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Budget Commander: 6 CMC Tribal | $50, $100, Budgetless


I've been brewing commander decks for many, many years, creating budget brews for Budget Commander and wacky nonsense weekly for Commander Clash. I've assembled Kaldra, struck down heretics with the power of the Moonfolk, and activated trap cards with Budget Animorphs. There's a lot of original builds that I'm proud of. But now it's time to talk about my greatest achievement, perhaps my magnum opus: 6 CMC Tribal.

Yes, 6 CMC Tribal: All the nonland cards in our deck must have a converted mana cost of exactly six. No more. No less. Seven is right out. 

Let's get the usual questions out of the way before discussing how to construct the deck that will soon reinvent the format as we know it:

6 CMC Tribal? Do you run any cards with different CMCs?

I mean what I said: all the nonland cards in the deck, including the commander, are exactly 6 cmc. I allow no exceptions to sully the good reputation that is 6 CMC Tribal.

Why?

Because 5 CMC Tribal is too easy, and 7 CMC Tribal is, of course, absurd.

No way!

Yes way.

But you can't cast anything until turn 6!

To the ignorant folks looking at the mere shadow of 6 CMC Tribal, it's normal to assume that we only "do stuff" on turn 6. But if you exit your cave and see the deck for the true beauty it is, you'll see that we're doing stuff to advance our goals as early as turn 1. It's not uncommon for us to cast real spells by turn 4. We're a slower deck, but we're not that slow.

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How do you win?

Ah, but that's the easiest part! There are quite a few powerful win conditions that happen to be 6 CMC. My favorite has to be Twilight's Call, returning all the creatures we've cycled/discarded/milled back to the battlefield ... right on the end step before our turn so we can immediately swing for lethal. Yes, I've pulled this off and yes, it is amazing.

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Looking for a more absolute path to victory? How about the classic Commander combo of Mike n' Trike? Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion = infinite damage. It's such a powerful combo that even the less enlightened Graveyard decks of the format tend to run it.

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Those are just two of our best options. There's plenty of nasty cards that can end games at 6 CMC.

There's no way this deck is viable. It will never win a game.

It can and has won games. I even won a Commander Clash game with it. This deck is most certainly a casual deck, but it's definitely functional and can steal games. Don't disrespect it.

I'm Sold. Teach Me!

Then let's begin, young padawan.

 

Making 6 CMC Tribal Work

This tribe is not for the faint of heart. 6 CMC Tribal is a daunting restriction and, built improperly, is doomed for failure. If all you do is pay six mana for each spell you cast, you're going to fall woefully behind the rest of the table: your first spell would only happen on turn six, and thereafter you'd be limited to a single spell each turn for the majority of the game. There's no way this strategy works against decks looking to maximize the number of spells they cast each turn. You'll get overwhelmed and taken out before you do anything of note.

To make this restriction work, we need to build smart and with a clear purpose. Pretty much all the best cards for this deck will fall into the following categories:

  • Can be cast for less than 6 mana. There are a ton of 6 CMC spells that can be cast for less mana, like delve (Soulflayer), split cards (Expansion // Explosion), evoke (Cloudthresher), and undaunted (Curtains' Call). These cards allow our deck to have a reasonable curve
  • X-for-1. Since our deck is slow, we rely on spells that trade for a lot more of our opponent's cards to catch up. Board wipes like Hour of Revelation, Bane of Progress, and Life's Finale let us reset the board and keep up with our opponents.
  • High Impact. The one thing 6 CMC Tribal isn't lacking is high impact cards that can single-handedly take over games:  Consecrated Sphinx overloads us with cards, Grave Titan quickly develops an army, and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled is an underrated powerhouse that puts opponents on a short clock.

By making sure our card choices adhere to these categories we can develop a focused and powerful deck!

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Choosing Your Commander

Which commander you choose will shape what kind of 6 CMC Tribal deck you end up making. I'll briefly go over my top commander picks:

The first option is to go 5C with either Karona, False God, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, or Ramos, Dragon Engine. This is a great option since you have access to all the best 6 CMC cards to work with. The commander itself plays a minimal role in the deck's construction: it's there to be a good blocker and possible win condition with commander damage. Of the three, I prefer Ramos, as the dragon can potentially give us some ramp and it can get big enough to deal lethal damage to opponents if left alone.

