Merry Commander Christmas everyone. 

Now that the Commander 2021 precons have been out for a few weeks, I hope everyone has had the chance to grab their favorites and get a few games in. For my money, these have been some of the most interesting, best balanced Commander products in years. Although there doesn’t seem to be any obviously busted stuff (ahem Dockside Extortionist and Fierce Guardianship), there are a ton of great cards that I bet are going to be staples for years to come. 

But I don’t think many Commander players are satisfied running the precons straight from the box. We like to tear apart and tinker. So after a few weeks of playing the stock lists, we’re going to find new and interesting ways to upgrade.

There are plenty of major content creators out there that have already walked through the obvious upgrade paths for this years’ decks. Today, we are going to dig a little deeper to find some undiscovered gems that really push the stock deck lists – and we’re going to try to do it on a budget too.

Lorehold Legacies – Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

The big surprise coming in 2021 is that Boros is actually… good? White a Red got multiple ways to ramp and generate card advantage. They got a commander that generates value instead of demanding equipment. And to top it all off, they got a handful of staples that can fit into any deck packing white or red. 

On the back of cards like Osgir, the Reconstructor, Archaeomancer’s Map, and Digsite Engineer, the Lorehold Legacies deck wants to take the train to value town and win by overwhelming board presence, or a game-ending Wake the Past. It plays similar to a Golgari deck by wanting to fill up the graveyard, generate a ton of mana, and then bury your opponent. 

That’s why I think Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion fits right into the game plan. OK, he’s not an artifact, but Neheb is an on-curve beat stick that lets you dump artifacts into the bin. Then he even gives you the mana to Osgir them back into play. Mana, discard, draw, and a decent body. Neheb really does it all for your deck. And you can pick him up for less than a dollar. 

Prismari Performance – Twinning Staff

Out of all the decks, Prismari Performance is the hardest one for me to wrap my head around – or to give a decent upgrade pick. You probably want to heavy up on cost reduction effects for Zaffai, Voice of Thunder. And Veyran, Voice of Duality wants as many cheap cantrips as you can muster. 

But I don’t think anyone would be excited about me telling you to run Goblin Electromancer, Guttersnipe, or Shadow Rift

Instead, I’m going with a card that I don’t think got enough love in last year’s Commander product. Twinning Staff came in the Kalamx deck and was a great way to get even more bang from a super fun commander. But outside of that, you don’t really see it much. Riku likes it just fine, and it gives Wort, the Raidmother some extra oomph, but there hasn’t been a lot of other reasons to want to sink seven mana to copy a spell. 

I think magecraft gives us that reason. Magecraft incentivizes you to run some spell copy effects. Even something as useful as Dualcaster Mage or Wild Ricochet give you magecraft triggers. Twinning Staff pulls double duty then. First, it gives you incremental value by copying the initial spell. You don’t even have to sink any extra mana in. If you fire that trigger off twice I think you’ve made your investment back, any more and you’re doing it. Second, those freebie spells will trigger your magecraft again. 

Witherbloom Witchcraft – Murderous Rider

Black-Green decks have always been fond of using “every part of the animal.” And my upgrade for the Witherbloom deck exemplifies that idea. If you’re rocking Willowdusk Essence Seer, you are really interested in doing three things:

  1. Gaining Life
  2. Losing Life
  3. Sacrificing Creatures 

And wouldn’t you know it, there is a card that helps you do all three of these things – the vastly underplayed Murderous Rider. Here’s another card priced around a buck that can have a significant impact in this deck. 

On his adventure side, you get an instant-speed, versatile removal spell – that also happens to proc your lose life ability. And then, you get a “free” lifelink creature. Maybe you want to use your Murderous Rider as base camp for all the +1/+1 counters Willowdusk is going to give you. That will give you an exponential curve of life gain. Or maybe you want to sac him to one of golgari’s infinite sac effects. In that case, you can get him back to start the cycle all over again. 

Silverquill Statement – Eldrazi Displacer

It’s fitting that the sneaky political deck needed a non-traditional upgrade card. Most of the other decks have clear strategies and lines of play. Finding upgrades for them was as simple as identifying what the deck wants to do, and pushing on those ideas until you found something interesting. 

No so with Silverquill. They are a political deck. They want to influence, and react to what the table is doing. That’s why most of the Silverquill upgrade guides just pick more efficient and effective cards than you normally find in a precon. Yes, go ahead and replace Obilation with Sword to Plowshares

But that’s not fair to this deck that is full of really powerful cards. Scholarship Sponsor might be the single best card in all of Commander 2021. And he shares something in common with a handful of other specific-to-this-deck cards like Bold Plagiarist, Author of Shadows, and Guardian Archon.

(hint – they all have ETB abilities)

That’s why I wanted to get a reusable blinker in this deck. Eldrazi Displacer is the most expensive card I’m recommending today, but you can still get it for less than five dollars. But look what it brings you. You can reset, at instant speed, the Guardian Archon selection so you can always have protection from the most dangerous situation on the battlefield. You can get the best card from someone’s graveyard while wrecking their strategy over, and over, and over. 

But that’s not all. Eldrazi Displacer also lets you circumvent the potential bonuses you’ve been giving your opponents. Is somebody trying to get cheeky by killing off your Combat Calligrapher after you gave them a ton of inklings. Just bounce her and keep your shields up. Did that creature you buffed with Nil, Discipline Enforcer decide to swing your way? A quick bounce and that creature will be knocked back down to size. 

Quantum Quandrix – Mirror Mockery

Rounding out our list today is my favorite of this year’s decks. Quantum Quandrix wants tokens. All the tokens. If you think you have all the tokens, you’re wrong there’s more coming. 

Although token making has traditionally been thought of as a WG thing, blue brings a shocking amount to the table. Saheeli’s Artistry, Quasiduplicate, and Progenitor Mimic are all great cards. But I don’t see anyone playing the cheapest (both price and mana-wise) token maker around. 

Mirror Mockery is supposed to be a defensive card. The default case is you play it on an opponent’s massive beater, then they’ll never attack because you have a blocker. 

That’s no fun. And normally, if you put it on your own creature you don’t get a ton with it. Maybe you’ll get an Eternal Witness trigger. But the token can’t attack and it doesn’t stick around. 

Not so when you have Adrix and Nev out. With these guys at the helm, you get two tokens every time Mirror Mockery triggers. That’s twice the ETBs, but more importantly, because Mirror Mockery didn’t create the second token you get to keep it at end of turn. So go ahead, slam that two mana enchantment on a Mulldrifter and draw four. Pants up your Risen Reef (someone will have to do that math for me). And if you’re ready to end the game, tap two and enchant your Avenger of Zendikar

This is always the best time of year for Commander players. These new decks bring an influx of format defining cards, and new ideas to be explored (like Boros being good). Now that you’ve had a couple weeks to play, what have you had fun with? What overlooked tech are you happy to bring into these new decks?