The term casual Magic means different things to different people. Some people use it to mean “any game of Magic that happens away from the tournament tables.” Others use it to describe wackier formats, such as multiplayer. For some, casual Magic equates to cheap, budget-minded decks, while tournament-minded players will have a deck that costs hundreds of dollars (or more).
Not everyone has hundreds of dollars for each deck he or she runs, but a lot of casual decks are still on the pricier side of life. Shoot, even I have a five-colored Commander deck with the dual lands and fetches, and the mana base alone is so pricey that I could probably sell those lands to make a good down payment on a car.
But that’s the exception. Most players (casual or tournament) tend to rock decks that won’t break the bank. And even though there are some Commander staples and all-stars that can cost more than three digits ($100) and up, there aren’t many, and you don’t need any of them to have a good time and build a good deck.
That’s where this budget series comes in. My challenge is to build a deck, and it must clock in at under the previous deck’s budget. The budget from the previous article was $33.75. So that’s my target.
I also want to push my own deck-building chops today. I often have a set of tools that I go to in these projects with since I know they are cheap. Today, I’d like to try to build a budget-minded deck without dipping into a lot of those usual tricks. I love Krosan Tusker and Peregrination as cheap-land fetching methods to counter more pricey ones like Cultivate and Kodama's Reach. You’ll see me run cards like Expunge or Dismiss that are cheap. I want to sort of challenge my budget and options by pushing beyond these typical support structures.
So who’s my leader? Who excites me?
I take a look at the two-colored deities from Theros block. Huh. One of the cheapest deities from Theros block is Karametra, God of Harvests. I certainly don’t know why, though, because she’s really strong—one of the strongest. Maybe the reason is there’s no obvious tournament usage for her deity-ness. So let's take her for a spin!
Harvesting Away ? Commander | Abe Sargent
- Commander (0)
- Creatures (41)
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Allosaurus Rider
- 1 Ancestor's Chosen
- 1 Arbor Colossus
- 1 Borderland Ranger
- 1 Citanul Hierophants
- 1 Citanul Woodreaders
- 1 Civic Wayfinder
- 1 Conclave Naturalists
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Drumhunter
- 1 Emeria Shepherd
- 1 Fertilid
- 1 Fierce Empath
- 1 Garruk's Horde
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Great Oak Guardian
- 1 Greenwarden of Murasa
- 1 Honored Hierarch
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Kalemne's Captain
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 1 Mold Shambler
- 1 Nessian Demolok
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Quirion Elves
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Selesnya Guildmage
- 1 Somberwald Sage
- 1 Sporemound
- 1 Stingerfling Spider
- 1 Sunscorch Regent
- 1 Whisperer of the Wilds
- 1 Whitemane Lion
- 1 Woodborn Behemoth
- 1 Woodland Bellower
- 1 Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer
- 1 Adarkar Valkyrie
- 1 Ohran Viper
- 1 Zendikar Resurgent
- 1 Reya Dawnbringer
- Spells (18)
- 1 Make a Stand
- 1 Commune with Nature
- 1 Nissa's Expedition
- 1 Nissa's Pilgrimage
- 1 Pulse of Murasa
- 1 Rude Awakening
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Dictate of Karametra
- 1 Elemental Bond
- 1 Oblivion Ring
- 1 Rites of Flourishing
- 1 Sunblast Angel
- 1 Wild Pair
- 1 Citanul Flute
- 1 Crown of Convergence
- 1 Seer's Sundial
- 1 Selesnya Cluestone
- 1 Selesnya Signet
But over at CoolStuffInc.com, we come in at . . . $33.74 . . . One cent cheaper, baby!
Because Karametra will shoot out a basic land every single time you play a creature, I want to make sure my deck has a lot of basic lands and a lot of creatures. There are more than forty creatures, and virtually all of the lands count as basics.
Remember that Karametra works when you cast a creature, not when you bring one to the battlefield, so it won’t work on things like token-making. I want to focus on my critters.
