Full Guide: How to Build a Good Budget Commander Deck


Full Guide: How to Build a Good Budget Commander Deck

With access to thousands of cards in Magic’s history, not only are you swamped with options, but the absolute best cards also has the absolute highest price tags. Dual Lands are several hundred dollars a piece, and any good tutor spells cost at least US$30.

So what if your budget for a Commander deck was that – $30? Your 100-card deck would become a 1-card deck if you threw all your monies into a tutor (e.g. Demonic Tutor or Enlightened Tutor. In line with Tap & Sac’s belief that Magic can be cheap (if you know where to look), you now don’t have to bang your head against the wall looking to build a budget Commander deck that is also highly optimised.

And this isn’t just wishing among the airy, fairy clouds. An upcoming episode of our Commander Crew videos will feature an entire line-up of budget $30 decks, so we actually had to build and play test these. As a reference point, this article will use the Giants tribal deck that I’d built just for the upcoming game. Here’s a short primer video before you get into the meat and bones:

Use Online Tools to Hunt for Budget Cards and Track Price

To keep to a budget, you do some good accounting tools, and it’s best if they’re built in into your favourite deck builder. We recently did a review on the best deck builder websites out there, and one of our top rated is Moxfield. It’s a newer site but the design is clean and user experience high.

We also used Moxfield as a base reference for our decks’ overall price because it’s more aligned with what cards are actually worth (and not what the online stores are selling them). For example, basic Lands should be essentially free, and bulk Commons are a few cents each, instead of 25 cents that stores sell them for.

The other great online resource that pretty much all Commander players use is EDHREC. It’s a site specially catered for data analysis on Commander decks, and through their own algorithms analyse the synergy of different cards in your deck. It has loads of other tools but perhaps the best one for the budget player is the ability to filter out cards that have a lower price and thus earmarked as budget options for that particular Commander.

If you search for a Commander (for example Baral, Chief of Compliance), you’ll notice there is an option below the image card that lets you select your favoured archetype along with an option for a budget version.

When this is checked, only cheaper cards will be shown in the list. “Cheaper” is relative though, as it looks like it will still show cards up to a $10 value. So depending on your budget, this might still be too expensive. Just look out for individual card prices, as most will be around a dollar or less, while you’ll find just the occasional $10 Rare.

Look for Cheap Commanders with Amazing Long-Game Value

If your budget is $30, then even Baral, Chief of Compliance, which shows up as a $5 card on Moxfield, might still be too top-heavy for your deck. You don’t have to commit too much value into one card, even if it’s your Commander. Your game still relies heavily on the 99 other cards in your deck.

Again, let’s look at Aegar, the Freezing Flame and the $30 deck list. Aegar itself only costs 6 cents, but is a decent Commander in its own right. Three Mana for a 3/3 and synergises with both Giants and Wizards to help you draw cards. Many of the good Giants are in red, while naturally there are lots of Wizards in the game but many belong in blue.

Essentially, these value Commanders are not as playable in other constructed formats such as Standard and Modern. They are not in demand on the market and thus have a low price. But many of these cards – Aegar, or Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain – can be powerhouses in Commander because they let you generate massive value in a longer Commander game.

If you’re having trouble deciding where to search for these great budget Commanders, check out the set Commander Legends. It is filled with lots of amazing new Commanders, even at Uncommon rarity. They are priced so low now because we believe many haven’t gained traction and haven’t seen that much play. Kwain, the Itinerant is a fun “group-hug” type of budget Commander, and Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist can be a powerful “voltron” style beater.

Stick to Maximum of Two Colours to Keep Land Base Simple

At a budget, it’s clear that most Lands in your deck will be Basic Lands. Sure there are tapped Dual Lands that are pennies and virtually no different than Basics, but if you were to have a Commander that is three or more colours, you could encounter difficulty getting the colour Mana you need.

By going into three colours instead of two, you’d need to add more tapped Dual Lands to cover all the different combinations. There are a few cheap tri-colour Lands available, but these are too few to rely on. Chances are you’ll be drawing Basic or Dual Lands in your opening hand, missing out on one colour that you’d definitely need for your Commander anyway.

There is an argument for having more colours in your budget Commander deck so that you can add in more cheap tapped Dual Lands. For example if you can only have three Dual Lands (shown above) in a blue red Aegar deck, then adding an additional colour such as white will mean you can include Lands that tap for a combination blue and white, or red and white. The downside of doing that is that it’ll slow your game down significantly, since your odds of playing a tapped Land is higher.

Needless to say, running mono colour will provide the least headache and the lowest cost, since Basic Lands are pretty much free. Ultimately the Land base and its subsequent cost will depend on which Commander you choose to lead the charge, but do keep it in mind as you are going through the shortlist.

Don’t Ignore Rares or Mythic Rares

It’s normal to assume that Rare and Mythic Rare cards are going to be more expensive than Commons and Uncommons. While this is mostly true, many players don’t realise that there are hundreds of Rares that hover around or below $1 in price because of low demand.

For example, take The Akroan War, a Saga that can steal an opponent’s Creature for a few turns. While it is not in the meta of any current format, the act of gaining control is very disruptive to an opponent, and it makes all their Creatures attack if able. Another power Rare in this Aegar deck is Irencrag Pyromancer that fits perfectly because it is a Wizard and you will probably draw a second card during your turn.

Other specific tribal Rares such as Battle of Frost and Fire, Cyclone Summoner and Tectonic Giant are all around 50 cents each, but are so compatible in this budget deck. Whichever Commander you choose, you’ll definitely be able to find similar cheap Rare or even Mythic Rare cards that fit nowhere else but in your deck.

Borrow Cards from Friends Instead of Buying Singles

The problem with listed prices on deck lists is that actual sell prices in stores can be significantly higher. In total, this could bring your deck’s cost over $30 (or whatever your limit is) . Since most cards in your budget deck will be worthless and unpopular Commons and Uncommons, we suggest you appeal to friends to part with their excess cards. After all, they’re sitting in boxes not being used, and they can’t sell back to stores anyway. Friends will be happy to let go of Commons and Uncommons especially if it’s for a good cause.

While we always encourage buying singles instead of sealed product, in this case buying bulk Commons and Uncommons just doesn’t make that much sense either. If the Rares in your budget deck have potential to be used in other decks, then by all means get a copy or two for yourself. Otherwise it just makes more sense to borrow from friends or obtain them from players who are giving away bulk cards.

End Step

If all this seems like too much work or kills too many brain cells (it did kill mine), the simplest way out is to buy a cheap preconstructed Commander deck. While the standard precon deck might be more in the US$40 range, there are some lower tier options. One of the most popular is Lathril, Blade of Elves Commander deck. Alongside Ranar the Ever-Watchful, these two Kaldheim Commander decks come in a cheap bundle of about US$35. That averages out to only $17.50 per deck, even cheaper than the Aegar deck I’d built on my own.

Kaldheim Commander Precon Deck Review

What Commanders are you thinking of for a budget deck? Let us know and perhaps we can point you in the right direction!

After playing from Tempest to Urza's Saga block, Ted took a 20 year break from the game before returning to the classic Plane of Dominaria in 2018. His favourite formats are Commander, Draft, and, grudgingly, Standard.

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