Shower Thoughts: Ten Budget Commanders That Pack a Punch - March of the Machine Edition

Benjamin Levin • April 27, 2023

Thalia and The Gitrog Monster | Illustrated by Howard Lyon
Thalia and The Gitrog Monster | Illustrated by Sami Makkonen

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Shower Thoughts, the budget Commander series that proves that Magic isn't pay-to-win. In this week's article, I'm going to go over my pick for ten commanders from March of the Machine that are easy to build on a budget, along with some key cards you should include. They aren't listed in any particular order, and if you'd like to listen to this article, check out my YouTube channel where I post the accompanying video. Without further ado, let's get into it!

Borborygmos and Fblthp

What a time to be alive. If you told me when I started playing Magic all those years ago this would be a card, I'd laugh in your face; however, this is a real card. I love the fact this commander draws you a card, can shoot down some big creatures, and has built in protection. Granted I wouldn't use that effect all that often unless I have a Brainstorm ready to go. Make sure to have ways to get all of those lands back from your graveyard either into your hand or onto the battlefield as ramp.

Key cards to include: Abundance, Brash Taunter, World Shaper, The Mending of Dominaria.

Kroxa and Kunoros

Kroxa gives me nightmares, and not just because of the sheer amount of mouths that it is. Like, look at this thing, too many dang mouths. But also how much work the original has done in 60-card formats. Now we get to play it in Commander and it's bringing the best dog from Theros along for the ride. This deck can easily be built to be insanely powerful, and I know there are people who are already building CEDH decks with it, I just want to reanimate some big ol' beaters that hardly get any play. But you'll need to make sure you're filling up your graveyard with enough cards to use its ability.

Key cards to include: Stitcher's Supplier, Faithless Looting, Mesmeric Orb, Undead Butler, Phyrexian Delver.

Zimone and Dina

If you've read any of my previous articles, you know the things I look for in budget commanders are card draw and win conditions on a single card, and this commander has just that. While the drain effect isn't as powerful as Nekusar, the Mindrazer's or Queza, Augur of Agonies', it still can drain a table quickly and lead to a slightly more interesting play pattern then casting Windfall and winning. One of my all-time favorite decks was actually a Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse deck, which also cares about drawing two cards each turn. Now I get to include her in the 99 of this deck! The most difficult thing with this commander is going to be balancing the ramp, card draw, and token-generation for their second ability, but I look forward to the challenge!

Key cards to include: Retreat to Coralhelm, Gixian Puppeteer, Scute Swarm, Tatyova, Benthic Druid.

Heliod, the Radiant Dawn

Let's be real, no one really liked Heliod as a character, right? He won't be missed in my book, but as a commander, this is by far the more interesting Heliod of the bunch. Fun fact, this is the first Heliod to not be indestructible or have the Devotion keyword. He kind of reminds me of  Rakdos, Lord of Riots but has access to Omniscience. I really want to build Eldrazi tribal, but I don't recommend that on a budget. There are a lot of archetypes you can pick, from artifact creatures, to flying or X spell tribal! Ideally, you will want to make your opponents draw right before your turn, giving them a smaller window to react and giving you the chance to untap with all of your new threats.

Key cards to include: Secret Rendezvous, Vision Skeins, Prosperity, Fascination.

Baral and Kari Zev

Cheating on mana is one of the best things you can do in Magic, and this lets you copy instant or sorcery spells whenever you happen to cast one. Granted it does have to be lesser mana value, but you can cast Ponder and get a free Ancestral Vision. And let's not overlook the stats of this thing: you could make psuedo-Voltron deck using combat tricks to swing in for a ton of damage early on. Also you can use Delve spells as a way to cheat out higher mana value spells.

Key cards to include: Ancestral Vision, Inevitable Betrayal, Wheel of Fate, Treasure Cruise.

Inga and Esika

Simic gonna simic. Nothing fancy with this card, you get benefits from playing big creatures, which is always fun to me. The idea for this deck is pretty simple: play a bunch of dorks and accelerate into big creatures. While you could use Keruga, the Macrosage as the Companion, you lose out on a lot of the good mana dorks to help you draw cards. I would build this commander with only creatures so we can ramp into budget bombs such as Myr Battlesphere or Sharding Sphinx. And this commander doesn't specify nontokens, something to keep in mind while deckbuilding.

