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The $30 Challenge

By: Juan Miguel Salcedo

(reposted from June 2020)

Hello everyone! I'm back. Yes, it has been a while. But I thought this little development deserved time in the spotlight.

From the time I spent working at Vault, I've seen a wide array of players. Some play on tight budgets and slowly upgrade their deck. Others play with decks whose price tags will feed my bills for half a year. But every now and then, cross-play occurs between the two groups and one side almost always wins because their decks are simply far more optimized.

And then, two players (known as Zed and Ar-Ji), had an idea: why don't we play on super-tight budgets? Like, a mere 30 dollars? And it includes the commander?

As of the writing of this article, this "$30 Challenge" has been going on in online simulators for over a month. As more people become interested in it, the "format" has been evolving.

And now you ask, what IS the $30 Challenge?

Simply put, you will build an EDH deck worth only $30, including the commander. This restriction has led to a bunch of weird, old cards that do not see much play be brought into light. From spells that only affect certain colors to creatures that simply make you read it twice because it is so old that even the errata is a puzzle in of itself, this format has been a place to showcase the creativity of its participants.

A few other rules that were imposed are that stax-based strategies must only be creature-based because certain colors will definitely have difficulty interacting with artifacts and enchantments that prevent them from having a good game of Magic. Blue's power also needed to be reigned in. Blue-based decks cannot use 2 CMC or lower counterspells unless they bounce its target back to either it's owner's hand or the top of their library. Basic lands are free..... unless its Wastes or Snow-Covered basic lands. (ADDENDUM: Players are currently discussing if there should be a hard cap for the price of each card in the deck. The most common choice is $5 per card, excluding the commander.)

But with every format, there will always be cards that are far too powerful, even on a budget. Sol Ring has been banned for the format not just for the power it represents, but also as the standard for future bans. Speaking of bans, the four commanders I gave a spotlight too up above were being heavily debated on because of the insane card advantage they generate. However, after a few games (and even a game where three of the four faced off against each other), it has been determined that they're powerful, but not ban-worthy. Also, it has been agreed upon that the moment any deck gains a huge amount of advantage, that person needs to be eliminated from the game. "Nothing personnel", as they say.

This format needs more love. And this is my way of calling out to the community: How can we make this better? Let me know!

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