Monday, January 24, 2011

CommanderCast 13: Season Finale

Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
The last thirteen weeks of work have all been leading up to this hour and a half podcasting EVENT! Andy, Adam and Jeremiah sit down to close out our first season with a battery of topics that strike near the hearts of every Commander player out there. This includes our most-requested topic of all, a segment on the 'Spirit of EDH' and what it means for us, as well as a bit of discussion on the future of the format. We tried to keep somewhat in line with this topic as the theme for the whole podcast, also hitting up cards that made us feel like assholes and prison lock decks.

I would like to thank all of our listeners, supporters, and contributors for making this into a surprisingly productive experience. It is only because I have had the whole CommanderCast team backing me up, along with dozens of listeners keeping it real and sending it feedback, that the show has any kind of following today. This started with the concept of being a community-oriented podcast, and has blossomed into substantially more. I pride myself on keeping this one of the most interactive, accessible, and listener-oriented shows available on MtG and that would mean nothing without the feedback and support of our listeners.

We will be taking a scheduled break between this episode and our return for Season 2. I will be incommunicado for one week as of today, and will return to respond to all e-mails, Tweets, and the like as per usual. We will be producing work like articles, podcasts, and videos prior to Season 2 going live so we have a stockpile of content in case of unforeseen events. This will help keep the wheels turning so all you fiends are satisfied.

So, if you are somebody who has helped us out in the past with topic suggestions, feedback, or other ideas, please keep them coming. They're the lifeblood of the show. If you have an interest in guest hosting, let me know. I will get back at you about it as soon as possible. If you know of or run a blog, YouTube channel, or some other form of media related of Commander or even just casual Magic, let me know about it so we can pimp it. It's what I want to do. Most of all, if there's another mode of interaction you would like to have with me or other members of the team, please let us know. We want to be on point like that.

I have some very exciting plans for Season 2, including but not limited to...
  • EVEN MOAR guest hosts!
  • Free-for-all Roundtables... with KNIVES
  • A live streaming, call-in episode of CommanderCast
  • More articles from more different writers
...and so on. If you're reading this, you probably don't need any coercion to come back in a few weeks. We'll see you then. I hope you bring friends.

Show notes and links below. Enjoy.


00:00 to 05:38: Intro: Andy, Adam and Jeremiah introduce themselves, discuss the mid-week update, and talk about the upcoming second season.

05:48 to 20:28: Free-For-All-Roundtable: Metalworker: Should Metalworker still be banned in Commander? While Jeremiah and Adam fight to the death Andy doesn't really care. Our most epic Roundtable yet, with the time constraint removed the gloves come off!

20:35 to 22:30: Community Spotlight: Completely Casual: My man Dominik is doing some SERIOUS writing about playing casual Magic. Not strictly Commander related, but great content. Check him out at

22:45 to 56:24: Community: The 'Spirit of EDH': We finally cover the most-requested subject for the podcast, 'The Spirit of EDH', in a mega-segment devoted to one of the most controversial but interesting subjects related to the format. Be advised this discussion is long, far-reaching, and contains several sub-discussions.

56:44 to 67:18: Strategy: Hated Out: Prison Locks: "Uh oh, here comes my man with his Erayo deck. This game is pretty much ruined." A stinkin' ass prison lock would be as foul by any other name (Stasis, Hokori, Decree of Silence)... so why do we hate these decks? What makes them good? When should you play them, if ever?

67:36 to 70:30: Technology: Break My Card: It's our new thing on Twitter. STRICTLY for our followers there because before this our e-mail guys got all the love (and the contest). Here's how it works:
  • Once a week, I give you a single card. It can be anything.
  • You let me know how to use it via Twitter. It has to be in one Tweet. You can use short versions, abbreviations, and acronyms, but if I can't decipher them you're busted. You can't send a second tweet, e-mail, or telegraph to explain what you mean.
  • You have to tell me what Commander will be in charge of the deck the card is used in. After that, you can say whatever; a combo? Some synergies? The type of deck it works in best? It's up to you to do something awesome with the card. 
This week's card to break is BREATH OF FURY.
70:44 to 84:01: Technology: Asshole Cards: EDH players are often notoriously preachy about how they play for fun, and want everyone to have fun. Another thing Commander junkies are known for is being hypocrites. not wanting to be exceptions, we each trot out two cards that make us feel like assholes when we play them, and why... and maybe some justification.

Be warned... we kind of come undone halfway through this one.

Adam's Picks: Sorin Markov, Vicious Shadows
Andy's Picks: Hinder, Destructive Force
Jeremiah's Picks: Identity Crisis, Tainted Strike

84:14 to closing: Outtro.

