This time in Poroscope we will dig into upgrading your Precon Commander decks! Wizards release new preconstructed commander decks every year and in 2020 the first batch of decks was released along with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.
Precon-decks are a good starting point for your career as a commander player. They are usually built around some specific theme and the synergies between the cards have been designed to work pretty efficiently. In lower power level tables you can just sleeve up your precon-deck and get into the business! This makes them a great choice for beginning players to get into playing commander.
Since the price tag for commander decks varies around 30-60€ at the moment of release you cannot expect too many expensive cards to be included in the decks. Making an investment for some amount of money to the decks makes them work better and keeps the interest alive for the deck and for the game!
What should we upgrade first?
There are many points where to start but the one I would consider the most is the lands. Let's be honest: Most of the land cards in precon decks are not very good if good at all. The reason for this is pretty simple: Land cards are expensive and as a card category they usually are the most expensive part of decks across formats: dual lands in legacy make easily the decks cost thousands of euros and fetch lands in modern usually make a big part of the costs for a deck playing 3-4 colors. Some of the lands popular in commander have increased in price as well but there are still some viable options that can fit a smaller budget.
While considering the lands for your deck you should start with lands that enter the battlefield untapped to not lose tempo when playing. Good examples are lands from Shadows Over Innistrad that require you to reveal a basic land card from your hand to get them to the table untapped and the lands from Battle for Zendikar that enter the battlefield untapped if the player controls two or more basic lands. Painlands are also popular as the commander life total is not that much diminished by the damage taken from the lands and further in the game you can always take colorless mana out of them without any pain.
A good choice for finding good lands for your deck is the web page manabasecrafter.com which you can search for land cards with the name of your commander. This makes the project much easier!
Roughly you can invest as much as you like for your deck's mana base since the lands and mana producing artifacts can be run in the future decks as well. More expensive land cards also keep their price pretty ok since they are usually played in different formats. In more casual EDH, you should be able to find good enough lands for a smaller budget.
When the mana base for your deck is optimized, you can focus on the theme of the deck. How is the deck going to win the games? Where does the deck do well? When the theme and winning condition is clear the best help to find new cards or upgrades is the advanced search of Scryfall.com. From scryfall you can search cards with your commander's color identity and you can easily add more parameters to your search, for example, creature type. Budget wise, there are usually substitutions for the more expensive cards that might cost a couple of mana more but do similar things. If you are not aiming for a competitive deck, you can do fairly well with the cards that have a slightly higher mana cost. Another good option to search for cards is edhrec that usually lists cards by the popularity of them.
When the wincon for your deck is clear, you might want to optimize the shell for your main game plan. If the plan is to go full-on aggro, you should include lots of creatures (naturally) and some support that maybe boost the creatures or gives evasion. If you plan to go with a combo plan the question is more of how to find the combo from your deck and what cards to play to support the combo?
Between combo, aggro, and control there is the most common commander deck archetype (which of the precon decks usually are as well) that lands between all of these archetypes and it is so-called Good Stuff deck. Good Stuff decks tend to play - as the name implies - good cards that are solid alone but might have some nice synergies between them and the other cards in the deck. The power of the good stuff decks is that they are usually resilient decks against counterspells and board wipes as they are not just playing for one strategy. The weakness is that they usually don't win the games fast enough if at all. So if you are into the good stuff, you should find out which is your main win con for the deck. If you play black, you might want to include something like Exsanguinate or Torment of Hailfire that can win the game alone. From white, you can add something that creates a load of tokens, like Luminarch Ascension or Finale of Glory, and green has good power buffing cards like Finale of Devastation and Craterhoof Behemoth.
One of the most crucial elements in MTG and especially in commander is the card advantage. Commander creatures, that generate card advantage are usually considered the most powerful. Another possibility is an effect that lets you cast cards for example from the top of your library or tutor cards from your library - which are forms of card advantage too. Since there are many precon commanders that are focused mainly to other things, it is important to include card drawing cards to your 99. Enchantments, that draw cards are usually good and strong options followed by creatures that do similar things. Usually, the enchantments are very popular and that wise tend to be a bit expensive. Some budget options can be found and also instant or sorcery cards that draw cards can be used too. In commander, the cards that give you more than just one extra card are preferred as you gain more advantage from them. The best colors for card draw are blue, black and green, the last one working exceptionally well with creatures.
The amount of interaction such as counterspells and removal is pretty much up to the player playing the deck. If you are in for playing more controlling deck, you can include a larger amount of interactive cards. However, the cards should be chosen so that they work in more than just one situation. Against creature heavy decks board wipes work very well as they exchange one card to multiple cards. In all card choices, the card advantage is a good point of view. Trading cards 1:1 against one opponent leads to the other opponents gaining card advantage over you.
Overall good card choices for precon decks can be found from the previous "Top 10 cards" article series which will become complete as we list the best green cards next week!
- Poroscope: Top 10 Commander cards from red!
- Poroscope: Top 10 Commander cards from black!
- Poroscope: The 10 Commander cards from blue!
- Poroskooppi: Top 10 Commander cards from white!
All in all, upgrading your precon deck should also be fun and provide a learning process about the commander and the deck. The best and the most fun way is to try out as many cards as you think you would like to try. This also gives you the capability of understanding the game more and especially understanding the difference between cards, thus making the future upgrades for maybe some different deck to be easier to choose from.
Pekka "Löhis" Löhönen