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Budget Commander: Siona, Captain of the Pyleas | Aura Token Combo | $30, $60, $90


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Hey friends, welcome back to Budget Commander, the series where I show you how to build the most optimized decks at the lowest budgets possible. This week we're diving into the brand new set, Theros: Beyond Death, by exploring one of my favorite new commander options: Siona, Captain of the Pyleas. While Uncommons aren't usually the flashiest or most powerful commanders, a few rise above their rarity to greatness, and Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is certainly one of these favored few.

Siona is an Aura commander: when Siona enters the battlefield, you get to dig through the top seven cards of your library for an Aura card and put it into your hand. Then whenever you attach an Aura to a creature you control, Siona creates a 1/1 Human Soldier token. This combination of card advantage and token generator is incredibly efficient for just three mana and worth building a deck around. 

 

Why Choose Siona?

While Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is undoubtedly sweet, she isn't the only strong commander candidate for an Aura deck: Sram, Senior Edificer and Kestia, the Cultivator are two more Aura commanders that share a lot of Siona's card pool. Auras are a subtype of enchantments too, so go-to Enchantress commanders like Tuvasa the Sunlit and Daxos the Returned can just as easily focus on Auras as well. So, why pick Siona, Captain of the Pyleas over the other options?

In my opinion, there are two main reasons to choose Siona as the commander of your Auras deck over other options: she provides excellent support for both Combo and Tokens subthemes.

Combo

As soon as Siona, Captain of the Pyleas was previewed, people were quick to point out a game-winning combo with Siona and Shielded by Faith. It works like this: with Siona, Captain of the Pyleas in play, enchant a creature you control with Shielded by Faith. This will trigger Siona, creating a 1/1 creature token. The token entering the battlefield triggers Shielded by Faith, which you'll then move the aura to the new token, which will cause Siona to create a new token when it's enchanted ... infinite times. Shielded by Faith's movement trigger is optional, so after you've made a large enough army you can choose to stop the process.

While this combo doesn't immediately win you the game since the tokens don't have haste to immediately attack, your opponents only have a single turn to find an answer to your infinite army or die on your next turn's combat step. A third card can make this combo immediately lethal, however, like using Crashing Drawbridge to give your infinite army haste.

This two-card combo is absurdly easy to pull off, requiring only six mana total to cast both combo pieces on the same turn. Siona can even help you find the aura with her enter the battlefield trigger, making the combo even easier to assemble. Having one part of your easily assembled two-card combo -- and that part being able to help find the other part -- sitting in your command zone is very appealing!

Even with the small bump in Shielded by Faith's price when Siona, Captain of the Pyleas was revealed, this game-winning combo is still under $3 US to purchase. That's an excellent start to a powerful budget deck!

 

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Tokens

Even when not combo'ing off, Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is a great choice of commander if you want to play an Aura deck with a Tokens subtheme. The other best option has to be Daxos, the Returned, who can generate ever-beefier spirit tokens as the game progresses. While Daxos is a fantastic commander with plenty of unique strengths worth building around, Siona has different strengths that set her apart from Daxos.

Unlike the Orzhov commander, Siona is Selesnya, giving your deck access to Green, which traditionally has a much deeper card pool to support both an Aura deck and a Tokens deck. Not only does Green give you access to all the Enchantress goodies like Enchantress's Presence to bolster your Aura theme, there are also some cards that bridge the gap between Auras and Tokens like Pollenbright Wings and Dreampod Druid as Aura-based ways to fill your battlefield with creatures. You can then turn you army of 1/1's into game-ending threats with the help of cards like Cathars' Crusade, Sigil of the Nayan Gods, Overwhelming Stampede, or any other big pump card you've got lying around.

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Our Gameplan: Aura Token Combo

Our deck is first and foremost an Aura deck, loaded with auras that fill all the necessary roles in our deck such as ramp (Fertile Ground), card draw (Sage's Reverie), and removal (Darksteel Mutation). We will pair these auras with cards that reward us for running them, such as Kor Spiritdancer and Retether, as well as cards that reward us for running enchantments in general, such as Ajani's Chosen.

