Strixhaven Limited Set Review with MTG Nerd Girl
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Budget Commander — Mina and Denn, Wildborn


Building Commander decks is always a bit different from many other deck-building projects—due to the fact that you have a lot of singleton cards as well as more cards than normal. If your deck stock is like mine, you have to hit multiple boxes to build the decks up.

And that can get a bit pricey from some cards—not all of them of course. There are a ton of cheaper cards out there in Magic Land that are perfect for casual multiplayer fun time. And many of them have gold or red symbols on them, too.

Mina and Denn, Wildborn
This series takes the budget concept seriously. It began as a bit of a pushback against some writers discussing “budget” decks for Commander that were clocking in at hundreds of dollars. I’ve built Commander decks that are pricey, too, so I get it. But you’ll never see me touting a deck in the triple digits as a budget build.

Each iteration of this series seeks to slide in underneath the previous entry. Back in Budget Commander #24, the final tally to build that deck over at www.CoolStuffInc.com was $33.85 (basics not included). That’s a wallet-friendly deck.

So I sat back and wanted to build a strong and timely deck for the Magic world after Oath of the Gatewatch. Did you know I’ve never built a R/G budget deck? Isn’t that crazy?

It’s time—time to get our Gruul on. And we have a tasty red and green legendary creature from Oath, all ready to lead my next budget blast off.

Hey look, I know a lot of people have been pooh-poohing these folks all over. They certainly aren’t Oracle of Mul Daya, are they? No, they aren’t. And that’s a good thing.

The obvious card to pair with Mina and Denn, Wildborn (Crucible of Worlds) is roughly twice the entire budget I have available. So it’s not getting anywhere close to this deck. I’m also staying very far away from cards like Strip Mine because people sometimes can’t be trusted to not to bad things with them here. Go away!

As a reminder, our target to beat is $33.85. Where did we come in? The actual price was $33.75. Score! (Note that prices may shift a bit from writing to editing to publication to reading, but this basic concept of a cheap deck for you works).

Commune with Lava
So let’s begin to explore what we included in the deck. The Wonder Twins are great at ensuring extra land drops. How do you feed that? There’re a few ways to do so. One is to tutor up some lands. You can use Mina and Denn to help drop the extra lands you fetch from cards like Cultivate or Shard Convergence and use them to accelerate your mana. But I didn’t like that plan for this deck. That’s a lot of cards dedicated to just getting mana, including your leader, and the deck just looks like any ol’ ramp deck out there. Boring.

Instead, I chose to carve from a different angle at the tree and to draw cards. Now, obviously, red and green aren’t exactly the powerhouses of card-draw in Magic. Blue has effects like Tidings or Recurring Insight or even Fact or Fiction, and black has stuff like Phyrexian Arena or Underworld Connections. These are awesome ways to draw a ton of cards. But we’re not in blue and black with the Wonder Twins.

We are Gruul.

But that doesn’t prevent me from breaking the Ravnican block (literally) with some card-draw. Sure, a card like Harmonize could be a little pricey these days, but we have a few options. Red provides the option to exile cards from the library and play them for a turn, so a card like Commune with Lava is here (plus, Commune scales well in a ramp setting). I also included cards like Life's Legacy and Nissa's Revelation. Since your commander can hand out trample to any creature in your deck, Hunter's Insight was pretty cool, too.

With that card-draw element here, we can begin to see the abilities of our leaders to drop lands a-go-go. So where next? Well, a card like Life from the Loam is obviously way beyond the concept of “budget,” but it’s still awesome. So I could add in a few ways to use and reuse lands from the graveyard.

Let’s toss in a few paths to gain some useful recursion on the cheap. While Groundskeeper only brings back basic lands, it’s a pretty good way to reuse dead basic lands. We have Tilling Treefolk or Cartographer running around as well. I added in a handful of sacrifice lands to play into this concept, such as Blighted Gorge and Blighted Woodland from Battle for Zendikar.

I also tossed in a few ways to put lands into the graveyard. Constant Mists is an awesome Fog effect, and since you can buy it back by sacrificing a land, you can generate a lot of Fogs from it. Check out Gruul Guildmage or Hammer of Purphoros! But one of my favorite tricks here is Seismic Assault. You can discard a land from your hand to Shock something. Now if you combine it with a Groundskeeper, you can Shock creatures or people for 2 mana each. (And if you control a Countryside Crusher while you are doing that trick, wow!) (And if you like the discard trick, how about Borborygmos Enraged?)

