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Gaming hobbies can get quite expensive, and card games will definitely rack up a lot of dollars quickly if you are not careful. Collecting a ton of cards is part of the experience, but I personally pride myself on being a “budget player” in Magic: The Gathering (MTG). I started off as a budget player in my early stages of MTG, beginning with just a humble starter deck. From there, I had to work my way up toward more expensive and better cards to improve my various decks. I could have just sunk a large amount of money right off the bat, but I instead opted for a slower and meticulous grind to expand my card collection.

Basically, I do not want to invest a small fortune just to play one of my favorite hobbies. To this day, I still practice frugal habits to keep my wallet from being empty while still keeping up with the cards I need. Below are five tips to be a competent budget player from my experience:

I love opening booster packs just to see what is inside, but I do not buy many packs that often. Buying a lot of packs gets really expensive. 

1) Avoid Buying Too Many Individual Booster Packs
This sounds strange at face value, but keep this in mind about any booster pack you may buy. It is gambling. Without some kind of superpower to see a booster pack’s contents, you never quite know what cards you will pull. There may be good cards, and you may get real lucky and pull an extremely rare card here and there. But ultimately, it is all random. Expect more “dud” packs than awesome ones, statistically speaking.

This randomness is further emphasized when you decide to buy a case of cards or more. On one hand, you are getting way more booster packs as a whole. But again, it is gambling. For every good pack you happen to open, will the rest of the packs make up for the total in value? Maybe. Maybe not. I am not a gambler, so I do not really buy cases of cards very often.

Declaration in Stone

In most cases, you will save more time and money just buying/trading for the specific cards you are seeking.

2) Buy Specific Singles
As opposed to buying booster packs in bulk and hoping you get the cards you need, consider just buying the single cards you want instead. It sounds like a no-brainer, but I have seen many other players buy a lot of booster pack boxes. Sure, they get the cards they may need, but they are left with an excess amount of extra cards they will never use. I just think it is kind of wasteful. Plus, those other cards just end up stored away in a box, never to see daylight again.

If you really need specific cards for decks, just look into buying the singles for much cheaper. Especially when it comes to common and uncommon cards, any decent store should sell them for less than the price of a booster pack.

3) Find the Right Local/Online Store
Every store is different, so finding the appropriate store where you are comfortable buying your cards from is important. Some stores offer great deals, and some can be a bit overpriced. You need to shop around and compare. Personally, I prefer buying cards at a local store to help out a nearby business, but I am more than willing to shop online in a pinch. I like to shop at sites like TCGplayer.com.

4) Trade Often
Trading your cards is one of the most interesting aspects of any card game. You acquire so many different cards the more you play, and some of which you will never use in a deck for whatever reason. So with this in mind, it makes sense to trade to whomever who will take your cards and get something meaningful back in return. When you trade properly, you save a lot of money by getting the cards you need with the value of cards you already own.

Trade often, trade aggressively and trade intelligently.

Anguished Unmaking Promo

Winning definitely rewards you with great value when you want to be a budget player, especially when you net cool prizes such as promo cards.

5) Place Well in Tournaments
Finally, as your deck and individual skills as a player improve, competing in tournaments is a logical decision in the hunt for more cards on a budget. If you manage to place well in any tournament, preferably in the top three, then many shops usually offer appropriate prize support to match your results. This prize support can often be a bunch of booster packs, which of course contain more cards you can add to your collection.

Obviously, the better you do, the more prize support you should receive for your efforts. Of course, prize support varies from shop to shop, so be sure to find the right store with the right amount of payout for finishing in a high spot. As a general rule of thumb, the prize support will most likely be linked to how many players are participating and how much (if there is any entry fee) you have to pay to play in the tournament. Regardless, winning a lot definitely makes raking in any potential prize that much easier.

So if you want to save some cash and still enjoy MTG as a hobby, just realize there is no shame in being a budget player. The way I see it, I am paying just enough to get everything I need to build a competent, competitive deck that can take on other people’s decks. Plus, I am doing it at the fraction of the cost compared to others.

You cannot buy skill, after all.

Magic: The Gathering card images belong to Wizards of the Coast.

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