Grixis has long been a favorite of mine, so when it came to finally building a Commander deck, Thraximundar instantly came to mind (plus, finally a home for my foil Nicol Bolas!). In my thinking, a Thrax deck is all about piling on commander damage while keeping the board as clear as possible through wipes or sacrifice shenanigans. I've had marginal success with my deck, which brings me to your tuning doorstep.
There are a wide range of decks in my playgroup to contend with, and what I find myself having the most trouble dealing with are decks with heavy enchantment strategies (Uril, tokens, etc.). I think another problem is that once I get outside my push-Thrax-damage-through cards, it loses focus, with too many pet cards or "good stuff" for good stuff's sake. Also, it seems like this deck is way slower than other decks I'm up against.
The three cards I seem to draw often and have the biggest dividends for me are Decree of Pain (pure win), Olivia Voldaren (hmm, do I spend seven mana to cast Thrax or seven mana to take control of their commander?), and Underworld Connections. I know there are a multitude of cards that don't really have a place (Nivix Guildmage, Sakashima, Jin-Gitaxias for starters), so now I hand over my decklist for your careful consideration:
Avatar of Woe
Thank you for your time,
Commander has a good stuff problem, just not in the way you'd usually expect. "Good stuff" is good, after all, so if you're drawing all good things, how can that be a problem? We have positive experiences with cards, and that make us want to play them. So when we look to play a new deck, we bring these old friends along with us for the ride. They're good stuff. Right?
Unfortunately, that means we have a circular mill where we bend our decision making to the need to play 'all good cards' instead of play cards that are good for the deck we're building, which might be very different contextually than the "good cards" that we usually see. Not every deck is going to look alike; if they were supposed to, wouldn't they all play the same Commander, as one must be provably superior to the others at the helm of the ideal 99-good-cards deck? And yet we play different Commanders, which means we are trying to accomplish different things. Logically, then, even the best of the good cards will, in some context, no longer be the best card for a specific deck.
You cite some awesome cards as ones that aren't really working for your Thraximundar plan despite being awesome cards. Jin-Gitaxias is a power player unlike any other in Commander, tactically limiting your opponents to zero-card hand sizes while refilling your resources with a full tank of gas each and every turn it stays on the table, and it can even come down onto the table at instant speed to make it even better. But if it's not the right card for your deck and it doesn't do what you're trying to do, that sacred cow needs to be slaughtered if we are to get to the place you want to be at: having a good, focused Thraximundar deck rather than a pile of good cards that happens to have Thraximundar set aside as Leader of the Good Cards.
What does Thraximundar want to be doing? Hot off of a long but successful National Novel Writing Month and continually upstaged by my cowriter Cassidy, I contemplated writing a short piece of fiction to ask him to try to get inside of the head of your Commander and elucidate what motivates him and makes him tick. But the answer was simple and right there: what is inside of a head? BRAAAAAAAINS!
We need look no further than his creature type—Zombie—and his flavor text, "His name means, 'he who paints the earth red.'" Thraximundar is out for blood, and we want to focus only on the things that get in the way between Thraximundar and our opponent's tasty, delicious brains. Things like their skull, their fighting back, and the creatures they might try to defend themselves with. Thraximundar is a simple Commander with a simple plan, but in this simplicity there is both elegance and power. Elegance because the single-minded focus allows the card to hone itself exceptionally well at the task to which we must be committed and can take the deck's focus along with it, and power because we have a turbocharged Zombie psychopath cutting down anything in its way to get those noggin fruits.
Thraximundar asks you to apply some board control, just enough to get things out of the way and isolate the more serious problems for his when Thraximundar attacks trigger to cut them down. Thraximundar wants support because aggression is key, and this means the game will be all about transitioning from tempo-based turning points one after the other so things that likewise create critical turns where the flow of the game shifts away from your opponents and back in your favor. This conveniently will also provide your defense because an opponent who does not know when it is safe to attack will either defend themselves excessively or not defend themselves enough.
The likelihood of your opponents actually applying just the right mix of defense to temper Thraximundar's aggression without just turtling up in full self-defense mode is small, and even when an individual opponent does, there will be other opponents who may be easier nuts to crack. Thraximundar also asks for at least a token amount of control, just enough to potentially get involved in those brief seconds between casting and successfully attacking or maybe through to your successful completion of the goal that is applying Zombie directly to forehead.
