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Budget Commander: Selenia, Dark Angel ($38)


Welcome back to Budget Commander! One of my favorite deck archetypes to play in Commander is Janky Combo; the more janky the combos, the better! So it's with much excitement that I'm here to talk to you about one of the jankiest combo brews I've ever assembled, led by Selenia, Dark Angel. It's a deck heavily inspired by a list I found from trashpile, so big thanks to you!

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100% Certified Jank

Selenia, Dark Angel is the perfect embodiment of what this deck is all about. She's an obscure legendary creature from a time when creatures were overall weaker than they currently are. Back then, during the dark and mysterious times where Magic's rules were a little different and we had things like combat damage going on the stack, Selenia may have been a pretty good creature. Nowadays, however, she's basically a worse Sentry of the Underworld, if you're looking at what the card itself does to benefit you.

Why do you want a worse Sentry as your commander? Because the best thing about Selenia is actually her ability to lose life! Yes, her activated ability to bounce herself back to your hand costs 2 life at instant speed and at no mana cost, and you can respond to your own activated ability by re-activating it as many times as you want. You can quickly and efficiently lower your life total as low as you'd like! In most cases this would be awful and oh god why would you do this, but in this deck, Selenia's efficient lifeloss is amazing because it enables our awful jank win conditions, including these beauties:

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This is the deck in a nutshell. It's jam-packed with silly jank win conditions that rely on you lowering your own life total. The closer you are to losing, the closer you are to winning (maybe)! This is by no means a competitive deck, but I find it tremendous fun for various reasons, and hopefully you will too. I feel it's the perfect deck for someone looking to play Combo in a low/mid-power playgroup, where you want to pull off your combos but also give your opponents plenty of chances to stop you.

 

You might like the deck if ...

  • You love playing with a bunch of obscure janky win conditions that most people wouldn't dare try
  • You don't care about dealing combat damage and would rather durdle
  • You want to play an unorthodox Orzhov deck that isn't focused on Life Gain but rather Self Harm
  • You cheer your opponents when they attack you, because it only helps progress your goals
  • You want to play a Combo deck in a low-powered playgroup

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You want to play an aggressive deck
  • You prefer creature-heavy decks
  • You like keeping your life total nice and high
  • You want to play a competitive Combo deck

 

The Combos

At its core, Selenia, Dark Angel is a Combo deck. The combos are the heart of the deck and the rest are support and filler cards. Here are some of the combos I've come across that fit well in a Selenia deck. Some combos are easier to set up or harder to disrupt than others, and it's totally up to personal preference which combos you'd want to include in your own deck:

 

Combo #1: Life Swap

Get your life total very low and then swap it for your opponent's life total, putting them in a position where you can easily finish them off. You have numerous ways to lower your own life total, most notably Selenia, Dark Angel. To swap your life total, you have:

Making the life swap lethal is pretty easy. Once your opponents are brought low, you can finish them off with combat damage, or maybe an Exsanguinate. If you brought opponents down to 1 life, you can finish them with an extort trigger (Crypt Ghast) or my favorite little bit of tech, Leechridden Swamp. Alternatively, you can make the life swap itself lethal: by running cards prevent you from losing for having less than 1 life, like Phyrexian Unlife or Platinum Angel, you can lower your life total to 0 and swap totals with your opponents, immediately killing them!

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Combo #2: You Gain Life, They Lose Life

Gain a bunch of life while Sanguine Bond, Defiant Bloodlord, or Vizkopa Guildmage is in play, making your opponents lose life equal to the life you gain.

One cheeky way of doing this is with Children of Korlis or Tainted Sigil. Here's what you do:

  1. Lose a ton of life. Selenia, Dark Angel is great at doing this, but if you want backups for her there's also Wall of Blood, Hex Parasite, and Phyrexian Processor.
  2. Gain all that life back. Children of Korlis or Tainted Sigil gains back all that life you just lost.
  3. Your opponents lose life. Sanguine Bond, Defiant Bloodlord, or Vizkopa Guildmage turn your gain into your opponent's loss.

Another synergistic option is using one of the Life Swap pieces from Combo #1. If you swap your low life total with an opponent's high life total using something like Reverse the Sands, you gain life equal to the difference. So if you're at 5 life and Reverse the Sands to swap your life total with someone who was at 40, you gain 35 life and Sanguine Bond shaves off 35 life from each opponent, probably killing them. Brutal.

There's other ways to gain life, of course, including doubling up on Debt to the Deathless or just going infinite with Exquisite Blood + Sanguine Bond, gaining infinite life while your opponents lose infinite life.

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Combo #3: Triskaidekaphobia

But wait, we can get even jankier! Remember Triskaidekaphobia, the card people briefly got excited about for Standard until everyone realized how insanely difficult it is to pull off? Well, you can try it out here too, and it's probably even harder to pull off in Commander!

