So I just built myself a deck in the hopes of playing tournaments somewhat more regularly, and here's how I did it:
The Event Decks are a new product that were released in the current expansion, and they are basically preconstructed decks marketed as being better than average for the "tournament player". Of course this is largely marketing hype by Wizards and if you played one of these out of the box you would get crushed almost anywhere you went. I noticed that the red Event Deck is much better than the black-blue one and contains much more valuable cards, so I bought two of the red decks and basically cherrypicked the good cards so that it would be much stronger. It cost me about $40 so it's a very economical solution if you want a familiar looking Standard format deck. I say economical because many top tier decks in the current metagame have total ebay prices of several hundred dollars, and I feel I was able to get something competitive going rather cheaply. I always liked playing red because it's the color of insane speed - you can win with inferior cards if you end the game before your opponent can set up the board state to his favor. Of course, I have to run this in some Standard tournaments before I can decide how happy I am with it.
Magic's an awesome game because even if one day everyone hops on the bandwagon of the $600 deck full of mythic rares, it's always possible for much cheaper decks to win with superior play. I don't think I'll be winning any Pro Tours soon, but I think right now it's definitely possible to invest between $50-$100 (perhaps even less) in a deck that will let you join Standard tournaments and consistently place high, which = more cards in prizes etc. I think that the designers have come a long way in balancing power out throughout the rarity levels such that powerful decks are easier to build on a budget than ever before.
I don't know if tournament participation costs have gone up drastically, but the shop close to me charges $5 for entry to their weekly Constructed tournaments, and $20 for their discount Limited sealed night, where you build your deck on the spot from 6 boosters and unlimited lands. Seems like a good deal considering that boosters are $4 each.
I don't know why I just wrote that out, call it a "state of Magic" post from someone getting back in and just wanting to drop unsolicited information.