So we are going to have to hone in on what Thraximundar wants us to do and let everything that is not on that path fall by the wayside. The benefits for so doing are great; however, the challenge of letting go is far easier said than done. It seems that is why you have sought to employ me for this task. Thankfully, like Thraximundar, I have no emotional involvement in these cards and thus nothing standing between me and that laser focus on where the noggin fruits live, and I will pursue that end goal just as relentlessly.
This isn't the first time I've covered Thraximundar, meaning this is our official first ever commander repeat here on Dear Azami. (The first time through can be found here, for those who want to compare.) Every deck is different, as we base things very strongly on the context we're given with the original decklist.
To give you an idea how far back into the nether reaches of time we have to go, not only does this Thraximundar deck predate Cassidy's coming on board as my cowriter here, it predates the article title "Dear Azami," being from the earliest parts of the column's run when it was named "99 Problems." It was column #9...this is #76. We've been at this a while, so repeating was inevitable and not being willing to do so would actually be a hamper for the future on what submissions we could take. I liked this deck and wanted to work with it very strongly, but also thought I should address the fact that this is not our first dance, Thraximundar and I, for any purists in the audience.
We begin at the beginning with the mana base. There are a few too many lands coming into play tapped, so we're going to shift that around somewhat, cutting effective duals that come into play tapped for ones that start untapped (but may not do the exact same job 100% as smoothly).
Blackcleave Cliffs - This is for cycle completion. I saw you had a Darkslick Shores and liked the look of how that was working out then saw you had an Urborg Volcano but no Blackcleave Cliffs. This upgrades that directly, which will help in the earlier parts of the game as you deploy your mana with fewer speed bumps from always coming in tapped.
Grixis Panorama - While it's not the most impressive of fetchlands, it's every bit as good as the Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse you're already playing and has the advantage of coming into play untapped as well.
Graven Cairns, Sunken Ruins - Both relatively inexpensive still, though it is the price point alone that is why we're not adding Cascade Bluffs as well—it seems to have gone up considerably thanks to Modern's U/R Storm decks and is a little pricey for the mana fixing effect. We're swapping in lands that come into play untapped for ones that didn't, and the filtering ability and flexibility will help considerably, as will the fact that either one will filter black mana into Dominus of Fealty and ease the intense needs of Cruel Ultimatum with a variety of other lands alongside them.
Spinerock Knoll - I wanted to fit a bit more card draw, and finding the room without cutting into cards I really thought you wanted for staying on-focus was proving difficult. And if every blue deck cuts one thing at random and adds Fact or Fiction, we start to hit the boring realm of who cares far too quickly, as it is hypocritical to advocate cutting your contextual "good stuff" cards and jamming in other good stuff cards in their stead. While this is still a land that comes into play tapped, nobody's perfect, and we've cut seven such lands from the deck already while only putting one back in that doesn't always come into play untapped.
Your tolerance for lands coming into play tapped was thus already considerably higher, and for paying that price here again you get an option on a free spell the first time someone deals seven damage to a player. Conveniently, this is the amount of damage Thraximundar should be swinging for on the first attack, and thus you get paid off for doing what you were already going to do just for the love of the game.
I like mapping rewards to actions you were already seeking to undertake, and this means those tasty noggin fruits are actually just spell piatas...
We move next to the artifacts section since there is always a lot of overlap between the mana and the artifacts, as that's the usual home of the supplemental mana boosters like Sol Ring. I have a spreadsheet I keep open with the decklist in it as I move the pieces around, and working with this in front of me, we're going to end up making two cuts to this section in order to find room in others. We just don't need this strong of an equipment theme because Thraximundar works just fine without them and we don't need to overfill these supplemental buffs to make him worthwhile.
Whispersilk Cloak - We're going to be building less of a Voltron-ish Thraximundar deck, aiming to get to unblockable with the mana base but also through the tried-and-true method of machine-gunning every creature in the way to death so that there is nothing left to block Thraximundar. The shroud is potentially beneficial but not really what's motivating us here; these needs are being met by Rogue's Passage and Shizo, Death's Storehouse, and we're going to make those easier to find rather than rely on this.
