4-or-greater-powered critter). Like all symmetrical effects, because you know it’s coming, you can build around it. For example, you could run token-making such as Beast Attack. Or you could run high-power–low-toughness guys (temporary ones like Ball Lightning and Groundbreaker or permanent ones such as Elvish Ranger and Rumbling Baloth). You’ll draw a lot more cards and thus produce more value from it.

Contested CliffsThis card used to be a lynchpin of a nice little tournament Beast deck that rolled it and some great Beasts from the tribal block. With some nice Beast love in red and green in Magic 2014, it seems to be a perfect time to take this land out for another run. I think it looks great with Advocate of the Beast or Wirewood Savage and some nice Beasts. (For casual love, consider Rampaging Baloths, Krosan Warchief, Canopy Crawler, Aether Charge, and Garruk Wildspeaker or Garruk, Primal Hunter!). (Even toss in Thragtusk if you won’t feel dirty.)

All right, let’s do it again.

We added Ravenous Baloth to the mix. I decided to leave out Canopy Crawler for other Beasts, but I would add them for the Thragtusk if you wanted a slightly cheaper deck. This deck could use some anti-Wrath protection in some casual metagames. Interesting tricks for that include Cauldron of Souls, which would replace the Beast Attacks to my mind. I also like pulling them for Indrik Stomphowlers in an environment where artificial things are a concern to be smashed before the might of your Beasts. You can see how nasty Contested Cliffs becomes in a deck like this.

Dogged Hunter
Dogged HunterThere are a lot of creature tokens running around Casual Land, especially after a block that added tools such as populate to the token-maker’s tool chest. Therefore, this is my chance to remind you that Dogged Hunter exists and is a really nice answer to token madness.

Preferred SelectionDon’t have the money for Sylvan Library or Sensei’s Divining Top? Surprised by how expensive Mirri’s Guile is? Then grab this for your deck.

Bosium StripTake a gander at this unusual card. It would never be printed today. They keep away from the concept of graveyard order. But for a 3 mana and a tap, you have access to spells already cast. Any instant or sorcery at the top of your ’yard essentially has flashback. Just play it a second time, and then exile it. That’s another use of countermagic, pinpoint removal, land-fetching, card-draw, discarding, or anything else your heart desires. Of course, the nice bonus is that you can keep playing instants and sorceries from the top of your graveyard for the entire turn. If you activated it to cast that Ponder again, exiled it, and drew a Rampant Growth off the Ponder, you could Rampant Growth once and then play it a second time and exile it. This is a potent little engine for very little cash.



So today, I took you through a nice number of cheap cards that are older than the Modern card frame. I wanted to show off some of the interesting cards from this era. All of them clock in under $1 at CSI in NM condition. I even built a pair of decks for you just because. There are a lot of winners out there that have very little cost attached to them, and I hope you uncovered a few today.

See you next week,
Abe Sargent