Upgrading Prismari Performance on a $50 Budget

We’ve hit our last installment of my $50 upgrades of the five Commander 2021 decks! Last time we upgraded Lorehold Legacies, and this time we’re polishing up Prismari Performance.

Here’s how this process works: I take a preconstructed deck and make an improvement to it 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 right here on ChannelFireball.com to track our costs. All prices were accurate when I wrote this – apologies if prices have changed or cards have gone out of stock since, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.

Here’s our crowd-pleasing commander:



Zaffai is a spellslinger commander, but with a different twist than past iterations. Most spells just net you an extra scry, which sounds pretty small but adds up very quickly. Unlike Talrand, Sky Summoner, you don’t get a creature every time, but once you hit a mana value of five or greater, you get 4/4s, and if you manage to get up to 10 or more, you blast a random opponent for 10 damage. Getting to that 10 value is pretty tough, as it usually requires X-spells, so you really have to make a choice about where to focus your energy. 

Here’s the deck list as it stands right out of the box:


Prismari Performance Preconstructed Deck

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Planeswalker (1)
Cards 99


This deck is definitely undecided in terms of where it falls – big spells or small? Cast tons of cards or make copies? That’s pretty typical for a preconstructed deck, and it’s a good thing, as it allows you to grow in a direction of your choice. I’ll be focusing on trying to make 4/4s in bulk and using effects that copy spells or cast additional spells. I’m also a bit perturbed by the high average mana value here – a whopping 4.55 without lands – in concert with the land count; 37 is pretty low for what we have here. With that in mind, I’ll be trying to reduce that average mana value while also increasing our land count.



Header - Creature Cuts

We’re making 21 swaps today, which is right about the norm – I find myself changing about 20 cards each time I do one of these. Here are the creatures we’re cutting:


Erratic Cyclops

The problem’s in the name – I want my creatures to be reliable, not totally feast or famine. Holding up instants becomes even more damaging when you’re losing value on your Cyclops too.


Humble Defector

I do not know why this card is in this deck list, but I’m happy to send it to my friendly neighborhood Zedruu.


Living Lore

A little slow for my taste. Living Lore also has interesting internal tension, and the effect is pretty good for this deck, but I’d honestly rather have another spell that just does what we want in a more direct way.


Naru Meha, Master Wizard

If we’re not going in on a Wizard theme (and we’re not) it’s hard to justify keeping this overcosted Dualcaster Mage around when we could honestly do better.


We have so few spells that target, which is a shame because a Radiate effect can really go off with magecraft. With that in mind, we could rely on our opponents, or we could just cut this.


Rionya wants to be a commander, not a role player. I’ll set this card aside for some future deckbuilding.


Some politics-focused deck that wants to wreak havoc via goading will love this. We’re not playing that deck.


Header - Creature Additions

How many creatures are we bringing in to replace these seven stalwarts?



Archmage Emeritus is a huge boon to spellslinger decks everywhere – expect this one to outstay its welcome in this format. Goblin Electromancer makes multi-spell turns and copy effects a little easier to pull off via cost reduction.


Header - Noncreature Cuts

So, we’ve spent $3.80. That’s a lot lower than what I normally spend on creatures, but in this case, I think we want to focus on spells. Speaking of spells, what gets cut?


Aether Gale

You’ll get pretty good value out of this, but it’s one of our slower, clunkier spells, and cuts must be made.


Call the Skybreaker

Discard lands? Hilarious. This deck is not going to have time for that.


Elemental Masterpiece

This is lovely if you’re casting it alongside Torrential Gearhulk in Historic but it’s pretty unimpressive in either mode for us here.


In the X-spell version of this deck, this card will shine. We are not playing that version.


Fiery FallTraumatic Visions

I like the modal nature of these cards, but they’re not powerful enough. I’d rather just up our land count.


Hedron Archive (Timeshifted)

As I mentioned previously, I’m souring on this card and beginning to cut it in favor of more two-mana rocks.


These spells that come around once every three turns to provide value are great in the 100-turn game every social player imagines and play a lot worse when you draw them on turn 12 of a 14-turn game.


Letter of Acceptance

I almost replaced this with Commander’s Sphere before deciding to just move away from three-mana rocks as much as possible. 



Is giving your opponent a 4/4 instead of a 1/1 flyer worth moving from sorcery to instant? I’m not sure, but my guess is that Ravenform is a little stronger.


With such a low creature count and no Young Pyromancer/Docent of Perfection/Murmuring Mystic, it’s hard to justify this card. In a more token-focused spellslinger deck, though, I’m in.


Header - Noncreature Additions

So what spells come in? Well, let’s spend some of our budget.


These spells are focused on casting even more spells. Mizzix’s Mastery is the most explosive in the late game, but all three are very powerful and will get you a lot of magecraft triggers.


Copy effects ahoy! Twinning Staff is one of my favorite recently printed cards, and it works really well with these other effects as well as cards like Creative Technique. Once you get to the late game, Reiterate is another great reason to pack extra lands in your build.


More copy effects, albeit in enchantment form. Double Vision does a great impression of Swarm Intelligence and indeed often seems like the better deal when you’re going big. The Mirari Conjecture lets us rebuy a couple of powerful spells and then build up to one big turn, which this deck is all about.


Some defensive cards here. Spell Swindle is obviously a great card in a deck that wants to take big turns, as it saves up some mana for the future. Mystic Confluence and Reality Shift give us more reasons to hold up mana and do cool stuff on other players’ turns, and we already talked about Ravenform.


Given our draw effects, high-cost spells and need for mana, Thought Vessel is worth the price tag.


Header - Land Changes

We’ve now spent $39.10, which leaves us just over $10 to spend on land. We’re cutting two lands, and if you haven’t figured out which ones they are yet, here’s the surprise answer:


Once again, I think this is more of a card for partner decks or decks with commanders costing two or three mana.


Temple of the False God

I don’t know what to say about this card anymore other than I’m done with it. Should I just talk about other things with Temple in their names? I listened to that Stone Temple Pilots song the other day. You know the one I mean. The one everyone who grew up in the 90s knows.

We’re bringing in five lands to up the count to 40. The first two are easy – one basic Mountain, one basic Island. But what are the other three?


Ghost Quarter protects us against nonbasics we might need to get rid of, while Sulfur Falls and Frostboil Snarl help us fix our mana and cast some of our more color-intensive spells on curve.


Header - The Final Deck List

We’ve spent a total of $48.70, and I have to say, I feel pretty good about this upgrade. We’ve lowered the average mana value to 4.41 without lands, and by upping the land count, we’ve done even more to ensure our spells will be castable throughout the entire game. Now that we’re finished with these budget upgrades, I can’t wait to show off some weird brews, so I’ll see you next week with something wild, hopefully. Until next time, here’s the full list!


Prismari Performance $50 Upgrade by Eric Levine

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