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Budget Commander: $20 Mystic Intellect Upgrade

Commander 2019 preconstructed decks have arrived, and that means it's time for another round of my $20 precon upgrades! I'll first go over how each preconstructed deck plays, why you should buy it, and the various directions that you can upgrade the deck and make it your own.

We kicked things off with by giving Faceless Menace a $20 facelift before adding $20 of tokeny goodness to Primal Rage. For this article, we're covering Mystic Intellect, a Graveyard Spellslinger deck that focuses on casting instant and sorcery spells from your graveyard. Many of the instants and sorceries in the deck can be played from the graveyard thanks to flashback, such as Increasing Vengeance, or can be recast thanks to other cards like Backdraft Hellkite. The deck rewards you for casting instants and sorceries with cards like Talrand, Sky Summoner, and also rewards you for casting cards from your graveyard with cards like Secrets of the Dead. The end result is a slow, grindy deck that looks to drown your opponents in card advantage, drawing cards, slinging spells, and recasting them again for even more value. The longer the game goes, the more Mystic Intellect will get ahead of the competition!

You might like the deck if ...

  • You want to play a deck focused on instants and sorceries, aka a Spellslinger deck
  • You want to play a Graveyard-focused deck based on instants and sorceries, aka a Flashback deck
  • You prefer playing a slow, grindy deck, looking to win the long game
  • You value card advantage over everything else and want to drown your opponents in value

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You want to play a fast deck
  • You want to play an aggressive deck
  • You prefer creature-heavy decks
  • Your playgroup runs tons of graveyard hate

If you like where this deck is going, then great! Let's check out the preconstructed list:

Mystic Intellect undoubtedly leans heavily on Spellslinger and Graveyard themes right out of the box. I count 10 cards that care about instants or sorceries and a whopping 30(!) cards that care about your graveyard. While the most common way this deck casts spells from the graveyard is with the flashback mechanic (Think Twice), there are a few cards that can be cast from the graveyard different ways, such as Oona's Grace and Farm // Market.

Curiously, there's a good amount of cards that involve tapping (Scaretiller) and untapping (Pristine Angel), but only a single card that takes advantage of them (Prismatic Strands). I wonder if a previous version of Mystic Intellect had a tap/untap theme that was eventually cut from the final product? Regardless, this might be an interesting direction to take the deck if you're not interested in the Graveyard Spellslinger theme.

Like all the precons, Mystic Intellect comes with multiple potential commanders, each focusing on a different archetype to build around. For this article I will only be talking about Sevinne, the Chronoclasm. I'll show you how to tune Mystic Intellect into a more focused Graveyard Spellslinger deck, removing cards that don't fit our theme and adding more cards that do. If you're interested in seeing me build around the other commanders in the precon -- Pramikon, Sky Rampart, Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero, or Elsha of the Infinite -- please let me know in the comments section and I may cover them in the future. "


Sevinne's Graveyard Spellslinger

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Sevinne, the Chronoclasm has a few things going on that you can build around. The biggest and most obvious draw is Sevinne's triggered ability that copies the first instant/sorcery spell you cast from your graveyard each turn. This trigger is straight gas: suddenly you're drawing four cards when you flashback Deep Analysis or creating 20(!) tokens when you flashback Increasing Devotion! That's pretty insane value and definitely worth building around. Fill your deck with instants/sorceries that can be cast from your graveyard such as flashback (Ignite the Future), jump-start (Chemister's Insight), and aftermath (Refuse // Cooperate) to maximize Sevinne's ability. Spellslinger cards that reward you for casting instants/sorceries (Talrand, Sky Summoner) and cards that reward you for casting spells from the graveyard (River Kelpie) work best with this ability as well.

Sevinne, the Chronoclasm's copy trigger happens whenever you cast your first instant/sorcery spell each turn, not just on your turn. This means she works better with instant spells you can cast from the graveyard on your opponents' turns (Think Twice) but it's also worth adding ways to cast your sorceries at instant speed as well, such as Teferi, Time Raveler, so you can copy those spells on your opponents' turns as well.

With so much attention focused on Sevinne's triggered ability, you might forget she has another powerful ability: Sevinne is immune to damage! Yeah, that makes her an okay chump blocker, but the really exciting thing here is that Sevinne is immune to Red's creature board wipes, like Blasphemous Act and Chain Reaction! I've had a bit of an obsession for what I've called Boros Earthquake Control decks that look to keep the board clear of opposing creatures with Earthquakes while simultaneously burning opponents to death, especially once you throw in cards like Stuffy Doll and Boros Reckoner into the mix! Cast Star of Extinction, wipe out all opposing creatures, deal 20 damage with Stuffy Doll? Yes please! Alternatively, you could keep your creatures safe from harm with cards like Mark of Asylum and Light of Sanction; perfect for creature-heavy strategies.

