Shower Thoughts: Ten Budget Commanders That Pack a Punch
Animar, Soul of Elements | Illustrated by Filip Burburan
Muldrotha, the Gravetide | Illustrated by Eric Velhagen
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 talk about 10 commanders that can be both powerful and inexpensive. They aren't listed in any particular order, and if you'd like to see completed decks for any of the commanders mentioned, let me know in the comments under the article and I'll see what I can do. Without further ado, let's get into it!
Muldrotha, the Gravetide
It's no surprise that Muldrotha quickly became one of, if not the most played Sultai commander on her release. Self-mill has been a reoccurring draft archetype for years, giving us great budget staples for the deck. Firstly, you have pioneer staples, such as Satyr Wayfinder or Grisly Salvage, to Pauper all-star Mulldrifter. Additionally, one of the things that makes Muldrotha great is the diversity of win conditions you can include. If you want to combo win, then you can get infinite mana with Displacer Kitten and Lotus Petal, or you can grind out value by recasting cards like Dross Skullbomb to draw cards turn after turn. Personally, my favorite way to win is looping Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
Animar, Soul of Elements
Animar has been one of the highest played Temur commanders for over a decade. Introduced in the first Commander precons back in 2011, it's been a mainstay in the format since its release. There are plenty of powerful combos you can do with this commander, such as with Food Chain or Palinchron. But one of the best budget options I've found with this commander is a Temur artifact creature build. Since Animar reduces the cost of creatures by colorless mana, if you get enough counters on it, you can play all of your artifact creatures for free. Even some zero-mana creatures, like Ornithopter or Memnite, will help grow Animar. What makes this commander so great is having the ability to build many different deck archetypes from a single commander. From an artifact creature Storm deck to Temur beat-down, the options are limitless, and I'd highly recommend this commander for new players.
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
One of, if not the most important element of a powerful budget Commander deck is the commander. Some commanders might be great if you can generate infinite mana or combo it with a very expensive card, but Yuriko just wants cheap creatures and high-mana-value spells. No needs for fancy combos or Reserve List cards here. Some of the best creatures in this deck tend to be draft chafe. We're talking about Changeling Outcast, Prosperous Thief, or Faerie Seer. These cheap, hard-to-block creatures allow us to use Yuriko's ability to dish out 30+ damage in one attack sometimes. Even the expensive mana value spells aren't pricey, dollar-wise. We have Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Commit // Memory, just to name a few. I don't know many two-mana commanders that can deal 33 damage on turn two as consistently.
In Magic, drawing cards is one of the best ways to improve your chances at winning a game, and having a commander that gives you both card draw and benefits from drawing cards is a match made in heaven. All you have to do is fill your deck with instants and sorceries that let you draw cards. Even cards not considered great in Commander, such as, Divination or Concentrate, can become powerhouses. Not to mention the numerous ways to go infinite with this commander using cards such as Curiosity or Tandem Lookout. Plus, having access to blue means you can protect your combo with ease!
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
In 60-card Magic, some of the most powerful cards tend to be noncreature spells, and the same is true for Commander. Just look at cards like Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, and Timetwister. So why not punish people for playing the most expensive and powerful noncreature spells? After all, the best kind of removal is player removal. With Ruric Thar on the board, players can only cast a total of seven noncreature spells before they are taken out of the game. What if we give him Infect with something like Grafted Exoskeleton? Now players can only cast two before getting poisoned out of the game. Even if someone goes to remove this commander, they will take at least six damage doing so, and since you're in Gruul, your deck should be filled to the brim with mana dorks, such as Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic, and Sakura-Tribe Elder, to help pay for the commander tax easily!
Nikya of the Old Ways
What if we took Mirari's Wake and put it into the command zone? You get Nikya but with a little bit of a restriction: you can only cast creature spells, which is fine, since Gruul is known for its wide variety of creatures, and Nikya lets you play all of them. Not only that, but on turn four or five you can have access to up to ten mana, letting you rocket ahead of your opponents. Imagine playing something like Apex Devastator or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn five. There aren't many decks that will be able to answer such powerful threats that early, and since you're entire deck will be creatures, you'll be able to drop threat after threat, beating down the table and winning easily. If you want to play classic stompy deck, try this commander out.
Meren of Clan Nel Toth
I have to say, Golgari is far and away my favorite color combination, and Meren exemplifies the Golgari play pattern to me. She wants creatures to die just so she can bring them back, and thankfully, these colors excel in both fields. She also has far and away the best experience counter ability of all commanders. Your creatures are going to die and she'll get value from something that will always happen. While it is unfortunate that she only has the ability to bring back one creature a turn, looping Fleshbag Marauder turn after turn isn't something too many decks are built for, and using this ability to win is just as easy, all you need to do is bring back Gray Merchant of Asphodel enough times to drain out the table.
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
How do you win most games of Commander? You use more resources than your opponent. How do we get more resources? We draw cards and play lands. Therefore, it shouldn't be a surprise that a commander that gives you card advantage from ramping is on this list. Every land you top deck has the chance to become something to help you win, and if you draw another land, you probably have a way to play it to draw again. Tatyova is arguably the strongest uncommon commander in Magic, and if you need a budget deck that can crush the competition, give her a try. We've had so many reprints of Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, Nature's Lore, Harrow, and so on that you could probably build a deck for $50 and outpace $400+ decks.
Krenko, Mob Boss
Goblins are one of my favorite tribes in all of Magic, next to Merfolk and Elves. Goblins want to come into play, exists for a brief period of time, then throw themselves into the enemy. Literally throw themselves. Krenko benefits from you playing any of the cheap Goblins in the game even though they're probably going to be sacrificed to Skirk Prospector or Goblin Bombardment anyways. I have firsthand experience with budget Goblins, and the deck can be an absolute menace thanks to its speed. There are a few things better in Magic: the Gathering than throwing an army of 1/1 Goblins at someone's face to win. Trust me, you won't be sorry playing this commander.
K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
Phyrexian mana is a broken mechanic because it allows you to cheat on mana, so why not play a commander to turn all of your black mana pips into black phyrexian mana? Oh, and since black is so great at gaining life, it doesn't even matter that you're paying two life per black mana. Suddenly, the four-mana-value tutors, such as Diabolic Tutor or Mastermind's Acquisition, are nearly as powerful as Demonic Tutor. Even the cheapest K'rrik deck run away with victories against some very well-tuned decks. If you're looking for the quintessential black commander to crush your enemies with, then look no further.
This has been the second 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 https://www.patreon.com/BathroomBrewsMTG if you want to take your support further.
This has been Ben, from BathroomBrewsMTG, and remember, always wash your hands.