You can't go home again.
Thomas Wolfe coined that phrase with his novel of the same name. It was published in 1940 posthumously so it turns out he was actually more correct than he knew. Now I know that's a literal interpretation and not the figurative one that is accepted in modern culture and I mention this because I'm currently living the split definition.
On the one hand I witnessed some serious things go down in the Commander events at Gen Con '12 that made me reexamine my outlook on the format.
On the other hand I was on my return flight from Indianapolis when my boss called and told me I was being shipped to a trade show as soon as I landed. As a result I'm sitting in a casino bar right now and my wife is probably reporting me as a missing person. (Sorry honey! I'll make it up to you by winning big at the craps tables while I'm here. I just need to borrow a little from the mortgage payment...)
Anyway back to Gen Con. This year was an absolute blast. I broke from the mold a bit diving heavily into M13 Draft and Two-Headed Giant and really enjoying both. In fact the highlight of the trip was my travelling companion Patrick and I beating two members of the Italian Magic World Cup team in the finals of a 2HG draft on the back of an incredibly well timed Mindclaw Shaman for the Public Execution they had just Tutored up the prior turn. Turns out I'm not so bad at this game after all! (Technically Patrick made the play. Turns out I'm still a bad player but an excellent judge of character.)
I'm not going to go into the details of the Commander Constructed events that occurred each night; there has been quite a bit of that over on my blog and there's more to come still. Suffice it to say that the large prize payouts brought out a metagame rife with hard resilient combo decks. I could say more than that but this is "Dear Azami" so we're here to work on a deck. Let's get to it!
This is Tyler. (He's the one on the bottom holding Vaevictis Asmadi in case there's any confusion). My illustrious editor Lauren suggested that I should do a live "Dear Azami" at Gen Con where I'd find a person with a deck that I could work on at the site and write up the results to publish here once I got home. (Or to a casino as it turns out.)
Full disclosure: over the course of the weekend I took names and decklists and on Sunday I collected a group of the submitters and asked them to vote for a deck (that wasn't their own) to feature in the article. Tyler was the winner by a several votes. I mention this for two reasons. One is that I asked him to submit his deck personally because it was a breath of fresh air among the archetypical combo that we were facing in the events and the other is because Tyler is one of the people I travelled to Gen Con with. To keep things on the up-and-up Tyler told me that he would be happy to forego the usual $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com that "Dear Azami" usually imparts.
As you probably now know Tyler submitted a deck featuring Vaevictis Asmadi as his general. The reason that I asked him to submit his deck was again two-fold. First it was a unique and interesting deck one of the few in the Commander events to try to win with cards not named Kiki Jiki Mirror-Breaker Pestermite Palinchron Stroke of Genius Hermit Druid Mikaeus the Unhallowed and Triskelion.
Second he came in dead last in the Thursday Night event with this thing. I felt like it could use a little love!
Here's the initial list:
Commander: Vaevictis Asmadi
6x Snow-Covered Mountain
Graveyard Hate (1)
Land Tutors (3)
Spot Removal (2)
Extra Land Drops (4)
Sacrifice Outlet (1)
Mass Removal (4)
Damage Prevention (4)
What It Does
Tyler took inspiration from the Legacy format in his attempt to make a land-centric control list. It attempts to keep creatures at bay with cards like Constant Mists and Sunstone while dealing damage with Underworld Dreams and Spiteful Visions coupled with symmetrical draw.
I asked Tyler a few questions to get a better feel for what I was seeing.
What is the main strength of this deck?
"It does a great job of shutting down creature strategies."
What is the main weakness?
"Apparently that dude in the last round with the Hermit Druid combo deck. It also loves to lose to its own Spiteful Visions. There are issues with alternate win conditions like Stroke of Genius. It doesn't particularly have a real win condition."
That's a problem. What's the best card in the deck?
"Life from the Loam makes the entire deck work. Actually to answer your last question again the deck is cold to graveyard hate too."
If you keep coming up with more problems I'm picking another deck to work on. What's the worst card in the deck?
"Sorry. Maybe Squandered Resources? It's only there to give me a sacrifice outlet for lands."
Great. Lastly you've got some serious cards in the deck...nice Tabernacle by the way. What's your dollar threshold for replacements?
"This deck is a pet project of mine and I'm not afraid to spend some money in the long run to make it work. I play Legacy so I'm not afraid to spend a bit or trade for cards for the formats I love. I'd rather you didn't suggest Imperial Seal but I'm good with anything below that."
Great! You're buying dinner then...
