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By: Dreager_Ex, Joshua Smith
Nov 01 2016 12:00pm
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Commander is a format filled with powerful bombs and ridiculous spells, and with both of these things there tends to be a very inflated price tag when it comes to singles. I'm here to show players, who might feel skittish dropping hundreds on those chase rares, that Commander doesn't have to be expensive and if you make the right choices you can keep the format fun and fresh without those high dollar cards. The goal of this series will be to make a new budget commander deck each week and slowly build up a collection to improve our future ventures. That way, if you keep up with the articles and the decks each new deck will have access to a higher dollar amount despite our goal to stick to a strict spending limit. After last week we have 53.07 tix worth of cards to use for free this week for our budget friendly brew so let's dive in.


Teysa, Orzhov Scion - Death is Only the Beginning

Teysa, Orzhov Scion

Last week we took our Voltron aspect of the Jor Kadeen, The Prevailer deck and turned it into a full on aggro deck with some great weapon synergies. This week I decided to take on the other half of the Jor Kadeen deck, our token strategy, and develop that into a more control/combo oriented deck. It was none other than our girl Teysa, Orzhov Scion that seemed to fit in perfectly with a token strategy. Teysa does a couple of things for us when it comes to this week's deck. I wanted our focus to be diving deeper into black as the Zurgo deck seemed to only dip its toe into the color. As such we are jumping into the deep end as black has a lot of impactful cards that interact well with Teysa, and also because in general black is just a fun and powerful color in Commander. The second thing that Teysa offers us is a couple of neat little combos that can lock up the game for us if they go online. With our delve into black, a lot of generic tutors become available and as we all know tutors are a combo's best friend. 

The overall strategy with Teysa is obviously to get a lot of value off of her abilities, but as usual with most commander decks it’s a wise idea to build a deck around a commander without relying solely on it. I know that might sound like a bit of a joke after last week's Zurgo deck, but this week's deck will implement some token synergies that will work well without Teysa and even better with her. So without further ado, let’s see what kind of black bombs we can purchase this week to put our card pool to the next level.

This Week's Commander Staples:
Phyrexian Arena

 

 

Phyrexian Arena 4.34
Elspeth, Sun's Champion 2.53
Grave Titan 2.44
Sun Titan 2.07
Erebos, God of the Dead 0.29
Coalition Relic 1.83
Dark Petition 0.16
Exsanguinate 0.01
Bloodgift Demon 0.02
Ashen Rider 0.12
Sheoldred, Whispering One 0.31

Drafts from the Card Pool:
Hero of Bladehold

Geist-Honored Monk FREE
Skullclamp FREE
Captain of the Watch FREE
Hero of Bladehold FREE
Burnished Hart FREE
Mentor of the Meek FREE
Solemn Simulacrum FREE
Wrath of God FREE
Gilded Lotus FREE
Sol Ring FREE
Orzhov Signet FREE
Enlightened Tutor FREE
Mortify FREE
Vampiric Tutor FREE
Anguished Unmaking FREE
Caves of Koilos FREE
Temple of Silence FREE
Ancient Tomb> FREE
Command Tower FREE
Isolated Chapel FREE
Ghost Quarter FREE
Mana Crypt FREE

 

Right away you can see some of the pure gold we got to buy this week. Out of the gate we have potentially one of the best cards in black in the form of Phyrexian Arena. If you're ever going to dip into black for commander I cannot recommend Phyrexian Arena enough, so much so that I will willingly admit that leaving it our of last week's deck was probably a huge mistake on my part. No matter what your gameplan is going to be an Arena can just give you so much gas in a game that its often a high priority target for your opponent. Next is Elspeth, Sun's Champion, which is our first planeswalker for the cardpool and it's definitely a big one for white. This version of Elspeth has a way of taking over a game and giving you a lot of value if left alone. Obviously the downside to planeswalkers in multiplayer is that they are less impactful on the board but I think she fits nicely into our Token strategy that Teysa thrives in. Sun Titan and Grave Titan offer some bombs for their colors. Grave Titan in particular fits nicely with the plan of tokens. Sun Titan can seem a little weird for the token strategy, but I promise the value out of this card adds up quick, and there are a lot of high priority targets that you will want to return with this guy if your opponents do manage to disrupt some of your combos. Erebos, God of the Dead along with Bloodgift Demon offer some similar value as Phyrexian Arena and they too will fit into a lot of decks in their colors.


