Hello readers and fellow EDH enthusiasts! The fine people of Commander Society have seen your requests for budget EDH articles and I’m here to deliver. I’ve been a longtime lover of budget magic, so this piece comes from the heart.
bEDH, Budget Elder Dragon Highlander, is every bit as competitive as non-budgeted forms. When dealing with a budget, price becomes a metric that you have to measure when deckbuilding. It’s important to get the most “bang for your buck”. Cards like Volcanic Island have very little instrumental value to a deck when it takes up the entirety of your deck’s budget. Cards like Shivan Reef, Temple of Epiphany, and Izzet Boilerworks provide similar fixing at a much cheaper price. With this in mind deckbuilding becomes even more challenging. You will find yourself building for efficiency, consistency, and lethality. These values are important for all EDH decks but need to be taken into greater account when your budget prevents you from just playing the “best” cards.
An Asheville EDH friend of mine, Alex Walker, has begun hosting $200 budget EDH tournaments. While not everyone has a $200 budget for edh, many of the card choices and principles still apply. Let’s start our look at bEDH through focusing on efficiency.
The first principle of bEDH is efficiency, which I personally feel is exemplified in this list. As such, many of the cards in this deck will pull double duty and if you want to know about that make sure to read the notes on the individual choices contained within the decklist. Without further adieu, 1st place winner, Azami, Lady of Scrolls.
Azami, Lady of Budget Combos
Many Azami, Lady of Scrolls combo decks can be described as nothing short of quintessential for the combo archetye of EDH.
One of the most powerful things about Azami, Lady of Scrolls is that she is literally half of your combo. Having access to a powerful card draw engine that doubles as a combo piece is what allows her to have such great efficiency.
Not only that, you are playing a mono-colored deck. This allows for a much larger budget to be allocated to non-land cards. You can see in the list that I have taken advantage of that with cards such as: Intuition, Academy Ruins, Mana Vault, Rings of Brighthearth, Palinchron, and of course Mind Over Matter. The well known and feared combo for the deck is to resolve a Mind Over Matter while having Azami on the board. This allows you to tap Azami to draw a card then discard that card to untap her. Effectively, you get to loot through your entire deck looking for Laboratory maniac. Make sure you have at least 3 cards in your hand when you begin (2 if you control a Sol Ring). Once you have the Laboratory Maniac you can then discard the 3 other cards to untap your lands and cast the laboratory Maniac and finish looting your deck for the win. This is the most well-known combo in the deck, and it can allow for explosive turn 4-6 wins. However, while being extremely easy to set up Mind Over Matter is only able to be searched for with Long-Term Plans. Which essentially is a 3 mana instant speed demonic tutor when you have a few wizards.
With the release of Paradox Engine the deck has a new way to win that is much more easily searched for. The Mind Over Matter line is still very powerful and important. Having such an easy combo allows you to play reactively until your opponents are tapped out so that you can jam your combo and win instantly. The ability to switch modes from a control deck to a combo deck in an instant is one of Azami’s greatest strengths.
Paradox Engine allows for a new way to play the deck. Similar to storm decks, Paradox Engine allows you to draw immense amounts of cards by casting wizards to untap Azami and your other wizard minions. You draw and cast cards until you have a couple mana rocks. Usually two mana rocks is all you need to be able to continue the chain. Between the low CMC wizards and producing 2-3 mana every cast, you should be able to draw a substantial portion of your deck. This allows you to then follow up with the Mind over Matter combo or naturally draw into the Laboratory Maniac win. Paradox Engine being an artifact allows for lots of tutor options (cheap spells like Fabricate, Intuition, Long-term Plans, and Whir of Invention) to get it, making it much more reliable than Mind over Matter.
Using your Intuition
Intuition can look like a fair tutor to newer players but very often decks that use the card either use their graveyard or force players into picking 1 of 3 cards, where all three of the cards are capable of winning the game depending on the situation.
