Hello and welcome to the launch of Low Market! I’m Bryce Miller, Commander fiend and co-host of the Talking Atlas podcast. This brand-new series of articles works to satisfy your Commander deck cravings without decimating your wallet! That is, a low budget build. Low budget means different things to different people. Most players set a budget when building a new deck, but what’s your going rate? $50.00? $100.00? $500.00? Oftentimes, even a $100.00 deck can be considered “budget” so it’s no wonder when Commander staple cards fetch prices ranging from $15.00 to $60.00 or even infinity (and beyond!). This column aims toward the extreme low end of “budget decks”, generally under $100.00, but the goal is to get closer to that magical price of $50.00. These articles are meant for serial deckbuilders, like me, who want to build the maximum number of decks possible without breaking the bank. If you’re new to this excellent format, or even to a given commander, perhaps I can establish an affordable starting point for later upgrades. Remember that decks can (and often do) grow over time. Your deck can start at $50.00, but if you love and care for your commander, feed him (or her) honey and nightshade, he (or she) can easily grow from modest beginnings into a real terror on the midway.
This article won’t address every card choice, but the final list will be an honest-to-goodness 100-card Commander deck. Now that you understand what I really mean when I say “budget”, let’s jump in with our first commander: Sedris, the Traitor King!
Mr. The Traitor King provides an extremely low-cost method of reanimating creatures and slapping them back onto the battlefield, if only for one turn. Keeping that in mind, let’s craft a nice mix of utility creatures and threats, dump them into our graveyard, and cheat those bad boys into play for cheap. Some of the easiest ways to fill the graveyard is via self-mill and discard outlets. Also, our traitorous six mana, three-color Commander has a powerful need for a decent selection of mana ramp as well. He also hungers for sacrifice…so he can rip his minions from their eternal rest and put them to work, but that requires a few sacrifice outlets. We also need to deal with threats from the rest of the table, so let’s find some removal, especially removal stapled to creatures. Finally, as fun as betraying folks is, we need win conditions.
When it comes to budget deckbuilding, one of my central tenets is to lean on synergy. Sure, Mana Crypt might help us cast Sedris early, but it costs over $60.00, and does nothing to complement our theme. Consequently, let’s look into creatures that can be cast early game, and then pulled out of the yard later for additional use. The first one that comes to my mind is that Mayor of Valuetown Solemn Simulacrum. With his fixing, card draw, and death trigger, he’s all too perfect for this deck.
We have access to a number of mana dorks that may not make great Unearth targets, but do manage to accomplish our deck’s other goals while generating mana. Bog Witch, the spellshaper Dark Ritual, doubles as a discard outlet; the adorably-named Millikin mills us for one — that is, puts one card from library to graveyard– whenever we tap it; and Soldevi Adnate is a sacrifice outlet with the potential to create tons of mana. Or metric tons in Canada.
I intend to give this next card a section all his own a bit later on, but I must mention Trinket Mage. Among the numerous artifacts he can search for is Sol Ring, which rumor has it, is a pretty decent card.
Nekrataal art by Christopher Moeller
Fortunately for us, black is the king of creature kill, and plenty of black creatures destroy other creatures when they enter the battlefield (ETB). In fact, some cards have built-in sacrifice outlets in the form of Evoke. Evoking a creature means you cast it, typically for cheaper than it’s normal cost, and triggering its ETB. However, and this is the good part, the critter sacrifices itself. Yes, this means we get the effect AND fill the graveyard at the same time! Both Nekrataal and Shriekmaw are basically Terror on a stick and carry the same prohibitions against killing black or artifact creatures. In case you do need to murderize a black or artifact creature, Shadowborn Demon has you covered, so long as that creature isn’t a Demon. Plus, he provides a sacrifice outlet. Phyrexian Ingester gets us an exile effect, and a potentially dangerously-large body for the beat-downs.
There comes a time when you need to shatter some artifacts, so let’s toss in Ingot Chewer, which, happy days, supports Evoke. Sadly no creatures in our colors can enter and deal with enchantments, so we have to call upon our friends from the Blind Eternities and include Scour from Existence to ensure that we have at least one answer.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there exists little mass removal stapled to a creature that can trigger when that creature comes out of a graveyard. Kederekt Leviathan and Profaner of the Dead can both return opponents’ creatures to their hand, and are probably the best mass removal we can reanimate.
Exiling a graveyard isn’t usually considered “removal”, but it’s absolutely essential when facing other reanimator decks. Agent of Erebos can be our creature version of that effect, and Nihil Spellbomb is another option in our Trinket Mage package. Earlier I teased the importance of Trinket Mage, so how about I finally give it the section it deserves?
Trinket Mage art by Mark A. Nelson
Ah, Trinket Mage. Lovely, lovely Trinket Mage. It is my worst-kept secret that I love package cards. Most of these package cards take a form similar to Trinket Mage: they let your search your library within a specific subset of cards (e.g. Heliod’s Pilgrim finding an Aura). It’s the flexibility of packages that makes them so strong, and they are an excellent method of providing consistency to almost any Commander deck.
Now, what can Trinket Mage do for Sedris? We already have some ramp via Sol Ring, and graveyard hate via Nihil Spellbomb. We could jam in Skullclamp as card draw, and even though our creatures only sometimes die, we should have enough death triggers to take advantage of it. Finally, just to layer another package inside this package, let’s include Expedition Map. Even on a shoestring budget, this deck could have a respectable land toolbox.
Let’s keep this value train rolling! Moving on to those secondary sources of recursion, reanimation, and reuse, for when our commander is unavailable.