Next up are the tri-color commanders. Picking any of these means you have less colors and therefore less cards to work with than Ramos, but in return to gain access to more powerful commanders that can better shape/support your deck. Three very interesting commanders are Narset, Enlightened Master, Intet, the Dreamer, and Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire: all of these commanders have powerful triggered abilites that only get stronger when your deck is composed entirely of 6 CMC spells. They all could be considered "High CMC Matters" cards! And yes, Narset players, we do have extra turn spells at 6 CMC: Karn's Temporal Sundering, Part the Waterveil, and Walk the Aeons all can be cast off Narset's triggered ability!

Of all the options, however, my favorite has to be Tasigur, the Golden Fang. While not as flashy as someone like Narset, Tasigur is strong, very strong! Tasigur is the only 6 CMC commander that you can actually cast for less than 6 mana thanks to that handy dandy delve keyword! This means you can often cast him before turn 6 to block any early aggression, you can often cast him alongside another 6 cmc spell for your turn, and you can recast him a few times in a match without difficulty. And his activated ability is fantastic! It's repeatable card advantage that you can use as a political tool for maximum effect: I'm usually striking deals with my chosen opponent so that they return a card that is mutually beneficial to both of us -- like a clutch board wipe, for example. The ability also dumps more cards into our graveyard to fuel our other spells like recasting Tasigur or getting ready for a giant Twilight's Call

Since Tasigur is my bae, the budget lists will be with him at the helm, but I will offer 6 CMC options for all five colors.

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Land Count and Cycling

I'd guestimate that Commander decks have an average cmc of ~3.5, with more competitive/faster decks having lower curves and more casual decks hopefully sticking to that number with a few exceptions like Jodah, Archmage Eternal. These decks really want to play three lands by turn three and usually run 36-37 lands to accomplish this goal (excluding ramp).

6 CMC Tribal, however ... well, our average cmc is a wee bit higher. We really want to be playing a land every single turn until at least turn 6. Also our ramp options, while better than you think (see below), is still more limited than other decks, which means more of our mana base has to be lands. To regularly hit our land drops all the way up to turn 6 we'll need a lot of lands, but how much should we run?

I suck at math, which is bad news because Magic is all about math. The good news is that Frank Karsten wrote a goddamn amazing article about land drops that I HIGHLY recommend you read. If there was a single person I'd recommend reading Magic articles from, it'd be Frank. He does maths good.

Using Frank's article as a guideline, the number of lands we'd need to run to drop a land each turn all the way to turn six is gonna be around 50 lands. That's half our deck just being lands. But there's a serious problem with that: land flood! If we have 50 lands in our 99-card deck, a huge percentage of our draws are just going to be lands with no action in hand. Since we need a high land count but want to avoid land flood, we must find ways to mitigate flood potential.

Cycling Lands

The best way to run a high number of lands but mitigate flood is to run cycling lands. We currently have 22 cycling lands available to us. The best of these are the dual lands from Amonkhet (Sheltered Thicket) since they both fix your mana and have basic land types that can be fetched with cards like Verdant Catacombs. I'd recommend running all the dual lands that are in your deck's colors, then Ash Barrens, and then as many other cycling lands as you can fit.

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Landcycling

Another key piece to combat mana flood is landcycling cards. All of these cards let you pay 2 mana and discard them to grab a land instead. While Frank Karsten probably wouldn't consider these as "lands," in playtesting I've felt that they basically can be counted as such if you're already running so many lands and the landcyclers only make up a small percentage of the deck. Basic landcycling cards are great (Grave Upheaval) but if you are running dual lands (Fetid Pools) then the best are the ones not restricted to basics (Sanctum Plowbeast) since they can fetch duals and act as amazing mana fixing.