Inquisitor's Flail - I don't want us ending up too equipment-heavy, and this is on the lower tier as unlike double strike it won't keep a creature alive in a fight, it just doubles the damage directly. While it can stack with Fireshrieker to quadruple damage instead of double it, letting Thraximundar one-shot someone right out of the gate, the need for that is small and the benefit isn't strategically necessary. We want to go aggro intelligently, which is a hilarious thing to say about a mindless brain-eating machine.
Gilded Lotus - Too many times have I seen this waited on, needed, and then simply destroyed as a matter of course before it can do anything to help its controller out. Yes, this does cut the infinite-juggling / infinite-mana combo of Deadeye Navigator / Zealous Conscripts / Gilded Lotus out of the deck…but the intentionality here is halfway between 'indifferent' and 'that's why I am cutting it in the first place!' because what's cool the first time you see it is no longer cool the hundredth time it comes around. Besides, assembling Deadeye Navigator / Zealous Conscripts should be able to win a game just fine without unlocking the infinite-mana achievement.
Trailblazer's Boots - While I love nonbasic landwalk, I wouldn't spend a card for it. I never will, so instead I simply pine in hope of receiving a Livonya Silone submission so we can legendary landwalk instead.
Obelisk of Grixis - There is a direct upgrade that we will pursue instead.
Planar Portal - I don't have faith that you want to spend twelve mana Tutoring for your first card just to keep the option to spend another six in mana futures for a second. This is nowhere near efficient, and I think you want more outright card draw and less expensive Tutor speculation going on.
Two slots are going to move over to the spells section since that portion seems a little light on instant speed plays, which means we have four replacement slots left to fill.
Staff of Nin - This is a recent printing that is beginning to impress me after it recently destroyed me singlehandedly in a match at SCG Standard Open: Baltimore. The ability to ping something immediately is relevant but not excessively so—it's a useful afterthought attached to the card we want to play anyway. We really want to draw the extra card, but it also helps keep the small things away so Thraximundar attacks to kill important creatures instead. Here we're investing six mana once and then just getting a card for free every turn thereafter where before it was six mana up front in order to obtain the right to spend six mana for Tutoring, and just getting the raw bonus of cards fits this deck's needs exceptionally well.
Contagion Engine - You want a bit of removal that can keep opposing creatures out of the way, and while Contagion Engine only affects one opponent, it still fits the bill nicely. You can proliferate those creatures to death while also adding +1/+1 counters to Thraximundar and adding loyalty to your planeswalkers and do so twice in one shot. Neither of those uses is big enough to warrant a card by itself, but getting some one-sided removal while we're at it makes this a reasonable investment, if a bit pricey.
Coalition Relic - We're upgrading Obelisk of Grixis into a card that not only is functionally equivalent but also can potentially provide two mana in the same turn. Six is a very sweet spot in this deck, and being able to accelerate to six mana directly on turn 4 is going to lead to explosive starts.
Expedition Map - A humble option, but one that fills many of the same needs as the Trailblazer's Boots or Whispersilk Cloak we're cutting for this, as you get to select your pick of Shizo, Death's Storehouse or Rogue's Passage to keep Thraximundar attacking unblocked. As a bonus, we also getting color fixing, a spell-like option, or access to Volrath's Stronghold, letting this be a robust and well-rounded addition.
We move next to the spell department, where the aim will be to take out some of the "good stuffs" and replace them with things that are important players in the context of the game you're interested in pursuing. There's some buffs here too waiting to be cut; our method for achieving unblockability is to kill everything in the way with spells and then forced sacrifice, not enchantments that help Voltron up Thraximundar. We also want a bit more instant speed play, as your ability to interact on an opponent's turn is currently very low.
Dauthi Embrace – Not being blocked is a proper side effect of murdering the opponent's creatures to death, so we'd rather add another slot that works towards that goal than an enchantment that tries to sidestep it by letting Thraximundar gain shadow.
Protective Bubble – Thrax in the Bubble is a cute idea, but this card is more cute than effective. It feels to me like it's an artifact of previous Commander decks, leftovers from ones where getting the commander in unblocked is very important. This feels a lot like a Zur enchantment carrying over into the next deck rather than something you need in a color combination that has two strong colors for killing creatures, so we're going to cut it and leave it to the decks where it has a more appropriate home.
