The idea

A few weeks ago, fellow Portland Magic player Alex Cahill came up with an interesting idea for a new format to encourage deck brewing: $8 Modern. He pinged a bunch of us on Twitter, and we found a time for eight of us to get together and try it out.

The Rules

  • Create a complete, Modern-legal deck (sideboard optional) where the total cost of everything except basic land is $8 or less.
  • For a deck to be legal, you must be able to fill a shopping cart on TCG Player for all non-basic lands in your deck, and have the total be $8.00 or less, ignoring shipping.
    • You don’t actually have to make the purchase, just verify you could have bought these cards for $8 or less. You will likely generate an invalid order due to having less than $1 in cards from a given vendor, but that’s not a problem for this purpose.
    • I documented legality by printing my shopping cart into a PDF. (Not that any of us really cared enough to check.)

Needless to say, this is a significant constraint. It’s not quite Pauper, as there are a lot of cheap rares, and some commons can get quite pricey. There’s a few existing archetypes that come quickly to mind (Zombie Hunt, anyone?), but this is mostly a brand new meta.

My approach

My experience deciding on a deck came down to panic. I’m not the greatest deck builder on the planet to be sure, so coming up with an idea was a struggle. I only came back to the game when Born of the Gods was current, so I don’t have direct experience with 95% of the Modern-legal card base. This led me to think I needed a model to work from.

A few months ago, a Reddit user posted a series of articles with budget Modern decks. These tended to be around $30 each. Obviously out of budget, but some of the shells had the opportunity to exchange down and cut the costs. I’d collected these decks in Deckbox when they were posted, so I browsed around looking for a shell that might work. I finally settled on a R/W Heroic build. The posted list priced out (on Deckbox) at about $19.50, but over $13 of that was in a playset of Lightning Helix. I’d played the All-in Soldiers deck at the end of RTR/THS Standard, and U/W Heroic was the THS/KTK Standard deck I had the most success with, so this seemed like a good place to start. It was at least a comfortable play style and thought process.

I didn’t like the low number of creatures in the posted main deck, so I swapped out the Lightning Helices for Lagonna-Band Trailblazers. Yes, the deck got less aggressive, but I really prefer having 16 creatures in a Heroic deck vs. the 12 in the posted shell. Plus, I was expecting a fair bit of aggro, and the Trailblazer is great against those decks. I was looking for sideboard ideas, so after a little twitter chatter, decided on trying to handle burn, aggro, control, and combo. Given I was in White, that helped for more all-inclusive answers as White has the best sideboard cards. Of course, all the actually GOOD sideboard cards are too expensive, so I had to settle a bit.

Turns out none of us really had any idea what the others were doing, so we had no real clue how to plan. As a result, many of us just built aggro decks. Being proactive is usually a safe approach in an unknown meta. Some of us also went combo, as there’s no end of cheap, modern-legal bad combos in the game, and disruption was likely to be minimal.

My list

Here’s the list I took to the first-ever 8 Dollar Modern Magic Event:

Akroan Hoplite4.44Aegis of the Gods21.30
Favored Hoplite4.96Setessan Battle Priest3.06
Lagonna-Band Trailblazer4.20Tethmos High Priest3.06
Phalanx Leader4.68Condemn2.28
Ajani's Presence4.40Disenchant3.27
Blades of Velis Vel4.08Fireball2.15
Emerge Unscathed4.72
Gods Willing4.20
Launch the Fleet2.89
Evolving Wilds2.09
Plains10Total Cost$7.64

Would I take this deck again? Likely not. It could have been powerful, as Heroic decks can be, but it did seem a bit outclassed by what other people were doing.

The event

We all got together this past Monday at the (fantastic!) N.W.I.P.A. bar in Southeast Portland. After some initial chit chat (and introductions in some cases), games started happening. As I sort of expected going in, the games didn’t take long. Combo kills came out of nowhere, and some people’s decks (mine!) didn’t always behave. But fun was had by all.

I think we had originally intended to run a sort of loose Swiss format, but as things were so informal, we sort of devolved into “play someone who’s looking for a game.” As a result, I didn’t get to play against half the group, but got to see a lot of crazy stuff going on. I don’t know if we had an actual winner, or if anyone was even keeping track, but I know I went 1-3 in my four matches. I played Jesse (twice), Alex, and (I think) Jason. Some of us started bailing around 9:30, so I’m not sure how long things actually went, but people were really enjoying seeing what everyone else came up with.

The most important part of the evening? Everyone had fun.

The Lists

I’m putting the deck lists I have (six of them) into a separate post.

The Aftermath

So, now that we’ve done it, what do I think?

First, the anticipation in seeing what everyone else came up with was amazing. We really had zero clues, and it was so much fun showing up to an informal event with NO idea what anyone else was going to do. Having nothing on the line except a few hours time helped, of course, as there wasn’t any possible tension around winning. I’d certainly do this again, and in fact I’d consider keeping a library of 8 or so decks on hand at home for an evening of entertainment. I’d end up paying more for the sleeves than the decks themselves.

What do I think the future is here?

Well, we’re certainly going to do this again at some point. Someone on twitter mentioned that this format (should it ever take off) is self-regulating: once a card becomes too popular, the price goes up and the card prices itself out of the format. This has the side effect of decks possibly becoming illegal after the fact, though I’m sure we could grandfather something in where “once legal, always legal up to a certain point.” All that remains to be seen.

All I know is I had fun (the company, the beer, and the music helped to be sure), and I’d would always try to fit another evening of this into my schedule. I’ve realized I’m a “casually competitive” player (I like competing, but I’m not a spike), so this sort of thing is perfect for me.

All I can say is, if you’re looking for something new, or you want to give some purpose to those bulk cards you’ve got laying around, give $8 Modern a try!