Your fingers are getting sore – after digging through the bargain bins at several local game stores and still haven’t found anything that is both cheap and impactful in Commander. With tens of thousands of cards available, it certainly is hard to find that elusive pearl. Tap & Sac is taking the pain away, with this new series of top budget cards for Commander, broken down by colour.
We chose to limit our “best of” list to Rare and Mythic Rare cards, because naturally Commons and Uncommons are mostly less than a $1 and are already considered budget. The greatest satisfaction comes when you find a Rare that should be of higher value but for whatever reason has been suppressed, despite it being more than playable in a multiplayer format like Commander.
This list also tries to avoid cards that fall into a specific theme or tribe, and rather have high utility in any kind of white Commander deck. We’re hoping that some of these cards will surprise you:
1. Magus of the Abyss
Cheapest price: US$0.35 (Mar 2022)
At the very least, Magus of the XX is akin to destroying 3 Creatures for just 4 Mana. Oh, and you also get a 4/3 blocker for a turn. Granted, the Destroy ability doesn’t target, so it works best when each of your opponents have just 1 or 2 notable Creatures on board (preferably just their Commander).
Many players are quick to point that that Magus’ ability also triggers on your own Upkeep, meaning you’ll also have to sacrifice a non-Artifact Creature. That’s actually usually okay in black as you can make use of death triggers, such as from Grave Pact or Meathook Massacre.
If your deck happens to lean toward a Sacrifice theme, then cards such as Tevesh Zsat and Sedgemoor Witch can help create Creature fodder to keep the Magus around and keep your opponents’ Creatures off the board for many, many rounds.
2. Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering
Cheapest price: US$0.35 (March 2022)
Two Mana is likely the lowest Mana cost to Destroy a Creature with significant requirements (see Infernal Grasp and Doom Blade), and a reanimation spell usually starts at 5 Mana. With Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering, you get both effects in a single card, cleanly, for 5 Mana instead of 7.
One key drawback here is that Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering is a Legendary Sorcery. These tend to offer more upside and value because it requires you controlling a Legendary Creature (or Planeswalker) before you can cast them. In Commander, the problem solves itself since all Commanders are Legendary by nature. Once you have your Commander out, this and other Legendary spells are fair game.
Not surprisingly, this Legendary rule also serves as Yawgmoth’s Achilles’ heel. For example, in the late game, with your Commander in the Command Zone unable to be cast due to a high tax, then Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering could easily become a dead card in your hand. If you’re running this card, it’s best to make sure you have at least several other Legendary Creatures or Planeswalkers in your deck as a backup.
3. Profane Tutor
Cheapest price: US$2.80 (March 2022)
Black is filled with tutor spells, the original and most famous being Demonic Tutor. It’s a pretty expensive card and rightly so, as for 2 Mana you can search for any card (even a Land) and put it directly into your hand. Many other tutors, such as Vampiric Tutor and Diabolic Tutor, either place the searched card on top of your Library (meaning you’ve lost pace and a card) or cost more to cast.
Profane Tutor does everything Demonic Tutor does, at the same casting cost but with a little catch – the spell resolves 2 turns after you first Suspend it. That 2 turn delay might not be a bad thing in Commander, as it could either serve as a deterrent to your opponents casting spells (lest you search for a board wipe spell later). It also allows you to survey the board for 2 more turns, gather more information, and make a better decision on what card to tutor for.
However, this particular tutor isn’t going to save you when you’re 1 to 2 turns from losing and you need a top draw from your Library to turn the tides. Any other tutor spell would fit perfectly in this situation, but unfortunately not Profane Tutor. The good news is that Profane Tutor is more of a proactive card, meaning you use it to find ways to win, rather than to stop you from losing. Such cards are always highly valued in Commander.
4. Royal Assassin
Cheapest price: US$0.79 (March 2022)
It’s strange when the most expensive version of Royal Assassin will run you thousands of dollars (Alpha edition), but the latest and cheapest costs less than a buck. Finance anecdotes aside, Royal Assassin is a silent killer often underestimated in Commander games, which is probably why it hasn’t gone up in price.
It does nothing the turn it comes into play. However, if it survives, you can tap it to Destroy any other tapped Creature. That’s an impressive ability, even if somewhat restricted by the “tapped” clause. At the very least, it can deter opponents from attacking, since you can always tap Royal Assassin in response to an attack, and immediately nullify any Creature that is coming after you.
It can also be a great political tool, as you offer your assassin to ‘aid’ any opponents who are being attacked by another opponent. Propose a deal, kill the attacker, and curry favours from more opponents. That should keep you as a front runner of the game. But like all other Creatures, Royal Assassin is vulnerable, especially at 1 Toughness. Find ways to reanimate him if needed, and once it passes back to your turn, the assassin can get to work.
5. Noxious Gearhulk
Cheapest price: US$2.50 (March 2022)
Firstly, Noxious Gearhulk is essentially a 3-for-1 for just 6 Mana. You get to Destroy any Creature without restrictions, you gain some life, and have a meaty 5/4 with Menace to either block or attack. The other Gearhulks can all be destroyed by this one, so even though Verduous Gearhulk can be an 8/8 Trampler for 5 Mana, it just dies quickly to Noxious Gearhulk.
6. Soul Shatter
Cheapest price: US$1.50 (March 2022)
Often, Sacrifice effects get around annoying Indestructible or Hexproof mechanics, since the Creature isn’t targeted. The drawback is that a player can choose their smallest Creature to bite the dust. With Soul Shatter, that problem is taken away because it’s a guaranteed hit on either their biggest Creature or Planeswalker.
Because Soul Shatter mentions “each opponent,” it doesn’t actually target either Creature of player (sometimes players have Hexproof too). You could potentially be clearing 3 of the biggest threats off the board, while leaving yours untouched. Against Creature-light control decks or those that have a Planeswalker as a Commander, this also works as excellent removal.
Since it is an Instant, it also offers flexibility in certain situations, for example if an opponent is casting another big threat that is of same Mana Value as another threat on the board. If you’re more concerned about the earlier threat, then casting Soul Shatter in response to the casting will get rid of it.
7. Demon of Catastrophes
Cheapest price: US$0.35 (March 2022)
It was a close call between Demon of Catastrophes and the more recent Bloodvial Purveyor, with both being 6-Toughness behemoths with Flying and Trample that only costs 4 Mana. Demon of Catastrophes has the slightly higher power (6/6) and in our opinion, a less risky drawback that can actually serve as an advantage.
For its Mana cost and actual market price, very few Creatures come close to this. Having a 6/6 Flyer with Trample for only 4 Mana shows how far the game has come in power level. It does work better in Sacrifice-themed decks where you have small 1/1 Creature tokens to let go (and sometimes even gain some benefit).
However, if you’re running a deck with plenty of big Creatures, then Sacrificing one of them doesn’t sound great. That’s the major drawback of Demon of Catastrophes, and in those scenarios, it might be better to go with Bloodvial Purveyor. The Purveyor gives opponents the ability to Cycle cards for just 1 Mana, and lets them loot for cards that will help them out. But it does make your Purveyor a very scary attacker, and at the very least you can still cast it as a blocker without needing to Sacrifice anything else.
What do you think should make the cut? Have you used any of these and found them great, or lacking? Do let us know!