Reyhan and Ikra Budget Golgari Deck Tech
- Ryan Scicluna
Building a Commander deck is a fun, but daunting task, especially if you are on a tight budget. In this article, I will try to explain the thought process of building on a budget using cards which cost less than three euros each.
Partners have been tearing up Commander ever since Command 2014 first revealed paired Commanders to the metagame. They offer versatility out of the Command Zone while also effectively adding an extra card to your hand at all times. Since we are building on a budget, we want to maximize any advantage we can get. As such, I want to build a partner commander deck, but instead of using partners with different color identities, I'll use two Golgari commanders so that the deck can be more focused with an easier land base, but still flexible thanks to the different abilities of the commanders. Even though both commanders care about different things, we can make them work together. Let's look at the commanders:
Reyhan, Last of the Abzan is a 1GB Human warrior that comes into play with 3 +1/+1 counters. Reyhan has the ability to move +1/+1 counters from creatures that die onto other creatures. This means that Reyhan cares about +1/+1 counters, but also grows other creatures when other creatures with +1/+1 counters die.
Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper allows us to gain life equal to a creature's toughness each time that creature deals combat damage to a player. As a result, our larger creatures will give us a lot of life when they hit opponents. Even though this doesn't seem to synergize with Reyhan, we can use Ikra's ability with Reyhan's ability to make our creatures bigger and play an aggro deck without worrying about leaving ourselves open with no blockers, since we can gain life each time our creatures connect with a player.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The strategy of the deck will be using +1/+1 counters to make our creatures big so that when we swing, we deal damage and gain life. In the long run this will create a huge life swing between you and your opponents, eventually winning by smashing face. The fact that Reyhan moves +1/+1 counters when creatures die makes it hard for other players to really get value out of their spells, since if they target a creature with counters on it, they are simply making another creature bigger. This deck can also afford to swing with everything on every single turn (making sure to deal damage to a player) thanks to the life gain, which makes it harder for opponents to deal lethal damage to us.
The weakness of this strategy comes from its reliance on creatures. This makes board wipes very dangerous as they kill everything at once, leaving Reyhan's second ability wanting. Also, the strategy depends on the commanders being present on the board, which can result in players targeting one with removal to make it hard for you to keep them both on the board. Another possible weakness is commander damage. Even though we can gain a lot of life, if a single commander deals 21 damage to us, we still lose the game.
Building the Deck
Our budget cuts staple +1/+1 counters cards like Doubling Season and Primal Vigor, as they are way over our budget. There are alternatives, though, which are functionally similar, but much cheaper. When building on a budget, the approach is always the same: find cards that help or synergize with our strategy, check whether the card fits the budget stipulation (costs less than three Euros in this case) and if it doesn't, try to find similar alternatives.
Deck building requires doing some research. There is no shame in looking at other decks and trying out ideas from decklists shared online. Some of the most useful tools I use when looking for cards for a new deck include EDHREC, Tappedout, and Scryfall. EDHREC is an amazing database, which has very insightful deck breakdowns. Players can look up a particular commander and see the most commonly played cards in that deck. The next website I like to browse while deck building is Tappedout. This is a community driven database where anyone can make an account and upload decklists for everyone else to see. The last tool I use is Scryfall, which is a powerful search engine that gives you access to a really well-designed advances search feature, allowing you to find cards with very vague descriptions.
Our main goal for this deck is to cast as many creatures with +1/+1 counters or give our creatures a bunch of +1/+1 counters. For this reason, a huge chunk of the deck has to support this strategy. With any deck that involves counters, increasing the number of counters you add per trigger is incredibly valuable. As already mentioned, Doubling Season, the staple card for such strategies, is way out of reach for our budget. But there are cards in budget that help us place counters. Kalonian Hydra doubles all +1/+1 counters on our creatures each time it attacks. Corpsejack Menace also doubles +1/+1 counters and Winding Constrictor gives us an extra counter any time a counter is put on something. We can also add Hardened Scales, but it admittedly fluctuates price-wise, and is sometimes above our three euro budget.
