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Budget Commander: Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle | Artifact Graveyard Control/Combo | $25, $50, $100


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Making Mono White Look Amazing For Just $25!

Mono White is the weakest mono color in Commander. This is the common consensus among the community and even Wizards has stated this recently. But I feel like this statement is a little misleading. Just because Mono White is the weakest mono color doesn't mean all Mono White decks are weak! In fact, you can make very powerful Mono White decks, even on an extreme budget! And that's what I've decided to do: show you how to build some powerful, consistent Mono White decks that are bound to impress, starting at just $25.

I ended up settling on two Mono White commanders that are swimming in card advantage: Sram, Senior Edificer and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle.

We started last week with Sram Aura Voltron. And yeah, I'm gonna brag and say that I nailed it: that deck draws a TON of cards, which Mono White traditionally struggles to do! It's super consistent and plays to some of Mono White's greatest strengths, all at an insanely low price. I'm really proud of that article.

Now I'll show you how to find success with Mono White again, this time with Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle! All hail the mighty Graveyard Combo Bird! CAWCAW!

 

Artifact Graveyard Control!

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is a card advantage machine. Whenever you cast a historic spell - artifact, legendary, or saga - Teshar returns a creature with cmc 3 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield. That's repeatable graveyard recursion, putting the creature directly on to the battlefield, for no mana. That's amazing! This is such mana-efficient card advantage that we can easily build an entire deck around Teshar's triggered ability, filling up with low cmc creatures and low cmc historic spells to recur them.

There's a ton of solid low cmc creatures to choose from. Mono White staples like Knight of the White Orchid and Mentor of the Meek are easy inclusions, returning them back to the battlefield whenever they're killed. But since we plan on triggering Teshar's recursion a ton, we're especially interested in creatures that put themselves in the graveyard, so we'll always have something to recur: ramp with Burnished Hart, slow down an oppponent Hope of Ghirapur, kill legendaries with Bounty Agent, then get them back with Teshar to do it again!

Next are our historic spells that will trigger Teshar. Artifacts make up the bulk of solid options available to us, be it looters like Gate to the Afterlife, sac outlets like Ashnod's Altar, or removal like Tormod's Crypt. Just like the creatures, our historic spells should be low cmc so we can maximize the number of potential Teshar triggers each turn. Since we're going to be running a high amount of artifacts anyway to maximize Teshar's ability, we can move into an Artifact subtheme with cards like Leonin Squire and Auriok Salvagers to add even more recursion loops.

With tons of low cmc historic cards that like to be sacrificed and layers upon layers of recursion, Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle ends up being a super resilient, grindy Artifact Graveyard Control deck able to out-value the rest of the table with incremental card advantage! Protect Teshar with cards like Dauntless Bodyguard and Salvager of Ruin, get them back by casting historic spells like Hope of Ghirapur, sacrifice that and get it back with Restoration Specialist, which lets you recast and get back the Specialist ... it never ends!

 

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C-C-Combos!

While you can totally play Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle as a grindy Graveyard deck that slowly but surely out-values your opponents to death, Teshar also happens to support a multitude of sick combos that can close out the game way faster. It's really easy and there's a ton of different ways to assemble your combos!

Generally speaking, all our combos involve:

  • Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
  • A sacrifice outlet
  • A creature that can return an artifact to our hand
  • One or two artifacts that cost 0 mana to cast
  • A finisher

For sacrifice outlets, we need a card that can sacrifice a creature/artifact repeatedly for no mana. Bonus points if it either generates us mana (Ashnod's Altar) or doubles as a finisher (Blasting Station). 

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Next we need a creature that can return an artifact to our hand. Either it returns an artifact from the graveyard to your hand when it leaves the battlefield (Myr Retriever) or enters the battlefield (Leonin Squire), or it returns an artifact from the battlefield to your hand when it enters the battlefield (Glint Hawk).

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Then you need an artifact that either costs no mana to cast (Welding Jar) or is a net mana gain (Sol Ring). Depending on the combo you might need two of these.

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With Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, a sacrifice outlet (Altar of Dementia), a creature that returns artifacts (Myr Retriever), and one (or two) 0-drop artifact (Welding Jar), you can establish an infinite loop. In this case, use the Jar's ability to sacrifice itself to regenerate the Altar. Then use the Altar to sacrifice the Retriever, milling an opponent for one card. Use the Retriever's death trigger to return the Jar to your hand. Cast the Jar, triggering Teshar and returning the Retriever. This loop is infinite mill.

