$50 Budget MTG Painbow Commander Deck Upgrade

With two new Commander preconstructed decks coming from Dominaria United, you know I had to get right in there and start the upgrade process! I’ll be giving each deck a tune-up, upgrading them on a $50 budget. 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 the ChannelFireball Marketplace to track our costs, specifically the lowest available Near Mint price at the time of this writing. I apologize if listings have changed since then, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.

This time I’m going to upgrade the Painbow deck featuring the new Jared Carthalion planeswalker commander!

Jared Carthalion

I talked quite a bit about this new version of Jared Carthalion in my set review, but let me go over his kit quickly. For his +1, you get a 3/3 trampler that’s all colors – a perfect complement to the -3, which will turn that 3/3 into an 8/8 and pump up another creature (maybe another Kavu token, maybe a different creature altogether) as well. The -6 is not an outright game-winner, but if we pump the deck up with enough 5-color cards, we should be okay with using it on occasion.

The deck looks like this out of the box:

Painbow Commander Precon

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I’m quite impressed with the initial version of this deck. With an average mana value among nonlands of 3.63 and a full 39 lands to go with plenty of mana rocks, we have a great starting point here. Let’s get started by modifying the creature base – I’ll be removing five and bringing in six.



Header - Creature Changes

Atla Palani, Nest TenderXyris, the Writhing StormZaxara, the Exemplary

We have three fairly random tri-color legendary creatures here. I think we can do better in terms of function – without Jared Carthalion around, none of these help our forward progress much beyond “we’re multicolored.” All three of these require serious support to get going, and we have little to no support for the themes implied.

Selvala, Explorer Returned

Selvala is certainly less random, being a solid ramp creature, but I prefer to avoid giving away so many resources for an indeterminate gain at this power level. If you can fully structure your deck around maximizing Selvala, that’s great, but this is not that situation.

Transguild Courier

Yes, it’s all colors, but it has no evasion and it doesn’t really do much without help from Jared. I don’t expect my commander to be in play all the time, so cards like this just have to go.

We’re bringing in six creatures to cover a few different bases – mana fixing, support for “multicolor matters”, and of course, five-color-itude.

Birds of ParadiseParadise Druid
Birds of Paradise (M12) Paradise Druid (WAR)
$10.71 $0.18

Nearly $11 for Birds? Isn’t this a budget article? Well, it is, but I want to make sure we get our mana right. With not much of a path to upgrade the mana base in a serious manner on this budget, this being a five color deck and all, I favor adding cards that let us attack the mana in a different manner. Paradise Druid is a great two-mana fixing option, and there are plenty of others, but if I’m really trying to get you to upgrade this deck in a good faith manner, encouraging you to pick up a copy of Birds for this deck and for your collection in general is the right call rather than stuffing this list full of Ornithopters of Paradise. We’re trying to cast Jared Carthalion on turn five – or turn four if we’re doing really well – and these fixers are a huge part of that plan.

General Ferrous RokiricMoonveil Regent
General Ferrous Rokiric (MH2) Moonveil Regent (MID)
$0.30 $0.71

Multicolor matters is next up. General Ferrous Rokiric will pump out tons of 4/4 tokens for us, while Moonveil Regent is a great way to reset a hand of uncastable cards or refill when you’re out. These are both delightful additions and totally on theme!

CromatGarth One-Eye (Sketch)
Cromat (APC) Garth One-Eye (MH2 Sketch)
$3.50 $0.74

We have two great five-color creatures here – one old classic in Cromat, and one newer entry in Garth. Neither is incredibly overwhelming when on the board, yet both have some serious utility in various situations. Both, oddly enough, act as mana sinks later in the game. I’m more excited to put +1/+1 counters on Cromat, but Garth triggers Jenson Carthalion, survives Iridian Maelstrom, and so on just as well as Cromat does.


Header - Noncreature Changes

We’ve spent $16.14 so far – let’s move on to noncreatures, where I’m cutting 10 and adding nine.

Abzan CharmSultai Charm

These two are worse than the multicolor options available at a low budget, with their seeming flexibility outmatched by the spells I intend to add. They’re not bad per se – just easy to upgrade.

ExploreExplosive VegetationMigration PathSearch for Tomorrow

We can do better than these. The four-mana options are a bit lacking – by the time we are there, we want to cast spells that affect the board or, at minimum, play something that can get our typed duals. Explore is just so much worse than Growth Spiral that I’m off it altogether here, and Search for Tomorrow is very frustrating if not in the opening hand.

Echoing Truth

I’m not sure why this is here. Sure, bouncing a permanent is sometimes great, but we can do better than “occasionally awesome.”

Path to the World Tree

Grabbing a single basic to hand isn’t a great deal, and potentially activating this someday for a ton of mana isn’t super worthwhile. The effect, after all, isn’t even that amazing.

