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Budget Commander: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis | $25, $50, $100*


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Like the last Budget Commander article, I asked Twitter what commander they wanted me to cover next, and they picked Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. This was over a week ago and when I started writing this article, poor Hogaak wasn't received well by some parts of the Commander community. "Disappointing" and "unimpressed" are two of the most common words that popped up when it was first previewed. But after Hogaak was chosen to be the subject of my next article, I started researching ways to really maximize its potential, and the more sweet synergies I dug up the more excited I was to share with you this article. We were on track to do the usual $25 / $50 / $100 budget deck lists and all was going to be good!

Alas, those price points were not meant to be.

You see, when I started writing this article, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis had a preorder price of just $2. Nobody really cared about it ... until, oopise, Hogaak broke Modern! Like, uh, immediately, literally as soon as the card became legal in the format. And that caused a wee price spike that I didn't anticipate:

Hogaak is now currently ~$20 US at the time of writing this, about the same price as my entire cheapest sample deck. Yikes. Now Hogaak is just a rare, so as Modern Horizons continues to be opened and the hype for the Modern deck dies down, it should hopefully drop in price, but for now it's kinda rough for me to adjust my budget brews to accommodate that $20 price tag. So instead, for the first time ever on Budget Commander, I'm gonna cheat: this article excludes Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis from the budget. The deck list prices will reflect the 99 cards in your library, not including the commander. It's not something I like doing but I took on this project with the assumption that I was building around a $2 card, not a $20 card. Sorry, folks! I hope you'll forgive me and still enjoy this article!

 

Why You Should Play Hogaak

Most Commander folks weren't hot for Hogaak when it was first previewed. Yeah, it has a cool, unique casting restriction, has the ability to dance around the commander tax, and it's a dope reference to Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, but the major criticism is always that it's "just a big dumb beater." And that's kinda true: when Hogaak is on the battlefield, it's an 8/8 trampling creature with no other relevant abilities. But it's unfair to dismiss Hogaak because it's "just" an 8/8 trampler and doesn't beat you over the head with telling you exactly how to build around it like Meren of Clan Nel Toth does. The clues to properly build around it are all over the card, but you just gotta think outside the text box a little.

Here are the main attributes of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and how to abuse them:

  • High CMC. Hogaak has a converted mana cost of 7. That's a very high number that luckily we get to skirt around by paying via delve and convoke instead of actual mana. But we can actually use that high cmc to our advantage by running cards that reward us for having a high cmc permanent, like drawing 7 cards off Morbid Curiosity or generating 7 mana with Soldevi Adnate.
  • High Power/Toughness. Hogaak is an 8/8 creature. That's big. There's a bunch of cards that reward us for having big creatures: we can draw 8 cards off Rishkar's Expertise, have Selvala, Heart of the Wilds tap for 8 mana, and beat up pretty much any opposing creature with Prey Upon.
  • Convoke. We need at least two green and/or black creatures on the battlefield to cast Hogaak, but the ideal would be seven creatures so we don't need to delve away any cards to cast it. Therefore creatures are much preferable to noncreatures: our ramp (Elves of Deep Shadow), removal (Reclamation Sage), any everything else should favor creature options since they all can convoke Hogaak. Plus we're also interested in tokens to help flood the board with creatures, so stuff like Korozda Guildmage is great here.
  • Delve. The other way we can pay for Hogaak is by exiling cards from our graveyard. We'll naturally fill our 'yard over the course of a game, but self-mill can help speed that up while advancing our board. Cards like Satyr Wayfinder, Stinkweed Imp, and Nyx Weaver are perfect here.
  • Cast From Graveyard. Being able to cast Hogaak from the graveyard means we never need to send it back to the command zone, so we don't need to pay increasing commander taxes. That means we can continually sacrifice Hogaak for value and never need to pay extra to recast it! Cards like Carrion and Sacrifice are just some more ways we can sacrifice Hogaak for insane value, then recast it.
  • Trample. Kinda straightforward, but also worth mentioning that our 8/8 commander also has trample. It can naturally 3-shot any opponent by dealing 21 commander damage, and even if our opponents have blockers we can still steamroll over them. Since evasion is already covered, we don't need to find ways to give Hogaak trample and can instead stick to ways to increase its damage output so it can more quickly kill opponents via commander damage.

