Prosper, Tome-Bound | Art by Yongjae Choi
Live Long and Prosper
Hello everyone, and welcome to Financial Divergence, where we look at strategic decisions in deckbuilding through the lens of budgetary restrictions. In this series we're looking at popular commanders and seeing how budget can impact strategic divergences when choosing a primary strategy.
For a series overview and some additional context, you can check out the first article in the series here.
Today we're talking about a new kid on the block from the AFR commander releases, and one that, frankly, kicks some serious tail:!
A Tale of Two:
I have still yet to see adeck in the wild, but this card is, frankly, very exciting. Honestly, Rakdos has been killing it the past few years in terms of awesome commanders. From and to , , and , there has been a lot of innovative design in R/B that has led to a bit of a Rakdos renaissance. is a little bit on the unique end, though, because there are two financially divergent themes that the community is leaning into. Looking at the builds of our commander that have a "have my cake and eat it too" kind of budget, we see a Treasure-heavy theme emerge:
Then, if we look at budget builds we see an "exile matters" theme begin to take shape:
While we will see some significant overlap, I believe that has to do withdoing one heck of a balancing act in their rules text.
What do these two decks have in common?
cares about a handful of different things. Their "Mystic Arcanum" ability allows you to draw a card off the top of your deck into exile, and their "Pact Boon" ability gives you a bonus Treasure token whenever you play a card from exile. Because is designed as a compact package, there's going to be tremendous synergy between the exile and Treasure-making text, and therefore a lot of overlap between the exile and Treasure themes. One subset of cards that both share in common at a surface level is, of course, maxing out your commander's abilities
It might be obvious, but we want to use cards that make our commander tick, especially when that commander is a value engine like. is a simple creature, and it just wants to double up 's second ability to start generating plays that are as close to mana-neutral as possible, which is a huge boon. In a similar way, both sides of help you generate mana as you play spells or gas up your exile zone to generate Treasure from our commander. Staple-adjacent cards, like and , help our commander generate even more advantage at any point in the game, which makes a lot of sense!
Another thing that both datasets have in common shouldn't surprise anyone: removal for days!
One of the things red and black does best is kill creatures, and there is no shortage of options. Being able to remove pesky creatures that would prevent you from playing out of exile - here's to you,- or keep you in the game as you're developing your endgame is super important, and the more efficiently you can do so, the better. I will die on this hill: play in your Commander decks, people! This card absolutely kills it, and isn't even too bad. Options like that are unconditional are awesome, and any Foretell cards you can jam into this slot, like or , will pull double duty.
Where do the decks diverge?
The biggest difference, from my research, has to do with how hard you lean into's Treasure text or their exile-matters text.
Everyone's favorite (or least favorite) little Monkey from MH2 is a tremendous house indecks, doubling as a synergistic enabler for our commander while also being a pseudo mana dork in the early game. At a humble $90, is emblematic of the kinds of high-end synergy you get in the Treasure theme. Does our little Curious George have a friend? Absolutely: has a friend in , the most notorious Pirate in all the land. These kind of efficient Treasure-producers, combined with a powerful top-end in and , give you a really tight, coherent gameplan.
The deck likely tries to win through aloop or by utilizing that critical mass of treasure tokens with or .
On the other hand, at a relatively less expensive budget we find thatis leaning into playing a critical mass of cards from exile and generating Treasures passively. Creatures like , , and accrue value through our commander while also generating card advantage. As we draw cards off both our deck and our opponents' decks, finding a win condition becomes of minimal concern. Sweet cards like and help bridge you to the mid game and set you up to start Cascading with and . As you out-card the table, you should be able to use other peoples' permanents to close the game out.
- Even when there is a large overlap, budget can still change the core gameplan. is a really popular commander and, being subject to modern design standards, is a self-contained package. While the base of cards is so stacked with powerful synergies, how you round out the packages or focus in on a theme makes a big financial impact.
- Impulse draw is better than I thought. I've been pretty conditioned as a control player to want all my options in my hand, but the more I examined the average card quality of the exile draw cards that plays, the more I saw that the power level is much higher than I thought - especially here. All told, is a great representation of how efficient and well-balanced some of these effects really are.
For my money, I would build the version ofthat leans into the exile theme. Here's my list:
Financial Divergence - Prosper Exile
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
While I was doing this research, I came across several inexpensive and overlooked cards that seem worth taking a look at.
I know I am not the only one pulling for this card to find a home, but at the risk of sounding like so many others: play. It's only in 2% of all decks on EDHREC right now, which is just a travesty (especially at 25 cents as of this writing). Most of the time this card is closer to a or a 2-mana-value than it is to OG impulse draw spell because it gives you an extra turn. It plays far better than it looks.
Ramp in black is a tricky business because so much of it is short term, like, or is artifact-reliant. We have received some newer budget rocks in 2021, and reprints have helped bring the cost of some older rocks down, but black still feels like it is bringing up the rear. is a really sweet design, helps EFFECTIVELY shave 2 mana off of your spells by allowing you to pay it in installments, and it allows you to use spare mana on your turn. People are sleeping on this guy, and at less than a dollar on TCGPlayer it seems like a slam-dunk pickup.
Last and certainly not least,represents one of those prescient moments in pop culture when fantasy and reality blend, well, really closely together. Aside from that, this card is a slow value engine that rewards discard decks and gives you a lot of incidental filtering. It's a pretty unassuming card, but I have personally seen this card get out of hand at the table. At a quarter, I would want to grab a couple.
That's all for this time. What do you think about the differences between the two strategies? Which would you like to build and play? What other commanders would you like to see us discuss?