By Tyson Leonard

Editor’s Note: Meet Tyson Leonard, our third contributor to the new, rotating Scrub Report! Tyson’s articles will appear over the next four Fridays, as he details the highs and lows of being new to MTG. If you’d like to write for The Scrub Report, send an email to [email protected]

Read Tyson’s First Report, Tyson’s Second Report, and Tyson’s Third Report here!

My favorite games of Magic are the ones that are decided at the last possible moment. The tempo goes back and forth, with one great play folding to another, but ultimately one person has to win. No matter how fun the game, most Magic players would agree they would rather be the winner.

To make sure you’re winning, you not only need to be good at Magic, you also need to play a good deck. Although there is no ‘best deck’, there are definitely tier one decks, decks that are definitively better than the majority of others.

These decks come at a price though. By price, I mean the actual price of the deck. It’s frustrating, but to win at Magic, you’re going to have to pay. The more serious you get, the more you pay. What I mean by ‘getting serious’, is aiming to win in a competitive environment. Whether it’s at FNM, a GP, or a PTQ, it means putting up some decent results.

My drive to win first sparked a few months ago. I realized that this amazingly fun hobby could also be an outlet for my competitive side. I started to go to every FNM I could, and play in all the local PTQ’s. I had no aspirations to place in the money, I just wanted to win more than I lost. Then I heard about the upcoming GP Vancouver, and immediately set my sights on it.

Image via MTG's official site,

Image via MTG’s official site,

Unfortunately for me, GP Vancouver was going to be Modern. I had not played a single game of Modern before, and consequently did not have a deck. I only had about three weeks to put one together. Learning how to actually play the deck? I didn’t think I’d have enough time.

I asked around the store and the consensus seemed to be that Burn would be my best choice. I was told it was relatively easy to learn, and relatively cheap to build. I did some research, and compiled a rough list. Card by card I looked up the prices, and wrote down the total. I then proceeded to stare at it in disbelief for a couple of minutes. Apparently I didn’t realize that ‘relatively cheap’ for the Modern format, was still really expensive.
Just like in all things, cheap can have a totally different meaning to different people. I realize that I am privileged just to be able to buy Magic cards. The fact that I aim to buy tier one decks means I am even more privileged. I do play with a budget though. As a recent graduate working for close to minimum wage I am by no means rolling in it.

Goblin Guide

“My second thought was ‘Goblin Guides arent even that good anyways’. I was wrong.”

The first thought I had when staring down the total of the Burn deck was defeat. I wouldn’t have the time to save that kind of money. My second thought was ‘[casthaven]Goblin Guide[/casthaven]s arent even that good anyways’. I was wrong. A Burn deck without [casthaven]Goblin Guide[/casthaven]s isn’t a tier one deck anymore. I wasn’t defeated for long though. I frantically dug through my trade binder looking for anything worth more than a dollar.

At the next FNM I was a man on a mission. I traded some bulk for a fetchland, which was then traded for a bunch of the cheaper cards for the deck, [casthaven]Skullcrack[/casthaven], [casthaven]Shard Volley[/casthaven], and some others. I even traded away some of my promos to a collector, getting a set of foil [casthaven]Lightning Bolt[/casthaven]s in return. I had opened a Foil Fetchland at the previous pre-release, which was promptly traded for two non-foil fetches I could use in the deck.

"The trading frenzy continued at the next FNM"

“The trading frenzy continued at the next FNM”

The trading frenzy continued at the next FNM. After the dust settled I was still missing about 16 cards worth under $5.00 each, and the four pesky [casthaven]Goblin Guide[/casthaven]s. I had yet to spend even a dollar though.

After trading came borrowing. Luckily this was the easiest step. A friend I was going to the GP with had most of a similar burn list put together. I was able to borrow everything else I needed except for the Guides. No one I knew seemed to have any.

With the GP only a week away it was time to fork over the money and buy the Guides. They would be the last Magic cards I bought for quite a while. I got one solid day of playtesting in, against a plethora of other decks. I tweaked my list a bit, even finding a pair of Kor Firewalkers and a Bloodmoon for the sideboard. I was finally ready for the GP.

After the trials and tribulations of putting the deck together, GP Vancouver was a breeze. I did better than I had hoped for, making it to the seventh round of the main event before I lost my third game. I ended up selling most of what I won, and almost made my money back for the weekend.

To this day I’m still borrowing quite a few cards in ‘my’ Burn deck. But it’s good to know that with a lot of determination, and a little bit of money I can whip up a competitive deck when I need to.

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