Light Up the Stage | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak
Timeless is Magic’s newest format, and with the best decks at 30 or 40 rares/mythics, it can be an expensive format to enter! Our goal is to help you find some decks that you can use to dip your toe in and be competitive without spending all your gems and wildcards, even if a little less efficiently than the best decks.
We’ve got two approaches to this. First, we have decks that are actual budget, with a cap of five rares/mythics. The good news is that there are some! And even better, there two with all commons and uncommons! The bad news is that there aren’t many!
Second, we’ve got some decks that are upgrades on popular existing meta decks you might have from other formats on MTG Arena, like Standard, Explorer, and Historic. These decks have a larger rare and mythic wildcard base, but the assumption here is that you might find a deck you’ve invested wildcards in for those other formats and are looking for something that might be competitive if you drop a few more.
At any rate, most the decks in this ranking have five or fewer rare/mythics, and our top two are rare/mythic free for the true budget player!
Fatal Push | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Timeless is a new 60-card constructed format on Magic Arena that started in December 2023. It’s a Vintage-style format that lets you play every card on Arena, including the cards on the Historic ban list and all sorts of Alchemy and digital only cards. Some of those Historic ban list cards have never been available to play in 60-card formats on the client, having been prebanned in Historic when “printed” in the Strixhaven Mystical Archive and, with the fetch lands in Khans of Tarkir.
The format began with no ban list but with a restricted list like you see for the Power Nine in Vintage. You can only run one total copy of a restricted card in your deck and sideboard combined. Thus far, the list is:
The format is filled with some powerful decks, and I’m not sure any real budget options can compete in best of three. All these decks are best of one, which is probably the way you like to grind the ladder anyway, right?
Deadly Dispute | Illustration by Irina Nordsol
It’s hard to play 2-color decks in Timeless given the impossibility of keeping up while dropping taplands, but the cycle of check lands from Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered allows for some options. If you can open with Foreboding Ruins and another basic land in hand, you’re pretty much set for your mana for a deck like this.
The appeal of combo in a budget space is that you can use enablers like Beseech the Mirror as a cheaper way to get only one copy of the combo piece as needed, which reduces your investment in odd rares and mythics that otherwise might just be a bust. Beseech is the perfect tool for this kind of deck because it drops the target on the battlefield if under 4 mana cost, which means you can ignore some mana cost colors.
I tried a bunch of different combos, but what seemed to work best in the meta thus far is an old favorite, Song of Creation.
The classic build of this is to self-mill into Thassa's Oracle, but the double blue is tougher to deal with in budget. Instead, you’ll do a storm payoff like arguably the best deck in the format, Rakdos Breach. But again, because of your mana issues, replace the more effective Tendrils of Agony with Grapeshot.
This deck is the glassiest of cannons, and you’re even pushing to 6 rares/mythics. The trouble comes if you have Song out and draw your one Breach too quickly. And if you draw your Song, you lose. That’s why this deck is at the bottom of the list. If you have some good Rakdos duals, a Fire Prophecy suite to tuck it back in would be welcome.
I’ve won quite a bit with this deck, including a few times the turn after they drop their Primeval Titan, and you can often sneak in a win when they expend too much life with shock lands and Necropotence. But with no decent mana acceleration, you can’t really find a win before turn 5.
Lastly, I often go for the world's worst beatdown plan of an Ornithopter wielding a Bone Saw or two! It’s like meme level stuff, but I’ve managed half a dozen points of damage that way, which adds up when Grapeshot is your wincon!
Llanowar Elves | Illustration by Chris Rahn
When I got to the final build of this deck, I was shocked at how good it was compared to what I thought it would be. It feels often just a turn too slow against the good combo decks if they got their good draw, but I’ve beaten plenty of them.
Your rare here is Displacer Kitten, which goes infinite with just about everything in cEDH, and it’s especially good when paired with Teferi, Time Raveler. You need to go a bit faster with this deck, and you only have room for one more rare or mythic card under the five-card cap, so instead my goal was to make Quicksilver Lapidary work. The idea is that you can blink Lapidary and keep casting and sacrificing the Mox Opal it makes on ETB. That gains you a lot of life with Prosperous Innkeeper out, but it’s the most brutal sequence of clicking for just enough life to make it to next turn before you time out.
