We’re finally in the home stretch. Today, I put the finishing touches on my Commander 2020 Budget Precon Upgrades series!
Here’s the premise: I take each preconstructed deck and make an improvement to it on a $50 budget. That budget doesn’t include tax or shipping, and it uses ChannelFireball.com singles prices, of course. I recognize that $50 means a different amount to everyone – for some it’s a little, for some it’s a lot – but given its proximity to the cost of the decks, I find it’s a pretty good amount. To make sure I have a cohesive theme, I stick with the Commander that you see on the front of the box for the deck and use that to guide my choices.
This week, I’ll be upgrading the Ruthless Regiment deck featuring Jirina Kudro.
It’s hard to get more linear than Jirina’s plan wants you to get – play Humans and attack with Humans. Jirina is ready to go back to the command zone and get recast, as every time she does, she brings more friends. We’ll be augmenting this plan with more Humans, better Humans, some improved utility cards, and greater consistency.
As we go on, I’ll list the prices of cards I intend to add to the deck in order to show you how I kept the budget under $50. Obviously I’m pulling those prices from this very website, ChannelFireball.com, as I write. The prices may have changed as of the publication of this article, which means the overall cost might be lower or higher, and some cards may be out of stock now. Apologies in advance for the mild inconsistency depending on when you read this, but I think the point remains (the point being that you can build a fun deck that can win in non-competitive Commander without spending all your money.)
Here’s the original decklist for Ruthless Regiment – you can find all the decklists on the Commander 2020 info page here.
As I make these upgrades, I try to keep the creature/noncreature/land balance close to the balance in the original decklist. This week, I’ve made some intentional changes to that balance – we’re going down two non-creatures to add a creature and a land, so you’ll see an imbalance as we move through this process.
Let’s start with the six creatures I’m cutting. Yes, only six – the creature base is actually quite good in this deck.
Humble Defector is fantastic in my Xyris deck, but here it’s disappointing. (My very good friend Eric likes to play it with Starke of Rath in 10 Ticket Commander, but that’s a different story altogether.) Kelsien shines in a deck built fully around him, but this isn’t going to be anything like that. Magus of the Wheel and Magus of the Disk both represent effects I’m not sure we want – we want to force others to wrath, and in the late game, I expect other players’ 7 card draws to be more powerful than ours. Verge Rangers doesn’t actually ramp and thus really isn’t worth the card. Finally, Titan Hunter just doesn’t seem like it does enough for the cost and wants to be replaced by something more proactive.
Don’t worry – all seven creatures we’re adding are Humans. Here’s the lineup:
Champion of the Parish ($1.25)
With all the Humans in the deck, this is solid even in the late game. If someone casts a 6-mana Wrath, recovering by playing this followed by a 2-tax Jirina Kudro gives you a board of a 3/3 Jirina, two 3/1 tokens, and a 6/4 Champion – not bad for two cards. Obviously the dream scenario is still turn one Champion, though.
We’ll have disposable creatures – other players won’t. Cards like Plaguecrafter are shockingly mana efficient, and this one is the best of its kind.
Mentor of the Meek ($0.65)
Consistent card draw engines are important for aggressive decks, and Mentor of the Meek provides exactly that. It’s often worth slowing down board development a little to draw extra cards, as you never know when the board will be wiped altogether.
Grim Haruspex ($0.99)
Speaking of board wipes, don’t just draw when your creatures enter the battlefield – draw when they die, too.
Syr Konrad, the Grim ($0.29)
I’ve mentioned that our creatures are going to die, right? Syr Konrad makes that proposition even more damaging for opponents while also carrying the Human creature type – it’s a win/win.
Pitiless Plunderer ($2.49)
With all those cards we’ll be drawing, we’ll need some extra mana too. Pitiless Plunderer is particularly amazing at helping to recast Jirina – killing her and her first soldier leaves behind two treasures, which pays for the commander tax. Shiny!
General Kudro of Drannith ($5.49)
He buffs Humans, he messes up graveyards, he takes down big monsters, and he wears a stylish crystalline pauldron. This isn’t nepotism – General Kudro deserves this spot in his daughter’s deck.