This deck is going to go in an interesting direction. In honor of the Gen Con Commander experience I'm going to go in a slightly more competitive direction than I usually do here. I'll aim to make the deck a bit more resilient to the multitude of problems that Tyler identified while also trying to give it a bit more of an edge in the win-con department. Things may be taking a slightly harder edge than normal but after some of the things I witnessed in those events I'm feeling like this will be a refreshing direction for once.
I guess you can't go home after all...
OUT - All of the creatures!
Currently this deck runs four non-commander creatures. Granted they're strong creatures that interact well with lands but since this is a creature control deck I can gain value by removing the creatures in order to punish creature strategies in a stronger fashion. I'm also a fan of taking a design constraint and applying it all the way to the end so while it would be easy to leave Avenger of Zendikar and jam in staples like Primeval Titan it would ultimately end in an uninteresting place. I think it's possible to examine some new design space and still make the deck better in the process.
Thought for the day: "optimized" doesn't always mean what you think it does.
This is the start of giving the deck a sharper edge. (Don't worry—there'll be more where this came from.)
Rude Awakening gives the deck a really strong finisher that retains the 'lands matter' theme. With Exploration Gaea's Touch Rites of Flourishing and Burgeoning in the deck this thing has the ability to really accelerate into a serious army of 2/2 beaters. Quandary starts adding meaningful tax to all spells for your opponents while Shadows is a solid (if slightly not fun) way to make opponents suffer for their creatures.
And Fault Line...it ruins the board and acts as a win condition at instant speed. Let's face it: this is a deck with a land theme. It completely fits the bill.
This list is currently one card short so I'll use that slot. While this deck wants a way to sacrifice its lands to maximize Crucible and Life from the Loam Squandered is out for a better sacrifice outlet for lands. Worm Harvest differs slightly for Rude Awakening in that the creatures that hit the board are little and don't have haste and the card itself screams for opponents to play graveyard hate. The Worms stick around permanently which in this deck may also be a liability (Hello a second time Tabernacle!) and does break theme.
Orb gives the deck the sacrifice outlet that it really wants which is the one that helps offset the pain from Spiteful Visions. Following along that theme Polluted Bonds is a great way to add to the group of painful enchantments while helping to offset damage as well; it stays true to theme and I'm always happy to see the green ramp players being punished.
Finally Exquisite Blood offers a super strong way to tie it all together gaining reasonable life from all of the enchantments that are dealing incremental damage to opponents each turn.
Deed is wonderful in many places but a deck that leverages tons of enchantments and artifacts is not one of them.
Dregs on the other hand is a card that I have such a problem with. It seems like it could be another way to gain the Decree of Pain effect for value but in practice it never seems to be worth the actual investment and always ends up sitting in my hand. It's gotta go...for more pain and suffering!
More creature punishment. This is the main card I had in mind when I pulled the creatures out; it's an unbelievable answer to so many things from standard retail drops to Avenger of Zendikar and Kiki Jiki/Pestermite combo.
Torpor Orb is simply amazing. By now Commander players are trained to look for ways to get value from their creatures which means that most of us are looking to cram in as many "enters the battlefield" effects as we can find. This deck is the home for Orb if ever there was one. From shutting off Eternal Witness to stopping Terastodon from killing your relevant enchantments Orb will be a huge role-player here.
OUT - Skullcage
While I have to cut any of our symmetrical damage dealers this deck loves to make opponents draw cards which will often make this card irrelevant when facing down full hands.
IN - Runeflare Trap
I've had a love for Storm Seeker since the day I pulled one from a Legends pack. I've mentioned it before but there's nothing quite like watching the look on your opponent's face when you say "Ancestral Recall targeting you?" Runeflare in this deck is likely always going to cost one mana to cast and that's a great bargain for the effect.
Temple doesn't really seem to interact with anything useful other than Maze of Ith which is kind of narrow. The dredge effect on Salvage just isn't impressive enough to matter and Castle makes a creature that's just not very relevant and gets in the way of our creature hate suite. Also there are currently 49 slots devoted to lands; trimming three should not hurt at all (and the cards going in will hurt a lot.)
Instead of a land that makes a 3/4 flyer we pick up a spell that kills it off along with all of your (hopefully by now) depleted opponents again at instant speed. Lavalanche is another damage spell along the same lines that can be an answer to a creature strategy or a win condition and this deck can stand to have some extra depth in that category. Lavalanche is the card that Bonfire of the Damned wishes it was!
Shred Memory gives the deck a little more graveyard hate but it also transmutes for incredibly important components like Constant Mists Torpor Orb Regrowth Fault Line and most importantly Life from the Loam.