Giving ourselves some future combo potential, we have Exsanguinate and Dark Petition. While we might not necessarily capitalize 100% on the Exsanguinate the card itself has a way of either closing up a game  or padding your life total by enough to finish the game with the rest of your deck. Now I am reluctant to call Ashen Rider a staple for these colors simply because the high mana cost makes it necessary to run a fair amount of ramp or graveyard recursion but the card is just so flexible that whenever I can I will most definitely throw it into an Orzhov deck. Sheoldred, Whispering One also fits into a similar niche of relying on ramp or recursion, but the card is just such a bomb in multiplayer that if I can put it into a black deck, at any given time, I most likely will. Now hopefully you noticed the card I skipped from the list above and that is Coalition Relic. Relic is not necessarily an absolute must-have for these colors or this strategy, but Relic is a power house staple for a lot of commander decks and I felt that it was prudent to go ahead and bite the bullet on that 1.83 tix price point. Providing us with fixing and a fair amount of ramp, Coalition Relic is a fine addition to our card pool and will see a ton of play going forward. 

As for our drafts from previous weeks, I went ahead and took all of our Orzhov color fixing from the Zurgo deck and threw it right into this deck. The two color mana base is easy and we aren't doing anything too cute with the lands. We pulled in a couple of our token generators and abusers from the Jor Kadeen deck, and most of our staple mana rocks to go along with that. Vampiric Tutor is an easy include for this deck as it's just so good in any deck that runs black. Enlightened Tutor, however, might seem a bit sketchy with the deck list so far, but let's take a look at some of the interesting combo pieces that we will have to make Teysa an all-star, and you'll see why Enlightened Tutor made the draft from our card pool.


Sac. Outlets and Combo Pieces:

Darkest Hour....................................................................................................00.01
Viscera Seer....................................................................................................00.03
Suture Priest....................................................................................................00.03
Zulaport Cutthroat....................................................................................................00.02
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim....................................................................................................00.27
Vizkopa Guildmage....................................................................................................00.02
Fleshbag Marauder....................................................................................................00.03
Merciless Executioner....................................................................................................00.04
Ashnod's Altar....................................................................................................00.11
Grave Pact....................................................................................................00.45
Dictate Of Erebos....................................................................................................00.19
Butcher of Malakir....................................................................................................00.02
Spawning Pit
....................................................................................................00.02

 Darkest Hour

Starting off we have Darkest Hour which is the single card that breaks Teysa, Orzhov Scion. Darkest Hour turns all of your tokens into black creatures, including the 1/1 spirit tokens that Teysa creates, which means that ANY sac outlet instantly becomes infinite. Viscera Seer gives you infinite scrying, Ashnod's Altar gives you infinite mana, and Spawning Pit generates infinite tokens. The deck however doesn't REQUIRE you to have Darkest Hour to out value your opponents. All of the sac outlets work wonders with token generators, and Grave Pact effects like the card it's named after, Dictate of Erebos, and Butcher of Malakir. Fleshbag Marauder and Merciless Executioner offer you very one-sided trades, as you'll either sacrifice small tokens and potentially get value off Teysa or even without Teysa you'll often just trade your small token for a couple big creatures your opponents have. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and Vizkopa Guildmage open you up for a bit of life gain shenanigans. Then finally we have a couple of creatures that are gonna close out the game with a lot of token generation: Suture Priest and Zulaport Cutthroat. So with our token abusers in play let's take a look at some generators we can add.


