Ultra Budget Brews - Tiana, Ship's Caretaker

Tiana, Ship's Caretaker | Art by Eric Deschamps

Greetings, Fellow Peasant

Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Ultra Budget Brews, the article series that builds entire EDH decks in which no card costs more than $1. Normally, this is already plenty restrictive, forcing me to forgo format staples and find cards that are a bit more obscure than normal. It's equal parts rewarding and challenging, as it means I get to explore different cards than I might have typically, but it can also be a bit more difficult than normal as more cards than you think cost more than $1. Magic is a popular game, meaning cards prices tend to go up. Who knew?

A normal person might see restriction and try to find a way to make the burden a bit lighter. That's human nature. Me, though? I'm a glutton for punishment.

The Place Where Poor Things Go

I may be a glutton for punishment, but it (almost) always has a purpose. Brewing can be pretty expensive, so a couple regulars at my local game shop offered up the idea to build Pauper Commander - a format identical to normal Commander, except that your deck leader can be any uncommon creature (no legendary status required) and the 99 can only contain cards that have been printed at the common rarity.

My interest was piqued, but I was still hesitant. I feared games turning into giant multi-hour battlecruiser nightmares because there would be few board sweepers to police the creature decks. Long games are fine some times, but I certainly don't want them to be the norm. Still, no harm in trying it out, and when I stumbled across Blaze Commando, I was immediately sold. I scrapped together a list by throwing together a few cards I already owned and purchasing the rest from my shop.

I can confidently say that it was worth the $8.

The games have been varied, fast-paced, interactive, and full of interesting, unique interactions and cards that I have never come across before. If you enjoy finding new cards, or love it when your puzzled opponent picks up a card you've played to try and figure out what in the world it does, Pauper Commander is probably for you.

Getting to the Point

You wouldn't have had to sit through that entire anecdote if you hadn't voted like you all did last week.

See? All your fault.

Tiana, Ship's Caretaker is another uncommon Boros creature, this time an actual legend, and her uncommon status paired up with my recent introduction to the crazily interesting Pauper Commander format, in addition to the lack of articles about the format (there are a few, just not many), inspired me to do it here for all of your enjoyment.

So let's waste no more time! We know our commander, and that we are building a Pauper deck, so let's check out the decklist.

Total price (CardKingdom): $16.55

As you can probably tell from looking at the decklist, we are leaning hard on Tiana's ability to return Auras to our hand. We have a handful of Equipment as well, but most of the Equipment we would run in a normal Tiana deck is either too expensive or not a common. Auras don't suffer from this problem.

A quick aside: the typical downside of Auras is that they are card disadvantage. If the creature they were enchanting is removed, the Aura is removed too, which means your opponent has effectively destroyed more than one of your cards for the cost of just one of theirs. Tiana fixes this problem by returning any Auras that end up in your graveyard to your hand. It's not exactly card draw, but as Boros goes, it's some of the best card advantage around.

When a blue player plays Boros for the first time

There are a couple of different ways to effectively leverage this ability. Level One involves enchanting a creature, such as an Auratog, and once it dies, we use Tiana to get all of the Auras that were enchanting our creature back to our hand. Our hope is to enchant creatures that benefit from enchantments, either with Heroic abilities, evasive bodies, or enchantment synergies.

Level Two is to use Auras that enchant your opponents' permanents. If you enchant a creature with an Arrest and that creature somehow dies, or the player removes the Arrest, so long as we have Tiana on the battlefield, we get it back to use again. This can help us lock down creatures routinely throughout the game.

Level Three has us using Auras that can sacrifice themselves, giving us control over when they return to hand. These can either be offensive or defensive in nature. Unless you have a very compelling reason to do so, I'd hesitate to sacrifice them if you don't have Tiana available, as they become significantly worse if you can't recur them.

Finally, Level Four, where we use cards that can be either offensive or defensive. Immolation, for example, pumps power but decreases toughness. You can put this on Tiana to close out the game with commander damage... or you can put it on an enemy creature, reducing its toughness to zero, sending it to the graveyard, and putting the enchantment right back into your hand! Repeated removal spells that double as win conditions!

Playing the Deck

There are a few rules interactions with Tiana that can be a bit confusing. From Gatherer:

Basically, if you suit up Tiana with a bunch of Auras and she is destroyed, the Auras don't enter the graveyard at the same time as her, so they won't return to hand. However, if everything is destroyed at the same time, by a Pernicious Deed for example, then you will get them back. It's a slight difference in timing, but a huge difference in efficacy, so I thought it worthwhile to bring up.