The sacrifice outlet can be replaced for different infinite finishers. Ashnod's Altar is infinite mana. Blasting Station is infinite damage. Even if your sac outlet isn't a finisher, like Martyr's Devotion, you can add an extra card like Altar of the Brood for infinite mill, or make an infnite army with Monastery Mentor.

There's so many variations of this infinite recursion combo, so much redundancy, that's it's super easy and consistent to assemble. Most of the best pieces are pricey, however, so we won't be able to go too Combo-crazy at the lowest budget versions of this deck, but it's something you can upgrade towards.

 

Our Game Plan: Artifact Graveyard Control/Combo!

Our deck is always going to be an Artifact Graveyard deck, but it shifts from being a Control deck to a Combo deck depending on the budget. At the lowest budget, we are primarily an Artifact Graveyard Control deck looking to grind out our opponents with card advantage thanks to all our graveyard recursion, eventually assembling an infinite combo to win the game. As the deck's budget increases, however, our deck shifts to become a faster Combo deck, looking to assemble our infinite combos as quickly as possible.

Interested in an Artifact Graveyard Control deck, or an Artifact Graveyard Combo deck, in Mono White? Then check out these spicy brews!

We're starting with the sample decklists first this time. People often get confused and mistaken the card options for actual decklists, so I'm going to put the sample decklists first and then talk about card options and see if people prefer it this way. Please let me know what you think of this change!

 

SAMPLE DECK LISTS

Here are three sample deck lists for Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. This Artifact Graveyard deck starts as a Control deck at lower budgets and begins transitioning into a Combo deck as we increase the budget.

 

$25 List

The first list looks like a pile of jank ... because that's exactly what it is. Put the pieces together and somehow it works! Everything either sacrifices itself (Bounty Agent) or wants to be sacrificed (Filigree Familiar) for value! We sacrifice our board various ways, either to draw cards (Culling Dais) or to protect our board (Fanatical Devotion). Then we recur it all back a multitude of ways (Myr Retriever), most notably with our commander, Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. This list is all about grinding out our opponents through incremental value.

Eventually we win by assembling infinite loops, like Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle + Altar of Dementia + Glint Hawk + Tormod's Crypt for infinite mill. There's many different infinite combos and finishers in this list, and eventually we just draw into one of them to win the game.

 

$50 List

Doubling the deck's budget lets us make our combo win conditions faster and more consistent. We now have Blasting Station and Grinding Station as both sac outlets and finishers for our infinite loops. We have stronger ramp thanks to Sol Ring. We've picked up a bunch of 0-mana artifacts that can sacrifice themselves, like Welding Jar, to make our combos even easier.

 

$100 List

The $100 list splurges for a key combo card: Walking Ballista. Ballista is used both as an infinite combo enabler and a finisher if we make infinite mana with two of our new sac outlets, Ashnod's Altar and Krark-Clan Ironworks. The deck is leaning hard on the Combo plan at this point.

To take this deck further, start investing in tutor staples like Recruiter of the Guard and Enlightened Tutor. You will also want all the fast mana available, so cards like Mana Vault and Mana Crypt are auto-includes.

 

CARD OPTIONS

Here are all the card options that I feel are worth mentioning when building a Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle deck. The sample decklists are all constructed from these big ol' lists of options! These are not deck lists!

 

Mana: Lands & Ramp

First up is the mana. There's a couple Teshar-specific ramp that we'd love to run. Permanents that sacrifice themselves to ramp, like Wayfarer's Bauble and Burnished Hart, are awesome here since we can easily recur them. There's also weird "ramp" cards like Tireless Tribe which we can use to discard cards in order to reanimate them with Teshar, "ramping" them out in a sense.

If you're looking to play fast Combo, you'll need to run as much fast mana as possible: Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mox Opal, and the like are how you can enable combo wins on turns 1-3. These busted ramps have equally crazy price tags, so if you're interested in a fast Combo version of Teshar then you must be prepared to splurge for it. However, a slower, more Control version of Teshar is fine running all the cheaper, slightly slower ramp options; even a lowly Gold Myr gets the job done.

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Bounce & Recursion

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is our most important piece of recursion, but we need a lot more than just him, especially if we want to pull off any infinite combos. We're primarily interested in artifact recursion like Myr Retriever, but we do have other options like Sun Titan if needed.

