Welcome to the third of five Commander 2021 precon budget upgrades! Last time, we rewrote the Silverquill Statement list, and this time I’ll be taking a look at Witherbloom Witchcraft.
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 are 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.
Our commander this time around is Willowdusk, Essence Seer:
Willowdusk is pretty slow and requires a lot of work, but once you’re going off with some serious life gain or loss, you can reap some enormous rewards. The idea of gaining six or more life on a turn, dropping that many counters on something and then attacking is fantastic, and you can work in a lot of different themes – big life gain, lots of small life gains with triggers based on that, +1/+1 counters, intentional life loss and more.
Here’s the deck list as it stands out of the box:
Witherbloom Witchcraft Preconstructed Deck
This deck is actually my favorite of the three I’ve seen as far as out of the box playability. They’re all fairly reasonable, but this one combines a nice high land count with a lack of distracting themes, though the average mana value is still fairly high – 3.88 without lands, just like the Silverquill list. The creature count feels a little low at just 23, so I’ll be working on that.
That said, I’m only changing out 15 cards, which is potentially also evidence that this deck is decent out of the box. Just five creatures get the axe – but which ones?
I’d prefer to commit harder to a Food theme, and that would probably involve swapping Gyome in as the major player.
Don’t get me wrong – I love this card. It’s just that the Food thing is a bit of a sideline, the creature count is low and I’m not convinced cracking Food is how we want to spend our mana.
The landlocked Nighthawk will be replaced with something better, I promise.
This deck has surprisingly good card draw, and the Sapling is such a slow, plodding engine that I’m not convinced of its efficacy. I’m also surprised to see it in a deck with so few creatures.
Besides the confusion this card causes, we have enough graveyard recursion that I don’t actually want to turn our creatures into weird Forests.
I’m bringing in 11 total creatures to up the count to 29 total – here’s what I’m adding!
These creatures have one thing in common: they gain us life. Disciple of Bolas can turn a juiced-up creature covered in counters into a huge advantage while Nighthawk Scavenger can make great use of a bunch of counters and grow every turn thanks to the synergy between lifelink and our commander. Scavenging Ooze is a great way to trigger life gain synergies while also eating up graveyards.
Spike Feeder also gains us life, and the synergy with our commander is incredible – use counters to gain twice that much life, then deliver an even bigger number of counters to the Feeder. Doom Whisperer is an easy way to lose life on command, which can also help fuel that Feeder engine among other things. Finally, Sakura-Tribe Elder didn’t fit neatly on another graphic, but it’s a good card, especially since we have some ways to bring creatures back from the yard.
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose adds another way to defeat our opponents via our own life gain alongside Defiant Bloodlord and Sanguine Bond, while Lisette synergizes with our life gain by distributing counters. Valentin isn’t so bad in a pinch, as he provides you with a steady stream of Pests!
These three cards synergize with the counters our commander distributes. Fertilid turns them into ramp, Triskelion makes them into damage and of course, Mindless Automaton makes them into delicious cards.
We’ve spent $27.90 so far, which is unusually high for this point in the breakdown. That said, since we’re changing out such a small number of cards, I’ve been able to put more money into some of the individual card choices.
We’re cutting eight noncreature spells to compensate for the imbalance shown above. Here’s what goes out.
In a deck more focused on triggers off life gain and sacrificing things, this would be amazing – Savra, Queen of the Golgari, in particular, comes to mind as an ideal commander. I was torn on cutting this, Sangromancer or Pulse of Murasa, and it was my last cut, so take this one with a grain of salt.
We have two other solid wraths, and I felt like a third was overkill.
The tokens won’t be as valuable as they would be in many other decks, and the card is just so variable in outcome that it felt like an easy cut. This was my second-to-last cut, but I’m a bit more sure about this than I am about Blight Mound.
We’re not in real danger of decking ourselves, so this seems like a waste of a slot.
More dedicated ramp effects are stronger than this – I’m no fan of this compromise-style card.
Four mana is far too much to pay for this, in my opinion.
With Scavenging Ooze coming in, this can safely make an exit.
If we were more focused on sacrifice synergies and/or Food tokens, I’d be all about this, but as things stand I’m not convinced this pulls its weight.
I’m bringing in just two noncreature spells. Here they are:
Lightning Greaves helps us use our commander more often and with a greater degree of safety. Retribution of the Ancients is totally different and gives us another axis on which to use the +1/+1 counters we’re generating. I was between Retribution and Font of Agonies for this spot, but I felt this was the right choice based on speed and cost. If you’re playing cards like Wall of Blood, Font of Agonies is probably better.
We’re now up to $35.75, leaving plenty of room for a small swap of just two lands. Here’s what comes out:
This will come into play tapped so often that I’m not even going to complain about the lack of Food synergy.
By now you know I’m no fan of this ruiner of opening hands.
Which two lands come in, and how can we spend a significant chunk of our budget on them? Well, here’s how:
Castle Locthwain can be a great way to spend some life and turn that into card advantage, while Woodland Cemetery is a card you’ll want almost no matter how high your budget gets for land in this build. Sure, it’s likely to get reprinted eventually and lose some of that value, but these cards tend to bounce back – there’s always another Commander deck, which means there will be a decent amount of demand for lands like this until they get massively overprinted.
Okay, that’s the full upgrade, and we’ve spent a total of $48.25! Normally I chip away at the budget a dollar or two at a time, so it was interesting to take things in a bit of a different direction this time around. Here’s the full deck list – see you next time!