The term ‘tutor’ in Magic: The Gathering is slang for an effect that searches the library, originating from the Alpha classic Demonic Tutor. This category of cards is one of the defining features of powerful formats like Commander, Legacy and Vintage, adding consistency and versatility to your deck, which is especially useful in singleton formats.
That degree of usefulness usually means tutors have a pricetag to match their pedigree. However, for every expensive, top-tier tutor in the game, there’s another lesser-known effect flying under the radar for a mere percentage of the price. Enter the budget tutors, affordable search effects that find the cards you need, though not without restrictions.
10 Lim-Dul’s Vault – $2.20
A tutor that finds the card you need and sets up your next few draws? What a stand-up guy, that Lim-Dul fella. Lim-Dul’s Vault lets you look at and arrange chunks of your library at a time, letting you re-roll until you find a pile you’re satisfied with. Each reset costs life, but you can keep digging until you find the perfect card.
It can be time-consuming to find and organize the right pile, especially if you fire it off in the dark without a specific card in mind. Thankfully, it’s unaffected by search-stifling effects like Opposition Agent and Stranglehold.
9 Guided Passage – $0.28
Guided Passage is color-restrictive and aimed at the casual crowd, but it’s a great political tool in games where you’ve successfully made an ally. It guarantees you find three cards from your library, the catch being that an opponent has agency over what you get.
It’s best to treat Guided Passage as a wheel-and-deal style tutor, garnering favor with another player, and persuading them to search up a key card in exchange for also finding something that benefits them. It’s still a draw-3 in hostile situations, so it’s hard to lose out too horribly on this card.
8 Hoarding Broodlord – $1.02
Hoarding Broodlord has usurped long-time Commander staple Rune-Scarred Demon as the giant black tutor creature in all but the most dedicated Demon typal decks. That’s not to say there isn’t room for both of them in the format, but with any amount of convoke going on, Broodlord’s going to come out on top.
The Dragon potentially comes down for as little as three mana, and allows you to convoke any spells being cast from exile, not just the card you tutored. It also hides the card you searched for in exile, keeping it safe from discard effects.
7 Wargate – $2.62
Wargate tacks three-mana premium onto any permanent in your library, allowing you to pop it right into play. It’s like Chord of Calling in that regard, though there are some obvious drawbacks with this being three-color sorcery.
Wargate’s biggest asset is its ability to find lands when X equals zero, meaning it’s functional in the early game as a passable ramp effect, or in decks with specific lands at the center of their strategy. The number of permanents you can search up only increases as you continue to develop your mana.
6 Reckless Handling – $0.09
Reckless Handling is a little-known card from the often-maligned March of the Machine: The Aftermath set. It’s clearly aimed at artifact decks, with the closest comparison being Gamble, a popular but more expensive red tutor. Handling is literal pennies at most, with an alternate art version for less than a quarter.
The trick with Reckless Handling is tutoring up a card that you don’t mind discarding, that way you either keep the card you tutored, or you can still access it from the graveyard. The extra damage thrown in isn’t much, but a nice touch nonetheless.
5 Sunforger – $0.50
There’s a reason some players place Sunforger among the best Red-White cards in Commander, and it has little to do with the +4/+0 stat boost. In fact, you’ll spend most of your time unattaching Sunforger from your creature, so the power bump is almost irrelevant.
Sunforger’s activation grants access to a toolbox of effects as long as they cost four or less and touch either white or red. You can fetch Lapse of Certainty for a counterspell, Teferi’s Protection to phase out, or even just a removal spell, then ready up the hammer for another swing.
4 The Cruelty of Gix – $2.40
The aptly-named Cruelty of Gix channels all of Gix’s unbound brutality into a 3-part saga with massive upside. Targeted hand disruption isn’t common in casual Commander, but it’s a welcome way to kick off the remaining chapters, which include the coveted tutor effect and an unmitigated reanimation effect.
As if the entire package weren’t already enough, Read Ahead gives the Saga added modality. Sometimes you’ll skip over the tutor chapter to avoid the lifeloss, or start on chapter two to get the card you need immediately. Regardless, you’re always getting a reanimation effect at the end.
3 Tooth And Nail – $2.99
Commander Masters knocked Tooth and Nail’s price down to the realm of mortals. Clocking in just under $3, this former $10-$20 card is now easily accessible to those who’ve held off on purchasing one since its original 2003 release. Maybe in another 20 years it’ll drop to uncommon!
Tooth and Nail was once at the center of many banlist discussions, though popular opinion has cooled a bit since then. T&N is still a reliable way to convert nine mana into a win, but check out Wilds of Eldraine’s Thunderous Debut if you’re searching for an even cheaper, albeit slightly worse version.
2 Trinket Mage – $0.25
Trinket Mage is one of blue’s ‘fabricate mages,’ a subset of three-mana 2/2s that find artifacts with a specific mana value. Different ones fit different decks, but Trinket Mage stands out for its ability to get cheap, powerful artifacts.
Most unfair fast mana rocks like Mana Vault and Mana Crypt fall into Trinket Mage’s line of sight, and even playing it ‘fairly’ can net you a Skullclamp or Sensei’s Divining Top. At the very least it always has the floor of being a way to quickly grab your Sol Ring.
1 Kellan, the Fae-Blooded – $2.03
As Aura and Equipment archetypes in Commander evolved, so too did the tutors that support them. The Birthright Boon adventure on Kellan, the Fae-Blooded is one of the cheapest options, and rivals some of the most powerful artifact and enchantment tutors in Magic.
Kellan does a reasonable, and sometimes even better impression of Enlightened Tutor and Steelshaper’s Gift while sporting a surprisingly cheap pricetag. It even spots you a creature to wear the permanent you search up. Open the Armory is even cheaper, and has the exact same effect as the adventure, sans Kellan.