As a new twist, I’m writing a follow-up article to a previous commander. In my last article about Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, I made a deck list that I felt comfortable playing. Only later did I look at the per-card budget lines of the deck and realize that I made a lot of assumptions. Not everyone has a pile of $20-and-up cards that they can throw into decks. Not everyone can put in a Doubling Season just because they are making a few tokens, Oracle of Mul Daya just because their top deck is important, or anything named Kozilek or Ulamog just because we might not have to pay mana for them. This time, I’ll look at the good expensive cards and see what good cheap replacements can be made.
Vaevictis, in particular, is a commander who can still thrive on a much lower budget, and I’m going to use this article to demonstrate my point. If you felt that in my last Vaevictis article I was shilling the Themes pages a bit, that’s because I unashamedly was. I worked on the database programming for this website here to identify many of the new themes and I selfishly want more people to look at it and say how cool it is and invite me to their fancy parties. At the party, we can argue with Jason or Corbin what the definition of “shilling” is, and then discuss whether or not the party becomes non-fancy by default once we show up.
Anyway, on to Budget Vaevictis.
Due to Vaevictis’ ability, if you have Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest or It That Betrays already on the field when he attacks, then Vaevictis will probably win the game. On your attack step, either your 6/6 flying commander becomes a 10/10 (then 14/14, etc) or you steal three permanents. Both of those cards are around $5. Are there other comparably effective win conditions at a lower budget? Necropolis Regent is about half the price and could potentially put +1/+1 counters on your large creatures faster than Mazirek can. Death’s Presence is under $1 and turns your large dying creatures into large piles of +1/+1 counters.
As mentioned last article, Grave Betrayal is a decent substitute for It That Betrays at around a third of the price. Revel in Riches is a win condition at about the same dollar cost, and it is more likely to succeed when your commander causes the destruction of four permanents each attack.
Giving Vaevictis more attacks quickly becomes its own win condition, whether by commander damage or by doubling the destruction and free bombs. The Extra Combats Theme page was implemented after I wrote the last article, so it only got a mention by link instead of a full paragraph. Aggravated Assault is perhaps the best card for giving Vaevictis extra combat steps; if it warps in from the top of the deck, you can make the decision to pay mana for another combat after it appears and then have as many combats as your red mana can provide. However, the card is also in the realm of $10. Hellkite Charger and Breath of Fury are both currently under $1. I like Breath better for this deck since it does expect to have extra creatures to sacrifice, but if we have any kind of Dragon tribal subtheme then the Charger is “slow” in terms of mana tempo but acceptable as an extra Dragon.
It’s easy to say Sensei’s Divining Top, Sylvan Library, and Mirri’s Guile would be good in a Vaevictis deck. They all give you the option of which of your top three cards is drawn and which is polymorphed into play for free using the commander’s ability. In a practical sense, Scroll Rack gives the same control using cards in the hand. However, those four cards alone are each currently over $20. Dropping a hundred for four cards is not something that everyone does.
There are repeatable scry effects that don’t break the bank. Cream of the Crop isn’t too high right now and might still be good enough for explicitly non-budget versions of this deck. While Oracle of Mul Daya is amazing for getting the lands out of the way, Path of Discovery can use the Explore mechanic for around $1 instead of around $40. I’ve also been trying out Explorer’s Scope in a Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign deck and it has similar results. I normally wouldn’t use scry lands (Temple of Abandon, Malady, and Malice) since they enter tapped, but in the absence of more costly top deck screening, their utility can outweigh their disadvantage.
It has become tedious to say The Gitrog Monster and Titania, Protector of Argoth in the same sentence with the same context and the same assumption that they go into the right decks as a conjoined pair, so I’m just to say Gitania from now on. When I first wrote this article (before Lord Windgrace was announced), you might have been able to fit all of Gitania and Omnath, Locus of Rage too in a ten dollar bill. That is no longer the case, and they have slipped out of the budget window of this article.
