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Budget Commander: Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest ($24)


Hello and welcome to Budget Commander! This week's article was supposed to continue explorations of variations of the Cycling Archetype that I started talking about in the last article, but because I got so many requests for an article about Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest after a recent Commander Clash episode, I decided to put Cycling on hold and talk about my favorite monk for a bit.

Before we begin, I must say, "sorry," and "you're welcome."

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One Punch Man

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest looks like an unassuming 3/2 ... until you cast a couple spells and kill someone in a single combat step -- which he does, easily.

It's trivial to get Shu Yun to do lethal commander damage. How trivial? How about having Shu Yun on the board, four mana available, and Titan's Strength + Brute Force in hand for trivial? Spend RR to cast those two spells on Shu Yun, giving him 9 power. Shu Yun's prowess triggers twice, so it's 11 power. Pay 2 more mana for Shu Yun to give himself double strike. You hit for 22 commander damage total, aka lethal damage for your poor opponent. Bam! Easy! You will constantly surprise your opponents -- and yourself! -- as you go from an empty board state to a lethal Shu Yun strike in the same turn.

My favorite part of building Shu Yun is that you can build a solid version of him for super cheap. The best cards in the deck, like Built to Smash, are all draft fodder that you can pick up for next to nothing or already have stashed away in random piles of Magic cards at home! Despite being super cheap to build, Shu Yun punches far above his weight class, able to stand toe to toe with decks that cost ten times as much to build.

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Use With Caution!

The biggest drawback to playing Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest is two-fold in my eyes. The first problem is that he draws a lot of hate — and rightly so, since Shu Yun can get a kill from nowhere! This means that whenever the game begins and you reveal your commander, the rest of the table will be gunning for you like it was a game of Archenemy; either they take you out, or you might randomly take any of them out. So if you don't like playing with a permanent bullseye on you, then you might want to skip over this article. But if you don't mind the hate, or even embrace the challenge of a 1v3, then Shu Yun will be ready and able! 

The second problem with Shu Yun is that while he's very good at killing one person in a single turn, he's far more limited at killing everyone in one turn. There are ways, such as taking extra combat steps (e.g. Relentless Assault) to dish out lethal damage to multiple people in a turn, but it's not easy to pull off. In most cases, once you knock out someone with a lethal Shu Yun strike, your other opponents will have a turn to scramble and find an answer to him before you can swing again. There will be times where you quickly kill one opponent, then Shu Yun gets put down and the game continues normally, but now you have a player out of the game for the majority of its duration, which isn't a fun spot to be in. But if you're a Heartless Hidetsugu and don't care about such things then go for it!

You Decide How Shu-Focused You Want To Be!

The great thing about Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest is that the deck allows for flexibility on how much you want to focus on Shu Yun himself. Because the best cards to tick Shu Yun's power up to the lethal range happen to be in the form of instants and sorceries, you can jam a bunch of other cards that also care about instants and sorceries, such as Talrand, Sky Summoner and Guttersnipe, so you have alternate ways to win the game. How many of these cards you should run depends on how much you want the deck to be about Shu Yun. You can choose to focus the deck entirely on Shu Yun dishing out lethal commander damage as quickly as consistently as possible, or make a Spellslinger deck that runs all the good cards that cares about instants/sorceries and just have Shu Yun as a backup win condition, or anything in between!

I've had games where Shu Yun was shut down, but cards like Docent of Perfection, Gelectrode, and Niblis of Frost carried me through to victory anyway. This deck is full of cheap instants/sorceries to trigger Spellslinger cards like crazy!

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So, to recap:

You might like the deck if ...

  • You want to play an aggressive Voltron deck
  • You want to kill people out of nowhere with one big combat step
  • You like Spellslinger decks
  • You're looking for a deck that is super cheap to build and can punch way above its weight

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You don't like automatically being the archenemy of the table
  • You'd rather kill everyone at once instead of one at a time
  • You want to gradually develop your board and win through grinding out your opponents
  • You don't like Spellslinger decks

 

Fuel for the One Punch

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest wants to kill someone in a single combat step. His prowess and the ability to give himself double strike for 2 mana are key to get to that lethal 21 commander damage; all you need to do is add a bit of punching power! That's why we're happy to be in Red, which is amazing at increasing damage output.

Here are some basic guidelines for what type of cards we're looking for to beef up Shu:

  1. Increases his power by +3 or more. If we cast two noncreature spells that increase Shu Yun's power by +3 each (+4 due to prowess), we have lethal commander damage once we give himself double strike. That's just two cards!
  2. The less mana spent, the better. The mana-to-damage ratio is very important for us because we need the mana to cast the damage increasing spells, plus an additional two mana to give Shu Yun double strike. Sometimes we'll even need to cast Shu Yun, give him haste, and try to win on the same turn. The less mana each piece we need to cast costs, the more likely we'll have enough to pull off our lethal swing.

