Other Commander 2019 $50 Budget Upgrades
I’ve got a set of decks as well as some additional singles coming for Commander 2019, and I couldn’t be more excited to sit down and start brewing with cards in hand. To keep myself busy, I’m continuing my series of Budget Precon Upgrades for this supplement!
As a reminder, the premise is to take the precons and make a reasonable improvement to them on a budget; in this case, $50 before tax or shipping. Depending on circumstances, that’s a lot of money to some and not much to others, but it can show you how much you can improve a deck on your budget by comparison. You can find my take on Mystic Intellect here.
As we go through the process together, I’ll list the prices of the cards I want to add to show you how I keep the price under $50. Those prices come from ChannelFireball.com, of course, and are accurate as of me writing this. That means prices and availability may have changed by the time you read this, in which case, I apologize in advance for the inconsistency. The point remains, however, that casual Commander decks don’t come down to raw spend at the end of the day–synergy and theme are what often make these decks both fun and successful.
This week, we’ll check out the Merciless Rage deck helmed by Anje Falkenrath. That means we’ll be focusing heavily on the madness theme, which, prior to these decks, was poorly supported for Commander. The deck has some cool new madness cards, but it also has some pretty disappointing ones along with some cards that just don’t really fit the theme.
For reference, here are the initial preconstructed decklists for Commander 2019.
$50 Budget Upgrades to Merciless Rage
Let’s start by talking about cuts. Creatures come first:
Champion of Stray Souls costs too much, and not just to cast–everything about it is insanely expensive. I’ve tried playing it so many times and it just never works. Doomed Necromancer is great for a more reanimator-focused deck, as is Flayer of the Hatebound. Gorgon Recluse is just a bad madness card and I don’t like seeing it just because it has madness on it. The new Greven seems like a great commander and plays very well with cards like K’rrik, but both are tough to justify in this theme. Magus of the Wheel is incredibly dangerous outside of a focused combo deck. Overseer of the Damned is a glorified spot removal spell for seven mana, which is a bit much. Plaguecrafter is fine but gets edged out. Sanitarium Skeleton looks pretty bad next to Squee, Goblin Nabob. Skyfire Phoenix also gets edged out by some other more on-theme cards, but think how much potential it has with partner commanders. Finally, Wildfire Devils gives opponents too much choice and really belongs in a spells-matter, discard, or mill deck–maybe even a Nekusar Wheels list.
Yes, I know that even bad madness cards keep Anje running, but I’m honestly not convinced it’s worth including them considering how fragile Anje is.
So which creatures did I add? Well, first I’ll mention that, unlike last time, I didn’t replace “like for like” entirely, which means I may be adding a different number of creatures than I’m taking out. Don’t worry, I still got the deck count right.
Don’t get mad, get angry. That’s what they say, right? No? Well, anyway, Anger is a great tool for getting your team moving directly at your opponents’ faces. Everyday anger may not be a welcome thing at a Commander table, and this kind won’t be popular with your opponents either, so either dump this early and see who balks or wait for a big turn and make something surprising happen.
Archfiend of Ifnir ($0.69)
Discarding cards already pays off pretty well in this deck, but it can be better. Archfiend of Ifnir lets you turn simple looting into something ridiculously valuable. If Anje is going off with multiple madness cards, or if you are just getting crazy with Glint-Horn Buccaneer (spoiler alert!), you can ruin everyone else’s board without ever targeting anything.
Azra Oddsmaker ($0.25)
Repeatable discard outlets are great, especially when they allow you to get some extra value. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s often a defenseless player in the early game, and Azra Oddsmaker lets you take advantage of that very quickly. It’s no slouch as a simple way to pitch things, but the real trick is getting through the red zone.
Cavalier of Flame ($2.49)
This card is a dream. Reset your hand, swing for a lot, then blast your opponents for a ton? Land cards are what gets thrown into the discard mill when there aren’t any synergy options available, so Cavalier of Flame plays incredibly well with your regular discard outlets as well as the cycling lands–and we’ll have plenty of cycling lands!
Garna, the Bloodflame ($0.25)
This looks great to get back some creatures after discarding them, but it will probably do a lot more work helping you reload after a Wrath effect in the midgame. Either way, it gives your whole board haste and draws you a few cards, so it’s worth a try!
