Hello, folks, and welcome back to the series that takes budget and gives it a whole new meaning. Many Magic players, writers, and financial gurus use the term budget or cheap as a relative term to suggest that something is genuinely achievable financially, particularly when compared with others. For example, someone might label a Legacy deck a budget deck since it “only” costs around $150 dollars when others cost so much more. And there’s no objective line of budget or cheap on one side and expensive on the other. We can’t agree that a deck that costs $25 or $50 or $100 or $250 is cheap or budget. Everyone has one’s own relative understanding of what that term as underlying concept means.
But for me, a Commander deck that’s in the triple digits loses its right to be so labeled. With the price of some casual cards spiking, due in part to Commander demand, there’s an important quality to Magic finance right now, with a handful of cards worth a lot of money and a ton more cards worth very, very little. Due to over- or recent printings, some of the best cards for casual Magic of all time are super-cheap—Stroke of Genius, Decree of Justice, and Comet Storm are all good examples.
Understanding where the cheap cards are, and how to best harness them for your deck, is a great way to build that Commander deck cheaply. That’s where my budget series steps in. Each iteration, I take a legendary creature and then build a very cheap build around it, with the caveat that each build must be cheaper than the one before it.
In acknowledgement of Shadows over Innistrad, it seems to be a good time to build a deck around a legendary creature from it. But nothing really stands out as a budget option. It’s not as though a pricey mythic card like Archangel Avacyn or Olivia, Mobilized for War would work with this budget option. So what about the first block? Right? Right?
The problem is that the vast majority are also pretty pricey. Avacyn, Angel of Hope? Gisela, Blade of Goldnight? Geist of Saint Traft? Olivia Voldaren? Only a handful aren’t—Bruna, Light of Alabaster is cheap, and so is Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. Even Mikaeus, the Lunarch isn’t that bad.
So let’s do Bruna! She’ll be fine. Can we do the normal Bruna build with her on the cheap? We can’t add in cards like Daybreak Coronet, Greater Auramancy, or Eldrazi Conscription. Shoot, even support cards like Kor Spiritdancer, Academy Rector, Idyllic Tutor, Replenish, and Copy Enchantment are out of reach. So what do we do?
Bruna Beats ? Commander | Abe Sargent
- Commander (0)
- Creatures (33)
- 1 Academy Researchers
- 1 Ajani's Chosen
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Auramancer
- 1 Auratouched Mage
- 1 Blessed Spirits
- 1 Boonweaver Giant
- 1 Celestial Ancient
- 1 Drake Familiar
- 1 Eidolon of Countless Battles
- 1 Faith Healer
- 1 Glimmerpoint Stag
- 1 Heliod's Pilgrim
- 1 Hero of Iroas
- 1 Hypnotic Siren
- 1 Invisible Stalker
- 1 Iridescent Drake
- 1 Kitsune Mystic
- 1 Lost Auramancers
- 1 Mesa Enchantress
- 1 Nomad Mythmaker
- 1 Perplexing Chimera
- 1 Riptide Chimera
- 1 Rootwater Shaman
- 1 Silent Sentinel
- 1 Soul Sculptor
- 1 Sphinx of the Final Word
- 1 Stormsurge Kraken
- 1 Thassa's Emissary
- 1 Tragic Poet
- 1 Thran Golem
- 1 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 1 Hakim, Loreweaver
- Spells (28)
- 1 Aura Finesse
- 1 Aura Graft
- 1 Chastise
- 1 Stroke of Genius
- 1 Word of Undoing
- 1 Crib Swap
- 1 Dawn to Dusk
- 1 Plea for Guidance
- 1 Act of Authority
- 1 Arcanum Wings
- 1 Armored Ascension
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Auramancer's Guise
- 1 Confiscate
- 1 Ethereal Armor
- 1 Faith's Fetters
- 1 Fate Foretold
- 1 Flickerform
- 1 Flight of Fancy
- 1 Mark of Eviction
- 1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
- 1 Soul Snare
- 1 Spectra Ward
- 1 Steel of the Godhead
- 1 Traveler's Cloak
- 1 Unquestioned Authority
- 1 Azorius Signet
- 1 Crown of the Ages
Our budget to beat from the last project was $33.74, and we dropped by five cents to $33.69. Yay for cheap commanders!
Of course, these prices over at CoolStuffInc.com are very flexible. Prices can shift from writing to publication to reading. But the basic point stands: You can make a cheap deck around Bruna that is not forced to use the number of very expensive cards mentioned above, like Greater Auramancy, and Kor Spiritdancer.
In fact, this pool of cards is so deep that many other cards could have been considered. Do you want Graceblade Artisan? Vigilant Martyr? Sovereigns of Lost Alara? Totem-Guide Hartebeest? Umbra Mystic? Shielded by Faith? Sinstriker's Will? Bident of Thassa? Sphere of Safety? Skull of Orm? Cleansing Meditation? Seal of Cleansing? Custodi Squire? Open the Vaults? Skybind? Venser, the Sojourner?
There’s a lot of room for enchantments generally and Auras specifically here.
Before I take a looksee at how I built the deck, I want to spend some time talking about a Commander staple that is cheap, commonly played, great support card: Mulldrifter. Mulldrifter is great since it provides card advantage. Drop it, get two cards, and you’ll still have a 2/2 creature that can participate in a game by attacking, blocking, grabbing some Equipment, and more. Plus, its status as a creature can’t be ignored. There are a ton of ways to bounce it and replay it, to recur it if it dies or to exile it and then bring it back, such as with Ghostly Flicker or Zombify. Mulldrifter is a great card for that potential to gain more and more card advantage.
