In my opinion, Commander 2021 is one of the most impressive Commander products ever released. And that’s saying a lot, considering recency bias could have easily kept Commander Legends above all else. The five preconstructed decks are all home runs in terms of flavor: they’re based around the five colleges of Strixhaven, and they highlight the strengths and unique aspects of each faculty.
Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Prismari Performance deck, which is focused on casting splashy spells and building up to one huge crescendo!
New Commander Cards
When it comes to new cards, these new Strixhaven decks have blown Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim’s precons out of the water. There are an average of 16 brand-new cards per deck, and some of them promise to become format staples in time. Here’s a rundown of the most impactful new cards from Prismari Performance:
Zaffai, Thunder Conductor is the face commander of this deck, and is quite a unique
Izzet Prismari legend (old habits die hard). They’re a true spellslinger commander, in the sense that they reward you for casting spells, but what separates them from the others is that they reward you proportionately based on the size of the spells you cast. It’s nice to add a scry to your Faithless Looting, but it doesn’t incentivize casting larger spells. If you add a double Lava Axe to your Apex of Power, however, suddenly these splashy spells make for a much more interesting proposition!
If casting many smaller spells appeals more than resolving large ones, then Veyran, Voice of Duality will be more up your alley. They are a phenomenal new spellslinger commander that rewards you for gaining value from your spells. They cause Young Pyromancer to make twice as many tokens, and even make Thousand-Year Storm trigger twice per spell!
Octavia, Living Thesis doesn’t exist purely to give form to the nightmares of PhD candidates; they’re an exceptionally efficient and threatening mono-blue commander. They’re also great at pumping tokens from Talrand, Sky Summoner, for example.
Rionya, Fire Dancer looks to cast spells and make copies of powerful creatures for explosive value. Imagine what they can do with a Combustible Gearhulk, or even a Combat Celebrant!
Reinterpret is a little costly for a counterspell at four mana, but when it gives you the opportunity to stop a key play and further your board state, it’s a hard card to pass up!
Surge to Victory is one of the sleepers of the deck, in my opinion. Exiling something as simple as a Treasure Cruise can lead to a crushing combat step, followed by an absurd amount of card draw.
Muse Vortex is another card that could see play for a long time to come. Mono-blue decks have never really had access to an Epic Experiment-type effect, and while it’s not exactly the same, it’s still absurdly powerful.
Prismari Performance is the latest in a long line of spellslinger decks, and it’s one of the most unique. If you love to slam massive creatures, or you’ve always wondered about the appeal of spellslinger strategies, this is probably your best introduction to it. It’s the storm player’s equivalent to casting a turn three Gigantosaurus!
In terms of financial value, this precon is decent, though it is lacking some value that the other Commander 2021 offerings may have. With that said, the currently expensive reprints are mostly valuable due to their scarcity, so their value will level out soon enough. This deck is reasonable if you’re looking to pick it up for format staples like Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Dig Through Time, and it’s a great start for nearly any blue-red deck.
As for power level, it’s also pretty reasonable! It can certainly hold its own against other decks around the mid-level, and could effectively go toe-to-toe with most precons that have been released so far. It’s certainly above the power level of the Kaldheim and Zendikar Rising decks, though, so bear this in mind if you’re looking for another deck to play against this one.
As with all preconstructed decks, there’s a lot of room for improvement, which I always see as a good thing. You can really make the deck your own, and there are a number of directions you can take it. Its flexibility and abundance of archetype staples means it’s a great choice for a deck if you want to upgrade piecemeal.
Upgrading Prismari Performance
If you played this deck directly out of the box, it would feel pretty good! The game plan is mostly a value-oriented one, centered on casting large instants and sorceries every turn to turn the tide of battle into a cataclysm for your opponents.
I tend to focus on one main game plan when upgrading, and the tactic I’ll be working on here is the big spells. Zaffai wants to go big or go home, so I’ll show you how to maximize on the times you can go big.
