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Budget Commander #16 – Alesha for Profit


Hello, folks! When many of the latest Commander cards are continuing to spiral upward in cost, it can be a bit overwhelming to actually build a Commander deck with quality cards on a realistic budget. When you head to your local card store to pick up cards for that Commander project you are working on, it can be disheartening find a great card for your deck at way too high of a price.

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Playing any Eternal format tends to have this issue. If you are not playing Pauper, there are going to be older cards that have higher prices because of Legacy, Modern, or Commander play that have elevated prices. But you don’t have to play that game. There are bunches of great cards that are worth very little.

That’s where this budget series comes in. Each time I build a budget Commander deck, I’m looking to come in under the price of a previous entry.

With everyone going all Dragon-happy, I was feeling it’d be fun to bring back a Fate Reforged legendary creature instead and build a little deck around it. So let’s do one of the legendary critters from Fate Reforged, right? Right!

Now, I’ve already done a budget build around Ghave, Guru of Spores, so rocking Daghatar the Adamant doesn’t make a lick of sense. And I just did a budget version of Surrak Dragonclaw (so no need to do Yasova Dragonclaw). That leaves Mardu’s Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Sultai’s Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Jeskai’s Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest.

Hmm . . . 

After I declared Alesha the fifth-best card from Fate Reforged for multiplayer, how could I run anyone else? It’s just not to be!

The budget last time was $34.73. This time? It’s $34.62 over at CoolStuffInc.com—a full $0.11 under! Yay for budgets! (Now a quick caveat: This deck is priced as of the time of its writing; it could have changed a bit here or there from writing to publication, and then from publication to you reading it. Prices do change.)

The goal of this deck is to use some cheaper creatures that look pretty good when you Alesha them right back onto the battlefield. Because our good Alesha triggers when she attacks, and the creatures comes back attacking, too, you can generate strong value from a creature like Nekrataal. It will kill a lot of potential blockers out there, and a 2/1 first strike creature is a pretty solid creation from Alesha. Even if it is blocked and killed, you still got the goods from recurring it by harnessing its trigger.

That’s the target. Try to find ways of filling up the graveyard with these goodies to bring back out, unearth good cheap creatures to use as Nekrataals, and finally, see what we can do about finding other cards in our colors that work on a similar parabola and thus have strong synergy with Alesha.

Let’s me give you an example: Mentor of the Meek. This guy triggers and draws you a card (after spending a mana) every single time you trigger Alesha. That’s the sort of synergy I’m looking for. Plus, you can Alesha back the Mentor as well.

Another example is Break Through the Line, which can make all of these small dorks unblockable. That’s the sort of synergy we need to unlock. Because it’s been overprinted, we can even slide Sun Titan into the budget deck now.

What are some useful directions to go for creatures? Well, if we head along Nekrataal’s lineage, the obvious places to look are at creatures that have triggers when they enter the battlefield (ETB). Initially, I wanted to add in creatures that provide card advantage, as the Nekrataal does—something like Pilgrim's Eye tutoring for a land, Ghitu Slinger’s Shock, or Liliana's Specter forcing some discards. These are the money-makers for the team.

Beetleback Chief
But there are other useful ETB directions to hew as well. Anathemancer can often come out of nowhere to kill someone. Cards like Beetleback Chief and Ponyback Brigade have obvious value. And ETB creatures aren’t the only place to harness. You can recur and then sacrifice again and again the Burnished Hart.

Utility creatures are important to the success of an Alesha deck, so we have cards to fight graveyard abuse, to loot for cards to find good stuff and load up the graveyard, and to bring stuff back, such as Crypt Champion.

And it’s not just utility either! We have a lot of creatures that embrace the aggressive, beat-your-face theme that Alesha demands. Battalion makes a lot of sense as a keyword here, so a card like Tajic, Blade of the Legion can do strong work. Ogre Battledriver gives your force haste and pump in the front, and even a creature brought by Alesha back into play gains +2 to the power for that turn, which makes your little guys suddenly major threats and decreases the chance of someone just killing it.

Because Alesha needs to attack to trigger, I included a few ways to make sure she can attack with impunity without worrying about being killed. You can use Dauthi Embrace or Spirit en-Dal to give her shadow, activate a card like Rogue's Passage, and even equip her with a Whispersilk Cloak. You can use that stuff on creatures you recur, too. If you attack with an en-Cloaked Alesha and pay 2 mana to bring back a Withered Wretch, and then you use the Embrace to give it shadow so you hit for 5 damage that turn, you can start exiling cards with the Wretch.

Don’t forget that we added some cards that make it hard to block, with stuff like Goblin War Drums running around.

But one thing I did is really crazy—get ready. I pushed my budget to the limit to fit in a Skullclamp! Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but it just works perfectly in a deck like this one. For example, equip a Nekrataal for 1 mana, draw two cards, and then attack with Alesha and kill a creature when you recur your Nekrataal. If it survived combat, you can equip it again for another pair of cards. In a deck with such a large number of small creatures that attack suicidally, it’s a perfect fit. That’s especially so for colors that lack a lot of true card-draw.

We can toss in a smattering of cards, including Underworld Connections, Bitter Revelation, or Syphon Mind, but we still don’t have a lot of options, and Skullclamp fits perfectly.

What are some other fun tricks to pull off? You can cast Faith's Reward to bring back the team after a mass-removal spell. That will also give you more triggers for those ETB guys we have. You can gain double the Alesha triggers if you equip Illusionist's Bracers to her. With all of the ETB triggers, Strionic Resonator seems to be a nice way to double those up as well. Can you imagine Alesha’ing that Nekrataal with this out?

There’re a lot of other tricks in this deck you can discover if you look closely. The best thing is that there are a lot of directions we can dip. Some of the final cards I cut due to budget and space were Cathars' Crusade, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, Rise of the Hobgoblins, True Believer, and Soltari Champion.

You could push the meek-inherit-the-earth theme with stuff like Meekstone and Retribution of the Meek.

Want to add in stuff from Dragons of Tarkir? How about Damnable Pact or perhaps Minister of Pain? Dragon Whisperer seems pretty useful as a beater in a deck like this, too. As Daniel mentioned as a response to my article last week, Boltwing Marauder would fit nicely in an Alesha shell as well!

If you have more money (or own a nice collection), I would love to add in stuff like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Dualcaster Mage, Karmic Guide, and Mother of Runes. Shoot, you could even toss in something like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Have a spare Legion Loyalist? This deck cries out for it!

There are so many directions to ponder. Which way will you take your Alesha deck? How will you move your budget? You don’t have to break the back to have fun after all!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

Appendix of Budgetary Contentment

Here are the first fifteen budget decks for your enjoyment:

Tolsimir Wolfblood

  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. 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 have it in spades!

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