Shower Thoughts: Ten Budget LotR Commanders That Pack a Punch - Mono Colored

Benjamin Levin • June 22, 2023

Gollum, Patient Plotter | Illustrated by  Lorenzo Mastroianni
The One Ring | Illustrated by | Veli Nyström

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 ten mono-colored commanders from Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth that are powerful and budget friendly, next week I'll be covering the best of the multicolor creatures. They aren't listed in any particular order, but if you'd like to see completed decks for any of the commanders mentioned, let me know in the comments below.  

Samwise the Stouthearted

When I think of aristocrat-style decks I'm usually looking at Orzhov or Jund as my primary colors. Both have access to some of the best staples: Goblin Bombardment, Grave Pact, and Blood Artist. But what if you could build a mono white aristocrats style deck with a blink subtheme? My initial thoughts on Samwise were to build a pure blink deck and generate value from artifacts that sacrifice themselves such as Mishra's Bauble, Expedition Map, or Wayfarer's Bauble. After all, he has an ETB trigger, flash, is only two mana and will let you return things to your hand. That's basically eggs with more steps, and we already have a great eggs commander thanks to Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle.

So instead let's focus on using the sacrifice outlets white has access to and sacrifice value creatures that will let us draw cards, gain life, and ramp! The difficult part of deck building is balancing the required blink effects along with sacrifice payoffs. Samwise doesn't specify nonland permanent, which means you can guarantee land drops with Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse, or the cute combo of Zuran Orb and Flagstones of Trokair to get any plains from your deck. Plus you get the additional benefit of having the ring tempt you each time you flicker Samwise.

Key cards to include: Circuit Mender, Spirited Companion, Fanatical Devotion, Spawning Pit, Far Traveler.

Gandalf, White Rider

A few weeks ago I created a budget Animar creature storm deck that won by casting creatures over and over again. So I'm going to do that again, but this time in mono white. For those who weren't playing standard back in the Ixalan days of 2018, there was a deck called mono white monument which used Oketra's Monument and Aviary Mechanic to make an army of 1/1 soldiers. I'm going to take this old standard deck and convert it nicely into a commander deck.

What's even better is that we can include a three-card infinite combo with ease. All you'll need is Oketra's Monument, Defiler of Faith, and either Aviary Mechanic, Whitemane Lion, or Jeskai Barricade. Each iteration of the loop will cost you two life, but that is easily fixed with any Soul Warden style effect. Add Crashing Drawbridge to give your team haste and you have an infinitely large token army. You can even include Hazoret's Monument as a pseudo-infinite draw engine.

Key cards to include: Bygone Bishop, Oketra's Monument, Defiler of Faith, Whitemane Lion, Suture Priest.

The Watcher in the Water

Do you like drawing cards? Do you like being mean to your friends because they stole the soda but left the empty box in the fridge only to get your hopes up when you went to grab one? Well then pick up The Watcher and get some payback. There are some cute ways to build this commander if you don't mind spending a bit more, but I'm going to stick to a simple cantriping deck with kraken payoffs. You'll want to load up on convoke spells such as Transcendent Message and Artistic Refusal so you can exponentially increase your tentacle count.

Then load up the deck with some of the best krakens in Commander, like Hullbreaker Horror or Nadir Kraken. The last little bit of tech you could add are cards that change all creature types: Arcane Adaptation and Maskwood Nexus. These let you turn all of your creatures into tentacles letting you benefit from The Watcher's ability. I even had the idea of using lords like Master of the Pearl Trident and Master of Waves to get additional benefits from changing creature types. Also, make sure to include proliferation where possible to keep creatures tapped down with stun counters.

Key cards to include: Ominous Seas, Invasion of Segovia, Psychosis Crawler, Flux Channeler, Tolarian Winds.

Saruman the White

I often get inspiration to talk about a commander after seeing how well it does at pre-release. I know limited is a vastly different format compared to EDH, but I can't help it, it's how I got the idea for my $50 Yarok MOM Tribal deck, which you should check out after reading this. Saruman is the same, I went 2-1 with him at pre-release so I'm putting him on this list. Casting two spells each turn, especially in mono blue, isn't difficult. Plus we can turn our orc army into a zombie orc army and play mono blue zombie payoffs, such as Eternal Skylord to give our orcs wings. If you have the budget for it, Altar of Dementia would be a great include as a way to get value from the army token as it grows but there is always the option to just turn it sideways and crack some skulls.

Key cards to include: Eternal Skylord, Flux Channeler, Commence the Endgame, Shadow Rift, Corsairs of Umbar.

Sauron, the Necromancer

I have a confession to make. I am in love with graveyard strategies. I'm sure why I love them as much as I do, but I can't help but brew a reanimation deck whenever possible. Even if I'm only reanimating budget bombs such as Myr Battlesphere. Building Sauron as a self-mill commander will be the most common and probably best option at any budget. Mono black has access to great budget staples such as Undead Butler, Vile Entomber, and Buried Alive.

