Commander is a great format, with a large amount of super-mega cheap cards as well as super-mega expensive cards. For every cheap staple like Cultivate there’s a Mana Drain or Sword of Fire and Ice that has a high cost attached to it. Plateau. Arid Mesa. Time Warp. You get the idea, right? Commander can feel like a feast or famine format at times.
How can Commander be expensive when these great leaders are so cheap? Check them out! All of these are available near mint right now for under a buck over at CoolStuffInc.com.
10. Brago, King Eternal
Brago is a heavily used Commander that also has a lot of things going on under the hood. For example, I once ran it with an Azorius artifact themed deck to blink in and out artifacts with various enters-the-battlefield triggers like Mycosynth Wellspring and Spine of Ish-Sah while triggering Arcbound Crusher or Serum Tank. You could run it in an enchantment or aura deck with stuff like Trial of Strength to make a 4/2 Beast token or Reality Acid, Treachery, or Unquestioned Authority while triggering Ajani's Chosen or Whitewater Naiads. Run it with a bunch of Planeswalkers to reset their loyalty. And those are in addition to the many tricks with the normal suite of card value like Cloudblazer, Sphinx of Uthuun, and such. Brago is so useful at blinking the team, and playing hard into the traditional blink decks. Yet, Brago is so, so very cheap. Get your Brago on!
9. Surrak Dragonclaw
Magic is about fun. It’s about swinging out for a victory and punching people in the face. And those are all things Surrak is good at. Flash! No countering my critters! Giving them trample! From Flash to Smash, Surrak does it all. He gives you tricks in Blue, and the big beats of Red and Green. In go Dragons, Hydras, Beasts, Sphinxes and Wurms. And you can counter, protect, and draw cards with the power of Blue added in there, which gives you an extra ability to protect and push your deck to the next level. And yet Surrak is so, so cheap. Make your table smile and choose Surrak as your leader for the next Commander Night.
8. Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Edric has a long established pedigree in Commander of either helping a number of builds or leading a number of builds. I have a deck with the expected cards like Gudul Lurker, Scryb Sprites, and Flying Men, tempo and counters in order to abuse the blatant card drawing powers of the Spymaster. And there are numerous other ways to harness its power. Tokens! Consider Aether Mutation, Grizzly Fate, or other mass token makers. Unblockable guys with hit-triggers such as Thieving Magpie or Avenging Druid. Run Edric with group hug cards and make everyone happy! Toss in Veteran Explorer or shoot, even Noble Benefactor. Edric is great and everyone likes it. From Johnny to Spike to Timmy, there are Edric builds out here all up and down the block. And despite all of that, Edric has been printed four times, more than most other cards by far. And you could get a copy from last year’s Commander 2016 product pretty cheaply, and for well under a dollar. Are you ready for the card drawing fun times to commence?
7. Selvala, Explorer Returned
Speaking about group hug-ish, card-drawing legendary Green 3-drops that often are used to play nice, check Selvala, Part One. She does do much for you. Get your tap-freak on, and then you’ll make an amount of Green mana while everyone gets their Temple Bell on. Now, what that means in reality is that you get the mana right there to help you play your extra cards. Imagine if an enchantment were printed tomorrow that read this:
“During each player’s draw step, that player draws an extra card. During your main phase, add two to your mana pool.” Sort of like an Eladamri's Vineyard for just you while a Howling Mine for everyone. Or a fast Bounty of the Luxa. No one wants to kill a Howling Mine, so they’ll let you ramp while they get the pretty, pretty cards. Oh, and don’t ignore the point of Selvala showing what everyone is drawing, so you can better plan your future. There are a few cards out there that knowing what your foe has in hand can make them more powerful, such as Meddling Mage or Nevermore.
6. Zurgo Helmsmasher
There are a few major ways to enjoy the Smashery of Zurgo. By himself, Zurgo will kill a person very quickly with his haste, huge attack value, and indestructible swinging. You can play him easily in a deck designed to kill someone with Commander damage quickly with Voltron-esque power already built in, and the ability to recover quickly from getting zonked. Smash on. You can also put him at the front of a potent aggro force that uses the most aggressive colors to smash loud and proud Mardu style. But there is a third, more subtle way to use him. Note that he has indestructible on your turn, not just when you swing. Load your deck up with mass removal like Damnation, sweep the board, and keep Zurgo around for more smashing, in a control build. And you have the best colors for that, with each of those colors having great mass removal like Wrath of God, Rolling Earthquake, and Life's Finale. Zurgo is nothing to sneeze at.
5. Narset, Enlightened Master
I know that Narset may not be the most beloved Commander of all time because she has a few dials on her to keep her popping. First of all, she has hexproof so it’s not easy to find answers for her once she’s in play, and her Commander-ing means even when you do she can be replayed right on over and over again. Another issue with her is the ability to play all four cards you exiled with her that turn. If you have a land and a pair of non-creature spells, you can easily drop them. And in a deck that prepares, she can be pretty nasty. Note that she works very, very well in multiple shells, like an artifact shell that combines Red’s love of artifacts and cards like Pia and Kiran Nalaar or Daretti, Scrap Savant with the Blue and White love of all things artificial as well. Artifacts are non-creatures as well, right? And then you can also run and drop the fun big spells like Time Warp, Insurrection, Wrath of God and more. But her power level brings a lot of heat, and her relatively high initial casting cost both gives you a window in and a way to attack her on the back end. So she gets more hate sometimes than others, and I feel that (other than the artifact build) she’s in the wrong colors to best abuse her. Red and Blue? Sure! But she would be so much better either with Green acceleration or with Black as the other color. Black gives you everything you want White to do in her builds, and adds in so many more haymakers and synergy. In the end, she’s cheap to pick up and can do some fun things!
4. Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
There are precisely two reasons to love and push Nath. The first is that Nath is really the only major multicolored supporter of the typically mono-colored discard theme in Black. Nath gives you both a trigger when someone discards a card, like Megrim, to make a token creature, but also forces people to discard as well. Both trick and treat on one body. Nath is the single best leader for a discard deck in Commander, because you get access to Green for land fetching, artifact and enchantment removal, and more options for graveyard use and abuse, given your tendency to both have and face stocked graveyards. But Nath does something else too. Precisely four legendary Elves in the history of Magic are Black and Green. One of those is Savra, Queen of the Golgari, and another Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. The last one is Glissa, the Traitor. None work as the leader of your Elf deck with stuff like Priest of Titania, Eyeblight's Ending, Shaman of the Pack, and Elvish Promenade. Nath works in two separate shells quite well, and yet, never crosses a buck in value. So sad.
3. Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge
I think the low cost of Jeleva has everything to do with how little play she sees. Frankly, I don’t know why you aren’t playing Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge. So what I am going to do is to give you a useful analogy for our good Vampire’s consideration.
Consider Kaalia of the Vast. When you drop her and swing, you can play, for free (and also swinging) a fun Angel, Demon, or Dragon. You get three great colors for her, one of which gives you haste enablers as well as the ol’ Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boot duo. Kaalia nets you one free card every attack, the best of whatever you have in your hand. And it attacks immediately, so that helps push a table around. Now, Kaalia tends to run out of gas, and can often drop creatures so fast that it’s hard to keep a full grip. Or, Kaalia won’t drop a creature each turn and be used to her full ability, because they don’t want to walk into mass removal. And unless you draw better creatures, you typically drop the best creature first, and then slide down in value.
Why is this important for Jeleva? Because Jeleva is arguably a better Kaalia. First of all, because you can play an instant or sorcery when she swings for free, her colors are better than Kaalia. Often, all Kaalia can do when someone plays a Wrath of God is to hope they have Boros Charm or something similar to make their team indestructible. That’s pretty much it for your answers. But Jeleva decks can run actual counter magic to help their cause. And, because Jeleva doesn’t drop creatures from your hand, she doesn’t over commit to the board. Plus, because she plays sorceries/instants for free each turn from something other than the hand, so the good stuff in your hand is still safe and ready to be used. You see, Kaalia is basically tempo. You get to play your stuff for free. But Jeleva is built in card advantage. And, while Kaalia is dropping creatures and getting in a few more hits, Jeleva is actively causing everyone to exile some cards from the top of their library so she can play the stuff that got exiled. And since it’s free, Jeleva can play stuff from other colors without worrying about color identity. Oh, and finally, Jeleva is Red too, so you have access to the same haste-enabling tricks as Kaalia.
In most metagames, and with access to most of the cards in Magic, I’m telling you I’ve done a lot more damage with Jeleva than with Kaalia as my Commander. But Kaalia has the bigger target painted on her back. So try out Jeleva and see if I’m right about just how good she is. (I run her with a few milling tricks, so you can finish folks off, like Glimpse the Unthinkable, in case you need them. Oh, and don’t sleep on Misthollow Griffin either).
2. Isperia, Supreme Judge
As a general rule, people who play Azorius builds tend to like drawing cards, right? You want to play control or tempo or blink, all with the idea of drawing cards and winning the battle of attrition. You want to have threats that can win quickly when it’s finally time to do so. You want to keep yourself in the game. And that’s where the 2nd iteration of Isperia fits in. First of all, Isperia is a 6/4 flyer than can smash fast. So speed on. Second, she gives you a card when someone attacks and brings the heat either against you or a friendly Planeswalker you brought to the party. She draws you a card for every creature that attacks, which is basically game over against decks that seek to go wide with lots of smaller bodies like tokens. You draw before you even declare blockers, so you will know what you drew first and can plan around it. Did you draw a Holy Day or Ethereal Haze? Did you draw removal? A creature with flash you can play and block with? And she is amazing with flash-enablers like Leyline of Anticipation. Plus, she doesn’t even need to be untapped or anything to work, so you can be dropping someone’s life total in the sky while they stalled on the ground unless they want to give you an epic amount of cards. Isperia is awesome, and yet still a bulk mythic rare.
1. Sydri, Galvanic Genius
When you look at potential leaders for artifact decks, I think Sydri is one of the best. You get the right three colors (Esper), you don’t get one of those expensive artifact enablers like Sharuum the Hegemon that’s hard to build up to sometimes, the commander tax for replaying her is very reasonable, and her abilities work in pretty much any artifact shell. Giving a small mana Myr like Silver Myr deathtouch and lifelink is pretty cool. Just having the mana open usually keeps people from coming your way. You can turn artifacts into creatures to swing or block, as well as lifelinking and deathtouching away. The life you gain merely by happenstance using her usually matters a lot. She’s a great Artificer for your builds! And she’s mega-cheap to boot, with her recent reprinting last year.
And there we are! 10 super cheap leaders that can smash with the beast of them all ready and waiting for you to build a quick Commander deck around them and smash away! It’s from artifacts and blinking to big creatures and fast spells, we’ve got it all and there’s no reason for you not to use one of these people to put a dent in your metagame without a dent in your wallet.