Sedris may be able to reanimate a wide range of creatures, but sometimes you need a minion…err, friend to live again and not get exiled at the end of your turn. Victimize is a nice two-for-one, assuming we have another creature on the field we don’t mind dying a little. Likewise, there’s Dread Return whose Flashback cost is probably a bit difficult to pull off in our deck but provides the possibility of two uses. I think Sedris would also appreciate Theros all-star Rescue from the Underworld. The creatures take until the beginning of your upkeep to return, but it allows for one death trigger and two enter-the-battlefield triggers, and can be used in response to attempted removal / boardwipes. While it might cost us a chunk of life, I have to include Phyrexian Delver: what’s cuter than a creature you can reanimate who brings along a buddy?
Of the “miscellaneous” cards in our deck, one bears explanation: Teferi’s Veil, a card I would not have known about if not for this site (thanks EDHREC!). Phasing is, in short, a bizarre mechanic that essentially wipes a permanent from existence. When a permanent “phases out”, it does not change zones, like exile, but is “treated as though it doesn’t exist”, which is intuitive enough to say, but less intuitive to make function in the rules. At the beginning of your untap step, all of your phased out permanents phase in. Here’s the part we care about: when an object is phased out, it can’t change zones. Since Teferi’s Veil can phase out our creatures, they can’t be exiled at end of turn. Then, at our untap step, they phase in. As such, we can retain our Unearthed creatures, so long as they continue to phase out each turn. If someone destroys the Veil or makes us skip combat, though, we’re out of luck.
All this reanimation must have our hands running on empty! It’s time we worked out some additional methods of drawing and tutoring (that is, searching for) cards.
Mulldrifter art by Eric Fortune
We already have two Evoke creatures in the removal department, and it only makes sense to include the Evoke celebrity Mulldrifter in our card draw category. Less famous, but still potentially useful, is Slithermuse. Slithermuse is one of those Evoke creatures with a leaves-the-battlefield effect, which actually doesn’t affect this deck as much, since Unearthing this beauty ensures it leaving the battlefield.
Another friend from the land of Lorwyn / Shadowmoor, River Kelpie, lets us add card draw to every creature we Unearth, with the added bonus of triggering when we cast our few Flashback spells (as they are spells that can be cast from the graveyard).
It’s nice to have spells that toss cards from our hand or the battlefield, so I’m adding Faithless Looting and the lovely and talented Disciple of Bolas. When it comes to tutors, few are more on-theme than Corpse Connoisseur, which is even courteous enough to provide it’s own Unearth!
I hinted at the need for sacrifice outlets and discard outlets, but I haven’t really contended with it. Which means it’s time to discuss one of Magic’s cutest cards: Trading Post!
First off, it makes goats, how is that not awesome? More seriously, this card is a Swiss Army Knife: discard outlet, sacrifice outlet, recursion, card draw, chump blockers, corkscrew for opening wine (not really), and did I mention it makes goats? Because it makes goats. Viscera Seer is a more traditional black sac outlet that we can, and probably should, include. Besides, maybe he can use those goats in his heinous rituals. Or vise versa. I’m not here to judge. I’ll include a few more outlets when we get around to lands.
By now, we have almost everything together except the land-base! Good job, us! Now I did say “almost”; we certainly shouldn’t forget that, somehow, we’re want to win this game.
Flayer of the Hatebound art by Jana Schirmer and Johannes Voss
I’m sure we’re having a grand old time reanimating creatures, but just imagine how bored our opponents will be if we don’t kill them. Since we have all these creatures constantly entering the battlefield, cards like Ogre Battledriver will turn them into more appreciable damage. Heck, even the act of a creature entering can be dangerous to our opponents, with Flayer of the Hatebound to cause damage when something is reanimated. (Fun fact: that card’s name perfectly fits the cadence of “Everybody dance now”. Try it! Go on, really. Just sing it out loud. No one will give you funny looks for it. Probably.)
I promised you a land base, and a land base you shall have! Utility lands provide additional effects for: recursion (Haunted Fengraf, Buried Ruin, Sequestered Stash), discarding (Desolate Lighthouse, Geier Reach Sanitarium), sacrifice outlets (High Market), and graveyard hate (Bojuka Bog). Don’t forget about Expedition Map for finding these lands! The remaining lands will be either color-fixing nonbasic lands, or basic lands.
Welcome to The Sideways Strat, a recurring section dedicated to a concept so crazy it just might work. Today’s feature: a Grozoth package for Sedris. Given that Grozoth is a nine mana card dedicated to tutoring other nine mana cards, I can’t say I’ve ever considered it for a deck. But consider this: it has Transmute, meaning we can discard it to find a nine mana card like Blasphemous Act, In Garruk’s Wake, or (with a few more bucks) the mass-reanimation spell Rise of the Dark Realms. Then, we can Unearth it, and fetch any number of nine mana cards, like Artisan of Kozilek, Void Winnower, or Kuro, Pitlord. I never expected to design a “nine mana matters” package, but Sedris is uniquely suited to abuse this enter-the-battlefield effect, and then cast or Unearth the tutored cards. If you experiment with Grozoth, let me know! I’d love to hear how your opponents react when you destroy them using a creature with Defender and a converted mana cost of nine.
When all is said and done, our lovely Sedris deck clocks in at an equally-lovely $45.00 (as of this writing). I hope this first installment of Low Market has been as fun for you to read as it was for me to create. Have any suggestions for this list? Itching to suggest a commander or theme for Low Market? Want to tell me how Grozoth totally wrecked some noobs? Find me on Twitter, say hi on my Tumblr, or send me an email. Check in next time when we visit a brand-new Aether Revolt legend! Until then, enjoy your time browsing the Low Market.