  • General show contact: CommanderCast(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Andy: CommanderCast(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Adam: adnelso(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Jeremiah: jeremiah(at)s1group(dot)com
  • To Tweet Andy: (at)CommanderCast on Twitter

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mid-Week Update: January 19

Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
The final mid-week update of Season 1 is here. I could make up cheesy line about how fast it went by, but trust me, I have been GRINDING so it wasn't. But at least my grind gives you some stuff to check out, like a my man Omar's awesome Rasputin Dreamweaver deck... you can put the full interview in your scope over on YouTube. This week we also have Stephen putting out the fourth installment of Hippo Genocide... some hot Hippo on Hippo action. Additionally, Byron has his latest installment in his vlog, this time covering the new, already-infamous Blightsteel Colossus.

Hippo Genocide 04: Hippo on Hippo Action
By STEPHEN aka Astray Penguin
Welcome to Hippo Genocide : Hippo on Hippo action. After a couple of weeks rest I'm finally writing again. I've not been playing much Magic but the games I have been playing have made me wonder a few things, one of which leads to this article.

When you play EDH you're not in a vacuum, many people think playing 10 bonus turn effects is a great idea, or (formerly) putting Emrakul in your deck would be a great finisher. But your deck is not only your deck, it's also resources other players can access. How often do you consider cards you're playing if they're used against you? Can you deal with someone taking your extra turns or using Bribery to snag your finishers?

In a recent game I was playing a Wrexial, the Risen Deep deck on MODO and I was against a mono blue deck, he had taken an extra turn earlier and I figured his deck would be full of that stuff (which I will point out, I absolutely hate). So I'm running one of my favourite blue cards ever Knowledge Exploitation and target him with it, hit another copy off his deck and then tag a Time stretch. In total this gives me 6 turns just from his deck alone and bashing with Wrexial (not including other creatures I was playing who were also stealing stuff from people's decks). After the game the mono Blue player made a snarky comment about me “playing his deck”. Well yes I did play his deck, I locked the game up using his extra turn cards, Lightning Greaves and my general. I couldn't of done any of that stuff without him deciding to put it in his deck. If he doesn't like people playing those cards then why is he playing them himself?

In EDH cards like Rite of Replication and Bribery get included in almost any blue deck that can play them. They win games because people love to play massive spells, spells that auto win the game or reset the game, but no one ever questions what it means to get hit in the face with their own stuff. Can you survive a massive Eldrazi hit or an opponent taking two extra turns? One thing I have found while playing Wrexial is that most people's decks can't handle the cards they play. The white board sweepers cripple their own decks just as much as they do everyone else. So maybe building decks which can't counter themselves is the next step in the EDH evolution. Token decks full of board wipes and every card making 3-4 dudes is a perfect example of this. Where as a mono black deck which exploits the graveyard is completely open to having their own Relic of Progenitus shutting down their entire deck.

Obviously if you're running a narrow deck it maybe easy to avoid countering yourself (Maybe an Uril the Mistwalker deck that runs no enchantment removal or board sweepers), but if you're a graveyard based deck, zero graveyard hate would leave you wide open to countless problems as it is a commonly used resource. So when you're designing your deck maybe it's worth keeping this in mind, many pro Magic players ask themselves “What do I lose to on this board” and play around that, since this is EDH, you can do exactly the same thing, except with your deck.

As a footnote : Cairn Wanderer is awesome. Fear him and his insane abilities, him and Necrotic Ooze are top tier bros.

If you have any feedback or thoughts send them to or drop me a line on MTGO where my username is Astray_Penguin. I hope to hear from all six of you soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

CommanderCast 12: Notoriously Above Average

Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
It's HAMMER TIME, without the hammers or designated time! CommanderCast episode 12 is here to resume yelling to you about EDH. Listen to this WITH YOUR EARS! We have Donovan back in the proverbial staircase with us slinging his wisdom to all you fiends out there lurking. Donovan is my main man on the prooflistening front these days so it only seemed appropriate to have him on point during recording.

Love to all our people following us on the Twitter feed. Be sure to check out the new Break My Card segment which will be jumping of weekly on the podcast's Technology segment, with the previous week's favoured entries bring featured in the Community segment.


00:00 to 01:32: Intro: Your four hosts introduce themselves. Showing love to our listener e-mails and Tweets.

01:38 to 05:37: Community Spotlight: Cockatrice: Do you like Magic Workstation? Sorry, loaded question. Do you USE Magic Workstation? If so then give the dudes over at a shout, because they're coming through with a new free Magic client that supports multiplayer.

05:41 to 20:29: Community: The Wrath Cycle: Adam's back battling Stephen Hawking for theorist championship belt. This week he's letting you in on what he calls the 'Wrath Cycle', a deck construction phenomenon in local metagames where certain answer and question cards will continually cycle form heavy use to near-extinction. How can you recognize it and leverage it? What does it mean?

