This week’s Budget Commander features a brand new commander that I’m in love with: Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor! This commander rewards both you and your opponents for dealing combat damage to anyone but you: if you hit people you draw cards, but if your opponents hit each other then they also get to draw cards! This may sound like a “Group Hug” commander at first glance, but not only will we be drawing more cards than our opponents since we’re building around Gix, it also all but guarantees that as long as Gix is on the battlefield our opponents will be gleefully destroying each other while leaving us alone — nobody can resist “free” card draw!
I’ll show you how to maximize the absurd card draw potential of this praetor, flooding the board with cheap evasive beaters while your opponents help kill themselves for you!
Building Around Gix
Gix is a pretty simple commander. This is our game plan:
- Flood the board with cheap evasive beaters
- Draw tons of cards
- Flaunt our absurd amount of draw by casting card-inefficient spells
- Keep our opponents off-balance by removing their key cards and protecting Gix
- Secure victory!
Step 1: Cheap Evasive Beaters
Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor‘s combat trigger provides card draw for the entire table — provided our opponents are hitting anyone but us. This already makes the ability more beneficial for us because it indirectly protects our life total while strongly encouraging our opponents to lower each other’s life totals instead. However, to really take advantage of Gix we’re going to want to draw away more cards off him than our opponents, and we’re going to do that with cheap evasive beaters.
The best evasive beaters are the cheapest possible (1 mana or 0 mana) and have the best evasion possible. I’d rank evasion options as:
- Can’t be blocked
- Intimidate / Fear
The two best cards in the deck are Changeling Outcast and Tormented Soul. Both are 1-drops with the best evasion in the game — they can’t be blocked. The next best are 1-drop flyers like Battlefly Swarm. After that we’ve got 1-drops with fear or menace (Shadow Alley Denizen) and the worst but still useful are 1-drops with deathtouch (Typhoid Rats). Deathtouch is the worst “evasion” because if your opponents have disposable blockers then they can just choose to block
An evasive beater has to be exceptionally good to be worth spending more than 1 mana to cast. My favorite 2-drop beater in the deck is Hunted Horror since it provides a massive body and the tokens it creates for opponents are strongly encouraged to not swing at you thanks to Gix. Nether Traitor is another allstar in the deck since haste + shadow is a potent combination and you can even discard it down to hand size to recur later. Dauthi Voidwalker is another 2-drop staple as it doubles as powerful graveyard hate, although it’s too pricey for our budget.
Step 2: Utilizing Our Card Draw
Drawing cards isn’t a problem in our deck: we’re going to draw stupid amounts of it every turn. The problem is going to be using all the cards we draw: we can only cast so many spells per turn, especially when we’re not in Green! We don’t want to waste our card draw by discarding down to hand size for no value. Here are some ways we will take advantage of all the cards we draw:
First and foremost we’ve got mana-efficient but card-inefficient spells: March of Wretched Sorrow, Soul Spike, and Spinning Darkness all can pick off threats while gaining us life, but they have a steep cost of extra cards which our deck is uniquely easy to provide. Force of Despair is my absolute favorite of the bunch though, able to kill multiple creatures for FREE! We also have Skirge Familiar which can turn our extra cards into extra mana!
On the other hand, we can take advantage of discarding down to hand size or to Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor‘s ability: cards like Bag of Holding and Currency Converter take advantage of our discarding. We can discard self-recurring threats to play later like Razorlash Transmogrant. We can turn discarded creatures into mana with Songs of the Damned. Or we can set up mass reanimation with a Living Death or similar!
Also a quick mention on ramp: I actually think 2-drop mana rocks that tap for colorless like Mind Stone are bad here. They simply don’t help us ramp enough. And traditional mana doublers like Cabal Coffers are trash because we’re simply not a Mono Black Control deck, we are a fast Aggro deck and want to be up on mana immediately not after 6+ turns of land drops.
