Strixhaven Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Budget Commander 21 — Nekusar for the Win-kusar


Hello! It’s budget time again, and you know that that means! Today, I want to try to build a deck around another legendary creature, with the goal of making this deck a seriously on-theme budget attack. I have a series of articles, and the challenge is to come in under the price of the previous article’s budget. Today, we’re down to roughly $34.

Nekusar, the Mindrazer
Hey, look, Commander staples can often be a little pricey. But don’t be upset! There are a ton of great cards that linger with a lot of great options for cheap and powerful card-play. In fact, you can uncover a surprising number of quality cards in a bulk-rare box.

Today, I want to hit up a color combination that I haven’t done yet. Let’s do Grixis. My favorite three-color combination when I was first starting was blue, black, and red. I called them the lower cards because they are on the bottom of the color wheel. These three colors share a few themes, including the ability to act very selfishly at times. All three can be nasty, antagonistic, and fun to dial in. Since I haven’t done that tri-color in budget style, let’s do one today!

Hmm . . . Do you know whom I like for this one? How about giving Nekusar, the Mindrazer a spin? It’s been a couple of years now since Nekusar was printed.

Some cards that worked well with our Zombie Wizard have increased considerably in price or rarity since and are outside of our budget. Cards like Kami of the Crescent Moon, Howling Mine, and Font of Mythos are way above our price range, while others, like Underworld Dreams, have risen well above their earlier bulkish status. Meanwhile, a card that was once really cheap and perfect, like Nin, the Pain Artist is clocking in at $8 and is nowhere near our tight budget. Even Venser's Journal and Reliquary Tower are hitting pricey places. You might be surprised at how expensive a Forced Fruition or Anvil of Bogardan can be! So how can we have a legitimate Nekusar deck without those cards? Can we still make a solid budget body?

Let’s see . . . 

Now this deck needs to clock in under the $34.17 price tag that Horde of Notions had here on Cool Stuff Inc. Well, it does! Meet our $34.03 budget build!

Dictate of Kruphix
One of the cool things you’ll notice is that a lot of cards that fit into Howling Mine territory have been printed, and despite the high price tag of a Font of Mythos and similar effects, there are recently printed cards that have a lot of copies out there. That drops the price down considerably. Take Dictate of Kruphix as a good example. There are a lot more Dictates in print since it came from a set more recently released than Kami of the Crescent Moon, so it has a lower price. Similar cards, like Otherworld Atlas or Temple Bell, are perfectly on budget as well.

I wanted to include some engine cards so that you could reliably pick up some kills from the gentle pinging. I forced Underworld Dreams into the deck despite spending a chunk of my budget to do so since it’s a key part. Joining it are cards like Spiteful Visions, Fate Unraveler, Kederekt Parasite, and Phyrexian Tyranny. The Tyranny is a great card, but it can hit you as well, so use it carefully. Since none of these other triggers damages you, dealing with the Tyranny should prove simpler for you than for your foes.

I then chose to include some temporary everyone-draws effects. A classic like Wheel of Fortune could never fit into this deck from a financial angle, but what about Reforge the Soul? It can grab some cards quite nicely, right? Memory Jar might be too expensive, but Magus of the Jar isn’t, and it slides in.

This theme continues with a lot of other cards throughout the deck. We have variants of cards like Whispering Madness, Dark Deal, and Whirlpool Warrior. There are a couple of cards that I want to drill down into though.

Breathstealer's Crypt
Check out Breathstealer's Crypt. It taxes everyone, including you, of 3 life to draw a creature, and it shows everyone’s card drawn (yours, too), but that really hurts decks with a lot of bodies. We just have twenty-four, and I added in a bunch more than normal Nekusar decks because I felt that was a missed opportunity. But again, that’s a tax that hurts others a lot more than you. Meanwhile, in this shell, Dark Suspicions is going to do a lot of work for you.

Normally, I might go for more expensive threats, such as more expensive counterspells that have a lot of tricks, but I want to keep mana costs lower because we have so many cards plugging up our hand. So I added some cheaper stuff, such as cheaper creatures and more in order to give you the ability to drop multiple cards a turn. I even have Walking Atlas in case you need to play an extra land!

With the deck drawing a ton of cards and piling them into your hand, I feel that we should include a few supplements. The ideal place to mine here is Spellshapers. They discard cards from your hand for a variety of abilities. The best in this deck is probably Urborg Syphon-Mage. Dropping a card from your hand to essentially Syphon Soul is a great way to increase the pressure that your various dinks do to people’s lives while giving you a precious life bump. The other massively broken option is Alexi, Zephyr Mage. Discard two cards and pay some mana and bounce X creatures. If you have the mana, you can reliably blow back a lot of stuff (save Alexi to bounce your creatures back to your hand rather than have them killed with mass removal as well).

There are a variety of other strong Spellshapers running in this deck. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage is awesome, and Notorious Assassin kills stuff dead. Want more bounce? How about Waterfront Bouncer?

Remember that this is a dink-and-plink deck that does a little damage or life-loss here and there. So I added in a few cards that do similarly. Retreat to Hagra gives you a landfall trigger that’ll hit players for a life lost each time. (See also: Tunneling Geopede.) Subversion quietly drains a bit of life each turn and piles up. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is here to give you this ability on a creature. But the best of the lot is probably Pontiff of Blight because it gives all of the creatures here extort. As you have extra mana lying about, you may as well extort here and there.

Graveblade Marauder
This deck is getting close to done! I really like creatures such as Guiltfeeder for this build, but I can’t afford it. How about Graveblade Marauder instead? That seems to be an interesting choice for the deck as well. Again, I want to attack someone’s life from various angles (such as Psychosis Crawler when you draw cards). I ran out of cash before I pushed the theme into cards like Leechridden Swamp or something like Polluted Bonds.

There are a metric ton of great cards in here, and there are a lot of places you could look for further enhancement of a Nekusar theme. I like tempo elements in a deck like this since your foes will outdraw you—so I added in Evacuation and Whelming Wave, and there are many directions you could mine as well. You could even add in things that force your opponents to draw (I have Vex as a counter, but you could toss in Arcane Denial or run something like Master of the Feast) normally as a disadvantage. There are lot of strong advantages to this deck. And playing it on the cheap is a lot easier than it looks at first!

I hope you enjoyed our look at all things budget!

Appendix of Budget Commander Fun Time!

Here are the first twenty budget-happy decks for your perusal:


  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!
  19. 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.
  20. 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!
  21. 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.

The Battle for Zendikar is here. Order singles, booster packs and more at CoolStuffInc.com today!

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