From the Brim to the Trim - Painting a Budget Treasures Deck with Cheap Brushes

(Kalain, Reclusive Painter | Art by Justine Cruz)

Paint the Sky with Stars

Greetings and salutations from a house near Paris where a somewhat perplexed writer is about to unleash his mad brewing skills upon thou. I'm Arnaud, and I'm thrilled to take you on a journey of uncanny builds, budget gems and colourful cards.

So, yes, I'm puzzled. I'm surprised. I'm flabbergasted even. See, when I run my usual poll to determine the next commander to be built around, I ask EDHREC editors (hi Morgan, hi Eliza, love you!) to close the votes about a week prior to the next publication. This time around, when they eventually did so, there was a perfect tie. Yet the day after, one of the commanders had gained a vote and other two! I know Karlov Manor mysteries now lie in the past, but still, this is troublesome.

At any rate, let's get to the results. Last, and by a stretch, came Kardur, Doomscourge, with some honourable 96 votes (29%). While part of you were apparently enticed by some goading shenanigans, it was not enough. Our top two contenders, therefore, end up sharing the crown. Yes, I'm keeping that initial draw, at 117 votes each. And since I'm not crazy enough to write about two commanders in a single session, I'll do Kalain, Reclusive Painter this time, and Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer the next. Which should leave me some leeway to query on a little something I've been intending to do for a while now. But I digress, let's get to work, shall we?

With 831 decks to its name, Kalain isn't quite the most popular commander of all time. His stats don't really impress either. A puny 1/2 that makes a Treasure upon entering the fray, but also who assigns a significant boost to creatures you cast provided you spent some twinkly shinies on them. We're looking at some nice Treasure hunting here. Which makes me groan in advance as many of these spells will probably be out of our reach.

Let's dump all of Kalain's cards onto Archidekt, including all of the stuff from the Cheap section.

323 cards altogether. Not a bad start, let's see what we can do with that.

First Trim - The Cardboard Chainsaw Massacre

Let me tell you a little secret. For quite some time now, I've been wondering whether I should directly import only cards worth $2 or less, and leave the expensive stuff behind from the get go. I didn't for two reasons. The first is that it still allows you people to have a rough idea of what this commander is all about. The second is that I take a guilty pleasure in violently axing all of the expensive cards.

Speaking of which... Off with the bling!

Aaaah, nothing quite like a good spring cleaning. We're down to a somewhat more reasonable 246 cards at this point, 19 of which hanging between $1 and $2.

For once, I'll go in reverse order for those, starting with the most expensive ones.

  • Panharmonicon: This feels a bit like a nonbo to me, as Kalain's ability isn't a trigger, and will therefore not double the number of +1/+1 counters it provides. Sure, we have a few nice enter-the-battlefield effects (ETBs), but still feels a bit underwhelming.
  • Marionette Master: I was kind of hoping this would fit our criteria, as it's a straightforward way to end the game. We'll have to find another way.
  • Tarrian's Soulcleaver: Not really thrilled by the card, although it does take all critters into account, and not strictly our own.
  • Crime Novelist: Want some advice? Grab these while they are cheap, I'm quite sure that won't last.
  • Rain of Riches: New to the fray, but this has the looks of a must-play in every Treasures-matter deck.
  • Kellogg, Dangerous Mind: Who thought Cornflakes would turn you into a petty mastermind? Or is he a distant relative of Magda and Jolene?
  • Night's Whisper: Come on WotC, reprint this into oblivion!
  • Treasure Vault: Universes Beyond: Fallout has slashed the price on this outlet. Not quite enough, but it's getting close.

This leaves us with three cards between the $1 and $1.10 mark, two of which I'm very keen on keeping in the list:

  • In Garruk's Wake: I love me some one-sided boardwipes, but 9 mana is a steep price to pay.
  • War Room: The more I play this, the more I love the advantage it provides.
  • Seize the Spotlight: Sure, leaving your opponents to decide your fate is rarely a good idea. But here this definitely looks like a win-win.

And with that, we're down to 237 cards. Quite a hoard if you ask me.

Second Trim - Cardward Scissorhands

Tonight, I'm going to bake a nice quiche with lots of veggies for my kids. Speaking of which, it's time for the vitamins!

I'll say, this is a peculiar situation that I find myself in. The de facto categories on Archidekt stashed 82 cards within Ramp. However, 63 of those were actually Treasure makers, which I find myself a bit reluctant to put in the same spot as firm mana.

