Toil and Trouble

I listen.

Occasionally I’ll have a decent article idea and I’ll shelve it based on feedback from readers and that’s what happened this week. In the comments section of the article from last week, where I covered underplayed tribal cards that work well in 75% decks, a reader by the name of Steven Kestner hit me up with his take on Wizards tribal.

I would like to offer up my Azami deck for you to tweak. Now, before you eye roll and move to the next person, take a moment and look. It is not your typical Azami deck! “No Lab-Man?” “Who needs him!” “No infinite combos?” “No way!” “Well then”, you ask, “How does this Azami deck win?” The only way this deck wins is by the wizards putting down the books and picking up their brass knuckles!

This deck would serve as a good segway from today’s article on tribal, into a tribal deck that is pushed in a very different way than it is usually done.

I might talk about non-traditional ways to take tribal decks, but not because he told me to. I don’t hate suggestions, though, and since no one else hit me up this week, I’m going to do his thing because I think it’s interesting. We have explored doing off-label stuff before, like when we made a Nekusar deck Voltron, for example. Wizard beatdown sounds like it could be cool because you can increase their power and toughness with cards like Coat of Arms and use their Wizardy abilities to do things like counter spells and keep your hand full of gas. What kind of list are we looking at?


This looks like it has the capacity to beat people about, which makes me laugh when I picture some doddering old mage with a long white beard rolling up his sleeves and straight jaw-jacking a magical horse or something. If a bunch of learned, frail old octogenarians can throw down, why can’t other tribes get outside their comfort zone a little bit? Maybe when Commander 2017 comes out, I’ll buy all of those cards I made fun of people for buying like Waiting in the Weeds and I’ll make a Glare of Subdual prison deck with one of the cat commanders. Then again, maybe I won’t because that sounds terrible and 75% doesn’t mean terrible.

What can we glean from someone else who got bored with their linear Azami combo deck and instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, decided to build baby tribal beatdown instead? It may not win as consistently, but after the fourth or fifth time winning with Laboratory Maniac, winning will feel pretty empty and you may crave the sweet embrace of losing occasionally. It seems like Steven felt bored by his Azami deck the same way I feel bored by Kydele and Thrasios. Per the description on tappedout:

A fun twist on Azami. I have a typical Azami combo deck and as it turns out, it's too good. So I went a different route to have a fun option for my group and I. I put both decks in the same color sleeves and let a friend blindly choose which I play. There is no Laboratory Maniac or infinite combo that I can see in it. The only way to win with this version of Azami is through combat.

Phrases like “too good” tend to raise the hackles of the Competitive Commander Crowd (but they don’t read my articles) but I know what he means. “Too good” can cover anything from “too consistent” to “too difficult to interact with” to “actually oppressive” but can also just mean “too good for my playgroup, which is casual.” I’m sure a tryhard looking at my Kydele and Thrasios deck would laugh when I say it’s “too good”, but the way it plays out isn’t fun for me and others, so who’s to say what “too good” means in the context of Commander? If you’re stomping your friends every week, you can help them improve, you can stop playing your deck forever and play something less overpowered (with respect to the group), or you can go with a 75% build and trust your deck to scale to the table’s level.

He didn’t ask for it, but I’d still feel remiss if I didn’t try to add my own 75% touches to the deck. I’m sure it plays a lot “nicer” and being beaten to death with Wizards has to be a bit of a surprise, but if we want to make sure we built a 75% deck that we can bust out in stiffer competition, what would that deck look like? How would I make a Wizard beatdown deck with Azami at the helm?


Sower of Temptation
I left a lot of this deck alone, but I also screwed with it in ways I’m sure the creator didn’t intend. I took out some of the smaller creatures and swapped them for swipin’ effects. You can go all in on a Drifter il-Dal plan against a more casual deck (how good is a better Spindrift Drake in a beatdown deck? Throw some equipment on there and you got yourself a clock, baby!)

While I took out some of the more efficient creatures that didn’t have particularly relevant abilities, I added some ways to take some of their creatures. Depriving them of a blocker is important way to win and getting a beater out of it is a great deal. Mono-Blue decks should run Vedalken Shackles so I wanted to make sure this one did. While we’re at it, did you know that Sower of Temptation is a Wizard? Seems good to me. Throw in a Treachery to make sure your mana stays untapped (or to generate hella mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx which is my favorite thing to do with Frantic Search and Treachery) for counterspells and you have the makings of a 75% beatdown deck that’s pretty close to the original conception by OP. If I had started from scratch, I bet I would have come up with a deck pretty similar to where I ended up and I feel good about that. I think Steven was on the right track for sure.

The only controversial choice here is probably Paradox Engine, especially in a deck with Capsize. If that becomes a problem for you, cut Capsize, don’t cut Engine. It enables you to draw a lot of cards and get a lot of useful tap abilities out of your Wizards while still allowing you to attack and block. Beating with a 7/8 Vedalken Mastermind then bouncing a Venser to Remand their spell sounds amazing to me. Countering a spell with Patron Wizard’s ability and then untapping the crew to go stomping sounds amazing to me. Paradox Engine allows wizards to be their wizardy best. If you encounter a spell that makes this card a problem, cut that spell.

How did I do? Did I completely miss OP’s point? (I hope not!) Are you OP and you have comments about how I tuned your deck, something you didn’t ask me to do? You want me to take a look at your deck? Is this deck not 75% because we didn’t build from the ground up or is it fine because Steven followed our rules and came up with something that both works and doesn’t make people miserable. How do you even know he didn’t build it 75% from the ground up — he didn’t take apart his other Azami deck, he just made a new one. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like it when people comment something other than correcting me about a rule, and sometimes commenters end up immortalized in article form. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got this week. We’ll see you next week for hopefully some Commander 2017-related goodness. Until next time!


The Hour of Devastation is upon us! Gets singles and sealed at CoolStuffInc.com!

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