20:31 to 41:25: Strategy: Planeswalkers in EDH: We're doing a listener topic sent to us from Bryan about Planeswalker in EDH. How does their dynamic change in multiplayer, and especially Commander? Which ones are good, and which ones get worse from the 1v1 environment they've been ruining for the last few years?

41:32 to 44:51: Technology: Break My Card: It's our new thing on Twitter. STRICTLY for our followers there because before this our e-mail guys got all the love (and the contest). Here's how it works:
  • Once a week, I give you a single card. It can be anything.
  • You let me know how to use it via Twitter. It has to be in one Tweet. You can use short versions, abbreviations, and acronyms, but if I can't decipher them you're busted. You can't send a second tweet, e-mail, or telegraph to explain what you mean.
  • You have to tell me what Commander will be in charge of the deck the card is used in. After that, you can say whatever; a combo? Some synergies? The type of deck it works in best? It's up to you to do something awesome with the card. 
This week's card to break is SPELLBINDER.
45:03 to 60:40: Technology: Retro Cycle Review: Scourge Decrees. We're rating the mighty Scourge Decrees from best to worst in Commander. Not familiar with them? Here's links.

Decrees of Justice, Silence, Pain, Annihilation, Savagery.

Jeremiah's Picks: Pain, Silence, Justice, Annihilation, Savagery
Andy's Picks: Annihilation, Pain, Justice, Silence, Savagery
Donovan's Picks: Pain, Annihilation, Silence, Justice, Savagery
Adam's Picks: Pain, Annihilation, Silence, Justice, Savagery

60:50 to closing: Outtro.

  • General show contact: CommanderCast(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Andy: dsmcl36(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Adam: adnelso(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Jeremiah: jeremiah(at)s1group(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Donovan: donovangray(at)gmail(dot)com

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mid-Week Update: Janurary 13

Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
CommanderCast is back with another mid-week update. This week, Byron is pimping out Cockatrice, a new free multiplayer online MtG client in the vein of Magic Workstation. If you're looking to play MtG without paying money for cards and like online play, this might be the program for you. Put these guys in your scope over at!

Meanwhile, I'm putting up my final CommanderCast Short for season one, in which I talk about tying together the contents of my first four videos into cohesive packages and slamming them into your decks. Next week, I'll be bringing you the final Deckbuilder's Spotlight as well. We're winding down the end of the first season of CommanderCast... WITH A MASSIVE EXPLOSION.

Finally Adam is unleashing his MtG related musings in his first article here on ComanderCast, where he goes into another wild theory on how every creature is one of three creatures (sort of). Next week Stephen will be back with the last article for the season.

Compulsive Research 01: Mulldrifter, Nekrataal and Phage

I've been thinking this week about three cards: Mulldrifter, Nekrataal, and Phage, the Untouchable.  Even if you aren't playing blue or black, you are playing all three of these cards in your decks.  Sure, you might not be playing a card named Nekrataal, but are you running Acidic Slime?  And to those of you that don't run Mulldrifter: do you run Karmic Guide?  The Scion of the Ur-Dragon players run Phage as their general.  Anyone who doesn't believe that has never had to pick up a Dragon Tyrant and ask, “What does that do?”

I've been thinking about these three cards because they are every good creature in Magic.  Think about the creatures you play with and against all the time.  Each of them has a brother in either Mulldrifter, Nekrataal, or Phage, or perhaps more than one.  Most cards are easy to classify; the challenge is in  balancing your decks with each role.

I'm going to list some popular creatures that exemplify the three roles.

Sample Mulldrifters:

These cards give you more options, typically by drawing cards or generating mana, but occasionally via subtler means.  A Puppeteer Clique in hand usually means dozens of potential plays this turn.  Oracle of Mul Daya's acceleration grants you greater freedom for the rest of the game.  Kiki-Jiki unlocks as many options as you have creatures.  Any card that makes it easier for you to make plays is a Mulldrifter.

Sample Nekrataals:
These cards take options away from your opponent, usually by killing things, but sometimes less directly.  When Viridian Zealot destroys your opponent's Gilded Lotus, it takes away more than just the card: it takes away all of the plays that your opponent could have made with an extra three mana.  Gaddock Teeg takes away all your opponent's plays that hinge on expensive noncreature spells. Any card that attacks an opponent's options is a Nekrataal.