Army of the Damned – Pure good stuff addition. Is 26 power good stuff? Sure it is. Is it going to further your overarching goals and play well with your existing game plan? Nope. I love the card to death, but this just isn't the right place for it.
Beseech the Queen – This one's a tough cut, but it comes down to the fact that there are too many restrictions at play here. Triple black is difficult, and at 2BB it has an unnecessary restriction when compared to Diabolic Tutor, especially since this is not going to be a deck that excels at putting a lot of lands into play on the cheap. A more efficient and less-restrictive Tutor is appropriate here, so we're going to reach for that instead; I like Beseech only when we're already playing all of the more efficient options or when we're mono-black, neither of which are true here.
Diabolic Revelation – Yes, this has a very high power level when you sink nine mana into it. But is that something you want to do? It takes six mana to even get a single card, and while it scales nicely past that point, I'd rather break it up than only have the expensive option as the realistic one.
Din of the Fireherd – More cute than effective, this is another pet card traveling over from a deck where it used to be very effective to this deck instead. I'd actually love this card in an Olivia Voldaren deck, where it would both scale nicely and overcome a strategic weakness of the deck to shroud effects, but Thraximundar has a solution to that weakness built in already. This isn't getting us anywhere special.
Foresee – Just not very efficient even if it does let you look at up to six cards to potentially put in your hand. At this job, it would be better off being Fact or Fiction, which is both instant speed and more powerful. I think your deck wants slower moving but more consistent card draw effects, so we'll be moving towards those instead, as we did by adding Staff of Nin.
Shattering Pulse – Clearly another good stuff card in that it is a powerful addition that efficiently and repeatedly handles problem artifacts, which are things you can expect to face regularly in this format. It's not a relevant player really in the context of this deck, however, and the problematic card type you're most concerned about is enchantments, not artifacts. This would do well to be replaced with a card that affects the board more broadly, so we'll hunt up something that can still answer an artifact-based problem while also having other applications.
We also have two slots set aside from the artifacts section as we fill back in, so we've made eight cuts and will make ten additions before going to the creature section and finishing the deck up.
Phyrexian Arena – I know, I know. "Cut the good stuff cards!" he said. Added a good stuff card, I did. Instead of saying, "Do as I say, not as I do," I'll instead point out that one of the things noted in this submission was that Underworld Connections was one of the most effective cards in the deck, and things like that are worth pursuing. Underworld Connections is just a rejiggered version of Phyrexian Arena, so playing the original version is presumably going to be a very effective addition. The more cards you have to work with more consistently, the better the deck will perform.
Sometimes, the good stuff works, and it's "good stuff" for a reason. This happens to align neatly with the deck's objectives and the positive experiences of its pilot to date, and we won't avoid it just because it is a very commonly played card. I try to be neither for something because everyone else is or against it for the same reason. Reason requires us to look at the situation we find ourselves in specifically rather than seeking an external consensus on whether our decision in general is 'popular.'
Demonic Tutor – Stab me with the "good stuff!" accusation again, I know, I know. But the submission was the one that dictated we wanted a Tutor in this slot; my specifications in this regard were to replace the less-efficient one with the maximally efficient one. Demonic Tutor's better than Beseech the Queen because mana costs are a real and knowable thing you can compare, and always paying two mana is better than paying three, four, or the nightmare mode of having to pay six. Two is just a smaller number, period, end of story. It might have been more interesting to cut a Tutor and not replace it with one at all because that is what the cool kids are doing, but the next time I worry about being one of the cool kids will be the first time.
Increasing Ambition – I swear we'll get to the interesting changes soon. This one swaps the expensive Tutor from six mana for one use to five at the price of never being able to do two for seven or going super-big with massive Xs filling your hand. Increasing Ambition is nonetheless entirely able to find not just one card but your best three. It does it by splitting the mana up over multiple uses, and even though it's very expensive to get cards number two and three, my experiences have shown me that Increasing Ambition being more efficient to get the first card more than makes up for the potential cheapness you'd get out of Diabolic Revelation for cards two and up.
