Ultra Budget Brews – Sydri, Galvanic Genius

(Sydri, Galvanic Genius | Art by Terese Nielsen)

A True Pioneer

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Ultra Budget Brews, the monthly EDH column that brews entire EDH decks containing no cards that cost more than $1. While putting the finishing touches on this article, the Pioneer format was announced. The short version is that Pioneer is a new, non-rotating 60-card format that only uses cards from Return to Ravnica forward. While it looks enjoyable, I have no plans of playing it, so you might be wondering why I’m discussing it at all.

I’ve seen a lot of concern from budget-conscious players that Pioneer will have an impact on EDH prices, making cards more expensive and difficult to obtain. While it is true that Pioneer will certainly impact prices (and already has begun to do so), I think that the most affected cards are likely to be cards that were already outside of the reach of your average budget player (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[el] springs to mind) or cards that aren’t as effective in our format (such as [el]Aetherworks Marvel).

If there is one area I’m slightly concerned about, it’s lands.

Typically, if you aren’t building an optimized dual/fetch/shock land base, mana bases have remained fairly easy to cobble together on a budget. Land cycles like the Cycling lands (Irrigated Farmland), ‘check’ lands (Clifftop Retreat), Temples (Temple of Mystery), and the Battle for Zendikar lands (Smoldering Marsh) are likely to see a significant uptick in demand, potentially resulting in higher prices across the board. The precise amount of that uptick remains to be seen, and will likely vary depending on the color combination you are building.

Overall, my guess is that Pioneer will make things a touch more expensive, but not horribly so. If there are cards you have been putting off acquiring that are legal in Pioneer, if you think there is any chance they could see play, it might be a good idea to pull the trigger so you don’t get burned by price jumps making cards suddenly out of reach.

Alright, the PSA is out of the way! Back to the regularly scheduled article.

It’s Genius!

Last time I gave you all a number of options for this weeks article and you voted as follows:

I was a bit surprised by these results. Honestly, I expected Sidisi to come out on top, mostly because a combination of graveyard shenanigans, Zombies, and Sultai colors seemed like a surefire way to achieve popularity. What I learned instead was to never underestimate the artifact commander. Everybody loves robots, apparently.

Our Commander


  • Only costs 3 mana
  • Incredibly versatile set of abilities
  • A bit of an underdog compared to some other similar artifact commanders, allowing her to slide under the radar


  • Abilities are color intensive
  • Mana cost is color intensive
  • Encourages Aetherflux Reservoir kills, which may be narrow or repetitive

Sydri shares a lot of DNA with other known powerhouse/combo commanders, most notably Sharuum, the Hegemon and Breya, Etherium Shaper. In my experience, commanders that care about artifacts tend to lead towards powerful, streamlined decks. This is not to say that you can’t build a more casual artifact-based deck – you certainly can, and people certainly do. I simply mean that if I see that your commander across the table encourages artifact shenanigans, I’m going to assume that you are doing, well, shenanigans, until shown otherwise. Then again, I still flinch when I see a Mindslaver in someone’s binder, so maybe I’m biased.

Sydri is the exception that proves the rule here. Yes she’s an artifact commander, but the pilot could have chosen something that’s a bit easier to do busted things with, so I’m liable to give it a bit less side eye. Hopefully this will work towards our advantage.

One of the other issues with artifact decks is that their popularity tends to lead to higher-than-average prices. Since the entire premise of these articles is to build decks using cheap cards, this makes things a bit tricky. We simply will be unable to do ‘normal’ Sydri things. Honestly, that’s okay as I like to think this makes for a more interesting deck.

With all of that said, whats our deck look like?

Our Deck

Sydri Goes Podracing

Creature (13)
Artifact (37)
Sorcery (5)
Instant (8)
Enchantment (1)
Land (36)

Are you ready for podracing gifs? I hope you are. If you aren’t, well….

Image result for podracing jabba gif

I find Vehicles to be incredibly interesting. They are basically WotC’s way of trying to fix Equipment, which are, unfortunately, typically binary; they’re often either incredibly powerful or almost entirely unplayable with very little in between. With Vehicles, you use a creature to pilot whatever contraption you happen to have on the battlefield at the time. The more powerful the Vehicle, typically the more powerful (or more numerous) your crew needs to be.

One of the primary issues facing Vehicles is that they require creatures to become useful. With very few exceptions, your opponents can simply ignore your Vehicles, and instead pick off all of the would-be drivers. Sydri solves this issue by essentially piloting all of the Vehicles herself. You can turn any of your Vehicles into creatures for a single blue mana.

At this point there may be some confusion, because all Vehicles have an innate power and toughness that only applies when they are creatures, but Sydri’s ability states that the artifact’s power and toughness become equal to the card’s converted mana cost (CMC). This led me to find out which takes precedence, and it appears that Sydri’s ability takes precedence over the innate power and toughness printed on the Vehicle cards. Sometimes, this is beneficial. Cards like Enchanted Carriage and Parhelion II actually get bigger this way. Sadly, more often it shrinks our Vehicles a bit, even making some cards unplayable when they would otherwise be slam dunks, like Consulate Dreadnought and Demolition Stomper.

Image result for podracing gifs

One of the biggest benefits of playing Vehicles is their natural protection against most Wraths. Unless the Wrath in question hits artifacts as well, your Vehicles will likely go untouched, leaving your board to look like a Walmart parking lot in The Walking Dead. This allows you to rebuild and start applying pressure significantly faster than your opponents.