So as you can see, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis isn't "just" an 8/8 trampler. There's a ton going on with this card and a lot of ways you can build off it!

Putting everything together, or game plan ends up being this:

  1. Ramp, draw cards, and interact with the board, all while filling our graveyard.
  2. Cast Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and other cards that benefit from having a full graveyard (Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord).
  3. Use Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis to draw tons of cards (Rishkar's Expertise), create tons of tokens (Korozda Guildmage), and make tons of mana (Traverse the Outlands)!
  4. Win the game by swinging with Hogaak, attacking with a swarm of creatures, casting a giant X spell (Exsanguinate), or combo'ing off!

 

You might like the deck if ...

  • You like juggling multiple archetypes in one deck: Go Tall, Go Wide, Graveyard, and Sacrifice!
  • You want to play janky looking cards that nobody plays but are powerhouses in this deck, like Soldevi Adnate
  • You like having easy access to your commander at all times, never having to pay that annoying commander tax
  • You want to play a Golgari deck with a commander that isn't Meren of Clan Nel Toth or The Gitrog Monster

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You want to play a straightforward, linear deck with a single gameplan
  • You think graveyards are icky and gross (which, to be fair, they are)
  • You're on an extreme budget and can't afford a $20 commander (but it's going down!)

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Filling The Grave With Value

A big part of our deck's gameplan is self-mill, specifically getting creatures and lands in the graveyard for value. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis rewards us for doing this by fueling its delve ability, but honestly, self-milling creatures/lands are just the best thing that Golgari does. Self-milling creatures/lands fuels cards like undergrowth (Mausoleum Secrets), gives us better targets for our recursion (Regrowth), or setting up massive recursion spells (World Shaper). So we're highly incentivized to fill our graveyard as quickly as possible.

Throughout the article you'll see an emphasis placed on spells that do cool things for us but also happen to fill our graveyard as well. Satyr Wayfinder finds us a land, Jarad's Orders tutors, and Grisly Salvage is recursion, but all of them fill our graveyard in the process. Special emphasis will be placed on creatures and lands because those card types have the highest synergy in our deck; we need creatures to convoke Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and most of the best Golgari spells are keyed off creatures and/or lands (Fauna Shaman).

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Go Tall

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is an 8/8 trampling creature. That's what the internet would deem "thicc." Obviously this huge size is great for combat, both as a blocker and especially as an attacker that can 3-shot opponents with commander damage. But far more interesting is that fact that we can run a bunch of "size matters" cards that give our deck a huge power boost for having big creatures! We'll be drawing tons of cards (Soul's Majesty), making tons of tokens (Carrion), and generating tons of mana (Traverse the Outlands) to win the game with. These cards will be covered in later categories, but here I wanted to highlight some other thicc bois that we should be running.

These creatures have a similar function to Hogaak in our deck: they are huge, mana-efficient creatures that work off our self-mill strategy. They are great for defense and beatdown, but they also fuel all our "size matters" cards as well. These are some of my favorite options:

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Go Wide

We need a minimum of two creatures in order to cast Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, but ideally we want seven on the battlefield so we can cast Hogaak for "free" without exiling any cards from our graveyard. Our deck has plenty of creatures, but in order to consistently have 7+ creatures on the battlefield at once, we should be looking to run some token generators to help us fill the board.

Just like with our Go Tall cards, Going Wide allows us to run very powerful payoff cards, like Harvest Season for ramp, Shamanic Revelation to draw cards, and Elder of Laurels pump our thicc bois. These will be covered in later categories, but for now here are my favorite Go Wide inclusions for the deck:

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Ramp

If you are incorporating a Go Tall theme to the deck, we've got some spicy ramp options: Traverse the Outlands and Selvala, Heart of the Wilds skyrocket your available mana with a bit of work. But also of note are rituals like Soldevi Adnate and Sacrifice, which pair well with all the recursion our deck is capable of, especially when our commander, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis doesn't suffer from commander tax since we recast it from the graveyard.

If you're adding a Go Wide subtheme then it's recommended to run Harvest Season for huge value. There's also Song of Freyalise to turn all your random creatures into Birds of Paradise, or Earthcraft if you have deep pockets.

All the generic green ramp staples are just as good here as they are in any deck, like Sakura-Tribe Elder, Nature's Lore, and Rampant Growth. Our deck prefers creatures over instants/sorceries due to synergies, so cards like Wood Elves get better in our deck. Special mention goes to new inclusion Springbloom Druid which is a superior Farhaven Elf in our deck since it puts a land in our graveyard.