Token Generators:

Sengir Autocrat....................................................................................................00.01
Westvale Abbey....................................................................................................01.09
Skirsdag High Priest....................................................................................................00.01
Twilight Drover....................................................................................................00.01
Requiem Angel....................................................................................................00.01
Noosegraf Mob....................................................................................................00.01
Whip of Erebos....................................................................................................00.56
Increasing Devotion....................................................................................................00.01
Pawn of Ulamog
....................................................................................................00.01
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder....................................................................................................00.01

Sengir Autocrat

We got a lot of traction out of the Jor Kadeen deck, but we still managed to pick up some pretty nice token generators in black as well as white to power up our game plan. So with that in mind I arrive at our next step in the deckbuilding which is where do we wanna take the deck from here? On the one hand there is a lot of potential for lifegain synergy with cards like Suture Priest, Vizkopa Guildmage and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, which will push us toward cards like Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant to net us a ton of life. On the other hand we have a little bit of a recursion sub-theme going with cards like Whip of Erebos and Sun Titan; not to mention all of the sweet targets we could bring back from the graveyard: Sheoldred, Whispering One, Ashen Rider, and various token spawners. Personally, I think going the recursion route is a lot more fun with big stupid creatures getting cheated onto the board, and it helps that a lot of token generators will benefit from this recursion as well. At the same time though, I didn't completely abandon the life gain theme, and went ahead and included both of the Soul sisters in the deck, but that is about as deep as I wanted to take it. The two sisters give us the option to get a little crazy with our life total but the deck won't invest too much into the strategy. 

Graveyard Recursion, Juicy Targets, and our two Soul Sisters:

Wake the Dead....................................................................................................00.56
Rune-Scarred Demon....................................................................................................00.09
Reveillark....................................................................................................00.91
Karmic Guide....................................................................................................00.02
Unburial Rites....................................................................................................00.02
Phyrexian Delver....................................................................................................00.33
Obzedat's Aid....................................................................................................00.01
Victimize....................................................................................................00.03
Nim Deathmantle....................................................................................................00.02
Reanimate....................................................................................................00.02
Soul Warden....................................................................................................00.04
Soul's Attendant....................................................................................................00.04

Unburial Rites

A lot of our targets for recursion are going to be cards that we already included in the deck: Sun Titan, Grave Titan, Ashen Rider, Sheoldred, Whispering One and the various token spawners. Rune-Scarred Demon offers us another tutor on a nice body, which is super easy to get into play with a Reanimate or something similar. Our other addins were the trio of Reveillark, Karmic Guide, and Phyrexian Delver all of which get silly when combined together and provide a lot of value out of a single recursion spell, which is especially nice when we need a lot of creatures to feed our sac outlets. The reanimation I chose focused a bit more on value than efficiency. Victimize and Unburial Rites offer us two reanimations in one card, and Nim Deathmantle can just outright win you the game when combined with Ashnod's Altar and a token spawner such as Captain of the Watch. In fact, you don't even need Teysa to go off with the Deathmantle. Obviously, when you have a reanimator theme you wanna toss in its namesake card Reanimate which has the added benefit of being able to take your opponent's bombs as well. Then finally we have Obzedat's Aid which isn't too flashy, but it makes for a really flexible card in our deck as it can be used to return non-creatures such as Ashnod's Altar, Nim Deathmantle,  or Darkest Hour. Obzedat's Aid can potentially just win us the game in the late stages if we get disrupted by our opponents. At the end we have our two soul sisters to give us yet another way to close out a game. Now let's have a look at the final decklist!

Teysa, Orzhov Scion
- 100 Cards Total
     Download Here!: TXT or DEK


Creatures:
1 Ashen Rider
1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
1 Butcher of Malakir
1 Fleshbag Marauder
1 Geist-Honored Monk
1 Grave Titan
1 Karmic Guide
1 Hero of Bladehold
1 Noosegraf Mob
1 Reveillark
1 Sengir Autocrat
1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
1 Sun Titan
1 Twilight Drover
1 Viscera Seer
1 Vizkopa Guildmage
1 Zulaport Cutthroat
1 Captain of the Watch
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Burnished Hart
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Requiem Angel
1 Mentor of the Meek
1 Merciless Executioner
1 Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
1 Pawn of Ulamog
1 Soul's Attendant
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Skirsdag High Priest
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Suture Priest
1 Soul Warden
1 Phyrexian Delver
33 Cards


