For today’s article, I’m excited to share the new budget mono-white Commander deck list I’ve been working on: mono-white tokens with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar at the helm.
I cracked Adeline from a booster of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and the card immediately jumped out of the pack to me as a powerful commander that would be fun to design a deck around.
The strength of Adeline is the card’s ability to generate a lot of Human tokens via combat, which makes it a terrific commander engine to run a token-based strategy through and because Adeline’s power quickly scales up relative to the number of creatures you control, it also makes her a threat to “one-shot” opponents with commander damage. So, tactically the card does multiple things well with a relatively cheap converted mana cost of three.
I set my budget for my Adeline deck at $50 and I came in right on target. I enjoy working on and designing, budget decks for a couple of reasons. First, I think it’s a practical and useful application of the skills I’ve learned from playing high-level Magic over the years and there are new and returning players of all levels looking for solid, fun decks to play at the kitchen table or the LGS that don’t cost an arm and a leg to build.
Second, I enjoy the challenge of trying to build a really good deck on a modest budget because it forces me to make actual, meaningful deckbuilding decisions and card evaluations that are rooted in a reality where cards don’t grow on trees and cost money to buy.
As a budget deck, Adeline is quite powerful and able to take advantage of a lot of different kinds of token based synergy. One of the best ways to get “the most bang for your buck” when building on a budget is to focus on building and bolstering synergies rather than on individually powerful cards. The reason I say this is that individually powerful cards tend to be “budget busters” in terms of their price tags.
Would adding Land Tax or Smothering Tithe make my deck better via inclusion? Of course! They are two of the all around most powerful white cards in Commander, but bear in mind each of these cards costs approximately the same amount of money as my entire 100-card deck!
When we have access to extremely individual cards that fall within our budget, we obviously want to snap those cards up immediately. Cards like Sol Ring, Swords to Plowshares and Austere Command make my Commander decks when I’m playing with an unlimited budget and so I’m always looking to include these types of cards when they are budget friendly.
Aside from these three, which I view as “auto includes” in any white deck, the token-based cards I chose to use budget on are…
I think these cards are auto-includes in a token-based strategy at any budget level and are two of the cards I’d most want to draw every game. Mono-white tokens doesn’t have a ton of great budget options for drawing extra cards (I’m playing Secret Rendezvous) and Idol in the context of a token deck is one of the most efficient “tome” effects I’ve ever seen. So, not only is it objectively powerful and efficient, but it also shores up a deckbuilding weakness of struggling to draw extra cards.
When I say power level is code for budget, I’m specifically talking about a dynamic whereby how many monetarily expensive “power cards” a player puts into their deck tends to directly inform what it’s power level is.
If you have a Smothering Tithe or Land Tax in your collection, either card is a fantastic addition to an Adeline token deck. Part of the fun of playing Commander is customizing your own deck and adding onto it over time. I’ve built a fundamentally solid $50 shell for a mono-white tokens deck but feel free to add on, customize and take that shell and make it your own. My one piece of advice for customization is when adding new cards try to cut cards with the same or similar converted mana cost. If you start cutting two-drop mana rocks for seven-drop bombs it will make the deck curve out less smoothly.
Let’s get to the deck!
$50 Budget Adeline Commander by Brian DeMars
One-third land, one-sixth mana ramp spells (approximately 50 percent-plus of the deck is dedicated to smooth, productive mana). The other half of the deck is all dedicated to building synergistic and scaling token pressure (with a bit of interaction and board protection as well).
The general concept of the strategy of this deck is that we want to spend the first three turns of the game developing your mana and ensuring you hit every single land drop for the entire game. It may seem like I’m overboard on the mana here, but the absolute worst thing that can happen for a deck like this is to ever miss a land drop! The budget aspect of the deck also forced me to make some hard choices to ensure consistent and smooth mana production. The budget was tight and I had to make difficult cuts of cards I really like and know would be great in here to ensure I had enough budget to field the best possible, functioning strategy.
Once we get to turn four, the decision tree will start to take shape. One great thing about the deck is the Commander is relatively cheap to cast with a mana value of three, which means it’s always an option. I also would like to have found budget room for a Whispersilk Cloak to make Adeline an unblockable, one-shot threat.
Tokens is a strategy that is very much about having the biggest army on the board at all times which makes it a fun deck to play in multiplayer. Not only is the strategy great at putting a lot of bodies, power and toughness into play, but the size of that army tends to scale exponentially from one turn to the next by virtue of having so many scaling X spells. Tokens also has a fantastic ability to boost its total power and toughness by casting “anthem” effects that grant bonuses to each and every body we control on the battlefield.
I really wanted to squeeze as much mana into the deck as possible and so I’m also doubling up some creatures as anthems to create deck space:
Obviously, I also wanted to maximize my opportunities to use one card to make multiple token creatures. Essentially, I tended to focus on the most efficient rate of production (how much mana do I have to pay per token) and I also prioritized spells with X in their cost since I invested so much deck space into mana production. I really want to maximize the impact of these “payoff” cards.
I really like the instant speed deployment of cards like Decree of Justice and White Sun’s Zenith since they allow you to see how the turn cycle progresses without overextending into a board sweeper effect. In general, sweepers are difficult for a deck like tokens that want to build up a scaling board presence, which is why I’ve included several counters to sweepers.
It’s worth noting that indestructible only stops effects that would “destroy” your creatures and there are other protective options that stop exile, bounce, sacrifice and -X/-X by phasing your permanents out (tokens can phase out and then phase back in) but nothing even remotely in my budget (which is part of my “budget = power level” argument).
Speaking of cards that didn’t work within my budget that I was disappointed couldn’t be included in today’s deck list…
I’m not going to include Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Smothering Tithe or Land Tax because I think those are just generic “pick one, pack one” white Commander staples that go into nearly every deck playing a Commander with white color identity. I think these five cards are distinctly and uniquely great in a white token deck like the one I’ve built for today. It’s not everyday that I sleeve up 25 basic plains which makes Emeria an outstanding addition and the other four cards I find particularly strong and synergistic in a token-based shell. So, these are all cards I omitted based upon their price point and, to be fair, these five cards cost nearly the same as the rest of the 100-card deck combined, which is yet another example of “budget equals power level” and the pay-to-play nature of the game.
The key here is that for approximately $50, I’m trying to put out a deck that has as much play as I can squeeze into it! My $50 Adeline would absolutely pulverize a table full of precons and can hold its weight at a table full of decks that cost many times beyond its budget to construct. I also believe it would be a pretty fun deck to continue to work on, customize and personalize. It seems like we get excellent white token cards in every set nowadays (for example, Adeline) which makes it likely to receive new cards with subsequent Magic expansions.