Ballin’ On A Budget

Mark Nestico has quite the collection for Commander and he’s not afraid to show it! But what if you’re trying to be a 100-card superstar on a Pauper budget? Mark Nestico has a new challenge: Arahbo, Roar of the World and $10 a week to improve it!

New year.

New me.

New deck.

Beyonce represents the change that all of us promise to make but none of us actually do. New diet? Right after this plate of spaghetti. Going to bed at a reasonable hour? Stares at phone until three in the morning. No more dating toxic people? Receives “you up?” text at midnight and proceeds to reply.

Change is terrifying, potentially destabilizing, hopefully rewarding, and entirely up to you. Excuses usually abound, and the only things stopping us are our own inhibitions.

She also represents all the single ladies out there.

Not me, though. Not this guy.

(The unwillingness to change part. Not being a single lady.)

Since this birth of my son, I’ve built five Commander decks.

That’s five decks in five months.

These aren’t normal decks.

1) One of them is 100% foiled out.

2) All of them contain dual lands.

3) All of them play the maximum allotment of fetchlands.

4) Each deck contains random foils, Judge promos, artist alters, or other expensive cards.

We’ve established that I have a problem.

We’ve established this problem is not sustainable, because I do not have infinite money.

We must, therefor, come to terms with a solution so that I don’t find myself panhandling and begging passers-by for Phyrexian Altars and Past in Flames.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to take a much more casual-friendly approach to building my next deck…a more casual-friendly approach to beating the living hell out of my wallet, as it were.

There will be ground rules for the coming experiment, which I’ll be sure to give you periodic updates on weekly. The truth is, there are a lot of Commander players who don’t feel an inherent need to spend thousands of dollars on their decks, and that’s okay. They’ll pick up the latest Wizards of the Coast release, skim through their local game store’s bulk binders, and add in cards that seem fun, interesting, powerful, or potentially chaotic. They’ll spend a little bit here and there improving their deck, but it’s not a priority that it be able to sweep the table by Turn 4.

I decided to check out the Commander 2017 lists that Wizards dropped earlier this year, and their power creep was noticeable. Edgar Markov token-based decks have been terrorizing pods since his inception and have proved to be very competitive. The Ur-Dragon precon is ridiculous, and I’ve seen it come straight out of the box and wail on players with established decks. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist caused the prices of Wizards to explode while providing a deck with a trivial-to-establish arbitrarily large combo.

These three prove that Wizards is still generating some extremely potent commanders, and in the last few years their releases have set the pace for power level with Commander players.

Oh, and then there was a Cat.

Out of the four decks that dropped in 2017, Arahbo received the highest level of excitement. A Cat commander? Finally! People love Cats. I love Cats! I have three of them! When I decided to get back into Commander, this was the deck that piqued my interest right out of the gate.

Then I heard that it was severely underpowered and couldn’t come close to matching up against the other three offerings. I checked out the list and saw a somewhat scattered theme instead of the clear focus its contemporaries provided. Aside from the obvious Equipment theme, large creatures were scattered in with small ones to create a very lopsided curve. Sweepers like Rout and Divine Reckoning existed alongside no way to return those creatures to the battlefield. The deck features grossly expensive ramp in the form of Zendikar Resurgent, Dreamstone Hedron, and Traverse the Outlands. It even features the combo of Leonin Arbiter and six lands that you need to sacrifice to obtain lands.

In short, it’s a bit of a mess.

I’m not a fan of double-dipping into colors of decks that I already own, and considering my Selvala, Explorer Returned is an absolute beast of a competitive deck, the odds that I’d even consider building Arahbo are slim to none.

But I like Cats.

So here we are.

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith
Mark Nestico
Test deck on 01-23-2018
Magic Card Back

Please send help.

Before I get into what kinds of changes I want to make to this deck, I think it’s important to discuss the limitations of what we’re going to be able to do with it.

  • First and foremost, this deck will come with an allowance. A weekly allotment of $10 to spend on cards, supplies, a deck box, or anything is all I will be allowed to do. If I want a card that costs $40, I will have to wait a month to purchase it.
  • The only cards I can trade when it comes to acquiring new additions to Arahbo, Roar of the World will be the cards I cut from it. I can’t use anything from my personal collection. This is to simulate the experience of a newer player buying their first Commander deck.
  • This deck must be used at least once a week in a pod with my friends.
  • I cannot accept donations for cards to be used in this deck, as it wouldn’t be fair.
  • The only time I can break the budget is if SCG is providing a sale that I would be stupid not to take advantage of, but in that scenario I may only spend $20 for that week, and the following week must be skipped.

While the regime is bare-bones, I feel like this will give us the most authenticity when it comes to creating an experience that newer players can mirror.

I will also be doing by best to remove most of the preconceived tactics I have for obtaining the more expensive cards in the decks that I play, since that relies on collection-buying, speculation, large-scale trades, and other things that they may not be privy to when just starting a hobby.

Week 1: The Kittening

The most influential theme in Arahbo is that it loves, loves, loves Equipment, yet apparently hates, hates, hates casting creatures. When your avenue of victory is equipping creatures, you actually need to play more than 24 of them in your 100-card deck, right? That means the first thing we need to do is cut as many of the useless and inherently weak cards as we can for…

1. More Cats.

That’s all.

With only $10 to work with, the most important thing about Cat Tribal is that a lot of the creatures don’t cost very much. This will give us the most bang for our buck in the early stages and make the deck somewhat capable of holding its own, even in the infant stages of its development. We need to identify some potential heavy hitters right meow.

Adorned Pouncer: $.50

Pride Sovereign: $.50

Enlightened Ascetic: $.15

Felidar Cub: $.15

Felidar Sovereign: $.50

Jungle Lion: $.10

Leonin Abunas: $2.05

Loam Lion: $.25

Noble Panther: $.50

Oreskos Explorer: $.25

Prowling Serpopard: $1.75

Qasali Ambusher: $.50

Sacred Cat: $.15

Savanah Lions (9th Edition): $.50

Skyhunter Skirmisher: $.15

Whitemane Lion: $.15

Watchers of the Dead: $.50

Avacyn’s Pilgrim: $.25

Llanowar Elves: $.25

This puts us at a hair under $10 and will give the deck a bunch of more efficient and helpful creatures. The next question becomes, what do we cut?

That’s where you come in!

Comment below and give your input as to which nineteen cards we should remove. The creatures felt like the most pressing issue, so I want that solved first before we start doing a deeper dive into spells, Equipment, and lands. With your help, we’re going to take Arahbo from a joke all the way up to a serious contender.

So get cracking, and tell me what you think. Also, don’t hesitate to recommend some other cards we should be looking at down the road. There are numerous options in green and white, so go crazy and don’t limit yourself in your suggestions.

Happy New Year, kiddies. Or kitties.

New year.

New me.

New deck.