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Budget Commander #13 – Enter Teneb


The goal of this series is very simple: to provide budget-oriented Commander decks that are really budget decks. I've seen some "budget" entries in other columns that are in no way budget decks. When your deck is worth $300 or more, that's not a budget deck. That's just a deck. As someone who was recently unemployed for around eighteen months, I'm very sensitive to the wallet-based demands of Magic, and this series tries to provide real alternatives to more expensive Commander builds.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Let's be honest: A lot of Commander staples are expensive. If you want to build a deck around Kaalia of the Vast, you have to spend at least $20 on her. The best Equipment (Swords of X and Y—like Sword of Fire and IceBatterskull, Skullclamp, and Umezawa's Jitte) are all very pricey. Sensei's Divining Top, Land Tax, Sylvan Library, Volrath's Stronghold, and more are all on the expensive side of life. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth aren't even close to being budget-minded.

And that's not all. Many high-quality uncommons have large price tags despite being printed a lot. Copies of Eternal Witness are $3 apiece despite being in a lot of sets. Lightning Greaves is at $7. Swords to Plowshares was an uncommon in a set as recently as this summer (Conspiracy), and you can't acquire one for less than $3.50. Shoot, Lightning Bolt, at common, has been in a lot of sets, but it's still $2 for the cheapest one. It's not the only expensive Commander common either. Expedition Map has the same price tag.

That's why I feel this series is so important. It challenges me to build a cheap deck with an eye to playability—but to do so with a very tight budget. And the challenge is to make each deck come in under the budget of the previous deck. The most recent iteration saw me build a Rebels deck around Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero that was the first deck to go below the $35 threshold. My target is to beat $34.98, using only near-mint cards from CoolStuffInc.com. You can often find a cheaper card by using a lower-condition option.

(Note that all prices in this article were true as of the writing of said article. Prices often change from submission to publication, and then again from publication to when you read it.)

Let’s take a gander at another budgetary Commander deck!

And we came in at $34.94, a nice little place to wind up.

Teneb, the Harvester
So, why Teneb? Well, if you follow my column over at StarCityGames, you'll know that in the summer of '13, I decided to purchase a Deck Builder's Toolkit and trade the cards that I opened until I had a Commander deck. I turned the Toolkit into a Commander deck with Teneb, the Harvester as the leader. But Teneb was really a placeholder that just gave me access to the Abzan colors I needed. It was more of a token-themed deck with populate and such.

I wanted to run a real Teneb deck. I adore Teneb—who doesn't? And it seemed to be a good time to dip into Teneb post-Khans. After all, wedges are the thing right now! So let's unpack this Teneb deck.

The first place I explored was finding some support for Teneb. When Teneb smashes someone, you can spend some mana to reanimate a creature from any graveyard, not just your own. That means we can run some self-mill, but we don't have to run that much. We can just have milling. I think this is a great time to dust off that Whetstone from Urza's Saga. It's a bulk rare from Magic's past, but since it mills everyone equally, it loads graveyards with a lot of goodies for Teneb to feast upon. Teneb wants to hit you for damage. Cards that can help him get there are also great support (Whispersilk Cloak, Rogue's Passage).

Next up, let's add some of those self-mill cards, like Bitter Revelation, Grisly Salvage, Avenging Druid, and Satyr Wayfinder. They fill your graveyard while also doing good work in sorting your hand with the goods. I've already put Bitter Revelation in roughly five decklists since the Khans of Tarkir spoiler was revealed; it’s the real deal.

Ivory Mask
Since Teneb relies on a decently stocked graveyard, Ivory Mask can keep a lot of targeted graveyard removal from hitting you. (Such cards often target players—look at Bojuka Bog as an example.) See also: Witchbane Orb.

Sure, a card like Phyrexian Arena might be too pricey for a project like this ($10 for one), but Underworld Connections is just $0.75 while Staff of Nin is $1.25. They'll work. And you can always find stuff like Deathreap Ritual that will also yield some cardage.

I wanted to dig into some additional Teneb support. This is a perfect place for cycling beaters such as Krosan Tusker and Twisted Abomination. They'll cycle to your graveyard, and then you can Teneb them right back into play if you want. That's not all either! We have other ways to send creatures to the discard bin. You can dredge back Stinkweed Imp. Cast Jarad's Orders to tutor one creature for your hand and another for reanimation. We even have some sacrifice engines to fuel the graveyard. You could also run Eternal Dragon or Scion of Darkness.

And, of course, this deck has backup recursion. A lot of great cards are on the cheap side (such as Unburial Rites and Obzedat's Aid). Doomed Necromancer makes a fun appearance here, and Restock can dip into some nice returning as well. There are a ton of other cards you could run here. From Karmic Guide to Regrowth, you can add some zest.

Teneb is the sort of Commander that can restock your battlefield after mass removal. Why not run some mass removal of our own? Rout and Fated Retribution can drop stuff instantly, and then you can be the first to reload. With white and black as your colors, this is also a great place to dip into.

Toss in some removal, too. I appreciate exiling removal because of deities, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, and other major indestructible problems. The problem is that a lot of it is on the pricier side of life: Path to Exile, Utter End, Return to Dust, and more. That doesn't mean I can't find space for things like Act of Authority and Unmake.

Finally, we were able to throw in some fun creatures. I needed to ensure that we had powerful creatures to recur in case our foes didn't have a lot. But I didn't want to run stuff that was too expensive to cast. We have Luminate Primordial and Sepulchral Primordial to bring back, and we also have Realm Seekers and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts. You'll find a few other treats here and there as well if you look. This includes creatures that have graveyard-based abilities (Masked Admirers, Soul of Zendikar). Based on your budget and collection, you could easily add in stuff like Genesis, Glory, or Vengevine.

What cards do you own to flesh out your own Teneb deck? If you already own it, it's the cheapest budget card of all time. For example, despite recent printings, Cultivate and Kodama's Reach are pretty expensive, so I ran the cheaper Peregrination. But if you own a spare copy of Cultivate or the Reach, you can ignore the Peregrination and embrace the 3-mana alternative rather than the 4-mana-with-scry-one option. So flesh out the deck with the stuff you have!

And enjoy your budget Teneb!

See you next week,

Abe Sargent

By the way, if you want to check out a non-budget Teneb deck, we have one for you from summer 2013 with some interesting choices, as penned by James Pianka.

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