Key cards to include: Wood Elves, Murkfiend Liege, Hornet Queen, Momir Vig, Simic Visionary.

Zurgo and Ojutai

Now this is an interesting Jeskai commander, finally! Jeskai Dragons isn't really a theme we've seen before, but it scratches my brain in just the right way for some reason. Could be the card selection we get for hitting with Dragons or the fact we can keep returning our commander to our hand making it hard for opponents deal with. Whatever the reason, this is getting added to my list of brews to try out. The most recent Commander Legends, love it or hate it, gave us Adventure Dragons, such as Young Red Dragon and Young Blue Dragon. Since we can return these to our hand, we will get to use the Adventure part of the card over and over for value. We will also want to include other Dragons with enter-the-battlefield or leave-the-battlefield triggers too.

Key cards to include: Sneak Attack, Feywild Visitor, Lapis Orb of Dragonkind, Firkraag, Cunning Instigator.

Quintorius, Loremaster

Boros self-mill seems like an interesting archetype and definitely easy to build on a budget. My first thought was to build Boros artifacts. After all, you could cheat out some powerful artifacts, such as Chromatic Orrery or Darksteel Forge. But I'm here to build on a budget, and budget those cards are not. So let's give Boros enchantress a try instead! What's great is our commander has us cast the card, which means we get can triggers from cards like Sigil of the Empty Throne. Quick rules note, this card still follows timing restrictions.

Key cards to include: Sigil of the Empty Throne, Mesa Enchantress, Big Score, Quintorius, Field Historian.

Polukranos Reborn

Step aside, Gargos, Vicious Watcher, a new Hydra commander is in town. Now, if I'm being honest, I don't really care all that much about the front side of this card. A 4/5 with reach is pretty unimpressive in Commander, but the backside is an absolute house. A 6/6 reach and lifelink is no slouch, and getting two additional Hydras whenever a nontoken Hydra dies can get out of hand very quickly. I have a cute trick I'd like to share in case you haven't thought about it. Most Hydras have X in their mana cost and no power and toughness. Polukranos cares when a nontoken Hydra dies. So what if we just cast one of these Hydras and not pay anything for X and having them die instantly? Suddenly we are making a 3/3 lifelink and a 3/3 reach token for one or two green mana. What's even better is their mana values are also low so we can recur them with cards like Sun Titan just to have them die again and make more tokens.

Key cards to include: Sun Titan, Kayla's Reconstruction, Sevinne's Reclamation, Return to the Ranks.

Thalia and The Gitrog Monster

I was saving the best for the last. Well, my favorite anyways. Abzan has no shortage of great value commanders, and frankly this one is no different. There are plenty of great paths to go down with this commander from Landfall to aristocrats. Sadly, extra combats is out since I couldn't really find any of that effect in these colors. Landfall is the easiest build to go with this commander. Even on a tight budget you can build an incredibly power deck, especially with the reprints of Tireless Tracker and Tireless Provisioner in the most recent Commander precons. If you're looking for some great cards to include, I'd highly recommend you check out my article here where I go over my top ten budget Landfall cards.

Key cards to include: Roaring Earth, Retreat to Hagra, Perennial Behemoth, Scrib Nibblers.

This has been the fourth installment of Shower Thoughts, make sure to check out my YouTube channel, BathroomBrewsMTG, for weekly MTG content and the accompanying video. Also make sure to check out my Patreon at if you want to take your support further.

This has been Ben, from BathroomBrewsMTG, and remember, always wash your hands.

Ben has been playing Magic since 2012 and started creating Magic the Gathering content in October of 2022 on YouTube under the name BathroomBrewsMTG ( Primarily focusing on budget EDH content. When he isn't thinking or talking about MTG, he is usually playing video games, spending time with his wife or playing with his two cats. You can find him on Twitter @BathroomMTG.