Our deck's primary win condition is Tiana herself. Hitting someone for 21 commander damage shouldn't be too difficult, given her natural evasion and the kind of deck we are running. Knowing when to play your Tiana and when to try and suit her up with a bunch of Auras is probably the most difficult part of piloting the deck. The key here is patience. You will be tempted to just run her out on turn 5, and depending on the other decks being played, this may be correct some amount of the time. I'd recommend, though, that you wait for another player to pull a bit ahead. Don't make yourself the target until necessary. Sandbagging is probably the skill that your average player most often lacks that would make them an above average player in a hurry.

Obviously, there is a difference between patience and timidness. Don't be timid. You cannot afford to be. You are playing Boros and your commander is basically Kaylee from Firefly. Get in there with confidence, like Kaylee. Just be smart about it. Also like Kaylee.

I'm beginning to sense a bit of a theme here.


Notable Inclusions

Blazing Torch

This is the one equipment we run in the deck that can sacrifice itself. This is cheap to cast, cheap to equip, and can work as removal or direct damage. The actual static ability of the card will almost never matter, but if it does happen to come up, you'll get to feel moderately clever for your inclusion of innovative tech.

Sweet, sweet affirmation

Swirling Sandstorm

This is a strange card. It is essentially a board wipe at common in red, but it only works later in the game since it requires you to have Threshold. Before you have the requisite seven cards in your graveyard, it does stone cold nothing. In a format without Blasphemous Acts, though, this type of removal is a real gem, and the fact that it doesn't touch Tiana is a big upside as well.

Weight of Conscience

Making your opponent's most dangerous creature unable to attack is great. Tacking on removal is even better. In this deck, you won't get to use the second part terribly often, but it'll feel wonderful when you do. Even a bad Swords to Plowshares is a fine card.

Pentarch Ward

Aura: Check

Draw a card: Check

Prevent removal and blockers: Check

This card does most everything you want to be doing in this deck. The fact that it sees a nonzero amount of play in normal EDH should tell you that it's plenty powerful in the correct deck.

Forsake the Worldly

Exiling an artifact or enchantment at instant speed is relevant in a shocking number of games, but the real reason I like this card so much is the Cycling. If you don't have a high priority target, you can always Cycle it for a redraw, hoping to hit something useful. As always, Boros can use all the help it can get with card draw.

If you could be special in a different way Boros, that'd be great

Notable Exclusions

Below are tons of great cards for the deck... they just didn't meet the Ultra Budget $1 threshold. If you're not a glutton for punishment like me, these could be great additions.

Lightning Bolt

Every deck needs some sort of spot removal. When I first started playing EDH, I'd throw Bolt in most red decks. It became clear over time that it didn't match up well against the giant haymakers that EDH revolved around. Over time, it seems like decks have gotten a bit lower to the ground than they used to be, and I've found myself adding Bolt back in here and there. This doesn't hit everything you want to, but if nothing else, you can send it to the face.

Palace Sentinels

Monarch is one of my favorite mechanics from the last couple of years. It encourages people to attack and advance the board state, which is exactly what the Boros color pair wants to be doing anyway. Also, as previously stated, Boros badly wants extra card draw, and you'll likely be able to become the Monarch on most turns if you desire.

Journey to Nowhere

This gets rid of a problem until it gets destroyed. Hopefully if/when it gets destroyed, you'll have access to Tiana to be able and get it back. It's a great card to have access to and some of the best removal you can get in Pauper EDH.

Ash Barrens

While you can play this as one of your lands, this is really here to help you fix your colors and to give you ways to use your mana early game. I'm thankful this got recently reprinted as it's previous price was nutty. This is a great land to have access to, pauper or otherwise.

Hyena Umbra

Any card you can run with the word 'umbra' in it is likely to make the cut in this deck. Totem Armor is an underrated ability, and pumping stats along with giving first strike, all for the cost of a single white mana, is exceedingly efficient. Sadly, some Modern players agree, hence the price.

Thanks, Bogles. You're the worst.

End Step

What do you think of today's deck? Is it something you'd enjoy sleeving up, or is it a bit too... Boros-y for you? Did you enjoy reading about Pauper EDH and is it something you'd like to see more of? Let me know below! If you want to discuss EDH with me outside of the once a month I write these articles, follow me on Twitter @BrewsMTG. Below is next week's poll!

Until next time!

Andrew is a life-long gamer and has been playing Magic since 2013. He works as an ASL interpreter, enjoys running, and sitting on his porch reading, while simultaneously silently judging his neighbors. He lives in Joplin, MO with his wife.