Ultra Budget Brews - Polukranos, World Eater
The Thrifty Life
Hello and welcome back to another addition of Ultra Budget Brews, the article series that is fully committed to "The Thrifty Life". Here's a small list of things that might indicate that you too are committed to "The Thrifty Life". Do you ever:
- Get a fountain drink from the gas station (20 oz bottles are for the bourgeois), fill up the cup, drank half of it, and refill the cup, all before paying for it?
- Refuse to use the A/C or central heating because it costs too much money?
- Sit in the parking lot of a McDonalds to use their internet to do your homework, taxes, etc., because you are too cheap to have internet or to go in and buy something?
- Build entire EDH decks in which no card costs more than $1?
Since you're currently on a website dedicated to EDH, it'll come as no surprise that we're only doing #4 today (though I may be sweating in my house as I write this because of #2, and did #1 this morning). While some may dismiss this kind of magic as 'peasant magic', peasants can still be pretty effective against their more wealthy counterparts.
Guillotine tricep extensions. Perfect for the French peasant on the quest for 'gains'
It's been a minute since I've written one of these, so I'm excited to get back to it. Normally, I'd have a poll from the end of the last article in which you all voted for the commander you wanted to see me build a budget deck around, but I didn't have one of those last time, so I'm free to do whatever I want! My first inclination was to write about two of the decks that I've been playing a lot recently: Mathas, Fiend Seeker curses and Zur the Enchanter cycling tribal. Both decks are a barrel of fun, and I may write about them in the future. However, today I want to do something a bit different, something more out of the ordinary: I want to build a control deck.
Control on a Budget
As I've mentioned in a previous article, many of the cards that make control work are far outside of our budget. To effectively play control, you need to be able to accrue card advantage, play effective, efficient answers to enemy threats, and have hard-to-deal-with finishers. Of these three things, the easiest for a budget deck to find are finishers. Cards like Stormtide Leviathan, Aetherling, and Approach of the Second Sun can end games quickly and are easy on the finances. They might not be as efficient as some of the premier finishers of the format, but they'll get the job done.
Flashy < Efficiency
The issues are card advantage and efficient answers. Most of the very best removal costs significantly more than $1 (e.g. Austere Command, Toxic Deluge, Blasphemous Act) and while there are certainly budget answers out there, I've found that, unlike your finishers, you can only fudge so much in this area. The difference between a 4 mana Wrath effect and a 6 mana Wrath effect can be the difference between stabilizing and losing before you get to play Magic. Obviously this isn't always the case, and there are plenty of playable Wrath effects at 5 and 6 mana that I'm more than happy to throw in a deck.
Card advantage is, in my opinion, even more difficult. We need cards that draw us in to more cards, helping us find answers and finishers, giving us flexibility. Cards like Rhystic Study, Sylvan Library, and Phyrexian Arena are all great examples of this, and great examples of cards far outside of our budget.
I don't say all of this to be discouraging or to convince you to not try and build a budget control deck. Rather, I say all of this so that we know our weaknesses going in, and so we can hopefully think a bit outside of the box to overcome them. Creativity is the name of the game, and creativity can look a bit...weird.
Polly K and the Quest for Mono-Green Control
Total Cost (CardKingdom.com): $26.35
I did say we were getting weird, right? I'd say that mono-green control definitely qualifies. I landed here for a number of reasons. Control decks typically play some combination of black, blue, or white. This is not to say that a control deck can't have red or green, but rather that the strengths of the other colors lend themselves more readily to control. I wanted to play something different because it would be cheaper and because it gives us a bit of a surprise factor. When you sit down against an Animar, Soul of the Elements, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, or Kaalia of the Vast, you know what's coming, and as a result, know how to combat it (whether your deck is equipped to do so is another discussion). If someone sits down with a Polukranos, World Eater deck, you'll likely have no idea what they are doing. Hydra tribal? Green goodstuff? +1/+1 counters? It's just not a deck that people play, so you'll have an advantage right from the start (and a bit of hipster cred if that kind of thing is important to you).
When I decided that I wanted to play mono-green, Polukranos quickly emerged as the best option for this deck. Its mana cost is cheap, it has fantastic stats that can end the game quickly, and it has removal baked in. I thought about building Arashi, the Sky Asunder, but that's only good against flying creatures, and I was honestly shocked at how few flying creatures are actually relevant in EDH. A quick glance over the top 100 creatures on EDHREC showed that only 19 of them had flying, and some number of those are played not because they have flying, but because of their ETB effects or their involvement in infinite combos.
Controlling the Game
So, how do we play the deck, and more importantly, how do we win? Let's split things up into the (roughly) 3 stages of a normal game.
Early game we want to be doing one thing above any other: ramp. We are playing mono-green, and as such, are really, really good at ramping. We aren't running many early game mana rocks, choosing instead to rely more upon more traditional ramp cards. Cards like Rampant Growth, Explore, Cultivate, and Harrow, are exactly the kind of turn 2 or turn 3 plays we're hoping for. We don't have a ton of early blockers, but this typically doesn't matter too much. Hit your land drops, and try not to draw too much attention to yourself. If you are able to land one of your card advantage engines, like Triumph of Ferocity or Abzan Beastmaster, do so. They won't attract much attention because they won't be doing anything. Yet.