- Paradox Engine, Recall / Reconstruction / Buried Ruin / Academy Ruins; You will always get your Paradox Engine
- Long-Term Plans, Whir of Invention, Fabricate; Get the Paradox Engine or another half of your combo, when you fear grave hate
- Rings of Brighthearth / Basalt Monolith, Recall, Reconstruction; To finish your combo if you have the other piece
- 3 Counter Spells -> When you really need the counter backup
Recall and Reconstruction allow for any artifact to be tutored for with intuition, which is extremely useful for the deck. However, there many other piles you can create. The card is rather nuanced and playing it is usually required to appreciate it’s power.
Stop. Combo Time.
Azami, Lady of Scrolls is one of the queens of combo. Many cards that are designed to function as combo pieces are also good support cards for creating value or solving problems.
Basalt Monolith is a fantastic mana rock when needed, and Rings of Brighthearth can copy Azami draws in a pinch. It’s surprising how much you can do with the combo cards when you need to. I’d say the weakest of the bunch outside the combo is Palinchron, but its untap land ability is so powerful that it’s worth it. Here is a detailed list of my combos:
- Azami, Lady of Scrolls + Mind Over Matter -> Loot through deck for Laboratory Maniac and Win.
- Enclave Cryptologist (level 3) + Mind Over Matter -> The same as the Azami combo, great for when Azami has been countered too many times to cast.
- Palinchron + High Tide + 6 islands -> infinite mana
- Palinchron + High Tide + X islands + X Blue Devotion + Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx -> Infinite mana
- Palinchron + high tide + 6 islands + Drowner Initiate -> Mill your opponent’s decks out.
- Rings of Brighthearth + Basalt Monolith + 2 mana to start -> Infinite colorless mana, great for Diviner’s Wand to draw your entire deck. When Lab Man has somehow been removed it also allows azami to Commander Damage people out of the game.
- Enter the Infinite -> There are lots of ways to generate arbitrarily large amounts of mana and this one card combo should win you the game.
- Mind Over Matter, Basalt Monolith / Mana Vault -> discarding a card nets 3 mana, good for quickly casting an Enter the Infinite.
There are few cards you are truly afraid of having your opponents resolve. A 5/5 with flying haste? No worry that still gives you at most 8 turns before it becomes an issue. However, there are a few cards that you need to be especially aware of and never let resolve:
- Notion Thief: This is the big one, there are ways to interact with it once it hits the board but this guy is a budget Azami deck’s worst nightmare. The best way around this (as well as most of these silver bullets) is to assemble an infinite mana combo and use Diviner’s Wand to draw your deck. Stacking enough triggers will kill the notion thief player and allow you to continue.
- Cursed Totem: Shutting off azami for 2 mana is incredibly powerful, luckily we don’t need her to win. This card shuts down Azami, shuts down Diviner’s Wand, Palinchron, and a slew of other cards. If for some reason you can’t answer it there is hope. Casting an Enter the Infinite will seal the game up. You have the added bonus of becoming less of a target when people think you’ve been shutdown.
- Creature stealing effects: You have to be wary of letting these resolve. Sometimes they just want that big guy to your left, but others they will just grab azami and shut off your main card draw engine.
- Iona, Shield of Emeria: While not being particularly budget friendly (she’s gotten cheaper though!) Iona is a massive threat to most mono color decks. You have the tools to win under one but it’s pretty hard and takes some crafty plays.
- Pithing Needle / Phyrexian Revoker: Once again, negation for azami’s abilities is pretty rough because it turns our wizards that draw cards into wizards that don’t draw cards.
Azami Brings it All Together
This deck and its combos wouldn’t be possible without Azami because she enables all the cheap wizards to have a secondary ability of “tap: draw a card”. This is an almost unmatched level of card draw efficiency in EDH and if we didn’t have Azami we would have to equip our deck with other tools like card draw spells, which are not always as efficient.
In the next part of this mini-series we will be delivering a Arjun, the Shifting Flame deck that came second in our $200 tournament!