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Budget Commander: $20 Primal Genesis 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.

Today we go tall by covering Primal Genesisa Go Tall Tokens deck looking to crush opponents through combat. Unlike most Token decks that aim to Go Wide, flooding the board with small creatures and then overwhelming our opponents, this deck aims to Go Tall, creating huge token creatures to smash face with like Giant Adephage and Desolation Twin. Once we've created a huge token, we can copy it with cheap and efficient spells with the populate mechanic, such as with Song of the Worldsoul and Rootborn Defenses. So not only do we have the biggest creatures on the battlefield, we double up on our best threats soon afterwards, quickly presenting lethal damage to our opponents! Primal Genesis proves to the table that size does matter and beats everyone over the head with this fact.


You might like the deck if ...

  • You want to play a Timmy deck
  • You want to play an aggressive, combat-focused deck
  • You like Go Tall big creature strategies
  • You like Token strategies
  • You want a unique deck that combines both Go Tall and Token strategies, a combination rarely explored
  • You want a deck that is straightforward to play but has plenty of tricks to keep things interesting

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You want to play a Control deck
  • You don't like attacking people
  • You'd rather wipe the board of creatures than actually play them yourself
  • You want to stick to a pure Go Tall deck or a pure Tokens deck, and not mix the two archetypes

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

Primal Genesis is all about making big tokens, copying those tokens, and smashing face. I count 26 cards the generate tokens, and nearly all of those are 3/3's or larger. Once we have tokens, we can cheaply copy them: I count 12 ways to copy tokens, primarily with populate cards like Full Flowering but there are also a few other ways such as Second Harvest. The deck also encourages combat: I count 9 cards that reward us for attacking, like Ohran Frostfang. All the populate cards encourage us to have the biggest tokens possible, but we also have other Go Tall support cards like Colossal Majesty. All these different themes blend together really well into a cohesive deck!

Like all the precons, Primal Genesis comes with multiple potential commanders, each focusing on a different archetype to build around. For this article I will only be talking about Ghired, Conclave Exile. I'll show you how to tune Primal Genesis into a more focused Go Tall Tokens 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 -- Atla Palani, Nest Tender, Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, or Tahngarth, First Mate -- please let me know in the comments section and I may cover them in the future.


Ghired's Big Token Combat

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Ghired, Conclave Exile really excites me. While most Selesnya Token decks are content to sit back and develop their board, like Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and Rhys the Redeemed, Ghired's got that Red blood in him, and he's looking to get into the thick of things as soon as possible! Ghired is pretty impressive by himself, producing a respectable 4/4 token when he enters the battlefield and populating when he attacks, so with just Ghired out, your first attack will be a total of 10 damage! Ghired is the perfect commander for an aggressive Go Tall Tokens deck, and he's rather unique since he gives you access to Red, which this deck can take full advantage of.

Most of the amazing Token staples are going to be just as amazing here: Parellel Lives, Anointed Procession, and Doubling Season make all your tokens and token doublers even more valuable. Run them if you have them!

Where Ghired, Conclave Exile really starts to diverge, however, is in token producers: cards like Tendershoot Dryad, Hornet Queen, and Avenger of Zendikar are usually the go-to token-producing staples of a Token deck, which you then buff up with anthems like Beastmaster Ascension and Cathars' Crusade for the win. While all these cards are still great with Ghired -- who will cut an Avenger of Zendikar from a Token deck, seriously? -- they are definitely less good in Ghired, since this commander rewards you more for producing BIG tokens!

Now, how do we produce BIG tokens? Well, most of the best ones are already in the deck. There's a few notable Selesnyan omissions, however, like Grove of the Guardian and Advent of the Wurm. However, the real spice comes from primarily Red: cards that make temporary copies of creatures that usually go away at the end of the turn/combat, like Flamerush Commander, can then be populated by Ghired, Conclave Exile and other cards, and those copied tokens stay on the battlefield forever! The best tokens end up being copies of other creatures! Cards like Flameshadow Conjuring and Twinflame are fantastic for making token copies of our best creatures and then copying those copies. We can make token copies of creatures in the graveyard thanks to Seance and God-Pharaoh's Gift. But the best card of all, and is seriously worth splurging for, is Helm of the Host. You can copy anything every combat, and it leads to really degenerate things!

Copy the myriad cards, folks: Caller of the Pack, Herald of the Host, Warchief Giant, Blade of Selves. Attack, making myriad copies. Copy the copies with Ghired or whatever other populate cards. You keep the copy. Next time you attack it'll be for even MORE damage!

Speaking of attacking: Ghired likes to attack. That's how he populates. He's in Red. Red is great at attacking! Haste is a must: Fervor will do, or Hammer of Purphoros if you're fancy, whatever. But even better is extra combat cards like Aurelia, the Warleader. More combats means more damage and more combat triggers! Ghired attacks twice, therefore populates twice! Whee!

Did someone say "combo"? No? Too bad! Combo time: Aurelia, the Warleader is great here. Helm of the Host is great here. Equip one to the other. No, other way. Boom! Infinite combat steps! Wheeeeee!

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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 Primal Rage and how it compares:

There's a lot to love about Primal Genesis right out the box. It knows what it wants to do and shoves a bunch of good cards to achieve its goals. But boy does it desperately want more mana to work with! We've got so many 6+ mana spells and big X spells we need tons of mana for! How the heck is this deck expected to cast Desolation Twin with just 6 ramp cards???

So, uh, yeah. We gotta fix that. Top priority.

The next glaring omission is a lack of haste for our big fatties. Ghired, Conclave Exile has an attack trigger. We've got stuff like Giant Adephage that want to attack asap, and we're in Red, the best color for haste. Lightning Greaves is fantastic, don't get me wrong, but what about one or two extra options? Hammer of Purphoros maybe?

Otherwise the meat and potatoes of this deck is great. Solid land choices. Thematic graveyard hate with Selesnya Eulogist. Nice staples like Mimic Vat and the new Idol of Oblivion. Me likey. But gosh do we need more mana! At least they didn't add Temple of the False God this time ...

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Ghired Big Token Combat Upgrade Options

Here are some of my favorite options under $10ish to shift Primal Genesis into a more powerful and focused Discard deck under [[Ghired, Conclave Exile]]:

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$20 Ghired Stompy Combat Tokens Upgrade

Here are the tweaks we're aiming for to make Primal Genesis into a more effective Stompy Combat Token deck:

  • More ramp
  • More token copies of creatures
  • More combat support

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. These cards either don't fit our Stompy Combat Tokens theme, or they're too weak, or we're just making room for more on-theme cards:

Here are the first cards I'd look to add. I focused primarily on upping our ramp so we can actually cast our bigger spells in a timely manner. I added some additional ways to make token copies of our creatures, most notably Helm of the Host. I also added haste (Fires of Yavimaya) and extra combat steps Aurelia, the Warleader. But putting them all together brings us something even greater: the Helm of the Host combo, either with Aurelia or Godo! That should close out games pretty easily.


And here's Primal Genesis with the $20 changes made:


That's All, Folks!

We did it! Four out of four C19 decks upgraded! Sorry for no videos for the last two; I just couldn't get the videos done before I went on vacation, and it's impossible to do the videos while I'm away. C'est la vie. I'll undoubtedly give the other C19 commanders a closer look when I'm back. If there's a particular commander you want to see me cover in a Budget Commander article, let me know in the comments section! Until then ... see ya!

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