Greetings Travelers! Welcome to the first edition of Barely Budget Brews, a series that takes on the challenge of brewing up the best possible Commander deck under $100. Commander is a passion of mine, but unfortunately my wallet has a hard time keeping up with my passion. Let’s search far and wide for the biggest bang for our buck while still being competitive.
I have very fond memories of every trip I have taken to Ravnica: the City of Guilds. Each set has brought us amazing cards that are used in nearly every deck today. Signets, bounce lands, shock lands, a ton of sweet legendary creatures, a vast assortment of really versatile mechanics, and even (grumble) Cyclonic Rift. Between the 10 guilds, I am drawn to the Golgari swarm the most. The colors really bring everything a mid-range player like myself wants in a game. Ramp, all types of removal, big threats, and graveyard shenanigans is exactly what I want to be doing and I have just the commander you want doing it with…
- Can be a huge threat personally. Winning with commander damage is a real possibility.
- Sacrificing a huge creature could kill the entire board at once
- Already has built in recursion
- Can win without attacking
- Requires an active graveyard. Some timely hate will make your life difficult
- GGBB casting cost is somewhat restrictive for a budget mana base.
- Strongly relies on self mill.
Strategy and Deck list
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord jumps out as a deck that really wants a graveyard full of creatures. Jarad also wants to sacrifice larger creatures for large amounts of life loss to ALL opponents. Self milling effects seems to be the best way to go, which feeds both of his abilities. With such a large number of creatures intended to fill the graveyard, it is only natural to aim for a sub-theme of reanimation.
The mechanics from his guild colors really lend to the strategy. Dredge, Scavenge, and Overgrowth are all real possibilities that directly impact Jarad’s P/T. Without further ado here is the deck list…
We squeaked in a few bucks shy of the intended goal: $96.89. There are quite a few cards hovering around the $2.50-$5.00 marks that can easily be swapped out for bulk, making this build even more budget friendly.
One of the best ways we can fill our own graveyard quickly is with self mill. Most of the included cards fill your own yard while also replacing itself with something you just milled. Dredge is graveyard filling cranked to 11. Let’s look at some of the rulings regarding Dredge…
Replacing your card draws with milling 4+ cards is usually worth it and highly recommended. If you can mill early and often, then thriving in the late game will be a no brainer. If you can manage to hit an early Dredge creature, then having 10-15 cards in the yard by the time Jarad is ready to hit the board is a real possibility.
Now that our graveyards are getting nice and full, we need some payoffs. These payoff cards check creatures on your graveyard, overall cards in a player’s graveyard, and some even check ALL cards in ALL graveyards. Lord of Extinction checks all cards and in graveyards and will be a giant creature even when your own milling is on the slow side. If you happen to find yourself in a game with another graveyard based deck, then cards like Lord of Extinction can grow to potential one turn kill range. Spider Spawning and Kessig Cagebreakers is a great card to go extremely wide late game. There is a good chance you will mill many of these creatures. This is the sole reason we have a reanimator sub-theme and a fair amount of recursion.
Nothing too shocking here. We are always going to prefer creature versions of ramp when possible, due to the synergy with our commander. We even have a way to get value off milled lands with Ramunap Excavator, World Shaper, and Splendid Reclamation. Since we manage to filter through so many cards we should be hitting land drops pretty consistently all game.
We have quite the arsenal of answers. The power of Golgari comes with ways to deal with a large variety of problems. If the removal can be stapled to a creature than that is preferred, much like the ramp. Our single target removal can be somewhat of a combo piece, since we have some reanimation that targets opponents graveyards as well. Board wipes overall are mostly avoided, as we should have a healthy board most of the time. Sometimes just fending off the opponents threats long enough for Jarad to fling a giant creatures for the win is the way to go.
Since our primary objectives each turn will be to fill our own graveyard, we will most likely pitch some of our favorites. Included in the deck is a healthy suite of reanimation effects that are cast from hand, as well as ETBs on creatures. Pay attention to the wordings on each card; some cards such as Animate Dead allow you to reanimate from an opponent’s graveyard as well as your own. Similar things can be said for Journey to Eternity. Slap this enchantment on a creature with a huge body or just a valuable ETB effect. If that creature were to be killed, it will come back and also flip the enchantment into a repeatable reanimator effect. Living Death can be a breath of fresh air from a cluttered board. Just make sure you have something in play so your */* creatures do not die as soon as they enter!
Card advantage comes to us in a non traditional way with this commander. Most of our self mill cards replace themselves with resources (creatures or lands) that we want anyways, acting almost like a cantrip. Skullclamp is an all star, providing insane amounts of card draw. It will kill off x/1s that have served our purposes already, which helps our graveyard strategy directly. Corpse Augur and Disciple of Bolas can get us huge rips of cards, which we do not mind discarding to hand size. Eternal Witness, Golgari Findbroker, and Greenwarden of Murasa help us get back our most powerful cards while still providing a body to chump or fuel our graveyard later.
Notable Non Budget Upgrades
One of the biggest ways you can upgrade the deck as your budget increases lies in consistency. Life from the Loam can help you fill the yard and fix your mana through tough draws. Increasing the overall card draw power and tutors with cards like Sylvan Library and Demonic Tutor will give you the ability to shape your hand with powerful turns. High power / low cost reanimator spells like Reanimate and Necromancy can help you dig back from the games where you were behind, or reanimating a giant creature in the early game for a huge increase in pressure. Finally, nothing helps a deck more than consistent mana. Bayou, Overgrown Tomb, and Ancient Tomb are a few high end lands that can really power your plan out
Tips and Tricks
- Sometimes flinging a target creature with Jarad, reanimating them, then flinging again could be a one turn kill even with life totals near 40.
- Remember to Dredge when you can. You can put a die on top of your library to remind you to Dredge your draw step.
- Be aware of everyone’s graveyard at all times. Don’t always check when you have a play in hand. Sometimes asking for a graveyard is a tell that you have a reanimator spell in hand.
- You can use a life counter to keep track of the number of creatures in your graveyard.
- Control yourself when you have a healthy sized graveyard. Graveyard hate is very real and can be a total blowout if unprepared.
Golgari is a guild notorious for being hard to kill and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is no exception. This deck / strategy is highly customizable, which is great news for budget players. I highly encourage you to take the deck for a spin and tell me what you think. Sharing ideas and giving advice is the spirit of EDH and why Magic: the Gathering is such a wonderful community to be a part of. Until next time!
Chris Johnson, better known as Destructo, has been in the game for over 20 years. A simple man with tastes spanning every format but who’s true love is Commander. He has always focused on the “gathering” aspect of Magic: the Gathering. You can always find him knee deep in a multiplayer game, brainstorming some fresh budget brews, or just talking shop about the game he loves.