Sydri also gives creatures lifelink and deathtouch, making combat a nightmare for your opponents. Lifelink is the less important of the two here; it pads your life total, which certainly will make a difference in some percentage of games, but the percentage is likely small. On the other hand, deathtouch allows you to get tricky, turning your artifacts into removal. Cards like Staff of Nin, Ballista Charger, and Talon of Pain all allow you to pick off obnoxious creatures with impunity.

Another fun trick with Sydri involves the card Caltrops. Caltrops does 1 damage to every attacking creature and Sydri can turn it into a deathtouching, lifelinking creature, absolutely obliterating somebody who’s attempting an alpha strike. There is an issue with this of course: you have to hold up the mana for it, and it is an on-board trick. If your opponents are paying attention, they are likely to see it and simply not attack. That’s a bonus, though! Some decks can’t afford to rest on their laurels, and must attack to make their decks kick off, which means you can use this as a political tool and refuse to destroy creatures that point their aggression towards another opponent.

The rest of the deck is the stuff that every EDH deck needs to perform optimally: ramp, card advantage, and removal. Being in Esper colors means we have access to some of the very best removal available (Dispatch, Crush Contraband, Despark), though much of the true upper echelon is outside of our budget. These colors also gives us access to great card draw (One With the Machine, Fact or Fiction, Thirst for Knowledge) and decent artifact ramp (Talisman of Hierarchy, Etherium Sculptor, Chief Engineer).

Notable Inclusions

Parhelion II

Admittedly, I like this card more than it deserves. It probably has something to do with the fact that this is probably as close to an aircraft carrier as you can find in Magic. If you manage to cast this, which is no easy feat considering it costs 8 mana, it’s going to go a long way towards winning you the game. Sydri also makes this better than it typically is since it’ll become an 8/8. It’s fair, powerful and fun.

Peacewalker Colossus

In the event that you are either color screwed or Sydri has eaten every removal spell your opponents have, this serves as a nice backup plan. It’s not as mana-efficient, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. It also comes with a 6/6 body to boot. Every deck needs a way to win when plan A sputters out. This is an effective, synergistic plan B.

Liquimetal Coating

The words “target permanent” are up there with “copy target instant or sorcery” and “gain control of target spell” for favorite phrases to find on a Magic card. WotC loathes giving players ways to easily disrupt lands. Stripping away resources tends to lead to unfun gameplay, and frankly, I get it. There are few things worst than sitting at a table not getting to play the game because someone gets turned off by Stone Rain. That being said, there are powerful lands out there that require powerful, efficient answers.

Liquimetal Coating is neither of those things.

Thankfully, though, it’s flexible and fun. Turn whatever noncreature permanent that is currently vexing you into an artifact, then use Sydri’s ability to turn it in to a creature. This turns on the entire tables’ creature removal, and also turns anything that has a CMC of 0 into a very dead creature. Lands happen to have 0 CMC. Who knew?

Conqueror’s Galleon

Informally known as the S.S. Trading Post (fine you caught me, no one calls it that, but they should), the knock on this card is its Crew cost. In my experience, Crew for 1, 2, and 3 range from easily achievable to doable. Crew for 4+ is a bit more difficult, which is where Conqueror’s Galleon falls. Sydri makes this much easier to flip as you can spend a single blue mana to turn this in to a 4/4, attack the person who is open, and get a flexible, powerful land for your efforts.


This card is one I was initially excited for and then quickly cooled on. Outside of very specific decks (Scarecrow tribal with Reaper King), this probably isn’t quite good enough. I think Sydri is another viable home for the card, as the problem with the card is having easy ways to tap it without having to risk it dying in combat. Crew is a great way to do this. The fact that it’s an artifact that can be given lifelink and deathtouch is decent upside.

Above: Scaretiller accelerating you past your enemies

Notable Exclusions

As always, these are the cards I’d add in if I weren’t concerned about a strict budget restriction, if I were looking to up the power level of the deck, or if I simply had a copy laying around.

Smuggler’s Copter

Affectionately known as “Looter Scooter”, this was the only Vehicle I had to leave off the list for budget reasons. Given the introduction of the new Pioneer format, I can only imagine the price is going to continue to climb. Cheap to cast, cheap to Crew, natural evasion, and card selection make this card very, very good, as well as the first card I’d add if I had my druthers.

Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge

I’m not entirely sure when this card got to be $7, but a price that low simply can’t be correct. This card is absurdly powerful and has to go up in price, so get it now if you are interested in it. Finance advice aside, every mode on this walker is great, and it’s a fantastic win con. It also is likely to make your creatures cheaper because of its static ability.

Me every time I resolve Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge

Sram, Senior Edificer

This is a Vehicle deck. Sram draws you a card whenever you cast a Vehicle card. I could say more, but why? Biscuits, meet gravy.

Sai, Master Thopterist

This is similar to Sram, but instead of drawing cards, you get Thopters, and instead of only triggering from Vehicles, any artifact will do the trick. The Thopters are great for either getting in chip damage on your opponents, or piloting our many Vehicles. You can also turn your artifacts into card draw if needed.


The timing restriction on this ability are a bit odd, but it is undeniably powerful. We have the ability to break the natural symmetry of Wrath effects, since most of our cards are artifacts. This plays a bit like Nevinyrrals Disk, in that people will be loathe to play any cards while it is in play since they are likely to get destroyed. With that knowledge, expect a bit of aggression to be aimed your way.

So aggressive. This is truly the moment that led Anakin to become Vader.

End Step

What do you think of the deck? Is it something you’d enjoy playing or does the thought of anything remotely related to podracing ruin it for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts below! As always, the options for next month are below. Until next time!

Andrew is a life-long gamer and has been playing Magic since 2013. He works as an ASL interpreter, enjoys running, and sitting on his porch reading, while simultaneously silently judging his neighbors. He lives in Joplin, MO with his wife.