Here’s an oxymoron; budget commander. With the prices of magic cards going up, filling up a hundred card slots with one hundred different playable cards on a budget may seem impossible, but after reading this you may have second thoughts. Now here’s a quick disclaimer; although you can create a budget list that does not mean it will always be at its full potential. Due to the nature of magic there will always be better cards, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a competitive list.
To start off a good commander list, in my eyes, begins with an idea. This idea is the foundation in which the deck will be built around, one of these ideas that we will work with is token combo. We then proceed to build on this idea by starting to look for a commander that fits this idea. In this case we can try Zada, Hedron Grinder. If you’re playing on a budget often times you’ll find that finding a good commander that can be reliably cast with a relevant ability will be the core to your strategy since you may not have the funds to spend on powerful cards. Essentially the commander is a re-castable, always-present combo piece or ramp or what have you, this allows for consistency without expensive tutors.
So now that we have a relevant commander we can begin the deck building process. I usually begin by thinking of creatures or token generating spells, especially since we’re playing a token deck. Let’s start with the creatures; first off is Mogg War Marshal. This card does everything we’re looking for when playing a token deck, it is a creature that comes in with a friend, and is on the low end of the curve. Another creature we can choose is Siege Gang Commander. Although he is on the higher end of the curve, he comes in with 3 other tokens and gives the relevant ability to sacrifice a creature to shock your opponent. As a side note when building decks, even in commander, you should always check your curve. Every turn casting a spell or reacting to one is a turn well spent. Other spells you can add to this list is Krenko’s Command. This card, although not a creature, brings in two tokens, adding to your creature count when taking Zada’s ability into consideration. This brings up the point, especially in budget commander, think of your strategy and play around it, sometimes you don’t need expensive cards to strengthen your deck, cards like Krenko’s Command and Dragon Fodder are commons that cost under a dollar.
Now begins the process of adding in utility spells. Cards that I would consider utility are basically everything that isn’t a win condition, so cards that draw cards, removal, counter spells, etc. First I begin by adding in some ramp. This is important as having mana means your able to cast more spells or your getting closer to casting one big spell that wins you the game. Since we are in red we don’t have much access in the ways of ramping with lands, however that doesn’t prevent us from abusing artifacts. Some relevant ramp artifacts are Sol Ring, Fire Diamond, Mind Stone, and Hedron Archive. On a side note, remember to play to the colour’s strength, in this situation we don’t have access to land ramp like green, but red does have access to tinkering with artifacts with cards like Goblin Welder or Hoarding Dragon. Next we add cards like Magmatic Insight and Faithless Looting. These cards help by allowing us to toss lands and draw more cards later in the game where mana is less relevant. Some other hidden gems especially with Zada, include Accelerate, Expedite, and Crimson Wisps. Although they usually only draw a card, with your commander and just three tokens, whether they be 1/1 or 9/9, draw you four cards in total since Zada’s ability allows you to copy the card for each other creature. Other cards you may want to add are, Chaos Warp, Blasphemous Act, Vandalblast, Lightning Bolt, and Reverberate. Remember to be prepared to deal with everything. Also as a little fun addition you can Reverberate Counterspells, effectively countering the counter to your spells and leaving the blue player speechless.
With all that taken care of we begin the win conditions. In this case they are as simple as Brute force, Adrenaline Rush, Downhill Charge, and Fists of the Anvil. Since Zada copies all instants and sorceries that target her, she can replicate pump spells for your whole team, meaning you can attack for 80 damage out of nowhere! However, since this deck is essentially a combo deck, remember not all win conditions come in the form of pump abilities; there may be infinite combos or just really, really big creatures.
In the end what matters in Commander isn’t necessarily the power level of each individual card, it’s the consistency, and the synergistic aspect of the deck. So to improve the consistency of a Commander deck, cards that have the same abilities, also known as effective reprints, like Krenko’s Command and Dragon Fodder, are very important; the more cards with the same text the better, and also don’t ignore the curve. As a final note, the deck list below was made with most of the cards being under a dollar and no card exceeding 4 dollars, and as mentioned in the disclaimer although this deck can win consistently, it can still be improved.
With everything taken into consideration here’s a fully built list:
A final thought. If you are a budget player, try staying away from blue as your main colour, although very powerful tends to be on the expensive side since many of the decks rely on very powerful combos to win the game.