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Budget Commander: Sram, Senior Edificer | Aura Voltron | $25, $50, $100


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Mono White is the weakest mono color in Commander. I wish this was a controversial opinion, but I know that everyone reading this is agreeing with me. There's a few reasons why this is the case, but the biggest reason by far is the lack of card draw. Even Wizards acknowledges this, stating that "... the lack of raw cards in white makes it weaker in Commander than the other colors." Unfortunately, they mention in that exact same paragraph that their "most promising" solution to this problem is "group hug card draw" like Happily Ever After, which uhhh dear god please no, but at least Wizards knows about the problem and is trying to help!

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Not like this.

While we wait for Wizards to figure things out, I thought it would be a fun challenge to cover the worst mono color again on Budget Commander. The goal here is simple: make the strongest Mono White deck possible for just $25! Friends, we're gonna make Mono White look good, and we're not going to break the bank doing it! I'm going to do TWO Mono White Budget Commanders in a row with this goal in mind!

 

Fixing White's Weakness

The primary reason for White's poor performance in Commander is simple: lack of card advantage, specifically raw card draw. While white does have a few amazing sources of card draw (Land Tax) and has access to colorless draw (Mind's Eye), the simple fact is that white lags behind the other colors in terms of overall card draw options. White can get away with not having good card draw in 1v1 formats by playing fast aggro decks looking to close out games in the first few turns before card advantage starts gaining value. However, this strategy is a lot less viable in Commander when you have to deal with multiple opponents with double the starting life total of 1v1 formats and games last much longer. In this format, you need to have card advantage* if you want to play for a longer game and keep up with the rest of the table. So our biggest challenge for this Mono White deck is figuring out a consistent card draw package for it.

* The only alternative to running a ton of card advantage is to bring the entire table down to your level with hardcore Stax, which Mono White is actually decent at with cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Cataclysm. Your opponents can't run away with card advantage if they can't play the game! But y'all crucify me when I mention running Blood Moon so we're gonna skip that option kthxbye! 

We have a second challenge for this deck: most of the best Mono White card draw options -- Land Tax, Puresteel Paladin, Sword of Fire and Ice, Mind's Eye, and tutoring them up with cards like Enlightened Tutor and Stoneforge Mystic -- are way too expensive to fit in our $25 deck! So not only do we need to figure out consistent card draw for our deck, but it also has to be ultra budget-friendly! Oh my!

I did say this would be a challenge!

The best way to guarantee some consistent card advantage is by picking a commander that provides it. It's important that the commander is either low cmc or difficult to kill so we can have reliable access to it throughout the game. Finally, both the commander and the method they provide card advantage can't be too expensive or else they won't fit our budget. With these big restrictions, we can rule out pretty much all the Mono White commanders right off the bat. From the ~5 remaining, my favorite two options are definitely Sram, Senior Edificer and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle.

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Sram, Senior Edificer is a pretty obvious choice here, literally saying "draw a card" right off the bat. That's off to a great start! Plus Sram is a mere 2cmc; such a low cmc means we can reliably cast Sram a few times in a game, which means we can truly build around his abilities. His card draw trigger is flexible too, counting all Auras, Equipments, and Vehicles, of which there are a ton of good ones for a Mono White deck to run. Sram is easily one of the best card draw engines a Mono White deck can run, so having him always accessible in our command zone is a great choice. Best of all is that Sram rewards us for running cards that we'd want to be running anyway to protect him: cards like Swiftfoot Boots and Hyena Umbra keep him safe from removal spells and draw us cards in the process.

Because we want to protect Sram anyway with Equipment and Aura cards, it's easy to develop a Sram deck into a full-fledged Voltron deck looking to suit up Sram with a bunch of defensive and offensive auras/equipments and bash face while drawing tons of cards. Alternatively, Sram can be built as more of a Combo commander, but if you're looking for Mono White Combo then you should consider Teshar first.

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Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is a card advantage machine, returning a creature with cmc 3 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield. While not card draw itself, Teshar can be used to draw a ton of cards, either by sacrificing creatures like Filigree Familiar and Skyscanner to Ashnod's Altar only to return them back to the battlefield to be sacrificed again. Teshar also refills his hand with artifacts from the graveyard thanks to recursion creatures like Myr Retriever and Restoration Specialist, then recasting those artifacts to get the recursion creatures back, causing a sweet value loop.

While Teshar can definitely pull off a grindy Mono White Graveyard deck, an even more powerful route for a Teshar deck is to go Combo. With one or two 0cmc artifacts, a creature that returns artifacts either from the graveyard or battlefield to your hand, and a sac outlet, you can go infinite very easily. One example combo would be Tormod's Crypt + Myr Retriever + Blasting Station for infinite damage. Mono White decks generally struggle to assemble specific combos due to the overall lack of tutors and card draw to find specific pieces, but Teshar Combo solves this problem by jamming the entire deck full of variations and redundancies of the same combo so it's super easy to assemble.

So that's our game plan: Sram Voltron and Teshar Combo! This is gonna be fun!

 

Mono White Auras is Insane!

We're gonna start with Sram, Senior Edificer Voltron because the last article was Zada, Hedron Grinder Combo and I don't want to do two Combo decks in a row. Don't worry though, Combo friends, Teshar Combo is going to be the next article! But for now we're gonna do Voltron!

While our deck will feature Auras, Equipments, and Vehicles, we're going to be focusing on Auras. The reason for this is simple: Mono White Auras is actually ridiculously powerful.

Mono White traditionally struggles for good ramp, card draw, recursion, and tutors, among other things. But strangely enough, Mono White has fantastic options for all those things when you focus on Auras. Here are some highlights:

Mono White has INSANE Aura support! And most of these cards are dirt cheap! It's so budget-friendly I love it so much ahhhhhh!!!!