Sorcery:
1 Increasing Devotion
1 Dark Petition
1 Dread Return
1 Exsanguinate
1 Obzedat's Aid
1 Reanimate
1 Unburial Rites
1 Victimize
1 Wrath of God
9 Cards

Enchantment:
1 Darkest Hour
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Grave Pact
1 Dictate of Erebos
4 Cards

Artifacts:
1 Ashnod's Altar
1 Coalition Relic
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Orzhov Cluestone
1 Spawning Pit
8 Cards


Planeswalkers:
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1 Cards

Instants:
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Mortify
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Anguished Unmaking
1 Wake the Dead
5 Cards

Lands:
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Temple of Silence
1 Westvale Abbey
1 Barren Moor
1 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Command Tower
11 Swamp
12 Plains
35 Cards

Teysa, Orzhov Scion
Commander:
Teysa, Orzhov Scion


Gameplay Tips:

Combo decks attract hate - This may go without saying but a good number of players have definitely experienced the combo of Teysa, Orzhov Scion and Darkest Hour. If they see you even coming close to taking over the game in that way you will attract a lot of hate from those players, and they may even try to recruit the table to help bring you down. My method of combatting this is to just take the game a little slow. Don't get too crazy with the synergies right away, don't drop your Grave Pact on turn 4, and whatever you do, DO NOT tutor for a game winning combo piece until the turn you plan on winning the game. Let the other players think you've drawn poorly while they develop their boards, for the most part you don't care too much about such a thing. You can play the value game with your grave pact effects, but don't pull the focus of the table. Let someone else build that scary board, and while he's getting hated on tutor for your Darkest Hour, Ashnod's Altar or whatever you need to end the game that turn. The beauty of our deck is that once an infinite combo goes online it's very hard to stop it, and your opponent's board won't save them the majority of the time and you can largely ignore them.

Teysa isn't long for this world - It doesn't take long for even the newest of players to see that Teysa can get a little out of hand with so much as a single sac outlet. I'm not saying you shouldn't play her until you can win, but you should definitely wait until you can cast her and immediately get a ton of value from her. The worst thing you can do is throw her to the wolves in the early turns for no real benefit, and suddenly your game ending combo is pushed back several turns while you wait for the mana to pay the commander tax. It also pays to wait until there is a bigger threat on board. Players will scoff at your silly little Teysa when they are more worried about the Marchesa, the Black Rose player dominating the board.

Don't over extend on board - You're not meant to win the game by beating down your opponents with your tokens. This is quite contrary to the Jor Kadeen deck, and unlike the Jor Kadeen deck this deck isn't capable of an explosive turn when it comes to pushing into the red zone. Our explosive turns are going to revolve around playing Teysa, followed by an Ashnod's Altar or various other combo pieces and going off. Accomplishing that is a lot harder when your opponents are feeling threatened by your board and feel the need to destroy it before your combo can even come online. If you hold back they won't feel threatened by a single Geist-Honored Monk with two spirits providing you some blockers, but they may get a little unnerved by a Mentor of the Meek, Geist-Honored Monk and a Hero of Bladehold seemingly getting out of hand. If you pace your plays when the time comes to assemble your combos you'll have plenty of fodder to sacrifice to get the ball rolling. 

Help out any hugs deck - For new players, a hugs deck is a deck that plays a lot of spells and permanents that are a benefit to the whole table. Contrary to last week's Zurgo deck, Teysa gets a ton of benefit from an opponent playing things like Howling Mine, Heartbeat of Spring or giving you free tokens with Phelddagrif. A lot of players get intimidated by receiving such gifts, since who would be crazy enough to help their opponents, unless it was going to win them the game VERY SOON. As a result some players will blindly hate out a hugs player, and that will give you an opportunity to get on the hugs player's good side. A timely Anguished Unmaking, Mortify or Wrath of God to stop an aggressive player may be exactly what the hugs player wants, and in turn he may look the other way when you cast a big value spell that puts you ahead of everyone else on board.