The best ramp options are cards like Grim Hireling and Defiler of Flesh which can let us cast far more spells per turn. Also rituals are amazing in this deck, like Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, and Culling the Weak. Remember that our deck has too many cards and not enough mana to cast them, so anything that helps with that is great. I’d add K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth and Jeweled Lotus here too if they were budget.
Step 3: Protect Gix
Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor being on the battlefield is essential for this deck to work. Our deck is filled with horrible draft chaff like Eye Collector that are only powerful with Gix on the battlefield. Therefore it’s our utmost priority to keep Gix on the battlefield. We can do this two ways:
First way is to protect Gix from removal. We’ve got tons of 1-drop tricks such as Kaya’s Ghostform and Undying Malice to return Gix to the battlefield immediately. Spending a card and 1 mana is way better for us than recasting him from the command zone since we’re tight on mana, not card draw. Hexproof or shroud like Lightning Greaves works great too.
The other way is simply reanimating Gix: Unearth is just as mana-efficient as Undying Evil in our deck but we don’t have to keep up 1 mana on opponents’ turns. There’s tons of other great options like Call of the Death-Dweller and Gruesome Menagerie which work great in our low-cost deck.
Step 4: Win
There’s a ton of ways to turn our army of cheap evasive 1/1’s into bonafide game-enders. First is good ol’ fashioned drain effects like Bontu’s Monument and Gray Merchant of Asphodel which also double as ways to not kill ourselves drawing too many cards. There’s also more efficient lifeloss effects like Throne of the God-Pharaoh that essentially doubles the damage output of our 1/1’s. We also have anthem effects like Heraldic Banner and Drana, Liberator of Malakir to provide more punch to our Go Wide army.
Of course, there’s also Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor himself, who mid/lategame lets us start exchanging our hands for our opponents’ (likely more expensive) cards instead. I didn’t talk about this ability much this article because frankly it’s a red herring: 7 mana is a ton for this deck and you already need to be in a winning position to properly use it, and even then its effectiveness isn’t guaranteed. I do not recommend building around this ability! I see a lot of first drafts of Gix running lots of cards specifically to utilize this ability and I know they’re going to be disappointed. It’s a fine finisher but my goodness don’t just jam cards like Brainstealer Dragon in here hoping to activate Gix all the time!
$60 Sample List
The current list is $60 at the time of writing the article. $16 of that budget is on Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor, which hasn’t been released yet. I actually expect this deck list to go down in price a few weeks after BRO releases and then probably start going up as Magic decks often do:
Here are some cards I’d add on a higher budget / you have in your collection:
So, Is This Mono Black Edric?
Long-time readers will know that Edric is one of my favorite commanders: he was one of the first commanders I ever built and was one of the first Budget Commander primers I wrote on this site. Such similar commanders begs the question, “which is better?”
The answer is Edric and it’s not even close. Simic provides way better tools for this style of play: better 1-drops with Blue’s unblockable beaters (Gudul Lurker) and Green’s mana dorks (Llanowar Elves), better removal with Blue’s creature removal (Pongify) and Green’s disenchants (Nature’s Claim), countermagic which is just busted (Fierce Guardianship), and better finishers thanks to extra turns (Notorious Throng). Mono Black simply cannot compare.
But in my opinion, this is a good thing!
Edric is way stronger, but for my purposes he was too strong! He’s banned from Commander Clash. My $50 Edric deck was always too strong for my local playgroups to the point that I just took him apart eventually. He’s in a weird limbo where’s he’s too high power but not quite CEDH, so I never got a chance to play him.
Gix is weaker, yes, but that makes him perfect for me because I can actually play him! I get to enjoy all the things I love about Edric without being as oppressive as our Simic Overlord. Sometimes being weaker is a good thing! So if you’re like me and Edric is too powerful for your playgroup then I highly recommend giving Gix a shot!
That’s All, Folks!
We’ve got a more ambitious Budget Commander lined up next week: Modular Vehicles!