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99 Problems: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

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When a new set comes out, it’s always a good time for me to look at my collection of Commander decks and see if there’s any one of them that the new Legendary Creatures could replace. I’ve had some decks for years, so no matter how cool a Commander is, if they share the same color combination, they may not be included. There might be other color combinations that I’ll gladly search for an upgrade.

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
Golgari was one such combination. While I might say goodbye to the Slimefoot, the Stowaway deck I never really built, I’ll say hello to the “Hopefully I’ll build it soon” Izoni Commander deck. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed is fun card where I can interact with the graveyard, make tokens, draw cards, and just do silly things. Slimefoot could so some of that, but it seemed very “Saproling” oriented (No Beacon of Creation). It doesn’t mean I couldn’t go back to Slimefoot if I’m not liking how Izoni plays out, but it’s worth a shot and it’s fun to play with new toys.

So as I was putting together my list for this article, I was noticing something about it. Now, if I was building the deck for myself, I wouldn’t have been so concerned with the list I was coming up with. It wasn’t that the decklist is too powerful. No, it was another one of those Commander issues that pop up from time to time.

The deck was expensive.

If I was going to write about it for an audience, I need to keep something in mind. And we’re going to take a quick detour this week before we go back on re-working or building decks. Let’s talk about card availability.

(Intro Music: The Ghost Inside by Broken Bells)

What prompted this is that I had a decklist that consisted of Gaea's Cradle, Survival of the Fittest, Doubling Season, Phyrexian Tower and more. Some of the more expensive cards I was looking at to put in this deck including their CoolStuffInc prices:

Gaea's Cradle ($400)

Survival of the Fittest ($100)

Phyrexian Altar ($75ish) (Out of stock)

Phyrexian Tower ($50)

Doubling Season ($42)

Cabal Coffers ($30)

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth ($28) (Out of stock)

Primal Vigor ($25)

Craterhoof Behemoth ($24)

Lord of Extinction ($17)

Life from the Loam ($17)

Fauna Shaman ($16)

Grave Pact ($15)

Parallel Lives ($15)

Rise of the Dark Realms ($15)

These 15 cards total just over $850.

How can I justify recommending a deck that will be over $1,000?

And here’s the kicker: I have these cards. I’ve been playing for a long time and these were just going through the cards that I own seeing what might be good for this deck. This isn’t some bragging where I’ve managed to trade up for these and given blood to afford some of thee cards: the older ones I’ve held on to for years and traded/bought them when they were cheap. I traded for Cradle when it was $20, Survival was $10, Coffers was going for about $4 after the Odyssey block rotated.

I’ve always subscribed to the Sandwich Heavy Portfolio: Hold on to something long enough and then it might be worth value.

Aside: I must also note that I obviously don’t hit on everything or time the market right if I’m looking to unload something for "maximum value." I don’t play the #mtgfinance game and there’s plenty of times where my knowledge of a card’s financial value is a black hole.

As I was going through a possible list for Izoni, I noticed that there were a ton of expensive cards and that gave me pause. I’m sure this wasn’t going to be a deck I was going to play very often; would I feel comfortable loaning the deck for friends to play with the kind of worth these cards have? (Not that I don’t trust my friends, but accidents happen.)

I’m not looking to make this a budget alternative deck or even a budget column. But suggesting something like that was simply out of the question. If you have most of these cards you’re most likely going to build that deck, so you don’t really need any help there (maybe validation of seeing someone come up with something similar). "Oh, yeah I should put a Gaea's Cradle in a deck where I make a lot of token creatures," is not a unique thought.

But it does help make this deck work. This is why people love Growing Rites of Itlimoc, it’s a mini-Gaea's Cradle for a huge fraction of the price. Survival of the Fittest puts creatures in the graveyard and even if you want to go the budget route with Fauna Shaman, it’s $16. Those are both key cards for getting the creatures you want while dumping creatures in the graveyard to power up Izoni. Sure, I guess you could get away from the Urborg/Cabal Coffers combo which would save you around $60, but it’s not like they’re just fun cards in the deck. They combo with Dread Summons.

Assassin's Trophy
On a semi-related note, I bought some Guilds of Ravnica at my LGS on the release day Friday. I bought a Bundle (Fat Pack), and some extra packs (along with the new Transformers TCG game boosters), and ended up with a variety of cards. I received five shocks (four different ones), and one Assassin's Trophy. With Assassin's Trophy being the chase card of the set, I was happy. But I only had one, where there were a number of decks I would love to put the card in. I was limited by the cards I owned and wasn’t interested in investing the money to make those decks how I want.

Assassin's Trophy is a removal spell and, for the most part, not critical to how a deck works in Commander. This is different than Survival of the Fittest, which makes the deck churn. If I didn’t have a Survival of the Fittest, I would not be going out to trade for one to use in a deck that I might not use all that often. For Assassin's Trophy, a card I know will drop in price due to more product getting opened, I don’t mind waiting to pick up what I need.

Before this gets all twisted up, this is not a discussion of the Reserved List. Phyrexian Altar/Tower, Cabal Coffers, Doubling Season, Primal Vigor and others are not on the Reserved List and could be printed any time, especially in supplemental products (Doubling Season was already reprinted a few months ago). This is also not a comment about how often cards are not being reprinted as much as we’d like. What I’m doing is looking at the reality of the situation and the now.

What kind of decks do I want to want to build/write about on here? I can write about almost anything I want (with my editor’s blessing, since they get final say), but I want to teach people what I know. Building strong, powerful, expensive decks is great, but they don’t really teach anyone anything. "See all of these cards you most likely can’t afford? Pretty awesome, right?" That doesn’t get the conversation going. All it does is push the narrative of "You need to be rich to play this game, and Commander in general," when I know that’s not the case. For me, and for this deck, however, I do want to put those cards in here. It’s not to make the deck win on turn one, but to function how I want to play the deck.

That’s something that shouldn’t be lost : how do I want to play the deck? It’s fun to build wacky decks with restrictions that you end up only playing once (budget decks are a different story since that’s a different style of playing). Ultimately, it's my decks I talk about here. I’m writing about them on CoolStuffInc to hopefully give you ideas on how to build and play your Commander decks. If I just wanted to show off what I could build, a simple tweet or Instagram post would’ve been fine, not a whole article. I don’t mind using expensive cards, but it gets to be too much when I feel they are important parts of the deck and then suggest readers use the same things.

All of this is part of my responsibility as a content creator and member of this community. Maybe I’m wrong here and you do want to see this crazy $1000+ Commander deck that might only get played a few times before another bg commander comes along to capture my interest. This is a casual deck for a casual format, not a Legacy format-breaking deck. Izoni is not only disrupted by creature removal, but also by graveyard removal as well. Suddenly that $1000 deck just might as well be a hundred $10 bills stacked in sleeves for all the good it would do in some formats.

Find me on Twitter @mtgcolorpie, and Instagram. I do want to hear your opinion about this. We’ll see if I go with Izoni in the future or go to some other bg Legendary creature. At this point, I just don’t know.