This entry is part 9 of 17 in the series Accumulated Knowledge

By SEAN aka SWORDTOPLOW

A long time ago on a website far, far way I wrote an article called Pauper to Prince. This article was by request and covered several budgeted upgrades to the Counterpunch Commander precon. Over the past months I have gotten requests to do follow up articles covering the other 4 precons. For this article, I will be covering $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 upgrades to the Heavenly Inferno Commander preconstructed deck. I based all the upgrade levels on using the cart optimizer over on TCGplayer.com.
I have been putting this off for a while, since I am a lazy procrastinator. Well, I figured out I could do the articles people were asking for if I just got a bunch of outside help. To make sure that the deck scares your playgroup into grabbing pitchforks and torches, I was able to convince Carlos Gutierrez, aka the Mad Scientist of Commander, to give me some assistance . Carlos and I readily agreed that we would use Kaalia of the Vast as the General while we transform this steaming pile of cards into a face-beater.

[mtg_deck]
Commander
1 Kaalia of the Vast
Creatures
1 Akroma, Angel of Fury
1 Oros, the Avenger
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Angel of Despair
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Oni of Wild Places
1 Razorjaw Oni
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Reiver Demon
1 Bladewing the Risen
1 Anger
1 Mother of Runes
1 Fallen Angel
1 Serra Angel
1 Duergar Hedge-Mage
1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Lightkeeper of Emeria
1 Angelic Arbiter
1 Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
1 Archangel of Strife
1 Shattered Angel
1 Mana-Charged Dragon
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Avatar of Slaughter
1 Dread Cacodemon
Artifacts
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Boros Signet
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Sol Ring
1 Armillary Sphere
Spells
1 Pyrohemia
1 Molten Slagheap
1 Return to Dust
1 Sulfurous Blast
1 Wrecking Ball
1 Mortify
1 Bathe in Light
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Master Warcraft
1 Akroma’s Vengeance
1 Righteous Cause
1 Syphon Mind
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Orim’s Thunder
1 Terminate
1 Voice of All
1 Congregate
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Earthquake
1 Path to Exile
1 Comet Storm
1 Death by Dragons
1 Vow of Duty
1 Soul Snare
1 Stranglehold
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
Lands
8 Mountain
8 Plains
8 Swamp
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Zoetic Cavern
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Boros Garrison
1 Barren Moor
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Rupture Spire
1 Akoum Refuge
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Command Tower
[/mtg_deck]

 

Making Space and Taking Names

The first thing you want to do when looking to improve a deck is go through and see what kind useless junk is there that you can use to wipe with when you run out of toilet paper. As much as I love Wizards for putting out these products, they are still chalk filled with cards with little purpose. These cards are great if you have a sharpie and want to proxy some good cards until you can afford them. To be fair, some of these are decent cards that just don’t fit with the direction I wanted to take the deck.

The Junk Pile
[mtg_deck]
1 Angelic Arbiter
1 Archangel of Strife
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Avatar of Slaughter
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Bathe in Light
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Congregate
1 Death by Dragons
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Dread Cacodemon
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Fallen Angel
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Master Warcraft
1 Mother of Runes
1 Oni of Wild Places
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Pyrohemia
1 Razorjaw Oni
1 Righteous Cause
1 Serra Angel
1 Shattered Angel
1 Soul Snare
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Syphon Mind
1 Voice of All
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
[/mtg_deck]

Making Trash into Treasure – $5
One of the most difficult challenges is making big upgrades to a deck without spending big dollars. Kaalia is an explosive Commander, who lacks consistency and survivability. What the deck really needs is some decent tutors and recursion. To accomplish that on a budget, we found that there were 2 cards that this deck needed to take it to the next level.

  • Sunforger – I couldn’t put Sunforger in fast enough.  Wizards of the Coast was probably thinking about Sunforger while they were designing the deck. Of the 12 instants in the deck, 11 of them are valid Sunforger targets. This card just slides in seamlessly. As Andy has mentioned on the cast, Sunforger’s +4/+0 attribute should not be ignored. The boost triples Kaalia’s strength turning her into an immediate threat, even if you don’t have any beasties in hand. Along with Sunforger, we can afford to throw in a few more targets and some tutors to go find the amazing equipment.
  • Blood Speaker – I am going to give Carlos 100% of the credit for coming up with this card. For a mere 4 mana a turn, you can search your deck for demons until your deck runs out or your opponents fall to the ground in a bloody heap. If you play this alongside Tortured Existence, your demons will come back over and over again.