The better plan is to start blinking the Lapidary when you’ve got two Treasures on the battlefield, so don’t use those unless you have to! Then you can tap your Opal for mana and sac the tapped one, generating functionally infinite mana. At uncommon level, that saddles you with Volcanic Geyser as your wincon. But there’s room for one more rare, so I’m going for the classic from Khans of Tarkir that seems not to have found a home in Timeless yet: Altar of the Brood! This is good because you can tutor it up (sometimes) with a blinkable Trove Mage, and your card “draw” spells can also grab it. An opponent makes you have it if you’re Geysering. But if you have Altar down and start milling them out, they often scoop. Yeah, miserable, I know, but if you wanna spend a few more rares, Altars aren’t legendary, and you can easily get two or three down with this shell and go to town.
Tolarian Terror | Illustration by Vincent Chritiaens
How about zero rares and mythics for the true budgeteers?
It’s a few rares short of the good Dimir Control decks, but because some of the key cards like Drown in the Loch and Stern Scolding are uncommons, this deck can compete, to an extent. It’s easy to get the wrong mix of spells and fall behind against aggro decks, especially because it takes you a while to get your one threat, Tolarian Terror, onto the battlefield.
Where you shine is against combo decks which fall apart if you counter their Natural Order or Beseech the Mirror, which is why there’s the playset of An Offer You Can't Refuse, the way they do it in desperately fast cEDH games!
Ashiok, Dream Render would be a nice budget include as it shuts down fetch lands and tutors, but I prefer being lower to the ground.
Assuming you’ve played some form of powerful black deck in the last two years of Standard dominance, by all means shuffle in the good black cards, especially Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, likely replacing the Terror. There’s a fleet of good Dimir cards to add if you got ‘em, like Orcish Bowmasters, Memory Lapse, and Counterspell to improve it.
Dwynen's Elite | Illustration by Volkan Baga
My top decks are mostly mono-color, largely because of the difficulty with mana. A mono-green build seems like it should work, right? Elves, it is! This is pretty low consistency compared to elf decks with the nice rares like Allosaurus Shepherd, Elvish Warmaster, and Leaf-Crowned Visionary, but you make up for it with lots of 1-drops and speed. You pretty much need Natural Order in your opening hand for this to work, as you have zero card draw. You almost need to mulligan for one and concede if you can’t find one. I’ve won down in platinum with a Forest, Llanowar Elves, and the Order as my opener, though, so it’s possible, especially with all the 1-drops.
Of course, you just fold to Thoughtseize. But maybe you already have the good elves? If so, if this particular budget deck can win in Timeless, so can yours.
Silvergill Adept | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve
There have been good merfolk decks in most MTG formats over the years, and a lot of the good merfolk cards are uncommons. Merfolk like a strategy of tempo/control and go wide, and that’s what you’re doing here.
The focus is on a playset of Vodalian Hexcatcher as your rare, and it’s a doozy. Whether in hand with flash or on the battlefield, it can counter a lot of the key cards in the format, especially with the speed of everything inducing folks to tap out to get their combo off first when they can. Also, it comes down quite a lot as a surprise lord to buff the team, which has done serious work for me.
There are lots of other good merfolk rares to consider, but for me, the Deeproot Pilgrimage synergies with Hexcatcher are too good, so I’m using one of those (if you have four already from Standard merfolk shenanigans, replace the Deeproot Pilgrimages one for one with them to go faster). Alchemy cards Shoreline Scout and Merfolk Tunnel-Guide are pretty sweet for uncommons, and they fit the game plan, which is to get a lot of merfolk out cheap for buffing with lords and countering spells.
With explore on many of these cards, it can be worth it to mulligan to five to get a Hexcatcher in hand.
The Locust God | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
Indomitable Creativity decks are classics. There are some interesting 4- and 5-color builds in Timeless right now, and I expect those to get better as folks iterate. The typical Creativity builds put you over the five rare cap, so another option is the old Historic build, which looked for The Locust God and uncommon Sage of the Falls. It’s a win when they hit, but it requires an infinity of clicking to get the job done if your opponent doesn’t politely concede.
The bigger trouble for budget are the key power cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and the pile of rare Izzet dual lands to be able to cast the countermagic suite. What if you just made the deck mono-colored, which would have to be red, and then generate the cheapest tokens you can?
The good news is that the token makers tend to make creature tokens, so there’s a secondary win in just flooding the board. The bad news is that the deck usually likes to sacrifice artifact tokens which are harder to interact with, but creature tokens can be sniped out from under the Creativity, since sacrificing them isn’t a cost. They’re targeted. But you’re in budget land, so that’s what you gotta do! It works a reasonable amount of the time, since often opponents aren’t really bothering to hold up removal against a field of 1/1s.
Delver of Secrets | Illustration by Matt Stewart
The top two decks are mono-colored, which helps avoid wildcards for lands. I’ve been a blue tempo player from original Ixalan, and by now most folks know the drill.