Since the meat of the deck is creatures, what else was useful? Well, in these colors, we don’t have a massive amount of card-draw, so clearly Seer's Sundial is downright amazing and essential. Meanwhile, take a look at Citanul Flute. The more creatures we have in the deck, the better it becomes as a reliable creature tutor. It’s card advantage, and with the mana-ramping, it fits in perfectly as a mana sink later on.
And that’s not all of course. Wild Pair is here. Cast a creature, and then go find another after it arrives. That’s obviously sterling in a shell like this one. With that many lands out at once, Rude Awakening is downright amazing at pushing someone around so massively that he or she might break. We also have the mana production and card-draw of stuff like Rites of Flourishing and Dictate of Karametra. So we can play nice for a bit. And again, we aren’t running lethal cards like Sol Ring, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Woodfall Primus. I think we’re good. (Although note that this decks wants to cast spells fairly, so the Eldrazi that do the same, like World Breaker, make sense here for later additions once you acquire them).
All right, now that I’ve spent the requisite amount of time discussing the noncreatures, let’s get to the good stuff. I didn’t play Magic so I could sit on the sidelines and watch as others attacked with their Craw Wurms and Scathe Zombies. So let’s start smashing!
The first place I want to dip is mana. Normally, I’d begin with something sexier, but in a Karametra deck, I want to ensure we have the tools to play. You can see a lot of cards here, from early drops like Honored Hierarch and Quirion Elves (taps for both colors) to Fertilid and both Civic Wayfinder and Borderland Ranger. All of these are great early stuff to smooth your mana and to make way for Karametra. (I really like Whisperer of the Wilds in this deck, as the ferocious trigger is likely to occur.)
I know I’ll be able to slide in cheaper, supporting cards later, so the next place I move is to those creatures that are awesome but that could be pricier. Did you know that the Reya Dawnbringer from Conspiracy is down to a buck? That’s an obvious inclusion here. She’s great. Check out Greenwarden of Murasa. It’s big enough to matter when it arrives on the battlefield, and it’ll be a nice Regrowth effect when it arrives to party. And if it dies, you can choose to exile it to gain another party favor. You certainly don’t have to; there are some reanimation and recursion effects in here (such as Deadwood Treefolk).
With a high creature count, a cheap card like Adarkar Valkyrie makes a ton of sense to keep my stuff pushing the battlefield around. The two recent printings in Modern Masters and Commander (2014 Edition) have seen her price plummet. And I don’t know that she’ll recover. Another beneficiary of the high critter count is Garruk's Horde. When you have the top card of your library revealed, you can play it if it’s one of your forty or more creatures. This Beast is amazing with Karametra since you can play a creature to gain a free shuffle of your deck. If you hit a land, play a cheap creature from your hand and shuffle again, hopefully putting one of your forty or more creatures on top. Each creature cast increases your land total, so you could run out of lands very quickly. (Crown of Convergence can put the top card of your deck to the bottom, which will let you reach the good stuff.)
Another powerful synergy is with Emeria Shepherd. Cast any creature in your hand. Fetch a Plains for free with your leader. That’ll trigger the Shepherd, and you can return your best dead creature from your graveyard to the battlefield. You literally gain a basic land and two creatures every time you play one. That is a mega amount of card advantage!
What sort of support is a deck like this looking for? One of the obvious ways is to include creatures in lieu of spells. A removal “spell” like Stingerfling Spider is a lot better here than Wing Snare or Plummet since it triggers Karametra. I dug deep into Acidic Slime, Reclamation Sage, Mold Shambler, and Indrik Stomphowler. Shoot, I even have Nessian Demolok in here. So we can blow some stuff up.
