Hello, and welcome back to a special edition of Ultra Budget Brews, the article series that is perpetually “Thinking Arby’s” (I blame the coupons they mail). It’s also the series that builds entire EDH decks in which no card costs more than $1.
I mentioned that this is a ‘special edition,’ which can mean any number of different things. It could mean that I received a new brew to share with you all in a fever dream (not likely), that I wrote this while over-caffeinated and that the editor had to basically re-write the entire thing because I forgot how to English (more likely), or it could mean that today is going to be a bit more expensive than normal (most likely).
Last time I gave you all a poll, asking which of the new Commander 2018 decks you would like to undergo the “Ultra Budget Treatment” (trademark pending), replacing cards that don’t belong in the deck with cards that won’t cost you more than $1. The voting went as follows:
When I saw that the Jund deck won, I was pretty excited. I’ve gotten in a number of games with and against all of these decks, and Lord Windgrace might be the best of the Planeswalker commanders. The amount of value you get over the course of a game is absolutely bonkers, and that’s just right out of the box. If you actually upgrade it, you hit light speed in a hurry.
It’s not all about speed though. Lord Windgrace can straight up grind. Decks that want to slowly eke out advantage are a bit different than what I’m used to, so I was actually pretty excited to start brewing.
Emphasis on ‘was.’
Turns out that Lord Windgrace is pretty popular. Actually, it’s either the most popular or second most popular commander from the entire set, depending on when you are reading this (Aminatou, the Fateshifted is neck and neck with it, and deservedly so). Apparently, people were excited about a commander that would let you throw Omnath, Locus of Rage, The Gitrog Monster, Titania, Protector of Argoth, and Mina and Denn, Wildborn together into a sweet, sweet lands matter stew. The problem with high quality stew? It tends to get a bit pricey.
In some years past, this wouldn’t have been an issue. WotC has typically done an incredible job with these preconstructed commander decks, filling them with decent reprints and exciting new cards that fit what the commander is trying to do. This wasn’t always the case this year, most notably with the Lord Windgrace deck. The deck that you are given does have some very fun, cool new cards, but for every one of these, we got cards like Soul of Innistrad and Charnelhoard Wurm. The disappointed wet fart noise you just heard either came from me all the way in Joplin, MO, or you involuntarily made the noise. Probably both.
So, if our deck didn’t give us the tools to be able to build a decent Lord Windgrace deck on a budget, what are we to do?
I asked some of the people I play with this exact question. One of them (@Murphyalvis for all you Twitter folk) directed me to his Thantis, the Warweaver list. The list was full of ways to force combat, bad decisions, and quick games. I was sold. It also has a fair amount of cards that are too expensive for this article, but they were effects I was able to find budget versions of.
Before we get to the decklist, let’s check out Thantis to see what we are working with.
Thantis forces all creatures, including ours, to attack. Vigilance and reach are great abilities to go with this, as it allows us to use Thantis to both attack and defend and insures opponents can’t just use flyers against us. Also, the last ability discourages our opponents from attacking us, or else Thantis grows rather quickly. So, if they aren’t attacking us, they have to be attacking our opponents, which is exactly what we want to happen.
Our deck follows Thantis’ lead. We want to encourage combat, but encourage it to happen to everyone else. Cards like Rite of the Raging Storm, Bitter Feud, and all of the Curses encourage people to attack each other while cards like Blood Reckoning, Hissing Miasma, Briar Patch discourage players from looking our way.
If we are going to force combat, we might as well make combat painful for everyone involved. War’s Toll, Dictate of the Twin Gods, and Grand Melee are frustrating cards that change how the combat step works by either changing the amount of damage done, or forcing everything to attack/block.
We even have some cards to aid everyone in attacking one another. Hunted Dragon and Hunted Troll gift an opponent of your choosing with extra critters. Politic well, make some friends, and let your opponents do your dirty work for you. If they refuse to do so, target them with Worst Fears and make them see reason.
Other than that, we have some ramp (Cultivate, Farseek, Rampant Growth, etc.), removal (Acidic Slime, Ruinous Path, Royal Assassin), and card draw (Harmonize, Read the Bones, Night’s Whisper). I also left in Lord Windgrace and Xantcha, Sleeper Agent because they are fun, powerful cards.
If the game goes longer than an hour, something went terribly wrong for you, your playgroup were on their phones, not paying any attention to the game, or a combination of the two.
Let’s take a look at that list!
Time to pick apart some of the above card choices. Not every card in the original deck needs to be cut. In fact, some of them fit in with the new deck quite well.
Including this card almost feels like cheating. If you are playing B/G and have access to this card, you should probably be playing it. It’s really that simple. Every deck needs targeted removal. Typically, the problem with targeted removal is that you are trading one of your cards for one other card. In 1v1, this is fine, but multiplayer significantly changes the math, not in a positive way. Windgrace’s Judgment gets around this problem by blowing up 3 things (in a 4 player game). Play this card.