Glint-Horn Buccaneer ($0.35)
This is a fantastic enabler if it doesn’t die in combat. Its triggered ability that damages everyone you want to damage makes it even more powerful, but it also puts a huge target on its own head. You will see some serious retaliation yourself just for using this one, so be sure you’re ready for the heat when you drop this on the battlefield.
Muck Drubb ($0.25)
Fun to say, fun to play. You know how, when there’s a morph, it’s always Willbender? Well, when you have three mana up, your opponents will never think it’s Muck Drubb. At least, not until you play it once, at which point your playgroup will know it’s always Muck Drubb. “Counter” a removal spell, steal an aura, ruin someone’s Rite of Replication… the possibilities are vast.
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion ($0.49)
There are three Nehebs. Two are great in Commander. This one works in this list. Attack opponents, rummage away your hand, and let the extra mana carry you through all the rest of the things you need to do that turn. The rate on a four mana 5/4 trampler isn’t bad either, but the ability is huge here. Imagine this with an Azra Oddsmaker trigger on it…
Olivia, Mobilized for War ($1.25)
Olivia is a great way to pump up your creatures and get some discard value in the bargain. This list doesn’t make much use of the Vampire synergy, but the rest of the card works just fine anyway.
Rix Maadi Reveler ($0.49)
Even if you’re not getting spectacular, the Reveler’s skull-juggling act (that art though!) lets you rummage, and that’s worth a couple of mana. It’s not repeatable, but the possibility of a refill via the spectacle cost makes up for the potential lower value.
Sire of Insanity ($0.35)
A little craziness is good for the game, and in that department, this card is king. Obviously the rest of the table will be a little miffed to lose their hands, and they may even try to kill the Sire before its first trigger, but when you’re playing this deck, you’ve got to be ready to take a risk, or two, or seven, because that’s how you’re going to win games.
Now on to the noncreature spell cuts:
Aeon Engine is silly, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ordered an extra one, but it’s not up to its full nonsense potential in this deck. Alchemist’s Greeting and Malevolent Whispers are both subpar madness cards. Bloodthirsty Blade once again finds itself in the wrong deck. Boneyard Parley, Hate Mirage, and Warstorm Surge probably go together, but they don’t synergize with Anje much. In Garruk’s Wake spends most of its time stuck in your hand. Rakdos Locket is a Locket and therefore pretty subpar, and Zombie Infestation just doesn’t provide enough benefit for discarding two cards at once.
So who’s coming in to replace these? Well, here’s the list–and do note that these noncreatures plus the creatures will add up quantity-wise to the cards we’ve cut so far. I haven’t messed with the land ratio.
Point removal that gets what needs to get got. Nothing too fancy, just a regular day at the targeted destruction office for you.
Biting Rain ($0.25)
If this card didn’t have madness I’d really be against it, but being able to get extra value puts this one over the top. It’s nice that it doesn’t kill Anje–if it did, there would be no way I’d slot this in.
Blasphemous Act ($3.49)
A solid Wrath effect when you need one, a comical casting cost to look at when you don’t.
These effectively give cards in your hand cycling, which lets you feel like you have an enabler even when you don’t. Tossing one on an Isochron Scepter could be an option, but those are expensive!
Use this as point removal and then fire it back with aftermath, or just discard it and let it sit there, scaring your opponents until someone dies to it or someone clears your graveyard out. Either way, it’s a decent card for the cost, both monetary and mana-wise.
Decree of Pain ($3.99)
Another board wipe would be very welcome in this list, and the flexibility of cycling puts Decree of Pain over the top. I know I dunked on In Garruk’s Wake like 10 seconds ago for costing nine mana, but eight is significantly less than nine, and the card draw you’ll get out of hardcasting this makes up for destroying your own stuff.
Rakdos Charm ($0.25)
So many great modes! Destroy an artifact, exile a graveyard, or kill a tokens player. I find this card almost impossible to cut whenever I build a deck with these colors.
Shadow of the Grave ($0.49)
Whether you’re firing off a bunch of cards into repeatable outlets or just cycling some lands, Shadow of the Grave can generate an amount of card advantage that decks predicated on discarding aren’t often known for. Going off with Archfiend of Ifnir and then getting all your discarded cards back with this sounds good, right?
Talisman of Indulgence ($0.49)
We covered this last time. Talismans are better than Lockets.
Tortured Existence ($1.25)
Hilarious with Squee and even better with creatures with madness, this card bears a strong resemblance to Phyrexian Reclamation minus all the life loss once you factor in the value this deck gets from discarding.
