Greetings Travelers! Welcome to another 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.
One of the most unique and popular archetypes throughout Magic: the Gathering’s history has been control. Being able to use as few resources as possible in order to gain advantage over your opponents is a powerful and rewarding process. Every game feels like a chess match: one false move and you are toast.
Choosing how you want to win with your control deck is an art in itself. Some players choose to drown the opponent in card advantage; some use powerful Planeswalkers, which they will use their resources to protect; and some even attack your library or hand directly and solve problems before they even arise.
My favorite way to control decks is to build a “spellslinger” deck. A spellslinger deck is generally built with a majority of the deck being instants and sorceries and the remaining portion of the deck benefiting from us casting these spells. Our commander Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper will add +1/+1 counters to our target lands as we drown our opponent in card advantage and board control.
- Extremely relevant ability that plays well with the color identity
- Having lands as a primary win condition allows us to take advantage of “nonland” board wipes
- Players will have to ask permission in order to resolve flashy spells
- +1/+1 counters are distributed on cast rather than resolution of the spell
- High mana cost
- Colors traditionally struggle with acceleration
- Primary win condition makes our lands vulnerable which will set our mana back if removed
Strategy and Deck List
Our plan A for each game should be to control the board the best way possible while keeping our hand full and slowly growing our lands into sizable threats. I think the best way to assemble this deck is to plan how our early, mid, and late game turns will play out.
In the early game our intentions is to sculpt our hand for the mid / late game and develop our mana. In order to facilitate this we need to have a large number of 1 and 2 drop card draw / card filter spells. Cards like Ponder and Preordain come to mind, while we can even fit in some of the less powerful ones like Opt, Serum Visions, and Anticipate.
In the mid game we will be looking to start focusing on the board. Creatures should be filling up the board by now and you will be a tasty target. We need to make sure we have access to plenty of spot removal and board clears. Since our main threat will be lands we should take advantage of the nonland clause on some board clears, a lá Planar Cleansing. We should be casting our commander around now and starting to build threats .
The late game is where we start to shine. Thorough our game of attrition we have kept our hand full of cards and our opponents are starting to run dry. We should have a few fairly large lands we can use to start taking chunks of our opponents life totals. Let’s take a look at the deck and see what weapons we are working with.
Building this deck allowed me to see that there are a million different cards you can include. My initial build was around $55.00. From there I added come value cards to get close to the desired goal. This is a truly exceptional budget commander indeed!
Since our control deck relies on the benefits of spellslinging, we need to have a few backup plans in case our commander is no longer accessible. Talrand, Sky Summoner and Murmuring Mystic reward you with flying tokens to pressure our opponents as we gain a tempo advantage. Docent of Perfection makes some lowly 1/1 Wizards, but has a flip condition that will turn all your 1/1’s into 3/2 fliers while still keeping the ability to make more wizards on each instant or sorcery cast. Each of these creatures can establish a formidable board while you try to shape your hand for future turns.
Awaken is a mechanic where you can pay the alternate cost listed on the card to not only get the effect of the spell but also animate a land. It works very similarly to Noyan Dar. It is worth noting that you get the +1/+1 counters on cast so even if these spells get countered by someone else you can get the +1/+1 counters anyways. This can lead to huge swings when you have Noyan Dar in play already! Halimar Tidecaller is a huge dual threat in this deck. This creature acts as an anthem for your animated lands, giving them all flying as well as allowing you to return a previously cast card with awaken to you hand.
Since Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper‘s ability will place +1/+1 counters on our lands we should include some lands that provide a few extra advantages over your typical land. Blinkmoth Nexus and Faerie Conclave both have the added benefit of turning themselves into flying creatures. Darksteel Citadel and Cascading Cataracts will become ever increasing threats with indestructibility.
Since your deck is lacking in creatures you will find yourself the target of many eager players with a board full of creatures. In order to combat this we are including a vast assortment of board clears. Cards like Settle the Wreckage will definitely help keep the eyes off of you or at least limit the number of attackers coming your way. Crush of Tentacles, Devastation Tide, and Displacement Wave will return all creatures to their hands with the exception of your animated lands. To round the choices out we have also included some more conventional board wipes which still have the nonland clause in it in the likes of Planar Cleansing and Hour of Revelation.
Non Budget Upgrades
The single biggest upgrade for this deck is improving your lands into even greater threats. Celestial Colonnade is a large vigilant flyer than also fixes your mana with the best of them. Inkmoth Nexus is a potential one shot kill anytime with the simple task of casting 3 spells. Cyclonic Rift and Cryptic Command are extremely high value cards that help our control deck do exactly what we want to be doing. Card draw in any control deck is invaluable and nothing draws more cards per mana cost than Rhystic Study. (Unfortunately you do also get the task of asking every player if they pay the extra one which grates on nerves very quickly. Approach this one with caution.) Snapcaster Mage needs no introduction. We will be filling our graveyard very quickly, so anything that gives our favorite spells a second cast is amazing.
Tips and Tricks
- Be careful when distributing your +1/+1 counters on your lands. Since they do become creatures they are subject to removal
- Casting Mirrorweave on your animated lands will act as a board wipe for all other creatures without +1/+1 counters.
- Patience is key. Sometimes the correct play is to save all your spells for one big turn.
- Pay attention to the removal you have in hand. There is a wide range of different types of board wipes.
I played this deck a ton and really enjoyed this experience. The permission aspect of this deck was something I had not experienced much in Commander. What would you have included in the deck that I missed? What was your biggest animated land? (Mine was 24!) Sharing ideas and giving advice is the spirit of EDH and why Magic: the Gathering is such a wonderful community to join. 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.