Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Inexpensive MTG Cards
In Magic: The Gathering, players tend to gravitate towards flashy planeswalkers and legendary creatures, but even non-legendary spells often serve as viable competitive options. Even better, they tend to leave your wallet much more full, and smart shoppers often spend less than five dollars per individual card.
Single booster packs usually cost around four dollars, containing fifteen cards, but these are of course randomized, meaning the only way to guarantee a specific item is to singularly purchase it. So, what are some of the best steals?
Here are ten awesome Magic cards (and where to get them) that will fit both your deck and your budget!
- Harvester of Souls
- Lightning Bolt
- Frontier Siege
- Worn Powerstone
- Gift of Immortality
- Llanowar Elves
- Burnished Hart
- Etali, Primal Storm
- Swords to Plowshares
10. Harvester of Souls
Black-coated Harvester of Souls demands six mana, two of which must stem from Swamps, to play but arrives as a 5/5 (five power and five toughness) with deathtouch, allowing it to kill any creature it fights regardless of their toughness value. Even better, its ability lets you draw whenever a nontoken creature dies—yours or your opponents.
Harvester has served my black decks well as a draw engine, especially since it's not legendary (meaning you can have multiple fielded at once) and doesn't come with any drawbacks typical of the demon type. Grab yours here for prices as low as a dollar!
9. Lightning Bolt
Arguably red's most infamous and best card, Lightning Bolt needs only a single mana (Mountain lands produce red) to unleash its power: you simply deal three damage to either a creature or your opponent. Many creatures up to four mana can't withstand three damage, meaning you're often taking out higher-cost cards with a very low-cost instant that can be played in any phase. The ability to finish off a weakened opponent instead of attacking a creature only sweetens the pot.
What else can I say? This is a no-brainer for almost any red deck I make and is simply one of the best removals in the game. Red excels at direct damage, and this card superbly shows it, yet despite being a famed crimson staple, you can still usually order it (with free shipping) for less than $5.
8. Frontier Siege
A four-mana enchantment that only needs a single green mana (use a Forest land), Frontier Siege gives a choice between a "Khans" or "Dragons" option. Most times, Khans proves more useful as it gives two extra green mana in each of your main phases! Remember, players get two main phases per turn, meaning Siege can give a whopping four extra resources every turn. The Dragons option lets you have a creature with flying fight another creature when it enters the field, but green doesn't have many air-based warriors, and Khans is simply more helpful anyway.
A handy enchantment for any green build, Frontier Siege has especially aided my Omnath, Locus of Mana commander decks since he can retain mana even as phases and turns end. You can often grab one for less than a buck!
7. Worn Powerstone
Worn Powerstone is a colorless artifact, meaning any deck's mana can wield it, and it taps to provide two colorless mana. That said, it'll enter the battlefield tapped, so you'll usually have to wait a turn to unleash its effect. However, savvy players might note Powerstone's inferiority to Sol Ring, which does the same thing but costs less mana and doesn't enter tapped. A good point, but note that Sol Ring is often banned in several formats—and grabbing one can cost over a hundred dollars.
Thus, I often use the more-legal and cheaper Powerstone to offer non-green builds a healthy dose of mana ramp, letting them play their biggest spells far sooner than they normally could. You can often grab thePowerstone for less than five dollars.
A blue entry (Islands are the lands for you), the aptly-named Counterspell is perhaps the simplest counter in the game. Whenever an opponent casts any spell, for just two mana, this instant-speed card will negate that spell, essentially preventing it from ever activating regardless of how much mana was spent to play it. You're down two mana, but your opponent may be down four or more.
Like Worn Powerstone, Counterspell has a "better" version called Mana Drain, where you get to add the countered spell's mana to your own pool the next turn, but that card is usually banned and often costs more than $50. No, to keep things both fair and affordable, I recommend Counterspell's simple yet effective negation powers, especially since you can pick one up yourself for under three dollars!
5. Gift of Immortality
Plains-employing white excels with buffing its creatures, and this awesome aura enchantment shows a prime example. For three mana, you attach it to a creature of your choice; when that creature dies, you return it to the battlefield under its owner's control. However, that's not all—you also get to reattach Immortality to it at the next end step, meaning as long as your creature can survive until then, it'll soon have yet another endless-revival cycle ready.
