From the Brim the Trim - Cooking Budget and Opponents to a Crisp!

Zurgo, a warrior, riding a white and red dragon.
(Zurgo and Ojutai | Illustrated by Daarken)

Dragon and Orc = Dork?

Greeting and salutations from the cheesiest country in the world! I'm Arnaud, and I’m thrilled to take you on a journey of uncanny brews, budget cards, and usage of EDHREC’s filtering features.

After skipping a beat due to extremely close results, I asked you two weeks ago to decide once more on the fate of today's victim. While the competition was fierce for a while, Zurgo and Ojutai eventually managed to outpace the competition.

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden put up a good fight (hint: he's very fun to play with Relentless Rats), while Tivash, Gloom Summoner decided to stick to his role and go sulk somewhere.

Without further ado, let's take a look at our winner.

Scaly and Slimy pack a decent punch. 4/4 with haste and evasion, card advantage, and protection all in one. Impressive. And tricky.

While I was secretly hoping for this wild pair to take the win, I've had some troubling issues to tackle. If you guys followed my comment in the March of the Machine review, you might remember I had ambitions for these two to become the ultimate Wrath tribal deck. However, it looks like the 430 current brewers have decided to take a much more conventional route: Dragons galore. Nothing wrong with that, except... Dragons are expensive. You'll see what I mean in a second.

In the meantime, let's have a look at the unabridged list of cards available on my Moxfield starting decklist for Zurgo and Ojutai.

First Trim: The Cardboard Chainsaw Massacre

By now you know the drill. Everything above $1 must go. While these colors are notorious for playing some of the most coveted staples (Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, Esper Sentinel, a slew of free counterspells), we'll also have to say goodbye to a goodly amount of spicy Dragons. As usual, here's a set of cards between $1 and $2 that did not make the cut but that you could seriously consider for budget upgrades:

Earthquake : Leaves my flyers untouched while taking care of the board, and potentially players in the end game.
Counterspell : The classic of classics. I'm surprised it's above $1 with all the recent reprints.
Molten Echoes : Double the gun, double the fun!
Generous Gift : White's Beast Within, always useful no matter the situation.
Orb of Dragonkind : Ramp and card advantage in a neat package. A must.
Scourge of Valkas : The triple red pip is an issue, but the effect could net some decent damage, especially if you manage to copy it.
Lathliss, Dragon Queen : Classic Dragon-maker, she's best friends with the aforementioned Scourge.
Reflections of Littjara : See Molten Echoes. Except they stick around. Gross.

Nothing too surprising in these cuts, but yeah, as I said, Dragons can skyrocket, both mana- and money-wise. So much so that after trimming down this list, I had come down to a puny 120 cards.

On one hand, I know this would make the editors quite happy, since that would imply a short article. On the other hand, I didn't want to miss out on some spicy potential additions, so I decided to add in all of the cards from the Cheap filter.

After trimming down the bushes once more, we're now down to 186 cards. I guess it goes to show this commander's versatility. Onwards then.

Second Trim: Cardward Scissorhands

With that many cards to choose from, I feel like the veggies won't be a problem. Card draw? 21. Ramp? 23. Targeted removal? 15. Board wipes? 3. So far so good. Let's try keeping the best of the best here. At least there won't be any excruciating choice in the Wipes area. Say goodbye to:

Draw Ramp Removal

Draconic Lore Azorius Signet Azorius Charm
Frantic Search Boros Signet Disenchant
Impulse Commander's Sphere Dragon's Fire
Meeting of Minds Fire Diamond Into the Fire
Monastery Siege Hedron Archive Jeskai Charm
Opt Izzet Signet Lightning Bolt
Preordain Jeskai Banner Resculpt
Serum Visions Mind Stone Rip Apart
Ojutai Monument Runic Shot
Marble Diamond Spit Flame
Sky Diamond

As usual, I'll also trim down the mana base and add some much-needed basics. With that out of the way, it looks like we still have our hands quite full, with... oh my. 149 cards in the deck. 

Third Trim: Cutting Off the Rough Edges

Now that the tedious part is behind us, let's have some real fun. This is where we decide which direction we want to take our commander into.

We still have 56 Dragons to choose from, as well as a slew of spicy enchantments to give them an extra oomph. Zurgo and Ojutai like to spread their love to maximize the amount of cards drawn every turn as well as bouncing back the juiciest targets that our opponents might be tempted to remove. This makes me think we'll want to make sure that:

  • We have enough mana to accomplish our ambitions.
  • We have enough relevant enter-the-battlefield (ETB) effects to fully profit from the bouncing ability.
  • We have enough Dragons with either game-breaking abilities or haste to cash in on our opponents even if our commander is not here.

I'm not too worried about overly protecting Zurgu and Ojutai, since the pair will have hexproof the turn they get in. They can also be safely bounced back to our hand after combat.

With those considerations in mind, let's get some minor Dragons and other fluff out of the way. I'll aim for 110-ish cards to keep some flexibility. This way you'll have some ways to pick and choose if my final iteration is not quite to your liking.