I own a Borborygmos Enraged Commander deck in real life that’s built around ramp and land destruction. What it does is ramp into a land of lands and then play cards like Wildfire to hurt your foes more than you. I don’t want to hit that concept too frequently, but I did think there is a place for that sort of effect here. A card like Ember Swallower can be used, if necessary, to dial folks back (and to build a better beater as well). There’s a place for a card like Stoneshaker Shaman in Commander as a nice foil to someone who wants to keep his or her lands untapped for tricks.

Frenzied Tilling
There is a place for gentle land destruction in Commander, even in friendlier games. That’s why I included cards like Frenzied Tilling, Acidic Slime, and Decimate in the deck. (You could add in similar effects, such as the surprisingly pricey Mwonvuli Acid-Moss.)

Here’s a quick note for land destruction in Commander. Don’t loop LD with cards like Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds. Don’t be that person who’s just using it to destroy mana lands and hurt opposing people’s ability to play (unless your whole metagame is like that and enjoys it). But don’t be afraid to destroy lands like Volrath's Stronghold or Maze of Ith. And don’t be that person who runs Academy Ruins and then complains about LD. Any nonbasic land with a useful ability, such as Reliquary Tower or Arcane Lighthouse, is a legitimate target for LD. And if you try to hide a legitimate LD target behind mana-fixing, don’t complain either! Don’t whine about me taking down your Celestial Colonnade because I need to destroy your creature. I won’t take out your Temple of Enlightenment that just fixes mana, and you don’t complain about legit targets. That’s sort of the Commander Casual ideal I like to play with.

Don’t be afraid to run LD, and don’t be afraid to use it when you draw it.

With the ramp concepts fully engaged, I want to add a few cards that could use some mana. Sometimes, these are cheaper iterations of cards, such as Jade Mage, that can be used as mana-sinks. Everyone likes to make tokens, right? Of all of the options in the history of Magic, I find the 1/1 green Saproling token to be my favorite, trumping Insects or Squirrels or Elves. Jade Mage is the thing!

Mizzium Mortars
Another way to run ramp is to include cards that are fine and cheap to cast but have upgraded options, like the overload of Mizzium Mortars or Vandalblast. They work quite well. Spells are awesome! What about critters?

I added a handful of solid quality Hydras. Hydras are great for a ramp deck because they scale to your mana. Apocalypse Hydra is awesome, and since it was down-shifted from mythic rare to just rare in Modern Masters, you can find them pretty cheap these days. We have a few options here, from the xx in the monstrous cost of Polukranos, World Eater to an X spell like the overprinted Comet Storm. The goods are here from a cornucopia of treats!

Now there’s an obvious place to look for one more synergetic element for the deck: landfall. There’s a pseudo-landfall card in Standard from Magic Origins: Zendikar's Roil. It makes the cut. Other cards like Retreat to Valakut and Retreat to Kazandu are solid choices. Now, I didn’t want to toss in the vast numbers of creatures that simply grow temporarily when a land arrives at the battlefield. That’s not super-strong for Commander (although I did include Adventuring Gear to equip onto your leader for double triggers and a big commander smash of damage). For the most part, I focused on different triggers.

We can deal damage to players or creatures with Akoum Hellkite or Tunneling Geopede. Unlike temporary boosts, Oran-Rief Hydra gains permanent +1/+1 counters. I also pushed hard against my budget for serious token-makers like Rampaging Baloths and Omnath, Locus of Rage. (Avenger of Zendikar is too pricey and too obvious.)

After tossing in the landfall triggers, land-enablers, sacrificing of lands and bringing them back, and more, we have a solid deck. It doesn’t need a whole lot more. For example, layered into cards I already included (Decimate, Acidic Slime) is removal for other stuff. I wish I could run Bane of Progress, but my budget is mostly at the limit. I can slide in a card like Conclave Naturalists or some removal like Fissure that can hit a creature or a land as you have need.

And that’s pretty much a deck. My last major trick was Setessan Tactics, a strive card that works well with ramp and also uses my big creatures to fight and hopefully slay multiple creatures out there.