Don't walk into graveyard hate - This is an obvious tip for any deck that uses its graveyard as a resource. A lot of players know the value of a stocked graveyard and many of them are happy to run a spell or two to remove cards from it if they have to. It's unavoidable to a degree, but you can take steps to not get blown out by something like a Tormod's Crypt. The best method of doing this is to get ahead of that hate and make use of that graveyard as soon as something worthwhile goes there. This goes against our previous tip of laying low, but it can be a powerful move politically if you play an Unburial Rites and someone removes the target in response. The rest of the table may see this as a blow out for you and while it does hurt you a bit, it will take some heat off you if your opponents think you've been kept under control for the time being. A couple of my games went exactly that way, as a player began to focus on me pretty hard until a reanimate target got removed. After that he completely turned his attention elsewhere which gave me enough breathing room to assemble some pieces and take the game within two turns.

Finally, BE POLITICAL - The politics are the best way you have of getting players to allow your deck to 'go off.' Ingratiate yourself with the table by asking for help removing a harmful effect. The simple act of ASKING for the help reminds the players you're a player like them and you don't want the game to end early (unless you're the one ending it). Compliment someone's deck or their 'great plays,' all of this goes a long way to make your opponents feel unthreatened by you. It's a pretty simple mindset really, ask yourself what's more threatening?  

- A Teysa player, whom you know is capable of doing some ridiculous things with their deck, quietly sitting there taking a lot of hate from another player who seemingly agrees with your fear?

or

- A Teysa player who is getting beat on by that Omnath, Locus of Rage player, barely playing anything other than mana rocks and a few chump blockers, and asking if anyone can help with a Wrath of God?


Let's open up our pockets:

We definitely have some fun and expensive options available to us with this deck. So let's see what kind of gas we can pump into this thing. Right away our initial investment would be into the Mana base. The dual lands aren't all that expensive online but they aren't really a necessary investment if you want to keep the cost low, but now that the money isn't a factor they make easy additions. Phyrexian Tower, Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth are all very serious investments to make, and even though Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is relatively cheap, it just isn't worth using unless you can pair it with Coffers in my opinion. Those three lands provide some significant ramp that can really push you to the top.

Phyrexian Altar is actually a pretty important card for the deck as it acts as a second Ashnod's Altar but with the added benefit of color fixing. The 13+ tix price tag is a little too rich for my blood even if I weren't trying to stay on a budget, and since it fills a really niche role in our deck many other decks won't be able to utilize it. Personally, I'd prefer to spend the 13 tix on some commander staples that can fit into multiple decks, but it's definitely a powerful card that the budget deck is missing out on and one you'll definitely want to get if you are serious about this commander.

Liliana of the Veil and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad are both pretty powerful cards that fit nicely into our deck. Liliana, provides us with a discard outlet that the deck is lacking, and also offers a lot of board control with her minus ability. Sorin gets us deeper into the token strategy, offering us some fodder for our outlets, and also potentially making our tokens a huge threat on board. His ultimate can also completely shift the game into a winning state for us, should your combos continuously get disrupted. Although not included in the list, ANY Liliana is probably worth picking up for this deck, including the very cheap Lorwyn version. 

Nether Traitor and Academy Rector both solidify our combo potential and accelerate us into ending the game fairly quickly. Nether traitor turns into a work horse with Teysa on board, allowing us to combo off even if our Darkest Hour gets removed from the game. While the Academy Rector will just end the game instantly, if you establish your other combo pieces on the board before she dies. There is a reason for her absurd price tag.

Demonic Tutor and Diabolic Intent are some pretty easy upgrades for some of the tutors we are running. The Diabolic Intent even grants the added benefit of sacrificing a creature for us, which can be somewhat limiting if you are struggling to establish a board but for the most part is pure advantage.

Bitterblossom is possibly the least interesting addition here, as it doesn't really accelerate you into a combo or anything like that, and it can easily draw a lot of hate. On the flip side, the card is just too damn good at providing you with a board of flying tokens to block or sac to some outlets while you're waiting to combo off. Being that it does draw a lot of hate though it is very useful at drawing out any sort of disruption or destruction your opponents might be holding and opening the way for your higher priority spells.

