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Budget Commander with Niv-Mizzet


Commander doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure, some quality cards are great, but you can build an entire Commander deck for the price of a Voice of Resurgence or a Liliana of the Veil. I have seen a lot of price-friendly Commander articles that keep their budgets at $100 or something similar. That’s not a budget deck; that’s a normal deck. So, I really like to push budget to a new level.

In the last year, I have done three budget Commander decks—they were Brion Stoutarm ($37.71), Talrand, Sky Summoner ($49.37), and Ghave, Guru of Spores ($36.48).

My goal for today’s article is to come under the lowest deck—in this case, that’s Ghave’s deck at $36.48. That’s it. Come in lower, and we are good to go. I just need to find a Commander to rock, and then I’ll build a budget deck to build around it.

So, what commanders are enticing me?

I want to use a card printed in the last year. Standard legendaries from Return to Ravnica and even Theros have pretty low values. I looked over the cards and spied that guy who entices me with his sexy, Izzety eyes. Oh yes, his Dracogenius has arrived . . . 

Coming in at $36.37 is the latest entry in Budget Decks R Us! It clocked in at an incredible $0.09 lower than the Ghave budget and just met the goal. (As a reminder, basic lands do not count.) As a quick caveat, all prices are true as of the writing of this article and building of this deck a few days before publication. Not only can card prices change between writing and publication, but they can change from midnight when the article goes live through later on that day as you may read this. So, this is a cost snapshot, not a real list of card costs that will survive across the weeks. But the concepts are here, and no card in this deck is likely to suddenly jump in value by $3.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
Just for fun, I went and tried to purchase Ghave‘s Budget Commander Deck from CSI using the button at the bottom of every decklist. When you use it, you can choose which version of a card you want and pick a lower-quality one. I use near-mint prices for my cards in these budgets, but you can select played versions where available easily enough. And what was the cost of the Ghave deck with cheaper-quality options today? It was $39.30 as of the writing of this article. As you can see, stuff remains cheap over the months.

The goal of this deck is to play a lot of spells, just like Izzet wants. To begin, I am rolling some creatures that make your spells better when you play them. We even have a Theros entry with the common Prescient Chimera, who enables a scry every time you play an instant or sorcery. Other spell triggers include the potent Talrand, Sky Summoner and Young Pyromancer. Spitting out token can really enable the deck over the long game (as well as make up for the low number of creatures in the deck.) Meanwhile, Lunar Mystic can trigger and draw some cards (just off instants, but that’s good enough).

In addition to these spell-trigger cards, we have some other goods. Djinn Illuminatus will trigger a replicate, and that’s handy. You can morph up Mischievous Quanar to Fork a spell (and morph it back down over again to reset the trigger). Nivix Guildmage can trigger to Fork stuff, too. And don’t forget the value of Tidespout Tyrant in a deck like this. Every nonland card played (even creatures and artifacts) will trigger the Tyrant and enable bouncing a permanent. That’s money in an Izzet deck.

Melek, Izzet Paragon
I have a few bodies to help the spells out. Archaeomancer, Mnemonic Wall, and Izzet Chronarch will all arrive on the battlefield and bring back instants or sorceries from the graveyard when they do. That helps push the deck with a little bit of card advantage. In an Izzet deck, reusing your best spell is like a Golgari deck reusing its best creature. While a bit random, Charmbreaker Devils does the same recursion thing every upkeep, and it also will inflate in the front when you play instants and/or sorceries as well. By being both a game-winning creature and a form of ongoing card advantage, the Devils are better than you might think.

Melek, Izzet Paragon is obviously good here, and we have Spellheart Chimera to grow as spells are dropped. The Hypersonic Dragon is a beater who turns your sorceries into instants while the Fire Servant amps up the volume on your burn.

After I had most of my creatures set, I moved to other noncreature-based assistance for the deck. Cards such as Sphinx-Bone Wand and Mirror Sheen were included because of their interactions with the spells in my deck. Eyes of the Watcher gives me a scry trigger, Cast Through Time is downright broken, and Runechanter's Pike does its best Spellheart Chimera impression.

Then, I added my mana. This is a mana-hungry deck, so I needed to ensure I had enough budget room for mana cards. In went Izzet Guildgate and Terramorphic Expanse alongside Everflowing Chalice, Dreamstone Hedron, and all three Izzet mana rocks. I also made room for Burnished Hart, Armillary Sphere, and Pilgrim's Eye. We needed some land-fetching!