On we go:

Dragons Enchantments
Bogardan Hellkite Astral Wingspan
Crystal Dragon Citadel Siege
Cunning Breezedancer Combat Research
Dragon Turtle Favorable Winds
Dragon's Disciple Feywild Visitor
Icefall Regent Jeskai Ascendancy
Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant
Keiga, the Tide Star Misc
Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat Beamtown Beatstick
Nadaar, Selfless Paladin Key to the City
Ojutai, Soul of Winter Izzet Charm
Opportunistic Dragon Negate
Patron of the Arts Scrollshift
Pristine Skywise Sejiri Shelter
Rapacious Dragon Silumgar's Scorn
Sapphire Dragon
Shivan Branch-Burner
Sprite Dragon
Skyship Stalker
Sword Coast Serpent
Taigam, Ojutai Master
Thunder Dragon
Tyrant of Kher Ridges
White Dragon
Young Blue Dragon
Young Red Dragon

Well, that was a lot of firebreathers to get rid of, and we're not quite done just yet. You'll also note that I decided to get rid of counterspells altogether. Timmy is the name, and bashing heads is the game, or so they say.

We're down to 109 cards, including a nice package of 24 Dragons. I might sneak in a couple of other enablers that I feel we're sorely missing here. More on that in a second.

On to the last cuts, and then some.

Final Trim: Heart-Wrenching Choices and Juicy Additions

Well, here we are, this is the last stretch, and the most controversial one. I'll need to cut another 14 cards in order to get to the coveted 100. There are 5 cards I REALLY want to add the list.

So who are the finalists that won't make it to the VIP floor?

  • Sarkhan the Masterless and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker: Yes, the boyos are right on theme, but I feel like their abilities, while nice, are not game-changing enough to warrant them a spot.
  • Abrade: A versatile removal spell, but some room has to be made.
  • Fellwar Stone and Wayfarer's Bauble: There are a few creatures that reduce our Dragons' cost, so I feel quite safe in cutting a couple of mana rocks.
  • Sunscorch Regent: Granted, he's bound to grow if left to its own devices, but he'll also be a prime target for all of your opponents' removal spells. Since we're not planning on letting too many things stick around on the table, I feel like it has to go.
  • Thunderbreak Regent: Ward 3 life isn't bad, but it's not going to be a major deterrent if a player wants a Dragon gone.
  • Dragonmaster Outcast: A bit slow for my taste.
  • Stirring Bard: Four mana is simply too much for his ability, I have much better in store. Plus I don't feel like introducing the Initiative to the game if I don't have multiple means to trigger the dungeon.
  • Brainstorm, Thirst for Discovery and Tormenting Voice: We have a draw-enabler in the command zone, plus a few other Dragons that will draw us cards. I feel quite safe in getting rid of these three, even if that means we're down to 9 actual draw spells.
  • Gravitational Shift: This is a painful one. I love the idea of weakening our opponents' boards while boosting ours, but five mana is quite a hefty price to pay for the effect.
  • Invasion of Xerex: I wanted to keep this one to the very end, if only because Zurgo and Ojutai trigger on battles as well, but sadly the effects on both sides are simply too underwhelming.

That. Was. Hard. I've spent almost an hour agonizing over these choices. So what was so important to add that I had to get rid of so many? Easy. It's Tempo. You see, among the remaining 21 Dragons, 15 don't have haste. Granted, there are a few ways in the list to help them achieve the needed speed, but not enough in my opinion to make sure they can swing the turn they come in.

Therefore, I'll add the following cards:

Three cheap creatures that will give the extra peps our big critters need.

The last two additions are based on sheer value.

  • Duke Ulder Ravengard: The kind Duke will make sure your Dragons can pound each and everyone while boosting their ETB effects in the process, with a frightening combination of both haste and Myriad. Granted, he's six mana, but he's bound to make sparks fly.
  • Feldon of the Third Path: Nosy opponents managed to get rid of your glorious flamethrowers? How about we bring them back from the grave?

And here we are, finally, with a Dragon army ready to buuUUUUurn!

Zurgo and Ojutai, sweeping high in the sky

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (31)
Sorceries (5)
Instants (6)
Enchantments (10)
Artifacts (10)
Battles (1)
Lands (36)

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View this decklist on Archidekt

So tell me, kind brewers, how crisp to you like your meat? Rare, bloody, hard as a shoe sole? Are there any obvious budget Dragons that I missed? Tell me in the comments below.

Whooops, it seems the poll has reset sometime this week. But never fear! I have kept a close count. You can therefore add 54 to the current votes for Lulu, 52 to Orthion and 50 to Rakdos. Vote on, fellow brewers, vote on!

See you in two weeks!

Arnaud Gompertz has been playing Magic since 4th Edition, back in 1995. He's been an assiduous EDH enthusiast since 2012, with a soft spot for unusual and casual Commanders. He'll always favour spectacular plays against a boring path to victory. Aside from mistreating cardboard, he's a dedicated board games player, loves a challenging video game and occasionally tries to sing with his choir.

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