Hello, and welcome back to another addition of Ultra Budget Brews, the column that builds entire EDH decks that contain no card costing more than $1. As someone who writes about EDH, you would assume that I probably play more EDH than any other kind of Magic. You’d be correct in assuming that. If given a choice of formats, typically I’d prefer to sit down with some buddies and jam games of EDH (Limited is up there too, but goodness the cost adds up quick.) It’s fun, relaxing, and as competitive as you and your playgroup decide to make it.
This is not to say that I don’t play, and enjoy, other formats. As hinted at above, I play a bit of Limited here and there and play a non-zero amount of Modern as my friends really enjoy the format, are skilled at it, and sometimes need a whipping boy to test against. When playing Modern, I typically play Mardu Burn. It allows me to scratch that competitive itch that I sometimes get and the rounds are, win or lose, very short.
I enjoy Modern as a format because it reminds me a bit of EDH in one respect: you can show up with close to anything and steal a few games. Sure, you may spend an inordinate amount of time having your hand torn to shreds by Thoughtseize, getting every threat exiled by Path to Exile, or being blown out by sideboard cards, but you can still show up with the goal of killing someone with an Ebony Owl Netsuke or Helix Pinnacle and probably make it work some (perhaps small) percentage of the time. Today’s deck draws inspiration from one of these sorts of decks.
Last week’s voting went as follows
I expected Sasaya to get a bit more love than it did as I’ve only ever seen one Sasaya deck in the wild (it was mine), but I am nothing if not a man of the people. So, Daxos it is!
The most obvious route to go with Daxos is Voltron. White and Blue give you access to some great auras and tutors that interact well with equipment. Unfortunately, most of the best equipment, tutors, and auras are pretty far outside our budget. We could have gone straight aura Voltron and just skipped all of the equipment, most of the tutors, and played a bunch of budget-y auras. Unfortunately, a lot of the auras that really make this work are outside our price range. Also, it would basically play like a bad version of a Bruna, Light of Alabaster deck. I’ve built that deck and the only time it ever gets pulled out is when there is someone who wants to try EDH and is still a bit new to magic. It can be powerful, but suffers from the unforgivable sin of being boring after shuffling it up more than a handful of times. So the question becomes, how do we build a deck that will be interesting to play, utilizes the commander, and still be able to win games? Let’s take a look.
Total Cost (Card Kingdom): $40.93
Some of these cards probably look…strange. We have a few cards like Fireshrieker and Battle Mastery that are generically good in any Daxos deck, but Codex Shredder? Ghoulcaller’s Bell? Pyxis of Pandemonium? These likely stick out like a sore thumb. This deck is loosely based on the Modern deck ‘Lantern Control’. The goal of the deck is to control what is on top of the opponent’s library and eventually mill them out. The deck is a highly competitive prison deck and can be truly disheartening to play against.
If you read the above list closely, you’ll also notice that this isn’t a prison deck. While I have no qualms playing a prison deck in a competitive format like Modern, I would be unlikely to sit down at a random EDH pod with a bunch of strangers and bust out a tuned prison deck, unless I had the goal of making them never want to play Magic with me again.
The other, more practical reason, we aren’t playing a prison deck is that they get real expensive. Cards like Ensnaring Bridge, Wasteland, and Blood Moon add up quick, so a good prison deck is something we probably won’t ever build in this column.
Speaking of cost, I made the decision to add in Lantern of Insight. It currently costs $2.99 which is more than the $1 limit I typically have. I did this because without it, this deck wouldn’t really work. I thought it would be worth breaking my self-imposed rule to make a deck that is outside of the norm and interesting. Hopefully you agree.
As stated above, this is not a prison deck. Our goal is to find our Lantern of Insight, get an artifact out that mills the top card from libraries, and then mill until you find a player that is both easily attacked and has something on top of their library you want to cast with Daxos. Daxos’ ability states that it can only cast the card from exile until end of turn, so you want to be sure that you have the mana to cast what you are exiling. It should be noted that you can’t play lands exiled this way.
Our deck comes equipped with a number of ways to find Lantern of Insight. Cards such as Trinket Mage and Whir of Invention are in the deck to act as additional copies of Lantern. There is also a little played creature Wizened Snitch that has an identical effect. It costs more to cast and being a creature, it is easily killed, but having it adds redundancy to our deck.
At this point you might be thinking, rightly so, that this all seems pretty fragile; depending on a single artifact to make our deck work is risky business. That’s why we have a built in contingency plan. Many of our instants are cards that bounce creatures from the battlefield to the top of our opponent’s library. The absolute worst case for this is that our opponent has to redraw and recast that creature, which is a pretty big tempo loss. At best, we bounce something that we can cast with Daxos, attack that player and steal the creature we just put on top of the library. Another trick is to bounce a hard to deal with creature like an Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger or Kozilek Butcher of Truth and just exile them with Daxos. Congratulations, you just built your own Swords to Plowshares, Rube Goldberg style.
