Hello friends! Welcome back to Cardsphere. In a brief moment of respite from never ending new sets and previews, I wanna spend this time talking about something that I love. Budget Commander! Specifically, we’re going to spend our time today looking at 10 commanders that you can buy for under a dollar. They’re cheap. They’re powerful. And they’re lots of fun. So grab your creaky cart and let's barrel into the thrift store!
Killian, Ink Duelist is a 2/2 human warlock with Lifelink and Menace and makes all spells you cast that target a creature cost 2 less. This cost reduction happens for any targeted creature, including your opponents’. And what’s really great about Killian is that you get all this value, and he only costs two mana himself. With the Lifelink and Menace abilities on Killian, he seems like a no-brainer for a voltron style deck. Suit him up with all kinds of enchantments, and drop unfriendly auras on your opponents’ creatures. You could even lean into the life gain and really use your life total as a resource.
For filling out the 99, the Heroic mechanic is going to be great for getting other bodies on the ground so you don’t get overrun.
Agent of the Fates is fantastic for forced sacrifice, or
Ashiok’s Adept for discard. Or how about making some tokens with
Vanguard of Brimaz? For cheap removal,
Generous Gift and
Crib Swap only cost 1 white mana.
Unquestioned Authority will basically make one of your creatures unblockable for just 1 white. You can go full enchantress and add in
Mesa Enchantress for card draw and
Sigil of the Empty Throne for extra beaters.
Blind Obedience will also be great for slowing down your opponents and making sure Killian can get through. And with the life gain strategy, you’ll be able to really take advantage of
Bolas’s Citadel for card advantage without really hurting yourself.
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer is a 4/4 artifact creature that gives all of your creature tokens haste. You’ll make a 2/1 myr at the beginning of each of your combats, and you can make all of your tokens become a copy of another token you control. The great thing about Brudiclad is that it is incredibly versatile. If you need creatures for blockers, Brudiclad’s got your back. If excessive mana is what you need, throw in some treasure and watch your money multiply. Or make a copy of one of your opponents’ huge beaters, and turn all your treasures into a terrifying clone army.
Token strategies have been getting a ton of love in the latest Magic sets, so if you like playing with new cards, I’d recommend throwing in
Treasure Vault and
Theoretical Duplication is great for copying a huge threat.
Dockside Extortionist is... well, you know. While not as efficient, you can still make a lot of treasure with cards like
Brass’s Bounty. And
Xorn will give you an extra treasure whenever you make them. I can tell you from experience that having Xorn and Academy Manufactor on the field at the same time is nuts.
Rite of Replication can make a bunch of creature tokens.
Cackling Counterpart and
Quasiduplicate can both be cast multiple times for creature clones. And you can go for that alternate win-con with
Chainer, Nightmare Adept is super cheap because he just got reprinted in Modern Horizons 2. He’s a 3/2 human minion that lets you discard a card to be able to cast a creature from your graveyard once per turn. He also gives haste to creatures that enter your battlefield if they weren’t cast. He originally appeared in a Madness themed pre-con with
Anje Falkenrath, and definitely works well with Madness and other discard strategies. So with Chainer, you basically have a second hand of cards that you can cast from. With limitations, obviously, as you can only get creatures. But there are many ways to make sure your graveyard is full of goodies.
Oriq Loremage taps to search your library for a card and put it into your graveyard.
Unmarked Grave searches your library for any nonlegendary card and puts it in the bin.
Gravebreaker Lamia will also fetch up a card to put in your yard, and give you an additional bonus of making all spells from your graveyard cost one generic mana less. For those discard benefits,
Bone Miser and
Surly Badgersaur are here to move things along.
Syr Konrad, the Grim will dish out some damage whenever you discard a creature.
Archfiend of Ifnir will make short work of your opponents’ creatures. And
Faith of the Devoted will pad out your life total while draining everyone else.
Kathril, Aspect Warper is one scary bug! It’s a 3/3 nightmare insect, and when it enters the battlefield, you distribute ability counters to creatures you control for each of those abilities that exist on creatures in your graveyard. Then you’ll put +1/+1 counters on Kathril equal to the number of ability counters you handed out. So, like Chainer, you want to have creatures in your graveyard. Thankfully, Kathril’s colors (white, black, and green) make that easy to accomplish, as it opens you up to many of the green and green/black cards that enable self-mill and dropping critters in your yard. So what we have with Kathril is basically a new type of voltron strategy. The goal with most Kathril decks is to win with commander damage from Kathril by pumping it with evasion abilities and +1/+1 counters.
I’ve had my butt handed to me several times with this commander. And I can tell you that the number one card in this deck is usually
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn. Zetalpa is really expensive to cast, but thankfully we don’t want to cast it. We want it in the yard, because that legendary dino has 5 abilities all by itself. And the Indestructible makes Kathril incredibly hard to deal with. Give it Hexproof with something like a
Slippery Bogbonder, and you’ve got a nigh invulnerable killing machine. For getting stuff into your yard,
Grisly Salvage, and
Deadbridge Chant are all fantastic. And with the voltron strategy, it’s best to find ways to deal damage to multiple people from your one source. For this deck, you can include
Sower of Discord and, if you don’t want to put all of the abilities on Kathril,
Hydra Omnivore will distribute the pain evenly.
Brallin & Shabraz
Both cards in this Partner pair are under a buck, but that doesn’t mean they’re not powerful. Also, shark bird? Yes, you know you wanna play with a shark bird.
