It's spoiler season, and Theros is shaping up to be one of my most anticipated blocks ever. The new mechanics are great, and they've given me some fun ideas. When I saw Daxos of Meletis, I just had to build a deck around him. This deck has two main goals. First is obviously attempting to gain some control over his ability by controlling and knowing what is on top of my opponents' libraries. The second is sticking it to the Gods and showing them that they hold no power over me. It would be a pity if your green God suddenly had devotion to red and thus ceased to be . . . Color matters in this set, and being able to change colors can lead to some epic plays.
Brian, it's like you made this deck specifically for me. It's a rare commander (well, for another week, anyway), the build is designed to be very reactionary, and I'm not completely sure how it wins at this point. Have you been studying my lists?
In all seriousness, I'm glad to see this list was waiting in the Dear Azami inbox this past week. There's a reason Sean jumped at the chance to work on the Purphoros, God of the Forge deck last week, and that's because we absolutely love shiny new toys. We look at everything that comes down the pike, but I think our track records both show we tend to love getting off the beaten path to try some new and interesting angles out when we can.
The spice of life and all that.
(If you missed it last week, by the way, take some time to go back and read Sean's article. I'm so jealous he got the first crack at a Commander deck with a God at the helm, and he did a bang-up job!)
So anyway, I was really excited to see if someone else couldn't wait to take a crack at Theros and submit another commander from the upcoming set for me to work on, and I won't lie; Daxos of Meletis was kind of what I was hoping to see. The reason? Because it doesn't make much sense to me. What a weird mish-mash of abilities for a Human Soldier in this color combination. I was absolutely dying to see what someone would cook up to support this guy, and this submission doesn't disappoint.
Before we put the cart in front of the horse, let's take a closer look at this guy:
- Daxos is a 2/2 for three mana. A hearty "meh" on the stats, but he does have the "cheap date" thing in his favor. People want to be able to afford to recast their commander when it meets an untimely end somehow or another, and it's hard to pull that off if you're running Progenitus, for example.
- He can't be blocked by creatures with power three or greater. Okay . . . so it's "pick on someone roughly your own size?" To be fair, this is likely very relevant in Commander (what with all the giant creatures floating around), although the big hurdle here is going to be figuring out how Daxos survives after picking a fight with the supremely threatening (ahem) Eternal Witness.
When you're reasonably frightened of losing a fistfight to Academy Rector, you've got some issues.
- Assuming that all goes well and he makes contact with an actual person, there's a pseudo-mill thing happening. I guess that makes sense for a W/U Human, right? I mean, he looks like he's got the magical chops to make someone exile a card just by running into them. Makes perfect sense.
- And then there's life gain? That's a white ability at its keyworded roots and all, but again . . . huh? It's like some weird The Legend of Zelda thing happening, where he chops up a merfolk and a heart appears that refills his life meter. Makes perfect sense, clearly.
- And then the "pretend the mana doesn't matter and cast the card until the end of the turn" thing. Potentially strong, to be sure, and certainly more exciting than Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer (and far less irritating than Grand Arbiter Augustin IV), but still . . . this is a Human Soldier again, right? It seems like this guy was keyed up to be a Sphinx in the design process and someone in R&D literally assigned creature types by shooting darts blindfolded.
But hey . . . we're here to make this thing work, not try to figure it out philosophically. Let's see what's happening with the deck as a whole.
It looks like there are three or four main things happening here. In no particular order:
- Top of library matters. Use Daxos to profit off the deckbuilding acumen of others (or make them exile horrible things at minimum.)
- Life gain matters. Daxos does gain life, so there are some options to take advantage of that.
- Color changing? I'll admit that this made me scratch my head at first due to the ability of Daxos to ignore color requirements, but then I realized that not everyone is ridiculously slavish to their commander and there might be other cards in the deck that match him thematically and still care about color. Although I hadn't thought about messing with devotion of the new Gods . . . well played on that, sir.
- Artifacts subtheme? I'm still scratching my head here, but we'll come back to that.