Bounce cards like Glint Hawk make it very easy to combo off and can also re-use ETB triggers like Ichor Wellspring.

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Sacrifice

We want our permanents to go into the graveyard so we can reanimate them with Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. We also need repeatable, mana-free sac outlets to enable our infinite combos. These are my favorite sac outlets to get the job done.

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Card Draw

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle has the most unusual "card draw" options. The two obvious staples are Mentor of the Meek and Bygone Bishop since we have so many low cmc creatures. But we're also running a ton of cantrips that we plan on sacrificing + recurring for incremental draw: creatures like Filigree Familiar and Urza's Bauble are meant to be sacrificed and recurred over and over.

The best cantrips are the ones that cost the least amount of mana. Even better if they can sacrifice them so we can recur them easier. For example, Urza's Bauble is better than Conjurer's Bauble because it costs no mana to cantrip, which is better than Implement of Improvement because it can sacrifice itself, which is better than Sunbeam Spellbomb because it costs less mana to cantrip.

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Tutors

Tutors are essential to quickly and consistently assemble our combos. Just like the ramp options, however, the better the tutors are, the bigger their price tags, making Fast Combo the most expensive version of Teshar. If keeping a low budget is more of a priority for you, the Control version of this deck doesn't really care for tutors much, instead focusing on controlling the board long enough to naturally draw into your combo.

The single best tutor in the deck - if you can afford it - is Recruiter of the Guard. Our deck is packed with low cmc creatures that happen to have small bodies, meaning Recruiter can snag basically any of them in our deck. With Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, any sac outlet (Ashnod's Altar), and Recruiter of the Guard, we can basically assemble any infinite combo by sacrificing Recruiter to grab all our 0-drop artifact creatures (Ornithopter) and a finisher (Walking Ballista) for an easy win.

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Removal

The slower our deck, the more removal we need to control the board. If you're going for straight Control then you'll be running tons of removal. If you're going fast Combo then your removal will be minimal, since the best way to "remove" threats is by winning the game.

There's many different kinds of removal that I'll be lumping together here: creatures (Fiend Hunter), artifacts/enchantments (Leonin Relic-Warder), permanents (Bouny Agent), and graveyard (Tormod's Crypt) are the usual inclusions. Note that cards that have both an ETB and LTB trigger like Fiend Hunter are exceptionally powerful with a sacrifice outlet: when Hunter enters the battlefield and the ETB trigger (exile target creature) is still on the stack, sacrifice it before the trigger resolves, causing the LTB trigger (return target creature) to go on top of the stack. Then you resolve the LTB trigger first, which does nothing, then the ETB trigger resolves, exiling the creature permanently.

Since we're in White, I'm also tossing in some light Stax cards as a form of "removal." Cards like Aven Mindcensor and Spirit of the Labyrinth can significantly slow down our opponents, and if we're ever in a position where it's hurting us more than it's helping we can always sacrifice it.

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Protection

No matter what version of Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle you're playing, our commander is going to be our primary source of card advantage and must be protected. Luckily we have a ton of powerful options to make sure our bird overlord isn't messed with: we can protect him from removal with cards like Dauntless Bodyguard and Benevolent Bodyguard and even stop countermagic with cards like Hope of Ghirapur and Ranger-Captain of Eos. The latter two are also essential to make sure we can combo off uninterrupted.

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Non-Combo Winning Options

Even though we've got plenty of Combo win potential, we don't need combos to finish off opponents! In low-budget versions of the deck, or if Combo simply isn't your thing, you can win purely through grinding out your opponents with token producers like Golem Foundry, Desecrated Tomb, Spawning Pit, heck even a 1/1 army from Genesis Chamber will do the trick!

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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.

For Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, our deck is all about graveyard recursion, so we'll be running way more than the average. Our graveyard recursion enables all other aspects of our deck such as card draw, removal, and our win conditions. Control versions of the deck will be running a higher than average amount of removal, while a Combo version will be cutting removal for faster ramp and more tutors to assemble the win as quickly as possible.

 

That's All, Folks!

I hope you enjoyed my take on Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. The deck is a weird pile of jank, but the pieces work together to grind out your opponents with value! I've already got two more articles planned, but feel free to drop a suggestion in the comments section below on what I should cover in the future.

Also, I changed up the article format this time, putting the sample decklists on the top to avoid confusing people into believing that "card options" lists are actual decks. Please let me know if this way of conveying information works better!


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