Finally there's one more change I want to make. It's not something we do here at "Dear Azami" very frequently (in fact I think Sean has done it only once to date) and I'm usually very loathe to go here but in this case I happen to know that Tyler is in no way tied to the card I'm about to cut.
OUT - Vaevictis Asmadi
In all honesty the commander of this deck isn't very critical to the strategy. While I appreciate the inclusion of a creature that ages back eighteen years or so the extra creature hate that I've added in will really serve to encourage you to never play Vaevictis rather than rarely play him. In his place I'm slotting the only legendary Jund creature with native haste and the big body can serve as a decent finisher after your deck clears the path of any potential blockers left even if your board is going to kill it off before it untaps again. The ability to steal any other Dragons on the battlefield might actually be relevant with all those Kaalia of the Vast decks running around these days too.
Putting It All Together
Here' the updated list:
- 6 Snow-Covered Forest
- 6 Snow-Covered Mountain
- 4 Snow-Covered Swamp
- 1 Badlands
- 1 Barbarian Ring
- 1 Barren Moor
- 1 Bayou
- 1 Blasted Landscape
- 1 Bloodstained Mire
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Buried Ruin
- 1 Forgotten Cave
- 1 Glacial Chasm
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Mystifying Maze
- 1 Petrified Field
- 1 Polluted Mire
- 1 Slippery Karst
- 1 Smoldering Crater
- 1 Strip Mine
- 1 Taiga
- 1 Terrain Generator
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Verdant Catacombs
- 1 Vesuva
- 1 Wasteland
- 1 Kher Keep
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
- 1 Highland Weald
- 1 Mouth of Ronom
- 1 Scrying Sheets
- 1 Crucible of Worlds
- 1 Ebony Owl Netsuke
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Font of Mythos
- 1 Forcefield
- 1 Horn of Greed
- 1 Howling Mine
- 1 Iron Maiden
- 1 Seer's Sundial
- 1 Sunstone
- 1 Temple Bell
- 1 Torpor Orb
- 1 Zuran Orb
- 1 Abundance
- 1 Burgeoning
- 1 Exploration
- 1 Exquisite Blood
- 1 Gaea's Touch
- 1 Glacial Crevasses
- 1 Necrogenesis
- 1 Painful Quandary
- 1 Polluted Bonds
- 1 Rites of Flourishing
- 1 Seismic Assault
- 1 Spiteful Visions
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Tainted Aether
- 1 Underworld Dreams
- 1 Vicious Shadows
- 1 Wound Reflection
- 1 Constant Mists
- 1 Crop Rotation
- 1 Fault Line
- 1 Runeflare Trap
- 1 Shred Memory
- 1 Squall Line
- 1 Beacon of Unrest
- 1 Beseech the Queen
- 1 Creeping Renaissance
- 1 Damnation
- 1 Decree of Pain
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Gamble
- 1 Lavalanche
- 1 Life from the Loam
- 1 Maelstrom Pulse
- 1 Reap and Sow
- 1 Reforge the Soul
- 1 Regrowth
- 1 Rude Awakening
- 1 Violent Ultimatum
- 1 Wheel of Fortune
- 1 Land's Edge
Let's be brutally honest here—this deck isn't going to stand up to any of the dedicated combo decks that we witnessed at Gen Con. That said the changes here have fixed some of the glaring holes that were identified and it tightens the list up in a way that breaks from the norm. This is a land control list and what I've done is to work to make it stronger at what it wants to do anyway which is punish creature strategies long enough to leverage the myriad of symmetrical damage dealers it packs.
Furthermore while it plays out slightly like a prison deck it doesn't do so in a way that prevents your opponents from playing the game such as mana or hand denial. On the contrary it feeds more and more cards to them slowly killing them off as they work in vain to find a way to sneak in their creatures for lethal damage.
It's interesting and off the wall which is something I can appreciate. And it turns out that it's not quite as un-fun as I was expecting.
I guess I can go home after all.
Well after the trade show anyway. Assuming I haven't blown the mortgage money at the gaming tables...
Here's the price list on the replacements:
|Karrthus Tyrant of Jund||$6.99|
Before I go I'd just like to say that it was a blast doing this article live at Gen Con. Thanks to everyone who came out gave me some potential lists and stuck around through the process to help with card suggestions. It was great to meet you all and so much fun to do this process in front of a live audience. I hope I can repeat the process next year!
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 Sean's Talrand Sky Summoner deck or Adib's Ith High Arcanist deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to 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 in the article archives!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!