Seven cards in, we’re just $11.45 into the budget. Plenty of room remains. Let’s see which noncreature spells I’m cutting:
I almost left the Impetus cycle in this deck, but I realized I needed some more flexibility, and they’re very narrow cards. Bonder’s Ornament is still bad even on the fifth look. Citywide Bust is awkward with our anthem effects, so I decided to cut it and leave Cleansing Nova instead – our Wrath recovery is pretty good. Finally, Nahiri the Harbinger is just a middle of the road card, and we need something more focused.
Here are four great noncreature spells we’ll be adding:
Glorious Anthem ($0.99)
This was almost Always Watching, but I decided it was important to buff our tokens too. Between this, Sanctuary Lockdown, General Kudro, and Thalia’s Lieutenant, we have an okay range of team buffs, though I’d consider adding more if I had the chance.
Generous Gift ($2.19)
Flexible removal is the best removal. I know that means we see the same few removal spells all the time, but I’m honestly fine with that – it’s the proactive cards, not the reactive ones, that I think really set decks apart.
Mana-efficient removal spells like Despark allow us to cast them and other spells in the same turn cycle.
Unbreakable Formation ($1.79)
This deck comes with the ridiculously powerful Flawless Maneuver, but that card can only do so much by itself. Adding another similar card can really put the fear in your opponents when they consider slamming a sweeper.
So, after adding non-creatures, we’re only up to $16.77. What am I doing with the rest of our budget? I’ve never left this much on the table before! Let me explain – I’m setting my sights on the manabase. I think, for an aggressive deck like this, a strong manabase may be the most important thing. The preconstructed version of this deck has only 36 lands, and I’ve moved up to 37 and really improved the selection.
Here are the cuts:
All of these lands, except for Shadowblood Ridge, share an important property: they enter the battlefield tapped (or effectively enter tapped, in Evolving Wilds’s case.) Given the aggressive nature of this deck, I place a premium on minimizing that sort of thing so that we can curve out and present a persistent threat throughout the game. I couldn’t cut them all, but with a larger budget, that would be my next move. Seriously – I’d keep improving the lands before spending another cent on creatures and spells. Here are the lands I’ve chosen to spend the rest of our budget on:
Castle Ardenvale ($2.99)
It enters untapped as long as we have a Plains, which is the basic land we have the most of, and it makes Human tokens. Was I supposed to not play this?
Battlefield Forge was already in the deck, so I gave it some friends. A couple points of life are an acceptable price to pay for smoother early game plays.
The checklands are another great tool for decks of all budgets. Make sure you play enough basics or lands with the appropriate types. If I had the ability to get some shocklands in here, I would have done so already. I’d also play Savai Triome alongside these if I could – I know it enters tapped, but doing so on an opportune early turn or cycling late is a huge boon.
Silent Clearing ($4.99)
The horizon lands are amazing, and I add them to decks whenever I can find the room. Silent Clearing’s price tag certainly gave me the extra motivation – Sunbaked Canyon did not exactly fit on the balance sheet.
Concealed Courtyard ($3.79)
This could have been Inspiring Vantage as well, but not Blackcleave Cliffs – who’s ready for a reprint of the Scars fastlands? Either way, a fastland does what we want here by providing smooth access to multiple colors in the early game.
I suppose I could replace the remaining lands that enter tapped with basics, but at this point, I’m not sweating it. Besides, we only have bouncelands, Nomad Outpost, Path of Ancestry, and some Hideaway lands left, and none of those are all that bad. We’ve spent $48.55, which leaves $1.45 for you to buy a second copy of Caves of Koilos or something. You deserve to have good mana.
The final upgrade is finished, and with that, so is this series. I guess I’ll have to actually think of a new topic next week. If you’re playing Jirina, no matter your budget, tweet your list at @RagingLevine so I can see your take! Here’s the final decklist – I hope you like it.
Commander Ruthless Regiment Budget Upgrade - Eric Levine