Commander on a Budget: Legends from “The List”

Alex KatzCommander

Beginning with Zendikar Rising, Magic set boosters have a chance to include some exciting cards from across Magic’s history. This group of cards is called “the List,” and it includes cards as old as Mirage and as new as Theros Beyond Death, as well as player favorites from supplemental products like Duel Decks and Commander precons. Among those cards are some legendary creatures that make great budget commanders. Here’s a look at how to brew for some budget-friendly List legends with cool synergies.

Sensei Golden-Tail

Sensei Golden-Tail is a legendary fox samurai from Champions of Kamigawa. It has bushido, an ability found on Samurai creatures in Kamigawa block that buffs its power and toughness when it blocks or becomes blocked. It can also give bushido to other creatures, so it’s a good commander to help a white weenie deck push past its opponents’ defenses.

A white weenie deck is built around attacking with small white creatures. Try to prioritize keyword abilities that keep the combat math in your favor, like flying, vigilance, first strike, and double strike. If you have a lot of creatures with one of those keywords, you can prioritize spells that care about that keyword. These spells may have the specific keyword on them, but they don’t always; for example, Siege Striker‘s tap ability never mentions vigilance, but it allows you to get a lot more power out of your vigilant creatures.

Since one of your goals is to turn your creatures into samurai, it’s a good idea to include samurai creatures with tribal abilities. Nagao, Bound by Honor and Takeno, Samurai General are good examples. Caring about samurai in turn also lets you include other samurai in order to increase your bushido coverage.

This is an aggressive deck that goes wide, so be prepared to attack often and to buff multiple creatures at once using spells like Always Watching and Silverflame Ritual. You can also include some riskier removal, since most of your creatures will be small and all of them will be monocolored. Spells like Citywide Bust, which destroys large creatures, and Ravnica at War, which exiles multicolored creatures, have a good chance of wiping your opponents’ boards without touching your own.

Sample Sensei Golden-Tail Commander decklist
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Virtus the Veiled and Gorm the Great

Virtus and Gorm are a pair of partner commanders from Battlebond who will give you a great opportunity to build a flavorful deck. Virtus is a 1/1 with deathtouch that causes any opponent it deals damage to to lose half their life. Gorm is a 2/7 with vigilance that must be blocked by two or more creatures if able. These aren’t particularly fancy or complex abilities, but the way they interact suggests a neat strategy that plays to both legends’ strengths. In the story of Battlebond, it’s Gorm‘s job to distract opponents while Virtus sneaks around to stab them in the back. This deck represents that strategy by using big, tough creatures to keep your opponents’ blockers busy while your small creatures do the real work.

This is a fairly straightforward decklist that mostly runs on creatures with menace to distract blockers and deathtouch to deal damage, but that gives you more room to have fun with your creature choices. Go ahead and use cards you miss from recent Standard formats, like Bontu the Glorified and Gifted Aetherborn. You can also include “planeswalker deathtouch” spells like Hooded Blightfang and Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence for extra flavor.

It’s noncreature spells that need to be most specialized in this deck. Include spells that cause your opponents to lose extra life, like Quietus Spike and Raving Dead, to emulate and magnify Virtus‘s life loss ability. You can even use spells that can cause a player to lose the game. These are generally more expensive because they’re so powerful, but you’ll probably have room to include Vraska the Unseen or Vraska, Golgari Queen in your deck. And if you’re really ambitious (Bontu would be proud!), you can run Phage the Untouchable, who causes any opponent she deals damage to to immediately lose the game, but be careful that she doesn’t make you lose first.

Sample Virtus and Gorm Commander decklist
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Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Slimefoot is a legendary fungus from Dominaria, a memorable player favorite from a set packed with legendary creatures. Its abilities care about saprolings, a token creature type that often appears alongside fungus creatures. Slimefoot drains your opponents whenever your saproling tokens die, so it makes an especially good commander for a fungus tribal deck with Aristocrats themes.

To build a strong Slimefoot deck, you’ll need as many spells as possible that make saproling tokens, both fungus creatures like Sporecrown Thallid and non-fungus spells like Necrogenesis. Since the plan is to sacrifice a lot of saprolings, keep an eye out for spells that give you opportunities to sacrifice creatures and spells like Blood Artist that give you extra benefits when creatures die.

A lot of fungus creatures have abilities that give them spore counters and let you remove those counters to create saprolings. This is one of the main ways you’ll be getting saprolings, so make sure you have removal that protects your fungi. You’ll also want some spells with proliferate to help you keep getting spore counters.

Don’t forget that this is not an aggressive deck. You’re not attacking with your saprolings unless you have to, though you’ll still get the death triggers either way. So feel free to add walls, damage prevention spells, and other ways of protecting Slimefoot and your other Blood Artists that may slow the game down.

Sample Slimefoot Commander decklist
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Patron of the Akki

There are a lot of goblin tribal commanders, and most of them provide good support for aggressive decks. So you’d be forgiven for being skeptical of Patron of the Akki, a legendary six-mana spirit from Betrayers of Kamigawa that buffs your goblins when it attacks. But it’s a great goblin commander for a budget deck.

Patron of the Akki retails for just $0.99 at time of writing, so you’ll have more room in your budget for vital support cards like Goblin Chieftain and Boggart Shenanigans. Its higher mana cost also covers one of the big weaknesses of aggressive goblin decks: they often run out of steam in long multiplayer games, giving your opponents opportunities to punish you for taking the lead early in the game. With Patron of the Akki as your commander, you can slow your deck down a little and include more expensive goblins with powerful tribal abilities like Volley Veteran and Battle Squadron.

Patron of the Akki also has an unusual ability that suggests an interesting subtheme for the deck. You can cast it at instant speed by sacrificing a goblin, and reduce its casting cost by the mana cost of the sacrificed goblin. So as long as you’re going a little more slowly, you may want to include other spells that reward you for sacrificing goblins, like Pashalik Mons and Skirk Drill Sergeant.

Sample Patron of the Akki Commander decklist
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Next On the List

The List” is full of great deckbuilding inspiration from across Magic‘s history. Keep an eye out for more in future set boosters, and let us know which classic legends you think deserve more love.