From the (not quite) Brim to the (almost) Trim - Special Anniversary Edition

(Shanna, Purifying Blade | Art by Jody Clark)

And Then There Were Three

Greetings and salutations from the city of love and romanticism (don't argue, there's only one). I'm Arnaud, and I'm thrilled to take you on this even uncannier journey towards peculiar budget builds.

You may have noticed the adjusted title. You may also have raised an eyebrow at the slight tweak to the introductory statement. And with good reason. You see, this article marks a milestone. It's been a year now since I joined the EDHREC crew and started rambling every other week or so about very low budget builds. And you know what? Insofar, it's been a blast.

To mark this special occasion though, I've asked senior management (we take things very seriously around here, this is a no-nonsense business) if they would let me unleash the mad brewer in me and try out a weird challenge. Ladies, gentlemen and everybody else, I give you CCMREC.

The idea is simple : Brew a deck including only spells worth the exact same mana cost, commander included. And after careful consideration, I decided to give Shanna, Purifying Blade a shot. Thanks to my buddy Lucas for the idea.

I'll happily admit I haven't picked the hardest commander to pull this off, but hey, this is the first time I'm doing this, I might as well start with an easy one!

So why Shanna specifically?

First, it's a commander I've been wanting to build around for quite some time now, basically since she was originally spoiled in March of the Machines.

Second, the color combination is the easiest choice for this challenge. Green and blue are known for ramp and draw, and white complements the lifegain theme nicely, which we'll try to lean on as much as possible given the constraints.

Last, I feel like 3 mana is the sweet spot. There are a lot of "veggies" (see below) in that range, as well as some decent threats and ways to somewhat bring the game to a close, without shattering the budget.

In terms of methodology, I'm going to go in reverse order, compared with what we're usually doing. I'll slowly build a decent card pool, and then decide what to keep and what to trim. I'll still try to keep this to a somewhat budget-friendly deck, but I'll indulge myself to add cards up to the $5 mark. Granted, this is a major bump in price, but that's a once in a year lapse, let me have fun with the goodies!

Right then, let's see what we can do!

First Brim - EDHRaiding the commander page

Onwards to Shanna, Purifying Blade's page on EDHREC.

Right off the bat I'd like to introduce to you one of my favourite features: filters. Most of you probably already make use of either the thematic, budget, or even advanced tabs, but did you know there is a secret array available to Patrons? If you go for a Rare subscription, you gain access to experimental features. In this case, Additional filters.

These include a slew of criteria, including price (which I regularly use for the usual articles of this series), but also Type lines, Power/Toughness, Sets, and many more. In our case, we'll be using the Mana value filter to select cards relevant to our challenge.

Trust me, once you've tasted the rainbow, it's hard to go back.

At any rate, let's filter the list to include only spells worth three mana and costing less than $5.

37 cards; it's a start.

Second Brim - The Glorious Search for Keywords

Now that we have some juice going, we need to fill things up, in order to have a nice selection to pick from. I like to go overboard by quite a lot.

That way you can make sure you haven't skipped anything worth including and slowly work your way down to keep the very best.

We can head over to Scryfall to refine the search.

I'll be using the following criteria:

  • Mana Value 3
  • Commander Identity White, Blue and Green
  • Price <$5

The text must contain one or more of the following:

  • (Gain AND Life)
  • Lifelink
  • Draw
  • Search AND Land
  • (Destroy OR Sacrifice) AND all
  • Destroy AND Target
  • Indestructible

This should provide a nice package, large enough to work with.

I won't go through all the tedium of the selection. Just bear in mind I haven't included each and every card fitting these criteria, as some are simply draft chaff and others didn't strike me as good enough.

You can either do them one keyword at a time or all at once, depending on your experience and knowledge. I found it easier to mash them all together, despite this providing a daunting list of cards to wade through.

You should be able to end up with a more than adequate base, certainly above the 100 threshold. Once that's done, You can either add the lands right away or wait until you've finished trimming to fine-tune the color offset.

Also, note that I arbitrarily decided to forego any X spell. While their mana value is technically 3, I also feel like adding them would not quite be on theme, flavour-wise.

At any rate, this process has been bountiful. With a provisional land base included, we're up to 166 cards. Now it's time to have some fun.

What Has Gone Up Must Go Down

We're back to more familiar grounds. With 165 cards, a hefty chunk will need to be hacked off.