Sample Phages:

The odds are against creatures in EDH.  They can be countered, exiled, stolen, bounced, blocked, destroyed, and even Humbled.  Getting an important one to live for even a turn is a challenge.  That's why, if you're going to run a creature and it isn't a Mulldrifter or a Nekrataal, it better be able to kill in one hit.   Not all Phages use the red zone; the key to being a Phage is having the potential to take out a player within a turn or two of being cast (perhaps by comboing off, which is why I listed Tidespout Tyrant here—if played fairly, it's a Nekrataal).  Playing Phages is a risky business, since your opponent may be able to use them against you.  They also tend to be expensive and slow.  But when your opponents don't have an answer... they lose.

Recently, I built a Savra, Queen of the Golgari deck.  She seemed to me to have strong potential that was untapped in my group.  I packed the deck to the gills with sacrifice effects, creatures that lived to die, and repeatable recursion.  The deck was a sacrificing, reanimating, value-generating machine, and it was terrible.  I tried running better cards, more recursion, more sac outlets, fewer sac outlets...  I just couldn't make my opponents afraid of me.

At first, I wondered if Savra was the problem.  A lot of things have to go right for her ability to work: you need to stick a sac outlet, a source of expendable creatures, and Savra herself, and none of that even matters unless an opponent has important creatures.  It was while helping someone else with a different deck that I heard myself advise, “You don't have enough threats.”  I silently realized, “I don't have enough threats.”  When building my deck, I had forgotten that every black creature, no matter what it looked like, doubled as Nekrataal in a Savra deck.  All the Reassembling Skeletons, Nether Traitors, and Golgari Thugs look like great two-for-ones, but the only card they'll ever “draw” is Innocent Blood.  Making someone sacrifice their creatures over and over might keep them from going anywhere, but it doesn't make them lose.  For my Savra deck to work, I was going to have to find a way to apply pressure.  That meant finding Phages.

I added some beef that I had previously avoided out of a desire to build around my commander.  Vulturous Zombie, Pestilence Demon, Rampaging Baloths, and Xathrid Demon joined the team.  I also gave up my goal of avoiding certain staples that I felt were becoming hackneyed in my playgroup.  In Avenger of Zendikar and Terastodon went.  (It was silly to have omitted them, I know.)  The difference was unmistakable.  My Savra deck became a respectable opponent.  I brushed early drops aside with Savra, dropped a giant creature, and brushed aside opposing fatties in the same way.  Whenever one of my Phages died, I could recur it.

Many cards—often, the best cards—satisfy more than one need.  Primeval Titan draws lands and puts an opponent on a meaningful clock.  Woodfall Primus kills what needs killin', including the opponent.  Necrotic Ooze does everything and anything you build your deck for: just add Withered Wretch for a Nekrataal, Yavimaya Elder for a Mulldrifter, or Eater of the Dead, Magus of the Coffers, and Geth, Lord of the Vault for one hell of a Phage.

Investigate your decks.  Do you have lots of cards of each role?  Does your commander cause you to need more or less of one role?  Are there cards in your colors that can fill multiple roles?  By asking these questions, I was able to rescue a fun deck from the dustbin.  Before you give up on that sweet idea that just isn't working out, make sure you have all three of Nekrataal, Mulldrifter, and Phage doing their parts.  My full Savra list (as of this writing) is below.

Savra, Queen of the Golgari

Creatures –
Phyrexian Plaguelord
Viridian Zealot
Woodfall Primus
Withered Wretch
Acidic Slime
Sadistic Hypnotist
Kuon, Ogre Ascendant
Eater of the Dead

Eternal Witness
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
Dimir House Guard
Viscera Seer
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Golgari Thug
Fierce Empath
Reassembling Skeleton
Yavimaya Elder
Deadwood Treefolk
Masked Admirers
Primeval Titan
Oracle of Mul Daya
Sengir Autocrat
Magus of the Coffers

Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Rampaging Baloths
Xathrid Demon
Pestilence Demon
Vulturous Zombie
Avenger of Zendikar
Necrotic Ooze

Culling Dais
Helm of Possession
Nim Deathmantle
Mimic Vat
Crucible of Worlds
Nihil Spellbomb

Pernicious Deed
Phyrexian Arena
Call to the Grave
Bloodchief Ascension
Night Soil
Golgari Germination

Promise of Power
Life from the Loam
Diabolic Intent
Worm Harvest
Nature's Lore
Dread Return
Night's Whisper
Living Death

Corpse Dance
Suffer the Past

Miren, the Moaning Well
High Market
Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Barren Moor
Tranquil Thicket
Khalni Garden
Bojuka Bog
Verdant Catacombs
Overgrown Tomb
Gilt-Leaf Palace

Monday, January 10, 2011

CommanderCast 11: Cromat Has a Facebook Page

Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
This episode is longer than most because Byron came back and he was all like "NOW IT IS MY TIME TO SHINE". We went a little long in recording and I already lopped some disgusting vestigial limbs of discussion off this monster, so suffice to say it was really long at first. You're getting the sanitized, post-op version. Trust me, it's for the best.

