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How to build the best budget Commander decks

Building a MTG Commander deck doesn’t have to be expensive - these budget commander decks will show you how to invent your own cheap deck builds.

Budget Commander Decks - card art from Greed by Izzy, showing a young man in golden robes on a golden throne in a gold-strewn treasure room vomiting coins onto the floor

Despite being a casual MTG format, a 100 card Commander deck can be incredibly expensive, as you struggle to fit format staples and powerhouse rares into your budget. This article uses example decks to explain how to build the best budget Commander decks, each of which demonstrates key principles for keeping costs low.

We have a separate guide to the best Commander precon decks, which are (almost always) a great value way to get an MTG Commander deck. Precons are good to go, and the real question for them is which expensive MTG cards to upgrade them with. You could also look into using MTG proxies for the most colossally expensive cards, for casual play.

This guide takes a different approach. We’ve picked three MTG commanders that, thanks to unique abilities and other factors, mean you can really drive the cost of your deck to rock bottom. The decks are fun to play, have clear game plans, and illustrate the principles you can follow to create your own, original budget decks.

Budget Commander decks - the MTG card Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph, a three-armed desperado

Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph

Transform your chaff into gas with a unique static ability.

Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph trades for around $8 – not crazy money, but not an amount you can afford to pay for every card in a budget deck. Starn’s abilities turn otherwise awful cards into real powerhouses; by spending money on him (and one or two enabler cards) you can build a deck from dirt cheap cards.

Starn has a static ability that reads “Whenever another source you control deals exactly 1 damage to a permanent or player, Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph deals 2 damage to that permanent or player”. This triples the damage caused by spells and abilities that do exactly one damage, changing them from a plink into a lightning bolt, as well as from one power weenies.

Budget Commander decks - the MTG card Basilisk Collar, with art of an Alsation dog wearing a spiked collar

Equip Ghyrson with a Basilisk Collar (or a Gorgon’s Head, Gorgon Flail, or Quietus Spike) to grant him Deathtouch, and suddenly those plinks will now kill most creatures – the kind of upgrade that makes junk like a Rod of Ruin look perfectly playable.

Just about every MTG set has a red sorcery that does one damage to each creature an opponent (or every opponent) controls – with an equipped Ghyrson on the board, that becomes a one-sided board sweeper (indestructible creatures, and creatures with protection from red or blue not withstanding).

Because Ghyrson inflicts the damage, his plinks are an inevitable route to victory via Commander damage. Most sets have a draft common common or uncommon that can repeatedly inflict one damage on each opponent just by playing other cards, like Firebrand Archer or Erebor Flamesmith.

If you’ve played for a while, you can probably pull together a Starn deck from your bulk commons and uncommons. A commander could be much more expensive than Starn and still be the core of a budget deck, provided it has a similar ability to turn chaff cards into powerhouses.

Budget Commander decks - the MTG card Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, a white fox person wearing a ceremonial kimono

Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice

Monocolor commanders mean cheap, monocolor lands

A big contributor to the cost of most Commander decks is the MTG land package required to support its mana base. A four or five color Commander deck needs to run a MTG fetch lands, shock lands, triomes, and more, if it’s going to have a chance of casting its commander on time.

Monocolor commanders are the complete opposite – sleeve up 36 basic lands and you’ll have a perfectly playable deck. For this example we’re using Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice, a monowhite commander who wins by stacking up a pile of buffs and then inflicting commander damage (a Voltron build).

Like Ghyrson, she greatly boosts the effectiveness of a cheap card type: auras. Auras tend to be cheaper than equipment with similar abilities, because your opponent can use a single removal spell to destroy a creature and every aura attached to it.

Light-Paws doesn’t negate this, but she does double the return on investment you get for casting an aura spell. She has a static ability that means whenever an aura spell that you cast hits the battlefield, you can search your library for another aura that costs as much or less, and put it into play attached to Light-Paws.

Budget Commander decks - the MTG card angelic gift, with art of a human lifted into the air by four glowing white wings

This means every aura you cast turns into two auras on the battlefield – mitigating the sting of being blown out. Auras that have card draw attached, like Angelic Gift or Rune of Sustenance, put cards back into your hand, letting you skimp on expensive white card draw spells.

Totem-Guide Hartebeest and Heliod’s Pilgrim are both cheap creatures that act as MTG tutors for aura cards, letting you find the removal auras in your deck that Light-Paws can’t summon, while Auramancer and Archon of Falling stars can pull important auras back from the graveyard.

Because Light-Paws’ ability puts an aura into play attached to her without casting it, if she ever gains the Shroud ability she will be protected from enemy spells but still able to suck up more auras.

The aura Favorable Destiny is dirt cheap, and provides her with Shroud as long as you control another creature, while the shroud-granting equipment Lightning Greaves and Whispersilk Cloak are more expensive but very useful for any Voltron commander.

And because you’re running a cheap monocolor manabase, you’ve got the cash spare for those cards, and more fun stuff besides.

Budget Commander decks - the MTG card Zada, Hedron Grinder, a goblin crouched in a weathered mountain passage

Zada, Hedron Grinder

Uncommon commanders can still be powerful

Zada, Hedron Grinder represents a whole class of uncommon legendary creatures who cost pennies and make for excellent commanders. Like Light-Paws she’s monocolored, and as with both the previous commanders, she also turns a cheap card type into a powerhouse; in this case, single-target pump spells.

Single-target pump spells are rarely seen in Commander outside of Poison decks, because their effect – helping a single creature win a single combat – is so small compared to the infinite combos, massive token armies, and other nonsense that the format is known for.

Zada flips the script: any Instant and Sorcery you cast that targets only Zada is copied for each creature you control, with each copy targeting one of those creatures. This turns every single-target pump spell into a mass pump spell, granting massive damage for a low mana investment.

Budget Commander decks - the MTG card Expedit, close up on a person's legs as they run, with red lightning crackling from their soles

Any card that targets a creature and has a cantrip effect also becomes a mass card draw spell: cast a one mana Crimson Wisps or Expedite targeting Zada, and you’ll draw a card for each creature you control.

Zada is also a nice budget entry point to build a dedicated MTG goblins typal deck. She doesn’t have any synergy with goblins per se, but she wants to run alongside cheap creatures and spells that generate multiple bodies, and he is a goblin himself. Start with Zada, and build up your goblin density ‘til you’re ready to pivot to a Muxus, Goblin Grandee deck.

With more and more uncommon legendary creatures printed with every set, there’s a whole tranche of powerful commanders who don’t command premium prices.

After running down these decks, we’d be remiss not to point out YouTube Channel The Commander’s Quarters, which is absolutely packed with budget commander deck builds and pointers for finding savings:

YouTube Thumbnail

Hopefully this article leaves you inspired to pore through your bulk collection and invent your own budget Commander deck. If you do spot a particularly gnarly card, check the MTG Commander banlist just to make sure it isn’t so good that it’s illegal!

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