If you’re an aficionado of the Modern format, this article probably isn’t for you. If you were a little peeved that the newly spoiled Modern Event Deck didn’t contain any fetches or shocks, well, this might not be your favorite article either. If you’re rolling in cash (or an inordinately large collection of cardboard), and you’re the type that refuses to show up to a gunfight with a knife, get on with your life and spend whatever time you would’ve spent reading this looking up the tier one decks of the format. However, if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines while your buddies are cracking their fetches for shocks, and felt the tiniest tinge of longing to be able to try your hand at the format, read on. If you’re a Standard player or even a drafter who has some of the cards from recent sets but wanted to give Modern a shot during the upcoming PTQ season, this is for you. If you aren’t Scrooge McDuck and can’t just drop $500+ (and that’s a lowball number) on a deck but have been dying to show the guy with the ‘goyfs and/or Bobs who’s boss, well, I might have something for you, here. This past week, Wizards dropped the Event Deck list heard-’round-the-world and there was a lot of outcry, mostly from the people who I described in the first three sentences of this article, myself included. (Though my reason for outcry was different than most people. I wasn’t hoping to pilfer preconstructed decks that were meant for new players so that I can get expensive cards. I just wanted to see more supply of the expensive cards injected into the market to reduce their value so that the format would be more accessible for others to get into, even if it meant the value of my collection takes a little hit. At the end of the day, I just want to play more Magic and have more fun. Ok, that’s the end of that digression.)

All that said, what is the purpose of this article? I want to take the out-of-the-box precon and show a clear pathway for the people that this deck was meant for—players with little to no experience in the Modern format that want to get their foot in the door—to turn this into a tier 1.5 list that can have respectable FNM showings, and with a little luck, maybe even deliver a strong performance at a PTQ. Disclaimer: I am not providing a primer for how to play the deck, but rather a reasonable guideline to transform the out-of-the-box list into a list that can put up respectable results with a fixed budget. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to demonstrate that we can turn this into a competitive deck on $30 per week (using TCG Player mid prices), but you can adjust your pace accordingly if that’s above or below your budget. Another disclaimer I should point out: these are the prices as of 5/14/2014; as we get closer to Modern season, it wouldn’t be surprising if certain staples, such as [casthaven]Marsh Flats[/casthaven] (since nobody bothered to reprint any of those), experience a price increase. I guess for starters, let’s have a look at what $75 gets us:

March of the Multitudes

Planeswalkers (1)
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Dudes (5)
Soul Warden
Tidehollow Sculler

Spells (30)
Honor of the Pure
Inquisition of Kozilek
Intangible Virtue
Lingering Souls
Path to Exile
Raise the Alarm
Shrine of Loyal Legions
Spectral Procession
Sword of Feast and Famine
Zealous Persecution
Lands (24)
Caves of Koilos
City of Brass
Isolated Chapel
Vault of the Archangel
Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Ghost Quarter
Kataki, War’s Wage
Relic of Progenitus
What should our finished product look like? There are several ways to build the deck. I’ve seen some lists that like Hero of Bladeholds, and some of the newer ones prefer Brimaz as our 3/4 token-producer, with the Lion King being a whole mana cheaper (keep in mind, though, this is an Abrupt Decay format). Some versions like [casthaven]Auriok Champion[/casthaven] somewhere in the 75, whether it be in the main or the board; the pro-red makes it hard for aggro decks to race, and if you can land a pair, you’ve locked Twin out of their combo (save for an end step [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven] to bounce). Some versions have further embraced [casthaven]Auriok Champion[/casthaven], and hybridized this archetype with Soul Sisters, playing [casthaven]Squadron Hawks[/casthaven] to go with the token makers. If you want a variety of lists to choose from, try looking here (you can also try searching on Raise the Alarm since there are a few odd versions that leave out Intangible Virtue, but I don’t know why you’d want to do a thing like that in a archetype that has “tokens” as part of its name).
Here’s what we’re missing, if we want to use the exact list that I posted, above, along with their dollar values:

1 [casthaven]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/casthaven] 22.90

1 [casthaven]Inquisition of Kozilek[/casthaven] 7.33
1 [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven] 6.88
4 [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven] 17.15 x 4 = 68.60
1 [casthaven]Zealous Persecution[/casthaven] .81
1 [casthaven]Ajani Goldmane[/casthaven] 8.79

