I’ve put together a sweet budget EDH blink list that I hope readers will enjoy.
The challenge for today’s article was to build a fun and cohesive 100-card Commander deck on a modest budget of $50 and today’s deck hits the sweet spot of a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks.
This Brago, King Eternal deck has a powerful and synergistic theme of exiling its own creatures that have abilities that trigger on entering the battlefield (ETB) and then returning those ETB trigger creatures to play from exile. In Magic, players use the jargon “blink” as shorthand to describe this mechanic as a reference to the Time Spiral card, Momentary Blink.
Let’s get straight to the deck list.
Budget Brago, King Eternal by Brian DeMars
The strategy here is straightforward. All of the creatures I’ve selected have ETB triggers with a multiplicity of ways to repeatedly blink them in and out to generate advantage.
I actually observe the mechanic and strategy of blinking creatures to be disproportionately powerful in multiplayer relative to one-on-one duels for a couple of reasons. First, the strategy tends to generate advantage of resources and board presence at the same time. Blink decks generate extra resources and have creatures in play to attack and defend with.
Second, players tend to play significantly less targeted removal in multiplayer, which is a boon for a strategy looking to target its own creatures with blink spells. Less targeted removal in opponents’ hands means less potential to get two-for-one’d.
I play a non-budget version of U/W Blink based on the Reserved List card Rasputin Dreamweaver and I was surprised that there was much overlap between building a U/W Blink deck with a modest or unlimited budget.
And, of course we still get classics like…
The real difference between budget and not budget boils down to options. Some of the most powerful or synergistic cards simply don’t fall within the budget and thus need to be replaced with substitutions. I’m typically looking to replace individually powerful cards (often combo enablers) because they tend to be monetarily expensive; so, oftentimes when constrained by budget, it’s best to look for synergy and flexible cards.
Of my $50 budget I used 20 percent on three cards:
Venser, Shaper Savant and Peregrine Drake both dramatically increase the potential of what my deck “can do.” Venser (and Riftwing Cloudskate) both allow me to bounce all permanents (including land) once I get my engine going:
All three of these blink effects exile and return up to two creatures to play and I have three creatures that can return the blink spell to my hand. Thus, this creates a recurring loop that is only constrained by mana to go infinite. These loops (which I’m intimately familiar with from playing Pauper) are in my opinion the most powerful budget synergy in Commander.
Once you have the blink engine going, the key becomes “what is the secondary creature being blinked?” The three most expensive cards in my deck are meant to interact with these loops:
- Peregrine Drake makes infinite mana.
- Venser bounces any permanent (including land) and doubles to return spells on the stack to their owners hand.
- Highcliff Felidar is sort of analogous to Agent of Treachery as a haymaker seven-drop with blink synergy that works within my budget. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to put this Game Night-exclusive card into a deck because I do think it’s a sweet and powerful card that sees almost zero play.
Over the past few months I’ve invested a lot of mental energy into learning how to build and create better budget decks. Nowhere in Magic is the “power level equals budget” more clear cut than mana bases.
One of these cards is essentially “free” and the other costs hundreds of dollars. It’s obvious one card is better because it affords a player more flexibility at little to no opportunity cost (other than money).
In general, most players just want their mana to work properly so that they can cast spells on curve and play the game. Players need to draw enough lands and in the correct distribution to meet the mana requirements of the spells in their hand.
One thing that is stressed in competitive Magic is the importance of maximizing the consistency and efficiency of your mana base. As a result, mana bases have historically been one of the most expensive parts of building a Magic deck.
If the goal is to “optimize” the mana base of a two or more color deck in Commander, the outcome is almost always going to be spending thousands of dollars. One of the interesting things about building budget decks is that while having consistent mana remains an absolutely pivotal part of deck construction, the mana base tends to be an area where I invest less financial resources.
It’s my observation that if you’re on a fixed deck building budget that mana tends to be an area that offers a worse return on investment than any other area; in particular, lands tend to be the worst money sink because basic lands are already really good and have no monetary value. You’re always upgrading slots in your deck that were “free” before.
I tend to use my mana budget on acceleration and fixing in the form of mana rocks or ramp spells. In today’s Brago deck, these were the only mana cards I chose to invest more than a quarter into:
I’ve played a lot with the Commander Precon decks (which don’t play a ton of mana fixing) and that experience has changed how I feel about fixing in Commander especially when building on a budget. A mana rock, such as a signet, on the second turn that accelerates AND fixes is an awesome play whereas a 2-color nonbasic isn’t nearly as impactful. As a result, when constrained by budget I’d much rather default to more Basic Lands and play more rocks, mana dorks, or ramp accelerates that also color fix.
If I had a bigger budget, I think some of the individually most impactful cards would be more mana acceleration and ramp.
I already have Dramatic Reversal in the deck as a way to go infinite with two creatures that return instants or sorceries to hand and Ghostly Flicker, so more artifact mana not only makes practical sense for turn-two deployment but also has endgame combo applications.
I’ve found it to be the case that a free-mulligan also takes some pressure off of your mana base. In a budget deck, I like to play a few extra basics to compensate for the lack of dual land color-fixing and make sure I’m mulliganing hands that are land-light.
A big part of what I enjoy so much about playing Commander is the fact that most of the people I’ve played with tend to have a much less competitive attitude toward playing Magic. Sure, everybody wants to win the game and make good plays, but I don’t think people leave the store upset when they don’t win. At least, I don’t feel that way, which is very different from my experience playing online Magic during the pandemic.
I also enjoy building new decks and trying them out once a week and then moving on and building something else. Even though I have a relatively large collection of cards and have been focused on building budget decks, it still adds up in terms of dollars and cents over time. With that said, I do think it is possible to build focused, highly playable and most importantly fun decks even on a budget.