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Budget Commander: $20 "Stalwart Unity" Upgrade

Hello, ladies and gents! I'll be doing a little mini-series on each of the brand-spanking new Commander 2016 preconstructed decks to help you guys choose the right deck for you, including an analysis of the unaltered deck, along with suggestions on how to start upgrading them on any budget. We're kicking off the series with the Stalwart Unity deck, which is the most political, defensive, group hug deck of the five.

You might like the deck if...

  • You enjoy defensive decks that don't draw too much attention to yourself
  • You love politics and forging temporary alliances with opponents to take out common threats
  • You'd prefer to win by manipulating your opponents to slug it out between themselves and then steal victory with a lategame haymaker
  • You like giving your opponents free resources, either as a bargaining chip or just to see what happens

You might NOT like the deck if...

  • ​You like playing aggressive decks
  • You want to end games quickly
  • You hate politics
  • You don't want to give your opponents free stuff, ever (unless "stuff" means "damage to the face")

If this deck sounds cool to you, then great! Let's take a closer look, starting with the full preconstructed list:

Stalwart Unity is a defensive deck focused on discouraging foes from messing with you, allowing you to develop your board unmolested until you're ready to make a game-winning move. It discourages attacks on you in a number of different ways, including:

Speaking of Group Hug, the main commander of the deck, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, fits that category as well:

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Hugging to Victory

I admit. Pure Group Hug, as an archetype, has never appealed to me. I don't like giving everyone free resources for the sake of it, just to see what happens. (I dislike pure Chaos decks for the same reason.) However, I love "hug" cards that benefit me more than my opponents. These cards usually fall into two categories:

  1. Asymmetrical Hugs. Cards that give yourself more resources than it gives your opponents, e.g. Tempt With Discovery
  2. Political Hugs. Your opponents only get resources if they work with you, either because the card says so (e.g. Orzhov Advokist) or because you otherwise won't help them out (e.g. Skullwinder, "I'll target you if you do something for me").

Example: I hate Collective Voyage, but I love Tempt with Discovery. I much prefer Tempt because it helps you much more than your opponents.

Luckily, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis matches my preference of asymmetrical hugs: they let your opponents play a land or draw a card, but they let you do both, so you're often getting more value out of the card than anyone else (as long as you have a land to play). That's what gets me excited to play with this commander. Your opponents think you're helping everyone out equally, only to realize a few turns later that you're way ahead for some strange reason!

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How It Plays

Stalwart Unity has a very sneaky, very political game plan. It goes like this:

  1. Discourage your opponents from messing with you via pillowfort (Ghostly Prison), bribery (Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer), and hugs (Howling Mine).
  2. Durdle while your opponents spend their resources killing each other, popping in now and then to police the board (Blasphemous Act) in case things get out of control.
  3. Steal the game out of nowhere with a lategame finisher like Treacherous Terrain.

The preconstructed deck accomplishes these goals quite well without any alteration. It's also well-constructed in general, with a reasonable mana curve, 3.83 average converted mana cost, ~11 or so ramp cards, and even more mana-fixing. There's some solid removal / utility spells to round things out. Good stuff!


Removing Discord

While Stalwart Unity is a solid deck, there is obviously lots of room for improvement. Some cards, like Collective Voyage, is in conflict with your many Propaganda cards. Giving all your opponents a crapton of mana means they can easily pay the mana tax to attack you. Other cards, like Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist, are simply subpar and can be replaced with something better. Finally, some good cards like Lurking Predators do not have the support in the deck to live up to their potential.

Here are the first cards I would suggest cutting to make room for harmonious upgrades:


Political Tokens

My personal preference upgrading Stalwart Unity is to maintain and build upon the Political theme while also adding a Tokens subtheme. Specifically, I'm interested in adding cards that give everyone an army, which my opponents will then be encouraged to use against each other. This is an approach I used to great success with my Budget Gahiji deck and decided to incorporate here as well. Here's how the merging of Politics + Tokens plays out:

The first step is to discourage anyone from messing with you. You accomplish this with pillow fort cards (Archangel of Tithes), "rattlesnake" cards that threaten immediate retribution against anyone messing with you (Aura of Silence), and offering free resources to people who work with you (Skullwinder).

The second step is to encourage your opponents to kill each other. You give everyone armies (Alliance of Arms) and give them incentive to attack your opponents (Edric, Spymaster of Trest). They will start spending their resources on each other instead of on you. Woe to anyone who dares attack you, because as you giveth, you can also taketh away (Reins of Power).

The final step is winning. You've got a lot of options here: you can use the armies you gave everyone against them (Insurrection), or pump up your army into giants (Beastmaster Ascension), or something else entirely (Synthetic Destiny).

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Here's a list of easy upgrades with a clear Tokens subtheme going on. All the cards listed are under $3:

Picking some of the suggested cards, here's what you can add for $20:


Here is the Stalwart Unity deck with the sample swaps:


Budget-less Upgrades

Here's a bunch of cards over $3 that you might consider adding to the deck. My suggestions continue to focus on Politics with a Tokens subtheme, but there are also plenty of generic "goodstuff" cards that you should consider as well.

And finally, here's a sample budget-less version of the deck. As usual, the expensive lands take up the bulk of the price tag.

While this deck isn't tested and fine-tuned yet, I'm excited to start playing around with it in the near future and I hope you like it too!


Next Up: Breed Lethality!

I've done a preview of the Commander 2016 preconstructed deck Breed Lethality's main commander, Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, over here. I showed you my spin on how to build her as the head of a Superfriends deck. Next time I'll be showing how to upgrade Breed Lethality into a +1/+1 counter deck! As always, your feedback is always appreciated. Let me know which preconstructed deck you want to see next and what archetypes you want to see built off them. 

You can reach me in the comments section below or tweet me @BudgetCommander. Thanks for reading!

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