So there's a whole boatload of things happening here, all crammed into 99 cards. This is likely why there doesn't really appear to be an actual win condition of any kind, although I suppose your commander helps to find one. Unless your opponents are all playing Thallids tribal, anyway.
(That does remind me: thanks for nothing, Wizards of the Coast, for actually delivering on a block with Minotaurs in it. People who haven't read my articles and are combing the archives will come across my repeated threats to make someone a Minotaurs tribal deck, and they'll be really confused since that's coming close to being an actual thing now.
Thanks for that, R&D. It's not like I was all that funny before now, but this really sucks the well dry. Now I need to hit the drawing board and come up with a new creature type to be my go-to "crappy tribal" threat.)
Anyway, Brian, I can fully appreciate where you're going with this. You're right in that this thing looks like it can be capable of some epic plays, and like I said in the beginning, I'm the absolute master of jamming cool stuff into a deck without a thought as to how it's going to put up any wins. I'm not particularly bothered by that. In fact, if I had to put a single concern on the direction of this deck, it would only be with the mana. (I'm always nervous to see 34 lands and a handful of mana rocks in this color combination. Also, because Daxos needs to cast the exiled cards before the end of turn, this deck needs to be better than stable; it has to be a big-mana deck.)
Let's just run with this thing and see what happens. Daxos speaks for himself, and your letter is pretty clear on seeing what can happen when you throw some off-the-wall things into the mix just for the sake of doing it. Who am I to mess with that formula? I'm in the mood to do something wacky just to see where it ends up as well, and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Let's make some pithy comments, change out some cards for some other cards, have a good time in the process, and see where we end up.
Sound good? Good.
Um . . . there needs to be more?
I'm actually pretty fine with what you have here, but you've gotta do better than 34. There needs to be a Command Tower in here at minimum and probably a few more basics to round out the number to a safer place.
My intuition is to pull something like Riptide Laboratory in favor of Rogue's Passage in order to allow you to make better use of Daxos; however, at the end of the day, that makes anything you want to exile and cast post-combat cost five mana extra, and I don't think that's going to make the budget in most cases. Something to think about.
No cuts here, so we'll revisit adding real estate later on.
The Mana Rocks
Again, bigger is better. Also, less fragile is better. And anything is better than what Ramos brings to the table.
Let's pull out Eye of Ramos and Tooth of Ramos and go back in with Worn Powerstone and Armillary Sphere. They both provide an effective two mana per card investment without getting tossed in the bin in the process, which seems better to me and fits the big-mana theme.
Thran Weaponry has to go because I sat here reading it, rereading it, refilling my coffee mug, and reading it again, and I still can't figure out why it's here. Is this thing any good? Why are we making everyone's creatures better, again?
This is now Command Tower. We're getting somewhere.
I'm looking at you, Isochron Scepter. Chop chop.
If we want good, reusable value in that slot, I would instead recommend Opposition. If we weren't about to see the release of an "enchantments matter" set, I'd make a blanket statement like, "Most people don't pack a ton of enchantment hate, so this is better than the Scepter." Since Theros will make me look really dumb on the heels of that kind of comment (live the dream—exile a god with Erase!), I'll say that Opposition will let you take advantage of your army of "oddball effects" guys to let you sneak Daxos through more often.
Since this is your bread and butter, I'll leave well enough alone. I would like to point out, though, that you're my hero for actually playing King Crab.
Again, I need to cut all the pointless . . . wait, what?
*reads Daxos again*
Man, I just don't get that ability on this dude. It's so weird. Seriously . . . I'm picturing some crazy Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome-esque setup in R&D, with Mark Rosewater in a feather boa and floor-length leather coat saying, "Bust a deal, face the wheel!" and whoever designed this card spinning a giant metal Wheel of Fortune and landing on "Whatever else the card does, it now also gains life. Have fun with that."
Sharding Sphinx. He's huge-ish. He brings friends when he deals combat damage to another player. Hey! Is that the connection you were going for? Because I don't get it otherwise.
(Put down the artifacts, Brian, and step away from the table.)