I added some various fun cards in the deck to give it a little push. Ancestor's Chosen can be very powerful later on when you have a stocked graveyard as you net some serious life. You have the potential for card-draw with stuff like Ohran Viper, Citanul Woodreaders, and Masked Admirers. Save a creature with Whitemane Lion or monstrous up that Arbor Colossus to smash a flyer. We are even using a creature as my pseudo-combat effect. I often like to run cards like Dictate of Heliod or Swell of Courage that can be used to pump the whole team. But I tossed in Great Oak Guardian instead—because this deck is all about the (creature) base.
And we finally toss in a few pro-creature engines that like the big guns. Again, I’m sensitive to the fact that we need some card advantage, so creatures like Drumhunter, Garruk's Packleader, and Paleoloth add the option to draw some additional cards for the big guys.
I also added in one final card that a lot of folks have either forgotten or never knew about:
Take a look at the card. That’s right: Suddenly, all of your creatures tap for green mana. This is an extremely powerful card, as I’m sure you can see. A lot of decks could benefit from it, from token-making decks to decks with large creature types to decks with a lot of X spells or whatever. You can use the extra mana from this to help fuel some mana sinks in the deck.
And that’s a $33.74 deck.
Now, there are other places you could mine. There are some cheap cards I considered but ultimately kept out. I’ll give them to you, with their current prices included, so you can see how cheap this stuff can go.
- Mul Daya Channelers: $1.25
- Sakura-Tribe Elder: $0.75
- Hornet Queen: $0.99
- Scute Mob: $0.99
- Cathars' Crusade: $1.25
- Beastcaller Savant: $0.99
- Jazal Goldmane: $1.49
You could also head into more expensive territory. What else would I like to see? Aura Shards. Aura Shards. Eternal Dragon. Shaman of Forgotten Ways. Budoka Gardener. And don’t forget Aura Shards. Oh, and Soul of the Harvest, too.
Anyway, you have a lot of options, and yet, the deck has a load of synergy that belies just how cheap it is, right? We have a ton of great cards from Magic’s past to its most recent trip to Zendikar in here, and it all works. We have some seriously styling cards, too.
What do you think? Was there anything in here that ignited your own laneswalker spark? Are you ready to smash the budget block?
Here are the first twenty-five (twenty-six actually) budget-happy decks for your budget-happy days:
- Brion Stoutarm came in at $37.71.
- Ghave, Guru of Spores, with a budget of $36.48, is a lot of fun!
- 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.
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is the next in the list, rocking that $36.37 price tag.
- Princess Lucrezia and Riven Turnbull feature in this fun, throwback, Commander deck that is just $35.68.
- Roon of the Hidden Realm demonstrates one of the Commander (2013 Edition) dorks in a $35.29 shell.
- Vhati il-Dal runs the table for just $35.17.
- With all of the expected draconic lovin’, Bladewing the Risen comes just a few cents fewer at $35.13.
- 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.
- 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.
- Brago, King Eternal is featured with a different artifact theme and a $35.04 budget.
- 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). Wedges are cool. So is Teneb, the Harvester! $34.94 gets us a deck that wins and has fun.
- Who likes Surrak Dragonclaw? Who likes making a face-smashing deck for just $34.83? This guy!
- Tolsimir Wolfblood? $34.73? Selesnya aggro? We have it in spades!
- Alesha, Who Smiles at Profit is ready to bring some serious recursion, beats, and a modest budget to boot at $34.62.
- Want to Dragon up your deck? Why not roll with Dragonlord Kolaghan for $34.47.
- Who’s thumping those mono-green beats with the Yeva, Nature's Herald stylings? Who clocks in at just $34.39? This article!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- With a budget of just $33.98, this Daxos of Meletis deck is pretty cool without being too expensive. Check it out!
- We have a Snake-flavored Kaseto, Orochi Archmage deck with a lot of fun, Snakes, and budget goodness at $33.91.
- Nahiri, the Lithomancer is calling for an Equipment- and Solider-focused mono-white build that’s just $33.85.
- Who’s Born to be Wild? Mina and Denn are! Check out this Gruul smash deck with lands and fun for just $33.75.