Whenever I'm building a deck that uses white as a color and brandishes some hefty creatures, I'll consider Immortality as it's a surprisingly affordable (both in terms of mana and price) defensive tactic. You can usually find it for around $3.
4. Llanowar Elves
Green's the king of mana ramp, and Llanowar Elves helps prove why. For a single mana, Llanowar can tap to give a green mana on subsequent turns. Additionally, it bears the valuable elf type to boost the power of elf-dependent effects, another green specialty.
If I'm using Forests, you can almost guarantee Llanowar is in there to help me seize an early mana lead. But despite being one of green's most popular cards, players can buy Llanowar for less than a dollar.
3. Burnished Hart
This particular artwork of our classic elk applies a Xerneas (from Pokemon) aesthetic to Hart, but the effects and power/toughness remain the same either way. Burnished Hart offers another excellent non-green mana ramp to all decks. It's first cast for three mana, but requires another three to activate its effect. Although this means you end up spending a hefty six resources, the ability to split the cost between two turns lets you play it fairly early.
Hart's effect lets you sacrifice it to search your library for two basic lands and place them onto the battlefield tapped. Since players can only naturally play one land from their hand a turn, getting a bonus two will dramatically hasten their spellcasting. Burnished Hart fits into a great many of my decks, especially where I employ cards to revive creatures from the graveyard, allowing me to once again activate Hart's effect. Try it for yourself for around one dollar!
2. Etali, Primal Storm
This monster of a card proves creatures don't have to be low cost or nonlegendary to be inexpensive. One of the dinosaur clan's best carnivores, Etali requires a hefty six mana but arrives as an intimidating 6/6. Even better, whenever Etali attacks, you exile the top card of each player's deck and can cast nonland cards revealed—for free! This amazing, reusable effect will field your opponent's cards as well as yours, turning their own arsenal against them.
Be sure to give Etali haste (red excels with this) to let it attack the turn it arrives. I'm also fond of comboing it with other dinosaur-powered abilities, but even on its own, Etali is about $5 and always catches my eye when constructing any red deck.
1. Swords to Plowshares
Arguably the best removal in the entire game, Swords to Plowshares costs only one mana and activates at instant speed. You target and exile any creature, and that creature's controller gains life equal to its power. Sure, this means your opponent will regain a bit of health when you remove their unit, but that's a small price for denying them one of their best soldiers. Plus, since the creature is exiled, your adversary will be unable to revive them from the graveyard.
An easy choice for any white deck, you can even banish your own creature if you're desperately hurting for health. I highly recommend Swords to Plowshares for both its incredible competitive prowess and its surprisingly low cost, ranging around $3.
Future of Magic
Given the natural fluctuations of any economic market, I can't promise these cards will always remain cheap—but hey, that's more incentive to grab them while they're inexpensive. Although trading card games often burn a hole into your wallet, crafty players can still construct worthy decks by shopping for the right cards. You can also invest in the pauper format, where players build 60 card decks using spells of common rarity (as opposed to uncommon and rare) to keep prices even lower.
But for now, as we eagerly await Magic's next expansion, vote for your favorite diamond in the rough, and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 31, 2020:
It might not be top-tier, but it sounds like the makings of a solid draw-focused deck.
Rex H on March 31, 2020:
If I built a deck using Fate Unraveler + Helm of the Ghastlord, Psychosis Crawler + Curiosity, and Dictate of Kruphix, how well do you think that would work? I haven’t built it yet, but it looks like a perfect budget deck.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 20, 2020:
Yes and definitely! If opponents don't already have a removal for Unraveler in hand, that could easily be game. If I'm not mistaken, they could still cast the card before having to discard it's an instant, but that's a small loophole in a brutal net.
Rex H on January 20, 2020:
Does Fate Unraveler combo with Helm of the Ghastlord? If so, it would cause your opponents to discard every time they draw. Would you consider that to be a powerful combo?
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on November 22, 2019:
Unraveler's a good card; nice effect, decent stats (3/4), and enchantment synergy. You'll find similar draw-damage effects on "Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted", "Nekusar, the Mindrazer", and (my personal favorite) "Underworld Dreams".
Rex H on November 21, 2019:
Speaking of inexpensive, I enjoy the card Fate Unraveler. It slowly saps your opponents’ life and punishes those who use draw engines. How would you rate it? Do you know any better cards that drain life in a similar fashion? I love cards that allow you to sit back and watch your opponents grow weaker and weaker.