Finally, we have the combo of Land Tax and Scroll Rack, these two cards can do amazing things when you are trying to dig for combo pieces. Scroll Rack is a little difficult to use on MTGO and without Land Tax its use is slightly underwhelming without the ability to shuffle, but with Land Tax it gives you access to a really huge portion of your deck. Land Tax simply amazing in most white decks, as it helps you maintain your mana perfectly, especially when an opponent decides they want to ramp. Paired with Scroll Rack it allows you to filter lands out of the deck opening up for better draws, but also allowing you to filter them back in and dig really deep for those combo pieces. 

What should we take out to include all these powerhouse cards? Well it depends on how to want to polish the deck. If I was going to do the full on 'unfair' and 'hyper competitive' combo deck I would more than likely remove the reanimation package entirely and rather than shift it into the healing side of things I would simply put the resources back into making the combos faster and more consistent. Cards like Twilight Drover, Hero of Bladehold, and Geist-Honored Monk are a bit slow and it's unnecessary to have them as once the combo is established there are faster ways to get the tokens we would need to seal up the game. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and Whip of Erebos also take the cut for time constraints as any time spent trying to utilize their abilities could easily be spent just piecing together your win condition. Dark Petition and Rune-Scarred Demon are less desirable when compared to Diabolic Intent and Demonic Tutor. The Petition could have a place if you wanted to take out some more reanimation spells, but the Rune-Scarred Demon would struggle to find value with the reanimation being pulled out for other things.

It is worth mentioning here that even though you can make the deck a lot faster and more game breaking with some of these high dollar cards I honestly wouldn't recommend it. Adding a lot of these cards and pushing the competitive aspect of the deck can lead to a lot of linear gameplay as the game plan will often just consist of ramping your mana, casting a tutor for your combo piece, then going off that turn. It can be very boring, not only for your opponents but for yourself as well. I'd even go as far as to say that if you were interested in lowering the power level of the deck for a more casual game take out the Darkest Hour as well. The card is just absurdly broken with Teysa.

        In:

Scrubland / Godless Shrine
Phyrexian Tower
Cabal Coffers
 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Phyrexian Altar
Liliana of the Veil
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Nether Traitor
Academy Rector
Demonic Tutor
Diabolic Intent
Bitterblossom
Land Tax / Scroll Rack

        Out: 

Basic Lands
Hero of Bladehold
Twilight Drover
Geist-Honored Monk
 Reanimate
Skirsdag High Priest
Dark Petition
Rune-Scarred Demon
Whip of Erebos
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Suture Priest

 

Academy Rector

Liliana of the Veil

 


Balancing the Books - A Financial Analysis
(Prices in Tix from MTGOTraders.com on 10/30/2016)

This Week's Deck Cost:

This Week's Deck Value:     32.02 
Cost of Cards from our Card Pool:    -12.67 

Final Total Spent this Week:     19.35 
Total Money Saved Throughout Series:     36.90 

Running Total:

Running Total of Expenditures:     53.07 
This Week's Total Expenditure:   +19.35 

The New Total of Expenditures:     72.42 
Weekly Average:   ~18.11 

Final Thoughts:

This week we came in a little hot on our Deck total. When I was adding it up I was starting to sweat a bit seeing those 2-4 tix cards we invested in this week. The total spent came in just under 20 tix though, and that's about where I want to be, and it didn't mess with the weekly average too much. We got away with some really good cards this week: Phyrexian Arena, Grave Titan, Sun Titan,  and let's not forget our first planeswalker was added to the pool in the form of Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Also, I hope you guys enjoyed the inclusion of gameplay tips for the deck, which talks about some of the weaknesses of the deck and ways to avoid certain pitfalls. Going forward, I will try to include more actual gameplay notes that I have been keeping. Unfortunately this article was mostly complete before I decided to include some match specific notes. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the deck and I'll be back again with a new commander next week.


Like what you read? Feel free to leave a comment with some feedback, advice or requests for future Commanders/Decks.
Just remember, the goal is to get the most use out of the cards we have in our pool now.
So keep that in mind when requesting Commanders.
Thanks!