The main focal points in this upgrade are:
- Give you big spells worth casting
- Ensure you can cast them
- Get as much value from the big spells as possible
Anything that doesn’t compliment either the main game plan or bolster any of the pillars of the upgrade will be replaced by something better suited.
To make the most out of this deck, you need big spells. It wouldn’t feel right without giving Zaffai his very own Magma Opus, a fantastic new card that can be used to regain control of precarious situations, or simply discarded in the early game to push you closer to the next big spell. Aminatou’s Augury is practically guaranteed to give you more than its mana value in impact; you’re likely to hit at least an instant, sorcery, land, and/or creature, and you’ll often have several to choose from! Temporal Trespass fits this deck beautifully: its mana cost can be reduced through delve, but Zaffai will still see it as an eleven-mana spell and dome a random opponent for ten damage! It’s also one of the more affordable “extra turn” spells, which lines up nicely with the budget as well.
What’s better than one big spell? Two big spells! Copying your massive instants and sorceries is the most efficient way to maximize your value output. Reiterate was recently reprinted in Time Spiral Remastered, and when you generate as much mana as this deck does, you can easily buy it back. Ral, Storm Conduit not only copies spells, but also has proto-magecraft, giving you even more value. Ral can also go infinite by using a copy spell to copy another one, resulting in an endless loop of copies and infinite damage, so you can use this as a way to close out the game if needed. Despite the restriction on the first half, Expansion//Explosion makes up for it by having an X-spell attached; Expansion can be used to interact in the early game, and Explosion can scale to the late game, easily killing the biggest creature and refilling your hand in the process.
Into the Story grants incredible card draw, often for just four mana. One board wipe is often enough to reduce its cost, or even playing against a graveyard deck will enable it almost immediately. Torrential Gearhulk essentially rebuys your biggest instant from the graveyard while providing a solid body, and in this deck, it’ll often get you a spell that costs more than the Gearhulk itself! Mizzix’s Mastery is an immediate inclusion, as recasting just a few of your enormous spells should be enough to shatter the landscape of any game.
Here’s a sweet interaction with both Mastery and Gearhulk: you can discard Magma Opus early on, then use the Treasure token you generated to accelerate toward one of these spells so you can recast the Magma Opus. This means a turn three Magma Opus is possible with Mizzix’s Mastery; it won’t win you the game, but it’ll really help you get ahead in the early turns.
The mana acceleration available in the deck is already pretty decent, considering you’re looking to reach well past six mana in every game. Rituals like Seething Song and Mana Geyser net you quick bursts of mana to push those big spells through early. One spell is usually impactful enough to put you far ahead, so adding to the ways you can cast an enormous spell is a sound approach. Spell Swindle and Pirate’s Pillage really come into their own here; temporary ramp is much better when it comes attached to decent spells, and these are fantastic at setting you up for that big turn. Horizon Stone is a neat inclusion, allowing you to carry any leftover mana to your next turn. As mana is most certainly the choke point in this deck, it’s an invaluable piece to loosen the resource restrictions you may face.
The removal in this deck is already pretty reasonable. Between efficient removal like Resculpt, multi-target bounce with Aether Gale, and emergency buttons like Blasphemous Act, there’s very little that isn’t already covered here. You’ll also see a lot of your deck in most games, so even though removal is in lower numbers than I’m usually happy with, it’s more than enough to interact without diluting your concentration of fun spells.
The mana base is surprisingly solid for a preconstructed deck, though it’s missing a few easy inclusions. Mystic Sanctuary can rebuy a massive spell to really press the advantage, and Castle Vantress can help you dig to find the next big threat. Both of these also help set up hits for Etali, Primal Storm, for a sudden burst of value. Fabled Passage is another way to fix your mana, particularly to help you get enough islands to enable Mystic Sanctuary on time.
The Full Upgrade
The total cost of this upgrade is roughly $50-60. This is around the sweet spot in Commander: the power-to-dollar ratio is at its highest around this price point, and can be easily tweaked to increase or decrease in power as you see fit. If you like this deck, you can buy all the upgrade singles at the same time as the preconstructed deck, saving you time as well as money.
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.