The new Commander decks are here, and with them comes, of course, my $50 upgrade series! I’ll be going through each of the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander precons and upgrading them on a $50 budget. Today, I’ll be starting with the Aura of Courage deck featuring Galea, Kindler of Hope. As always, I’d like to remind you of a couple of things regarding my budget articles:
- $50 has a different impact on different people, but given that it’s less than the price of a triple-A console game release, I think it’s a price many will be willing to pay for hours of entertainment, which a Commander deck should provide.
- I’ll be using prices from right here on ChannelFireball.com to track our costs. All prices were accurate when I wrote this – apologies if prices have changed or cards have gone out of stock since, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.
To start, here’s our Commander:
As you can see, we’re focusing on casting Auras and Equipment from the top of the library so they can slide right onto our creatures for serious beatdowns. I’m a fan of the extra clause that allows Equipment to seamlessly snap on when cast from the top of our library, and I’ll be looking to make the best of that.
The deck list out of the box is as follows:
1 Abundant Growth 1 Acidic Slime 1 Angel of Finality 1 Angelic Gift 1 Arcane Signet 1 Argentum Armor 1 Azorius Chancery 1 Bant Charm 1 Bant Panorama 1 Basilisk Collar 1 Behemoth Sledge 1 Belt of Giant Strength 1 Brainstorm 1 Canopy Vista 1 Catti-brie of Mithral Hall 1 Clay Golem 1 Cold-Eyed Selkie 1 Colossus Hammer 1 Command Tower 1 Curse of Verbosity 1 Diviner's Portent 1 Ebony Fly 1 Eel Umbra 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Explorer's Scope 1 Fertile Ground 1 Fey Steed 1 Fleecemane Lion 1 Flood Plain 8 Forest 1 Fortified Village 1 Grasslands 1 Greater Good 1 Gryff's Boon 1 Halimar Depths 1 Heroic Intervention 1 Holy Avenger 1 Imprisoned in the Moon 4 Island 1 Kenrith's Transformation 1 Knight of Autumn 1 Lumbering Falls 1 Mantle of the Ancients 1 Masterwork of Ingenuity 1 Mishra's Factory 1 Moonsilver Spear 1 Nature's Lore 1 Netherese Puzzle-Ward 1 Paradise Druid 1 Path of Ancestry 2 Plains 1 Port Town 1 Prairie Stream 1 Prognostic Sphinx 1 Psychic Impetus 1 Puresteel Paladin 1 Rancor 1 Realm-Cloaked Giant / Cast Off 1 Ride the Avalanche 1 Riverwise Augur 1 Robe of Stars 1 Seaside Citadel 1 Serum Visions 1 Shielding Plax 1 Simic Growth Chamber 1 Skycloud Expanse 1 Sol Ring 1 Song of Inspiration 1 Sram, Senior Edificer 1 Storvald, Frost Giant Jarl 1 Sungrass Prairie 1 Swiftfoot Boots 1 Sword of Hours 1 Sword of the Animist 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Thriving Grove 1 Thriving Heath 1 Thriving Isle 1 Utopia Sprawl 1 Valiant Endeavor 1 Valorous Stance 1 Verdant Embrace 1 Viridian Longbow 1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree 1 Wild Growth 1 Winds of Rath 1 Winged Boots
One immediately noticeable positive point about this list is the average mana value – excluding lands, we’re at a tidy 2.77. Any deck that can play cards off the top is looking to play multiple spells per turn, so keeping the average MV low is a must. We also have 38 lands to go with that, which is actually the lowest among the new precons – the other three all clock in at 39, which reflects their higher average MV.
This list also features a total of 30 Auras and Equipment, putting the odds of our top card being an Aura or Equipment card at 30.3 percent. It’s going to be harder to get this number much higher, which means deck manipulation is the order of the day. 15 creatures seems a little low to me – I was thinking something closer to 20 myself. We can actually cheat this count a little bit with bestow creatures and living weapon artifacts – and yes, Galea works how you want it to with bestow!
It may seem strange, but I do want to cut a couple of the creatures we’re starting with. Don’t worry, I plan to up the count. We’re cutting three creatures to start with:
Clay Golem is pretty expensive overall, and while the payoff guarantees a permanent is destroyed, the die rolling aspect is too unpredictable for me. Knight of Autumn is “flexible” in that it’s a 4/3 that sometimes takes a hit to disenchant something, which is fine if unimpressive, and Realm-Cloaked Giant offers us a wrath effect we can’t really afford to cast since our creature count is so low.
