Towers, Mines and Fine Lines – Budget Modern Decks

With Core 19 released this Friday past, I look at what Modern decks you can build using Core 19 and Standard legal cards whilst allowing you to get into the format on a budget. The four decklists I’ve created should be used as an entry level into Modern, like at an FNM for example. I’ve made suggestions for upgrades and what to replace them with in the future if you wish. One of the most fun things to do in Magic: the Gathering is to tinker with deck lists, so feel free to tinker away. This is merely a guide to get you on the right track.

Firstly, we have Goblins. Mono-Red Goblins (or more commonly known as 8-Whack) is an aggressive deck which uses a wide variety of Goblins to go wide and attack face. The clock is dangerously quick and can overwhelm in a matter of turns. There’s been support for the tribe in recent sets such as Dominaria and Ixalan, these come in the form of Goblin Chainwhirler and Fanatical Firebrand.  Additionally there are a few new Goblins printed in Core 19 and Goblin Instigator is one of these. Goblin Instigator could make a strong case to replace Mogg War Marshal in the build as you’re securing the same amount of 1/1 Goblins for essentially less mana. Goblin Trashmaster is another to come from the same set. Not only does Goblin Trashmaster give your Goblins +1/+1, it also has the ability to destroy artifacts upon a cost, this can be compared to Siege-Gang Commander with utility instead.


Another solid addition you could make to this budget build is The Flame of Keld which pushes damage late on when you’re going in for a full-swing. The downsides are minimal too, discarding your hand isn’t problematic as you’ve played all your Goblins already. Another positive is drawing two cards as it fills your hand with some threats to play. Unfortunately card draw is something red decks traditionally struggle with, so these kind of abilities are always welcome.

Mono Red Goblins (Budget); $70

4x Fanatical Firebrand
4x Foundry Street Denizen
4x Goblin Bushwhacker
4x Reckless Bushwhacker
4x Mogg Fanatic
4x Goblin Instigator
3x Goblin Piledriver
2x Goblin Chieftain

4x Lightning Bolt
4x Goblin Grenade
4x The Flame of Keld

2x Ramunap Ruins
17x Mountain


1x Goblin Trashmaster
2x Goblin Chainwhirler
2x Tormod’s Crypt
3x Skullcrack
3x Dragon’s Claw
4x Smash to Smithereens  

Suggested Upgrades;

4x Goblin Guide replacing 4x Mogg Fanatic
4x Legion Loyalist replacing 2x Goblin Piledriver and 2x Goblin Chieftain
2x Grim Lavamancer replacing 2x Goblin Instigator
4x Bloodstained Mire
 replacing 4x Mountain
4x Wooded Foothills replacing 4x Mountain
2x Relic of Progenitus replacing 2x Tormod’s Crypt

The upgrades overall aren’t cheap as Goblin Guides, Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mires are played in other competitive decks such as R/W Burn but they are considered staples so there will always be a use for them. Fetch Lands (E.g Bloodstained Mire and Wooded Foothills) are an excellent way to thin out your deck whilst grabbing the land you need to play your spells, thus giving you better draws as the game progresses. Legion Loyalist is a wonderful enabler in the build as it makes blocking for your opponent awkward and negates any tokens they have on the field.

Goblins is a great starter and budget deck and does the basics of Magic: the Gathering well, if you’re interested in building Goblins, I recommend picking up the Goblins vs. Merfolk duel deck that Wizards of the Coast released late last year. You can find more information as well deck lists here.

Next up is Spirits. The objective of playing a Spirt deck is to pseudo-control your opponent with counter magic, playing reactive creatures whilst developing the board. This subtype has received an encouraging lift in Core 19 in the form of Supreme Phantom, another +1/+1 effect to go with the already stubborn Drogskol Captain from Dark Ascension. The other is Remorseful Cleric which aids in hosing down graveyard strategies. It wouldn’t shock me to see Remorseful Cleric crop up in competitive Modern lists in the near future given the utility it offers.


With the budget build I feel you have to run a few more enchantments to make your Spirits unblockable to ensure damage. It may seem a little narrow, but can be awkward for your opponent. Once you’re able to upgrade the deck and move away from cards such as Curious Obsession, you can go down a couple of different routes with Spirits which I’ll explain below.

