Okay, we’re back with yet another installment of my $50 precon upgrade series! I’ll be going through each of the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander precons and upgrading them on a $50 budget, this week with Draconic Rage. 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.
It’s time to break into today’s starting deck list: the Draconic Rage precon starring Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients.
Vrondiss has… enrage? Okay, that’s not really one of the mechanics in AFR, but that’s fine, right? Actually, Vrondiss does care about one AFR mechanic: dice rolling. When you participate in that celebration of variance, you can have Vrondiss deal itself one damage, netting you a 5/4 Dragon Spirit with a limited life span.
Draconic Rage Precon
At its core, this appears to be a Dragon deck, and I don’t necessarily want to disrupt that too much. I do want to add a little more in the enrage department, and I think that subtheme likely comes at the expense of the die rolling synergies, with a few notable exceptions. With a 3.97 average mana value and 39 lands, we’re pushing the limits of the mana base a little bit here, but I’m not so concerned that I’m going to focus on lowering the mana value too much. Frankly, I’m just glad to see 39 lands, though I will be throwing in at least one Zendikar Rising MDFC.
I’m also going to tell you a secret: Vrondiss is a combo commander. Not a simple two-card combo commander, though – Vrondiss is part of a fragile but fun engine. It’s not all in the existing deck, but we’re going to make it happen, and even with one piece missing, it’s pretty sweet.
How does it work? Well, it’s a little complex. Let’s start with Vrondiss. That could come from anywhere – cards like Rile and Shivan Hellkite are already in the deck list, so let’s say we have the Hellkite and a couple spare mana. Let’s poke Vrondiss and get a 5/4. That’s where the fun stops, right? Well, maybe not. We want that 5/4 to do something right away, and that something is damage.
Scourge of Valkas and Warstorm Surge are in the list, and both will do – let’s say we have Warstorm Surge in play, for argument’s sake. The 5/4 comes down and deals five damage to something – an opponent, perhaps. Now we have the sacrifice trigger – how can we make that work for us?
Yes, this is in the precon too. So when that 5/4 dies, we can poke Vrondiss again to start this loop all over. The only problem is that, eventually, Vrondiss will die, and looking at the existing deck list, there’s nothing we can do about that. That’s not actually as bad as it sounds – with these example permanents on the battlefield, you get to deal quite a bit of damage on each player’s turn, since you can elect to send the last point of Outpost Siege damage to something or someone besides Vrondiss. But what if there was some way to keep Vrondiss from being destroyed? Does Magic have any cards that might do that? Well, let’s wait and see, I suppose.
I just winked at my word processor. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
I’m going to make 17 swaps in this deck to change it from a mildly clunky tribal Dragon/die-roll deck into a less clunky tribal Dragon deck with an awkward but satisfying combo finish.
Six creatures have got to go, and here they are:
These changelings are decent, but they’re a little past their prime, and as they’re largely here to grease the Dragon synergy wheels, we can replace them with better Dragons.
I’m really underwhelmed by the random nature of this card, as I mentioned in my set review, and while it does get you a die roll each turn, I want to cut it to make the deck more consistently powerful.
This only rolls one die ever. It doesn’t belong at all.
This card also only does one instance of die rolling, and it’s not a Dragon, so it’s off the board for me.
Wulfgar wants to be in charge of his own deck, and I’m ready to grant him his release so he can go do that (look for a Wulfgar deck from me after this series ends!).
Seven creatures come in to take their place – I couldn’t quite manage to keep the balance the same because of some of the important combo elements I’ve added.
|Ripjaw Raptor (XLN)||Ranging Raptors (XLN)|
My two favorite enrage creatures for Commander have made the list right here – Ripjaw Raptor draws cards, which is very much welcome in a deck like this, while Ranging Raptors ramps. Turning something like Rile into a Divination or Rampant Growth is very powerful and should absolutely not be underestimated. There’s a build of this deck somewhere that has more Lava Darts and Gut Shots, but this isn’t that deck.
|Goblin Anarchomancer (MH2)||Stalking Vengeance (C16)||Harbinger of the Hunt (DTK)|
Some broadly useful creatures come in here. Goblin Anarchomancer helps out Dragonspeaker Shaman and Dragonlord’s Servant with cost reduction, enabling earlier plays and more double-spell turns. Harbinger of the Hunt can start the Vrondiss train going, while Stalking Vengeance adds some more damage to non-infinite Dragon Spirit shenanigans and deters players from wrathing.
|Delina, Wild Mage (AFR)||Anara, Wolvid Familiar (CMR)|
Okay, here are the heavy hitters. Attack with Delina and you’ll get at least one non-legendary copy of something – perhaps it’s Vrondiss, since Delina rolls a lot of individual dice if left unchecked. Spoiler alert: I did cut Barbarian Class since it doesn’t allow for the same “Matt Nass Infinite” shenanigans as Pixie Guide (thanks to LSV for that fantastic new terminology).