That Diabolic Revelation can let you access four or more cards seems pretty irrelevant because Tutoring three times should easily enable you to win the game. I mean, realistically speaking, Tutoring that fourth time is just pure greed...what three cards of your choice are you going to put in your hand that aren't going to destroy your opponents? I'd rather get the first card at a relative discount and set up the win off the flashback, making Increasing Ambition the more flexible-to-use power Tutor.
Now we can get interesting. I swear.
Hex – Kills exactly six things very dead. Things that are like Plague Wind are high-functioning cards for Thraximundar, and this lets you weaken the board tactically, hurting only what you need to hurt and leaving your side alone and the way clear for Thraximundar. I don't see this card played nearly as often as it deserves to be, and I don't know why that is.
Black Sun's Zenith – You don't need to kill everything, you just need to kill enough to let Thraximundar handle the rest. While we don't want to put -1/-1 counters on Thrax, having selective removal like this is still better than having to add in Damnation instead, as at least Thraximundar can murder his way out of the hole and get back to his original stats instead of need to be recast from the command zone.
Grim Harvest – One of my favorite pet cards, it's true, but in the context of this deck you have a fair number of high-impact creatures that can take over a game if only you're able to keep one in play despite the attempts to remove them. Grim Harvest lets you play an attrition game as long and as hard as you need to, trading mana expended for grinding potential rather than actual cards drawn. Even 'just' using Grim Harvest with evoked Mulldrifters is fine, and you can do better than that if you even half-try.
Arcane Denial – You want a little countermagic just to be able to play back with the opponent at instant speed. The submission decklist has just Vampiric Tutor and Shattering Pulse as instants to play from the hand, and while I actually like a lot of instants to play with, a critical but small change to add in just a few instant speed plays will help keep the board under control very nicely. We want the cheapest ones possible, then, and that suggests Counterspell and strongly suggests the duo of Hinder and Spell Crumple for containing other players' commanders and containing them permanently.
This option, however, was boring and felt wrong. Perhaps those two might be the most utility-centric counters you could add since the format is so widespread you never know what you'll face off against but you can always be certain they have a Commander and they might even want to play it. I applied a slightly different metric than 'highest power level' or 'cheapest mana cost' and considered how the deck really needs to pay attention to the card count. Looking at things that way, focusing on the card velocity by which spells that are played replace themselves, I opted to go with Arcane Denial because it replaces itself directly as part of its own function.
Dream Fracture – I wanted a second such slot and still considered the card in hand being repaid the most important metric. Dream Fracture fits the needs of what the deck wants best by replacing itself and letting you continue deploying serious threats and drawing board control spells.
Teferi's Realm – Now we get interesting. You noted a key problem of enchantments and cited both token strategies and Uril, the Miststalker as problems you had yet to address adequately. Against tokens, you can phase out the enchantments that are buffing them up, letting you deal with them in their natural form...or phase all creatures out, thus killing all tokens indiscriminately and at no mana cost plus killing them over and over again.
Against creature enchantments, well, that's not really an ideal fix here since it doesn't affect auras, but we've addressed one of the key problems while maintaining the ability to overcome other enchantment-based problems. You can now wiggle out of a board full of control enchantments, such as Humility + Moat + Meishin, the Mind Cage or the more frequently seen doubled-up Propaganda effects. We also are maintaining the ability to handle artifacts in a broad and sweeping manner, even if only temporarily so. We keep the functionality we need, plug a hole, and gain board control utility while we're at it.
Evacuation – I hate this card.
I loathe this card. It does nothing.
So to get me to add it to a deck, it needs to be laser-focused on a specific need; heck, for me not to cut it from a deck, it has to be an important role-player. But if I'm talking about not following the circular mill of external opinions by keeping "good stuff" additions, I have to be just as willing to put my own personal prejudices on the chopping block in order to best suit the needs of your deck. I hate this card, but I hate behaving irrationally even more than I hate this card.
Uril, the Miststalker and creature-buff enchantments were noted as key problems, and I took that to mean that someone building a better Voltron commander would be able to withstand your efforts to control their board. Someone who really wants to focus on that can find their way past your control efforts unless you have a way to reset parity. Evacuation resets the creature back to their hand without preserving the now-spent auras that were enchanting it, letting you solve the endemic Uril problem, and likewise decimates any token creature population.