Before we get too far, I have to cover a controversial topic. Many players and playgroups do not like, or even allow, mass land destruction. However, we are on CommanderCast.com and our patriarch, Andy, is a fan of burning forests and boiling islands. Kaalia is a perfect example of a deck that wants to run mass LD. You really only ever need enough mana to cast Kaalia. Once she is out, you are content with taking away access to mana from everyone else. It’s not like you need mana to put your creatures into play.

For five dollars you can make the following changes to make this deck playable;

Out
[mtg_deck]
1 Bathe in Light
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Congregate
1 Death by Dragons
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Pyrohemia
1 Righteous Cause
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Syphon Mind
1 Voice of All
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
[/mtg_deck]

Vs.

In
[mtg_deck]
//Sunforger Package
1 Sunforger
1 Allay
1 Into the Core
1 Shattering Pulse
1 Wild Ricochet
1 steelshaper apprentice
1 Hoarding Dragon
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
//Recursion
1 Tortured Existence
1 Nim Deathmantle
//More Tutor
1 Blood Speaker
//Utility
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Steel Hellkite
//Mass LD
1 Thoughts of Ruin
1 Keldon Firebombers
1 Boom // Bust
[/mtg_deck]

Double up on Upgrades – $10
You are probably thinking, “Ok, that’s actually pretty sweet for just a Lincoln. What can you possibly give me for a Hamilton?” For our Canadian friends, “Why would this stupid American put a United States currency reference on a site run by Canadians?” In either case, for an additional $5 you can elevate the consistency of the deck. For that additional $5, you can give the deck a boost in both card draw and tutors. There are a few that really shine in my mind.

  • Rune-Scarred Demon – I can also assume this is the demon that likes to help fledgling planeswalkers through their high school years. Normally, this over-costed Demonic Tutor would just be to hefty in mana cost to consider sleeving up. The problem with a 7 mana tutor is that you could just have a 7 mana bomb that really changes the game. However, with  Kaalia dropping this guy into play for free we get a whole different story. If you have this card, make room in your  Kaalia deck for it.
  • Bloodgift Demon & Graveborn Muse – In a pressure based deck, you almost can’t have too many Phyrexian Arenas in your deck. You are not worried as much about taking damage and you want to keep drawing as many threats as possible.

For ten dollars you can make the following changes to make this deck something people have to worry about;

Out
[mtg_deck]
1 Bathe in Light
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Congregate
1 Death by Dragons
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Pyrohemia
1 Righteous Cause
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Syphon Mind
1 Voice of All
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
1 Archangel of Strife
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Fallen Angel
1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Serra Angel
1 Shattered Angel
1 Mountain
1 Swamp
[/mtg_deck]

Vs.

In
[mtg_deck]
//Sunforger Package
1 Sunforger
1 Allay
1 Into the Core
1 Shattering Pulse
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Steelshaper Apprentice
1 Hoarding Dragon
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
//Recursion
1 Strands of Night
1 Tortured Existence
1 Nim Deathmantle
//More Tutor
1 Blood Speaker
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Night Dealings
//Draw Cards
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Moonlight Bargain
1 Graveborn Muse
//Utility
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Hellkite Charger
//Mass LD
1 Thoughts of Ruin
1 Keldon Firebombers
1 Boom // Bust
1 Decree of Annihilation
//Lands
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Marsh
[/mtg_deck]

I Want to Be a Real Boy – $20
The number one complaint I hear about the Commander decks is that people hated the land bases. The land base really was miserable and I think they could have done a much better job with it. When you are doing a $20 upgrade, you are nearly doubling your investment in the deck. That means you need to start splitting your money between the bombs and the lands.