The spells—these are the most important cards for an Izzet deck. I needed card-drawing, burn, counterspells, bounce, and other cards as well. That’s a lot for a spell suite. You can find a lot of cheap, common, quality entries in those areas, so I first looked to see what expensive, flashy cards the deck would need.

Past in Flames
I began with Past in Flames. This is almost a Yawgmoth's Will in some decks, and I can flash it back later. It’s a great way to blow out a table! This deck had to run an Invoke the Firemind, too! After that, I looked at other options. Spelltwine is brilliant late, and Wild Ricochet is among the best Fork or Redirect variants ever printed. The best burn spell for this deck is Urza's Rage, and I had to add it in, too.

After those pricier cards were admitted, it was easy to begin filling in the gaps. Countermagic is often pricey because even solid commons have a lot of value. I went with Cancel, Suffocating Blast, Spell Contortion, Faerie Trickery, Exclude, Lost in the Mist, Traumatic Visions, and Essence Backlash. Clearly, this is not my ideal counter suite, but it works cheaply enough. I’d prefer Dissipate, Dissolve, and Forbid to a lot of these, and there are better counters at more expensive costs. But it works.

I also wanted some burn besides the Rage and Suffocating Blast (plus the Backlash if you count it). Firebolt, Prophetic Bolt, Devil's Play, Lightning Surge, and Fanning the Flames all fit in nicely. I wanted some more, but I ran out of room. Still, I have three X burn spells (don’t forget the Invoke) and the Rage, which often acts as one. Take another look at the Surge—it has flashback and will often hit for 6 unpreventable damage twice.

Niv-MIzzet demanded some tempo, and I had to agree with his majesty. In went Mind Games, Gigadrowse, Capsize, and Jilt. While that is not a lot, it slides alongside cards such as Lost in the Mist or Tidespout Tyrant quite nicely. Man, I wish I had money for a Cyclonic Rift!

Card-draw spells pulled me next. In addition to the Prophetic Bolt, Spell Contortion, and Invoke the Firemind, we have Opportunity, Whispers of the Muse, Deep Analysis, and Think Twice. This gives me a well-rounded selection of card-draw at various casting costs. I think running card-draw is useful even when your commander has built-in draw.

I fleshed out my spell selection with some removal (Rapid Hybridization, Vandalblast, Shattering Pulse) and the cool Mystic Retrieval. With all of the spell triggers this deck can have, buyback seemed particularly valuable, and thus, we have the Fanning the Flames, Whispers of the Muse, Mind Games, Shattering Pulse, and Capsize. That gives me five spells that can be played and replayed as needed to make a lot of nice triggers on things like the Wand, Chimera, Talrand, Pyromancer, Tyrant, and more. (This might be among those rare decks that might benefit from a Memory Crystal, and if so, I’d look at Searing Touch as a nice supplement.)

Tidespout Tyrant
After adding in these spells, I had just a little money left. In went a Mulldrifter, Curiosity, and Desolate Lighthouse. (The Curiosity was a nod to the combo that killed a whole table with the first Niv-Mizzet. It’s just a fun little addition!) That finished the deck. I can use the bounce to self-bounce my creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers in order to replay them (Mulldrifter, Eye, Archaeomancer, Chronarch, and Wall).

Some cards I’d look to if my budget increased would be Sol Ring, better mana lands, card-draw—such as Fact or Fiction, Steam Augury, and Blue Sun's ZenithMizzium Mortars, Reforge the Soul, Guttersnipe, Comet Storm, removal—such as Duplicant—and counters that do powerful things—such as Desertion or Spelljack. There might also be some value in some planeswalkers out there . . . Ignoring budget completely would give the obvious fetch lands, dual lands, and so on. But even just another $10 would be enough for a Comet Storm and some tricks. (Also, in retrospect, perhaps Gigadrowse should be Sleep.)

I just managed to sneak in Young Pyromancer and Tidespout Tyrant, despite the cost. Those two cards were the most expensive cards in the deck by far, but each is a great engine to build around.

I originally had in Surrakar Spellblade as a means of card-draw, but I realized I had forgotten to include Talrand, Sky Summoner. So, I managed to replace the Spellblade with his highness, the coolest mage on Shandalar.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed another budget entry into my series. Get your budget on!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

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