There’s a key card in this build of Bruna that’s your Mulldrifter: Flight of Fancy. When it arrives, draw two cards, just like Mulldrifter. With Bruna as your leader, when you attack or block with her, you can drop Flight of Fancy from your hand onto her for free, and that means two free cards for no mana. And that’s not all—she can recur that Flight to the battlefield after it dies. It’s a serious card engine. And it works wonders with the various Aura tutors in this deck. Take Boonweaver Giant as a great example . Play it, and you invested a heavy 7 mana into your dopey 4/4. But search your library, hand, or graveyard for Flight, put it on the Giant, and you have drawn two cards and you have a flying Giant. That’s a pretty good card. Auratouched Mage does the same for 6 mana, and you’ll have a 3/3 flying Wizard post-Flight.
We have more Flight of Fancy abuse. Bounce it each upkeep with Riptide Chimera or when you play Drake Familiar and replay for more cards (just like you would do with Mulldrifter). Flicker it when you play Glimmerpoint Stag. Recur it when it’s in the graveyard with Nomad Mythmaker or Hakim, Loreweaver. Flash it out for two cards instantly with Rootwater Matriarch. Swap it with Arcanum Wings’s aura swap ability to put it right into play. This deck is built to abuse the Flight of Fancy. In this shell, it’s better than Mulldrifter.
The same reasons Flight of Fancy is good are also why some other cards are here as well. Some Auras just get you one card on arrival, such as Traveler's Cloak (that card is great because you can swing with Bruna, drop the Cloak, draw a card, name a land of the person you are attacking, and then hit for free, rather than worry about blockage), Unquestioned Authority, or Fate Foretold. I layered in some fun stuff like that.
White and blue have a lot of ways of cheating out Auras, so Bruna’s colors make sense. I know some folks have always felt that Bruna should have been in green and white instead, like Krond the Dawn-Clad. But it makes sense considering blue’s history as well. We’ve seen white cards like Boonweaver Giant and what they do, and then we have blue ones like Academy Researchers and Iridescent Drake. They all cheat out an Aura onto the battlefield from your hand, library, or graveyard. Now, once that happens, you can move the Aura to Bruna if you need to. When she attacks or blocks, you can slide Auras over to her; that works. I also included a few ways to move Auras around so they’d be on the right creature.
Take a look at Crown of the Ages. It can move an Aura from one legal target to another, thereby letting you bounce a great Aura like Spectra Ward to another creature. Or you can Aura Graft (and potentially steal) an Aura from someone else or even draw a card and move one with Aura Finesse. Yay for tricks!
Now, my favorite is the interesting Kitsune Mystic. Drop a pair of Auras on this Fox and flip it, and then you have a 4/5 Autumn-Tail who’ll move stuff around to the right folks for 1 mana each. You can also use her to move Auras after you drop them onto Bruna. Swing with Bruna, put some Auras on her from the graveyard or your hand, and then, post-combat, you can redistribute them. You can also move an Aura right before a creature would die, and you can move opposing Auras. If one player has stolen a creature from another, you can swap it—so if Johnny used Take Possession to steal Sarah’s Dread, how about he takes Sarah’s Silver Myr instead? Kitsune Mystic is a classic example of an underplayed card that works very, very well in an Aura-based shell. (And it’s really cheap too boot!)
Bruna is obviously one thing to look to enchant, and I know a lot of folks usually just drop a bunch of Auras and kill in one or two swings of commander damage with her. If you choose to do the same, that’s okey dokey. Other than Armored Ascension, or perhaps a big Ethereal Armor, we don’t have a lot of those tricks here. That’s fine; we have Flight of Fancy!
I also gave us some protection, such as the Spectra Ward and Flickerform. Note that Flickerform will Flicker and return Auras as well as the enchanted creature. Not only will that give you more triggers from any Auras you may have on it (cough, Flight of Fancy, cough), but it also can Flicker a creature. Move your Aura to Heliod's Pilgrim or Boonweaver Giant to Flicker it for more Aura-tutoring.
No Commander deck should require you to win with the Commander primarily or exclusively. I need more than just Bruna, Auras, and some utility creatures. I want ways to answer answers to my commander (like Nevermore, a lot of removal that jacks my commander tax up too high, and such). Thran Golem is a very powerful threat when there’s an Aura on it. And it’s just a quarter, so it’s easy to add while remaining aware of your budget. Virtually a bulk mythic already, Sphinx of the Final Word is a great flying, hexproof powerhouse, and you can drop Auras on it without fear of the creature dying to targeted removal. Invisible Stalker has built-in unblockability and can serve as a useful outlet as well. Stormsurge Kraken is the same: hexproof and size.
Since my deck already had a bunch of Auras (including negative ones like Confiscate and Faith's Fetters), I felt it only made sense to toss in enchantment-loving cards like Ajani's Chosen, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Mesa Enchantress. The recent W/B Commander (2015 Edition) deck Call the Spirits has a lot of enchantment-loving cards, and those have dropped financially as a result, so I added some to my deck.
We have a few clever cards in here. Word of Undoing is an Unsummon variant that can bounce the white Auras back to its owner’s hand, so you can use it to save or reboot a creature, and white Auras can be reloaded as well. We have a few bestow cards, and Eidolon of Countless Battles is a pretty big house since it grows from both creatures and Auras in play. There are many of these tricks out there rocking the block. Sacrifice your Auras to Faith Healer to gain a bunch of life right before attacking with Bruna and bringing them back again (and gaining triggers from card-draw ones). Dig into this deck, and you’ll find plenty more.
Are you ready to get your Bruna on?
Here are the first twenty-six (twenty-seven, 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.
- 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