This is an incredibly underrated draw spell. It costs 5 mana, which is not a small investment, but I believe it’s worth it a vast majority of the time. The real reason this card works as well as it does is because it’s an instant. Being able to cast this right before your turn starts gives you lots of flexibility. This card gets even better in decks with graveyard synergy, but even without that, it does its job admirably.
Of the cards I’ve listed here, this is the one I’m least sure about. In theory, it makes sense. You give your opponents a bunch of little creatures that they have to attack with, and once Varchild dies, you get those creatures for yourself. The question becomes this: how often will you be able to successfully deal damage with her? In this deck, often. At least theoretically. Your deck is full of cards that force people to attack, meaning unless they have vigilance, they aren’t blocking. Overall, I think this card is worth testing out.
As mentioned before, all preconstructed decks have some amount of chaff that won’t make the cut in most decks. This section is for cards that are brand new, but still should get the axe.
Really though, this card wants a dedicated graveyard deck, which we aren’t. Also, it’s terrible.
I think this card is a trap. If you look at the top 100 creatures on EDHREC, only 19 of them have flying, and of those 19, about 1/4 of them are either unaffected by this card or are played for their ETB effect. If you play against a bunch of Angel and Dragon tribal decks, this card becomes very good. Unfortunately, I think this card ends up rotting in your hand waiting for the perfect moment that likely won’t ever come. The ceiling on this card is sky high, but the floor is brutal. When you would prefer this to be EDH all-star Colossal Dreadmaw some amount of the time, you have a card I’m uninterested in playing with.
This card works best with a cheap commander. Thantis is not that. Would you still be able to get some value out of it? Possibly. That being said, this deck is simply not the ideal place for this card.
These cost less than $1, but pack a punch that feels worth a hundred bucks! Well, okay, that’s an exaggeration. But they’re very fun cards in this deck!
This is one of my favorite cards, full stop. It’s exactly the sort of Magic I enjoy playing, pitting my enemies against each other. Can it backfire? Sure. If the two players you pick with this are that couple that are unofficially a team at all times, you’re going to be annoyed. Also, if you pick them, you are probably bad at making decisions. Instead, pick the person that holds grudges (every group has one) and the person who most recently wronged them. This inevitably leads to some fun interactions. Our deck wants to be political, so this card is a natural fit.
This card ends games in a hurry. If it’s allowed to stick around, typically the game is only going to last another 2 or 3 turn cycles. As a result, this card is a removal magnet. If players don’t have a way of removing the enchantment directly, they will seek to do so indirectly by removing you from the game. No matter what happens with this card, havoc is the most likely outcome.
This card is underplayed. Maybe I play with the wrong sort of people, but I’ve never actually seen this in a deck that wasn’t my own. I think that players shy away from it because they don’t like the fact that it hits you as well, when in reality, this can be a positive. Players are notorious for ignoring the actual board state and simply attacking the player with the most life. Since this hurts you as well, you don’t look like the king of the mountain, making it less likely that you will draw the other players’ ire. Keeping everyone looking elsewhere is an effective way of winning games.
These are cards that would have been included if they cost less than $1. If you have them lying around, are looking to up the power of your deck, or are looking to do away with the budget restriction, these are some of the first places I would look.
When I decided that I wanted to build Thantis, the very first card I looked at was this one. Imagine my disappoint to see it cost too much.
This card costs 8 mana, but it is amazing at ending games in a hurry. Hopefully by the time you play this, your opponents have run out of removal, otherwise this card will not be long for this world.
Encourage opponents to attack each other instead of you? Check.
Hasten games to their conclusion? Check.
Force your opponents to spend resources on things that don’t affect you? Check.
Make sure you have the 2 mana to pay right away, or you may find yourself with some… unwanted attention.
When did this card become $11?!? Goodness. Granted, it’s crazy powerful, forcing players to make disadvantageous attacks. EDH has oft been described (not entirely unfairly) as ‘Battlecruiser Magic‘. People amass huge boards of gigantic critters, staring at one another, daring someone else to blink first. This card forces everyone to blink at the same time. Save this card for board stalls, and laugh maniacally as players crash their big, stupid idiots into each other.
Hopefully you all enjoyed this Nature’s Vengeance exploration! I know that the hype train has moved on from Commander 2018 and everyone is all aboard for Guilds of Ravnica (I’m in the Izzet section of the hype train, if you care to find me), but I still think these sort of exercises can be helpful. I’m sure people will continue to pick these decks up, so I hope this is useful for some cheap but excellent upgrades!
What did you all think? Is this the kind of deck you’d enjoy playing, or does Thantis not excite you? I’d love to hear your thoughts below! For our poll, I’m going to do something a bit different than normal. Often, especially during spoiler season, I will see a card that isn’t a commander, but gets me excited to build an entire deck around it nonetheless. While pre-order prices necessitate that I don’t pick a new card from Guilds of Ravnica, I have a few other options. Let me know which you’d like to see!
Until next time!