U/W Spirits (Budget); $97

4x Mausoleum Wanderer
4x Rattlechains
4x Selfless Spirit
4x Supreme Phantom
4x Drogskol Captain
2x Bygone Bishop
2x Tallowisp

4x Curious Obsession
4x Vapor Snag
3x Mana Leak
1x Temporal Isolation

2x Moorland Haunt
4x Glacial Fortress
4x Port Town
2x Nimbus Maze
2x Prairie Stream
6x Plains
4x Island


1x Kataki, War’s Wage
1x Eidolon of Rhetoric
1x Spirit of the Labyrinth
2x Remorseful Cleric
2x Damping Sphere
2x Dispel
2x Tormod’s Crypt
2x Ojutai’s Command
2x Disenchant

Suggested Upgrades;

4x Spell Queller replacing 2x Bygone Bishop, 1x Vapor Snag and 1x Selfless Spirit
2x Geist of Saint Traft replacing 2x Tallowisp
4x Aether Vial replacing 
4x Curious Obsession
2x Hallowed Fountain replacing 2x Glacial Fortress
4x Path to Exile replacing 1x Mana Leak, 1x Vapor Snag, 1x Supreme Phantom and 1x Temporal Isolation
4x Flooded Strand replacing 4x Port Town
3x Rest in Peace replacing 2x Tormod’s Crypt and 1x Disenchant
2x Stony Silence replacing 2x Damping Sphere

So there are two options, you can stick to U/W and upgrade into cards like Aether Vial and Geist of Saint Traft or you can play the more popular version known as Bant (G/U/W) Spirits. Bant Spirits runs a green splash to play cards like Collected Company which I’ll explain in more detail later in the article why it’s so good. Furthermore, Bant Spirits runs mana creatures such as Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch in order to ramp into creatures and into spells like Collected Company more efficiently. However this version of the deck is a lot more expensive as it requires a more demanding landbase. So for that reason alone I’ve made suggestions to upgrade into U/W as opposed to Bant Spirits. It’s all down to preferred play style as much as budget, if you prefer being more controlling and tempoing out your opponent I recommend U/W Spirits. However if you want to do what U/W Spirits offers with the addition of powerful, reactive green spells, then Bant Spirits could be for you

Shifting away from Spirits we move onto Wizards. Wizards is a relatively fresh archetype coming from Dominaria and is considered to be one of the best decks in Dominaria limited. However with the amount of Wizards around currently in Standard as a whole, you could easily branch this out into Modern by using powerful spells such as Lightning Bolt for damage and Serum Vision for draw. U/R Wizards is a reactive deck that benefits from when spells are cast encouraging prowess triggers and similar +1/+1 effects. The more spells you play the more powerful some of your Wizards can be. There isn’t a new Wizard lord in Core 19, as we’ve had a few in Dominaria already in the form of Adeliz, the Cinder Wind and Naru Meha, Master Wizard. Nonetheless we have Exclusion Mage from Core 19 which could fit the Wizards build nicely, it encourages for some great tempo and can deal with some difficult boardstates.


U/R Wizards (Budget $96)

4x Ghitu Lavarunner
4x Soul-Scar Mage
4x Stormchaser Mage
2x Sage of Epityr
2x Exclusion Mage
3x Adeliz, the Cinder Wind

4x Lightning Bolt
4x Opt
4x Serum Visions
4x Faithless Looting
4x Wizard’s Lightning
2x Wizard’s Retort

4x Island
4x Mountain
4x Shivan Reef
3x Wandering Fumarole
4x Sulfur Falls


1x Dismember
2x Dispel
2x Vapor Snag
2x Kozilek’s Return
2x Disdainful Stroke
2x Negate
2x Spell Pierce
2x Abrade

Suggested Upgrades;

4x Snapcaster Mage replacing 2x Exclusion Mage and 2x Sage of Epityr
4x Sleight of Hand replacing 4x Opt
4x Scalding Tarn replacing 4x Shivan Reef
4x Steam Vents replacing 2x Mountain and 2x Island
3x Spirebluff Canal replacing 3x Wandering Fumarole
2x Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy replacing 2x Wizard’s Retort
2x Grim Lavamancer replacing 2x Ghitu Lavarunner
2x Blood Moon replacing 2x Disdainful Stroke
2x Shattering Spree replacing 2x Vapor Snag

Again, this can be expensive to upgrade due to Scalding Tarn and Snapcaster Mage but to begin with I’d recommend starting with Grim Lavamancer, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Spirebluff Canal and Steam Vents. The creature cards give you a lot more interactivity. Jace has the potential to flip into the Planeswalker Jace, Telepath Unbound allowing you to recast Lightning Bolts for more value. Grim Lavamancer allows you to pick off creatures or the opponent with it’s Shock ability. The lands are a good pick up too, and Scalding Tarn aren’t detrimental to the deck although they do improve your draws later on.