Now generally these landcyclers wouldn't be worth a slot in your typical Commander deck, since they are overcosted spells you'd rarely ever cast and usually paying 2 mana to fetch a land is worse than just running a land instead. However, in 6 CMC Tribal, these cards shine for three reasons: first, our deck's mana curve is pretty clunky, so adding a bunch of spells that "cost" 2 mana is a great way to use mana that we otherwise wouldn't have a use for. Second, cycling fills our graveyard full of value, which we can then use to fuel our best cards like Twilight's Call and pay for delve like Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Finally, swapping some of our 50ish lands with landcycling cards means we increase the concentration of 6 CMC cards in our deck which makes cards like Narset, Enlightened Master more powerful since we're whiffing less on lands.

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Lands + Landcycling Together

I recommend starting with 50 lands, with around 10-12 of those lands being cycling lands. I'd then replace 4-5 land slots with landcycling cards.

 

Ramp

As a wise meme once said, "gotta go fast." This motto is no less true in the Commander format. A slow deck is a useless deck. I feel the need, the need for speed, my friends. And I'll show you how we do that. With 6 CMC Tribal, we certainly have to be a little more creative with our options, but the options are there and they can work way better than you think.

Land Ramp

The first and most important ramp category for us are lands that ramp. Myriad Landscape and Ancient Tomb are no-brainer inclusions. If your deck has a high basic land count, Terrain Generator and Isolated Watchtower can do serious work. If you're in Green then you get to add Blighted Woodland, and if you're Green + White then you also get Krosan Verge. Finally, if your deck has a lot of ways to tutor both pieces up, Cabal Coffers is nutty with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. I should mention, however, that Temple of the False God is still terrible in this deck since we actually do want to use our mana before we have five lands, so get that trash outta here.

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6 CMC Ramp

We've also got 6 CMC spells that can ramp for us as well. The best of the best has to be Shefet Monitor, which is basically a Solemn Simulacrum in our deck, ramping us and drawing a card for just four mana. The next best is Avatar of Growth, which we can drop on turn 3 (assuming 4-player FFA) and set us up for casting our other 6 CMC spells on turn 4. Yes, it ramps our opponents as well, but the ramp is far more important for us and it gives us an early blocker.

If we do have to spend six mana to ramp, the best options are the mana doublers Mana Reflection and Regal Behemoth. This is serious ramp that will let us start casting two 6 CMC spells per turn. I recommend avoiding lesser ramp options like Verdant Confluence as they are simply far lower impact than the mana doublers.

There's also a bunch of cards that let us cast additional spells for free, which I consider a type of ramp as well. Sunbird's Invocation is a great way to cast two spells for the price of one while also acting as card advantage + selection, essentially a better Mana Reflection in our deck.

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Paying Less Than Six Mana

Ramp is one part of going fast. The second part is paying less than six mana for our 6 CMC spells. You know: cheating.

There's many different ways we can skimp on the mana cost. Some of these are keywords like delve (Tasigur, the Golden Fang). Some cards offer alternative casting costs like Spinning Darkness. Then there's the cards you randomly find in sets, like Hour of Revelation. The most Cheatyface way has to be split cards, since their total CMC adds up both halves (Reason // Believe

Here are all the good cards we can cast for less than six mana. I struggled to research this list, so there very well could be sweet cards out there that I missed. Let me know if there's any good card excluded from here:

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Tutors

6 CMC Tribal is blessed with such good tutors that they'll actually make the other plebeian Commander decks jealous. We have not one, but multiple Grim Tutors available to us, and we don't have to cough up a stupid $200 USD to buy them either. Two of them are the transmute cards Ethereal Usher and Netherborn Phalanx; since all our nonland cards are 6 CMC, they can tutor up any nonland card in our deck. The final one is Beseech the Queen, which can find any card in our deck once we have six lands in play.

We do have some other more niche tutors available to us whose usefulness depends entirely on the rest of the deck.

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Removal

Our hedonistic opponents, indulging themselves with proper "mana curves" and other such trivialties, will unfortunately end up building a board state much faster than us. We must put the heathens in their place with powerful cards that out-value our opponents so that we can maintain dominance.

The best cards to do this are board wipes. We will simply have less permanents than our opponents, especially in the early game, so we can take full advantage of cards that reset the board. Casting Life's Finale or Bane of Progress is always going to end up hurting our opponents way more than it'd ever hurt us. Removal on a stick is also highly useful in this slower style of deck. Cards like Duplicant and Noxious Gearhulk can take out important threats while also doubling as defense against attackers.