We focus our Aura deck with a Token subtheme, mobilizing an army of tokens thanks to cards like Dreampod Druid and Archon of Sun's Grace. Once we've achieved a critical mass of tokens, we turn them into lethal threats with cards like Celestial Ancient and Cathars' Crusade before attacking for the win.

While we're ramping, drawing cards, removing threats, and generating tokens, we'll always have the Siona, Captain of the Pyleas + Shielded by Faith combo in our back pocket. At any point we can just combo off and win!

With our game plan in mind, let's go over the key aspects of the deck! We'll begin by covering all aspects of building the deck, then put it all together with some sample decklists!

 

Lands

Being only a two-color deck, we can get away with a good amount of basic Plains and Forests, which is both optimal and light on our wallet. We will be running a bunch of mana-fixing lands, like Temple of Plenty, to make sure we can consistently cast our spells. But there is plenty of room for utility lands as well!

Because our deck is an Aura deck, there's no better land than Serra's Sanctum, if you can afford it. Another strong Aura option is Hall of Heliod's Generosity, which can recur any enchantment we need from our graveyard.

Since we're a Tokens deck looking to Go Wide, both Gavony Township and Castle Ardenvale can bolster our forces.

Finally, since we do have a game-winning combo, lands that can help us sneak in our combo the end step before our turn can be very helpful: Winding Canyons and Emergence Zone are two excellent ways to do this.

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Ramp

We're in green, the undisputed best color for ramp. While all the usual staples, like Rampant Growth and Sakura-Tribe Elder, are available to us, we're even more interested in all the sweet green aura ramp cards: Wild Growth, Utopia Sprawll, Fertile Ground, and so on. These are auras so they trigger our aura support cards like Sram, Senior Edificer, and they're also enchantments so they trigger our enchantress support cards like Archon of Sun's Grace.

We also have mana dorks that give us a discount on aura spells, like Hero of Iroas. While they have a shorter life expectancy than our land ramp, once you start casting 2+ aura spells per turn they become quite worth the risk, plus they're bodies that you can enchant with auras for further value.

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Tokens

Now that we've played some lands and ramped, let's establish a board presence with some tokens. Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is a fantastic engine in our Aura deck, but there's a bunch of other token generators that play into exactly what we're doing: Dreampod Druid needs just one aura attached to start pumping out a 1/1 each upkeep, which in a 4-Player FFA game is four 1/1's each turn cycle. Bramble Elemental and Druid of Horns fulfill a similar role as the Druid, but they're less efficient. There are also some sweet auras that generate tokens: Pollenbright Wings is a fantastic token generator that scales up the bigger the enchanted creature is, and Fists of Ironwood is fairly efficient but gets much better once you have aura synergies in play. But the best of the best is the enchantress support cards that create tokens: Sigil of the Empty Throne is the best, followed by Archon of Sun's Grace and then Ajani's Chosen, but all three are must-haves in this deck!

Beyond token generators attached to auras or enchantments, we're also in Selesnya, the undisputed best guild at generating tokens. If we want to fill out our deck with more generic options then there's an endless supply of goodies like Secure the Wastes, Tendershoot Dryad, March of the Multitudes, and so much more. 

Special mention goes to Knight-Captain of Eos, which is sneaky-good in this deck. While this article is hardly Soldier Tribal, Siona, Captain of the Pyleas happens to create Soldier tokens, which you can then sacrifice to the Knight-Captain to Fog combat. This is an excellent deterrent to potential attacks against you!

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Card Draw

We've played some lands, ramped, and created some tokens. Now it's time for my favorite part: let's draw cards! Luckily for us, there are plenty of great options to be found in our Aura and Token themes.

For incremental card draw we've got a slew of sweet Enchantresses which draw you a card each time you play an enchantment/aura: there's a whole bunch to choose from, with the newest and best being Setessan Champion, which also beats down while drawing cards. I'm also a fan of auras that draw cards, like Snake Umbra. Season of Growth is another allstar in this deck, scrying a ton and drawing tons of cards as we enchant our creatures!

For burst card draw, my favorite Aura option is Sage's Reverie, which also turns our creature into a huge beater. Since we're a Token deck, we'll usually have enough tokens on the board that a spell like Camaraderie becomes a complete hand refill!

