The 2020 Magic Budget Project

As Magic has scaled up its release schedule, I’ve been scaling back the amount of new decks and cards I’m willing to invest in. Even for players like me, who don’t touch tabletop Standard, it’s been tough to keep up with the series of new releases, meta rotations, and formats that Wizards of the Coast is pumping out.

So, in 2020, I’m doing something I’ve hinted at here before, but never strictly stuck to: I’m keeping a Magic budget. And as I’m the type of nerd who plays Magic, there are rules attached.

In 2020, I’m planning to spend money ONLY on cards that slot into existing decks (or cubes) that I own and play consistently. I’m lucky to have access to local game stores that support nearly every format, so I plan to play the following decks regularly:

Trimming to just this list of decks will leave a good number of my existing Modern and Commander decks update-less in 2020, and it will land a lot of “yet to be built” decks squarely in the ReCycling Bin. But I want to streamline my Magic budget as much as possible in 2020, while leaving myself open to playing most any supported format. Cutting to just five decks (and a very cheap cube) seems the best way to do that.

So How Much Do I Want to Spend in 2020?

Now that I’ve solidified where I want to spend my money, it’s time to figure out how much I want to spend. I don’t expect to play “competitive” Magic without buying new cards (or paying tournament entry fees), and I fully expect to want to fire off a draft or two throughout the year as well. So what’s a good number to use as a Magic budget benchmark?

I figure $30 a month, which is roughly the amount of money I spend on new comic books each month, should be more than enough money. And if it’s not, then it’s probably time to investigate what additional decks I can cut from my “to update” list.

Now, this doesn’t mean I have to spend only $30 in a month. If I come in lower than my budget for a few months, maybe I’ll be able to string together some of that extra cash and finally purchase the Liliana of the Veil that I’ve had my eye on for a couple years. But by year’s end, I need to have spent $360 or less on Magic – or else my experiment will have failed.

Extreme Reaction? Maybe. Good Experiment? I Think So.

If this seems like an extreme reaction to the recent rush of Magic releases … well, you’re not alone in thinking so. When I ran this idea, and the impetus behind it, past my friend Trevor, he told me I was expecting too much if I expected to not have to buy new Magic cards for “competitive” play. Every hobby has upkeep costs, said Trevor, and he’s absolutely right.

But not every hobby has the same amount of mental and financial upkeep costs as Magic does, and I think Wizards of the Coast has been stretching players’ bandwidth pretty thin over the last couple years. Commander Legends tells me that Wizards is ready to start Modern Horizons-ing every format – and Modern Horizons broke multiple metas, as well as some players’ wallets. If we’re set for more such releases going forward, then it’s time to figure out how to make “competitive” Magic work on my budget. And it’s probably time to start paying attention to what I’m buying.

So consider this an exercise, or an experiment, rather than an extreme reaction. I want to know how far $360 can take me in Magic next year, and whether it’s a comfortable budget for someone looking to play just one or two (already constructed) decks in each of Magic‘s most popular formats.

Personally, I hope I come in way under budget, and that I can start thinking about updating or adding new decks to my collection in 2021. But whatever happens, I plan to check in with an update here near the end of each quarter, to let you know how the 2020 Magic Budget Project progresses.

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