Run lots of removal. Slow the opposing decks down; make them play at our pace. Here are some of the best options we can run. Again, researching this is a bit sketch, so feel free to suggest cards that I missed and I'll add them:

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Card Draw

The best way to establish dominance over the table is to draw more cards than anyone else. There's nothing more demoralizing than having 15+ cards in hand with a Reliquary Tower in play. I suggest fanning out all your cards -- not so you can better read them, but literally fan your opponents with air to the face with your packed hand of value while imitating a wealthy 18th century British noble.

6 CMC is certainly not lacking in disgusting card draw. We've got Consecrated Sphinx, Recurring Insight, Sire of Stagnation - we're kinda spoiled here.

 

Winning

A lot of our best removal and card draw options come in creature form, and they all happen to be big enough to pack a punch. Your opponents can only take so many swings from Noxious Gearhulk / Kothophed, Soul Hoarder before they tap out. But to speed up their inevitable doom, it's nice to run a few cards that are specialized in putting our foes out of their misery. We've got heavy hitters like Ob Nixilis, Unshackled, but we can do even better than that.

I really like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed + Triskelion combo for this deck. Sometimes you can just cast Mike and then Trike on the following turn to win the game. Other times you bin both early and grab them both with Ever After or Twilight's Call. Once both are in play, your opponents need instant speed removal or you just win the game.

The next big win condition is cycling creatures with Twilight's Call. If you're already running landcyclers (Jhessian Zombies) -- which you should be -- then consider running all the other cycling creatures (River Serpent). They fuel a bunch of sweet cards like delve, and then you can reanimate them all at once with Twilight's Call. New Perspectives help you rip through your deck with this strategy as well. Since all the cycling cards are only 1-2 mana they let you do something useful with your mana when not casting 6 CMC spells and they let you draw into your better cards.

Oh, and there's Sorin Markov. Sorin is often considered a jerk move in polite company, but this is 6 CMC Tribal and we're above such petty codes of conduct.

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Budget 6 CMC Tribal Lists: $50, $100, budgetless

For the sample lists I decided to go with Tasigur, the Golden Fang as the commander. I'll show you three lists at increasing budgets so you can see my thought process on upgrading cards.

6 CMC Tribal under Tasigur pushes towards a Graveyard theme, with payoffs being cards like Tasigur, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, and Twilight's Call. We're running lots of cycling cards for two main reasons: to smooth out our draw and act as fuel for our Graveyard support cards.  

The first list starts at $50. We're a hardcore Control deck, absolutely loaded with removal to police the board and keep up with faster decks. We can leverage all this removal with political deals thanks to Tasigur's ability. Eventually, we win by swinging with random big creatures (Nemesis of Mortals), stealing our opponent's win conditions (Confiscate), or drop our finishers Twilight's Call / Izoni, Thousand-Eyed.

The next list is currently $100 USD. We put up the big bucks for Mikaeus, the Unhallowed to run the Mike n' Trike combo. There's also smaller upgrades like better ramp with Avatar of Growth and better board wipes with Bane of Progress and Deadly Tempest.

Finally, this is what the deck can look like without any budget restriction. We pick up sweet additional win conditions in Sorin Markov and Massacre Wurm, better card draw with Consecrated Sphinx, and better ramp with Mana Reflection. Our lands got a major overhaul as well, with additional ramp like Ancient Tomb and we loaded up on fetchlands (Polluted Delta) to fuel delve and also provide amazing consistent mana-fixing when paired with duals (Breeding Pool). Behold:

Perfection.

 

That's All, Folks!

I absolutely loved writing this article, and I hope you enjoyed it too! Hopefully, 6 CMC Tribal will earn the respect it deserves. Now to figure out what to write about next! As always, please let me know in the comments section below what you'd like to see me write about, or what I can do to improve these articles/videos; I read all the comments and greatly appreciate feedback. You should also follow me on Twitter @BudgetCommander since I'll probably start doing polls to decide what to do next. Thanks for reading!


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