So where else could we hit? Well, we could certainly run a card like Titania, Protector of Argoth. We don’t have any Planeswalkers in here, but Domri Rade, Xenagos, the Reveler, and some versions of Garruk would make obvious inclusions.

I also like stuff like removal-based options like Destructive Revelry or Hull Breach. You could run a creature with an X kicker like Verdeloth the Ancient. More cards that allow you to drop multiple lands also work, but they tend to be very pricey since they are casual all stars. Exploration, Courser of Kruphix, and Azusa, Lost but Seeking are too pricey for this project.

But the very first card I’d add to this deck is Panglacial Wurm. It’s an awesome beater with a strong history of being tutored up when you crack a Terramorphic Expanse.

I like Genesis for the deck. We have the mana and could use it to bring back some good stuff over time. Don’t you just feel Ezuri's Predation in this build? I know I do!

And those are some fun ideas that I like for the deck. Did you see anything in here that ignited your deck-building spark? Was there anything in here that spoke to you? Is there something very cheap you expected to see?

Get your budget on!


Here are the first twenty-four (mayhaps) budget-happy decks for your budget-happy days:

Nahiri, the Lithomancer

  1. Brion Stoutarm came in at $37.71.
  2. Ghave, Guru of Spores, with a budget of $36.48, is a lot of fun!
  3. Talrand, Sky Summoner: $49.37. I increased the budget for it due to the nature of the challenge, and it’s the only entry in the series for which the cost is increased rather than decreased.
  4. Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is the next in the list, rocking that $36.37 price tag.
  5. Princess Lucrezia and Riven Turnbull feature in this fun, throwback, Commander deck that is just $35.68.
  6. Roon of the Hidden Realm demonstrates one of the Commander (2013 Edition) dorks in a $35.29 shell.
  7. Vhati il-Dal runs the table for just $35.17.
  8. With all of the expected draconic lovin’, Bladewing the Risen comes just a few cents fewer at $35.13.
  9. Lu Xun, Scholar General may not be a powerhouse, but there’s enough utility under here to spark a very interesting Commander deck for just $35.07.
  10. Bosh, Iron Golem was a fun, mono-red, artifact-centric deck that hits $35.06. That’s right: one cent cheaper! It’s a fun and different take on artifacts than good ol’ Brago.
  11. Brago, King Eternal is featured with a different artifact theme and a $35.04 budget.
  12. Let’s finally drop below that $35 mark with Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero and her Rebel horde! It’s $34.98 for the witness.
  13. 13). Wedges are cool. So is Teneb, the Harvester! $34.94 gets us a deck that wins and has fun.
  14. Kaseto, Orochi Archmage
  15. Who likes Surrak Dragonclaw? Who likes making a face-smashing deck for just $34.83? This guy!
  16. Tolsimir Wolfblood? $34.73? Selesnya aggro? We have it in spades!
  17. Alesha, Who Smiles at Profit is ready to bring some serious recursion, beats, and a modest budget to boot at $34.62.
  18. Want to Dragon up your deck? Why not roll with Dragonlord Kolaghan for $34.47.
  19. Who’s thumping those mono-green beats with the Yeva, Nature's Herald stylings? Who clocks in at just $34.39? This article!
  20. Want to Donate some stuff, play some politics, and draw a ton of cards? Then check out this Zedruu the Greathearted deck that came in at $34.29.
  21. A. I have a notion that a five-colored deck would be a fun budget challenge. Horde of Notions is a blast of Elemental fun that clocks in at $34.17. Check it out!
  22. B. Five color doesn’t have to end with tribes. There are so many options that this Five-Color Cromat deck with a bit of a smashy board presence is ready to introduce itself to the red zone—and to winning. It also is just $34.20.
  23. Sometimes, it’s really nice to see how far we can push a popular commander with a cheaper budget. That’s where this Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck comes in, clocking in at $34.03.

  24. With a budget of just $33.98, this Daxos of Meletis deck is pretty cool without being too expensive. Check it out!
  25. We have a Snake-flavored Kaseto, Orochi Archmage deck with a lot of fun, Snakes, and budget goodness at $33.91.
  26. Nahiri, the Lithomancer is calling for an Equipment- and Solider-focused mono-white build that’s just $33.85.

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