While lands are not the most exciting way to spend money, many times they are the most important. When we are looking at lands, just having the right number and distribution of basics in a Commander deck is not enough. I can’t remember the number of times I have seen people stuck doing nothing because they don’t have the right lands out.

You will probably have noticed that the Mass LD has been steadily rising. It’s only at $20 that we can finally include Armageddon. With new lands and new bombs, the $20 upgrade is where I would suggest most people upgrade their precon deck. At $20,  you can stop saying, “it’s mostly the precon.” Now you are playing a real deck.

For twenty dollars you can make the following changes to make this deck into a Commander deck that will win games;

Out
[mtg_deck]
1 Archangel of Strife
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Bathe in Light
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Congregate
1 Death by Dragons
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Fallen Angel
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Pyrohemia
1 Razorjaw Oni
1 Righteous Cause
1 Serra Angel
1 Shattered Angel
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Syphon Mind
1 Voice of All
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
2 Mountain
4 Plains
2 Swamp
[/mtg_deck]

Vs.

In
[mtg_deck]
//Sunforger Package
1 Sunforger
1 Allay
1 Into the Core
1 Shattering Pulse
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Steelshaper Apprentice
1 Hoarding Dragon
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
//Recursion
1 Strands of Night
1 Tortured Existence
1 Nim Deathmantle
//More Tutor
1 Blood Speaker
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Night Dealings
//Draw Cards
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Moonlight Bargain
1 Graveborn Muse
//Utility
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Hellkite Charger
//Mass LD
1 Thoughts of Ruin
1 Keldon Firebombers
1 Boom // Bust
1 Decree of Annihilation
1 Armageddon
1 Desolation Angel
//Lands
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Battlefield Forge
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Grand Coliseum
1 Salt Flats
1 Scabland
1 Shadowblood Ridge
[/mtg_deck]

A Whole New World – $50
The degree of competitiveness in Commander decks and players  is not unlike a strict class system. If a Commander deck is in a lower class than everyone else, it can’t participate. This can lead to some awkward situations. Walking into a group with an under-powered deck can feel like stumbling into a funeral wearing a t-shirt and jeans.

The biggest difference between the different classes of Commander decks are found in card quality and tempo. As playgroups develop, they naturally start lowering their curve. This isn’t so that people can win in the first few turns, it is so that you start playing Commander as soon as possible. Newer players treat the first few turns like appetizers. More experienced Commander players will  jump straight to the main course.

At $50 we are doing a similar upgrade to the $20 upgrade, just using better cards. There just is no reason to play Steelshaper Apprentice when you can be playing Stoneforge Mystic & Stonehewer Giant.  I feel like the earlier upgrades were designed to help people test the waters. The $5 and $10 upgrades are a great way to see if you really want to play this kind of deck. The $20 upgrade is if you want to play this deck, but you can’t afford some of the really good cards. At $50, you commit to playing this deck in the future and making it better over time.

For fifty dollars you can make the following changes to make this deck into an investment into your Commander future;

Out
[mtg_deck]
1 Archangel of Strife
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Bathe in Light
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Congregate
1 Death by Dragons
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Dread Cacodemon
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Fallen Angel
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Master Warcraft
1 Oni of Wild Places
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Pyrohemia
1 Razorjaw Oni
1 Righteous Cause
1 Serra Angel
1 Shattered Angel
1 Soul Snare
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Syphon Mind
1 Voice of All
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
2 Mountain
4 Plains
2 Swamp
[/mtg_deck]

Vs.

In
[mtg_deck]
//Sunforger Package
1 Sunforger
1 Allay
1 Into the Core
1 Shattering Pulse
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Hoarding Dragon
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
1 Stonehewer Giant
1 Stoneforge Mystic
//Recursion
1 Strands of Night
1 Tortured Existence
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Twilight Shepard
1 Reya Dawnbringer
//More Tutor
1 Blood Speaker
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Night Dealings
//Draw Cards
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Moonlight Bargain
//Utility
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Phyrexian Rebith
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
//Mass LD
1 Thoughts of Ruin
1 Keldon Firebombers
1 Boom // Bust
1 Decree of Annihilation
1 Armageddon
1 Desolation Angel
1 Catastrophe
1 Winter Orb
//Lands
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Battlefield Forge
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Grand Coliseum
1 Salt Flats
1 Scabland
1 Shadowblood Ridge

[/mtg_deck]

The Final Upgrade – $100
When approaching the final upgrade, me and Carlos had the option of basically dismantling and rebuilding  Kaalia to be something either of us would be proud of playing. I don’t believe many people go out and spend a $100 cash after buying a precon to upgrade it. At that point, you could have just built one from scratch.  The $100 upgrade is an example of how to start building on top of the $50 upgrade.

