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Budget Commander #38: Mathas Unchained


Casual formats like Commander straddle the line between pricey and cheap. There’s an odd duality to them. And many casual aficionados will almost brag about their Magic collection by running an expensive pimped out version of a card.

I’ve certainly done the same, and my iconic deck, Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy (a multiplayer-friendly highlander deck with all five colors and more than 3000+ cards), has been the showpiece of my collection. I run the Power Nine in there, and I’ve always had a proclivity for getting foils or Alpha versions and such of my cards. In fact, I got on board so early, before the major Commander explosion, that many cards I picked up for a few dollars all shiny and foil are now worth a Nesting Wurm of value. Some were reprinted later (Dust Bowl, High Market) and others never have, or were on the Reserve List (Treachery, Deranged Hermit, Academy Rector).

Meanwhile, I still look to aim for foils. Take Mirrodin as a good example. In just artifacts alone, I have these foils from the set:

Now, those foils have dropped in value ever since more and more were printed. Working as intended. But just my artifacts, from just one set, are still worth hundreds of dollars today. There will always be a cachet to running the original foil Lightning Greaves or Oblivion Stone or Platinum Angel, even though those cards have bigger profile pimpage options later. You can see a few cards that I love with a lower street value, such as Mirror Golem and Steel Wall there as well.

So yes, I have a goal of increasing the pimp-level of my deck. In fact, my spreadsheet of the deck includes:


  • Red – Foil
  • Orange – Portal
  • Blue – Alpha/Beta or the original in Arabian Nights – Legends
  • Green – Promo
  • Purple – Signed

And more.

I track this stuff seriously, right? And I am certainly not the only one in Casual Land who does so. For example, www.CubeTutor.com lets you note whether or not the card in your Cube is foiled or promo or from a Masterpiece with the requisite picture attached.

And yet there is something fair about that project. Most of the cards available are purchasable for a lot less cash than a gussied-up option. You can get some stuff on the cheap and spell it. There are other options.

So, you can play this game on the cheaper side of life very easily.

And this is where the Budget Commander series seeks to stake a claim. I have a series of decks that each must come in under the budget of the previous entry. We’re nearing FORTY articles in the series, and none has clocked in more than $50.00. In fact, none but the third entry were bigger than $37.75. That’s a cheap deck. The target from the last budget deck is $33.12. And we are going to own that price!

Let’s take a look at Commander 2017 for some inspiration!

Mathas, Fiend Seeker

I don’t know if you remember my review of the Top Ten Cards from Commander 2017, given that it was a full cycle of previews ago. But in it I pointed out that Mathas, Fiend Seeker, is one of the strongest cards because of how subtly it works. Put a bounty counter on a dork, and then watch as people want to try and off their stuff to advance the drawing of cards. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want to draw cards? And there’s a little lifegain rider attached as well.

I knew I wanted to tackle a Mathas project.

But, given his recently-released status, Mathas is a full four dollars right now over at CoolStuffInc.com. Playing that would commit more than 10% of my budget to the leader alone. Can I make it work?

Let’s see!

And there we are!!!

How much is this deck? Only $33.10!

I envision this as a bit of a fun, laid-back casual-friendly deck with cards that have some obvious synergy with Mathas while also not causing a ruckus at the kitchen table. Here, let me show you one example:

Starke of Rath

This is Starke of Rath, a card that I have long extolled the virtues of in multiplayer gaming. Tap, destroy something good, and then send this on for more killing. It has a great political aspect to it that plays very, very well at the multiplayer table. I’ve had it in everything from my Underused Hall of Fame that looks at the best cards you aren’t playing, to a regular player in one of my Mono-Red Commander decks in real life, built around a similar-styled threat in Diaochan, Artful Beauty. I am happy to dust off Starke again for you right now. You can see his obvious value alongside Mathas, where you can tap to kill something with a bounty counter to draw some cards and gain some life. And then others will be inclined to do the same after Starke starts sliding around the table.

Speaking of Starke, here is a card is my deck that quotes him:

Bounty Hunter

And there are many cards in this oeuvre. Some are common sights you may not realize that are very, very cheap right now.

Examples? Here are two!

Visara the Dreadful
Ob Nixilis Reignited

Both of those cards kill things reliably. Ob Nixilis Reignited is just $2.50 right now. Visara is a buck.

You can see the synergies here.

There are some other fun classics in here as well that are on the cheaper side of life . . . 

Mana Flare
Humble Defector

Classics that everyone likes!

I also mentioned that I envisioned this as a bit of a control build as well. Control wants to draw cards. Sure, we have card-drawing with our leader, but so does everyone else.

I wanted to run some useful cards that make you the Monarch, and brought in a few cards from Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown to help with that idea. How about?

Marchesa's Decree
Custodi Lich
Knights of the Black Rose
Skyline Despot

All of these cards help push the game along in the direction you want to head, as useful bodes, that provide Monarching and other abilities, or protecting your house. I also added in some obvious routes of protection like Kazuul, Tyrant of Cliffs and Mystifying Maze. If you have the cash to splash then Maze of Ith, Kor Haven or Ghostly Prison would also fit nicely here.