I must really hate artifacts here because against my better judgment, I'm also cutting Solemn Simulacrum. Too auto-include-y for my tastes in a deck as unique and cool as this one. However, I do understand the need for lands, so I'll slot one good-stuff card for a more logical one in Land Tax. Let's make use of all those basics (and add more, hopefully) to get off the ground in the early game and fuel the flagship of the deck, Glamerdye, in the late game.
*pause for a moment to allow 97% of reader base to go look up Glamerdye*
Back? Good. In another swap that supports the color-changing theme, I want to get rid of Trinket Mage. Since it isn't particularly interesting or effective in this deck at this point, let's pull it for Balduvian Shaman.
*pause for a moment to allow 99% of reader base to go look up Balduvian Shaman*
*pause another fifteen minutes to make a sandwich while 99% of those readers read and reread Balduvian Shaman to try to understand what the heck it actually does—see you shortly!*
As much as I sold the "ooh, shiny!" thing at the beginning, I'm going to have to cut out Gift of Immortality. For the record, I think this card is incredibly cool and supremely flavorful, and I think it will see a ton of Commander play. Here, however, it just doesn't really fit.
Trading enchantment for enchantment, I'm going to add Light of Day to give you some extra targets to throw those color-changing effects at. To be fair, this card is flat-out brutal as it is printed (since black has a heck of a time dealing with enchantments, mono-black decks want to see this about as much as Iona, Shield of Emeria), but it's a great fit for the deck and will let you get political like you read about.
Rayne, Academy Chancellor does exactly what in this deck? I feel like we're starting to slip into the Monty Python "Spanish Inquisition" sketch with the extra themes you're adding in here. ("No one expects Daxos of Meletis! Our chief weapon is changing colors of permanents and spells. Also, artifacts. Two chief weapons! Color changing, artifacts, and random auras . . . THREE CHIEF WEAPONS!!!")
Instead, I like Alter Reality. There's a reason that I prefer Dominate over Control Magic, and it's the fact that the effect can't be erased. With Alter Reality, there's also the two-for-one effect happening with flashback, so it's an increase in value overall. Value is good.
Rayne in this deck, not so much.
Stern Proctor doesn't seem to have anything in common with the rest of the deck. (I'm starting to see a "ton of random old cards" subtheme taking effect here.)
In honor of that subtheme, try Foreshadow on for size. It effectively reads "1U, instant: Mill your opponent and draw two cards." Also, this is a hoot for when someone wipes the board and that one guy annoying the table with Sensei's Divining Top tries to protect it by drawing a card with it. (You're welcome!)
To get another body in play and another way to keep tabs on your opponent's libraries, I'm going in with Aven Windreader. The bonus is that there are decks that seem threatening, decks that scare people into thinking they're threatening, and decks that play cards that convince people it isn't threatening whether it wants to or not. This is one of those cards.
Similarly, Words of Wind needs to go. This and Dissipation Field have the dubious distinction of giving your opponents their best enters-the-battlefield trigger over and over and over again. That's not where you want to go here.
Instead, I'm slotting Mindshrieker, which again seems pretty mundane—until Aven Windreader reveals a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth on someone's library. This is a single lethal swing with a decent chunk of mana available.
Walls (and Honorary Walls)
Cuts (in no particular order):
- Wall of Reverence = You're trying not to lose really hard, but that still doesn't equate to winning.
- Pariah = Needs a solid indestructible guy to be worthwhile.
Additions (in no particular order):
- Conundrum Sphinx. See what I mean? To poorly paraphrase Brodie in Mallrats, Daxos would've made a sexy sphinx. His abilities make way more sense when strapped to a winged lion with a human head. (That sounded much less weird in my head.)
Anyway, Conundrum Sphinx will give you an opportunity to complete the circle by making the cards on the top of your library matter. This is really like thematic draw for your deck attached to a flying beater.
- While we're right there, Magus of the Future makes it pretty easy for you figure out what to name with the Sphinx to net extra draw and allows you to draw past dead top cards with it as well in a pinch.
- Djinn of Wishes. This card completes the trifecta. Draw a card if you want, play it for free if you want, or save your abilities for a better card if you want. This is actually a pretty cool little set of interactions. A pretty cool fragile set of interactions to be fair, but still.