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Tutors

White is great at tutoring auras. Green is great at tutoring creatures. Together we can tutor up basically anything we'd ever need from our deck!

For aura tutors, we got budget-friendly stuff like Heliod's Pilgrim and Three Dreams which are just super efficient and easy inclusions for our deck. If you're willing to spend more dollars then Enlightened Tutor is hard to beat.

Possibly the strongest aura tutor in our deck, however, is this weird one: Boonweaver Giant. With us running the Shielded by Faith combo, the Giant is the best way to fetch and put the Shield directly into play to start the combo with Siona, Captain of the Pyleas. The fact that it can also grab Shield from our graveyard really sets the Giant apart and makes it worth the otherwise clunky 7cmc. Auratouched Mage works similarly but is worse since it can't fetch from the graveyard. If you aren't running this combo, however, both the Giant and Mage get significantly worse.

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Cantrips & Repeat Value

Cantrips -- cards that draw you one card when cast or enter the battlefield -- aren't really card draw on their own since they aren't a net card gain, just replace themselves. But cheap aura cantrips like Abundant Growth and Frog Tongue are solid ways to trigger your aura and enchantment payoff cards, drawing you a card off Satyr Enchanter, generating a token with Archon of Sun's Grace, and pumping creatures with Celestial Ancient. Some are insane cards that you should be running regardless, like Kenrith's Transformation, while others are decent filler for a budget deck, like Setessan Training.

We can also get a ton of value from cards that can bounce/blink themselves repeatedly, letting us re-use powerful cast and enter the battlefield triggers. Flickering Ward and Whip Silk are the two best examples of this: for just two mana we can bounce and recast these auras, getting another round of aura/enchantment triggers off our support cards each time we do so. There's also Flickerform, which is primarily a way to protect an important creature, but can also let us re-use their powerful ETB trigger, like Siona, Captain of the Pyleas.

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Recursion

White is astonishingly good at getting back enchantments from the graveyard. Replenish is one of the most powerful recursion spells in the format and it's just for us Enchantress players. More budget-friendly options exist, such as Open the Vaults, and the Aura-specific Retether. Finally, there's Crystal Chimes which is a little weaker but nonetheless fantastic.

Green is generically good at recursion, able to get back any card we need with staples like Regrowth, Eternal Witness, and Seasons Past.

There are also a bunch of creatures that can get back enchantments, like Auramancer, but I think we have enough better options that I wouldn't recommend running them.

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Protection

Selesnya is really good at protecting our important permanents from removal. We can protect a creature with auras like Flickerform, Felidar Umbra, and Shield of the Oversoul, or respond at instant speed with my new favorite, Karametra's Blessing. There's plenty of options to protect our entire board from removal but they are generally pricier, like Teferi's Protection, Heroic Intervention, Privileged Position, and Sterling Grove.

Outside of protecting our stuff from destruction, we have plenty of other forms of protection too, such as protection from counters like Destiny Spinner or the hilariously busted Veil of Summer.

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Removal

There's a bunch of sweet aura removal spells we can use to fill out our deck. Song of the Dryads is one of the best removal spells in the format that happens to be an aura, offering flexible removal for basically anything. Song, along with Darksteel Mutation, and the new Heliod's Punishment, are particularly good at shutting down commanders, removing them as a threat without allowing them to go back to the command zone and be recast until either the creature or the aura are removed.

For enchantments, there are other format staples like Grasp of Fate, but also more niche options that get stronger in our Enchantress shell like Seal of Primordium.

We also have some interesting aura/enchantment support cards like Winds of Rath which can be a one-sided board wipe for us.

Finally, there's a bunch of great generic staples in our colors, like Nature's Claim and Swords to Plowshares, which are just as good here as they are anywhere else.

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Winning

While our best win condition is the Siona, Captain of the Pyleas + Shielded by Faith combo, our deck has plenty of other ways to close out the game. 