Our episode this week is delving deep into a variety of topics ranging from stabbing your mans in the back to making new friends. Well... that's actually just the Strategy segment. It's not like there isn't a rundown of the gamut of topics below in the show notes anyway, so I don't know why I'm still trying here.

Oh yeah, I'm doing me over on Twitter as CommanderCast now so GET AT ME.

Show notes and links below. Enjoy.


00:00 to 02:48: Intro: Your three hosts introduce themselves. Some news on the podcast and whatever.

03:02 to 21:05: Community: Extended Mailbag: We show some love to our listeners and respond toy our e-mails on the podcast. Discussion on mono-blue decks, using EDH to vitalize dying MtG scenes and more!

21:14 to 46:24: Strategy: Let's Make A Deal: We're talking about making alliances and deals in EDH. How do you stab your ally in the back? What about out-of-game alliances? A seasonably in-depth discussion looking at short-term and long-term pacts with other players in Commander.

46:45 to 67:28: Technology: M11 and Commander: With M12 on the horizon we look back at M11 and each provide an awesome card, a dud card, and a hidden gem with an eye for Commander.

Byron's Picks:
Sun Titan is awesome, Phylactery Lich is a dud, and Reassembling Skeleton is a hidden gem.
Andy's Picks:
Hoarding Dragon is awesome, Conundrum Sphinx is a dud, and Back to Nature is untapped gold. 
Jeremiah's Picks:
Crystal Ball is awesome, Time Reversal is a dud, and Elixir of Immortality needs some shine.

67:44 to 84:40: Technology: Over//Under: Scion of the Ur-Dragon vs Cromat: 5-colour Commanders in a brawl! We hear thoughts on what's played out about Scion of the Ur-Dragon and show you why Cromat needs to be in your decks.

85:07 to closing: Outtro.

  • General show contact: CommanderCast(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Andy: CommanderCast(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Byron: SurgingChaos19(at)gmail(dot)com
  • To E-Mail Jeremiah: jeremiah(at)s1group(dot)com

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mid-Week Update: January 6

Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
It's mid-week, so here's an update. BAM. This week I'm bringing the fifth Deckbuilder's Spotlight to the table featuring my man Donovan aka d0su, who is giving you the square biz on his Gaddock Teeg deck; the decklist is available both here and in a link in the YouTube notes, since a lot of people ask about where I put them.

When you're done with the interview, this week Carlos is giving us the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series. Carlos was on CommanderCast Episode 6 and was featured in Deckbuilder's Spotlight 3 with his mega-sweet Child of Alara deck. His interest lies primarily in deck construction and helping people out with their own decks, so expect to see his ongoing features mostly focus on deck revision and construction. This week's article is a look at building a Khemba, Kha Regent deck on a budget.

I would also like to take a moment and thank our listeners for being awesome. I can now say that our audience's growth can be described as 'explosive'. Our listenership that I am sort-of-aware of doubled from the start to the end of December, which means you guys appreciate our show enough to put the word out there about us. I appreciate it enormously. I am also continually surprised by the number of people who volunteer to help with the production of the show and other content without being asked. There will come a time soon when I'll be happy to take you all up on these offers, something I will be talking about more in CommanderCast 13.

If you have anything to say to us, ideas for the show, other content you'd like us to showcase, and so on as always please e-mail me. Getting your e-mails and conversing with our listeners is the best thing about the show!

Beyond that we have some exciting news for the podcast in general:
  • Jeremiah aka ShivesMcShivers is the fourth 'regular' host, accompanying myself, Byron, and Adam. Jeremiah has been a fantastic asset to the show and is also super easy to schedule with (an important plus for a dick like me with an erratic schedule).
  • Donovan aka d0su has kindly volunteered to be my podcast proof-listener. This means he'll listen to an edited podcast before it's distributed for general consumption and catch anything I forget to edit, such as extended dead air, death threats to public figures or missed edits.
  • Carlos has agreed he will be our second columnist, working alongside Stephen aka Astray Penguin. His first article is premiering this week; don't be afraid to send him some feedback on his work, I'm sure he'll appreciate it!
  • We are now on Twitter. I am a bit behind the curve on these kind of things, but if you want, you can follow us there; it's CommanderCast. Yeah, super creative I know. In any case, this seems to have become a popular mode of communication so don't hesitate to contact me though that, or follow us to get regular updates.
In any case, here's this week's material.

The Arcane Laboratory #01
By Carlos

So the question of the day is who am I, and what am I doing here?  My name is Carlos, and I’ve been trying to get more involved in both CommanderCast and the online Commander community in general.  The one thing you need to know about me is that I’m a Johnny through and through.  I love the deck design aspect of this game, and building a commander deck is a challenge that’s as interesting and complex as you want it to be, and is really an experience that is unique from the rest of Magic.