Everyone is going to start playing their card advantage engines, problematic permanents will start drawing out answers, and someone will start to pull ahead. Don't be the person that pulls ahead. That person, typically, gets dogpiled on. Hard. Avoid that, because we aren't equipped to handle that kind of pressure. If you get out of control with your ramp, you might begin to look like a threat. Reminding the table that you are playing an ultra-budget mono-green control deck should help de-escalate your perceived threat level. You can even try to garner some favor with the table by using your vast array of enchantment and artifact removal on scary nonsense that no one wants to stick around.
This is also when I would try to play Polukranos. He's a good blocker that will discourage others from attacking you and you can always use his Monstrous ability if needed. Don't be afraid to do so, and don't be afraid to have your Polukranos die. Every time you recast him you get the opportunity to reuse the Monstrous ability. He'll also allow you to use some of your more splashy draw effects. Hunter's Prowess and Soul's Majesty both love an active Polukranos.
You should have gobs of mana to play around with. Polukranos is starting to look like a more tactical Wrath of God. Use cards like Rampaging Balaoths, Terestadon and Bellowing Tanglewurm to close out the game. If the board is a clogged mess, go over the top with Squall Line or Hurricane. Really, it's difficult to write up a guide on how to play this deck in the late game, as the specifics will vary a great deal. In general, play your big creatures, use your fight effects to remove the things that need to be removed, and bash in for damage.
EDH players really love their nonbasic lands. If they are playing 3 or more colors (and a significant amount of decks will be doing just this), you're going to see a ton of nonbasics. Even in 2 color decks, people love playing every nonbasic they can get their grubby hands on. This little-known card helps us take advantage of that tendency. This is a symmetrical effect, but our land base is as basic as a Bachelorette watch party. The amount of damage this will do should add up nicely.
I've been looking for a place for this card ever since I saw it spoiled. I think this could be it. You want to be able to ramp, people will be less likely to attack you because you are 'helping them,' and in the right situation, it'll give us the card draw that we desperately need. This is admittedly speculative, but I think it could work well.
Since we're mono-green, we play almost all forests, which is exactly what this card wants you to do. It costs 7 and is a sorcery, but goodness, this finishes games in a hurry. If your opponents don't have a Wrath effect, they will likely be overcome by a toothy, furry tsunami.
The more times this card is played against me, the more I respect it. It costs 7 mana, so it had better do a lot. Thankfully, it does. Obviously, you have to time it well, but causing everyone to sacrifice all of their artifacts and enchantments is very, very powerful. It's not targeted and it gets around indestructible shenanigans like Heroic Intervention and Darksteel Forge. Also, the more colors a deck plays, the more likely they are to rely on nonbasics to help fix their mana, leaving less room for basic lands. This will definitely color-screw your opponents, and some of the time will even leave them down on lands when they don't have enough basics in their deck.
If I'm playing a green deck that can make a lot of mana, this is one of my first adds. A 7/7 for 6 is nothing to scoff at, but we're really here for the Monstrous activation. You need to be able to put at least 3 mana into it, but this is EDH. Dream a little bigger than that. This starts to be very good at 9 mana (you get four 4/4 hydras) and only gets more ridiculous from there. It may be a pet card of mine, but it should see more play than it does.
These are cards that I would add to the deck if budget and card availability were not a concern, or if I were looking to up the power level of the deck.
This is the very first card I'd add in to the deck. Full stop. Your commander is cheap, has 5 power, and can get significantly bigger. Yes, there is a bit of setup, but the setup is something you are already doing (playing huge critters) and it rewards you with blue levels of card advantage.
Free sacrifice outlets are incredibly powerful in EDH. Ones that allow you to draw cards are even better. As I've alluded to earlier, you are actually going to want your Polukranos to die at some point. It allows you to reset his Monstrous ability, which is one of your more reliable ways of killing opposing creatures. Being able to benefit from your Polukranos dying makes this seem all the better. As a side note, this just got reprinted in Battlebond. If you want copies of this card for, oh I don't know, any green deck, they aren't likely to get any cheaper or easier to acquire than they are right now.
Pretty much everything I had to say about Greater Good applies here as well. You'll draw more cards with this, but it's a one-shot ability. The lifegain will matter some amount of the time. This is exactly the kind of card you want to recur from your graveyard with Wildest Dreams.
Get rid of any problem permanent: creature, planeswalker, land, anything. The dream is to stick this on someone's commander when their deck doesn't have a way of sacrificing it. Watch as the light dies in their eyes and they realize the full extent of their folly for not including in their deck any a way to deal with this innocuous enchantment. This is the card that made me realize that every deck needs some sacrifice outlets. (Bonus points if you tell your opponent that you are actually helping them ramp by giving them another land.)
If you so much as breathe while sitting at the table, this card will reward you for it. It's a 6 mana card that doesn't immediately impact the board in a meaningful way, but the ceiling is high enough that you still want to play this. You can only play a few of these kinds of cards, but this is definitely one of the better ones. The amount of advantage this card gives you is absolutely bonkers.
How do you think this mono-green control deck went? Is this the kind of deck you'd play? What's been your experience with (or against) decks like this? Let me know below!
Oh, and here are the choices for the next article. Let me know which you most want to see!
Until next time!