So for this iteration, I'll just split the two apart, and decide later on what Treasure makers to keep. Bear in mind I'm putting in this category all the cards that don't do anything else. Removal, ramp or draw will have priority regardless of it producing any shiny.

Which leaves us with this:

This is somewhat difficult. While I'll probably end up including less ramp than usual, I'm a bit wary of neglecting it too much. Treasures are ephemeral and we need some consistency. Say goodbye to:

Draw Ramp Removal

Ambition's Cost Commander's Sphere Abrade
Bloodtracker Curse of Opulence Bedevil
Cathartic Reunion Dark Ritual Cast Down
Dockside Chef Liquimetal Torque Contract Killing
Faithless Looting Rakdos Cluestone Deadly Derision
Flick a Coin Rakdos Signet Doom Blade
Greed Dreadbore
Hired Hexblade Dreadhorde Butcher
Prophetic Prism Drown in Ichor
Read the Bones Go for the Throat
Sign in Blood Grim Bounty
Skyclave Shadowcat Improvised Weaponry
Tarrian's Journal Murder
Thrill of Possibility Plundering Barbarian
Trading Post Power Word Kill
Village Rites Powerstone Fracture
Rakdos Charm
Retribution of the Ancients
Smashing Success
Spiked Pit Trap
Tragic Slip
Underhanded Designs
Unlicensed Disintegration
Visions of Ruin
You Find Some Prisoners

A few words of explanation.

  • I've decided to take an unusual route regarding card draw. I have removed all of my favourite solid draw spells in favour of others that either create Treasures or require sacrificing artifacts in order to do their magic. It's risky, but I feel it's more on theme.
  • Removal has followed a similar direction. I have gotten rid of the most mana-intensive spells, and kept most of which care about Treasures or sacrifice, one way or the other. Oh, and Chaos Warp and Wild Magic Surge... because permanent removal.

With all that, and the mana base given a healthy trim, we're down to 177 cards. Quite a long way to go still, although I get the feeling the next section is going to be brutal of some of that cardboard...

Third Trim - Cutting off the rough edges

With all of the hassle out of the way, it's time to focus on the fun stuff. With everything's that's left to us, what are we trying to accomplish? Well, pretty much what +1/+1 decks try to do. Assemble some huge monsters and strike down our opponents with them. To reach such an ambitious goal, we need a decent amount of cards that can consistently provide Treasures, as well as a few ways to make sure our creatures strike true. Quite a simple strategy, which calls for a fairly low curve to maximise the output.

With that being said, let's have a look at the cuts. From what I can see, the remaining cards are split in two sections.

The first one, obviously, is focused on Treasure generation. We still have 66 cards to wade through. Rather than listing each and every card I want to reject, which would end in a both boring and way too long list, I'll try to keep around 20 and provide a short justification for my decisions. The scope is, once again, to give you an inkling of the thought process leading to a card being retained or not. For those of you who don't have the patience or the time, here's a TLDR: the premise is to try and keep any card that's not a strict one-shot occurrence with no other direct benefit.

The second concerns... well all the rest. We have a decent Aristocrats package, some recursion, as well as a few incongruous cards which I frankly don't quite understand the purpose of.

Before we focus on the Treasures, let's trim these down:

Theft Recursion Protection Misc.

Furnace Reins Blood Fountain Demonic Gifts Boots of Speed
Involuntary Employment Fake Your Own Death Devour Intellect
Price of Loyalty Feign Death Diabolic Tutor
Oblivion's Hunger Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Professor's Warning Gixian Infiltrator
Undying Malice Heartless Pillage
Immersturm Predator
Oni-Cult Anvil
Jaded Sell-Sword
Reaper's Talisman
Tenured Inkcaster
Thundering Raiju
You Come to the Gnoll Camp


Not too bad, we're slowly getting there. Before I dwell a bit more on Treasures, I'd like to make an addition to the list. I find it almost criminal not to include Dargo, the Shipwrecker. For a single red mana and two Treasures, you get a 9/7 with trample, courtesy of Kalain. Not too shabby stats, if you ask me.

Now then, what Treasure makers do we keep?