The key to playing a deck like this is knowing when to load a Curious Obsession onto a flier and when to hold up the counterspell. The masterclass is Autumn Burchett’s Mythic Championship run in 2019.
You could replace it with a cleaner flier like Pteramander, but I find that games when it does flip early allow you to actually get sufficient damage in to close out the game.
Some key cards here are the unfortunate An Offer You Can't Refuse, which you never want to have to cast, but the deck needed one more 1-mana counter to make sure you can nab a Necropotence or Sneak Attack when needed.
Dragon's Rage Channeler | Illustration by Martina Fackova
Red finds its way to the top of most new formats, and because there are some really strong uncommon red 1-drops which feature even in the most wildcard-heavy decks, Monastery Swiftspear and Dragon's Rage Channeler, you’ve got a good foundation for budget red. To make this work without wildcards, I’ve built a deck that uses spells that go face as much as possible, along with card draw in and Light Up the Stage to finish the game quickly before your opponent’s card quality can turn the tide. That’s why there’s no Unholy Heat in this deck.
There are a few tricky bits here if you’re used to playing more rare-heavy red decks. The first is Cacophony Scamp, which you’re looking to buff with Monstrous Rage and Reckless Charge and then sac after combat to go face.
I’ve won with this deck at every level on the ladder, including Mythic. You’re weak to Orcish Bowmasters, but not as badly as it seems, and not that much more than other red deck builds.
There’s other budget builds of mono-red which lean into Cavalcade of Calamity, but you need to sew the game up by turn 3, 4 at the latest, and that mode seems a bit too slow. If you want to go Cavalcade, you’ll need a few more 1-drop creatures and maybe toss a few wildcards to old faithful Embercleave. If you want to stick with my build, you won’t regret spending those wildcards on a playset of Lightning Bolt as a red mage. It’s kind of the card, right?
I won’t be giving you full decklists here, as this only applies to those of you who already have a pet deck filled with the right rares and mythics, especially in the lands, that you’ve been using in Standard, Explorer, or Historic and are wondering if a few bits and bobs could be enough to make it work in Timeless. Most of these are still light years from the top of the meta, but these are generally a bit more reliable than my true budget options.
Here’s each deck and its format and what rares/mythics you should consider, again, assuming you only can invest in five or less:
- 2020 Standard Dimir Rogues. Add Memory Lapse, especially punishing when you’re milling them as you update the entire removal suite with Fatal Push and other Historic legal cards if you haven’t already tried that since this deck rotated out of Standard.
- Any Red Deck wins pile. Any Standard or Historic deck you liked to rock with your choice of rares. Old school Fervent Champion? New school Phoenix Chick? Newest school Goddric, Cloaked Reveler? Whatever works. Just throw in a playset of Lightning Bolt!
- Your Bant or Azorius or Mono-Blue Spirits deck for Explorer? You generally want to lose the Shacklegeist package and there’s too much removal for Spell Queller. I’d stick with Mono-Blue, really, with even the Curious Obsession and Geistlight Snare build, and add Memory Lapse and Counterspell. Always keep a counter up!
- Mono-Green Devotion? Most Historic lists work. Likely you won’t need to spend that many rares to get it going.
- Typal decks? Standard soldiers? Explorer humans? Goblins of some kind? The decent ones in their formats can be upgraded, usually with better removal like Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares. The one to be aware of is Historic wizards, which doesn’t work, because Timeless uses the unbuffed version of Symmetry Sage and Mentor's Guidance. There has got to be a decent shell for Flame of Anor and Snapcaster Mage in Timeless, but it needs a bit of work.
Arena Tutor Deckbuilding Tool
If you haven’t tried Arena Tutor, this is a good time to give it a go. A new meta evolves quickly, and the help here is pretty invaluable, especially for those you who are new to sideboarding after years of bo1.
Monastery Swiftspear | Illustration by Steve Argyle
Many wildcards died to bring you this information.
I had to try out a lot of weird builds to get to some decent budget options for you to hopefully save you the wildcards you need in the bank! But I kind of like the feeling of knowing you’re the underdog going up against some big ol’ meta nightmare. When you find the win, it feels so sweet, especially in a deck full of uncommons! If that’s your style, hopefully this gave you some ideas to explore.
It’s hard to compete at the top levels on the ladder in Timeless with budget decks, except maybe for Red Deck Wins, but I like to be able to dip my toes in all Arena formats when I can, and a decent budget build helps to do that.
Let us know if you have success with these or if you’ve got a sweet budget brew we missed in the comments or on Discord.
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