I’m bringing in a total of six creatures, so we’re upping the count to 18 (if you consider a living weapon Equipment I’m bringing in later, it’s actually 19!).
|Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist (CMR)||Armored Skyhunter (CMR)||Danitha Capashen, Paragon (DOM)|
These three are utilitarian, focused largely on helping out with Equipment and Auras. Danitha gives us a cost reduction while still being a decent “flag carrier” for all of our goodies, while Ardenn makes it easy to pick a new flag carrier each combat. Armored Skyhunter tears up the top of our deck in search of a sweet hit every time it attacks, giving us another look with Galea in our second main phase in addition to its “cheat stuff into play” trigger.
|Eidolon of Countless Battles (BNG)||Halvar, God of Battle (KHM)||Invisible Stalker (ISD)|
These are the more offensive players in this pool. Invisible Stalker needs little explanation – an unblockable hexproof attacker is one of the best targets this deck could ask for. Eidolon of Countless Battles does a surprising amount of counting, mostly of your Auras, while Halvar should be giving your whole team double strike most of the time – that is, unless you cast the Equipment half to juice up your arsenal and make your threats recursive! This level of strength and flexibility justifies spending nearly 20 percent of our budget on a single card, at least in my mind.
So, we’ve spent $12.50 so far, which accounts for 25 percent of the budget – most of that was on Halvar, but that’s fine. 15 noncreature spells are getting the axe, to be replaced with just 12 – I’m keeping the land count at 38 for this one.
The die-rolling cards are a little too random for me, and while Diviner’s Portent is nice, it’s not necessarily how I want to spend my mana in this deck. Netherese Puzzle-Wand almost stuck around, but I think we can do better in terms of repeated library manipulation.
These removal spells are a little less useful overall than I’d like them to be, with Psychic Impetus being a familiar cut from previous years. Bant Charm’s cost is a little too restrictive, while Valorous Stance’s flexibility is undercut by its lessened utility as direct removal. I’m trying to focus more on furthering my own game plan and using the combat step as removal anyway!
This is maybe my hottest take here, but can we really play Greater Good, a card that asks us to sacrifice creatures, in a deck with this low of a creature count? I say we cannot. I know it’s good to fire it off after a wrath, but we have enough recursive effects that I’m comfortable without it. This might be totally wrong, but I want to take the chance and see how it pans out
Cutting a card that doesn’t play into the theme to make room for something that does. This card is solid; I just don’t think it belongs here.
I know Abundant Growth is supposed to be part of the glue of the deck, drawing you a card and pushing you a little further, but I’d rather just play something cheap and impactful instead. Fertile Ground doesn’t quite measure up to Wild Growth or Utopia Sprawl, so it loses out.
These are the lowest-impact Equipment. Explorer’s Scope plays with the top-of-deck theme without really being worth the card, while Moonsilver Spear is just a little too costly on both ends. Viridian Longbow is pretty off-theme despite being an Equipment.
12 cards come in, as follows:
|Beast Within (MB1)||Krosan Grip (TSR)|
Some very flexible and powerful removal spells take the place of the ones we cut. It’s easy to get good removal without hurting our budget too much.
|Single Combat (WAR)|
It’s a living weapon that counts all of our artifacts and enchantments? Yeah, that seems like exactly the kind of card we need. It’s also the only Equipment I’m adding.
|Aqueous Form (CMR)||All that Glitters (ELD)||Ethereal Armor (RTR)||Hyena Umbra (UMA)||Unquestioned Authority (Conspiracy)|
I’m adding five more Auras to the list. All that Glitters and Ethereal Armor focus on stacking power and toughness as high as possible, and Aqueous Form takes our big creature and sends it through the red zone without any of that pesky blocking going on. Unquestioned Authority does something very similar, with Aqueous Form having the edge on lower cost and repeated scry versus the single draw. Hyena Umbra is another totem armor to go along with Eel Umbra – more might even be better.
|Season of Growth (C20)||Sigarda’s Aid (CMR)||Soothsaying (MB1)|
These three cards support our theme really well while staying in the low cost department. Season of Growth pays us off for targeting our creatures, while Sigarda’s Aid combines with our commander to give us more off-turn plays. Better yet, it also lets us play cards like Colossus Hammer from hand without worrying about the equip cost. Soothsaying is the perfect mana sink – we can spend spare mana to change our top card and put together a solid stack of Equipment and Auras to blast through.
We’ve now spent $29.25 overall, leaving the traditional 40 percent to spend on lands. I’ll be cutting and replacing nine lands total, with a focus on making sure our lands come into play untapped whenever possible. I left Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse in because of their high level of flexibility – same for Seaside Citadel and its surreptitious clone, Path of Ancestry. The two basic-fetchers also serve the extra purpose of changing the top card of our deck! I also gave the Thriving lands a pass because of their flexibility. It sounds like I gave a lot of leeway, but I really made a lot of cuts, as follows:
Mana in Commander is so much different now than it was 10 years ago, and while at the base precon stage these are acceptable, at this point I’m out on these clunkers.