Both of these were key problems you cited, and Evacuation helps you get out of them. Even an overloaded Cyclonic Rift doesn't do that despite it being the preferentially one-sided way to attempt the same effect... It returns all the creature enchantments to their owner's hand, delaying the inevitable instead of breaking it up. So with a heavy heart, I concede that this card I hate is the right card for the job and hope that it serves the needs you have professed as critical shortcomings in the deck.
And so we move now on to the creatures, where we will continue our streamlining in order to seek the best possible outcome. Here at least we get to add all cards that make me happy to include; no working around my strongly held personal biases necessary here. A few of the cards are good stuff additions, but when it's the right card for the job I'm not allergic to that prospect either.
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur – A card clearly added for its power and its power alone. Sure, if your opponents have no hand and you're drawing seven extra cards a turn, you should be able to win pretty handily. To do so, you have to keep this creature alive past the immediate second you play it and win a possible counter-war over it too because no one can afford to let this survive on the table. Crippling the opponents doesn't even fit in with your game plan, and there are real costs to adding this to your deck in a format where Bribery is a high-impact staple... If it's not on-plan, the risks are too high and the requirements it takes to trigger in the first place are not ones you want to otherwise build yourself for hitting.
Sakashima the Impostor – High power but low synergy and cited by the submitter as an off-fitting "staple" that wasn't pulling its weight. While I'd be excited to get a second Thraximundar online, as that would get Plan A moving twice as fast and reward us twice as frequently for doing what we're focusing on doing, anything else you could Clone is just going to be a way to get ahead on mana for copying it instead of playing it yourself. Sure, it's versatile and powerful...but if it's not pulling its weight, does it belong?
Body Double – Same problem, different game zone. Cloning things gives you extra options but is not necessarily working towards your strategy—it's just getting a good deal out of a variety of strategic options. Body Double is, in this case, just a Reanimation spell that works pretty well...nothing that intersects with your overall goals, nothing that works tactically with another card, just a good card. Phyrexian Metamorph only gets a pass because I find you copy artifacts at least as often as you copy creatures, and my argument against Cloning things for fun and value changes tune entirely when we can Clone a Mimic Vat.
Bloodline Keeper – I really like Bloodline Keeper. My current Standard deck runs four copies of it because I am weird and like playing W/B Tokens despite the fact that we won't see Orzhov affiliated lands for another seven weeks yet. I'm not against Bloodline Keeper on any power level arguments at all here, but making tokens doesn't really fit your theme and just dropping a decent board off of one card isn't the top priority or even really on the list of priorities. Flooding the board with bodies isn't our goal, so just like how Army of the Damned got cut, Bloodline Keeper is a mismatch and gets cut as well.
Rakka Mar – Same story, different card. There just isn't a place in the tactical game plan for a good stuff token generator, and we're going to hone in on the tactical plan so that we can strengthen it and pull it off more frequently. Your deck should even work faster when we hone in on what actually matters to you because you'll play more focused cards more often and thus help to lead the opponents in the direction you want to murder them. Rakka Mar doesn't help lead that way or help push Thraximundar through, so we'll keep looking until we find cards that do.
Fog Bank – Having a solid defender isn't as important as killing everything so you don't have to defend. This will end up being collateral damage on too many of our plays, so it's better to just cut it and move on.
Hell's Caretaker – Small size again makes this a liability, especially since it doesn't do anything without a friend... two if you count the need for a dead one. Just getting an efficient rate of exchange isn't good enough reason to justify playing a card—that exchange has to be something we want to do in the first place—and this doesn't advance our game plan.
Thalakos Deceiver – I like taking control of creatures, I just don't like relying on a small creature successfully attacking to do so. While it's a fun addition, it's not adding anything we want to be doing and probably just dies before it can even do what it's trying to do, making it a liability rather than an asset.
Nivix Guildmage – We need more than an efficient rate, and being able to staple additional copies of a spell for only four mana each is cool...but we're not really building a big-mana deck, so how many times can we really expect to copy a Cruel Ultimatum with this guy? I would argue that the number is actually zero, and thus this is not worthy of inclusion. Again, just getting a favorable rate of exchange on something doesn't justify playing a card, that something has to be something we want to do.
