Drawing cards is one of the absolute best things you can do in Magic, and as a result the best ways to do it can cost some serious money.
So for us budget-minded players, it can be a pain to search through the thousands of cards looking for something similar to a Consecrated Sphinx or a Rhystic Study. While the budget versions may not always be as good as the originals, they fill the same sort of roles in budget decks and in even in non-budget decks can provide redundancy to some great card draw effects.
Two weeks ago I brought you 10 budget versions of great ramp cards in Commander. This week I’m back with another 10 cards, plus two more, for those of us looking to draw a bunch of cards but only spend a couple dollars.
Consecrated Sphinx is one of the best card draw engines in the game, and Mind’s Eye is a worse version of it but it is able to be slotted into any colour of deck. Consecrated Sphinx is an arguably ban-worthy card for the attention it receives in games and Mind’s Eye is definitely overpriced simply because of its lack of reprints, but either way the reciprocal draw effect these cards house is something we don’t see terribly often. Hard to replace exactly, but if you’re really looking for a way to draw extra cards when your opponents do look no further than…
Now obviously PP has some serious downsides. Skipping your own draw step, for instance. However, you do effectively replace it with an opponents’.
This card works well against other blue decks that run cards like Consecrated Sphinx oddly enough and can result in a lot of free card draw when played on the right player. Sometimes the right player is the person in the lead, the one who’s drawing cards like crazy and threatening the whole board. Sometimes it’s the person who is having the most trouble, because they know if they stick one of their draw engines they can’t afford to hold back to prevent you from benefiting. Play this in secret partners games for some real political effect as well.
All Commander players praised the printing of The Immortal Sun because it means we can finally stop putting Staff of Nin in our Commander decks once and for all… right? It’s a very huge upgrade so why wouldn’t we? Well for those of us who like to keep our deck prices low, it turns out you may still need a Staff or two in your collection still because this card is one that basically hasn’t been under $10 since the moment it saw printing.
So here we are, telling you that Staff of Nin is the budget version of The Immortal Sun. It draws you the extra card in your upkeep, but also has a fun pinging ability which can actually become relevant once in a while.
Soooo, yeah. I guess Staff of Nin can hang out for a while longer after all.
Another new card that has quickly jumped in price, Kindred Discovery is great in any blue tribal deck as a reliable source of card draw. While it only affects the creature type you name, it provides cards when those creatures ETB or attack. Providing us with another Vanquisher’s Banner-like ability for tribal decks, the real key here is the draw on the attack trigger. You just have to attack with a creature and, regardless of whether it hits a player or dies, you get the card either way.
Bident is a card that a lot of us still use in a ton of decks since it provides a great source of draw for any deck with evasive creatures. Plus, in a pinch it will do in your tribal (or not) creature-based decks that already want a Kindred Discovery. Take a look at Coastal Piracy too, although I think due to Pirates being back in Magic it’s had a bit of a price spike.
Perhaps the absolute best card draw engine in Commander, Rhystic Study is also perhaps the most annoying card in Commander.
That being said, the once $5-$6 card is now up over the $10 mark and shows little sign of dropping. Rhystic Study often gets a draw off of every spell an opponent casts even when they know the unwritten rule when facing a Rhystic Study- “ALWAYS PAY FOR RHYSTIC STUDY.”
And make no mistake, always pay.
But of course you don’t want to always pay, right? So while Rhystic is an amazing card with a tough ability to replicate, it is expensive. However…
Mystic Remora is from a time when Magic liked to print creatures and call them enchantments. As in, this card is an enchantment but has the name and art of a card that obviously should be a creature. Of course it not being a creature makes it stronger, so I’m not complaining. I just always found that weird.
Drawing off of your opponents’ non-creature cards plus a cumulative upkeep is obviously nowhere near as good as Rhystic Study, but you’d be surprised the amount of cards you can draw from this little guy especially when you get it down on turn one or two. Nezahal is a creature with a similar ability (no one will ever pay the four for Mystic Remora, btw and that’s OK) albeit on a very expensive creature, so it really lags in comparison. But both these card’s aren’t bad when looking for repeatable draw sources if a Rhystic is jut outside of your financial capabilities.
If you’re running Erebos as a way to stop opponents from gaining life there are some other, cheaper options available and the same goes for the second ability of Big E, the draw ability.
Greed is probably the card that inspired Erebos in the first place, and we recently got a cheaper version to cast in Ixalan that may even have some other utility in the right deck with Arguel’s Blood Fast. Both are classic black draw abilities that are also enchantments, so they do an amazing Erebos impression in any EDH deck.
Whether or not you think the Modern staple is worth it in Commander kind of doesn’t matter, because for our format there’s basically a direct upgrade to Bob ready and raring to go.
Dark Tutelage is harder for your opponents to deal with while only costing one more mana, a cost we don’t mind in Commander actually. So while having those upgraded abilities is great, there is one little downside you’ll have to deal with when it comes to Dark Tutelage. And that is the moment you realize the life loss is no longer worth it and you’d like the card to go away.
Sacrificing enchantments can be hard, so if that were to ever find yourself in that situation, it might be tough to not get killed by your own card. That being said I actually think it’s quite a small concern and think that in the right deck Dark Tutelage can be great!
The perennial favourite of black decks for card draw is one that, despite a few reprints, has kept its cost in the $5-$8 range. This can be troublesome when you need to pick up a few for multiple black decks. Well, luckily this one is one of the easiest to find budget upgrades for because several great ones exist. They may not be as efficient or hard to deal with as Arena, but they still pack the same punch.
Bloodgift Demon is a Phyrexian Arena on a five-powered flying beater. Not bad. Graveborn Muse has the potential to be several Phyrexian Arenas taped together (although watch out in Zombie decks that it doesn’t kill you), and Underworld Connections is basically a Phyrexian Arena that just asks you to sac a land when it enters. All of these are very much versions you can find easily, and for very cheap if your deck wants a Phyrexian Arena.
Card draw abilities in red are hard to come by, especially when talking about affordable ones. While the recent reprint of Magus of the Wheel in Masters 25 helps alleviate some of that, it’s likely to rise back up after we’re done with the set. “Wheel” effects like this appear in some other colours too, but to get a repeatable one might be difficult unless you run…
Why not make your wheel cards repeatable AND make them a huge dragon? Right?
While maybe not as efficient as you want your card draw to be, Dragon Mage can still get you a mitt full of new cards while also threatening to beat down opponents and win the game. Not the worst.
Finally we have green, in which most of its card draw sources are already firmly under budget by most standards. That is, unless of course you’re talking about the classic card selection/draw enchantment, Sylvan Library. The reprint in Eternal Masters was helpful for EDH players but if you’re looking to reproduce this effect for cheaper you can always look to…
… other colours. Seriously Green does not get the Sylvan Library effect very easily and the closest budget thing I could find was Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand which needs to be in two non-green colours to make happen. Even then, it’s still nowhere as good. It’s hard to recreate the greats but at least Sultai decks can sort of replace the Library with a Taigam if need be.
Obviously replacing some of the most effective draw spells in Magic isn’t easy, but with a little effort you can find cards that will mimic those abilities and even sometimes turn out to be better.
Okay, so that’s pretty rare. But Dark Tutelage, remember! What are some card effects you see on expensive cards you’d like to find a cheaper version of? Let me know in the comments below!