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Budget Commander #53: Defy Death


Hello folks! I hope your day is going well! Today I want to do something really fun!

CSI.com has a line of budget decks called Skirmish decks, and many of them were designed by me.

If you follow along the website, you'll see some of my designs here and there that you can pick up.

Most of these have been two colors, with few mono-color cards here and here. Most of these are built around Standard or just a set. All three of these use only Theros: Beyond Death cards, save for lands where I have some Guildgates and such to help. Mana matters.

Defy Death is my first attempt to build a three-color deck, and in this case, it's using only TBD cards (other than lands). I really enjoyed how well it played. How did it do it?

Rise to Glory
Slaughter-Priest of Mogis

It combines two major themes in the set - Rakdos sacrificing and Orzhov reanimation + the set's escape cards. By giving you cards to send the great garbage bin in the sky, it plays into two themes.

Red and Black have both had several ways of sacrificing cards for the cause, and Defy Death is no different. It runs some death and sacrifice triggers like the Slaughter-Priest of Mogis. Whenever someone is sacrificed, it grows! And then we can return that dork with escape or Rise to Glory style effects.

I want to hew into that core identity. Sacrificing and bringing things back. What I want to do is to build a budget version of Defy Death and, if possible, add it to my Budget Commander series.

Who is my leader?

Tariel, Reckoner of Souls

Tariel is!

Let's begin with cards from Defy Death we're adding:

Gravebreaker Lamia
Allure of the Unknown

Both rares are amazing here. The first is one of the few budget ways to add a card from your deck to your graveyard for gas. You can then turn the new graveyard card into a fun reanimation target for your other effects! Allure of the Unknown is a massive amount of card drawage. I really enjoy the ability to make friends and draw a ton of cards. After playing with it, it plays like a Rakdos Fact or Fiction in multiplayer.

Soulreaper of Mogis
Blood Aspirant

In addition to the two cards from earlier in the article heading in, we also have some fun sacrifice engines in Defy Death I want to lean into. From the card-drawing of Soulreaper of Mogis to the gentle damage and cannot-block-nature of Blood Aspirant, both have powerful value on deck for your build. The Aspirant can sacrifice enchantments too, although there may not be too many of those below. I am also keeping Omen of the Sun from Defy Death as a great way to make two bodies for the cause and leave behind an enchantment to do something fun with.

Anax, Hardened in the Forge
Reverent Hoplite

These two fun uncomonnons from Defy Death are also making the cut. Much like Omen of the Sun, Reverent Hoplite can make some powerful dorks on arrival and help send into the red zone or the dust bin as needed. Anax, Hardened in the Forge can churn your self-sacrifices (or other deaths) into 1/1 dorks. If it was bigger you'll net two! Although our deck won't do that too much. Anax himself can easily be that size and begins 2/3 without any other devotional enablers.

Mire Triton

The final Defy Death card we're retaining is Mire Triton. As a two-mana 2/1 deathtoucher, it's powerful early. It can hold off folks or trade up. And a 2/1 gives it some damage range and such when it swings. And on arrival you self-mill a few cards to help keep the gas flowing. It's a great fit!

Mayhem Devil
Judith, the Scourge Diva

Rakdos also has some recent cards that care about sacrifices too. Both of these are Standard legal and add some gas. Much like Anax, they give you triggers of fun to build around. Mayhem Devil will shoot things like planeswalkers, creatures, and players. You can load up to take out bigger things, but there are a lot of Typhoid Rats and Birds or Paradise running around that you can plink out. Note that it works for any sacrifice, so you can use a Terramorphic Expanse and shoot something! Meanwhile Judith won't work for sacrifices, just non-tokens that die (which is both better and worse) and has a similar ping-range. And you'll pump your stuff too, which is nifty and cool!

Blood for Bones
Rescue from the Underworld
Whisper, Blood Liturgist

I wanted to add in more sacrificing, as well as look to start adding in some recursion. Blood for Bones is great for both! It'll turn one dork into two, which rocks mad value, and trigger death triggers while doing so. Rescue from the Underworld also plays into that theme. Rescue is an instant which gives it more value. You can use it on something targeted for death and then it heads to the Underworld and brings back a friend on your next upkeep. While it goes in the reverse direction as Blood for Bones and swaps two for one, Whisper can be repeated, and won't take up any mana, leaving you free to other things. And there are times when netting two death triggers from a Mayhem Devil is enough to finish off a wounded planeswalker or damaged dork in combat.

Obzedat's Aid
Bishop of Rebirth
Furnace Celebration

I added in more sacrificing and reanimation. You see cards like Unburial Rites, Bishop of Rebirth, and Obzedat's Aid to return anything back. You'll also note a few sacrifices cards like Keldon Necropolis and Carnage Altar as well as the Furnace Celebration. Note that it'll require mana on sacrificing something, but you can Shock something for two. Enjoy it!

Magus of the Wheel
Krovikan Horror

I also looked to other cards to shore up the deck's needs. Magus of the Wheel can dump a hand and keep going. It also counts as a dork for swinging and dying via sacrifice. But it can't touch the Krovikan Horror. Not only can the Horror sacrifice for damage to any target (Oracle) but it can also return from the battlefield directly at the end of any turn on which a dork was on top. If it's on top, sacrifice a dork to bring it back at the end of the turn.

