Other Commander 2019 $50 Budget Upgrades
Commander 2019 is on the shelves! You might already be playing with the new cards, and if you are, I hope you’re enjoying them as much as I’m enjoying the anticipation. I haven’t had time to sit down and battle with the new stuff yet, so I’m sorting cards here in anticipation of building some new decks. I’ll just have to satiate myself with the continuation of this Budget Precon Upgrades series.
The premise, once again, is to take the precons and make some reasonable level of improvement to them on a $50 budget (before tax and shipping.) For some folks, that’s a significant chunk of change, whereas to others, it’s not much–either way, it shows you how much you can improve a deck on a budget that might be comparable to your own.
As I go through the changes, I’ll list the prices of any cards I want to add; that way, you can see how I keep the price under $50. It shouldn’t be a surprise that those prices come from ChannelFireball.com. They’re accurate as of this writing, which means that prices and availability may have changed by the time this gets published–if that happens, I apologize. The broader, independent point is that Commander decks aren’t defined by the amount of money you spend, but on the theme and synergies that you build in.
This week, I’ll be focusing in on the Primal Genesis deck, which is led by Ghired, Conclave Exile and his Rhino friends. That means we’re deeply into the populate theme, which has some pretty decent support already. This deck is one of the strongest in terms of initial commitment to the theme, which means we’ll be making fewer cuts than in previous weeks.
The first cards I’ll cut are some of the less-impressive creatures, such as:
The problem with these cards is mostly that they’re off-theme. Cliffside Rescuer can save Ghired once, but we have better ways to handle that. Atla Palani and its friend Roc Egg are better suited in a deck focused on Atla. (Fun fact: there are only three Eggs available to Atla outside of Changelings and Mistform Ultimus) Emmara Tandris looks like a great tokens card but usually ends up costing you seven mana and a card for no gain. Tahngarth and Marisi both deserve their own decks and don’t fit our focused theme. Scaretiller seems to be in every deck but doesn’t really function quite like you’d want in most of them. Tectonic Hellion is an interesting way to break down other ramp decks, but it costs too much and will often aim its trigger at the player who cast it. Finally, Desolation Twin costs ten mana. Ten! That’s too much, folks.
I’ve stuck to replacing like items with like items this time around since I think the balance this deck strikes is decent, so you’ll see creatures replaced with creatures, noncreature spells with noncreature spells, and lands with lands. Here are the creatures I’ll be subbing in:
Adorned Pouncer ($0.59) and Honored Hydra ($0.35)
Eternalize and embalm bring some very strong tokens to the table here in the form of a 4/4 double striker and a 6/6 trampler. Copying either of these with a populate effect will give great results, and with the amount of populate available in this deck, your army will grow quite quickly.
Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter ($0.49)
It’s important to know that the X in Oviya’s second ability is locked in as the ability resolves, so while it doesn’t count the token that’s being created, it counts what’s on the battlefield at the time and doesn’t change as you gain or lose more creatures later. That said, if you’re making a 4/4 or better, you’re getting a decent deal.
Thunderfoot Baloth ($2.99)
What’s better than a big army of tokens? A big trampling army with +2/+2! I don’t usually love anthem effects, but the trample here puts this one over the top. Of course, you must have Ghired in play, but that’s the ideal state for this deck anyway.
Eternal Witness ($4.49)
There are plenty of effects in this deck you’d like to have more of, and Eternal Witness lets you get back whichever one you need. There’s not much to say about E-Wit other than that it amplifies the existing strengths of your deck.
God-Eternal Oketra ($5.49)
The tokens from Oketra are great candidates for populate, and Oketra herself is a decent threat that is extremely difficult to deal with permanently. I know spending over $5 on a card is unusual in a budget article, but when the existing list is already so tight in terms of theme, we can afford to make more focused cuts and bring in really strong replacements.
Populating a 2/2 might not seem good, but once you hit with Spawnwrithe just once, the tokens get out of control. This is the kind of threat that can demand a board wipe all on its own, and that’s what decks that intend to flood the board need in order to avoid losing tons of cards to a single Wrath.
Armada Wurm ($0.99)
It’s a big Wurm that makes a big Wurm. The casting cost is a little tougher in this deck than it would be in a simpler Selesnya list because you have to generate red mana as well, but this is a worthy top-end threat.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty ($3.49)
Having ways to protect your team is really important in order to avoid losing your whole board every couple of turns. Effects that blink your board would work for traditional creature decks but don’t do so well with tokens, so cards like Shalai become more relevant. Shalai is also a great mana sink later in the game–just make sure you bring enough dice!
Let’s move on to noncreature spells and see where the cuts are!
Druid’s Deliverance says “populate,” sure, but it’s also a fog effect, and that’s not where I think we should be spending our cards. Explore is a solid card, but we can play something that plays better into our theme. Naya Charm is flexible, but with Eternal Witness subbing in above we can do something more abjectly powerful. Commander’s Insignia is a tall order when Ghired starts out costing 5 mana–it’s much stronger in a partner deck. Finally, Colossal Majesty is probably our worst draw effect, as cards like Garruk’s Packleader and Elemental Bond provide more cards per turn while Momentous Fall and Shamanic Revelation provide bursts of card draw.
