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Budget Magic: Can a 12 Rare Deck Win in Arena's Most Expensive Format?

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Timeless is Magic Arena's most exciting format. It's also my personal favorite format at the moment, but there's one huge problem: Timeless is also Magic Arena's most expensive format, in part because of the fetchland for shockland manabase and in part because iconic commons like Dark Ritual, Counterspell and Lightning Bolt are sadly rare on Arena. One of the most common questions I've gotten recently is how can I start playing Timeless on a budget? Well, that's the question we're trying to answer today with a Mono-Red Burn deck that costs just 12 rares to put together! Is it possible for a 12 rare deck to compete in Arena's most expensive format? Let's find out! But first, a quick reminder that if you enjoy Budget Magic and the other content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Budget Magic: 12 Rare Burn

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The Deck

We've played burn decks a few times in the past and in all honesty, pretty  much all burn decks are trying to do the same thing: chip in for early damage with aggressive creatures and then finish the game with burn spells. As such, I'm not sure it's really worth going through the deck card by card - attack often and throw Lightning Bolts are your opponent's face - it's as simple as that. Instead I want to focus on two things: first, what makes Burn unique in Timeless and second, how to upgrade the budget build of the deck.


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Timeless Burn looks a lot like Historic Burn, with a couple of key differences. First and foremost, we get to play with the best burn spell of  all time in Lightning Bolt. Second, cards like Searing Blood are actually very main-deckable in Timeless since most decks are built around efficient, cheap creatures which means in most matchups we can use it to kill something and get in three damage which is an absurdly good deal. 

Perhaps more important is that Timeless is an inherently good format for burn because of how manabases are constructed: many of the best decks in Timeless over not just overloaded on fetchlands and shocklands, but also need their lands to come into play untapped early to curve out. Add this together and its pretty common for decks to deal at least 5 and not infrequently closer to 10 damage from its own manabse. What this means for us if we don't need to find 20 points of burn, most of the time we only need to find 10 or 15 to close out the game. 

There is bad news though: there are some semi-popular, main deck lifegain cards in the format like Deathrite Shaman, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Various Sultai or Bant piles that put all these cards together are our toughest matchups. If you think about our deck the average card deal roughly three damage which means every time our opponent gains three life from an Uro or Oko Food tokens we're essentially getting Time Walked, needing an extra turn to actually finish the game. All this to say, while you might be tempted to cut Roiling Vortex from our sideboard as a way to reduce the cost of the deck even further, don't. If you are playing best of three having a way to fight against lifegain is essential, to the point where we're willing to spend 1/3 of our budget on a sideboard card that we don't even use in most matchups. It's that important.

Upgrading the Deck

All in all we went 3-2 with our budget Burn build and overall I've played a bunch more games with the deck and have been winning just over 50% of the time, which is what you want from a budget deck. Anything over 50% will slowly rank you up, earn your dailies and eventually let you upgrade the deck. While the current build of the deck is solid, one of the things I like about it is it's very easy (although somewhat expensive) to upgrade into either Rakdos or Boros Burn. I wouldn't be surprised if when things settle down in the Timeless meta at least one of these decks end up top tier. Burn has a long track record of success in Modern and many of the factors that make Burn good there apply to Timeless as well (especially players taking a lot of damage from their lands).

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The primary goal of upgrading the deck it to get access to Lurrus of the Dream-Den, which is essentially a free-roll in our deck since our mana values are so low. The late-game power that Lurrus offers is huge in our deck, not only giving us a way to get back any of our creatures that happen to die, but also letting us loop Mishra's Bauble to draw an extra card every turn. For the cost of a single sideboard slot Lurrus is a game changer for the deck.

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You might be thinking, well, what's the big deal, Lurrus is just a single rare, just add it to the deck! If only things were this simple. The real cost of adding Lurrus to our deck isn't Lurrus itself, but that we need to add somewhere around 16 rare lands to the deck (fetches and shocks, primarily) to actually cast Lurrus. As a result just adding Lurrus actually more than doubles the rare count of the deck.

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Beyond Lurrus splashing into black or white offers a few additional burn options. Going Rakdos gives us a Lava Spike in Bump in the Night and one of the strongest card in the entire Timeless format in Orcish Bowmasters

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Meanwhile, going Boros gives us Lightning Helix, which might be the second best burn spell in the list behind Lightning Bolt and a bunch of good sideboard options like Deflecting Palm, Rest in Peace, Fragment Reality and more.

It's also possible to go full on Mardu Burn and play everything. The mana in Timeless is more than good enough to make it work. Which build in specific is best I'm not sure yet, although I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find that some sort of Lurrus Mishra's Bauble burn deck was at least tier two in Timeless and maybe even tier one. All this to say, if you decide to put together the budget Mono-Red Burn list from today's video there is a pretty easy and clear (although not exactly cheap, because of the manabase) upgrade path into an even better deck. Basically, you get a solid budget deck now and eventually a potential tier deck later. Not bad for just 12 rares!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at

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