Squee, Goblin Nabob
Squee, the Immortal

Both Squees are bulk rares that you can sacrifice and then bring back for more sacrificing goodness. The Goblin Nabob has a recurrence each turn so you'll grab one go around the room, while the Immortal one can be cast and recast from your graveyard. I also tossed in Reassembling Skeleton for similar hijinks.

Bitter Revelation
Final Parting

I knew we wanted support that helped our key plan. You'll note cards like Bitter Revelation that give use the ability to put stuff in the graveyard. Final Parting lets you put a key card into the graveyard and one into the hand! I also paid the price for cards like Buried Alive.

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

I have 21 legendary creatures and artifacts in the build that'll trigger Teshar, including the repeatable Squees. Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle seems like a fun adjunct to the deck, right? We have lots to return to the battlefield!

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death was also in the running for my leader, but she's a solid body for the build as well! She's been overprinted and sits at bulk rare rates despite being a good card. There are many dorks you can look at bringing back, from Nekrataal to Zulaport Cutthroat.

Teysa Karlov

One final surprise! I tossed in Tesya, Doubler of Death Triggers! She's ideal at giving this deck more reach as a sacrificed Evolving Wilds can net two slates of damage from Mayhem Devil or other effects.

Ready for the deck?

Budget Defy Death | Commander | Abe Sargent

And there we are!

My target from the previous article was $32.33. My goal is to come under each previous article. Where did I wind up? $32.28. A full five cents fewer! Awesome. You can easily turn Defy Death into a fun shell! (I even kept the Guildgates from it as well!)

After running your deck, you could look at cards like Karmic Guide, Volrath's Stronghold, Solemn Simulacrum, Dictate of Erebos, Cauldron of Souls, Chromatic Lantern, Chaos Warp, Generous Gift, Vindicate, Dread Return, Wheel of Fortune, Nim Deathmantle, Living Death, Sun Titan, Liliana, Dreadhorde General and more!

These decks will typically have commons, cheaper uncommons, bulk rares, and the occasional other card that rises higher. Take Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord, who is a surprising $1.99 here. That's easy to find room for here when my deck's key cards are very cheap. Buried Alive was $1.49 for its cheapest near mint copy, much cheaper than I had anticipated. Those will flesh out nicely the mega-bulk of Cultivator's Caravan, and similar cards as a rare that sits at $0.25. Teysa Karlov? A very cheap $1.25.

Note that the prices for this deck will fluctuate as the secondary market does. I finished this article last week. Between then and publication and when you read this, the prices may have changed. That's expected! It happens! It's fine though, because the key point remains. If this deck winds up being $39.88 as the Lamia spiked or if Judith, the Scourge Diva becomes the next Pioneer or Standard mega-card and leaps up, it happens. But the key point of a budget build remains!

And there you are! I hope that you enjoyed reading my article. You can check out the rest of this series below. Any suggestions or cards you'd recommend? Anything I missed? Just let me know and have agreat day!

Appendix A

Hello! Want to check out what it's like for me to play Dungeons and Dragons as someone with Huntington's Disease? Here you go!


If you enjoyed today's gonzo counters/Wizards/saboteur/enchantments Simic deck, great! Here are the first 52 Budget Commander Options for your wallet-friendly happiness and joy:

  1. We kicked things off with Brion Stoutarm came in at $37.71
  2. Next up was 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 this project due to the nature of the challenge, and it's the only entry in the series where the cost is increased rather than decreased.
  4. Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is the next for our list rocking that $36.37 pricetag.
  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 dorks in a $35.29 shell.
  7. Vhati il-Dal runs the table for just $35.17. It's also one of the more unique entries in this project.
  8. With all of the latest draconic lovin', Bladewing the Risen comes just a few cents less at $35.13. http://www.gatheringmagic.com/abesargent-042114-budget-commander-8-budget-bladewing/
  9. Lu Xun, Scholar General may not be a powerhouse, but there's enough utility under here to spark a very interesting EDH 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 will be next.
  11. Brago, King Eternal is featured with a different artifact theme and a $35.04 budget.
  12. Let's finally get below that $35 mark with Lin Sivvi and her rebel horde! $34.98 for the witness.
  13. Wedges are cool. So is Teneb, the Harvester! $34.94 gets us a deck that wins and has fun.
  14. Who likes Surrak Dragonclaw? Who likes making a face-smashing deck for just $34.83? This guy!
  15. Tolsimir Wolfblood? $34.73? Selesnya aggro? We've got it in spades!
  16. [card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/Alesha, Who Smiles at Death" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/[card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death">[card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death">Alesha, Who Smiles at Death" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/[card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death">[card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is ready to bring some serious recursion, beats, and a modest budget to boot at $34.62.
  17. Want to Dragon up your deck? Why not roll with Dragonlord Kolaghan for $34.47.
  18. Who's thumping those mono-green beats with the Yeva, Nature's Herald stylings? Who clocks in at just $34.39? This article!
  19. 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.
  20. I have a notion that a Five Color 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!
  21. 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 smash-y board presence is ready to introduce itself to the red zone, and to winning. It also is just $34.20.
  22. 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
  23. With a budget of just $33.98, this Daxos of Meletis deck is pretty cool without being too expensive. Check it out!
  24. We have a Snake flavored Kaseto, Orochi Archmage deck with a lot of fun, Snakes, and budget goodness at $33.91.
  25. Nahiri, the Lithomancer is calling for an equipment and Solider focused mono-white build that's just $33.85.
  26. Who's Born to be Wild? Mina and Denn are! Check out this Gruul Smash deck with lands and fun for just $33.75.
  27. Gods are cool, especially when they make you berries, fruits, and tasty veggies. Karametra, God of Harvests might fetch you a lot of lands and good times, but she won't set back your wallet. Check out her budget build, clocking in at $33.74
  28. She beats with auras and fun, sailing over her foes. It's Bruna, Light of Alabaster! She's bringing a strong game at a cheap $33.69.
  29. Rosheen Meanderer at $33.63 clocks in with a bunch of X spells and activations with a different take on the classic Elf-Ball deck.
  30. We take a look at a very old school sort of guy, Boris Devilboon, from the original Legends set, and then build a $33.58 deck around our good demonic friends.
  31. It's time for a bit of an Orzhov Control loving, built around Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and featuring a ton of removal, control, and more, all for the low, low price of $33.56.
  32. Captain Sisay leads a fun, legendary infused deck that has a lot of great cards and synergy, but a light price, checking in at $33.46.
  33. Ertai, the Corrupted sacrifices creatures and enchantments to counter spells. For $33.35, we have a great control-esque deck with some groovy sacrificing love.
  34. With a modest budget of $33.32, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis have a fun event and morph focused theme, without running a bunch of cards from their Commander 2016 Appearance. Check them out!
  35. Built around the Old-School combo of Prodigal Sorcerer and Fungusaur, this Commander deck features a number of cards that deal damage to your own creatures so they get better. It clocks in at a humble $33.26.
  36. With a Golgari Toughness-Matters theme, this Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper deck won't hurt your budget, but will do some damage for $33.15.
  37. Grenzo, Dungeon Warden goes all crazy with graveyard and deck restocking shenanigans for a cheap $33.12. We even have an infinite combo in here!
  38. Commander 2017 brings some powerful new options for Commander players everywhere. I put together a multiplayer-friendly control deck around Mathas, Fiend Seeker for just $33.10.
  39. Don't you love the Izzet madness of Arjun, the Shifting Flame? No deck has more card drawing, or card drawing triggers, than this one! It clocks in at $33.04.
  40. It doesn't have to be Halloween for you to enjoy the Monster Mash. Here we have a Grusilda, Monster Mash deck that enjoys mashing your dorks together, but not mashing your budget. It clocks in at $32.98
  41. Don't Shatter your Budget with this build of the Shattergang Brothers, who's sacrificial ways won't sacrifice wallet, and just cost $32.94.
  42. I saw Muldrotha, the Gravetide and I just fell in love with that face. Who wouldn't? Here's a graveyard abuse deck that won't break your bank, just your battlefield. And maybe some friendships. It was $32.89.
  43. Who likes some Saprolings and having Fungal Fun? I do! Slimefoot, the Stowaway leads this cheap, flavorful deck that clocks in at $32.80. Every addition to the deck has to support the flavor of the Fungal concepts!
  44. Who wants to untap and en-creature Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle? Who wants a fun budget build that's just $32.77? ME!
  45. Next up is a budget build of Emmara, Soul of the Accord which is cheap and clocks in at $32.77. Check out it's token majesty!
  46. I randomly selected Kefnet the Mindful for a random Commander challenge, and was inspired to combine my two series and build a Budget Commander deck around card-drawing and fun times with Kefnet! Check it out and it's $32.73 glory.
  47. Let's build a fun graveyard and mono-Green build around my second Portal: Three Kingdoms leader - Hua Tuo, Honored Physician. I really like this build, and for just $32.65, I hope you will too!
  48. I built a fun budget Burn and Life gain deck around Firesong and Sunspeaker for a price tag of only $32.57! Want to check it out?
  49. I built a fun deck around the partners Gorm the Great and Virtus the Veiled. This deck ran some cool cards, including the old school Basilisk and Lure combos. But it only cost $32.51. Don't you wanna check it out? Of course ya do!
  50. For my 50th Budget Commander article, I decide to do something crazy! Let's build a Warrior themed deck around a very expensive Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, rather than my normal way of a budget leader. We come in at $42.45. You know you want to read it...
  51. Want a Naya Gold deck? Literally? Built around the multicolored loving Rienne, Angel of Rebirth. It clocks it at $32.39. I know you want to find out how I ever could do that! Check it out!
  52. I built a fun +1/+1 counter and enchantment-matters build around Eutropia the Twice-Favored for $32.33. Don't you wanna check it out?
  53. That's this article you silly goose; it ain't here yet!

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