by Verdell Shannon
In $100 a Deck, we tackle the the simple concept of a budget brew for Commander. The concept of budget decks is always a slippery slope, with some wanting to aim for the absolute lowest possible price to play, and others thinking budget is whatever a card costs. Generally, I aim for the lowest price point where I can design with flexibility and consistency. Now, let’s dive in.
Part 1: What does the commander do?
Well, we lucked up and got ourselves the most desirable of the new Commander 2020 precons, with a creature that both reduces the cost to cycle cards AND rewards us for doing it. So, any deck we build will be doing a lot of cycling. This is a commander that has a great pedigree with it’s mechanical tie in.
Cycling is a mechanic that has been around in Magic since my favorite block (back when Magic had those) Urza block. It has taken many laps over the years, and appears in all five colors.
Part 2: How do we break this thing?
Thankfully, there is a lot of inspiration to draw from here. We can break him by loading up our deck with cards that are playable and beating our opponents with an interactive game plan… OR we can do a couple of cheap parlou tricks and ruin some fools!
Part 3: What is our inspiration?
I had to dig in a bit to research on cycling in competitive play for this guy. Cycling has come around in tournament decks at least four times, with long time players having seen it do a lot of tricks over the years. So, here are the cliff notes:
Modern: Living End
Game plan is simple, load the graveyard with big, dumb animals, and cast a Living End to reanimate them all. This deck won off the back of cascade spells to control when you could cast the backbreaking spell in a deck that featured no other cards under three CMC. That deck is Jund (black, red, green), so we can’t really rely on it for a direct port. The deck evolved to include an amazing mana denial plan with cards like Avalance Riders, Fulminator Mage, and Beast Within. This is something to note.
Standard: Astral Slide // Lightning Rift (Onslaught standard)
This is a RWX value deck that won the long game through card advantage provided by sticking a powerful enchantment that could match our opponent threat for threat and finally win card advantage. Due to the archetype dating back to 2003/2004 standard, sadly digging into this deck is a bit tougher. You don’t have the same wealth of coverage available to mine, as websites port over content, and the web ages.
Standard UW Control with Drake Haven (Amonkhet standard)
This deck features a suite of UW control options, and wins off the steady stream of creatures a resolved Drake Haven provides, while also controlling the game. This is going to be very important to our build.
Standard Fluctuator (Tempest/Urza standard)
Similar to Living End, but the original. This deck took advantage of the card Living Death out of Tempest block to load up on cards with cycling (that all had the then standard cycling cost of 2 mana), to fill it’s graveyard quickly.
Part 4: What’s the brew?
Really, the best cycling decks are either blazingly-fast combo reanimator decks with some interaction, or they are slow, grindy incremental advantage decks that win off the value enchantments. Well, in our colors we are doing ourseves a service to go for the long game here. There are two different decks that are long-game driven to draw on in color. Also, I am a strong believer that Commander needs control decks. You don’t need to take every game to one hour length, but sometimes it’s okay to not combo out on turn five.
Here’s the link to the deck list.
Part 5: How does it work?
Cycling is a skill testing mechanic. The deck will reward you for long term play, and getting a feel for what you need in any scenario. You have a lot of grind them out potential. The interaction between blinking your own creature and re-buying one of your board wipes is huge. Also, you will be able to remove threats and stall your opponents by cycling cards.
Essentially, your plan is to slow the game down using a lot of tap out control. Once you have exhausted your opponent’s resources, you can take charge and start to bully the table with your near limitless card advantage available.
Part 6: Upgrades
So, upgrading this deck further is all about retuning your interaction and adding more cards to slow your opponens’ development. Decree of Silence is a free counter anything and Nimble Obstructionist is your Trickbind option. You of course can upgrade the mana base, to minimize the tapped land impact more and make sure you hit your colors.
Part 7: Closing Comments
Gavi, Nest Warden is a fantastic control or combo/tempo commander. You can dictate the pace of the game very well, and are mostly immune to counterspells. Call me nuts, but I think after you cast the same wrath effect for the 5th time, people may scoop in frustration, since they can’t kill you. The best thing about the 2020 Commander decks is a lot of the cards are already packaged in there, so your upgrade money can go much farther.
Verdell has been into magic since Phyrexians roamed the earth during Urza block. He is a tournament scrub turned commander player and loves all manner of broken and classic deck. You can find him hanging around EDH forums and talking about why he draws the line at Boil and Acid Rain, but is perfectly fine with Ruination, Armageddon and Wave of Vitriol in commander. He can be reached on twitter (@VerdellShannon) or Instagram (@res5music).