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Budget(ish) Commander: Darien, King of Jank

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My previous two Budget Commander articles (Kaalia and Talrand) featured competitive decks that lock down your opponents with either MLD or countermagic while you cruise to victory. For this article I decided to switch things up and show you a more "fun for everyone" deck that runs some janky cards that are oddly powerful and very entertaining.

The idea started with Darien, King of Kjeldor. I used to run him in my Zedruu the Greathearted deck, where Darien would deter would-be attackers with the threat of mobilizing troops. If I did take damage, then I'd have soldier tokens to donate with Zedruu the Greathearted. It's a win-win situation. My deck also ran painlands such as Shivan Reef and City of Brass, which became token producers for added value when His Majesty graced the battlefield.

I liked the card so much that I decided to try and make a deck with Darien at the helm. I wanted to load up on all the ways I could self-inflict damage to myself and make token armies, so I scoured Gatherer for the keywords "deals damage" in white/colorless. I found a ton of lands/artifacts that fit the bill, but the most interesting results were these two white cards:

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These obscure old-school cards are rare examples of White doing direct damage. They're trash cards on their own and I have yet to see anyone else play with them, but they have an interesting interaction with one card in particular that is heavily played in Commander:

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Nearly every Commander deck that runs black will run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, either for mana fixing and/or for its synergy with Cabal Coffers. At a table where Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is on the field and all lands are Swamps, Karma and Royal Decree deal damage based on every land in play.

Now for the most interesting part: You can play Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in Mono White.

In Commander, you can't play a card that has a color identity outside of your Commander's color(s). So you can't play a basic Swamp or Godless Shrine in Mono White, because they contain black mana symbols and therefore have black in their color identity. But Urborg is different — it's not itself a Swamp, it only has the word "Swamp" in its text description, which the official Commander rules point out is okay:

  • Basic land words (swamp, forest, etc) in the text box of a card do NOT represent a coloured mana symbol. They are not restricted to a Commander of the same colour identity.

So we can run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in our Darien deck so that Karma and Royal Decree deal damage based on all the lands in play. That means everyone is taking lots of damage, including ourselves, but we're getting a ton of tokens with Darien as well! Whee! 

Oh, and while we're at it, let's run this guy for funsies:

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30/30 for 4 mana? Sounds good!

How It Plays

My initial builds for this deck focused on a heavy tribal soldiers theme and never worked out well. The deck always felt clunky and never could recover well from the many board wipes that you'll run into in a typical Commander game. The tribal cards took up too many slots in the deck, which meant there was less space for card draw, life gain, ramp, and answers; things that the deck needs plenty of.

I ended up cutting most of the tribal cards and turned the deck into Mono White Control, which I feel is where Mono White is most powerful. After all, white is the king of removal, with a wide array of Commander staples such as Swords to Plowshares, Return to Dust, and Austere Command. Running as many of these cards as possible will always yield good results!

With the new game plan of Mono White Control, the deck is versatile and powerful, able to control the board while always having gas in hand to keep going.

The deck plays out like this:

  1. Ramp like crazy
  2. Draw a TON of cards
  3. Police the board with removal
  4. Win with the Urborg Combo and/or an army of buffed tokens

Like this!


Who's Been Naughty?

Darien, King of Kjeldor rewards supreme masochism. Whip yourself before His Majesty's presence and he shall reward your efforts with soldiers. These were the best options that I could find.

Options include: Mana Crypt, Ancient Tomb, City of Brass, Grand Coliseum, Nomad Stadium, Tarnished Citadel, Mana Vault, Karma, Royal Decree, Ankh of Mishra

Mana Crypt is a very affordable $4 online, but the physical copy, eh, not so much ($150). It doesn't make or break the deck so feel free to cut it for the sake of your wallet.

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No Gain, No Pain

You can easily kill yourself with all the self-inflicted damage that you're doing, especially with the Karma combo out. Life gain is a must so you can keep cutting yourself. Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant are all-stars in this deck as they cancel out the damage you take when Darien is out, gaining back the life lost when His Majesty produces the equivalent amount of tokens. Their bigger sisters are great as well.

Options include: Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, Suture Priest, Auriok Champion, Healer of the Pride, Shattered Angel, Angelheart Vial, True Conviction, Loxodon Warhammer, Serra Ascendant, Sword of War and Peace, Sword of Light and Shadow. Elspeth Tirel, Patron of the Kitsune, Sun Droplet, Spirit Loop, Angelic Chorus

Special bonus: this is one of the few decks that you can justify running Angelheart Vial! It's still not amazing, but at least here it's very consistent! C'mon, look at that art!

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We want tutors to fetch out our Karma / Royal Decree + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo. Tutors are great even outside that combo though because they get what we need at the moment. It could be fetching Rest In Peace to stop Karador, Ghost Chieftain from running wild, or Oblation to tuck Erebos, God of the Dead, or Mind's Eye to start drawing tons of cards. Whatever it is, there's a tutor for it.

