From the Ground Up – Part 3

Hey all, and welcome to part 3 of the From the Ground Up series. We’ve spent parts 1 and 2 zeroing in on exactly what we want our budget Alesha, Who Smiles at Death Commander deck to look like, and now we’re finally going to hit a solid stopping point.

I command you to finish building this deck!

At the end of this article, we’ll have a solid deck that’s capable of kicking butts and winning some games. As you’ll recall from part 1, we’re shooting for a budget deck that’s fun to play and fun to play against. We should be able to steal some games from your average playgroup, but we shouldn’t be dominating anyone. This is Mardu, baby, we’re gonna have to work for our wins. And that’s how we like it!

At the end of part 2, we had a couple major areas we still needed to tweak:

  • The deck’s manabase. It’s already a little rough, and we’re going to add in a few spells that require slightly higher color-commitment on this round.
  • The amount of token makers in the deck. Creatures that enter the battlefield and make tokens are especially great with Alesha, since they help us clog up the board and go great with the sacrifice outlets that we want to include.

We want to tighten things up by removing cards that don’t fit our deck’s theme (which is “sacrifice things, reanimate them, profit”) and replacing them with cards that do. To this end, we’re going to lose some strong cards on this round of cuts, but the synergy that we gain should make up for it.

I gave myself a budget of $20 to work with on this round of updates. These are the changes I made:

Round 2 Updates


Why These Additions?

We’re covering our first problem (more consistent mana) by adding in the Ravnica bouncelands and Temples that we’re still missing, along with the Mardu tri-land. These lands will help us cast our spells more consistently, and they also don’t cost very much money. Each Temple is about a $1.50, if that, and the Scry effect tacked onto them is very good.

Scry them, you’ll like them!

We didn’t actually add that many token makers, but the two we did add are very good. Siege-Gang Commander is one of the strongest token makers to ever see play, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is a versatile card that can make tokens, wipe out big creatures while leaving ours intact, and potentially act as a win condition.

With those bases covered, I decided to use the rest of my budget to add:

  • More ways to discard and sacrifice creatures. Our creatures have to be in the graveyard for Alesha to reanimate them.
  • A couple additional ways to reanimate our creatures wihout Alesha’s help.
  • A couple ways to help Alesha attack even when our opponents have creatures that could take her out.
  • A few other odds-and-ends, including a couple of powerful creatures with “Enters the Battlefield” abilities.


  • 3x Plains
  • 1x Mountain
  • 2x Swamp
  • Bitter Revelation
  • Outpost Siege
  • Merciless Eviction
  • Custodi Souldbinders
  • Hell’s Caretaker
  • Ride Down
  • Read the Bones
  • Ruinous Path
  • Spectral Searchlight
  • Kami of Ancient Law
  • Subterranean Scout
  • Archetype of Courage
  • Pain Seer
  • Carrier Thrall
  • Kor Hookmaster
  • Gild
  • Silence the Believers
  • Diabolic Tutor
  • Grip of Desolation
  • Meteorite
  • Dreadbore
  • Sun Titan

Why These Cuts?

When cutting cards, I first looked for cards that were redundant alongside the new additions. For example, Bitter Revelation is just a worse Vulturous Aven in this deck that’s built around creatures. As another example, the deck no longer needs Spectral Searchlight now that its mana is a bit better.

After that, I looked to cut cards that don’t particularly synergize with Alesha. These are cards that are good, like Dreadbore or Outpost Siege, but just don’t fit the deck. The biggest loss from this category is Sun Titan. That big ‘ol glowing giant does fit the deck’s themes, but I’m already using him in my Daxos deck, and I’d rather experiment with new cards here.

How Have the Updates Panned Out?

Really well! The deck has been a ton of fun to play. There are a lot of neat little tricks hidden among the different cards, and it’s been particularly fun to spin the Grenzo-wheel and see if it’ll hit. The additions to the manabase have really helped, as so far I haven’t had any trouble casting any of my spells.

As far as power level, the deck’s exactly where I want it to be. I’ve won games by valuing opponents out with sacrifice and reanimation tricks, and I’ve won games by getting enough black mana symbols in the yard to go lethal with Rally the Ancestors and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. I’ve also lost more than my fair share of games, with one particularly stinging loss to an Elesh Norn that I just could not get rid of. It’s not often that you just straight-up lose to just one card in Commander, but I sure just lost to Elesh Norn.

elesh norn.jpg
More like “Elesh Norn, Grand Party Pooper”, amirite?

I haven’t played enough games to find anything I’m really unhappy with yet, though Duergar Hedge-Mage continues to seem like he might cause problems. Flesh Carver has seemed slightly mediocre so far, but his Intimidate has also killed an opponent. I’m going to give them, and the whole deck, another few go’s before I make any more changes.

On a side note, I still haven’t pulled off the infinite Persist combo with Anafenza and Murderous Redcap. But that’s okay; it’ll just feel like more of an achievement when I finally do.

The Deck As It Stands (and Will for a While)

Here’s the current decklist. The deck is going to stay like this for a bit, as I’m happy with its current state, and I’m planning to cut back on Magic purchases for a tiny bit. Still, there I’ve already written down a few cards for future updates…so expect a fourth part of From the Ground Up at some point in the future.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed the series to date, and I hope that it helps you when you’re building your own budget Commander decks!





2 thoughts on “From the Ground Up – Part 3

  1. Pingback: Matt Plays Pauper: Mono-U Tron Deck Tech – Matt Plays Magic

  2. Pingback: From the Ground Up – Growing Pains – Matt Plays Magic

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