One of the most exciting ways to build a budget deck is taking a theme normally reserved for more expensive decks and making it happen on the cheap. Modern Horizons 2 might not seem like the set that would inspire me to build a budget deck, but I’m happy to report I’ve made something exciting happen. If you’ve ever wanted to play a storm deck in Commander, but you were worried about the expense or the power level, I’ve got just what you’re looking for – a Mono-Red Storm-style budget EDH deck you can build for under $50 that won’t tear your table apart at the seams. So who’s at the helm?
Captain Ripley Vance may look like a tough Commander to work with, but in reality, I think she’s a powerful way to deal some serious damage. You’ll only get one trigger per turn, but there’s plenty we can do to make the most of Ripley’s cannon fire. I’ll be bringing in a few example cards and then showing you the final deck list. Keep in mind that these prices may have changed or cards may have gone out of stock since I wrote this.
One of the easiest ways to get a little extra power out of Ripley is to, well, increase her power! Reckless Charge is two spells in one, which makes it easy to trigger the third spell clause with a six power bonus on that turn. Unleash Fury lets you double up on power for just two mana and has been a big part of my Juri, Master of the Revue deck so far. Downhill Charge can be cast for free and turns every Mountain you control into a point of damage! Some of the usual suspects like Brute Force and Infuriate are also here as well, so fear not – you have options.
One thing that’s important to remember about these spells: you need to cast them early in the chain. If you cast one of them as your third spell, Ripley’s trigger will go on the stack on top of it, so unless you’re in a really tight spot, casting one of these as spell #3 is not recommended.
Throw one of these on Ripley and watch the sparks fly! These aren’t just good when we trigger Ripley – they’re also solid for when she needs to enter combat. We have a lot of pump effects, along with cards like Temur Battle Rage and Rogue’s Passage, so attacking for huge amounts of commander damage isn’t out of the question.
If you’re casting multiple spells in a turn, it’s good to have some additional payoffs. If Ripley isn’t in play, these are great bits of insurance, and if she’s around, she won’t mind having reinforcements. Damaging the whole table can get your opponents a little riled up, though, so make sure to build up some defenses or blow up an opposing creature or two.
Of course, with all of these spells, even though they’re fairly low-cost, (average mana value of this deck is 2.34 with lands) we are going to need some mana. Birgi, God of Storytelling rewards you for any spell you cast, while Storm-Kiln Artist and Runaway Steam-Kin have some specific preferences but allow you to store up mana for future turns via treasures or counters.
Wheel effects are a great way to refill your hand in a red deck, but unfortunately, a lot of them are way out of the price range of most budget decks. The original Wheel of Fortune is worth more than many non-budget lists I’ve built, while even Reforge the Soul is too costly to include.
Luckily, we have some solid options – Wheel of Fate might ask us to wait a little while, but it does help us prepare by spending our cards in advance while also contributing to the Ripley chain on the turn it comes off suspend. Magus of the Wheel is something you can pop when you need to, while Chandra, Flamecaller is valued for being reusable if you can keep her alive.
One easy way to get Ripley going is to recast the same spell over and over again. Ghitu Firebreathing and Crown of Flames are both easily recastable, with Ghitu Firebreathing having the edge on triggering Ripley on opponents’ turns. They also both help increase Ripley’s power for her triggered ability. Grinning Ignus isn’t as flashy, but it gets the job done. All of these also synergize well with actual storm payoffs – and we do have some of those!
Simple red cantrips can be the difference between a successful turn and a big whiff. Renegade Tactics unfortunately requires a target, but the other two are easy to cast and benefit from with no issues, and they’re not the only such cards in the list. We don’t have the power that blue decks do to just chain through cantrips left and right – Veyran decks will love Ripley, by the way – but even in our budget, there are enough for us to get the job done.
Another way to ensure the continued flow of triggers is to make sure you have some extra cards coming in every turn. These are some of the classic ways to make that happen in red. Vance’s Blasting Cannons certainly belongs, both thematically and flavor-wise, and Valakut Exploration helps by turning disappointing land drops into additional cards. Outpost Siege basically only has one mode in this deck, but that’s just fine for the mana cost.
We definitely need a few more payoffs in this deck besides Ripley and the Guttersnipe gang, so I threw in some more traditional storm cards. Grapeshot will help clear a clogged board or, if Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is around, really tear some life totals apart. Empty the Warrens provides a creature base this deck otherwise doesn’t possess outside of Young Pyromancer, and Aria of Flame will set the whole table on fire as long as it manages to stay on the battlefield.
In the average duel, Aria of Flame only needs four triggers to break even on damage vs. life gain, but in Commander, you’re giving away 30 life in most circumstances, which necessitates twice as many, so make sure you’re ready to do some serious damage that turn. If your hand is full of instants, you might even be able to knock a player out in response to Aria’s ETB trigger.
Sometimes you need some powerful cards to help shut the door, and while these cards don’t normally get mentioned in the same article, let alone the same paragraph, they’re both great here. Past in Flames gives you a big turn where you can go off with Ripley and hopefully some storm spells, while Hazoret’s Undying Fury could be the one card that lets you overcome one last opponent as you cruise toward victory.
I managed to put this all together for just about $48.00, which is a fantastic deal for a deck like this – it’s fun, it’s got flashes of brilliance and it can take home some wins against decks that might be on a bit of a higher budget when it clicks.
Of course, if Captain Ripley Vance dies too much, you’re in a little bit of trouble, so if you have ways to upgrade from this version, it might be worth adding more redirection effects alongside Bolt Bend as well as some Equipment to give Ripley hexproof and indestructible. A few blasts to stop countermagic might also be a solid way to move up the ladder a little bit. Here’s the full budget version – enjoy!
$50 Budget Captain Ripley Vance by Eric Levine