Mistveil Plains and Elixir of Immortality are excellent ways of tucking cards back into your deck so you can fetch them out again later.

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This deck is the definition of "mana hungry." Your card draw, tutors, and big spells all want tons of mana. Darien, King of Kjeldor himself is a whopping 6-mana to start! You'll need lots of ramp to get the deck going.

Options include: Ancient Tomb, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Myriad LandscapeMana Crypt, Mana Vault, Wayfarer's Bauble, Surveyor's Scope, Coldsteel HeartMarble Diamond, Pearl Medallion, Knight of the White Orchid, Sol Ring, Thran Dynamo, Worn Powerstone, Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Kor Cartographer, Extraplanar Lens, Gauntlet of Power, Caged Sun.

Thankfully, Mono White can make great use of the latter three mana doublers. A single one on the field is a huge boon, and giving our army of tokens +1/+1 isn't bad either!

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Blowing Up The World

Removal is Mono White's specialty. This is where we truly shine, so pack a ton of hate and blow up all of your opponent's stuff!

There's so many great cards here to play!

For this deck in particular, I was very impressed with Renounce the Guilds, which often answers 1+ threats while never touching your (mono white) board. Unexpectedly Absent is a relatively new card but is already up there with Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile in terms of white staples, perhaps even better. Its sheer versatility is astounding, and it's borderline unfair to tuck a permanent for 2-mana right before the opponent shuffles his/her library. Finally, Retribution of the Meek, holy cow! Of the many superb board wipes available, this stands out as the best for this deck. None of your creatures, not even His Majesty, is harmed by this board wipe, while it often kills all your opponent's biggest threats for 3-mana! So good!

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Tons of Value

Three of the best cards we have available for card draw are Well of Lost Dreams, Mentor of the Meek, and Mind's Eye. They're all very mana-hungry (hence the heavy ramp), but they quickly draw you an absurd amount of cards.

And then there's the king of draw: Skullclamp. This broken card is absolutely nutters in a deck that regularly poops out a stream of 1/1 clamp targets. This is the biggest reason why equipment tutors such as Steelshaper's Gift are great in this deck, if only to find The Almighty Clamp!

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Mobilizing The Troops

Darien, King of Kjeldor is the primary token maker here. I used to run a ton of them back when the deck was tribal soldiers, but have since cut down to only my favorites

I've also stolen many games with Decree of Justice. Cycle it right before the start of your turn and BAM! Surprise army ready to swing for lethal!

Another card I've been impressed with is Increasing Devotion. It gives you a ton of tokens without jumping through any hoops, plus flashback to do it again after you get board wiped.

Options include: First Response, Angelic Accord, Martial Coup, Sacred Mesa, Mobilization, Captain of the Watch, Evangel of Heliod, Hero of BladeholdElspeth Tirel, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Decree of Justice, Increasing Devotion

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So we've ramped up, drew a ton of cards, made a bunch of tokens, and blew up our opponent's stuff. Now how do we finish the job?

Well, outside of our Karma / Royal Decree + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo, the next obvious step is to kill with our token army. Back when the deck was tribal soldiers I ran a ton of cards that buffed the soldier tokens to make them big and scary, but a lot of those were too weak and I didn't want to draw into too many of them since they're only good once I had an army. So I cut back to only the best.

My picks: Cathars' Crusade and Coat of Arms

Either of these cards will make your army jaw-droppingly huge and will quickly win you the game if they aren't dealt with before you can swing.

Eldrazi Monument is not as explosive as the previous two but giving your creatures flying and indestructible is invaluable for this deck.

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Budget-ish Lists

As you might have guessed, this deck concept is a little bit more expensive than my usual brews. I decided to go ahead with it anyway because it's such a fun and unique concept that I wanted to share it with you guys. Still, I've tried to keep the cost down as much as possible without diluting the game plan too much.


Cardboard List

Notable exclusions from this version are Ancient Tomb and Mana Crypt, but in goes a far more affordable Unexpectedly Absent and some other goodies.




Upgrading And Fiddly Bits

Most of the potential upgrades are outlined in the deck analysis, but here's a few more cards if you want to take things further:

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A Deck Fit For Royalty

I'm often asked for a non-budget version of the decks in these articles, so for those of you that are curious how I would build Darien with no budget restrictions, I give you this:

If you're evil, add that Kormus Bell :)


Follow Me On Twitter!

I've finally got around to setting up a Twitter account: @BudgetCommander

Followers will be notified whenever a new article goes up, which should be weekly. I'm also hoping to get directions from you guys on Twitter for future articles. Want me to build a deck around specific commander? Or a specific concept/theme? Or general criticisms? Send me a tweet!

Thanks for reading!

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