The formula. What started out as a deep exploration into the intricate workings of a mono-Blue Commander deck resulted in a dark passage. I crossed a line that was never meant to be crossed. Innocence faded to black.
21 Basic lands (Islands) + 8 Nonbasic lands
Most of my critics admonish me for my disdain for lofty land counts. I am a minimalist. Try to take this deck down. It is not happening.
21 Basic lands + 8 Nonbasic lands = 29 Total lands
I guess you can move to the next article if you are lost. You might be wise to move on in any case. Crossing over never bodes well, and you don’t really want to experience the darkness on the other side. Or do you?
29 Lands + 16 Artifacts + 1 Planeswalker + (1 Mono-Blue Legend + 19 Wizards + 4 Other creatures)
At this point, the formula is near complete. Twenty-four creatures. All Blue. There are nearly as many creatures as there are lands in this deck. Who does that? Can this really be the most dominant Commander deck of all time? Unlikely.
29 Lands + 16 Artifacts + 1 Planeswalker + 24 Creatures + (19 Instants + 9 Sorceries + 2 Enchantments)
It started out as a simple experiment. The mind wanders, and you chase the rabbit down the hole of “what-ifs,” but when you turn around, you are lost. I sleeved the cards up. I felt numb. There were a couple of versions scratched across spare pieces of paper. Lines crossed out the cards that did not make the cut. Even after I made it, new and impressive synergies were springing to life. I turned around. There was no trail that would lead me back to the place I started. I never meant to end up here. Where was I?
29 Lands + 16 Artifacts + 1 Planeswalker + 24 Creatures + 30 Blue spells = 100
This is the formula for the most broken Commander deck I have ever built, played, or seen played. It does not follow the conventional wisdom and demonstrates a certain amount of disdain for traditional gameplay. Riddled with synergy, unexpected threats, and dozens of ways to kill off your opponents. it has never lost a game.
Wait! Did you catch that last sentence? It has never . . . lost . . . a . . . game. In over three years of play in casual matches, multiple editions of league play, side events at Grand Prix events, multiplayer convention throw-downs, and one-on-one grudge matches, this deck has never dropped a game. Every deck loses, right? Wrong.
Slip into Darkness
Elder Dragon Highlander could not have been called a popular format in 2008. Don’t get me wrong. It was catching on, but the grassroots efforts and small clans of judges flipping hundred-card concoctions was nowhere near the thousands of players rocking Commander decks in 2011. Wizards of the Coast had not inducted the casual format into the comprehensive rules, there were no preconstructed Commander decks sitting on the shelves of the local brick-and-mortars, and no one I had ever met rocked Azami, Lady of Scrolls as a General.
A couple of local EDH players turned me onto building Highlander decks using a tribal theme. My wife crafted a mono- Cats build. My buddy ran a mono- Elves deck, and I wanted to give Wizards a shot. Many of my favorite creatures were Wizards. In fact, some of the best creatures of all time were Wizards. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Venser, Shaper Savant, Memnarch, and Magus of the Future flank other classics like Trinket Mage, Vendilion Clique, and Azami. There are old-school, counter-on-a-stick Wizards, Wizards with Flash, and Wizards that draw cards.
I was inexperienced with building decks for casual environments. By no means did I adopt my current “casual orientation.” For a number of years, I played card games very competitively and mostly played to win. Today, I could be characterized as a repentant Spike. Occasionally, I post or build Commander decks that are a little too competitive, busted, or un-fun, but typically correct those mistakes and moderate my builds. I grew to understand that Commander was a format that would allow for some very broken decks, but would not thrive if players only played those decks.
It was early in my EDH-slinging career, and I wanted to push the proverbial envelope. The tribal Wizards deck represents the moment I crossed the line and is the deck I most regret making or playing. However, I break it out to show people a nonexample from time to time, or simply play it to remind myself of the importance of adopting a casual orientation. In the last year, I have played the deck three times. We did a demonstration match. I played it during an eight-player casual match at 3:00 a.m., and rocked the Blue tribe once during a Wednesday-evening Commander event. Each game ended with my opponents in awe of the deck’s power, and a little annoyed at the capacity and resilience of the deck, and ultimately left me with a feeling of remorse. This is not the type of deck that is good for the format. We should not be building or piloting these decks. Maybe I should keep it a secret?