What I’m hoping is that this will be the first in a series of deck design and deck help articles.  Each week I want to build or reconstruct a deck, either my own project or, preferably, one submitted by any readers, taking into consideration any specific restrictions, be they budgetary or thematic.  Hopefully, at the end of each article we’ll have a functional deck that can hold its own in a typical Commander game.

To start this off, I’ve got a project that was given to me by one of my friends from home.  He sold his collection several years ago, and got back into the game when he saw us playing Commander a few months ago.  Up until now, he’s been borrowing decks from other players, but has decided it’s time to build his own deck that fits his personality.  The problem is that he’s on a pretty strict budget, and can only allocate about $30 on his deck this time around.  So what is he looking for in a deck?  He’s got four things that he wants in this deck, along with some of my own comments on those requirements:
  • It must be mono-colored.  Decks with two or more colors have to invest heavily in their mana bases.  It’s more cost effective to spend that money on cards that are fun and interactive rather than mana fixing.

  • It must be aggressive.  There aren’t too many ways to effectively beat down in a format with 40 life, and the two that are most effective are token beatdown and voltron beatdown.  Tokens provide a little more utility, as they’re able to overwhelm blockers, or help protect your life total, and are more likely to kill multiple players in a single turn.  This comes at the expense of being significantly more vulnerable to wraths.

  • It must be able to gain life.  One of the biggest determinants of who wins the game is how capable they are of staying in the game, and most decks win through the combat phase.  Being able to consistently regenerate your life total is a good way to generate a long term advantage over other players.

  • It must be able to win big.  This is the reason we play EDH, right?  People swinging for hundreds of damage, generating absurdly large (but not infinite) amounts of mana, and other ridiculous kinds of plays like that. In my experience, voltron decks get boring VERY quickly, and don’t tend to produce very many memorable plays.  This starts to push me towards more of a token strategy than a voltron strategy.
Still, you have to think about how awesome it might be to be able to manage both a voltron and token beatdown theme.  If someone has a Maze of Ith, your token creatures can just overwhelm them; if they’ve got wraths, you don’t have to overextend your tokens into them if you don’t think it’s appropriate.  The general most appropriate for this, in my mind, is:

The interesting part of trying to build Kemba on a budget is that you don’t get access to all the staple artifacts such as Sword of Fire and Ice/Light and Shadow, or Mind’s Eye and the like.  You also can’t really run any Wrath of God or Armageddon effects, just because they’re more expensive.  The deck is going to need a little bit of a different direction to compensate for the lack of cards that are powerful on their own.  Basically, the deck is going to have to rely on engines instead of individual cards to generate an advantage over the course of a game.

The first and most important thing for the deck is going to be the equipment, so let’s talk equipment. 

The first thing I’m concerned about is being able to play and equip Kemba with one or more equipment in a single turn.  This forces your opponents to have removal, or let you start to generate card advantage.  The other thing I’m looking for is equipment-based combos, and other mechanisms of generating card advantage in the long term.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

General Purpose Equipment:
Darksteel Axe (0.25)
Konda’s Banner (1.49)
Diviner’s Wand (0.25)
Explorer’s Scope (0.15)
Pennon Blade (0.25)
Strata Scythe (0.49)
Grafted Exoskeleton (0.25)

Removal Equipment:
Gorgon Flail (0.25)
Quietus Spike (0.89)
Thornbite Staff (0.25)
Sword of the Paruns (0.49)
Viridian Longbow (0.25)
Heartseeker (0.89)

Recursion Equipment:
Nim Deathmantle (0.75)
Runed Stalactite (0.15)
Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho (0.59)

17 Cards, $8.63  ** Note: Prices are based on prices for cards that are in either NM or SP condition **

So the equipment is broken into three sections.  The first is just generic, vanilla equipment that’s just there to pump Kemba or provide a generic utility effect.  The second set is the first of two equipment-based engines.  These try to give Kemba deathtouch, a Prodigal Pyromancer effect, and a way to untap itself, so you can machine-gun down the other creatures to clear the way for your tokens.  That last group is a way to recur creatures; something the deck is sort of built around.  Runed Stalactite plus Oathkeeper seems like it could be STUPIDLY powerful with sacrifice outlets.  Similarly, Nim Deathmantle has already proven itself to be absurdly good as a pseudo Recurring-Nightmare.

The next thing that I want to worry about is the creatures that you’re going to be recurring with the two engines that I’m including.  Here I’m really looking for some creatures with good “Enters the battlefield” effects, or ones that include sacrifices as a cost.  The idea here is that, since the best cards won’t fit in the budget, you can use a few engine cards to make the rest of your cards a lot more powerful.

