If you've decided to pick up a new trading card game hobby amidst the climate, it is very likely that Magic: The Gathering and in particular, the Commander format will appeal to you the most.
After all, Commander is the format which you can play with three other friends, meaning that you now do not have an excuse to not be sociable anymore after a year of isolation (although depending on your region, do respect the local guidelines). That said, while actual physical tabletop play might still be a pipe dream in many parts of the world, fear not: it is extremely easy to play Commander with webcams these days.
With the release of the new Standard set Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Magic: The Gathering has also released two Commander preconstructed decks.
If you are a new player who has just purchased one (or both of them), you will find out soon enough that while these decks can be played straight out of the box, they may be limited in what they can do, being "pre-constructed" (which means most opponents will know what to expect).
Fret not, these decks are still pretty decent value-for-money for beginners, and you can always easily upgrade your decks from the (almost) whole catalogue of Magic: The Gathering’s history to make them a little better. I mean, sure, you could add a Timetwister or a Gaea's Cradle, but that's not exactly what we're going for here.
With that, I am proposing five affordable cards for each of the Commander decks that might just make them a little better (a better win-rate is still not guaranteed, though — please don’t come after me).
Before I start, some caveats: I will not go through the whole deck list of each deck (so, please find them here) and I will be proposing cards that are US$10 or less. I mean yes, feel free to knock yourself out and buy a Mana Crypt or Mox Diamond and a Good-Class Bungalow while you're at it, but not everyone is going to have that kind of money.
Having a smaller budget will undoubtedly limit your abilities to run more efficient cards, but trust me, you will still get the same satisfaction when your deck wins (or justt simply when you get to do some cool things with these combos).
Wilhelt, the Dimir combo we didn’t know we need
Now, if you have bought the precon deck with Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver as its Commander, it is easy to just treat this deck as just another tribal Zombie deck, and fill in your favourite value Zombies.
However, Wilhelt enables a combo with Gravecrawler and Carrion Feeder, and it will be in my opinion a total waste of Wilhelt’s triggered ability if you do not even consider these two Zombies for your deck.
In fact, the precon even comes with cards Rooftop Storm and Diregraf Captain to help you get the combo moving.
Here’s how the combo works: with Wilhelt, Rooftop Storm, and Carrion Feeder on the battlefield, cast Gravecrawler for free (because of Rooftop Storm). Sacrifice Gravecrawler to Carrion Feeder’s activated ability. Gravecrawler will enter the graveyard, and you will trigger Wilhelt and create a 2/2 black Zombie creature token with Decayed.
Now, you can cast Gravecrawler from the graveyard for free since you already have three other Zombies on the battlefield. Sacrifice it to Carrion Feeder’s ability again, and continue the loop as many times as you desire. Voila, you will have as many 2/2 Zombie tokens as you want and an insanely huge Carrion Feeder.
However, these tokens will not have haste and cannot attack your opponents immediately (assuming you did the whole loop on your turn). However, if you have Diregraf Captain on the battlefield, you could pretty much win the game instantly. Every time you sacrifice Gravecrawler and it dies, you will ping an opponent for 1 life, and if you continue the loop, you will ping all of your opponents down to 0 life.
Gravecrawler currently costs US$9.99 on Star City Games (SCG) at the time of writing of this article and the cheapest Carrion Feeder just costs US$0.29. While Gravecrawler is probably the most expensive card on this list, the combo with Wilhelt makes this card worth its cost.
Now, with combos, it is important to note that some redundancy is good just in case your opponents manage to get rid or block with some of your pieces. With that, I suggest adding Plague Belcher.
In fact, Plague Belcher is a better Diregraf Captain because it hits each opponent every time you sacrifice Gravecrawler, and it is easier to cast with 2 Generic and 1 Black mana. It costs US$4.99 on SCG, and adding some redundancy is always better than having none.
Now that the pieces of the combo are assembled in your deck, it is important that if you want to win, you have to be able to search for the combo pieces and protect your combo, too. Thankfully, Wilhelt is in the colours of Black and Blue (Dimir), and with that, we have access to tutors (cards that let you search for other cards in your library) and counterspells (cards that prevent other cards from being cast) in Magic: The Gathering respectively.
For the budget-minded new players, Diabolic Tutor is a no brainer since you can search for anything in your deck with this tutor. The cheapest variant costs US$0.49 on SCG, and while the card is a little expensive to cast with 2 Generic mana and 2 Black mana, it is still a useful tutor to add into your deck.
To protect your combos from any interactions from any opponent, a simple Arcane Denial which just costs US$1.49 might be able to do the trick. Arcane Denial costs just 1 Generic mana and 1 Blue mana, making this somewhat easier to cast as compared to the classic Counterspell.
While the downside is that your opponent gets to draw two cards at the beginning of the next turn’s upkeep, guess what? If you are winning, there is no next turn for anyone.
Leinore, the generic Selesyna bore
If you have bought the precon deck with Leinore, Autumn Sovereign as the Commander, you might find this Commander a bit underwhelming after a while. Leinore does not provide as much value as Wilhelt does, in my opinion, and the combination of Green and White is not exactly the strongest two colour combination.
With Leinore, the game plan of the deck is pretty straightforward. Cast as many creatures, put as many +1/+1 counters on your creatures, smack your opponents, draw a few cards and (hopefully) win the game. It's basically the same strategy as Overrun decks during the Tempest block.
It can get slightly tedious to win through combat in a Commander game. Think about it, you have three other opponents starting with 40 life each. To be fair, access to Green will make this an easier process, but it will cost you a lot of money to add in the relevant Green cards to be a huge combat threat out of nowhere in a turn.
With that said, it is still possible to add a lot more value to this deck and with that, I will start with protecting your creatures. The first card that immediately comes to mind is Shalai, Voice of Plenty.
At just US$4.99 on SCG, this card prevents a lot of things from getting targeted by your opponent. Sure, the precon already has Sigarda, Heron’s Grace, but Shalai protects all creatures, all Planeswalkers, and it can even buff your whole board with +1/+1 counters if you have tons of mana. Both Shalai and Sigarda will not protect your board from getting board-wiped, but some protection is better than none. Also, cross your fingers and hope really hard that none of your opponents has a Wrath of God up their sleeve.
Speaking of buffing your creatures with +1/+1 counters, consider the following cards: Cathars’ Crusade (US$4.99), Hardened Scales (US$6.99) and Evolution Sage (US$0.99).
These cards essentially add more +1/+1 counters to your creatures on the board in various manners, and synergise well with the whole theme of the precon deck. The best part about these three cards is their varying mana value, meaning you will be more likely to cast these cards at different points of the game and play according to a mana curve.
Last not but least, since this deck is in the colours of Green and White, it will be a shame not to add a creature tutor to a deck that needs its creatures. With that, I will suggest Eladamri's Call.
Eladamri’s Call can be played at instant speed, and it puts the creature card directly into your hand unlike the other Green creature tutor Worldly Tutor. It also costs less than Worldly Tutor at US$5.99 on SCG, making Eladamri’s Call a slightly better proposition.
With that, I hope these ten cards I have suggested will add some new value to your new precon decks.
Of course, these ten are not the only upgrades you can make. There are many more cards you can add to improve the synergy of the deck (with more money as well), or even change the direction of the precons.
That is the beauty of Magic: The Gathering card game: so, go forth and dish out the wildest decks you can imagine (notice me Wizards senpai).