  • Beamtown Beatstick and Sticky Fingers: Cheap boosts that provide some sort of evasion and Treasures. Sold.
  • Breeches, Eager Pillager: This is a bet. It's a fairly new card, and I like the potential versatility it offers.
  • Captain Lannery Storm: A classic in any Treasure deck. Usually doesn't live very long, but in the early game it's often efficient to get the engine going.
  • Careening Mine Cart: Another fun toy. Guess who has 1 power? Our commander!
  • Decadent Dragon: I'm not really interested in the Adventure part, although it could prove interesting, since our Treasures give us access to all colors. I'm more interested in the stats: a 4/4 with flying and trample that provides shinies on attack? Yes please!
  • Diamond Pick-Axe, Goldvein Pick and Prying Blade: Three variations of the same theme. They don't look that impressive, but I'm ready to bet they'll do their part.
  • Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge: I'm not too worried about getting to 4 Treasures, and for 3 mana, the stats are more than decent. The draw is situational.
  • Guild Artisan: Fantastic if you can get it to hit the field by turn 3, to start churning out Treasures with Kalain
  • Hit the Mother Lode: The most mana-intensive card of the lot, but it's a win-win. We either get a big body or an avalanche of tokens.
  • Hoard Hauler: Probably a hit-or-miss card, but the potential is there, especially with all the token generators we see these days.
  • Hoarding Ogre: I've been consistently playing this in my Galazeth Prismari deck, it's a work of wonder.
  • Magda, Brazen Outlaw: She will make shinies if she crews a vehicle, and will go get our Draconic beaters out of our deck. Good enough for me.
  • RMS Titanic: Much as dislike UB cards for flavour reasons, mechanically this is a thing of beauty. Flying AND trample? Sign me in, Captain!
  • Rose Room Treasurer: While this will truly shine in a tokens heavy deck, it's a good way to redeem our token investment.
  • Shiny Impetus: Two in one, as it will sway a creature away from you while yielding a nice tribute.
  • Swashbuckler Extraordinaire: I'm slightly torn on this one, but I get the feeling this last ability could close games.


20 Treasure makers then, notwithstanding the ones belonging in the other categories. I think we're quite set.

108 cards, one final trim and we can all go home.

Final Trim - Heart-Wrenching Choices

Let's have a look at some stats, shall we?

First, Color distribution:

Color distribution imbalance. There are about 70% red pips against 30% black pips, but our mana base doesn't reflect that.

Keep in mind that, as this is primarily a Treasures-focused deck, colors shouldn't be a huge issue. Nevertheless, there is a clear imbalance between pip requirements for spells and mana production. Cutting Tainted Peak and 6 Swamps in favour of Mountains should help us ease the curve.

Color distribution, after adding more Mountains and reducing Swamps.

Much better. Next, the mana curve:

The average is slightly above the 3 mana mark, but bear in mind that some cards are deceitful. Marut, Dargo, the Shipwrecker and The Balrog, Durin's Bane will both effectively cost less than their printed value.

Now then, what to cut in the final stretch?

  • Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel: I've hesitated a lot, but 6 mana is a hefty price to pay, and I'm not 100% convinced the tokens he makes will make a true difference.
  • Vat of Rebirth: Looks nice on paper, but I feel like this will build very slowly for an underwhelming result.
  • Inspired Tinkering: 5 mana is a steep cost for some impulse draw, despite the return on investment.
  • Throne of Geth: On principle I like the idea of adding more counters. But I'm not certain we'll have that many creatures on the field to make it worthwhile.
  • Feed the Swarm and Dragonspark Reactor: We have a decent amount of removal already, we can do with two less.
  • Lich-Knights' Conquest: While Recursion is nice, we want our creatures to benefit from the Treasures sacrificed.
  • Prying Blade: Because I'm out of ideas and the Equip cost bugs me.

And here is our final canvas.

Kalain, Cheap Daubster

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Treasures (19)
Draw (13)
Drain (5)
Sac Outlet (2)
Ramp (10)
Removal (8)
Recursion (1)
Tokens (1)
Counters (2)
Wipes (2)
Pump (1)
Land (35)

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View this decklist on Archidekt


After last time's excruciating choices, this one almost seemed easy in comparison.

Now, since our next commander is already on track, I'd like to take the chance to ask you about a small project I have.

I'm thinking of making a live session on Twitch of these brews, building a deck from scratch and slowly refining the list, while discussing any questions and/or suggestions you may have. Since I'm located in France, I would probably air this around 3pm East Time (9pm in Paris).

Would that be something you'd be interested in?

Let me know below, and I'll see you in two weeks!

Read more:

From the Brim to the Trim - Auras And Absolute Awe

Recross the Paths - Build an Angel Deck with Saskia the Unyielding

Arnaud Gompertz has been playing Magic since 4th Edition, back in 1995. He's been an assiduous EDH enthusiast since 2012, with a soft spot for unusual and casual Commanders. He'll always favour spectacular plays against a boring path to victory. Aside from mistreating cardboard, he's a dedicated board games player, loves a challenging video game and occasionally tries to sing with his choir.

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