Here are the replacements:
Flameshadow Conjuring ($0.35) and Twinflame ($0.35)
Effects that create token copies of creatures are very powerful with populate! If you populate a token generated by an effect like one of these, the new token won’t have haste, sure, but it also won’t get exiled at the end of the turn. So while copying something like Armada Wurm or Thragtusk will generate tons of value already, adding populate on top of that makes it even stronger.
Blade of Selves ($6.99) and Helm of the Host ($5.99)
I know there might be some sticker shock on these two, but these pieces of equipment bring a ton of strength and redundancy to a deck like this. Stack your Blade of Selves trigger above your Ghired trigger and make an additional token copy to reward yourself for all that time studying the blade. Alternatively, help Helm of the Host make more non-legendary Ghired tokens faster by populating the Ghireds with your existing Ghireds. That’s a lot of Ghireds and just as many Rhinos.
Swiftfoot Boots ($1.99)
More ways to protect Ghired are welcome in a deck like this, and even if you don’t need to put this on Ghired, you can give some of your other threats haste for a more explosive introduction to the board.
Let’s move on to the land. The manabase is usually the weakest part of a preconstructed deck, and this is no exception. This deck has some serious requirements for colored mana, so I’m making the executive decision to remove the following lands:
I’m going to keep cutting Myriad Landscape from decks that aren’t heavily landfall-focused – it’s slow and unimpressive. Sungrass Prairie doesn’t generate mana on its own, which is a huge problem. Naya Panorama can tap for mana, but its impression of Terramorphic Expanse is so bad that it gets cut. Basic lands are very powerful and important, but I think we should introduce a little more in the dual land department even if that makes some of the draws slower.
Grove of the Guardian ($0.35)
Populating an 8/8 is pretty much the dream, and if you’re not doing that, you can just tap this for mana, albeit colorless mana.
Gavony Township ($4.99)
A sufficiently large board, which you should be able to generate with this deck, will love the counters that Gavony Township hands out. It’s also a great mana sink in the late game.
Temple of Abandon ($1.99), Temple of Triumph ($1.79), and Temple of Plenty ($2.99)
Temples are great dual lands on a budget. The scry is a huge boon at any stage of the game.
Scavenger Grounds ($1.49)
There’s not a ton of graveyard hate in this list, so adding some more can’t hurt.
Okay! That’s the full summary of changes. I’ve spent $48.50 of the available $50, so take the extra $1.50 and do like 40% of a load of laundry. I’ll show you the full decklist below, and I’ll see you next time when I tackle the Morph deck!
Commander: Ghired, Conclave Exile
1 Ash Barrens 1 Blossoming Sands 1 Boros Garrison 1 Cinder Glade 1 Command Tower 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Exotic Orchard 7 Forest (347) 1 Gargoyle Castle 1 Gavony Township 1 Graypelt Refuge 1 Grove of the Guardian 1 Gruul Turf 1 Jungle Shrine 1 Kazandu Refuge 1 Krosan Verge 3 Mountain (343) 6 Plains (331) 1 Rogue's Passage 1 Rugged Highlands 1 Scavenger Grounds 1 Selesnya Sanctuary 1 Temple of Abandon 1 Temple of Plenty 1 Temple of Triumph 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Adorned Pouncer 1 Angel of Sanctions 1 Armada Wurm 1 Doomed Artisan 1 Dragonmaster Outcast 1 Eternal Witness 1 Feldon of the Third Path 1 Flamerush Rider 1 Garruk's Packleader 1 Giant Adephage 1 God-Eternal Oketra 1 Heart-Piercer Manticore 1 Honored Hydra 1 Ohran Frostfang 1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter 1 Rampaging Baloths 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder 1 Selesnya Eulogist 1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 1 Soul of Zendikar 1 Spawnwrithe 1 Thragtusk 1 Thunderfoot Baloth 1 Trostani, Selesnya's Voice 1 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage 1 Voice of Many 1 Wayfaring Temple 1 Wingmate Roc 1 Beast Within 1 Blade of Selves 1 Cultivate 1 Elemental Bond 1 Farseek 1 Flameshadow Conjuring 1 Fresh Meat 1 Full Flowering 1 Garruk, Primal Hunter 1 Ghired's Belligerence 1 Growing Ranks 1 Harmonize 1 Hate Mirage 1 Helm of the Host 1 Hour of Reckoning 1 Idol of Oblivion 1 Intangible Virtue 1 Lightning Greaves 1 Mimic Vat 1 Momentous Fall 1 Phyrexian Rebirth 1 Rootborn Defenses 1 Second Harvest 1 Shamanic Revelation 1 Slice in Twain 1 Sol Ring 1 Song of the Worldsoul 1 Soul Foundry 1 Sundering Growth 1 Swiftfoot Boots 1 Trostani's Judgment 1 Twinflame