Radiant Flames

This tops out at three damage across the board. Not impressive in this format in general.

Prophetic Prism

We have a high-test mana rock coming in, and this is the low-end cut for it.

Let’s take a look at everything we have entering the list:

Chromatic LanternNature's LoreRampant GrowthSkyshroud ClaimThree Visits
Chromatic Lantern (RTR) Nature’s Lore (CLB) Rampant Growth (2X2) Skyshroud Claim (BBD) Three Visits (CMR)
$11.49 $1.42 $0.30 $2.29 $4.41

Mana fixing ahoy! We’re adding in three two-mana sorceries that ramp us, two of which are able to grab typed duals, and one four-mana option that also manages to grab typed duals. We’re again spending over $10 on a single card, which is unusual for this series, but Chromatic Lantern is so incredibly fantastic in five-color decks that it’s hard to leave it by the wayside. Even some of our stronger land cards need help, after all.

Genju of the RealmThe Kami War // O-Kagachi Made Manifest
Genju of the Realm (BOK) The Kami War // O-Kagachi Made Manifest (NEO)
$3.90 $0.82

These sort of fall into the five-color creature zone. Genju of the Realm, regrettably, doesn’t turn the enchanted land into a five-color creature, but it does some pretty decent work in combat, and The Kami War wreaks havoc on the battlefield before turning into a creature that needs to be dealt with before it takes over the game. 

Ice CaveVoid Rend
Ice Cave (APC) Void Rend (SNC)
$0.50 $1.17

Ice Cave is the card that stopped this from having Jegantha as a companion. You can pay the mana cost of anyone’s spells if you’re determined enough, but opponents aren’t going to have the right land they’d need to counter your Two-Headed Hellkite, except in certain specific circumstances. Void Rend is here to blow stuff up – alongside Beast Within and the other removal spells, it should be fine to cut the Charms.


Header - Mana Base Changes

We’re now up to $42.44 spent. Normally I’d keep more budget for upgrading the mana base, but today we’ll only be doing a little bit to change things there. We already threw in some good fixing, but we need to augment the typed BFZ duals with some additional typed duals to make that work. Let’s start with the cuts:

Bad RiverFlood PlainGrasslandsMountain ValleyRocky Tar Pit

These can get typed duals, sure, but they’re so slow. They come in tapped, and then when they grab one of the typed duals, that land comes in tapped too. If that’s the plan, they’re not producing mana until two turns later! I can’t with these.

Krosan Verge

Same album, different song. I’d rather just play an actual tapped dual.

Evolving WildsTerramorphic Expanse

These grab basics of our choice, which is nice, but I’m going to replace them with some more flexible lands.

Here are our eight replacements:

Path of AncestryPillar of the ParunsThe World Tree (Promo Pack)
Path of Ancestry (CLB) Pillar of the Paruns (2X2) The World Tree (KHM Promo)
$0.20 $1.30 $2.90

These are all five-color fixers on different levels. Path of Ancestry may not be getting any tribal synergy going here, but it’s an ETB tapped five-color dual, and that’s enough for me. Pillar of the Paruns casts most of the cards in our deck, and most importantly, it casts our commander handily. The World Tree is like Chromatic Lantern Jr. if we have enough land – sorry we didn’t fill this with Gods, but that wasn’t really possible.

Alpine MeadowRimewood FallsSnowfield SinkholeVolatile FjordWoodland Chasm
Alpine Meadow (KHM) Rimewood Falls (KHM) Snowfield Sinkhole (CLB) Volatile Fjord (KHM) Woodland Chasm (KHM)
$0.27 $0.28 $0.18 $0.33 $0.32

These aren’t the duals from Dominaria United, mostly because I had to put this together fairly early thanks to a lot of travel. That said, these five augment the BFZ duals that will enter untapped in this list only very occasionally. They’re here to help Farseek, Nature’s Lore, Three Visits and Skyshroud Claim do their good work – if the lands are going to enter untapped off most of those effects, they might as well make two colors, right?


Header - The Final Deck List

We’ve now spent $48.22 in total, so we’re done here! The average mana value among nonlands has gone up a little bit, to 3.70 from 3.63, but our cards are stronger and our mana base is better – after some playtests I’m getting Jared down quite consistently on turn five and more often than I thought on turn four. Here’s the full list – see you next time! 

$50 Budget Painbow Upgrade by Eric Levine

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3 thoughts on “$50 Budget MTG Painbow Commander Deck Upgrade”

  1. Why not put in an Ornithopter of Paradise instead of Birds? Sure, it costs a measly one mana more, but it DOES have one more toughness (I think in design that was to compensate for the higher cost).

    Then you’re saving $10

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