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Budget Commander: Purphoros, God of the Forge ($53)

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Watch the World Burn

Some Commander decks play for a long game. My Budget Zedruu deck loves to durdle, building up an unassuming board state while the more flashy decks go at each other, then snatches up victory with an Insurrection or similar shenanigans. 

Other decks are looking to end the game quick. Kaalia and Rakdos rush out threat after threat, racing the rest of the table to victory. The decks are fast by necessity; the rest of the table often unites to stop these aggressive decks from running away with the game, so these decks must be tuned faster and even more aggressive to outpace all of the opponents.

And now we come to Purphoros, God of the Forge, the fastest one yet. Once our commander enters the battlefield, the game ends shortly after. Purphoros churns out swarms of creatures, dealing two damage a pop to each opponent. A modest Hordeling Outburst translates into 6 damage to each opponent; casting Mogg Infestation when you have 10 creature tokens transforms them into 20 goblins dealing 40 damage. Purphoros doesn't mess around.

As a Theros god, he's also an Indestructible Enchantment, making him very hard to deal with directly. For the vast majority of my test games, once I cast Purphoros one time, he'd stick around for the rest of the game. This is a stark contrast to, well, pretty much any other commander out there, which will often be sent back to the command zone and require you to waste turns tapping out to recast them.

A typical Purphoros game plays out like so:

  1. Ramp.
  2. Play Purphoros, God of the Forge
  3. Make tokens, burning out all your opponents.
  4. Win.

This Theros god will appeal to folks looking to pick up a consistent aggro deck that ends games blisteringly fast. Purphoros is inexpensive to build, simple to pick up, and a great loaner deck for friends. There are no intricate combos, no tutoring, no long term strategies to know about. The only thing you need to pilot this deck well is to be aware of how much damage you can deal on any given turn, and when that damage is lethal. I'd often surprise myself at just how much damage I could do in a round with an innocent-looking Chandra's Spitfire or Firecat Blitz. The deck is all about fast mana, big plays, and tons o' damage!

Chandra's Spitfire dishing out 58 damage is kind of good.

Tokens Everywhere!

Purphoros, God of the Forge burns your opponents each time a creature joins your board. The more creatures you put on your board, the faster you kill all your opponents. The best way to drop lots of creatures on the board fast is through token-producers, so it's only logical that Purphoros is best as a Token deck.

When evaluating token cards to include, there are two key attributes to keep in mind:

  1. The card must be mana-efficient (a 1-mana per token ratio is ideal)
  2. The token generation should be immediate, or at the very least not require additional mana investment

Hordeling Outburst is a simple illustration of a good token producer: you spend 3-mana and you get 3 goblin tokens. Skittering Invasion is another good one, producing 5 creatures for 7-mana, but you can sacrifice the tokens for mana as well. Young Pyromancer is only 1 creature initially, but if you run lots of instants/sorceries, he will generate more and more tokens for no additional cost.

You'll want to avoid slow, value-oriented token generators. While a card like Pentavus initially looks like a great addition to the deck by making theoretically infinite tokens/triggers, keep in mind that you're spending 7-mana for a single creature. To get the same amount of value as Skittering Invasion (5 tokens), you'll need to invest 11-mana into this card, or 12+ to surpass Invasion in tokens. This will probably take at least two turns, giving your opponents plenty of time to remove Pentavus before you get your value out of it.

Similarly, a card like Trading Post is fine in many Commander decks, but it's just too slow here: it requires 5-mana before it does anything and at best you're generating a single creature per turn. A card that similarly can produce one trigger per turn but is far better suited here is Norin the Wary, as he requires only 1 mana.

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It's Easy Being Green

Many of the best token producers in Red happen to involve goblins: Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Marshal, and Hordeling Outburst to name a few. Goblins is a very strong tribe that both enhances Mono Red's strengths and helps fill its weaknesses, which is why I highly recommend incorporating a Tribal Goblins package into the deck.

Here are some premium goblin support cards: Goblin Matron offers tutoring in a color that rarely gets any, Krenko, Mob Boss is a token-producing monstrosity that will end games with just a handful of goblins on the board, and the unassuming Skirk Prospector can turn your goblins into big mana so you can play out your hand and win the game.

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Tons of Damage

Is Purphoros' 2-damage per creature not enough for you? Then you may be interested in these cards that can increase those numbers:

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It's time to finish the game. These are the cards that will make your opponents say, "you deal that much damage?! What?!"

  • Firecat Blitz: You've got an empty board, just 8 Mountains, and Purphoros, God of the Forge. Your opponents think the threat is over. They are wrong. Casting + flashing back this card for everything, you make 12 cat tokens dealing 24 damage to everyone. And the cats have haste.
  • Chandra's Spitfire: People always underestimate this card until they realize that in a typical 3-player game, each time Purphoros deals damage to each opponent, the Spitfire get +9 damage! See the picture near the top of the article — that was just against two remaining opponents.
  • Empty the Warrens: Combined with fast mana producers like Mana Geyser, Skirk Prospector, and Seething Song, you can string together a bunch of cheap spells and end up with a Warrens that produces 10+ goblin tokens, ending the game.
  • Mogg Infestation: Your 10 creatures turn into 20 goblins, dealing 40 damage to all opponents. GG

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Here's the list. It's all about fast mana, big plays, and quick wins. Even if you're stopped early, your opponents better finish the job or you'll steal a win out of nowhere.

The only "money" cards I splurged on were Norin the Wary, Krenko, Mob Boss, and Mogg Infestation. These are very good card, but not required for the deck to function. In fact, I don't think I drew any of them during my playtesting. Feel free to cut them if you want to save some more cash.


Upgrading and Fiddly Bits

Since Purphoros is all about speed, I found myself emptying my hand very quickly. In fact, Outpost Siege was always used in Khans mode for this reason, which worked wonderfully. The biggest money upgrade I'd go for first would be picking up a Wheel of Fortune and one or two other efficient card draws like Mind's Eye.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Lightning Crafter is an infinite combo. You can also add Zealous Conscripts as another infinite combo with Kiki.


Vote For The Next Budget Commander

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That's All, Folks!

Follow me on Twitter @BudgetCommander for notifications on when the next article is up, updates on future decks, and input for what to work on next. Thanks for reading!

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