Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Cheap Commanders in Magic
Magic's commander format allows cards from any set, greatly expanding your card pool. Choosing the right commander is crucial because they dictate what cards can go in your deck and are available in every match, providing consistent abilities to build around.
Commanders like "Thrasios, Triton Hero" and "Atraxa, Praetors' Voice" work great but cost dozens of dollars—how can you compete without breaking the bank? Here are ten great legendaries for commander format who cost less than five dollars!
10. Taigam, Ojutai Master
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Price (as of this writing): $4
I enjoy two-color decks because they access two factions but don't run a big risk of getting color-screwed. Enter Taigam, who has respectable 3/4 stats and prevents your instant, sorcery, and dragon spells from being countered. Blue is a popular EDH color, so anything that blocks its counterspells helps (just remember Taigam himself can still be countered).
Better yet, when you cast an instant or sorcery from your hand, it gains rebound if Taigam attacked that turn. This means it'll head to exile and let you recast it for free at the start of your next turn! Use Taigam alongside instants, sorceries, and maybe a few dragons for a well-balanced deck. But if you really like dragons...
9. Scion of the Ur-Dragon
Jokingly called "Skittles" for his rainbow colors, Scion mixes all five factions together. This gambles with your mana production, but means any spell is fair game for the deck. Scion himself is a decent 4/4 dragon with flying, but it's his ability you're after, spending two mana to send a dragon from your deck to your graveyard and have Scion become a copy of it until the end of the turn.
This accesses costly dragons like "Atarka, World Render" for much less mana and can quickly rack up 21 life for a commander damage win (Scion still hits for commander damage even when mimicking other creatures).
8. Brago, King Eternal
Like Taigam, Brago mixes blue with white. His stats are a mediocre 2/4, but he has flying and the spirit subtype. More importantly, when Brago inflicts combat damage to a player, you can blink (exile and return to the field) as many of your non-land permanents as you like!
Since most permanents enter untapped, you can refresh attackers (including Brago himself), reuse mana-tapping artifacts like "Sol Ring", and reset the loyalty of your planeswalkers.
7. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
Though he only has 3/5 stats, Golos offers an interesting rainbow commander who accepts any colors; it's his activated ability that sets his color identity. But first, when he enters the field, you get to play and land from your deck tapped, helping search missing colors for his effect.
Then, by spending seven mana (including at least one from each color), Golos exiles the top three cards of your deck, letting you play them (including lands if you have remaining land plays available) that turn without paying their costs! This offers a powerful albeit random effect that you can usually trigger the turn after Golos arrives thanks to his land search.
6. Kraum, Ludevic's Opus
Kraum himself only costs two bucks, but his partner ability lets you pair another partner commander with him; so your total cost depends on who you ally him with (if you want only red/blue, "Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist" is a decent choice).
Your deck's color identity and overall strategy will somewhat depend on Kraum's partner, but he himself provides an impressive 4/4 with flying, haste, zombie synergy, and the ability to draw you a card whenever an opponent casts their second spell during a turn.
5. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
Derevi enters as a solid 2/3 with flying and the useful wizard subtype (plus bird for good measure). Additionally, whenever he enters the field or a creature you control (including himself) deals combat damage to a player, Derevi lets you tap or untap any permanent.
That's a versatile effect with multiple triggers, and it works great at untapping enchanted lands for extra mana. Derevi is also incredibly easy to revive since his activated effect lets you pay four mana to play him from your command zone, skillfully dodging the two-mana-per-revival fee.
My favorite commander for Bant decks, Derevi is cheap even for today's list, costing well under three dollars!
4. Kess, Dissident Mage
For a wizard, Kess has hardy 3/4 stats plus flying. Her ability lets you once per turn cast an instant or sorcery from your graveyard into exile, essentially giving your discarded spells the coveted flashback trait.
Red and black have many self-milling options to quickly fill your graveyard, ensuring you've got plenty of cards to cast. And Kess happens to share the color scheme of Nicol Bolas for players interested in using the villainous planeswalker.
3. Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
Similar to Golos, Najeela's actual cost is pretty flexible (only needing one red mana), it's her triggered ability that sets her rainbow color identity. But first things first; Najeela is a 3/2 who lets you create a 1/1 attacking warrior token whenever your warrior swings. Since this counts both Najeela and warrior tokens created on previous turns, you can rapidly swarm the field with creature fodder.
Sure, the tokens are pretty weak, but Najeela can empower your team by spending one mana of each color to untap all attacking creatures, give them haste, trample, and lifelink for the turn, and provide an extra combat phase that turn. This quickly overwhelms foes with consecutive attacks from boosted creatures—and you'll be creating more tokens along the way.
2. Baral, Chief of Compliance
I prefer commanders with lower mana costs because if they die, recasting them isn't hard. Enter Baral, an excellent pick for mono-blue themes. His stats are an average 1/3, but he has the wizard subtype and discounts your instants and sorceries by one mana!
Plus, whenever your spell or ability counters a spell, you can draw and discard a card; your hand size won't change, but you'll cycle through your deck and prep your graveyard.
1. Zur the Enchanter
Zur begins as an unimpressive 1/4 with flying, though he at least has the wizard subtype. But his excellent effect lets you play an enchantment of cost three or less from your deck when Zur attacks!
I appreciate how this triggers just from the attack, not needing to actually hit players. You can choose any kind of enchantment, but I recommend picking auras to boost Zur right before he strikes.
Prebuild Commander Decks in Magic
Today we've explored many budget-tight commander options, but remember that even after picking, your deck still needs 99 other cards, which can again increase cost. One solution is to shell out for a prebuilt commander deck, which I find far better than standard prebuilts.
Choosing mono-color themes also lets you fill your deck with basic lands (which you can get for cheap), but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next set of legendary creatures, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill