Commanding the Inscrutable

Isperia the Inscrutable
Many players looking to enter the Commander format balk at the cost of assembling a deck after seeing other players using ninety-nine-card decks loaded up with expensive cards. However, with a bit of research and perseverance, you can build a powerful Commander deck without breaking the bank.

The first step in building an effective Commander deck on a budget is choosing a commander. You'll usually want one that can take advantage of powerful synergies rather than one that's simply good on its own. This lets you squeeze extra juice out of cheap cards rather than resort to the obvious power of more expensive ones.

For this article, I'll be using Isperia the Inscrutable. At only 5 mana, she can be attacking by the time the game starts getting into gear, and her tutor ability will let you keep a constant supply of flying creatures flowing. You can easily assemble a massive army while still keeping several creatures in hand in case of a Wrath effect.

Mind Reading

Isperia's ability has two parts: First, you need to guess a card in your opponent's hand. You can always make a wild guess the first time and then continue to attack the same player, naming another card you saw when he revealed his hand. The better option, however, is to use a card like Telepathy to give you prior knowledge. It's not guessing when you already know the answer.

There are a surprisingly large number of cards you can use to have a peek at your opponent's hand. In addition to Telepathy, Glasses of Urza offers a cheap and repeatable way to peek at your opponent's hand. Wandering Eye will make you reveal your hand as well, but since much of it will be creatures you've already revealed when searching them up with Isperia, that shouldn't matter much. Since Wandering Eye has flying, it can be tutored up as well if you don't already have a way to guess without guessing.

Merfolk Spy's islandwalk will make it unblockable against many players, and as long as you remember to put Isperia's trigger on the stack first, you can make that opponent reveal a card at random before you have to take a guess. Zur's Weirding also makes everyone play with their hands revealed, and it has an added bonus: You can get rid of any cards you don't like. Since Isperia can put cards directly into your hand, you are able to bypass the Weirding altogether. Your opponents won't have the option of paying 2 life to stop you from having what you want.

Another great way to know what's in your opponent's hand is to put it there yourself. There are an overwhelming number of bounce spells you can use to make that happen. Devastation Tide, Inundate, Evacuation, and Cyclonic Rift serve as sweepers that give you a ton of information to take advantage of later. Capsize can also be used repeatedly to give you an advantage on board and make sure you have a card to name. My favorite options, however, come in enchantment form. Sunken Hope forces your opponents to bounce creatures each turn, which can be devastating if they don't have cheap ones. Meanwhile, you can tutor up an inexpensive creature such as Fog Bank to return to your hand each turn. Equilibrium can be even more effective. Each turn, you can cast a creature and use Equilibrium to bounce a creature of your choice. That will give you a card to name with Isperia, so you can search up another creature to cast next turn.

The Flying Toolbox

Windborn Muse
The most important and flexible part of the deck is the flock of flying creatures. You'll want an assortment of big beaters as well as at least a few interesting problem-solvers. There are also many creatures that are a combination of the two.

Angelic Arbiter lays down the law against your opponents, forcing them to choose between casting spells and attacking. This becomes even more devastating when combined with your bounce spells, particularly Sunken Hope. Either your opponents attack with increasingly smaller forces of creatures or they don't attack at all.

Vengeful Archon makes attacking you a dangerous proposition for your opponents. If you have mana open, you can turn that damage right around and point it at whoever hit you. If the Archon has lifelink, you become even harder to kill. Windborn Muse also makes it more costly to attack you, giving you a Ghostly Prison that you can tutor up with Isperia. It becomes especially effective against token decks. Voice of All, Fog Bank, and Guard Gomazoa can soak up a lot of damage, often negating your opponent's best creature entirely without taking any damage for themselves. Archon of Redemption lets you gain life every time you cast another creature with flying, and it is fairly inexpensive as well.

You also have a few creatures that can function as removal when you need it. Archon of Justice will exile any permanent on the board when it dies, and Archon of the Triumvirate can detain two permanents each time you attack. Lieutenant Kirtar is more defensive since it can only exile an attacking creature. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be a creature that's attacking you. You can let a big threat hit another opponent and then exile it after damage has been dealt. Steel Hellkite can shatter multiple permanents when it hits an opponent, destroying everything with the same mana cost as your primary target.

Major Teroh
Tradewind Rider and Hoverguard Sweepers serve as soft removal and will also give you cards to name with Isperia if needed. Major Teroh is a terrific hate card against black decks, exiling every creature with even a bit of black in its mana cost. Sunblast Angel is less specific, killing everything that's tapped. Since you'll be casting it on your turn, this will usually exclude your own creatures. You also have Wispmare and Cloudchaser Kestrel to kill problem enchantments. Stonecloaker is also a nice little hate card that can deal with graveyard shenanigans at instant speed.

Chancellor of the Spires and Diluvian Primordial can do pretty much whatever you need them to do, feeding off your opponents’ graveyards and using them as extensions of your toolbox. To give you more of your own cards, Mulldrifter and Sphinx of Uthuun will give you some card advantage when they enter the battlefield. Sphinx of Magosi and Sturmgeist can give you cards repeatedly and will grow larger as they do so. Soramaro, First to Dream will do the same, provided you have a land you're willing to return to your hand.

I've also thrown in a few flyers that can protect your other creatures. Glory can give your army protection from any color you want as long as the Incarnation is in your graveyard, letting you attack with impunity and block anything that comes at you. Gustcloak Savior also lets you attack without fear. As long as it's on the board, you can hit the undo button on any attacker that becomes blocked by a larger creature, leaving your unblocked creatures to punch through for damage. The last flyer is Dust Elemental. Although bouncing three creatures seems costly, it can often be a benefit rather than a drawback, saving a creature from removal or saving three from a sweeper.

Performance Enhancement

Gravitational Shift
Sword of Vengeance gives your creature a plethora of cool abilities, which are particularly good with Isperia. Haste lets her attack immediately, trample and first strike help her get in for damage to trigger her ability, and vigilance lets you put that big toughness to work on defense as well. Swiftfoot Boots also gives haste and tacks on hexproof to protect your commander from removal. Whispersilk Cloak will also protect her, and making Isperia unblockable is awesome for letting you trigger her ability each turn. Cloud Cover also protects your creatures, turning every removal spell into an Unsummon so you can cast the creature again later.

Gravitational Shift is devastatingly powerful when almost all your creatures have flying, and joined by newcomer Favorable Winds and old-school enchant world Serra Aviary, it makes your flyers quite large. I've also thrown in one Storm Herd. This deck has a lot of ways to gain life and stop you from losing it, and with the enchantments to make your Pegasus tokens bigger, you can often win the game on the spot if your opponents can't find a sweeper.

True Conviction can let you gain a ton of life, and double strike lets you search up two creatures each turn with Isperia. Noble Purpose also gives your creatures lifelink, but since it's the old triggered version, it can combine with True Conviction to let you gain twice as much life rather than become redundant. Venser's Journal can also let you gain a ton of life, and not having a maximum hand size lets you keep all your stuff even when filling your hand with flying creatures.

Serra's Blessing gives your stuff vigilance, letting you attack over and over without sacrificing your defense. Coastal Piracy gives you a massive amount of card advantage, letting you draw cards for doing what you want to be doing anyway: hit your opponent in the face with flyers.

Planar Cleansing and Kirtar's Wrath are your Wrath of God effects, each with its own advantages. The Cleansing kills troublesome artifacts and enchantments as well as creatures, making sure there's nothing left on the board to threaten you. Kirtar's Wrath stops regeneration, and if you have threshold, it will leave you with a pair of flyers to jump-start your next assault. Stormtide Leviathan also negates your opponents' creatures, leaving them on the board but making them unable to attack. Your flyers, however, will be able to soar above the tides and continue bashing in for damage.

With a few mana-producing artifacts for acceleration and a bunch of lands, the deck looks something like this:

Return to . . . Gatecrash

I hope you enjoyed this look at building a Commander deck on a budget. Join me next week when I return to the world of tournament formats with another sweet Gatecrash brew.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can find me on the forums under Twinblaze, on Twitter under @MTGCannon, or simply leave a comment below.