Here are some of my favorite choices for the deck:

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Card Draw

For Go Tall card draw, we've got excellent options such as Rishkar's Expertise, Soul's Majesty, and combat-enabled draw like Hunter's Insight and Hunter's Prowess. We can also sacrifice our big creatures to Greater Good, Life's Legacy, and Disciple of Bolas, and then recur them with our numerous creature recursion spells (Regrowth, Victimize, etc.).

For Go Wide card draw we've got stuff like Shamanic Revelation, Minions' Murmurs, and Regal Force.

If you're adding a Sacrifice theme to the deck then you can add stuff like Fecundity and Deathreap Ritual.

No matter which themes you focus on, Golgari has a ton of generic card draw to fall back on: Harmonize, Ambition's Cost, Necropotence, we're completely flooded with sweet options.

Here are some of my favorite picks for the deck:

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Graveyard Recursion

Perhaps the greatest strength of a Golgari deck is its powerful graveyard recursion options. This color combination can get anything back to our hand (Regrowth) but shines best when getting back creatures (Victimize) and lands (World Shaper). Remember, our deck has a strong Self-Mill theme, so our graveyard should be loaded with sweet spells to recur. Graveyard recursion is far more important to Golgari than it is for most other color combinations.

Here are some of my favorite graveyard recursion spells for our deck. There's a silly amount of options to choose from so this is far from a complete list, but I tried to include the most notable ones -- except for Reap which is just here because I audibly said, "neat," to myself in a cafe when I first saw this while researching this article and the person beside me looked at me confused.

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Tutors

We're in Black and Green so we have access to all the best generic tutors in the format: Demonic Tutor, Worldly Tutor, and for those with money to spend there's the broken Survival of the Fittest.

For our deck in particular there's a bunch of graveyard-related tutors like Jarad's Orders, Final Parting, and Mausoleum Secrets which work particularly well in our deck.

Here are some of my favorite options for this deck:

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Interaction

I used to call this category "removal" but I think "interaction" is a more encompassing title. Simply put, every deck needs interaction to stop our opponents from running away with the game or to eliminate roadblocks that might be stopping our own plan. We aren't playing solitaire, folks. We need answers to our opponent's decks. This is the biggest flaw in most first drafts of decks and a strong indicator if a deck is tuned or will fall apart to any real opposition.

Our interaction falls into these categories:

  • Targeted Removal. We want a few cheap, efficient removal cards for any type of permanent we come across. Instant speed is always a huge plus. For our deck in particular, we have more synergy with creature/land removal options, so Shriekmaw is an example of excellent removal, though noncreature options like Nature's Claim, Snuff Out, and Beast Within remain top-tier options as well.
  • Board Wipes. We're a creature-heavy deck. We don't want to be wiping the board of creatures on a regular basis. However, in most games we play, there will be times where we're behind and a board wipe is the perfect card to get us back into the game. Since we're in Black we have access to all the best creature wipes: Toxic Deluge, Damnation, etc. With Green we can wipe the board of artifacts/enchantments pretty easily: Bane of Progress is the absolute best at this.
  • Graveyard Removal. Graveyards are a fantastic resource in Commander. Nearly every deck uses them as a resource, and some decks (like ours!) takes this to an extreme. We need answers to our opponents' graveyards just like we need answers to anything else. We're in fantastic colors to do this, with staples like Bojuka Bog, Leyline of the Void, and Scavenging Ooze.
  • Protection. Our opponent's interaction can set us back heavily. We need to protect our board, our spells, and our graveyard from their removal. Golgari Charm can save our creatures from some board wipes, Asceticism helps against targeted removal, and Perpetual Timepiece mills us while protecting our graveyard from exile effects.

Here are some of my favorite interaction cards for this deck. There's a crazy amount of options available so feel free to suggest stuff I might have missed:

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Lands

Lands! You need them to cast spells! Here's some good ones:

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Winning

"That's a lot of card options, Tomer," you say, furiously scrolling past the majority of the article, "but how do I win? Winning is all I care about!" Well, fine. Let's talk about winning.