Similarly, cards like Grave Pact and No Mercy just would be obvious game winners in this deck. Did you notice a certain Ixalan card in here playing a useful adjunct to the deck?

Revel in Riches

Revel in those Riches, baby! It’ll make you Treasures you can either hoard up for game-winning purposes or use to cast things. Your choice!

Now, I am playing Red and White in a Commander deck considers itself control. I can’t skip Sunforger . . . 


If you aren’t scared of the idea of a Sunforger built properly in a Commander deck, then you haven’t seen Sunforger played correctly. I’m playing it a little more nicely here, and skipping past counter magic and such. What you want to do is unleash this by activating its ability, which you can do any time, in order to search the best 4-mana instant for that situation and cast it. It’s an amazing card when built right, because it allows your deck to run cards that are more situational in nature; cards that you might not normally want to include given the likelihood of needing them and having them in the hand at the same time is, by definition, uncommon. But when you can fetch it up and cast it at any time? Unfurl those sails!

Sunforger Suite!

That is a nice suite of cards to ‘Forger out. They include removal, Charms, card drawing, forking, defensive cards, and mass board-changing stuff like Hold the Line and Fight to the Death. And if your Sunforger is destroyed, none of those cards will embarrass you. You won’t mind hard-casting Utter End, Valorous Stance, Order // Chaos or Crackling Doom.

And that’s moving to the end of this fun budget build. Don’t sleep on cards like Rout, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Hythonia the Cruel, or even Skullclamp. Skullclamp? Yes! The cheapest is a buck and a half.

Oh yes, and this gal too.

Ankle Shanker

Ankle Shanker! She’s just so happy. Clearly, she wants to play for your Commander. So why not unleash a little Shanker Havoc on your next Commander night?

As always, thanks for reading! Anything in there I can change up or make work? Where did I go wrong? Just let me know!


Here are the first 30+Discount Commander Options for your wallet-friendly needs:

  1. We kicked things off with Brion Stoutarm came in at $37.71
  2. Next up was 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 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.
  4. Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is the next for our list rocking that $36.37 pricetag.
  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 dorks in a $35.29 shell.
  7. Vhati il-Dal runs the table for just $35.17. It’s also one of the more unique entries in this project.
  8. 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/
  9. 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.
  10. [card]Bosh, Iron Golem" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/Bosh, Iron Golem" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DBosh%2C+Iron+Golem">[card]Bosh, Iron Golem">Bosh, Iron Golem" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DBosh%2C+Iron+Golem">[card]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.
  11. Brago, King Eternal is featured with a different artifact theme and a $35.04 budget.
  12. Let’s finally get below that $35 mark with Lin Sivvi and her rebel horde! $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.
  14. Who likes Surrak Dragonclaw? Who likes making a face-smashing deck for just $34.83? This guy!
  15. [card]Tolsimir Wolfblood" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/Tolsimir Wolfblood" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DTolsimir+Wolfblood">[card]Tolsimir Wolfblood">Tolsimir Wolfblood" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DTolsimir+Wolfblood">[card]Tolsimir Wolfblood? $34.73? Selesnya aggro? We’ve got it in spades!
  16. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death 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 [card]Yeva, Nature's Herald" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/Yeva, Nature's Herald" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DYeva%2C+Nature%27s+Herald">[card]Yeva, Nature's Herald">Yeva, Nature's Herald" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DYeva%2C+Nature%27s+Herald">[card]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. 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!
  21. 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.
  22. 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
  23. With a budget of just $33.98, this Daxos of Meletis deck is pretty cool without being too expensive. Check it out!
  24. We have a Snake flavored Kaseto, Orochi Archmage deck with a lot of fun, Snakes, and budget goodness at $33.91.
  25. Nahiri, the Lithomancer is calling for an equipment and Solider focused mono-white build that’s just $33.85.
  26. Who’s Born to be Wild? Mina and Denn are! Check out this Gruul Smash deck with lands and fun for just $33.75.
  27. Gods are cool, especially when they make you berries, fruits, and tasty veggies. [card]Karametra, God of Harvests" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/Karametra, God of Harvests" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DKarametra%2C+God+of+Harvests">[card]Karametra, God of Harvests">Karametra, God of Harvests" href="/p/Magic%3A+The+Gathering/%5Bcard%5DKarametra%2C+God+of+Harvests">[card]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
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. Ertai, the Corrupted sacrifices creatures and enchantments to counter spells. For $33.35, we have a great control-esque deck with some groovy sacrificing love.
  34. With a modest budget of $33.32, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis have a fun event and morph focused theme, without running a bunch of cards from their Commander 2016 Appearance. Check them out!
  35. Built around the Old-School combo of Prodigal Sorcerer and Fungusaur, this Commander deck features a number of cards that deal damage to your own creatures so they get better. It clocks in at a humble $33.26.
  36. With a Golgari Toughness-Matters theme, this Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper deck won’t hurt your budget, but will do some damage for $33.15.
  37. Grenzo, Dungeon Warden goes all crazy with graveyard and deck restocking shenanigans for a cheap $33.12. We even have an infinite combo in here!

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