Shabraz, the Skyshark is a 3/3 flyer that gets a +1/+1 counter and gains you a life whenever you draw a card. It can also give a human flying. The other half of the pair is
Brallin, Skyshark Rider, a 3/3 human shaman who gets a +1/+1 counter and deals one damage to each opponent whenever you discard a card. They can also give a shark trample. So obviously we want to run a lot of wheels so that we’re drawing and discarding a lot of cards. You can go voltron and swing in with your beefed up partner pair. Or you can plunge through your entire deck and go for the alternate win-con or combo pieces.
The original wheel,
Wheel of Fortune, is too expensive for most people nowadays. Thankfully Wizards has printed a new one,
Wheel of Misfortune. This one adds a fun secret choice element. You’ll also want to run
Magus of the Wheel,
Wheel of Fate, and
Glint-Horn Buccaneer works as a redundant effect for Brallin, meting out damage whenever you discard.
Rielle, the Everwise lets you draw extra cards when you wheel.
Psychosis Crawler, my favorite Magic card, pings your opponents for every card you draw. If you’re looking to dig through your entire deck you can go for the
Laboratory Maniac win, or use
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Or you can Mill your opponents out with
Sphinx’s Tutelage, and
I built an
Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty $50 deck for a Scrap Trawlers stream, and it is one of my favorite decks. I’ve played it in pods with non-budget decks on several occasions and have been able to win many times. Imoti gives you so much value with the Cascade, but it’s a very nuanced build because you have to get that perfect balance of mana values. You have to have a lot of ramp to get to those big spells as quick as possible, while also making sure that you have the right kind of interaction.
For my build, I went for big beaters.
Annoyed Altisaur, and
Eldrazi Devastator are all standouts.
Artisan of Kozilek is a fantastic recursion piece with that brutal Annihilator 2 ability.
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle “wakes up” very quickly with all the Cascading you’re doing. And
Keruga, the Macrosage will refill your hand. One of my favorite pieces in the deck is
Omen Machine. With this card, players no longer can draw, but just play their top card every turn. This works out best for us because our big spells will Cascade into more spells, while our opponent will most likely just get the one. It’s definitely a non-bo with all of the other card draw cards in the deck, but the advantage it gives us over the other players is worth it. For finishers, I’ve got
Archetype of Imagination to make all of my creatures effectively unblockable,
Siege Behemoth to make sure all the damage gets through, and
End-Raze Forerunners for that last big swing.
Originally printed at rare in Betrayers of Kamigawa,
Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker got a reprint in Ultimate Masters at uncommon and can now be picked up for less than 50 cents. This mono-black commander is a recursion engine, bringing back all of your tiny creatures that died during each turn. The way to go with this one is to load up with the value ETBs, sacrifice outlets, and drain effects. But be careful, your opponents aren’t going to just let you play Solitaire. You’ll need interaction and protection as well.
The best 1 power creatures for Shirei are the ones with effects that happen when they enter the battlefield or when they die. Some of the best options are
Big Game Hunter,
Sling-Gang Lieutenant, and
Tattered Mummy. There are plenty of creatures that have powerful effects when your creatures die, such as
Pawn of Ulamog, and
Syr Konrad, the Grim will be an all-star in this deck, as you’ll be hitting your opponents for creatures coming and going. You’ll also want free sacrifice outlets, such as
Carrion Feeder, and
Bloodthrone Vampire. And to get the most benefit from creatures leaving your graveyard, throw in
Tormod, the Desecrator and
Not the banned Braids. We’re talking about
Braids, Conjurer Adept. She’s a 2/2 human wizard, and at the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player may put an artifact, creature, or land from their hand into play. So, a bit of group hug, yes. But your opponents decks aren’t built to take advantage of this effect. Yours is. Your mana curve is gonna trend more toward the back end, because you don’t need to worry about casting those big expensive creatures. I built a budget Braids deck and played it with my local playgroup. It’s a lot of fun, and makes for some really fun game dynamics. But make sure you’ve got plenty of bounce spells, thief spells, and other removal.
For budget beaters, we’ve got
Bane of Bala Ged,
Breaker of Armies,
Tromokratis, and much more. As I mentioned, we’ll need really good removal to deal with all the free stuff our opponents are getting. So we’re throwing in
Aether Gale, and
Meteor Golem. And you’ll want to keep your hand full of big baddies, so don’t forget
Arcanis the Omnipotent,
Teferi’s Ageless Insight,
Well of Ideas,
Sphinx of Magosi, and
Drawn from Dreams. You can check out my full decklist here.
Are you kidding me?
Feather, the Redeemed can currently be purchased for under a dollar? That’s right friends. Somehow the most popular Boros commander ever, by a wide margin, is dirt cheap. Feather is a 3/4 flying angel, and whenever you cast an instant or sorcery that targets a creature you control, you get to exile that card as it resolves and put it back in your hand at end of turn. Most people are playing Feather as a kind of spellslinger version of voltron, casting a ton of spells that pump up Feather to a big size, and a ton of cheap cantrips. And if they’re instants, you can cast them all again on other people’s turns until you run out of mana.
You’re going to run cards like
Fists of Flame, and
Psychotic Fury. And you’ll also wanna run cards that benefit from instant and sorcery casts, like
Young Pyromancer. Use
Sunforger to keep pulling more instants out of your deck. And
Thermo-Alchemist can repeatedly ping your opponents until they’re turned to ash.
The End Step
There you have it friends! Ten great commanders that you can buy for less than a dollar. Thanks for reading! Hit me up on Twitter at @AndyZupke and let me know what you thought of the article. Like to see more? There’s plenty of cheap commanders and I’ll happily write more of these if people want to see them. Don’t forget to catch me streaming budget Commander with Scrap Trawlers every Sunday at 7:30PM Central at twitch.tv/scraptrawlers.
Come back again in two weeks, where we'll be talking about Midnight Hunt. Until then, take care. And play lots of games!