Rapacious One – Here the favorable rate is on Eldrazi Spawn tokens, which means you can punch your opponent for mana. This one at least tempts me because making mana is something I like a lot, but this doesn't fit. It's another card included because it gets an efficient rate of exchange on something since punching five mana out of your opponent sounds like a profitable thing to do. It is but isn't what we're aiming to do, and we're not really building to take advantage of either the tokens or the mana.
That makes for ten cuts, which means we get to make ten additions, and we'll try to address the problems you were having both in the specific (lack of speed, difficulty interacting with enchantments) and in the broader sense (lack of focus).
Slum Reaper, Fleshbag Marauder – Target-less sacrifice effects are a good way to clear over-enchanted creatures, and these are just good, solid ways to whittle down a big board with multiple players having good creatures. While they're weak against the token strategies you're already weak against, they're at least fairly invisible then and can potentially still be useful in that Thraximundar gets a +1/+1 counter when a creature is sacrificed for any reason, letting these pile the power on your commander. They also work very well with the recursive elements, so you can Mimic Vat obnoxiously to keep killing your way out of the very worst of problems.
Venser, Shaper Savant – Another way to add an instant speed play, and this is able to deal with the weirdest and most difficult problems like Obliterate and the other uncounterables. We reach for it first since we can reuse creatures, even though Time Stop or Mindbreak Trap can answer the problems permanently, and this has additional utility besides since it can also remove any targetable permanent from play. It's a pain in the butt next to Deadeye Navigator, and given how light you are on pinpoint removal, the fact that this can answer any class of permanent helps shore up some of your weaknesses.
Shriekmaw – Like Venser, this is being reached for as a prime removal spell that happens to be attached to a creature since creatures are the class of permanent you are able to abuse and reuse most effectively. Neither is an especially exciting addition, but they're focused on doing what you're trying to do and will help you move in that direction more effectively.
Aura Thief – You listed 'enchantments' as one of your problem classes of permanents, and thankfully we have a very weird little creature we can add that broadly handles that card type. While it can't pull auras off of an Uril or Zur, it can more broadly handle the problems you said you were having, which with token decks tends to be not the creatures but the enchantment-based enhancements which Aura Thief can steal. If Propaganda effects or other lockdown-style effects are what ails ye, Aura Thief can clear the way and let you beat down as you so desired. As the problem listed was broad-based rather than well defined, I can't act more specifically than that, as I can't really tell if this solves the problem or not...but it certainly solves some problems you may encounter on a regular basis in this format.
Reiver Demon – One-sided Wrath effects were on your list of most effective cards to play, and a large majority of your creatures are black or artifact creatures, meaning this will effectively miss your side of the board while having a massive impact elsewhere. While you could play Dread Cacodemon instead and be certain you'll thoroughly destroy all of your opponents' creatures while leaving your own intact, that casting cost is just too high for you to expect to be able to hit on any reasonable time scale, especially with the Gilded Lotus being taken out of the deck. Reiver Demon at least is castable, while the Cacodemon goes too far beyond your reasonable upper threshold.
Bane of the Living, Massacre Wurm – We continue with our focus on being able to remove creatures from play preferentially. Massacre Wurm destroys token strategies (and the players who use them, incidentally), while Bane of the Living can scale from small critter sweeper plus 4/3 body to a full-on board wipe with enough mana. Thraximundar gets the best value when it isolates key creatures for sacrifice, and both of these will help to make sure that the creature stuffed down his maw is the last one on that side of the board.
Thrashing Wumpus – The Wumpus is at least more fun and interesting than either of the two above while filling a very similar role and likewise being able to scale quite nicely. I have had many fond experiences with Thrashing Wumpus so far since he can clear the board of small creatures not just once but again and again...and also aggressively erodes life totals, making it more likely that Thraximundar will swing for lethal without having to hit for 21+.
Reaper from the Abyss – A newer toy that I haven't seen getting a lot of love yet, there's one thing you have to say Thraximundar is good at, which is triggering morbid. Reaper from the Abyss helps multiply your removal spells by getting a bonus pinpoint removal effect and helps to whittle down the sizable creatures in play, meaning it's just as good at setting up a significant Thraximundar attack as it is at profiting from one. I like Reaper from the Abyss even more than Avatar of Woe in this deck, which is why I went with it instead of Visara the Dreadful because Reaper is not limited by summoning sickness...or just one creature killed per go around the table.