We also have cards like Portent and Bamboozle that look at the top few cards of an opponents deck and rearrange them to our liking. These aren’t as good because they only effect one player one time, but they do the trick in a pinch. We also included a number of artifacts and auras that give some combination of Unblockable and double strike. Unblockable guarantees we will get Daxos’ combat damage trigger and double strike gives it to us twice. It’s worth noting that you will likely be able to kill a non-zero number of players with commander damage this way.
This deck is at its strongest when there are only 1 or 2 other players left. You will be able to use your artifacts and creatures to mill away anything you don’t want your opponents drawing, effectively controlling their draw step, eventually either killing them with Daxos, creatures you have stolen, or slowly but surely milling them out of the game.
This card is pretty high up there on my list of pet cards. It plays a bit like Desertion, but this comparison doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t counter anything and doesn’t have any effect on non-creature spells, but makes up for this fact by being absolutely incredible against creatures and token decks. Have a buddy that plays Krenko, Mob Boss or Rhys the Redeemed? Try this card out and see how it goes. I can think of worse things to get with 6 mana then an entire army of goblins or elves. At worst, you cast it in response to someone casting a creature and you steal it, essentially forcing them to not cast any other creatures that turn.
Two facts, that our deck puts lots of cards in the graveyard and that board wipes are some of the most played cards in EDH, make this card great. Wait for there to be a juicy target in someone’s graveyard and go to town. Don’t forget to start rubbing your hands together like a maniacal Bond villain if you see a reanimator deck amongst your opponents.
This alongside Memory Lapse are two more ways that our deck can control what is on top of an opponent’s library. Countering spells is great and even more fun in white. For bonus points, pass your turn only having 3 plains untapped. Your opponents, thinking the coast is clear, will walk right in to a white counterspell. That sound you are currently hearing is your table being flipped by your friend that gets salty (if you don’t think you have a friend that gets salty, it’s probably you).
Simply put, this card is another way to manipulate the top card of a player’s library. Typically, you use this to attempt to steal things with Daxos, but you can also use it to get back a creature of yours that met an untimely, early demise. You can even use it politically to try and get someone to help you take care of a problem that is messing your plan up by promising to give them back a creature. You have to be careful with the order of your graveyard with this card out, which is equal parts novel and annoying.
At it’s very core, this is a do-nothing enchantment. Really. It doesn’t effect the board in any way. It’s just…there. What it does do is powerfully alter the social dynamics of the game. Giving perfect information of everyone’s hand but yours is a powerful, powerful effect. Everyone knows what threats and what answers everyone has. It should be effortless to leverage this in such a way that you aren’t the target. You can point out the things in other players hands that are scary and hard to deal with, incentivizing others to attack one another, all the while staying above the fray, slowly building up your board position. This is a strong political tool that can buy you a ton of time. Use it accordingly.
I typically stay away from talking about tutors in this section. Yes, tutors are great, pretty much all of the time. Also, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the earth is flat.
In this case, I will make an exception. Finding our Lantern is very important, and if you already have it in hand or on the battlefield, then you can use this to find a different artifact you might need.
Most decks run equipment. Daxos likes equipment to help him get in the red zone. Thada Adel steals equipment (and other artifacts). Stealing stuff is fun. Play more Thada Adel.
Every EDH deck should have some sort of recursion. Your stuff will die. If it doesn’t, then you are probably winning the game anyway. Hanna does a fantastic job of giving us repeatable recursion. We have a fair amount of artifacts and enchantments in this deck and being able to get a second use out of them is great.
This card is here solely because of the -3 ability. You can use the +1 ability, and I’m sure there are situations where you will, but giving flying and double strike to Daxos is great and is why we are interested in this card to begin with. Daxos does gain us a non-zero amount of life as well, so there is also the possibility of running over everyone an army of cats.
Unfortunately for us, graveyard shenanigans are popular in EDH. Every time you sit down at a table, there is likely to be at least one dedicated graveyard deck. As a large part of our plan focuses around selectively milling our opponents, we can often end up inadvertently helping our opponents. Rest in Peace puts a stop to that. Yes, it nullifies our recursion, but in the games where this card ends up being good, that is an acceptable loss. Watching that smug Karador, Ghost Chieftain player squirm…delightful.
That’s all I have for today. What did you think of our deck? I personally really enjoyed coming up with it and while it might not be the most competitive deck I’ve ever built, it seems like it would be interesting and a blast to play. I definitely felt like breaking our rule with one card was worth it, but I’m curious what you all think. Also, if you enjoyed the process of transitioning a competitive 60 card deck into an EDH deck, check out Matt Morgan’s series “60 to 100”. Below you will find our options for next week. Let me know which you want to see below. Until next time!