The Ghostly Flicker Section
Yeah . . . running short on naming convention inspiration here. It's late.
Ghostly Flicker is another nod to your . . . er . . . flicker subtheme, and I'd rather you continue to use these slots for stuff that works with your main themes. No . . . the other themes. Not that one . . . yep . . . nope . . . yes . . . no, the next one over . . . right next to that one . . . there! Those ones. (For the record, the theme of this theme deck is "themes." Also, head asplode.)
The final addition to gain a little bit more from your own top of deck is going to be Druidic Satchel. With the library manipulation and peek effects you've got on tap, this should be able to be exactly what you want it to be exactly when you need it.
Last But Not Least
Okay . . . maybe I don't like shiny and new. Glare of Heresy is on the chopping block simply because it requires you to jump through too many hoops to matter for too little an effect. Two cards for the sake of a single permanent seems like too much for the payoff, especially since you have other cards that cover you for the most part here.
As much as it pains me to do this, I'm cutting Glare to add a single basic Plains to round out the land count to an even 36. I'd like a land or two more in here somewhere, but I'll take what I can get.
Okay, Brian. Here's where we end up today:
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Aven Windreader
- 1 Balduvian Shaman
- 1 Conundrum Sphinx
- 1 Djinn of Wishes
- 1 Drogskol Reaver
- 1 Guiding Spirit
- 1 King Crab
- 1 Knacksaw Clique
- 1 Lightwielder Paladin
- 1 Magus of the Future
- 1 Master of Waves
- 1 Mindshrieker
- 1 Mother of Runes
- 1 Rootwater Mystic
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Blind Seer
- 1 Daxos of Meletis
- 1 Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
- 1 Hanna, Ship's Navigator
- 1 Lavinia of the Tenth
- 1 Thada Adel, Acquisitor
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Azorius Signet
- 1 Codex Shredder
- 1 Druidic Satchel
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Lantern of Insight
- 1 Ornate Kanzashi
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Thran Dynamo
- 1 Wand of Denial
- 1 Well of Lost Dreams
- 1 Worn Powerstone
- 1 Cradle of Vitality
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Light of Day
- 1 Mobilization
- 1 Opposition
- 1 Psychic Surgery
- 1 Soothsaying
- 1 Alter Reality
- 1 Azorius Charm
- 1 Condemn
- 1 Dawn Charm
- 1 Disempower
- 1 Foreshadow
- 1 Glamerdye
- 1 Hinder
- 1 Lapse of Certainty
- 1 Memory Lapse
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Predict
- 1 Spy Network
- 1 Submerge
- 1 Vanishment
- 1 Whim of Volrath
- 1 Whirlpool Whelm
- 1 Planar Cleansing
- 1 Tunnel Vision
- 1 Wave of Reckoning
All kidding aside here, I think you'll appreciate the all-in approach on your main themes here. We cut back a bit on some of the fringe effects in order to really reinforce and support the main themes of colors matter and top-of-library effects. The mana has been wicked up a bit in the process as well, which should help move things forward.
It remains true to the design concept and true to Daxos as a central inspiration and strategy, and I'd be remiss if I didn't reinforce the fact that you should be aggressively doing what you can to find something with his ability that you can use to win with. Again, though, I think this is okay. This deck is lined up to really interact with the board and do some cool and epic things, and I know that I build my decks to maximize that effect before I even start to consider giving it a way to win once in a while.
It's about $40 for the whole list of changes. You will receive a $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com for participating in today's edition of Dear Azami, so that should help out quite a bit.
Here's the card-by-card breakdown:
|Djinn of Wishes||$0.49|
|Light of Day||$0.49|
|Magus of the Future||$1.99|
Thanks again, Brian. I really hope you don't mind the slightly comedic tone of the article today; it's been a while since I've really had a good opportunity to stretch my literary wings like that. I really am excited about what Daxos brings to the Commander table, and I really enjoyed the direction you took with the deck. I hope you put it together and really have a ball playing it.
I'll see you all in two . . .
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