Once we've reached a critical mass of enchantments, powerful pump auras like Sage's Reverie, Ethereal Armor, Ancestral Mask, and All That Glitters. At the same time, we're building up an army of tokens thanks to cards like Archon of Sun's Grace, Ajani's Chosen, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Siona, Captain of the Pyleas, which can quickly overwhelm our opponents with pump cards like Celestial Ancient. Even if we've fallen far behind, a timely Heavenly Blademaster can turn an empty board into a game-winning one.

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More Winning: Super Combo!

After publishing this article, user AngelofDeath posted in the comments section some great card inclusions that were so good that I decided to edit them into the article. Basically, these card suggestions are aimed at adding extra avenues for our deck to combo off outside of our standard Siona, Captain of the Pyleas + Shielded by Faith combo. This transforms our Siona deck into a dedicated Combo deck, which in my opinion is the most powerful version of Siona possible. That said, if you aren't interested in combo'ing with Siona then some of these cards may still interest you.

First is Reins of the Vinesteed. While not great on its own, if paired with Siona and a free sacrifice outlet like Blasting Station, you can enchant Reins to one of Siona's creature tokens to generate another token with Siona, then sacrifice the enchanted creature to have Reins return enchanting another token creature and repeat the process infinite times. This combo results in infinite damage from the Station. The combo is very modular too: you can replace Blasting Station with Ashnod's Altar for infinite mana, or add a fourth card like Altar of the Brood for infinite mill.

Next is Kitsune Mystic. It's very easy for our deck to flip the Mystic, which then allows us to move around our auras for just 1 mana. With Siona out that means we can generate a creature token for 1 mana. This is pretty good on its own, but gets much better once we introduce infinite combos: we can generate infinite mana by swapping an aura around with Mystic + Siona + Ashnod's Altar, or replace Altar with Nature's Chosen for infinite tokens.

Finally there's Pattern of Rebirth, a fantastic card when paired with a sacrifice outlet. The plan here is to enchant a creature with Pattern and sacrifice it to fetch Boonweaver Giant which then fetches our Shielded by Faith combo, or you could fetch Auratouched Mage to do the Reins of the Vinesteed combo. I forgot how cheap this card is after its reprint!

All these suggestions comes from AngelofDeath, so thank you!

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Deckbuilding Checklist

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 amount of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. This is my general checklist of minimum requirements:

  • 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; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

The remaining deck slots are filled with whatever cards fit the deck's theme and add to the overall synergy. 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.

Now that we've covered the deck's goal, the cards we're going to building with, and have a check list of cards that we'll need, let's build the sample decks!

 

$30 List

Our first list looks to quickly set up for an explosive midgame. After spending the first turns ramping, we ideally want to have one of our six enchantresses (Mesa Enchantress) on the battlefield, then unload as many cheap auras as possible, drawing tons of cards in the process while developing our board with loads of auras and tokens. We win by either overwhelming the table with tokens thanks to cards like Archon of Sun's Grace or combo'ing off with Shielded by Faith.

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$60 List

Adding another $30 lets us pick up two more enchantresses, Sram, Senior Edificer and Setessan Champion, alongside versatile card draw like Calix, Destiny's Hand, and powerful tutors like Open the Armory and Three Dreams. We've also expanded our win conditions with Altar of Dementia acting both as a sac outlet and mill finisher with Reins of the Vinesteed, plus Kitsune Mystic and Nature's Chosen (+Karametra's Favor) infinite tokens.

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$90 List

Further upgrades have gone to solidifying our win conditions and making them more consistent. Our sac outlets now include Blasting Station and Fanatical Devotion, which lets us immediately tutor up Boonweaver Giant or Auratouched Mage with Pattern of Rebirth to combo off, and Station also doubles as a finisher.

To upgrade the deck further, I'd start replacing the lands with mana-fixing options that enter the battlefield untapped, like Windswept Heath and Temple Garden. After that, cards like Enlightened Tutor, Idyllic Tutor, and Sylvan Library are easy includes. If you're really looking to splurge then snag Replenish and Serra's Sanctum!

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That's All, Folks!

Now that Commander is my full-time job, expect Budget Commander to be a regular weekly thing! Polls will be back soon, but I've got at least one more article lined up first. Thanks for reading!



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