Dominaria United five budget commander cards

Dominaria United: Five Underrated Budget Commander Cards

Chris CornejoCommander

New sets always mean new Commanders, and Dominaria United has even more than most. As the beginning of an interconnected, five-set story arc, there are many characters to introduce — old and new. And whether those characters are familiar faces or brand new to the lore, that means a lot of new cards are out there to potentially lead (or slot into the 99 of) a Commander deck. With the myriad of new options, some are bound to fall through the cracks, or at the very least not get as much widespread theory-crafting as they may deserve. One upside to this is they often end up as very affordably-priced, new, potential commanders. Considering that, I’m going to take a look at five Dominaria United commander cards that happen to be obtainable, on a budget, who I feel are being a little slept on.  

So without further ado, let’s get started with a new face put to an old name:  

Ratadrabik of Urborg ($0.99) 

This lich has been around in the game for a long time, popping up here and there in the flavor text of other cards. Well, he’s finally got his own card now, and it’s a doozy.

It might not seem like it at first glance, as it’s basically half of a zombie lord and half legendary-matters enabler smashed together, but there’s more dedicated versions of both of those things out there already. And yet, I think this is poised to become a card folks dread when it’s across the table from them in a game of Commander.

You can certainly make this your commander, but I have a suspicion that this ancient zombie wizard will really shine in the 99 — especially in any deck where the commander being on board is key for the deck’s strategy. Getting removal insurance for your commander is great, giving you time to keep building up resources to deal with commander tax while still having at least the text of your commander on the board, if not the power and toughness. 

And then, imagine how disgusting Ratadrabik is in a dedicated Legendary deck like Sisay, Weatherlight Captain or Kethis, the Hidden Hand. Any deck that plays more than a handful of Legendary creatures that can support the colors should at least try to slot Ratadrabik in somewhere. 

There’s nothing more disheartening for your opponents than to have them play a board wipe and still be facing down a bunch of tokens with a lot of rules text. Ratadrabik is built-in recursion for as much of your creature base as you decide to dedicate to him, and that resilience can’t be easily ignored. 

Aron, Benalia’s Ruin ($0.25) 

We’ll stick with the same color-combination as we look at the latest descendant of the Capashen bloodline to get a card, Aron, Benalia’s Ruin. Aron fits directly into two flavors of decks that often overlap — Aristocrats-style sacrifice decks and go-wide swarm decks. Aron wants you to have a lot of creatures, both so you have excess to sacrifice and so you get the most out of the team-boosting ability. 

Now, he’s not exactly a machine gun of a sacrifice outlet like a Carrion Feeder or some such card, as he does need to tap to use his ability. And for good reason, too, since he would be 1) absolutely broken if he could activate his sacrifice ability at will, 2) at least a Rare, if not a Mythic Rare rather than an Uncommon card and, therefore, 3) definitely priced well above two dollars. At that point he’d be in contention for the best Aristocrats commander in his colors.  

There’s still plenty of ways to get multiple uses out of him in a turn cycle (Thousand-Year Elixir springs to mind, which also works well with effects like Ephemerate). And even if you’re only using him once a turn, as long as you’re growing your army as you go, he is still quite threatening. Elas il-Kor is taking a lot of the speculative spotlight for an Aristocrats commander out of Dominaria United, and perhaps rightly so, but don’t sleep on Aron’s potential. 

Meria, Scholar of Antiquity ($0.49)

I wrote a whole deck tech about Meria last week, so it’s obvious I subjectively like this card. Even taking that bias into account, two quarters for this archetype-breaking commander (at least in her colors) is a bonkers-good price.  

Meria’s abilities are the kind that offer a ton of potential builds, ranging from super-casual silliness to all-out fast-combo brokenness, which is a wonderful place to be. Being one of the surprisingly few Red-Green artifact commanders opens up a whole swath of new deck possibilities that were previously way underrepresented. 

Meria is just plain solid, and her power-level scalability is some of the best I’ve seen. Commanders usually fall into power bands, where they can scale up or down in power level only so much. Edgar Markov is going to be powerful no matter what cards you throw in the deck, for example. Meria’s flexibility here is a huge selling point. 

King Darien XLVIII ($1.29)

King Darien XLVIII shows what I mean coming off of that last paragraph about Meria. Falling solidly on the lower end of the power spectrum when it comes to Green-White token commanders, I don’t think this king will ever cause a ton of fear when he shows up on the other side of the table at the start of a game of Commander.

However, as a lower-powered Green-White token making commander, he’s great! The fact that he’s a mana dump who builds himself up as he goes means if you can protect him, he can quickly become a dire threat on his own, not necessarily needing to rely on the army he builds to get the job done. He wears equipment and auras well, he passively buffs the rest of your team and he comes out relatively fast at three mana.

Also… look, I know this is a Commander-focused article, but I have a sneaking suspicion that King Alphabet Soup here is going to be secretly good in Standard. I’m not sure if he ends up in a tier 1 deck or anything, but if a Bant or Abzan deck can use him as a closer to take over a grindy endgame, picking him up now while he’s at the low end of his price range might be a good idea.

Stenn, Paranoid Partisan (0.49)

And now we come to Stenn. If you’ve read any of my other deck techs, or ever heard me talk about my old favorite Hanna, Ship’s Navigator deck, you know that in the deep, dark places in my soul, I’m an old-school control player. 

I’m talking control from back when control’s way of winning the game was Feldon’s Cane. Who needs win conditions in the deck when the win condition is just breaking your opponent’s spirit? Now, I understand that playing that way all the time isn’t the best way to get invited back to a Commander table. There are other formats for that mentality.  

That all said, while Stenn is definitely a control-style commander, he’s not Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Stenn can be built around in numerous ways. You can absolutely choose Instant or Sorcery and go full-on classic counterspell/wrath control, but I can also envision artifact builds and some especially spicy enchantment ones. Heck, you can even go Blue-White Superfriends and name Planeswalkers, although the amount of Teferi’s you’re likely playing in that deck will probably make people want to kill you first. 

The point is, Stenn enables a lot while not being inherently broken. Plus, unlike the dreaded Grand Arbiter, he doesn’t prevent or hinder your opponents in any way on his own. His self-flicker ability helps him dodge removal and board wipes, but it also lets you reset the discount to a different card type on the fly, allowing for some very intricate lines of play. 

I don’t think Stenn ever becomes a powerhouse commander or a huge player in other Constructed formats, but if you want a nice, relatively uncomplicated control commander that doesn’t come with a lot of baggage, he fills that role nicely. 

End step

There you have it: five new commanders from Dominaria United that won’t break the bank. What do you think? Am I right in thinking these five maybe aren’t getting the love I think they deserve? Do you have another potential sleeper hit from among the legendary creatures of DMU? Let me know on Twitter @fridaynightmeh and, until next time, happy brewing!