Landfall is a complimentary secondary theme that encourages more land drops, but Gitania is primarily about what happens when your own lands are destroyed and how to benefit from doing that. Self-sacrificial lands are good, especially if they get you more land. Myriad Landscape or Blighted Woodland will guarantee the land drops for a couple of turns, and the Gitania synergy can offset the slight reduction in mana speed.
Part of the primary theme of Gitania is recursion of lands from the graveyard. The popular and obvious way of doing this is with more expensive cards like Crucible of Worlds, Life from the Loam, and Ramunap Excavator. The more obscure and subtle way (which makes it less popular and thus less expensive until more people know about it) is with mass land recursion like The Mending of Dominaria and World Shaper. Can you think of a use for several landfall triggers at the same time? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Our commander has a converted mana cost of six. How do we get to six mana quickly enough to compete with the rest of the table? Although we are in green, we aren’t playing any sorceries or instants in this deck, so we can’t rely on Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Skyshroud Claim, Explosive Vegetation, Harrow, or almost anything with “Nissa’s” in the name. We want permanents that Vaevictus can flip into play so our attacks are always profitable. Artifacts still work. Signets are good. Creatures that tap for mana can help. But what about the lands?
To compete with the extra card-advantage-by-land-creation that the aforementioned green spells would have provided, let’s see what permanents we can find that have a triggered ability (“when“) which lets us search for land in our deck and put it directly onto the field (not into the hand). We don’t want to let each player search, and we don’t want to include a cheeky self-referential card that happens to have “land” as part of their own name, so we subtract those things from the search. We also don’t want blue or white cards.
Scryfall: o:when o:search (o:land OR o:forest) o:onto -o:each -o:bellower -c:U -c:W
Suppose we want huge stupid creatures but we don’t want to pay Legendary Eldrazi prices. Granted, there are cheap Annihilator Eldrazi and Bane of Bala Ged is inexpensive. We already know about most of the Jund Dragons, but what about everything else? This deck is your chance to play all those interesting nightmares that, due to their mana costs, were too impractical to play in every other deck. For example, only the best handful of Demons get a slot with whichever commander is in charge of your Shadowborn Apostle roster and the rest of those Demons have to sit out… until now! Malfegor is both a Demon and a Dragon for surprise one-sided board wipes. Hey Pestilence Demon, meet my new friend Silverclad Ferocidons. I have a feeling that you two will get along just great.
You know you have at least a hundred terrifying creatures in mind that could work in this deck and so do I. We could happily make a two hundred card Vaevictis deck and be pleased with whatever monstrosity shows up on top. My internet friend Eric Landes has an interesting take to his Mayael the Anima deck which has the same “problem”. He has two 70-card decks. One is the 70 card core of the deck with the lands and the key always-include stuff. The other deck is just 70 large creatures, any of which would be good in the deck. He shuffles that, deals out 30 large monsters face down and shuffles those into the core for an extra-random game full of “pleasant” surprises. I might adopt this approach for my elder chaos Dragon.
Right now I’m going to talk about Wurms.
You probably already know about the Massacre Wurm and Wurmcoil Engine varieties, and yes, they would both be great in the deck. They’re also both in the neighborhood of $20. Worldspine Wurm is in the area of $10. On the budget end, Pelakka Wurm, Sifter Wurm, Symbiotic Wurm and the sexy Charnelhoard Wurm are each around a quarter, with hefty bodies and beneficial triggers going into, out of, and across the battlefield.
From the last article, I’ve taken out Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble since they only really earn their place if there are shenanigans involving a loop of making and sacrificing token creatures. Poison-Tip Archer is still in to try out for a while, since it affects all opponents and it’s still new and fresh. I’m backing off from the non-basic land hate since it needs much more support than the previous version of the deck provided. This budget assumes that Gitania is out of range. If I’m reading the numbers correctly, the most expensive card in the deck is currently Sol Ring. And there we have it! A powerful Vaevictus brew that doesn’t break the bank.