Since we are playing with +1/+1 counters, certain cards come to mind like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Hangarback Walker, Walking Ballista, Primordial Hydra, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. These cards, however, aren't 100% essential to our strategy and are comfortable above our budget. As an alternative, there are some powerful budget friendly options in Managorger Hydra and Forgotten Ancient, as both get +1/+1 counters each time a player casts a spell. Managorger can become a huge threat early on since it has trample while the Forgotten Ancient can help us move +1/+1 counters onto other creatures. Rishkar, Peema Renegade puts two +1/+1 counters on up to two creatures and allows us to use creatures with counters on them for green mana. Champion of Lambholt becomes a huge threat if left unchecked as it gets bigger each time we play a creature. It also makes our creatures very hard to block the bigger it gets. Similarly Gyre Sage gets bigger each time a bigger creature comes into play while also giving you more mana the bigger it gets. Scavenging Ooze can get rid of cards from graveyards and also get us counters, while Experiment One can be very difficult for your opponents to get rid of, since by removing counters we can keep on regenerating it. Yahenni, Undying Partisan gets counters each time a creature dies and gains indestructibility by removing counters. Vulturous Zombie gets counters each time a card is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere. Mer-Ek Nightblade and Tuskguard Captain give creatures with counters on them deathtouch and trample respectively.
Scourge of Skola Vale can get really big by sacrificing creatures with counters on them. While Reyhan is in play, Scourge of Skola Vale gets double the +1/+1 counters. Varolz, the Scar-Striped can give all our creatures in the graveyard the "Scavenge" ability, which lets us exile a creature and pay it's CMC so that we can put a number of +1/+1 counters on another creature equal to the exiled creature's power. Mephidross Vampire makes all our creatures vampires and gives them the ability to gain counters time they deal damage to a creature while Necropolis Regent gives our creatures the ability to gain counters each time they deal damage to a player. With both in play, whenever our creatures attack, they will get +1/+1 counters. Ob Nixilis, the Fallen can drain an opponent for three while becoming huge. Avatar of the Resolute is an elemental that can enter the battlefield with a number of counters on it equal to the number of creatures with counters on them. Predator Ooze gets bigger just by attacking and since it's indestructible, it makes it a nuisance for our opponents.
Vigor changes all damage done to our creatures into +1/+1 counters, making our creatures even harder to block. Decree of Savagery, Verdurous Gearhulk, Lifecrafter's Gift and Increasing Savagery put counters on our creatures making them even bigger. Death's Presence is an enchantment that allows us put a number of counters on target creature equal to the power of one of our creature that dies.
This deck relies heavily on +1/+1 counters, so in order to maximize that strategy, we shouldn't add any life gain cards. Since just having Ikra out while we attack will give us life based on our creatures' stats, it would be a better strategy to make our creatures bigger and protect Ikra while she is out on the battlefield. Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots should help us do just that. We can also include Sanguine Bond in the deck as a sleeper card, which our opponents won't see coming until it's too late. If we draw Sanguine Bond and play it late game when we have a board full of creature ready to strike an opponent's, we might be able to kill two players with one single attack. Of course it will be very hard to have the enchantment out in every single game but since we have access to our commander with the life gaining ability anytime we want, Sanguine Bond is always an extra finisher. On another note, a good strategy is to only cast Ikra before combat on our turn, when we have a big creature that will probably be able to hit a player. This will guarantee (up to an extent) that we gain some life after damage calculations.
Ramp and Draw
We are playing green so ramping should not be a problem. This makes it easier to find spells on a budget as we do not have to rely on expensive artifacts. Spells like Kodama's Reach, Cultivate, Explosive Vegetation and Sakura-Tribe Elder let us search for basic lands and put them on the battlefield. Artifacts such as Sol Ring and Golgari Signet are a must in this deck as well. I also included Ashnod's Altar as a sacrifice outlet, which can trigger Reyhan and Death's Presence. Awakening Zone is a good way to create creatures and mana every turn.
