Exciting times are upon us, folks – it’s once again time for precon upgrades! I’ll be going through both of the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty preconstructed Commander decks and upgrading them on a $50 budget. Today, we’re going to look at the Upgrades Unleashed deck featuring Chishiro, the Shattered Blade (didn’t we just have “Undead Unleashed” two sets ago?). 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.
Chishiro leans into the full gamut of “modified” – Auras, Equipment and +1/+1 counters all get some respect put on their names, so it’s no surprise that the Chishiro deck list doesn’t focus on just one of those themes. Despite my natural inclination to focus the list, I’ve decided to lean the opposite way and instead try to improve the deck on its own terms! Here’s the list as it stands right out of the box:
Upgrades Unleashed Precon
Overall, I love the theme. The land count is fine, but the average mana value (3.71 without lands) is a little too high for me. I’m going to try to bring that down while also doing some fairly specific upgrades to try to make the deck run a little better in general. Let’s start by cutting some creatures!
I understand that we’re trying to stay on the modified theme, but there are plenty of ways we can do better in the mana generation department while still staying on theme or at least playing something that should be relevant.
These two both honestly deserve to be the captains of their own ships. Kaima requires a very different deck altogether, and Kosei is a really fun card that wants a lot of focus pulled specifically to it. Chishiro wants to go wide rather than tall, which makes it harder to support Kosei, and it’s going to be a bit tough to spare Auras for opposing creatures when we need them so badly for ourselves.
I’m not too much of a fan of sacrificing lands in a deck that only plays 37 and, moreover, doesn’t get value from doing so. I understand that the desire here is to put counters on this in quantity, but without sacrificing lands or putting too much emphasis on the counters theme, it’ll be hard to get this moving as fast as we need it to move.
Speaking of fast, this card is not that. I understand that eventually the activation would become free, but I’m much happier with the very available burst card draw in this format.
I like what this card is trying to do, but it’s too dependent on opponents having large boards, and there are better ways for us to spend our mana and get counters. It’s also a little frustrating that this both lacks trample and doesn’t give itself a counter!
This feels a little out of place here. I understand that modifying our creatures is going to make them larger, and I also see how an indestructible creature could work with this strategy, but I don’t think seven mana is worth spending on this.
I think this plays a little too far into the +1/+1 counter theme to be terribly useful here. Even back in the day I used to think this card was a little slow, and in the faster-paced world of more powerful cards, it’s hard for me to endorse this one. The tokens would be nice, and honestly, I’m a little uncertain about this cut, but I really wanted to add some other cards here.
We’re keeping the balance right on track with eight creatures coming in!
The mana creature situation gets an upgrade here. Goblin Anarchomancer discounts pretty much all of our cards, and Incubation Druid benefits from +1/+1 counters in a much bigger way than the Merge-Keeper does.
I’ve added in some cards that care explicitly about modified! You’ll notice I’ve spent a significant chunk of our budget on Kodama of the West Tree, but I think it’s totally worth it. Between the mana ramp and the addition of trample to all of our modified creatures, this card fits perfectly into the list. Thundering Raiju does what Goblin Razerunners could not (and better) while Goro-Goro provides haste and a great mana sink.
Making your creatures modified has never been easier with these fantastic cards! Ochre Jelly doesn’t affect other creatures, but it does come in modified and pump out even more modified creatures when it dies. Rabbit Battery looks fantastic at this low cost, and Renata allows all of our creatures to come in pre-modified!
So far we’ve spent just $11.75 upgrading these eight cards. Let’s take a look at the noncreatures, where we’ll be making nine more swaps!
This looks perfect for Kaima, but for Chishiro I want creatures that like being modified and cards that modify them – this is a bit of a distraction, albeit a cool one.
I like that this ensures modification even after the Aura goes away, but we have some very powerful Auras coming in and we’ll need to make room.
This card is really cool, but we don’t have enough ETB effects to take care of the repeat Polymorph effect, and Chishiro wants us to keep our modified creatures in play and accrue +1/+1 counters turn after turn.
I’m not totally sure how this fits into the plan other than with that plan to grow creatures turn after turn. I really like this card in general, especially since I used it in a Shadowmoor draft to power out some turn five kills with Scuzzback Marauders and Furystoke Giant (obviously the real powerhouse card in that deck was Devoted Druid).
I know we’re trying to get +1/+1 counters on our creatures, but I can do that more cheaply and easily with other cards. Eight mana for this effect isn’t too bad, but I want to be keeping things lower to the ground as mentioned earlier.
These targeted effects are not my preferred way to draw cards – I would very much rather get my value without this much risk.
Since we’re trying to go wide and we’re all about synergy, I’m not sure this effect is right for us. That said, it’s a really innovative new design and I’m excited to play it in plenty of other lists – just not this one!
I like what this is trying to do, but with Kodama of the West Tree and a couple of other new inclusions to help us go over the top, I think we have better options.
Here’s what I’m adding:
These are cheap, efficient cards that will help us modify our creatures without breaking the bank. Bone Saw and Rancor are easily reusable, and while Spider Umbra does fall off when our creature tries to die, hopefully Chishiro will have given it a +1/+1 counter by then.
These turn our creatures into serious powerhouses, and I think both put Mage Slayer to shame. Lizard Blades is an impressive piece of Equipment that can also work on its own as one of our modified creatures, and of course, when going wide, believing in the ‘Cleave is a pretty simple proposition.
Getting +1/+1 counters on multiple creatures at once is a recipe for success, and both of these cards help get the ball rolling. Thrive isn’t the flashiest, but it does its job, and Nissa can even provide an extra creature in a pinch.
Some extra punch can help end games – Return of the Wildspeaker has the decency to also act as a card draw spell when necessary, while Overwhelming Stampede can help us get over the top of other players’s boards if our other trample effects are missing. It’s no Craterhoof, but what is?
That set us back another $13.42, putting us at a total spend of $25.17. We have plenty of room left to upgrade the mana base, and since it’s already pretty decent, I won’t be swapping too many spots – just six cards are changing, but we will be spending most of our remaining budget! I’m cutting two Mountains, a Forest, and these three nonbasics:
I’m notoriously unappreciative of these lands, so it’s no surprise I’m cutting this one. And wait… what’s this?
Yes, due to a mix up, the precon as printed has two copies of Mossfire Valley. It’s okay, though – I’m cutting them both, and if you’re playing this precon out of the box, I personally don’t care if you play them both. I would honestly cut one for a basic, though.
Since this is a dual land in the best of circumstances but has a serious downside in the early game of potentially not giving you any mana you want at all, I’m off this in most two-color decks.
In comes the following:
These three do a great job of improving the consistency of the deck, and I can’t argue with these prices! They’re also cards you’ll want to have around for the long haul.
Karn’s Bastion helps out as a late-game mana sink that adds on plenty of counters, while Kessig Wolf Run goes tall on a single creature instead of wide. We don’t have many effects that interact with other players’ permanents, so I threw in a Field of Ruin as a low-cost concession to opposing nonbasics like the ones we just added.
That’s another $23.86 spent, for a total of $49.03. In the process, we brought the average mana value of the deck down to just 3.26 without lands, which is a pretty serious drop. We still have plenty of Auras and Equipment to go with our +1/+1 counters, and our cards are, overall, more efficient! Here’s the final upgraded list – see you next time for an upgrade on the other list!