Ayara, First of Locthwain is a highly focused commander deck that is an alternate win condition away from being an optimized deck. Arkidect estimates the cost of the deck at $765.73 a majority of the cost is tied up in lands that are not necessary but improve the deck’s power. There are other expensive cards in the build that can be substituted for lesser-used cards and still keep it in the focused range of power. If you are on a budget consider making the following substitutions to save yourself some money. If you haven’t done so already, you can read the deck tech to understand what the deck wants to do and the cards it uses.
Substitute Thran Dynamo for Extraplanar Lens
The easiest change is to substitute out Extraplanar Lens ($44.99). It’s a mana doubler and thus very effective in what it does. There are many cheaper cards that ramp in mana. Thran Dynamo ($3.99) adds three colorless mana can help fuel this deck for major savings.
Substitute Swamp for Snow-Covered Swamps
Once Extraplanar Lens is cut, the deck has no more need for its 26 Snow-Covered Swamps ($20.54) The swamps were there so that you were the only one at the table to benefit from the ExtraPlaner Lens. Instead, the deck can use Basic Swamps. Lands abound in Magic and it is not difficult to acquire generic Swamps (no cost) for free, if you do not have enough lying around.
Substitute Swamp for Volrath’s Stronghold
Speaking of Basic Swamp (No Cost) we can use one to substitute for Volrath’s Stronghold ($39.99). The stronghold is a luxury that will be used only when you run out of creatures to cast or you absolutely need a specific creature for the current situation. In most cases, the deck will use the stronghold as a mana generator and not a recursion engine. The deck loses a little versatility, but it shouldn’t be missed much.
Substitute Temple of the False God for Cabal Coffers
Sticking to the mana base doubling your mana generation is strong. This is why the deck uses Cabal Coffers ($59.99), but it is unnecessary. While good, the deck will run just at a slower pace without it. In its place, we will include Temple of the False God ($0.35) to ramp the deck at savings.
Substitute Fellwar Stone for Thought Vessel
Thought Vessel ($9.99) is a luxury that allows us to keep our cards when the deck allows us to draw a bunch of them. It is a semi-unique ability with no hand size showing up on a handful of cards. First and formost it is a ramp card and we can ramp at two mana for cheaper. Fellwar Stone($2.99) will suffice and save a few dollars in the process. It is rare you will be sitting at a table where none of your opponents are playing black.
Substitute Diabolic Tutor for Demonic Tutor
Demonic Tutor ($29.99) is the number one card in black. It efficiently tutors for any card and puts it in your hand. Right now it is a value at its current cost. If you can afford one pick one up. If you can’t, then at four mana Diabolic Tutor ($0.39) is a poor man’s version that will do the job.
Substitute Increasing Ambition for Vampiric Tutor
Wizards of the Coast has been very stingy with the cards that they reprint. But putting only a handful of great cards in a reprint set and printing them at the mythic rarity. They were able to make them chase cards for the set and keep people gambling by buying packs for the card. I understand this as Wizards is a company and their goal is profit. Vampiric Tutor ($79.99) has suffered because of how Wizards reprints cards. While it costs more mana and slows the deck down, Increasing Ambition ($2.29) will let us tutor twice, put the card in our hand and save a lot of money at the same time. It’s not optimal, but it works.
Substitute Dark Salvation for Helm of the Host
Helm of the Host $8.99) is a luxury token maker Who wouldn’t want to have multiple copies of Ayara on the battlefield and trigger lots of life loss. Instead of quality tokens, we can make a lot of expendable tokens with Dark Salvation ($0.49) and remove a creature at the same time. This dual-purpose makes Dark Salvation a reasonable substitution for The Helm.
Substitute Shriekmaw for Sheoldred, Whispering One
Sheoldred, Whispering One ($12.99) is a beast that will draw out opponents’ removal. If you can keep him, then he can do some work for you He is a threat that is must answer or you can take over a game. The deck loses some strength if you remove him, but if you can’t find the promo version of him, then you’re going to spend twenty dollars on the card. That is too expensive for oftentimes removal bait. Shriekmaw ($0.79) is a budget option. It costs a little less in mana than Sheoldred but it will only hit one creature. It also has evoke ability for two mana which is its own death trigger built-in. If you keep it on the battlefield, then it has its own form of evasion in fear as opposed to swampwalk. These attributes make Shriekmaw an excellent budget option for this deck.
Substitute Dictate of Erebos for Phyrexian Obliterator
Phyrexian Obliterator ($21.99) is just a mean card. When you attack with him your opponent doesn’t want to block unless he is playing a token strategy. Even if you do not attack it will shut down any deck that does not have flying. It is purely a luxury though. You can’t count on it at removal although that is what it does best. Dictate of Erebos ($10.99) is cheaper and it’s guaranteed removal when you accomplish what your deck wants to do… Murder your own creatures.
Substitute Sidisi, Undead Vizier for Contamination
Another mean card is Contamination ($23.99). The ability to shut down your opponent’s mana base is excellent disruption. It also comes with a sacrifice outlet. The downside is a lot of people play black in their commander decks and it will not always shut down everyone. While it is an excellent card it is sometimes situational. Instead, we will include another sacrifice outlet in Sidisi, Undead Vizier ($8.99). This switch will help keep our creature count high as we lost a creature when we moved from The Obliterator to an enchantment in Dictate as mentioned above. It has an added bonus of being able to fetch a card from your library. Although a one time effect it will help your deck run efficiently and set up your sacrifice engine.
Substitute Exsanguinate for Massacre Wurm
Massacre Wurm ($24.99) is a direct damage outlet that often brings out your opponents’ removal immediately. It works against many decks but is ultra-efficient versus token and swarm strategies. It affects how your opponents play the game. While expensive it always has an impact. We can save a little money if we switch this direct damage card to Exsanguinate. ($7.99) Exsanguinate can end games and the deck should is capable of generating a lot of mana in a turn that we can pump into this spell. If you are going to replace a card like Massacre Wurm you want a strong card like this to do so. This is a reasonable substitution for Massacre Wurm that will save you money.
Substitute Mutilate for Toxic Deluge
Toxic Deluge ($29.99) is a card every black deck wants. It is cheap in mana cost and its -X/-X removal criteria allows you to remove indestructible creatures in mass while being able to take out hexproof creatures as well. Since the removal is tied to how much life you pay you can also customize it to your advantage. If you want to save some cash you can switch it out for its little brother in Mutilate ($0.79). Since you are in mono-black you will wipe the board most times you only lose the customizability of the spell.
Commander decks can be expensive if you want to optimize them but if you are willing to spend time researching cards you can often find substitutes that will perform well for less. This is called sweat equity. You will always spend either cash or time. In this case, by making the substitutions above we can save $368.32 on the original Ayara build and still have a deck that plays well in casual circles. You can see a visual of the cards cut on Arkidect here.
What cards would you cut from Ayara? I would like to know shoot me an email ay firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you.