The important thing to remember is you need Sauron to be your Ring-bearer in order to keep the creature after combat. The new Gollum, Patient Plotter, Call of the Ring and One Ring to Rule Them All are instant staples in this list. Not only do they provide flavor but are on theme and powerful in the deck. The other card, or I should say nine cards, I'm excited to include here is Nazgûl. They tempt you by just entering the battlefield, letting you reanimate them with Sauron and even keep them around when Sauron isn't your Ring-Bearer.

Key cards to include: Gollum, Patient Plotter, Call of the Ring, One Ring to Rule Them All, Tormod, the Desecrator and Desecrated Tomb.

Gollum, Patient Plotter

Remember a few moments ago when I said I love graveyard decks? Well, Gollum is another great graveyard commander but plays quite a bit differently than Sauron. Instead of reanimating a ton of big dumb idiots, you want to recast Gollum and sacrifice him repeatedly. Unsurprisingly, there's quite a bit of overlap between Sauron, the Necromancer, and Gollum. You'll be tempting often enough that Nazgûls will grow into massive threats and Call of the Ring will let you draw more cards than you know what to do with. Just make sure you have enough sacrifice fodder for his second ability when putting him into the graveyard. The last thing you want is for your commander to get stuck for a few turns. I'd also include as many Blood Artist effects as possible along with cards that make you tokens when creatures die, so you can sacrifice those to recur Gollum.

Key cards to include:Ogre Slumlord, Call of the Ring, Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia, Nether Traitor, Blight Mound.

Glóin, Dwarf Emissary

In recent years red has pretty much become the defacto treasure color in EDH: Dockside Extortionist, Professional Face-Breaker and now Spiteful Banditry. No matter the flavor of red treasure you decide, you'll be like Scrooge McDuck diving into a pool of gold coins. The once-per-turn restriction keeps Glóin, Dwarf Emissary in check, but it's still very powerful. Because artifacts are considered historic, you should include Shimmer Myr or Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter so you can make up to four treasures each turn cycle. There's also Vedalken Orrery, which is outside of what I considered budget, but if you can get one I'd include it for sure. Finally, there are a number of artifacts with flash worth including, like Dueling Rapier, which will become a mana generator.

Key cards to include: Reckless Fireweaver, Magda, Brazen Outlaw, Xorn, Shimmer Myr, Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter.

Gimli, Counter of Kills

Mono red burn is an infamous archetype in 60-card magic. From the first iteration of the deck with just Black Lotus and Lightning Bolts to Modern burn with Lightning Helix and Skullcrack. In Commander we have Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Neheb, the Eternal as some of the premier burn commanders. Enter Gimli, Counter of Kills, an innocuous burn commander that won't draw the ire of the entire table. Only dealing one damage each time an opponent's creature dies might not seem impressive, but what if we could give people creatures and kill them ourselves?

This can be done with the slightly expensive combo of Forbidden Orchard and Pyrohemia. Surprisingly red has access to a number of creatures that will give your opponents tokens for you to destroy later on. And we can't forget about Blasphemous Act, not only is it one of the best board wipes in red, it is likely the best board wipe in this deck. Also, Gimli is the one dealing the damage, so I'd try to give him either infect with Grafted Exoskeleton or lifelink with Loxodon Warhammer.

Key cards to include: Akroan Horse, Goblin Spymaster, Dowsing Dagger, Blasphemous Act, Genesis Chamber.

Fangorn, Tree Shepherd

There is a pretty easy joke about butts here, but I'll just sit on it for now. Fangorn is everything I want in a treefolk commander; they are a treefolk and give us a ton of mana to cast more treefolks. It is a seven mana value commander, which shouldn't be too big of an issue in green, but it is something to keep in mind. One of the great things about treefolk is how inexpensive they are to build a deck around. While there are some expensive trees such as Timber Protector or Leaf-Crowned Elder, a majority of them are under one dollar.

You'll definitely want ramp with Bosk Banneret and a budget lord in the form of Verdeloth the Ancient. There are even ways to create treefolk tokens with the Reach of Branches or Sylvan Offering. We also got a reprint of Genesis Wave in the last batch of precons, so even more ways to use your mana and cheat trees into play. One final note, because you have to attack to get the mana, Fog effects might be a nice include to protect your trees. I think Fangorn's bite will be worse than its bark, yes I went there, I'm not apologizing.

Key cards to include: Bosk Banneret, Assault Formation, Dungrove Elder, Orchard Warden, Verdeloth the Ancient.

Elanor Gardner

One of my favorite things about this set has to be the focus on food tokens. It is one of those mechanics that had always been on the fringe of playable in EDH but just needed a few more support pieces. Elanor is not only a great support piece but an amazing food payoff as well. I know most people will go landfall with some food generation in the deck in order to get lands, but I want to try building mono green life gain and have the incidental value of ramping. I would include obvious choices such as Tireless Provisioner, Tireless Tracker, and Academy Manufactor for value. The Abazan food precon gave us great tools with Feasting Hobbit and Motivated Pony. And then the main set gave us Peregrin Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck, and The Shire.

Key cards to include: Trail of Crumbs, Giant Opportunity, Feasting Troll King, Gilded Goose, Tireless Provisioner

This has been another 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 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.