Ranger of Eos Package:
Ranger of Eos (2.99)
Martyr of Sands (0.19)
Soul Warden (0.25)
Soul’s Attendant (0.25)
Benevolent Bodyguard (0.15)
Kami of False Hope (0.25)
Salvage Scout (0.15)

Artifact Recursion:
Sanctum Gargoyle (0.15)
Razor Hippogriff (0.25)
Leonin Squire (0.25)

Equipment Fetchers:
Stonehewer Giant (0.99)
Taj-Nar Swordsmith (0.39)

Misc. Creatures:
Emeria Angel (0.99)
World Queller (0.39)

31 cards, $16.27

So there’s four kinds of creatures here, and the first is the one I’m the most excited about.  That’s the Ranger of Eos package; Ranger is one of my favorite cards to be printed, and it’s the most expensive card in the deck.  It also does a lot of cool things for this deck – first and foremost, it puts together the lifegain theme.  Soul’s Attendant and Soul Warden are awesome with Kemba.   Martyr of Sands is ridiculously powerful, can easily put the game out of reach with Takeno/Stalactite or Nim Deathmantle.   Bodyguard, Kami, and Salvage scout all interact positively with those two engines also, providing protection for Kemba, infi-fog, and artifact recursion respectively.

The second set is just artifact recursion that can be re-used by recurring the creatures.  Leonine Squire plays especially well with the next set of cards that I want to talk about.  Stonehewer Giant and Taj-Nar Swordsmith are the only ways that you have to tutor up equipment on a reasonable budget.  Emeria Angel is another way to generate tokens, since the deck is going to have lots of ways to abuse the token generation.  Worldqueller is the only way you can remove some kinds of permanents, and it’s a sort of taxing effect to keep people honest with their artifact ramp and whatnot.  It shouldn’t affect you too much since, ideally, you’ll be pumping out tokens as quickly as possible, but it should help you pull ahead in a close game.

This next set of cards showcases one of my new favorite cards for budget decks, and one that interacts really well with all of the creatures that sacrifice themselves, especially when you get one of your recursion engines going.  

Salvaging Station Package:
Salvaging Station (0.49)
Wayfarer’s Bauble (0.25)
Expedition Map (0.25)
Sunbeam Spellbomb (0.15)
Origin Spellbomb (0.15)
Scrabbling Claws (0.25)
Phyrexian Furnace (0.39)
Dispeller’s Capsule (0.25)

39 cards, $18.39

Salvaging Station is a card that doesn’t see a whole lot of play, and I don’t really understand it.  There are a lot of really good 1cc artifacts that generate incremental card advantage, and creatures get destroyed or wrathed all the time, which lets you get additional value out of the Station.

So this package gives you a little bit of everything.  Artifact/Enchantment removal, graveyard hate, creatures, lifegain, card draw, mana ramp – these 1cc artifacts accomplish an awful lot, and a lot of them do it while cantripping.  This helps an underpowered deck filter through its cards until you find the pieces that you need to start closing out the game.  As I mentioned before, the Station is especially absurd if you’ve got some of your 1cc creatures with a sacrifice effect, and starts becoming broken when you’ve got a way to repeatedly recur those creatures.  If you’re building a deck on a budget, I’d strongly suggest looking at what Salvaging Station can do for you.  It’s a really good way to make your deck a little more cohesive and powerful for just a couple dollars.

The next thing I want to talk about are the generic utility cards. Every deck needs some answers to artifacts, enchantments, and other problematic permanents, as well as ways to protect your stuff.  Most of these are pretty uninspired and generic, but there are one or two gems I found for this.

Utility Cards:
Brave the Elements (0.75)
Shelter (0.25)
Gilded Light (0.49)
Disenchant (0.19)
Faith’s Fetters (0.19)
Afterlife (0.25)
Return to Dust (0.49)
Harsh Mercy (0.49)
Saltblast (0.25)
Hand of Justice (0.49)
Diversionary Tactics (0.25)

51 cards, $22.54

So here you’ve got a couple of open-ended answers to problematic permanents, and then you’ve got a few gems that people seem to miss.  There is no better feeling than “countering” a cryptic command or some such with a Shelter, or using Shelter to force through lethal damage.  Brave the Elements is obviously better at forcing through damage, but the cantrip is just so good.  

Looking past these generic utility cards, the real gems here are Hand of Justice and Diversionary Tactics.  Hand of justice is hilarious with Sword of the Paruns or Thornbite Staff, and provides repeatable spot removal in a color that doesn’t typically get that kind of effect.  Diversionary Tactics is awesome.  Opposition and Glare of Subdual see a lot of play, and Diversionary Tactics is a narrower, but similar kind of effect in the color that is the best at producing creature tokens.  Considering that a good number of the decks I see that are white-based or mono-white are based on creature tokens, I’m surprised that this doesn’t see much play.

