One of the best things about Magic: The Gathering is how accessible it can be. As I discussed in my last article, you can curate a fun Cube experience on any budget. The same is true for Constructed formats, including Commander. Building Commander decks on a budget is not only a great way to make the game more accessible, but it also allows you to explore the more obscure parts of Magic‘s history in ways you might not otherwise. Here are some guidelines for building a Commander deck for just $50, using a Rhys the Redeemed list as an example.
The first thing to do when building any deck is figure out what roles you need cards to fill within the deck. When building a budget deck, you’ll also need to find the least expensive cards that fit your game plan. The goal of this Rhys deck is to play lots of elves, generate elf tokens, and cast buffs like Overrun and Might of the Masses to make attacks more powerful. So, we’ll need spells that play the following roles:
Mana generation so you can play multiple spells per turn. There are a number of elves that tap for mana, including Elvish Archdruid, a $1.50 card that gives you more mana if you have more elves.
Elf tribal synergies that create elf tokens and make existing elves bigger. These include lords like Elvish Archdruid and Ezuri, Renegade Leader; repeatable token generation like Lys Alana Huntmaster; and Elvish Promenade – a slightly pricier sorcery that doubles the number of elves you control. Elvish Promenade is a great example of how budget restrictions can force you to get creative; it’s $5.99 at Card Kingdom, but powerful enough that you may want to reduce the price of other cards to make room for it. You may choose to include other higher-end spells, but keep the trade-offs in mind: one $5 card is worth the same as ten 50-cent cards.
Removal for anything that might prevent your elves from attacking, from scary creatures to Pacifism effects. These can include a Pacifism and Conclave Tribunal of your own, as well as bonus elves like Reclamation Sage.
Card draw to make sure you don’t run out of elves late in the game. Green and white aren’t great colors for card draw, but spells like Sylvan Messenger and Adventurous Impulse let you filter for creatures and lands. Camaraderie also draws you cards equal to the number of creatures you control, which, in this deck, could mean a lot of cards.
More elves to fill out the ranks. Look for elves with evergreen keywords; reach and vigilance will be helpful when you have to block, and there are even inexpensive elves with trample like Lifecraft Cavalry and Tajuru Pathwarden that will add some punch to your attacks.
Making the Grade
This decklist costs $50.00 exactly at time of writing, using the highest grade available for each card. This is a personal preference; using lower-graded cards can reduce the cost of a deck significantly and give you a lot more wiggle room to include more powerful spells. One good strategy for making sure you’re not spending too much on any one card is to calculate the average cost of your cards—for this deck it should be around 70 cents—and make sure to include as many cards as possible that cost half that amount or less.
Let us know what budget lists you’re working on, and what spells you’re excited to build around!