First off, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is an 8/8 trampling creature. It 3-shots any opponent. Toss on Fireshrieker, or Berserk, and you can shorten the number of swings. Heck, toss on a Tainted Strike and increase Hogaak's power by one and you 1-shot anybody. Pretty good start, right? Our other fatties, like Lord of Extinction, do a fine job smashing people dead as well.

Speaking of fatties: Jarad, Lich Lord does a great job giving your fatties reach, sacrificing them to get rid of your opponents' remaining life totals.

We can also Sacrifice our big fatties like Hogaak to generate lots of mana, then win with a giant Exsanguinate / Torment of Hailfire. You know, generic Black stuff.

With our full 'yard, we can go wide with Kessig Cagebreakers, Worm Harvest, and Izoni, Thousand-Eyed. Turn your weenie army into giants with Hogaak + Overwhelming Stampede!

Want to get a bit fancier? How about the classic Triskelion + Mikaeus, the Unhallowed combo, aka Mike n' Trike? Our deck can pull this off easily since our self-mill can quickly put those pieces in our graveyard and then we just tutor / recur them.

What about Necrotic Ooze combos? Ooze + Triskelion + Phyrexian Devourer in the graveyard lets you do near-infinite damage as long as you have some cards in your library. Or Ooze + Devoted Druid + Quillspike is an infinitely large Ooze which you then sacrifice to Jarad, Lich Lord for the win.

Point is, you got a lot of ways to win the game. Choose what works for you!

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Putting It All Together

Alright, now that we've gone over the card pool we're working with, it's time to talk about how we craft the deck. 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; because you never forget to add some graveyard hate in your deck, right? Right? Right?!
  • 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.

 

$25* List

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, since Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is much higher than the $2 price tag it had when I decided to do this article (it's currently $16.99 as of writing this), I decided to exclude it from the deck's budget. The rest of the deck is currently priced at $25.

We have 15 sources of ramp all at 1-3cmc to ensure we're speeding through the early game. We have about 12 interaction cards, but we have tons of ways to find them, either via tutors like Mausoleum Secrets or Jarad's Orders, or by milling them into our graveyard and then getting them back with our 6 recursion cards. Faerie Macabre is a powerhouse in our deck, amazing FREE instant-speed graveyard hate in creature form! Speaking of self-mill: we've got 5 sources of self-mill and they are some of the best cards in our entire deck! Perpetual Timepiece protects us from opposing graveyard hate and Crop Sigil + Nyx Weaver are terrific recursion cards.

Eventually we win the game by Going Tall with Hogaak and similar creatures keyed off our graveyard like Splinterfright / Nighthowler, but most notably Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, which gives our deck reach. Oh yeah, Tainted Strike makes this strat kinda easy.

We can also Go Wide with powerful token makers Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, Spider Spawning, Wurm Harvest, and others.

 

$50* List

Another $25 added to the budget nabs us Skullclamp for unbeatable card draw, superior Go Tall options such as Mortivore and Sewer Nemesis, card advantage + mill with Hermit Druid, and the 1cmc planeswalker known as Deathrite Shaman! Also we've added another finisher with Overwhelming Stampede!

We've got other upgrades here and there as well, but I stuck to upgrading cards that fill similar roles: ramp for ramp, removal for removal.

$100 List (No Combo)

The $100 list takes everything good about the previous list and just kicks it up a notch. We have better graveyard fillers and card selection with Doom Whisperer and Underrealm Lich, better tutoring with Fauna Shaman and better win conditions with Pathbreaker Ibex. Just a lot of better stuff!

$100* List (Combo)

I decided to change course with the $100 list. Instead of focusing on Go Wide / Go Tall for finishers, I wanted to show you how the start of a Combo deck would look like. We're focused on the Mike n' Trike combo, and the Necrotic Ooze combos here. I think overall this combo is stronger than the other win conditions because it's easier to set up and harder to stop.

To take this list further you gotta start cutting the Go Wide / Go Tall stuff like Kessig Cagebreakers and instead focus on tutors to speed up your combo (Demonic Tutor) and ways to protect your combo (Dosan, the Falling Leaf).

If you want to focus on Go Wide / Go Tall like the $50 list, consider adding Pathbreaker Ibex instead of Overwhelming Stampede and adding better board wipes like Damnation instead of Deathbringer Regent and better tutors like Demonic Tutor.

 

That's All, Folks!

Hope you enjoyed my take on Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Next up is ... a secret! I have a spicy brew in the works and, well, you'll just have to see what it is!


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