Blood Moon is an excellent sideboard card which punishes greedy mana bases and decks that can generate large amounts mana quick. This is something to definitely consider as sometimes Blood Moon can just be a blowout against a deck that isn’t prepared for it. On a positive note, if you choose to not run Scalding Tarn this makes Blood Moon strictly better as well.

Our last budget deck is Elves. Like Goblins, Elves is another archetype that has been around for as long as Magic: the Gathering has existed. Elves keeps to the tried and tested route of swarming the board and overwhelming the opponent. In similar vein to Merfolk in Modern, Elves has had many lords printed over the years which can lead to trouble for your opponent, including a new lord being printed in Core 19.


Elvish Clancaller is an interesting card. It gives the deck an additional push by not only offering Elves you control +1/+1, but also you can tutor for another Elvish Clancaller. It’s versatile, powerful and you are rewarded for playing more of them in the deck. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised to see Elvish Clancaller in competitive Modern Elves deck to come. Accompanying Elvish Clancaller in Core 19 is Thorn Lieutenant which could make an impression within the archetype too. Being a 2/3 for 2 is already decent, but having the bonus of making a 1/1 Elf when Thorn Lieutenant is targeted by a spell or an ability an opponent controls, means you are usually netting a 1/1 Elf against removal heavy decks. Thorn Lieutenant also has the pump ability and in Elves it’s very easy to activate every time given the amount of mana that can be generated. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thorn Lieutenant to at least creep into the sideboard of competitive decks.

Mono Green Elves (Budget – $70)

4x Llanowar Elves
4x Elvish Visionary
4x Elvish Mystic
4x Nettle Sentinel
4x Elvish Clancaller
4x Elvish Archdruid
4x Thorn Lieutenant
4x Dwynen’s Elite
2x Ezuri, Renegade Leader
3x Imperious Perfect

4x Lead the Stampede

19x Forest

1x Gut Shot
2x Shapers’ Sanctuary
2x Chameleon Colossus
3x Reclamation Sage
3x Obstinate Baloth
4x Damping Sphere

Suggested Upgrades;

4x Heritage Druid replacing 4x Thorn Lieutenant
4x Collected Company replacing 3x Imperious Perfect and 1x Forest
3x Chord of Calling replacing 3x Lead the Stampede
4x Blooming Marsh replacing 4x Forest
4x Gilt-Leaf Palace replacing 4x Forest
2x Overgrown Tomb replacing 2x Forest
4x Shaman of the Pack replacing 2x Elvish Visionary, 1x Elvish Clancaller and 1x Lead the Stampede
2x Thoughtseize replacing 2x Chameleon Colossus
2x Fatal Push replacing 2x Damping Sphere 

Heritage Druid is a fantastic accelerator in Elves and it’s what makes the deck incredibly explosive by allowing you to go wide, given the mana potential this card offers I would suggest picking these up first. After that I’d recommend looking at Chord of Calling and Collected Company as this allows you to fill you board with more Elves or find a particular Elf you need in order to win the game. These cards are the backbone of the Elf archetype in the format and will accelerate your boardstate quickly. Similar reason to why Bant Spirits plays Collected Company too, it’s just that good of a card and is incredibly reactive to most situations.

So Gilt-Leaf Palace may seem an unusual suggestion but there is logic to it. As it’s a green/black land it allows you to run Shaman of the Pack as an alternative win condition. You’re going wide with Elves already and gives additional inevitability to the deck. If you choose to pick up Gilt-Leaf Palaces I recommend running a couple of Overgrown Tomb, a Swamp and a set of Blooming Marsh to ensure you hit those black sources for Shaman of the Pack, Thoughtseize and Fatal Push. Thoughtseize (or if you want more removal, Fatal Push or Collective Brutality are also excellent) is an powerful sideboard card which enables hand disruption to take away your opponent’s best card, or giving you a clear path to victory. 

Overall there are plenty of cards you can use in Core 19 (as well as in Standard sets) to shift into Modern if you are looking to do so. It can be a little discouraging and daunting given how expensive it may seem initially. However over time you can upgrade your deck and more importantly, enjoy the format. Modern is an open format with a wide variety of cards to choose from, meaning there are always decks to be brewed. The possibilities are endless.


So, what Core 19 Cards are you excited to use in Modern? Have you created any spicy brews in Modern from the set? If so, let us know! Can comment below or get in touch on Twitter @mtgdecktechs.



Emma Partlow

Emma Partlow

Emma resides in Suffolk, England and she started playing Magic the Gathering back in 2014 when Khans of Tarkir first hit the shelves. Dabbling in Standard for a few years then timeshifted into Modern where Emma has found her Homeward Path, in addition, she has a fondness for foils and puns. You can follow her on Twitter at @emmmzyne.

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