You aren’t looking to revamp your deck anymore. You are just looking for cards we can buy individually or get into trades that make an individual impact on the deck. That could be upgrading your lands slowly to fetches and duals. It could me adding a Crucible of Worlds and Land Tax for recovery after casting mass LD.

At the $50 upgrade point, me and Carlos were very happy with where the deck was at. It gives you such a solid foundation to build on later. Carlos obliged in letting me put in a few of my pet cards into the final upgrade.  There were two cards  that I wanted in this deck from the beginning;

  • Sword of Feast and Famine – We have been including Hellkite Charger from the first upgrade. I had every intention of making room for this sword. SoFF gives the deck a 2 card combo that can end the game when all else fails.
  • Sneak Attack – There are a lot of big creatures in this deck and plenty of recursion. This nice little enchantment gives you the ability to alpha strike in a moment’s notice. With some powerful ETB effect, this can turn spells-on-legs, into cheap instant speed spells.

For one hundred dollars you can make the following changes to make this deck into something you can be proud of;

Out
[mtg_deck]
1 Angelic Arbiter
1 Archangel of Strife
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Avatar of Slaughter
1 Basandra, Battle Seraph
1 Bathe in Light
1 Boros Guildmage
1 Cleansing Beam
1 Congregate
1 Death by Dragons
1 Dragon Whelp
1 Dread Cacodemon
1 Evincar’s Justice
1 Fallen Angel
1 Furnace Whelp
1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
1 Malfegor
1 Master Warcraft
1 Mother of Runes
1 Oni of Wild Places
1 Orzhov Guildmage
1 Pyrohemia
1 Razorjaw Oni
1 Righteous Cause
1 Serra Angel
1 Shattered Angel
1 Soul Snare
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Syphon Mind
1 Voice of All
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Vow of Malice
2 Mountain
4 Plains
2 Swamp
[/mtg_deck]

Vs.

In
[mtg_deck]
//Sunforger Package
1 Sunforger
1 Allay
1 Into the Core
1 Shattering Pulse
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Hoarding Dragon
1 Taj-Nar Swordsmith
1 Stonehewer Giant
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Unmake
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Swiftfoot Boots
//Recursion
1 Tortured Existence
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Twilight Shepard
1 Reya Dawnbringer
//More Tutor
1 Blood Speaker
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
//Draw Cards
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Graveborn Muse
//Utility
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Phyrexian Rebith
1 Serra Ascendant
1 Sneak Attack
//Mass LD
1 Thoughts of Ruin
1 Keldon Firebombers
1 Boom // Bust
1 Decree of Annihilation
1 Armageddon
1 Catastrophe
1 Winter Orb
//Lands
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Salt Flats
1 Scabland
1 Shadowblood Ridge
1 Battlefield Forge
1 Grand Coliseum
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Spinerock Knoll
[/mtg_deck]

Conclusion
I know this was far overdo. I promise you will not have to wait as long for the next upgrade article to come out. Political Puppets will be the next article of this sort that I post and the legwork for that article has already been completed thanks to our friend Uriah over on CMDRdecks.

Everyone should check out Carlos’s article series over on Quiet Speculation. He is the best Commander innovator online. You can always count on his articles for inspiration in building new, unique decks. We need writers like Carlos to keep this format fresh. Please stop buy and check out his articles here – http://www.quietspeculation.com/author/carlosgutierrez/

As usual, you can email me or message me if you want any sort of deck advice. I will get back to you as soon as possible and try to help you out as much as I possibly can. Thank you for reading and I look forward to your feedback.

-STP
@swordstoplow
swordstoplow@gmail.com

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