Commander can be tough in some circles. The commitment by some players to get good quality cards regardless of the price, as well as souped-up versions of normal cards (examples include promos, foreign, foil, and don’t forget Kaladesh Inventions (speaking of which, who just cracked an Invention Mox Opal? This guy!) ) creates a condition whereby folks are often looking to acquire very expensive cards.
And of course, a lot of folks can’t afford an Island of Wak-Wak for $70 or Volrath's Stronghold for $35. How do you build a deck in a format that encourages folks to go expensive, and big? Well the best way is to commit to a budget. And I don’t mean some pricey $250 budget for a Commander deck. Who has that sitting around? Nope! I mean something cheap. Today we’re going to build a deck for you where all of the cards combined, other than the basic lands, clock in under a Volrath's Stronghold.
I have never had an Esper deck in my Budget Commander series, but a cheap artifact heavy build is blatant and obvious, especially post-Kaladesh. I want to steer clear of that. I was looking at other options, and Ertai intrigued me as an interesting option. Sacrifice a creature or enchantment to counter something. Sounds control-ish or combo-ish. Whichever I’m feeling I suppose. My goal is to layer in synergies and control that will work together to do some good stuff. And because Ertai sacrifices enchantments, I’m not really going heavy artifacts here.
Let’s do it.
Ertai?s Magical Garden ? Commander| Abe Sargent
- Commander (1)
- 1 Ertai, the Corrupted
- Creatures (31)
- 1 Arashin Cleric
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 1 Body Double
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Butcher of Malakir
- 1 Cloudblazer
- 1 Corpse Augur
- 1 Custodi Squire
- 1 Fathom Feeder
- 1 Fleshbag Marauder
- 1 Glimmerpoint Stag
- 1 Gravedigger
- 1 Hypnotic Siren
- 1 Kor Sanctifiers
- 1 Liliana's Specter
- 1 Marang River Prowler
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Nekrataal
- 1 Pawn of Ulamog
- 1 Puppeteer Clique
- 1 Reassembling Skeleton
- 1 Reef Worm
- 1 River Kelpie
- 1 Sifter of Skulls
- 1 Soul of Innistrad
- 1 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Stronghold Assassin
- 1 Wild-Field Scarecrow
- 1 Wonder
- 1 Zulaport Cutthroat
- Spells (29)
- 1 Aetherize
- 1 Blessed Alliance
- 1 Confirm Suspicions
- 1 Dismiss
- 1 Dissipate
- 1 Dissolve
- 1 Fated Retribution
- 1 Ghostly Flicker
- 1 Overwhelming Intellect
- 1 Rewind
- 1 Summary Dismissal
- 1 Decree of Justice
- 1 Extract from Darkness
- 1 Kirtar's Wrath
- 1 Obzedat's Aid
- 1 Act of Authority
- 1 Decree of Silence
- 1 Dictate of Erebos
- 1 Flight of Fancy
- 1 Ivory Mask
- 1 Marshal's Anthem
- 1 Palace Siege
- 1 Soul Snare
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Vampiric Rites
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Carnage Altar
- 1 Crystal Shard
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
Target is - $33.46
Result - $33.35
And there we are!
The goal of this deck is to play in an odd space. There are a number of self-recursive creatures in Magic heading all the way back to Nether Shadow. Phoenixes. Weatherseed Treefolk. Ashen Ghoul. Lots of other cards. So the first place I wanted to mine was the good self-recursive stuff that I can play as soon as I sacrifice it. While a Krovikan Horror has an odd and convoluted way to return, something simple like Reassembling Skeleton is perfect. Sacrifice it to your Ertai, and then pay 2 mana to immediately play it again. Consider also something like Marang River Prowler or Bloodsoaked Champion in this role. Sac and return.
Another place I dipped were ways to make token creatures for the sacrificing. Now there are two amazing creatures out there that you have to run if you have the money. Pawn of Ulamog and Sifter of Skulls. When you tap your Ertai and sacrifice a creature to counter something, you will also make another creature for free (as long as the dying one wasn’t a token). Combine that with Reassembling Skeleton and more and you have something tasty indeed.
And of course there are a few subtle places here and there that tie into this token-making fun times, such as Decree of Justice. You’ll see as you delve in. But again, this is not a sacrifice deck. In fact, it’s not a steal-and-sac deck either. There are no Ray of Command or anything here to steal and then sac. Sacrificing to counter a spell is too limited. What I want to do instead is to push the basic concept.
Another place I looked were creatures that had a value when they died. You are going to want to sacrifice Wonder to your Ertai. You get cards from Corpse Augur or more creatures from Reef Worm. These folks don’t mind taking one for the team.