More fetches to change the top of the deck. Sounds great, right? Well, no. Flood Plain and Grasslands enter the battlefield tapped, meaning you have to wait until next turn to crack them, and while they do get a couple of duals, they lose to Evolving Wilds/Terramorphic Expanse because they can’t be used right when you draw them to change your top card. Don’t worry, I’ve got great replacements. Bant Panorama… sometimes you look at a card and you just know it’s gotta go.
Creature lands do not go well with the Aura/Equipment theme. I know it seems like they might, but they don’t. Think about it. Are you with me on this? You were there before this paragraph started, weren’t you? I thought so.
Again, I get what we are trying to do, but when I look at this card, I see “bad Island” and I need to just make a change.
I’m just switching this for a Plains due to color balance. Don’t be scared.
So what comes in? Well, first off, the aforementioned Plains, but what else?
|Branchloft Pathway (ZNR)||Sunpetal Grove (M12)||Yavimaya Coast (ORI)||Vineglimmer Snarl (STX)|
Good lands are like good clothes – if you know how to take care of them and pair them with other lands, they’ll last you a long time. That’s how I feel about Branchloft Pathway and Sunpetal Grove, our big ticket items here. I would play both of them in higher power-level decks (though not necessarily at like, the cEDH level, but that’s different) and I think spending money on them is a great investment in your future as a Commander player. Yavimaya Coast is also an enduring piece of the mana puzzle, but it happens to be very affordable. Vineglimmer Snarl probably gets cut when you start down the shockland route, but for now, it’s got a chance of entering untapped, and that’s good enough.
|Irrigated Farmland (C20)||Scattered Groves (AKH)|
These cycle when we don’t need them, helping us push past cards at the top of the library that we can’t cast via our commander’s ability. They also have basic land types, which matters for cards like Nature’s Lore (though Irrigated Farmland isn’t eligible there).
|Temple of Enlightenment (THB)||Temple of Mystery (C21)|
Looking for something to manipulate the top of that library? We’ve got it now! Temples are exactly what the doctor ordered, though not Temple of Plenty as it’s more costly, putting it out of our range.
That’s it! We’ve now spent $49.35, which is absolutely close enough to not mess with any further. I can’t wait to do the next one in the series – if you have a preference on which one, let me know at @RagingLevine on Twitter. You can also pick up the AFR Commander decks right here – a set of four is currently just $139.99! Here’s our final deck list, and I’ll see you next time.
Commander: Galea, Kindler of Hope 1 Acidic Slime 1 All That Glitters 1 Angel of Finality 1 Angelic Gift 1 Aqueous Form 1 Arcane Signet 1 Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist 1 Argentum Armor 1 Armored Skyhunter 1 Basilisk Collar 1 Beast Within 1 Behemoth Sledge 1 Belt of Giant Strength 1 Brainstorm 1 Branchloft Pathway / Boulderloft Pathway 1 Canopy Vista 1 Catti-brie of Mithral Hall 1 Cold-Eyed Selkie 1 Colossus Hammer 1 Command Tower 1 Curse of Verbosity 1 Danitha Capashen, Paragon 1 Eel Umbra 1 Eidolon of Countless Battles 1 Ethereal Armor 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Exotic Orchard 1 Fey Steed 1 Fleecemane Lion 7 Forest 1 Fortified Village 1 Gryff's Boon 1 Halvar, God of Battle / Sword of the Realms 1 Heroic Intervention 1 Holy Avenger 1 Hyena Umbra 1 Imprisoned in the Moon 1 Invisible Stalker 1 Irrigated Farmland 4 Island 1 Kenrith's Transformation 1 Krosan Grip 1 Mantle of the Ancients 1 Masterwork of Ingenuity 1 Nature's Lore 1 Nettlecyst 1 Paradise Druid 1 Path of Ancestry 3 Plains 1 Port Town 1 Prairie Stream 1 Prognostic Sphinx 1 Puresteel Paladin 1 Rancor 1 Riverwise Augur 1 Robe of Stars 1 Scattered Groves 1 Seaside Citadel 1 Season of Growth 1 Serum Visions 1 Shielding Plax 1 Sigarda's Aid 1 Single Combat 1 Skycloud Expanse 1 Sol Ring 1 Soothsaying 1 Sram, Senior Edificer 1 Storvald, Frost Giant Jarl 1 Sungrass Prairie 1 Sunpetal Grove 1 Swiftfoot Boots 1 Sword of Hours 1 Sword of the Animist 1 Temple of Enlightenment 1 Temple of Mystery 1 Terramorphic Expanse 1 Thriving Grove 1 Thriving Heath 1 Thriving Isle 1 Unquestioned Authority 1 Utopia Sprawl 1 Verdant Embrace 1 Vineglimmer Snarl 1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree 1 Wild Growth 1 Winds of Rath 1 Winged Boots 1 Yavimaya Coast