The goal of Triskaidekaphobia is, of course, getting your opponents to exactly 13 life so they lose on your upkeep. It's incredibly difficult to do in Commander, because not only do you have to get your opponents exactly to 13 life, but you need to somehow prevent them from changing their life total before the upkeep trigger resolves. Something as simple as cracking a fetchland like Arid Mesa totally ruins your setup.

We do have at least a couple ways to make this insane task a little more plausible:

  1. Set your opponents to 13 life. You can lower your opponent's life totals any number of ways such as combat damage / extort (Crypt Ghast) / drain (Exsanguinate) / life swap (Reverse the Sands), but the most obvious little combo is Tree of Perdition, which not-so-subtly pairs with Triskadekaphobia.
  2. Don't give them a turn to respond before the upkeep trigger. If you play Triskaidekaphobia, set your opponent's life to 13, and pass the turn, you're giving them a lot of chances to either change their life total or get rid of the enchantment. You need to try and catch them by surprise and lower their opportunity to respond. Flash enablers like Vedalken Orrery or Winding Canyons are your best friends, letting you drop your opponents to 13 or drop down Triskaidekaphobia when they're at 13 right before your upkeep trigger. Their only outs must be at instant speed or they lose! Same goes for any other instant speed method of lowering their life total to 13, or taking an extra turn if possible (Temporal Extortion).

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Combo #4: Near-Death Experience

Here we come to the jankiest of the jank: Near-Death Experience. A card that is more likely to kill you than win you the game, Near-Death Experience wants you to sit at exactly 1 life and then survive until its trigger wins you the game. It's quite the gamble, but you reap a pile of style points if you manage to pull it off.

Getting to 1 life is easy: Selenia, Dark Angel can handle the task alone, or backup cards like Wall of Blood. Just put down Near-Death Experience, then wait until your next upkeep when the trigger is about to resolve and lower your life total to 1. If no one has a response then bam, you win!

There are a few ways to make it more difficult for your opponents to stop you, but they cost a bit more than the usual budget ($5-$8):

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Bonus Win Con: Phage!

If you're building a jank deck, why not toss in Phage the Untouchable for funsies? She doesn't fit in with the other combos, but it's certainly style points. Give her haste (Lightning Greaves) or flash her in (Vedalken Orrery) to catch an open opponent by surprise.

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Everything Else

With the combos already chosen as finishers, the rest of the deck is filled with lands / ramp / removal / card advantage / tutors / recursion. The starting point of pretty much every Commander deck I build is setting aside slots for 38 lands, 10 ramp, 6 spot removal, 3 board wipes, 10 card advantage (mostly card draw), 2 recursion, 1 graveyard removal, 2 flexible tutors. I then tweak the numbers based on the individual deck and what it wants to do.

Since we want to lower our life total, cards that lower life as an intended drawback get far better in this deck. For example, I jam Ambition's Cost in all my Black decks, but now losing 3 life isn't a drawback at all.

Here's a list of cards under $3 you can use to fill out the rest of the deck. It's far from an exhaustive list but should be a good starting point:

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Budget Selenia ($38)

Put all the elements together and voila, a new budget brew. I splurged for some cards like Tree of Perdition because it's super cute, but with some more aggressive cuts you can easily get this down to $30. Aside from the cards that are part of combos, the majority of the deck is entirely flexible. Just make sure you have enough ramp / removal / card advantage / etc. to keep chugging along at a smooth pace.

If you're looking to upgrade the list further, you can use some of the more expensive card suggestions that I listed above in the "Everything Else" section or the "Upgrades and Fiddly Bits" section below. An easy rule of thumb is to swap out cards that perform the same function in the deck. Defiant Bloodlord can be upgraded to Sanguine Bond, Victim of Night to Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant to Return to DustEverflowing Chalice to Sol Ring, Increasing Ambition to Demonic Tutor, and so on.

Here's an example of a more upgraded Selenia list, this time at $61. Hopefully it illustrates how I go about upgrading pieces:

 

Upgrades and Fiddly Bits

Looking to upgrade the deck with more expensive cards? I've got you covered. Here are a bunch of cards that are currently over $3 that can make the deck even better (but still janky!):

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Finally, here's a sample list of the deck with no budget, while still sticking true to the jank goals:

 

That's All, Folks!

I hope you guys enjoyed my take on Selenia, Dark Angel. I've got one more Budget Commander already lined up: Olivia, Mobilized for War, aka Tribal Vampires! After that, I'll be going back to running polls so you can choose which commander you want to see next. As always, I love to hear from you guys! I encourage you to tell me what you like to see in Budget Commander and work with me to make the series better than ever. You can reach me in the comments section below or tweet me @BudgetCommander.

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