There are plenty of lists for budget aggro decks for new players. If you want to jam games quickly for not too much shiftstone, check out AhornDelfin's lists here: https://eternalwarcry.com/decks?dn=ultra%20budget&c=AhornDelfin. [Editor's note: You can also find a selection of extreme budget lists on our site.]
In this guide, I'm going to go through how to deconstruct an expensive deck into components that can be switched out for cheaper alternatives. Our budget is roughly 4,000 shiftstone, so that's a lot of replacements. The idea here is to start with a deck that you like, so that you have something to build toward. As more shiftstone becomes available, the budget alternatives can be switched out for the cards in the full list.
I'm more of a midrange than an aggro player. Midrange decks seek to play a bit longer game than low-to-the-ground aggro decks, and they actually prey on those fast decks by playing efficient units that are just enough bigger to survive combat. I started with SecondBlue's FJS list. Clocking in at 51,000 shiftstone to build from scratch, a lot of substitutions need to be made.
Analyzing Deck Strategy
First, we need to look at what cards are key to the strategy. If a legendary is essential for a deck (such as Temporal Distortion in Temporal Control lists), it's probably a non-starter. Examining FJS mid, the strategy appears to be surviving until 3 power with a combination of cards that grab sigils and cards that slow the opponent down. At 3-4 power, there are a lot of units and removal. All the way up at 7 power is a big flier that draws cards.
What makes FJS work in the late game is Display of Ambition, since it gets back the two best units that have died throughout the game. Luckily for us, Display is an uncommon, so 4 (a playset) only costs 400s. The preconstructed decks from the introductory content also supplied us with 4 Torch.
The first easy replacement is Winchest Cargo for Seek Power.
Winchest Cargo finds sigils to make sure we have the influence to play other spells, and also provides a different card when played late in the game (after already having 2 of each influence). Seek Power only does the first part of that, but 4 commons we already own replacing 4 rares saves 3,200s. I'll take that every time. Lost Scroll is an easy craft. At common, it'll only run 200s for a playset, and sees play in a variety of decks.
Quarry may seem like an easy craft as well, given how many decks it shows up in. Unfortunately, both Quarry and Vara, Vengeance-Seeker are from campaign content, meaning they can't be crafted. Quarry provides card selection, a slight discount on a single card, and possibly a unit in the void to bring back with Display of Ambition. Cull the Deck only provides the first of these benefits, but goes 1 card deeper.
I think Cull is a good budget option to replace Quarry, but replacing Vara is a bit more difficult. Vara, Vengeance-Seeker is one of the most overstatted 4-cost units in the game. We probably aren't going to find a common or uncommon that's a similar power level. Instead, let's just insert Corrupted Umbren with a comparable body and battle skill and call it a day. This at common means more shiftstone available for other cards.
So that's one legendary replaced. What about Vicious Highwayman? It's a unit with Charge that hits for 5 on an empty board. Again, it's impossible to replace it with something at common/uncommon with the same text. Instead, we can get the same keywords for 1 power cheaper on a 3/3 body with Whirling Duo. Duo is another great craft since it's used in a variety of decks.
Keeping a critical mass of Lifesteal is somewhat important for FJS, since aggro can do some early damage and Display does self-damage. With Corrupted Umbren and Whirling Duo, hopefully we can stabilize at a good health total. Speaking of cards that cost 3, Slay is another easy craft. It's probably the best 3-cost removal spell in the game, and is used in a ton of decks. The two smugglers (Red Canyon Smuggler and Hidden Road Smuggler) are also extremely popular, and add a dimension to a deck that is hard to ignore: the Market. Since having 8 smugglers is out of the question for our budget, 3 of the Hidden Road Smuggler will have to do. The other smuggler is better suited to be aggressive, and we're looking to stay defensive early.
Now to the attachments at 4. Auric Runehammer is a popular midrange card, but at 3 rares, a substitution is needed. Mithril Mace costs 1 more for slightly different stats (3/4) and is a common. Stonescar Maul is a 6 cost weapon, but you should already have 1 from the Firestarter preconstructed deck. I went with 2 Mace and 1 Maul to replace the Runehammers.
The other attachment that needs a substitution is Avigraft. Another popular removal option in midrange and control archetypes, we want something at 4 power with similar stopping power. Deathstrike does the trick, and one comes in the Shadowstrike precon. Crafting another is an option, but the Impending Doom that comes in the same deck is a great flying unit. Why not mix it up a little?
Since we cut the Red Canyon Smuggler, we have some additional deck space. I like going up 1-2 Sabotage over the original list. At common, it's a cheap craft. It also trades for a spell or attachment your opponent has that is likely stronger than a common.
This brings us to the last and most expensive unit in FJS mid: Xo of the Endless Hoard. Xo, like Vara and Highwayman, can't be replaced by something with similar text. Instead, we need to look at what it does. The early card draw Xo provides is hard to replicate, so if we leave that out, we're left with a moderate body with flying that draws cards. Budget options are probably only going to do one of those two things, so we can include Rolant's Honor Guard and Worldpyre Phoenix for the first and Direwood Prowler for the second.
Honor Guard and Phoenix are rare, but you get 1 of each in the precons. Direwood Prowler is an uncommon that I happened to open in a pack, but if you don't have the shiftstone or don't like it, Rolant, the Iron Fist or Kaleb, Uncrowned Prince can also work in these slots.
That covers the maindeck aside from power (cut the crests for seats and craft a couple banners), so let's examine the Black Market that Hidden Road Smuggler gives us access to. Nearly everything needs to be taken out of the FJS mid market from SecondBlue, but we can leave in the Vanquish. Defiance is OK as well to protect against aggro, but I used Suffocate because I opened one in a pack.
Remember that the Black Market can't contain cards that are in your 75 (maindeck), so we can't put in a Sabotage or Deathstrike. Dark Return is a good inclusion. Even though Display of Ambition offers some ways to get units back, Dark Return only costs 1 and combos well with our smuggler (play it against aggro and get Dark Return, block to trade with a unit, Dark Return the smuggler and play it as a 3/4 to get another card out of the market).
Mug was another card I picked up without needing to craft, but I think it's worth crafting for the market inclusion. If you know your opponent has something good in hand but they aren't casting it, Smuggler for Mug will clear that right up. Lastly, Vara, Fate-Touched is great if the game has gone long and you're up above 7 power. Just remember to hold onto power past 8 so you have something to put in the market with the smuggler.
Final Cuts and Planned Improvements
I had to make some additional cuts to get it under 4,000s. Here was what I ended up with:
The full budget list includes all 4 Hidden Road Smuggler, and runs about 5,700s after you exclude all of the cards that come free in the preconstructed decks. Over half of the total deck cost is the smugglers. If you don't have enough shiftstone right away, just do what I did and include some cards you had at the same general cost (don't replace a 3 power unit with a 7 power unit).