Putting it all together, we end up with the following decklist:
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Avatar of Woe
- 1 Bane of the Living
- 1 Bloodgift Demon
- 1 Butcher of Malakir
- 1 Deadeye Navigator
- 1 Deepfire Elemental
- 1 Dominus of Fealty
- 1 Fleshbag Marauder
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Havengul Lich
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Mercurial Chemister
- 1 Mindleech Mass
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Reaper from the Abyss
- 1 Reiver Demon
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Slum Reaper
- 1 Thrashing Wumpus
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 1 Olivia Voldaren
- 1 Thraximundar
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
- 1 Wrexial, the Risen Deep
- 3 Island
- 3 Mountain
- 3 Swamp
- 1 Blackcleave Cliffs
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Creeping Tar Pit
- 1 Crumbling Necropolis
- 1 Darkslick Shores
- 1 Darkwater Catacombs
- 1 Dimir Aqueduct
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Drowned Catacomb
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Graven Cairns
- 1 Grixis Panorama
- 1 Izzet Boilerworks
- 1 Rakdos Carnarium
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Shadowblood Ridge
- 1 Shivan Reef
- 1 Spinerock Knoll
- 1 Sulfur Falls
- 1 Sulfurous Springs
- 1 Sunken Ruins
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Tolaria West
- 1 Underground River
- 1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
- 1 Volrath's Stronghold
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Coalition Relic
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Gem of Becoming
- 1 Mimic Vat
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Staff of Nin
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Underworld Connections
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Dream Fracture
- 1 Evacuation
- 1 Grim Harvest
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Ambition's Cost
- 1 Black Sun's Zenith
- 1 Cruel Ultimatum
- 1 Decree of Pain
- 1 Deep Analysis
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Hex
- 1 Increasing Ambition
- 1 Plague Wind
- 1 Rite of Replication
- 1 Syphon Flesh
- 1 Teferi's Realm
As always, for your participation in this week's Dear Azami you will receive a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com. This comes in right about where we usually find ourselves here, at or around the $60 mark, but only three of those cards cost $5 or more. The priciest acquisition is a Demonic Tutor you will be able to put consistently to good use for the life of the format or perhaps have already tucked away in another deck from which it can be shared or liberated.
We have a few weird old cards that can be hard to find—who carries a Teferi's Realm in their trade binder?—while a good chunk of the cards are Standard-legal or were within recent memory, so a coupon to the store can supplement a little active trading and find everything in short order.
After all, we try to be frugal while we're being helpful because if every Dear Azami suggested to the readership that they should pop for a Mana Crypt, we'd run out of readers real fast. (As it is, it's bad enough I get popped for trying to include a Winding Canyons every week—this week I made a conscious effort not to, even though it would be awesome and even more useful than the Volrath's Stronghold you're running!)
I'm told we're even having a sale all through December, so who knows, maybe you'll find things on the cheap and be able to get it in time for the holidays. If you do, then you can lay on the Season's Beatings... (No, I don't want to shill for the store, but that is one heck of a hard joke to set up for.)
Here are the additions with their associated prices at the online store:
|Bane of the Living||$0.75|
|Reaper from the Abyss||$1.25|
|Black Sun's Zenith||$1.49|
|Staff of Nin||$1.49|
|Venser, Shaper Savant||$5.99|
And in case you all thought I was kidding, no, really—if you want to get picked for Dear Azami, really really want to, sending me a Livonya Silone deck is an excellent way to start. The only thing keeping me from saying I'd run it automatically is the expectation that by doing so I'd get multiple submissions. So, anyone want to participate in the Livonya Silone Dear Azami Challenge? Red and green are the Christmas colors, and my next article is due up on Christmas Eve... 'Tis the season, people. Um, for legendary landwalking.
-- Sean McKeown
Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We're always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article, like Franco's Omnath, Locus of Mana deck or DC's Gwendlyn Di Corci deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azamiincludes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com!
Email us a deck submission using this link here!
Like what you've seen? Feel free to explore more of Dear Azami here!Feel free to follow Sean on Facebook... sometimes there are extra surprises and bonus content to be found over on his Facebook Fan Page, as well as previews of the next week's column at the end of the week! Follow Cassidy on his Facebook page here or check out his Commander blog GeneralDamageControl.com!