That's pretty much it! The allstars in the deck are cards like Brute Force, Built to Smash, and Reckless Charge, because any two of those spells makes Shu Yun lethal for only four mana total (two mana to pay for double strike).

Here are some of the best cards for getting that lethal power: Reckless Charge, Brute Force, Built to Smash, Titan's Strength, Seething Anger, Downhill Charge, Borrowed Hostility, Tahngarth's Rage, Unstable Mutation

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There are other great cards to buff Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest that don't neatly fall into this guideline:

  • Jeskai Ascendancy is probably the best card in the entire deck. It's an efficient buffer for Shu Yun and all your other creatures, while digging through your deck to find the cards you need. It's ludicrously mana-efficient for what it provides.
  • Runechanter's Pike's real payoff is mid-to-lategame, but once you have 5+ instants/sorceries in your graveyard, the pike is an efficient and constant buffer. It also turns any of your creatures into a threat, in case Shu Yun gets shut down and you have to rely on other win conditions.
  • Scroll of the Masters collects lore counters like nobody's business; it's easy for it to buff creatures with +5/+5 or higher.

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Extra Combat Steps: Multikill!

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest is one of the best candidates for abusing extra combat steps: more combats mean more dead opponents! Worst case, you can cast a Relentless Assault to double Shu's damage output and kill off one opponent, but if Shu is already dealing lethal damage to one opponent, you can use the extra combat step to kill off a second opponent!

As with the raw power buff spells, the best extra combats are the cheapest in terms of mana cost. For this reason, my favorite is Fury of the Horde, with Seize the Day a close second. Other decent options include: Relentless Assault, World at WarSavage Beating, Aggravated Assault, and Waves of Aggression.

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Getting Through

Lethal power is nothing if Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest is getting stopped by chump blockers. We'll need ways to make sure the damage goes straight to the face! The best way to get damage through is by making Shu Yun unblockable (e.g. Slip Through Space), for obvious reasons. However, another unconventional way to get around blockers is by giving him protection against the colors of potential blockers (e.g. Gods Willing]), which makes creatures of that color unable to block him. This is a less consistent way of getting damage through, as it won't work against opponents with blockers of more than one color or colorless blockers, but protection cards can double up as protection against targeted removal; you can use Gods Willing to get around blockers, or use it to protect Shu Yun against a Swords to Plowshares.

Here are my top recommendations for evasion cards. Just like our other spells, we're looking for ideally 1-cmc spells that most consistently get Shu Yun around blockers, which in my opinion means unblockable > protection > flying >> trample:

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Protection

It's in your opponent's best interests to kill Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest on sight. We must be prepared for such hostility. I've already mentioned the protection cards (e.g. Gods Willing) as versatile answers to targeted removal, but they don't do anything against removal that doesn't specifically target, such as Wrath of God. We need other forms of flexible protection as well to make sure Shu Yun sticks around long enough to punch our opponents in the face.

Against board wipes, we have ways to make Shu indestructible: Ajani's Presence, Valorous Stance, Boros Charm, Ephemeral Shields

We also have access to all of Blue's delicious countermagic, which can not only protect Shu from removal but also deal with all sorts of threats. The best counters for the deck are a combination of 1) low cmc 2) unconditional 3) easy to cast with our mana base (the better your mana base, the greedier you can be with the casting cost). Also when given the choice between a card that can counter creatures (Essence Scatter) or noncreatures (Negate), noncreature counters are generally better because common problem cards like Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God fit that category. But if you're in a playgroup dominated by creature strategies then that advice might change.

Here's a quick list of countermagic that you can pick up for cheap: Counterspell, Swan Song, Izzet Charm, Disdainful Stroke, Negate, Counterflux, Mana Leak, Stubborn Denial (very powerful when Shu is on the battlefield, weak if he's not)

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Spellslinger Support

Because we're running so many instants and sorceries to support Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, we can also run other cards that specifically care about instants and sorceries. Nearly all of these cards shift the focus of the deck away from being entirely about killing someone with Shu as quickly and consistently as possible, and more about having a well-rounded deck that is slower but has backup plans in case Shu isn't working.

The strongest spellslinger cards are certainly the token producers: Young Pyromancer, Talrand, Sky Summoner, and Docent of Perfection. These cards can produce an army of tokens in no time, protecting you from attackers and then turning into win conditions once you reach a critical mass. Only the most devoted Voltron Shu decks should avoid running them.