Our budget restricts us from any powerful tutor cards such as Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Tutor, so we have to increase our draw power if we don't want to run out of gas. Vampiric Rites is another sac-outlet to trigger Reyhan and Death's presence while drawing us cards. Harmonize and Inspiring Call are powerful spells, which draw us cards and Inspiring Call also gives our creatures with +1/+1 counters indestructible. Similarly Armorcraft Judge draws us a card for each creature with counters on it, while Lifeblood Hydra gains us life and draws us cards when it dies equal to the number of counters on it. Lifecrafter's Bestiary lets us scry before we draw and if we cast a creature we can pay G to draw a card.
Black, as a color, has an endless supply of removal spells but the budget restrictions mean we cannot go for the most common or obvious choices. Cards like Damnation, Toxic Deluge, Walking Ballista, Vraska, Relic Seeker, and Abrupt Decay are powerful cards, but unfortunately out of our reach. As a result we can try to find ways to use our strategy in our favor. For example, Korozda Gorgon is a deathtouch 2/5 Gorgon for 3GB and lets us pay 2 generic mana to remove a counter from our creatures to give a creature -1/-1 until end of turn. This can be a form of removal if we have a lot of +1/+1 counters and mana we can use.
As a means to have removal and card draw on a single card we can run Ob Nixilis Reignited as our only planeswalker card. Sudden Spoiling can be very helpful against our opponents when we are attacking with huge creatures. Golgari Charm is a very flexible spell as it can be used as removal against small creatures or used during combat either to weaken our opponent's creatures or regenerate ours. It can also be used together with Bane of Progress, Krosan Grip, and Putrefy to destroy any artifact or enchantment. Hero's Downfall can get rid of creatures and planeswalkers, while Pernicious Deed can be played early and used as insurance later on in the game. We can even go for Flashbag Marauder, which can get rid of more than one creature (true, the opponents get to choose) but it also allows us to choose which creature to sacrifice. This gives us more control when triggering Reyhan and Death's Presence abilities.
We are playing two colors so mana fixing is not really a big issue. Nonetheless, we still need to find lands that can give us both our colors. Since we can't include cards like Verdant Catacombs, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Overgrown Tomb, we have to find other budget friendly alternatives. Tainted Wood gives us both colors as long as we control a swamp. Golgari Guildgate, Jungle Hollow, Llanowar Wastes, Golgari Rot Farm, Temple of Malady and Hissing Quagmire are all good alternatives for budget builds. Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds are lands that let you search for a basic land and put on the battlefield tapped. Oran-Rief, the Vastwood and Llanowar Reborn both have +1/+1 synergies and thus are auto-includes in this deck. Rogue's Passage can make one of our creatures unblockable, which can result in an easy kill. Decks with only two colors are more likely to have both colors available without the need to spend a lot of money on expensive mana fixing lands. In fact, this deck works fine with 22 basic lands (11 Forest and 11 Swamp) in order to complete the lands package.
The Deck List
This budget deck shouldn't cost more than 50 Euro. This strategy has a lot of really expensive options, but hopefully this article has shown you how to build using some of the cheaper options available. Using some of the tools listed above for deck building can help you find cheap, comparable cards to the more expensive options for whatever strategy you're trying to use. There are certainly a lot of cards that aren't particularly budget friendly that would change this decklist somewhat, but you don't need them to make a powerful deck. Cheap cards don't necessarily lack power, they'll just increase the amount of time necessary to set up winning board states. This deck won't take down games with competitive decks, but it offers a way into this strategy without a huge investment. Remember that Commander is a very personal format, so feel free to tech your favorite cards and change up the list to suit your playgroup and your needs.
What do you think about this build? Did this article help you build on a budget? What would you have done differently? Let us know so that the whole community can learn from each other.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.