We’re finally on to the land section. What’s out?
Plus three Mountains and three Swamps.
Putting dead stuff on top of my library always felt incredibly slow and painful to me, hence the Mortuary Mire cut. Myriad Landscape is still as clunky as always it. Sanctum of Eternity plays better when you have more Wraths or when your commander has an ETB ability. Temple of the False God is still not a worthy inclusion in 2019. Finally, Mountains and Swamps pay the price when your mana base gets fancy–and this one’s about to.
Cycling lands! They trigger things that care about discarding, they smooth out draws, and they actually get put on the battlefield in a pinch. Plus, I left Scaretiller in this list, so that’s an added bonus alongside the effects of Archfiend of Ifnir, Cavalier of Flame, and similar.
We had some extra money for dual lands, so I decided to smooth out the mana.
In fact, even after that, there’s still $11.15 left in the budget. I wanted to do something nice for Anje since madness is finally getting a shot after so long in the “not well-supported” club. There are enough weird mana costs and activations in this deck that I thought the best thing to do was help the mana a little more, so I pulled one more Swamp out and found Anje a nice place to stay.
Luxury Suite ($10.99)
Okay, it seems a little ridiculous to spend this much on one card in a budget article, but honestly, I felt like I had done what I set out to do. I wrote down a list of cards I wanted to swap in, figured out the swaps, then counted the pennies and saw I still had budget left. If you want to leave this out and save a little extra, that’s a reasonable call, but if you feel like spending what you budgeted (or in this case, what I budgeted), then Luxury Suite is a card you won’t regret picking up–it’ll be useful in Commander forever, and who knows when it’ll be reprinted? We’d need a Battlebond 2 or maybe a Conspiracy 3.
Now that we’ve luxuriated a little and spent $49.84, let’s take our 16 cents to the local copy shop and print out a decklist! Read below to see the whole thing–I’ll see you next time when I take on one of the two remaining decks.
Commander: Anje Falkenrath
6 Mountain (343) 6 Swamp (339) 1 Akoum Refuge 1 Barren Moor 1 Blasted Landscape 1 Bloodfell Caves 1 Bojuka Bog 1 Canyon Slough 1 Cinder Barrens 1 Command Tower 1 Desert of the Fervent 1 Desert of the Glorified 1 Dragonskull Summit 1 Drownyard Temple 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Foreboding Ruins 1 Forgotten Cave 1 Geier Reach Sanitarium 1 Graven Cairns 1 Luxury Suite 1 Memorial to Folly 1 Polluted Mire 1 Rakdos Carnarium 1 Rakdos Guildgate 1 Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace 1 Smoldering Crater 1 Smoldering Marsh 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Anje's Ravager 1 Archfiend of Ifnir 1 Archfiend of Spite 1 Asylum Visitor 1 Azra Oddsmaker 1 Big Game Hunter 1 Bloodhall Priest 1 Bone Miser 1 Cavalier of Flame 1 Chainer, Nightmare Adept - Foil 1 Garna, the Bloodflame 1 Geth, Lord of the Vault 1 Glint-Horn Buccaneer 1 Grave Scrabbler 1 Meteor Golem 1 Muck Drubb 1 Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion 1 Nightshade Assassin 1 Olivia, Mobilized for War 1 Rix Maadi Reveler 1 Scaretiller 1 Sire of Insanity 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Soul of Innistrad 1 Squee, Goblin Nabob 1 Stromkirk Occultist 1 Anger 1 Armillary Sphere 1 Ash Barrens 1 Avacyn's Judgment 1 Beacon of Unrest 1 Bedevil 1 Biting Rain 1 Blasphemous Act 1 Call to the Netherworld 1 Cathartic Reunion 1 Chaos Warp 1 Curse of Fool's Wisdom 1 Cut//Ribbons 1 Dark Withering 1 Decree of Pain 1 Faith of the Devoted 1 Fiery Temper 1 From Under the Floorboards 1 Grimoire of the Dead 1 Hedonist's Trove 1 Hedron Archive 1 Key to the City 1 Mire in Misery 1 Murderous Compulsion 1 Nightmare Unmaking 1 Ob Nixilis Reignited 1 Rakdos Charm 1 Shadow of the Grave 1 Sol Ring 1 Talisman of Indulgence 1 The Eldest Reborn 1 Tormenting Voice 1 Tortured Existence 1 Violent Eruption