The last couple of cards are just some artifact ramp and miscellaneous cards that didn’t really fit anywhere else.  These will round out the deck and provide some additional ways to win the game, and a few bombs that have to be dealt with.  

Mana Ramp:
Mind Stone (0.89)
Prismatic Lens (0.25)
Marble Diamond (0.25)
Tooth of Ramos (0.50)
Star Compass (0.25)

56 cards, $24.68

So the artifact ramp should be pretty self-explanatory.  There’s not quite as much artifact ramp as I would like, but a lot of the good, staple mana rocks like Coalition Relic and Everflowing Chalice are out of budget, but will be easy ways to upgrade the deck in the future.  This deck really wants another 2 or 3 spells instead of running 38 lands, but there aren’t too many other spells that are in the budget that I’m excited about playing.  Besides, both of the equipment based recursion engines are mana intensive, but will win the game if you can get them running, so having some extra mana around won’t hurt too much.

Misc. Other:
Mine Excavation (0.15)
Carnage Altar (0.25)
Rings of Brighthearth (0.75)
Steelshaper’s Gift (0.59)
Sacred Mesa (0.89)
True Conviction (0.75)
Cleansing (0.99)

62 cards, $29.05

There’s only two cards I want to talk about regarding the miscellaneous other cards.  The first is Sacred Mesa.  This has really been seeing a bit of a falling out, and I can’t understand why.  This card is really, really good, and just wins a lot of games on its own.  I mean, you’re making tokens, so you’re resilient to spot removal, you can just make more tokens if they wrath you.  It pretty much requires enchantment removal, but that’s fine since it means there’s one less removal spell for your equipment.

Cleansing is another gem I found while building this deck.  For comparison, Searing Winds costs 10, and only hits one player, and doesn’t have a chance of being an Armageddon.   Let’s say late game most players are going to have 10 or so lands.  You’re either cutting their life total by a significant margin, making it easier to alpha strike them, or getting rid of the resources they can use to answer your spells.  It’s a little bit of an interesting political question, and you could definitely make some friends by paying some life to protect their lands.

The Final Card:
Emeria, the Sky Ruin (1.99)

63 cards, $31.04

The last card I want to add is the only non-basic land in the deck, and is going to put the deck a little bit over budget, but I think it’s definitely worth it.  Emeria, the Sky Ruin is THE reason to play white in this format.  The card is an uncounterable Debtors’ Knell, and gives you an absurd amount of inevitability.  Because land destruction is frowned upon in most groups, Emeria can let you just run away with a game.  I am more than willing to warp the mana base and the mana fixing of a deck in order to make sure that I can consistently get an active Emeria, and I’ve never once regretted it.  If you’re playing a multicolored deck that has white in it, see what you can do to fit this in.

So in the end, I think this deck has a strong token creature and lifegain component, has a few powerful engines that are capable of eking out a pretty significant amount of card advantage over the course of a game.  The last thing I want to talk about is what I’d add to the deck given a little more of a budget, some things that’ll make the deck just a little more cohesive and powerful:
  1. Stoneforge Mystic (9.99)
  2. Weathered Wayferer (1.99)
  3. Mistveil Plains (0.50)
  4. Vesuva (4.99)
  5. Proclamation of Rebirth (1.99)
  6. Raksha Golden Cub (.75)
  7. Elspeth Tirel (14.99)
  8. Gauntlet of Power (3.99)
  9. Elspeth, Knight Errant (11.99)
  10. Basilisk Collar (4.99)
I think use of most of these is pretty evident, but the Mistveil Plains might need a little explanation.  It lets you recycle your utility lands or 1 drops so that you can tutor them up with Expedition Map or Ranger of Eos again.  It just gives you another uncounterable method of recurring the cards you need, and really helps to stick Emeria against groups that do play land destruction.  It’d be a little better if there were some more shuffle effects, but it’s still a fine inclusion, and enables another recursion engine.

That pretty much wraps up my first article, hopefully it’s a helpful take on building a reasonably powerful Commander deck on a budget.  This is my first time doing this, and a consequence of that is that I don’t really know what I’m doing. If you’ve got any comments or constructive criticism, or just liked what I’m doing, let me know.  I’m also looking for community contribution of ideas or decklists that I can work with, so if you’ve got an interesting idea, a deck you want me to look at, or even just a quick question, I’d be glad to hear from you.  I’m also really looking for a better name.  I’m terrible at naming things, and this is really all I’ve got off the top of my head.  For the time being, I’ll be taking all the responses, comments, and contributions to these articles at  Thanks for reading!