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Sram's Game Plan

Our game plan with Sram, Senior Edificer is simple: suit up Sram with a bunch of Auras/Equipment and kill our opponents with commander damage. Sram seems like an odd Voltron choice at first; he's just a 2/2 so it's gonna take a lot for him to deal 21 damage to an opponent and he doesn't even have inherent protection from removal. But Sram makes up for all that with a super low cmc and all that sweet, sweet card draw! We are very much a tempo deck, looking to keep our opponents off-balance with cheap, efficient spells that make it difficult to answer Sram, while Sram steadily grows in power and kills off opponents before they have a chance to stabilize.

A typical game will play out like this:

  1. Ramp
  2. Cast Sram, Senior Edificer and immediately start protecting him with auras/equipment.
  3. Add even more layers of protection on Sram while drawing TONS of cards.
  4. Pump up Sram into a lethal attacker with cards like All That Glitters.
  5. Kill with commander damage or backup beaters.

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Mana: Lands & Ramp

There's a few solid Sram-specific ramp cards worth mentioning. For Equipments we've got Sword of the Animist which is just fantastic, repeatable Rampant Growths each turn, and Explorer's Scope isn't terrible considering how low-cost it is. If you're Equipment-heavy then Sigarda's Aid and Puresteel Paladin can save you a ton of mana on equip costs. Danitha Capashen, Paragon is great, offering cost reduction but also being a good backup candidate to suit up if Sram ends up being shut down. Hero of Iroas is good if you're leaning towards an Aura version of this deck.

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Protection

Sram, Senior Edificer is our baby that we must protect at all cost. He needs protection from removal the moment we cast him, and after that, we'll layer him with more and more of it until he's impervious to harm. Protection cards like Shield of Duty and Reason double as evasion for Sram, letting us slip past potential blockers. If we're heavy on Auras, Umbra Mystic is a huge roadblock for our opponents!

We should also be protecting ourselves while we beat face with Sram. Sphere of Safety is a fantastic pillowfort card if we're Aura-heavy.

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Card Draw

For Aura-heavy decks we can add Mesa Enchantress and Kor Spiritdancer to draw even more cards. For Equipment-heavy decks, there's Puresteel Paladin. One underrated fantastic card draw option for any white deck with creatures is Mask of Memory: draw TWO cards, discard the worst in your hand? And it's a dirt-cheap cmc! This card is bananas!

But my favorite card draw engines in this deck have to be the ones that "boomerang" cards like Conviction, which we can cast, draw a card with Sram, then bounce back to our hand to recast again. Basically draw a card every time we spend three mana! Flickering Ward and Conviction are the two best of these, but there are a few others too. Even better if we have extra "Srams" out like Mesa Enchantress!

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Tutors

While Mono White is generally subpar at tutoring, it's actually really good at tutoring Auras and Equipment! Open the Armory, Steelshaper's Gift, Enlightened Tutor, and many other excellent options are available to choose from!

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Recursion

Mono White also has excellent recursion when it comes to Auras/Equipments! Retether and Replenish absolutely can't be beat in terms of value in an Aura-heavy deck. Open the Vaults is bound to give us more value than our opponents, especially if we exile opposing graveyards first with cards like Tormod's Crypt. Sun Titan, Emeria Shepherd, Crystal Chimes, there's so much good recursion to choose from!

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Removal

There's a whole bunch of auras/equipment/vehicle removal options available to us: Argentum Armor blows up any permanent, Sword of Sinew and Steel blows up artifacts/planeswalkers, Faith Unbroken exiles a creature, and so on. We even have our own super sweet board wipe with Winds of Rath, which kills everyone except our lovely enchanting Sram-o!

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Winning

Our primary win condition is beating face! Unfortunately, poor naked Sram would lose a bar brawl to an Elk, so he's gonna need a lot of juicing up to start scaring our opponents. Thankfully we can pump him up real quick! All That Glitters is the perfect new inclusion in Sram Voltron. Strata ScytheBlackblade Reforged / Armored Ascension pump him up based on our land count, Fireshrieker gives him double strike, Empyrial Armor and Empyrial Plate both grow him based on our hand size, and if we're Aura-heavy then Ethereal Armor / Sage's Reverie are sick too!

If Sram gets shut down, no worries! We're going to be chain casting auras nonstop, which means we can make instant armies with Ajani's Chosen and Sigil of the Empty Throne!

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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.

 

$25 List

I daresay this deck draws more cards than any other $25 Mono White deck that has come before it! Our plan is to play Sram, Senior Edificer, then vomit out an absurd number of cheap auras and equipments on to the battlefield to buff up our commander, all while drawing crazy amounts of cards. Our lands/ramp are lower than usual because our deck's average cmc is very low, plus we're running a bunch of free equipment like Accorder's Shield which are essentially free "cycling" cards in our deck that help us dig to key cards like Sigil of the Empty Throne and fuel cards like All That Glitters.

We beat face with Sram, or the horde of angels summoned by Sigil of the Empty Throne, or kitty smash with Ajani's Chosen!

 

$50 List

Doubling the budget lets us kick things up a notch! Check out our absurd mass recursion with Open the Vaults and Retether! And our ramp is getting insane thanks to cards like Sol Ring, Dowsing Dagger, and Sword of the Anime! BAM!

 

$100 List

I guess we can start upgrading our lands and stuff, right? Alright, let's add the good stuff: Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Smothering Tithe, Land Tax, all the good stuff are now here! Yes, spending $22 for Land Tax is worth it; the card is just bonkers. 

 

Next Up: Teshar Combo!

Is Mono White the weakest mono color? Yup! Does every $25 Mono White deck have to suck? NOPE! We got one down, now we've got one more to go! Wheeeeee!


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