The real winner here, though, is Anara. My commander is indestructible on my turn, you say? What a perfect way to help me combo off with the wacky damage nonsense I mentioned above! I may not be a huge fan of two-card infinites, but a janky four-card combo is exactly what I love.
So far we’ve spent just $10.10. That’s really not much, and half of that is Ripjaw Raptor, so it might seem like we’re not doing much here. Don’t worry – I’m about to blow out the whole budget. But first, which noncreature spells get cut?
These are some cute die rollers, but since they’re not the best of the best (I’ve heard great things about Component Pouch from friends, so it survives) .They get the axe.
Speaking of the axe, I don’t really care about rerolling dice aside from Delina, so this is basically dead.
I can’t really work out why this is here – we’re not running a +1/+1 counters strategy, but I do love this card.
This card could actually cause us problems by multiplying pings we send to Vrondiss. I’m off it.
While I like the idea of instantly turning a creature into a Thorn Elemental, it’s not really useful here.
So what comes in to replace these nine cards? Well, since we were up one on creatures, we have eight noncreature spells here to help us with our wacky new combo deck.
|Rite of Passage (5DN)||Heroic Intervention (M21)||Eldrazi Monument (MB1)|
Hey, there goes all our money! That’s fine though, because these cards add some serious redundancy to our combo plan. Rite of Passage might not actually make Vrondiss indestructible, but it does prevent him from dying to little pings, which is usually enough to make the whole thing work (the arbitrarily large Vrondiss at the end of the process is usually irrelevant). Heroic Intervention gives you the rest of the turn to go off while playing double-duty as a protective spell. Eldrazi Monument also gives indestructible while, at the same time, allowing us to just attack with creatures for victory here and there.
|Blazing Sunsteel (CMR)||Goblin Bombardment (MH2)|
These cards both add some redundancy to the Outpost Siege part of the combo. But how, you ask? Well, we can sacrifice our 5/4s to Goblin Bombardment in response to their own sacrifice triggers, dealing a damage to Vrondiss and keeping the loop going. Blazing Sunsteel is a little less obvious, but what you want to do is this:
Equip Blazing Sunsteel to Vrondiss. Deal it a damage somehow, triggering both its enrage and the Sunsteel – target Vrondiss with that Sunsteel trigger. The enrage makes a 5/4, which deals damage via Warstorm Surge or whatever before sacrificing itself. Then the Sunsteel trigger resolves, dealing Vrondiss another damage and continuing the loop.
|Dragon Tempest (DTK)|
Dragon Tempest acts as a piece of redundancy for Warstorm Surge and Scourge of Valkas here. It’s also just a really good card for Dragon decks, so don’t sleep on this one regardless – it has wide-ranging implications here.
|Nature’s Claim (IMA)||Bala Ged Recovery (ZNR)|
These are just some sweet utility cards. Nature’s Claim gets rid of a pesky piece of hate without costing too much mana, while Bala Ged Recovery brings back a key card or plays double duty as a land in a pinch.
We’ve now spent $43.60, leaving just a tiny bit of room for lands! Don’t worry, I got some important stuff done in the land section while only making two changes. Here’s what leaves:
Gruul Turf always enters tapped without providing a serious bonus – Path of Ancestry is going to help us scry, at least, so that’s why you see it staying in. Underdark Rift is a fun die-rolling card, but I’ve got a really important colorless land waiting in the wings, so something has to go.
Meet your two new lands:
|Rootbound Crag (XLN)||Tyrite Sanctum (KHM)|
Rootbound Crag is an easy call. You’ll use it in plenty of red/green decks down the line if you ever dismantle this one, which… well, it’s really cool, so maybe don’t. Tyrite Sanctum though isn’t here to fix mana. It’s here to put Vrondiss up on a pedestal, or maybe the top of somebody’s house, so Vrondiss can declare himself a golden god – an indestructible one, that is, giving us even more redundancy on that combo plan. Dragons are just real Topeka people, man.
Having now spent $49.40, we’re done with our sweet new Gruul combo deck. Okay, it’s really a Dragons deck with a silly combo finish, but think about this – we’ve added a new, more powerful dimension to the deck that’s also fun and interesting while also increasing the land count to 39.5 (ZNR MDFCs are half, and don’t let anyone tell you they’re a full land!) and dropping the average mana value a little to 3.82. I see this as an absolute win. Here’s the full deck list – see you next time!
$50 Draconic Rage Precon Upgrade by Eric Levine