I've written about Earthquake Control when discussing Archangel Avacyn and then again with Firesong and Sunspeaker, and honestly I think Sevinne, the Chronoclasm might be the best option of them all! Jeskai Earthquake Control!

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What Is The Deck Lacking?

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 sources of "card advantage;" I use this term loosely but am mostly looking for card draw or any spell that nets me 2+ non-land cards in hand / directly into play
  • 6 targeted removal, split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Mystic Intellect and how it compares:

Between all the card advantage and recursion, Mystic Intellect is designed to win in the lategame, where most other decks will be hard-pressed to keep up with the sheer amount of value this precon keeps churning out. The longer the game goes, the more likely Mystic Intellect takes over.

The problem arises in how well this deck can transition to that winning lategame stage. To really take advantage of all this card draw and recursion, you need lots of mana. Mystic Intellect has a good amount of mana, but the overall quality isn't high. Yes, there's a Sol Ring and a Jace's Sanctum, both solid inclusions, but there's also bleh options like Azorius Locket, Izzet Locket, and Ral Zarek, which are slower than I'd like. The first thing I'd do to speed up the deck would be to cut the lands down to 38, add ~3 more ramp cards, and swap existing ramp options with better stuff.

Another thing slowing Mystic Intellect is a lack of ways to fill the graveyard. So much of the deck benefits from you casting spells from your graveyard, but there are few ways to quickly and efficiently fill your graveyard to start your engines. There's a Faithless Looting in the deck, and that's a good start, but you want more looters like Cathartic Reunion and some wheels like Windfall to fill your yard in a hurry.

Finally, slow decks like Mystic Intellect are often vulnerable to early/midrange aggression. To avoid being a punching bag, the precon employs a fair amount of removal, along with deterrents like token generators (Talrand, Sky Summoner), pillowfort (Ghostly Prison), and shenanigans (Pramikon, Sky Rampart). These are alright, but they are temporary solutions and need to be backed up with removal ... which the deck is kinda bad at. Most of the removal is terribly overcosted, like Fervent Denial or Ray of Distortion. Others are just terrible, like Rolling Temblor. These removal spells are poor ways to stabilize. This deck will struggle to get into a winning position without good removal to get it there. We need better board wipes like Blasphemous Act and better spot removal like Swords to Plowshares so we can survive.

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Sevinne Graveyard Spellslinger Upgrade Options

Here are some of my favorite options under $10ish to shift Mystic Intellect into a more powerful and focused Graveyard Spellslinger deck under Sevinne, the Chronoclasm:

One of my favorite upgrade options in the entire deck is Jeskai Ascendancy. This is the ultimate looter in our colors, quickly and efficiently filling our graveyard while digging for cards we need. Things get even better if you include a Token subtheme since they can be pumped into lethal attackers with a few triggers! 

But of all the inclusions, I'm most excited for my favorite pet card in the entire game: Spellweaver Volute! You only get to double the value with Sevinne, the Chronoclasm when it's a spell in your graveyard, but whatever, it's still insane!

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$20 Sevinne Graveyard Spellslinger Upgrade

To tweak Mystic Intellect into a more focused Graveyard Spellslinger deck under Sevinne, the Chronoclasm, we're looking for a few things in particular:

  • Better / faster ramp
  • Faster ways to fill our graveyard
  • More ways to cast spells from our graveyard
  • More payoffs for casting instants or sorceries
  • More payoffs for casting spells from our graveyard
  • Better / cheaper / more consistent removal
  • Better finishers

That's what we want to add to the deck. We can safely cut cards that don't match any of the above criteria.

Here are the first cards I'd look to cut. Some cards are great by themselves but we have better on-theme synergy cards to replace them with (Bloodthirsty Blade). Some cards don't mesh well with the rest of our cards (Cliffside Rescuer), and other cards are just bad (Temple of the False God).


Next, are the additions. I added some faster ramp so we can establish our board quicker (Azorius Signet), added all the best remaining spells we can cast from our graveyard (Beacon Bolt), added more ways to recur our graveyard (Recoup), tossed in an auto-include tutor (Quiet Speculation), and opted to go for a Token subtheme (Saheeli, Sublime Artificer) which can help protect us early/midgame and can eventually turn into a finisher once we move lategame (Rally the Peasants).

The two strongest inclusions are Spellweaver Volute for that sweet recursion engine, and Jeskai Ascendancy, which loots away to fill our graveyard and dig for cards, all while pumping our token army for lethal damage.


Finally, here's how Mystic Intellect looks with the $20 swaps:


Two Down, Two To Go!

Let me know if there's some sweet spice I missed for Sevinne, the Chronoclasm by leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading!

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