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Budget Commander #19 — Zed-Tastic!


Have you ever wondered how you can build a Commander deck on the cheap? Are you looking for another project to build, but you don’t have a lot of cash right now? Do you just like deck-building challenges?

Zedruu the Greathearted
That’s where the Budget Commander series steps in! In this series, I try to build a deck that is truly budget-minded and in which every deck clocks in under the budget of the previous deck. We are down to under $35 and shrinking. That’s a real budget challenge!

One of the things I’d like to do for this project is figure out which color combinations I’ve done and try to see if I can do something different. I have done these: Boros, Izzet, Dimir, Golgari, Rakdos twice, Azorius, Selesnya, Abzan twice, Temur, Mardu, Bant, mono-blue twice, mono-red, mono-green, mono-white.

So we have two wedges not done: Sultai and Jeskai. Four of the shard tri-colors are unused, and we have mono-black, Orzhov, Gruul, and Simic that I’ve never used. And I’ve never built a five-colored deck either.

Is there a legendary leader that intrigues me from the unused color combinations?

After his reprinting in Magic: The Gathering—Conspiracy, Edric, Spymaster of Trest is in budget territory. But I have an Edric deck already in real life, so I want to stay away.

Let’s Tarkir this thing up and use a clan that I’ve thus far stayed away from.

Hello, Jeskai!

Budget Time!

Our target is to come in under $34.39. Get ready for the 2015 El-Cheapo Commander Fun-Off!

Did you know that Narset, Enlightened Master has been dropped in price to barely above bulk status? We could do that all day long. But let’s go into a slightly different direction. Meet our new Goat Monk overlord

And there we are! So where did we end up?



Dictate of Kruphix
Now let’s drill into our good Zedruu for a moment. It has two components. The first is to send permanents you own to other folks, and then the second is to draw cards equal to the number of permanents that other folk control that are really yours.

Donating is certainly fun! There are a lot of ways that you can look at this. I chose to run some symmetrical effects, such as Mystic Barrier and Dictate of Kruphix, that don’t care who owns them. Howling Mine might be out of my budget, but Temple Bell sure isn’t!

You could certainly do some Johnny tricks here and Donate things like Bronze Bombshell. But that’s not really this deck. That’s not the direction I wanted to mine. So where did I want to go?

Notice the Diamond Kaleidoscope. It has several synergies. The obvious is that you can make 0/1 Prism tokens that then are donated to others so that you can draw some cards. It’s not as though 0/1 tokens are going to be any sort of a threat to anyone. Unlike Eldrazi Spawn or Gold tokens, these don’t have a sacrifice ability built into them, so your enemy can’t just sacrifice it to end the issue—only the Kaleidoscope can sacrifice them. Plus, you can sac them to make some mana of any color, so you can make the right mana for the Jeskai deck, make a token creature to block, swap, and have a lot of fun with them!

Caribou Range
I liked that trick so much that I tossed in Caribou Range. That’s right: Caribou Range. Wall of Kelp? It also fits in perfectly, and your foe can’t even swing with the 0/1 token to try to get someone to block it since it has defender! Wall of Kelp is serious tech. We also grabbed Kher Keep, Trading Post, and Nuisance Engine. (I would have grabbed Springjack Pasture, but I ran out of cash—I like to do my mana stuff first to make sure that I budget for some fetch lands and mana artifacts and such. My budget expired before I could do the Pasture.) Shoot, let’s even toss in Spiny Starfish as a fun blocker to mug up the ground.

So we can Donate away 0/1 tokens and symmetrical cards with ease. Let’s toss in Bazaar Trader to send over some more stuff! Remember that it costs 3 mana a pop to activate Zedruu to give away your worst stuff, but Bazaar Trader costs a simple tap.

In fact, we can delve into that some more. Take a gander at Risky Move. It moves from one controller to the next over the game. Note that this is a beginning-of-upkeep trigger, just like Zedruu, so you can stack them and then resolve Zedruu before you get the Move back and draw an extra card. Then, you’ll notice that creatures could start moving around the board as people begin to lose coin flips. This will slowly help to build up your Zedruu count as your own creatures are given away.

We can run cards that give themselves away, such as Jinxed Idol, Akroan Horse, and Humble Defector. The second heads away and then begins to churn out Soldier tokens for you, while the latter will give you some cards before he leaves, and then he’ll probably be passed around from player to player until everyone has gathered some stuff, and meanwhile, you’ll be getting an extra card out of him with Zedruu each turn. More like Humble Ancestral, am I right?

Hmmm . . . that Horse with the other 0/1 tokens lead me to an obvious space: other creature tokens! I doubt we’ll have a lot of creatures in this deck, instead relying on enchantments, artifacts, and sorceries and instants. We may as well have some guys that make more creatures in here, and cards like Goblinslide and Skywise Teachings will churn out those tokens over time to increase the army.

Now it’s time to flesh things out a little more. We need some defense, so I find space for anything from Vodalian Illusionist and Cho-Manno, Revolutionary to Teferi's Moat and Darksteel Sentinel. Plus, our horde of 0/1 creatures can leap into the way of the largest of foes with aplomb.

This might be one of the first budget projects into which I was able to fit some Planeswalkers. Jace, Architect of Thought suits the deck quite nicely. It plays a good role on defense, shrinking stuff that comes your way.

Then, I eased back into our sorceries and instants. I tossed in the requisite removal and counters for us. I massaged the deck with some good support—for example, since we’ll be drawing a lot of cards, Walking Atlas seems to be a useful way to drop an extra land. You could also dip into Terrain Generator.

Take Avarice Totem as another example. If you have 10 mana, you can swap your worst card with your opponent’s best!

Avarice Totem

  1. Spend 5 mana, and target your worst card, such as a 0/1 Pest token from Nuisance Engine.
  2. While that is on the stack, spend 5 mana to target your opponent’s best card.
  3. Resolve. The best card and Totem swap. Then, the second ability resolves, and the Totem and your 0/1 Pest exchange. The result is that you now have the opponent’s whatsit and your own Totem, and he or she has a 0/1 Pest token that will trigger Zedruu.

(This trick won’t work if your foe has 5 mana available to trigger the Totem after the ability resolves—he or she can use it before the first trigger resolves.)

A few tricks headed in. I so badly desire to overload Dragonshift when I have a passel of 0/1 tokens! And you can uncover some fun interactions and things on your own, so I don’t want to belabor every single card in the deck.

So, what did you think of the deck? Does it meet with your approval? Nothing says you can’t run a great off-kilter deck without breaking that piggy bank. Was there a card or strategy that I missed?

P.S. Imagine that you ran Mana Vault. You drop it, tap it, and then send it over with Zedruu and start drawing cards off it. Now I can’t fit Mana Vault into my budget, but that’s a nice synergy with the deck.

Appendix of Budget Commander Fun Time!

Here are the first eighteen el-cheapo decks for your perusal.

Yeva, Nature's Herald

  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!
  16. Alesha, Who Smiles at Profit 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!

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