Actually, I also delved into that some more by adding in a good number of strong creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers. After all, it’s fine if folks are getting lost to your Ertai, the Corrupted to counter a spell. They already gave you what you needed. The perfect example if new bloke on the street Cloudblazer. It’s cheap at a quarter, and fits here so perfectly it hums. It (and Mulldrifter) is normally a 2-for-1 anyway, now it’s 3-for-1 if you sacrifice it for countering something. Welcome Cloudblazer!
Take a body like Nekrataal will arrive on the scene, kill an opposing creature of annoyance, and then counter a spell on the way out. You got a 2-for-1 guaranteed in that set up. You can see stuff here like Kor Sanctifiers or even the underappreciated Custodi Squire as well. My favorite in this line is Liliana's Specter.
Since we have that ETB feel in the deck, I added in a bit of flickering. It’s not a lot, but I like a card such as Ghostly Flicker and Glimmerpoint Stag in here. Also, check out the usually-unseen Crystal Shard here. Tap a Blue (and the Shard too, duh) and bounce any of your creatures back to your hand. You can use that reload an ETB trigger, replay something, pull off negative auras, and save something from death in battle or being targeted by removal and more. It’s very powerful. And it’s good for politics too, I’ve used it to bounce an opposing creature like Avalanche Riders to kill an Academy Ruins, or a Bone Shredder to kill a powerful creature that threatens us both, and more. Shoot, I’ve even used it occasionally to force a Blue mage to tap their mana so that they have a smaller chance to counter something big (they just tap a mana to keep their good creature out).
Now as you’ve noticed, we have a fun self-recursion theme here, with some powerful triggers like Dictate of Erebos and Butcher of Malakir in the deck. If you aren’t dropping some more sacrifice engines, then I don’t know what you are doing. I want to draw cards. Everyone wants to draw cards, right? Right! So what sort of cards are out there? Vampiric Rites is a cheap uncommon from a recent set that can really give you a little extra oomph. Sacrifice a creature for 2 mana. Gain a life. Draw a card. Keep doing this as you have creatures and mana. You could sacrifice a Reassembling Skeleton for 2 mana, draw a card, replay it for 2 mana, and then keep going, sacrificing and pulling stuff back. And don’t skip past Carnage Altar playing a similar but more-mana-hungry version of that ability. (And if you like that, what about Phyrexian Vault or Infernal Tribute?)
With the given level of self-recursion here, what about River Kelpie? It’s a great card! (You could set up your graveyard with Buried Alive, btw, if you want to play more strongly into the sacrifice theme)
Now don’t forget that you can feed something other than creatures to your Ertai overlord. You can feed those cool enchantments as well.
If you remember my budget Bruna, Light of Alabaster Budget Commander deck from a few iterations ago, one of the key, cheap, useful auras out there is Flight of Fancy. Play it; draw two cards. Sounds great, right? And then you can again play the sac-and-counter role that a Mulldrifter/Cloudblazer would play. And you can give flying to some of your team, because there are a lot of non-flyers in this deck, despite the colors. There’s nothing wrong with a card-advantage Flight.
Because this deck has a few enchantments here and there, I pushed this angle some more. We have some amazing cards out there that aren’t played a lot, like Decree of Silence. It’s perfect when you pull it out with Academy Rector. But it’s good in a deck like this too, for obvious reasons, right? And don’t forget removal, so you can check out Act of Authority, Soul Snare, and such alongside the recursion fun times of Marshal's Anthem or Palace Siege. Even Ivory Mask is here to help fight against some graveyard removal.
We got the goods!
Now don’t forget that Ertai, the Corrupted does something really powerful. He (It?) counters spells. This is not a typical sacrifice deck. It’s a control deck. And I wanted to push that control angle here. I tossed in multiple counters. From a recent trick like Summary Dismissal to cheap stuff like Dissipate and powerful later-game counters such as Overwhelming Intellect, we have a variety of choices here for countering problems. (Insidious Will was too pricey still for this build) Don’t want to see it? Okay! (And if you catch someone tapped out, bounce their powerful beater with Crystal Shard and then counter it when played again).
Counters are fun!
We also like removal as well. Mass removal such as Kirtar's Wrath or Fated Retribution is nothing to sneer at. They are cheap to acquire, and still blow up stuff suitably well. One can leave you with a pair of presents while the other’s instant-ness is pure quality. More removal follows.