Let's start with the usual vegetables. As things stand, we have:

  • Card Advantage: 35
  • Ramp: 34
  • Removal: 21
  • Wipes: 2

All in all, a fairly easy base to work with. Granted, the colors help immensely. After all, I did choose this commander for a reason! Let's give all of this a healthy clean-up.

I'm going to keep a decent amount of card draw and ramp. We need a plan B should our commander fall in battle, and we want to be able to cast more than a single spell per turn. The deck is likely to gain momentum the more mana we have at hand, but since we'll be lacking major mana boost at the 3 value threshold, we need to compensate quality with quantity.

I'm thinking something along the lines of 14-14. So then, off with:

Card Advantage Ramp Removal

Acquisition Octopus Azorius Cluestone Afterlife
Aether Channeler Azorius Locket Bant Charm
Artificer's Epiphany Burnished Hart Brokers Charm
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage Farhaven Elf Collective Effort
Basic Conjuration Harrow Endless Detour
Champion of Wits Llanowar Visionary Krosan Grip
Circuit Mender Natural Connection Intrepid Hero
Cold-Eyed Selkie Ranging Raptors Oblation
Compulsive Research Roiling Regrowth Reclamation Sage
Curse of Verbosity Rootweaver Druid Trygon Predator
Cut a Deal Search for Tomorrow
Ever-Watching Threshold Selesnya Cluestone
Frantic Search Selesnya Locket
Glademuse Simic Cluestone
Ohran Viper Simic Locket
Quick Study Spoils of Victory
Realmwalker Springbloom Druid
Snake Umbra The Weatherseed Treaty
Survival Cache They Went This Way
Union of the Third Path Untamed Wilds
Volo, Itinerant Scholar


And just like that, our homework is almost done. We're down to 116 cards. Let's see what else we can cut.

Three's the Charm

Let's not diddle-daddle too much. Most of my efforts here will be directed at the most expensive cards, especially if they don't really serve a direct purpose to our game plan: gain life, gain more life, smash face. We're planning on accruing value slow and steady.

Say goodbye to:

  • Absorb, Dream Fracture and Bane's Contingency: I'm not entirely sure why these made it in the first place. Probably the associated life or card draw. With that being said, I'm afraid we'll have more than enough to do during our turn not to worry about countering other stuff. Also, Absorbis slightly deceptive, since it won't benefit Shanna if you don't cast it during your turn. Oh, and you know how I feel about counterspells, but that's besides the point.
  • Fatespinner: While a fun idea, it's slightly too oppressive for a casual/fun deck. Plus it's almost $5.
  • Detective of the Month: While I like the idea to pop a token on my end step, this card truly shines when you can also draw on your opponent's turns. Not quite reaching its full potential here.
  • Danitha Capashen, Paragon: Don't get me wrong, I love this card. But there aren't near enough equipments nor auras to make her a valuable asset.
  • Oracle of Nectars: Fun card, but too mana intensive to be worthwhile.
  • Stroke of Midnight: A great Swiss army knife, but we have a significant arsenal still, and that's another $2 shaved off.
  • Call the Coppercoats: Making a slew of tokens is fun, but not quite in line with our main plan here.
  • Nissa, Voice of Zendikar: Let's be real, you'll never reach that ultimate.
  • Centaur Healer: Cute, but slightly underwhelming.
  • Social Climber: A sister for three? No thanks.
  • Hylda's Crown of Winter: This is truly a heartbreaker, I love this thing. But it's a smidge too demanding mana-wise.
  • Fertilid: Will, Scion of Peace somewhat counts as ramp, so I feel I can cut this with little regret.
  • Curator's Ward: A neat protection spell, but I don't know what else to cut.

And a one, and a two, and a three mana value deck it is!

Shanna, I want to break three

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Counters (3)
Creature (7)
Lifegain (11)
Card Advantage (14)
Removal (7)
Tokens (3)
Ramp (13)
Wipes (2)
Protection (3)
Evasion (1)
Land (35)

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View this decklist on Archidekt

Final Words

Well, here we are. It has been a fun and refreshing journey, and I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I did.

Also, when was the last time you saw such a beautiful curve?

My next article will return to more conventional brews, striving to trim down the budget of another commander you'll get to pick (vote, vote, vote!).

In the meantime, if you've appreciated this exercice de style, please let me know in the comments below, especially if you'd like to see more of these in the future.

See you all next time!

Read more:

From the Brim to the Trim - Melting opponents' faces with a Budget Reanimator Deck

Singleton Shmingleton - Commune with Nature

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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