1 [casthaven]Fetid Heath[/casthaven] 19.99
4 [casthaven]Godless Shrine[/casthaven] 10.90 x 4 = 43.60
4 [casthaven]Marsh Flats[/casthaven] 43.72 x 4 = 174.88
1 [casthaven]Duress[/casthaven] .13
2 [casthaven]Ghostly Prison[/casthaven] 7.20 x 2 =14.40
2 [casthaven]Rest in Peace[/casthaven] 1.25 x 2 =2.50
2 [casthaven]Stony Silence[/casthaven] 1.49 x 2 =2.98
2 [casthaven]Sundering Growth[/casthaven] x 2 =.32
3 [casthaven]Timely Reinforcements[/casthaven] .50 x 3 =1.50

For those too lazy to do all those maths, it totals out to $375.61. Add your initial investment of $75, and you’re looking just north of $450. I realize that doesn’t sound as attractive when we consider that we’re getting close to the level of some of the tier one decks of the format, but many of those decks would be FAR less functional (if functional, at all) in a stripped down $75 version that we can upgrade at our leisure. Also, I’m going to do some slashing, here, and show you some easy ways we can lower the price tag. You don’t really need the fetches. They’re nice to have, but it’s not incredibly urgent for a two-color deck that is already running eight duals (twelve if we decide to keep the Caves, which I recommend that we do). Oh, speaking of 8-12 duals, we’re also cutting [casthaven]Fetid Heath[/casthaven], because nothing really needs double black (unless we need to cast [casthaven]Dismember[/casthaven] the old-fashioned way); that’s another unnecessary $20. And just like that, we’ve saved nearly $200! Our total price, including the cost of the Event Deck, is now down to $255.74 ($180.74 in upgrades). If we stick to our $30 per week budget, that actually gets us where we want to be in six weeks, at which  point, we might have accrued enough experience with the deck to feel comfortable piloting it against the best decks in the format. There are also some easy tweaks that save a few bucks, in that some of the cards that come in the box serve similar roles to some of the cards that we need, and you aren’t sacrificing much, if anything, by using the Event Deck cards; I’m referring to $5.48 in [casthaven]Rest in Peace[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Stony Silence[/casthaven], which serve the same roles as [casthaven]Relic of Progenitus[/casthaven] and Kataki, respectively. If nothing else, you can save those minute upgrades for last.

But wait, it gets better! What if you’ve been drafting a lot of Theros block over the last few months? There’s a good chance that we might have our [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven]s and a Brimaz, already. That saves us up to $91.50, if we have all of those cards, which brings the total cost down to a very reasonable $164.24 ($89.24 in upgrades). If you want to stick to the six week plan, you could do it on a weekly budget of a mere $15! Or if you’d rather stay with the $30 per week budget, you could have the deck in a pretty good place after three weeks. And what if you’re a Standard player, about to make the leap into Modern? That probably means you have much of the required Return to Ravnica block cards, namely, [casthaven]Godless Shrine[/casthaven] (along with a few others). We now only need to invest $39.84 in upgrades. At this point, you could probably even start thinking about those fetches, depending on how much of the deck you already had lying around in your collection. I know I said we didn’t need them, but they don’t hurt (well, they do literally hurt you by one life point each), and you can use them in future decks.

I still also haven’t addressed scavenging what comes in the box that we don’t need. There are two somewhat big-ticket items in the Event Deck, Elspeth and the Sword, that weigh in at $17.99 and $25.20, respectively. I don’t expect either of those prices to hold, but you should at least be able to pick up $30-35 worth of value for them, via trade. I would trade them as quickly as possible, after opening the deck (try to get the Ajani, since we’re cutting one four-mana ‘walker for another). [casthaven]Honor of the Pure[/casthaven] is also worth about $2, so we can use those to pick up some small odds and ends (at the same time, I might suggest keeping one or two for a bit; it’s not a terrible choice, but we don’t need four). [casthaven]Windbrisk Heights[/casthaven] range from $6.50-7.50 depending on the version, and we will have two extras (though our version will probably be worth around $5, at best, but it never hurts to have an extra $10 in trade value). [casthaven]City of Brass[/casthaven] is also good for $4. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to expect to be able to get around $50 in trade value, so that should help immensely with the first round of upgrades.

If you’ve been curious about the Modern format, hopefully this article helped give you a plan for how to take this $75 event deck and quickly turn it into a deck that you can feel confident taking into battle in a relatively short period of time.