The original name of this article was going to be 'competitive deckbuilding for the budgetally Challenged', but that was too long, oh well.
So, you're on a tough budget, and you want to build a deck for a tournament? Well, depending on your format, you're probably going to have some trouble.
Let's start with the easiest format for budget players: Standard.
Well, let's take a look at this. Lorwyn and Morningtide have made it INCREDIBLY easy to build a budget standard deck. There's nothing running around in standard like extinction or Tsabo's Decree, so tribal decks are very playable. Not just playable, but often very cheap. You could probably make a decent elf deck for under 30$.
Would it have a chance? Probably not, you really can't run elves in the standard environment from today (unless you want to invest in a play set of Champions, but that's going to cost you a good bit-20+$).
However, there are other decks that budget players can use that can hang with the best Reveillark Combo or Doran Doran decks. Kithkin are quick, deadly, and incredibly powerful. However, you still have to stick a bunch of money into it to play it tourney-level, and you're definitely going to want expensive equipment for the little guys to do that well.
No, folks, there is a deck in standard that the budgeted can play without a second thought. Say hello to Rogues.
Yeah, I said Rogues. Rogues have INCREDIBLE power for their cost (both price and mana-wise), and they have the colors that are likely to KILL combo decks. Let's take a look at what we have here: Turn one - Nightshade Stinger, Turn two - Frogtoss Banneret, Turn three - swing with them both, drop an Earwig Squad and a Looter il-Kor, remove combo deck's power cards (be it Doran or Reveillark or Paradox Haze), next turn - swing again, play ANOTHER Earwig Squad, get rid of anything that could hurt you, and you're on the fast track to a win. I pulled that off yesterday, and my opponent just folded, looking at a lark-less deck. Rogues really are good for the budgeted, give it a shot!
In extended, it gets a bit harder. There are a lot more cards to choose from, so it's more likely that opponents are playing better decks. Never fear, there are just that many more cheap, powerful decks that can whup your opponent's hineys.
There, I have two big recommendations. First is Elves. From a card pool of mostly commons and uncommons, you can build a deck that will basically rip through your opponents. It won't be around long, though, so get em while they're hot! The entire row of onslaught elves, from Timberwatch to Wellwisher, work incredibly here, and don't forget your imperious prefects!
But that isn't as effective. In extended, there are a lot of really, really fast decks. Goblins SHRED through the oppositional lines, killing their opponents with insane speed, but there is one really cheap combo deck that will stop them dead-Intruder Alarm.
Intruder Alarm belongs to the cheap rares that nobody really cares about-I got a play set incredibly cheap. However, it is a wonderfully powerful card that simply breaks many of the best elves around. If you can get Imperious Perfect, Llanowar Elves, and Intruder Alarm out, that's just about game over for aggro decks. If you can get those three cards plus a nifty elf named Essence Warden, you get infinite life plus infinite tokens, officially slaughtering every deck that doesn't either have a pinger out or that wants to win by bringing your life down to 0.
There is another possibility for this format, which is Red/Green or White/Red aggro. You simply run a buttload of big, cheap creatures like the infamous Kird Ape (reprinted in ninth!) or the nicer bloodthirst cards, and stomp your opponent into the ground before he even gets his foot on the ground. I don't know how well this works, though, as my build of it is for legacy.
Those formats are still viable for a budget player, but the following two are virtually exclusive.
Legacy and Vintage. The Ultimate Tournaments.
Legacy and Vintage are formats where virtually all cards are playable. There are banned/restricted lists, but those just include the most broken and expensive cards.
Legacy is the borderline. The only way a budget player could have a chance here is by playing a R/G build as mentioned above. You just want to put as many creatures that can hit for two on turn two in there and pray that you kill the opponent fast enough. Of course, there is one card that evens the odds a bit-Blood moon will pretty much kill every non-red legacy deck if it goes through-everybody plays with tons of non-basic lands.
Vintage is where the fun stops. Vintage is home of the one turn kill. No, i don't mean dealing 20 damage in one turn, I mean dealing 20 damage on turn one.
Or even turn zero-there are decks that can do that!
Vintage is a format that basically says, If you didn't win before turn three, you're already dead. Don't EVER play vintage if you're budget.
Well, I would definitely recommend trying the Intruder Alarm deck and the Rogues out-make them how you want. And have fun, you who cannot afford cards!