Check out Blessed Alliance here, which is meant to play a few roles. It’s backup removal as an attacking Diabolic Edict. The good thing about that is often folks only attack with the big creature you want to kill anyways. If you tossed a Diabolic Edict on them, they are going to drop their worst creature. But the worst creature usually isn’t attacking. So you grab something better as a result. We’ve all seen people sit behind a wall and bring it with just Akroma, Angel of Wrath. So the Blessed Alliance is a solid tool for removal. It’s also a counter spell, which is even better! Wait, you don’t see that? Well, you play it with the “untap two creatures” mode. Untap Ertai. Tap Ertai and sacrifice a creature to counter something. Good job! You can also escalate it for life if you have the mana and the need, so it plays a cool role here.
And the synergy continues! You can pull out an enchantment or creature with Obzedat's Aid. (Or artifact, land as well). You can self-sacrifice Wild-Field Scarecrow and Burnished Hart to get lands and trigger your Dictate of Erebos and Pawn of Ulamog. Get mega-value from Puppeteer Clique from the persist, or sacrifice the stolen creature for a card or counter or some such. Sacrifice a creature to kill another with Stronghold Assassin. You’ve got this deck!
Now there is some great opportunities for those that have either more money or a better card collection to use. If I had those, where would I look for updates?
There’s a lot of good self-recursive stuff with price like Bloodghast and a surprisingly pricey Nether Traitor. I think you could also add some more sacrifice cards like Phyrexian Tower, Attrition, Miren, the Moaning Well, Sadistic Hypnotist and such. Bring stuff back with Living Death or keep it out with Cauldron of Souls, or Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. The best sacrifice card would be Helm of Possession which sacrifices something to steal a creature, which you could sacrifice and the nuntap the Helm and go again.
You could layer in more enchantment loving. Cards like Replenish will bring them back, you could easily find space for Propaganda or Ghostly Prison or Collective Restraint, and cards like Phyrexian Arena and Underworld Connections have great value. Shoot, if you wanted, you could even run Zur the Enchanter!
Don’t sleep on enchantment Gods. Athreos, God of Passage seems the best of the lot available for this deck. With a lot of power, on-theme and synergetic aspects to recommend, you’ll take it out nicely for a stroll.
And there are some other clever cards. Glory for the graveyard. Solemn Simulacrum for the sacrificing and land fetching. Skullclamp. How about Blood Artist and Havengul Lich? Shoot, I like Wall of Omens as a great early speed bump that sacrifices later for a counter or another effect.
Draining Whelk can counter twice. Once on arrival and the other on sacrificing. You could also add in some haste to give your Ertai the ability to counter sooner, and typical cards like Thousand-Year Elixir or Lightning Greaves apply.
What about Volrath's Stronghold itself? It works classically well. Even with the price in play, it’s a powerful card. And thus this conversation comes full circle!
And there you have it. A cheaper deck in the $33+ range that’s cheap and strong. It plays into a different take on the colors of Chromium and yet also gives you some intriguing options as well. Get your budget on!
Here are the first 31 (ish) Happy Time Budget Decks for your budget needs:
- We kicked things off with Brion Stoutarm came in at $37.71
- Next up was 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 this project due to the nature of the challenge, and it’s the only entry in the series where the cost is increased rather than decreased.
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is the next for our list rocking that $36.37 pricetag.
- 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 dorks in a $35.29 shell.
- Vhati il-Dal runs the table for just $35.17. It’s also one of the more unique entries in this project.
- With all of the latest draconic lovin’, Bladewing the Risen comes just a few cents less at $35.13. http://www.gatheringmagic.com/abesargent-042114-budget-commander-8-budget-bladewing/
- Lu Xun, Scholar General may not be a powerhouse, but there’s enough utility under here to spark a very interesting EDH 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 will be next.
- Brago, King Eternal is featured with a different artifact theme and a $35.04 budget.
- Let’s finally get below that $35 mark with Lin Sivvi and her rebel horde! $34.98 for the witness.
- 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!
- [card]Tolsimir Wolfblood[/card]? $34.73? Selesnya aggro? We’ve got it in spades!
- Alesha, Who Smiles at Death 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 [card]Yeva, Nature's Herald[/card] 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.
- I have a notion that a Five Color 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!
- 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 smash-y 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. [card]Karametra, God of Harvests[/card] 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
- She beats with auras and fun, sailing over her foes. It’s Bruna, Light of Alabaster! She’s bringing a strong game at a cheap $33.69.
- Rosheen Meanderer at $33.63 clocks in with a bunch of X spells and activations with a different take on the classic Elf-Ball deck.
- We take a look at a very old school sort of guy, Boris Devilboon, from the original Legends set, and then build a $33.58 deck around our good demonic friends.
- It’s time for a bit of an Orzhov Control loving, built around Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and featuring a ton of removal, control, and more, all for the low, low price of $33.56.
- Captain Sisay leads a fun, legendary infused deck that has a lot of great cards and synergy, but a light price, checking in at $33.46.