For more win conditions, we've got Runchanter's Pike and Scroll of the Masters, which are a bit slow but can still help Shu hit for lethal, and late game they can turn any random creature on our battlefield into a lethal attacker. We've also got Sphinx-Bone Wand, which is a whopping 7-cmc that does nothing initially, but when you're chain casting Faithless Looting into Frantic Search into Expedite into whatever else, you'll be stacking charge counters like a madman and killing everyone.

We're also in Boros colors, which means we can take advantage of Sunforger. Again, it's a bit slow, but for longer games this is a superb tutor/card advantage engine with plenty of targets to fetch.

My favorite unknown card for the deck is Spellweaver Volute. This zany card comes from the ultra weird set, Future Sight, and is the only aura that I know of that enchants instants! It does nothing when you first cast it, and you do need instants in graveyards before it can do anything, but once those conditions are met, Spellweaver Volute is a crazy good value engine. My deck runs 37 instants/sorceries, with a healthy mix of both, so the Volute triggers consistently. You cast copies of spells with Volute, so it triggers things like prowess on Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, and makes it trivial to "go off" and kill people. It's so silly but so powerful!

I can keep going on and on about sweet cards like Surrakar Spellblade and Gelectrode, but I don't want to get too rambly!

Here's a list of Spellslinger support cards in no real order that you can use to make the deck more well-rounded and less reliant on quick Shu kills: Curious Homunculus, Young Pyromancer, Gelectrode, Guttersnipe, Surrakar Spellblade, Niblis of Frost, Talrand, Sky Summoner, Docent of Perfection, Melek, Izzet Paragon, Pull from the Deep, Runchanter's Pike, Scroll of the Masters, Sunforger, Sphinx-Bone Wand, Jace's Sanctum, Spellweaver Volute

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Putting It Together: Sample $24 List

Here's a $24 list to get started with Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest. Despite it's low price, it's still one of the deadliest lists I've written about for the series. While the deck is focused primarily on killing with Shu, I added plenty of backup win conditions so it's not entirely a one-trick pony.

The deck has a low CMC and gets to work with about 5-6 mana: 3-4 mana for spells to enhance Shu and protect him, plus 2 mana to give him double strike, resulting in a lethal swing. You want to get to 5-6 mana quickly and then draw gas for the rest of the game. Fast mana rocks work best, and because the deck has a budget land base, these rocks should produce colored mana to help with mana fixing. I decided on 11 sources of ramp (2 only helping with instants/sorceries), and 36 lands. Of the ramp cards, Jace's Sanctum is the weakest because it's slow to come out and only helps with instants/sorceries and not all of them, but the scry 1 is quite good.

The deck is relatively light on removal because the main focus is to end games fast with Shu. If we're killing people on turn 4 then we don't need that many answers to stuff that might show up later! Still, we run 4 counterspells, 6 ways to pick off creatures, 2 board wipes, ways to get rid of enchantments/artifacts. The removal package is highly flexible. If you're looking to play a slower game, swap out some of the Voltron Shu cards for more answers, including graveyard hate.

We have a ton of ways to accrue card advantage, from raw card draw spells (Concentrate) to less conventional sources (Melek, Izzet Paragon). We also have powerful ways to dig for the right cards, most notably with Jeskai Ascendancy. Longer games aren't terrible for us.

 

Upgrading

Most of the key cards for Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest are dirt cheap. However, if you want to spend a bit extra, you can add some powerful cards that enhance the playstyle:

  • Monastery Mentor is one of the best token producers available to a Spellslinger deck. You make a big army, and then make that army huge. Another solid defense card that doubles as a win condition.
  • Metallguric Summonings isn't the greatest token producer for its cost in this deck, since most of the tokens will be 1/1's, but its secondary ability is amazing if the game goes long and you're running low on gas
  • Isochron Scepter is great for games that are going to last some turns. This deck is packed with instants that you can slap on the scepter; imprinting a Counterspell is sure to get groans from the table!

That's about it for Shu-specific upgrades. The rest is just about upgrading your deck with better pieces; better lands, better removal, better ramp, etc.

Here's how the deck looks at a $100 budget:

I didn't change the game plan, but you'll see the aforementioned upgrades in this list, plus staple removal like Cyclonic Rift and Vandablast, tutors, better mana fixing, better ramp, yadayada.

And finally, here's Shu Yun with no budget limit:

More focused on Voltron Shu. The deck is fast and starts swinging as quickly as possible. It's completely unrefined, and probably just a worse Narset, Enlightened Master at this budget range, but feel free to look it over for ideas.

 

That's All, Folks!

I got more budget goodness coming soonish! Still need to talk more about the Cycling Archetype, get to Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, and finally Doran, the Siege Tower. As always, thanks for reading!


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