- 21 Island
- Seat of the Synod
- Lonely Sandbar
- Minamo, School at Water's Edge
- Darksteel Citadel
- Riptide Laboratory
- Academy Ruins
- Tolaria West
- Reliquary Tower
The deck originally played Tolarian Academy. I always feel that this sort of build is the primary reason that the Legendary land was banned. With sixteen nonland artifacts and the multiple artifact lands, the deck was generally able to pump out large amounts of mana very early in the game. I eventually cut the banned Academy for a simple basic land. While the loss of Tolarian Academy shut off one of the synergistic win conditions (Academy, Mind over Matter, Candelabra of Tawnos, etc.), it currently does not want for much. The incredible power was not stifled.
- Azami, Lady of Scrolls
- Venser, Shaper Savant
- Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- Magus of the Future
- Trinket Mage
- Glen Elendra Archmage
- Oboro Breezecaller
- Sigil Tracer
- Magus of the Bazaar
- Voidmage Prodigy
- Inspired Sprite
- Hapless Researcher
- Magus of the Jar
- Merrow Levitator
- Patron Wizard
- Ertai, Wizard Adept
- Vendilion Clique
The list is a couple of years old, and I try not to spend much time thinking about it. I don’t really suggest that anyone build this deck or play it, so it is hard to make updates. That said, there are likely some new Wizard recruits that might improve the list.
- Tidespout Tyrant (a win condition with infinite mana and infinite card-draw)
- Phantasmal Image (often a Wizard but sometimes another copy of a key Legend for removal)
- Palinchron (interacts with High Tide for infinite mana-creation)
- Etherium Sculptor (makes your Sensei’s Divining Top free to cast and sets up endless draw and high numbers of spells cast before you Storm)
Nearly every creature in the deck draws cards, disrupts opposing game plans, or interacts with a win condition. There are a ton of cards, but most Wizards become two-for-ones or better when Azami is on board. Once you start tapping a couple of Wizards, the deck blasts off.
The artifacts in the deck provide fast mana, increase the number of spells that can be cast each turn, and generally keep you way out in front of opposing players. Here is the list. Over time, I trimmed away my copy of Candelabra of Tawnos because it jumped from the $40 I initially invested to a high in early 2011 of $200. With the banning of Tolarian Academy, I simply substituted Mox Opal and stuck with a cheaper card that maintained the theme. Here are the deck driving artifacts:
- Lotus Petal
- Memory Jar
- Sapphire Medallion (Charlie Brown misprint!)
- Chrome Mox
- Grim Monolith
- Voltaic Key
- Mox Opal
- Sol Ring
- Coalition Relic
- Eye of Ramos
- Cloud Key
- Sensei’s Divining Top
- Mana Vault
- Helm of Awakening
- Vedalken Shackles
- Gauntlet of Power
Aside from the Wizards and key artifacts, the deck works around a number of tricky interactions. There are two enchantments in the deck. Mind over Matter can be used in conjunction with Azami to cycle through your deck for a specific card or set of cards. Future Sight and the Magus of the Future work with the Etherium Sculptor and Sensei’s Divining Top to provide free card-draw and the busted ability to move freely through your deck.
The deck wins by generating huge amounts of mana, drawing nearly all of the cards, and casting a very high number of spells in a single turn. You can typically use the Storm mechanic off Mind’s Desire and Brain Freeze to kill off the most threatening opponents. Sometimes you kick back every permanent owned by opponents to their hands and cast Windfall or Time Spiral, while other times you simply attack with twenty angry Wizards pumped by your Gauntlet of Power for a death by combat.
This deck is superior in providing fast mana, lots of counters and answers, and huge amounts of card advantage that bury your opponents in a sea of blue death. Check out the spells that finish off the list:
- Mind’s Desire
- Ideas Unbound
- Personal Tutor
- Mana Severance
- Time Spiral
- Merchant Scroll
- High Tide
- Brain Freeze
- Pact of Negation
- Time Stop
- Cryptic Command
- Long-Term Plans
- Force of Will
- Thirst for Knowledge
- Mindbreak Trap
- Frantic Search
- Mystical Tutor
- Stroke of Genius
There are a couple of other choices that might make the list. Jace, the Mind Sculptor could find a spot to supplement the work done by the deck’s singleton planeswalker, Tezzeret the Seeker. However, Tezzeret will help you assemble missing pieces of your combo and can turn your huge number of cheap artifacts into an army of deadly machines once you reach his ultimate ability.
This deck started out simply. I stole ideas from the old High Tide combo decks, the Tezzerator decks that were popular in the old, old Extended and Legacy environments, and borrowed from Storm combo decks.
This build is a study in Blue. It rocks some of the most iconic cards legal in this color and allows players to experience the power of (often the reason why) casual players hate it. A couple of years ago, we made a video outlining this deck in our Most Hated General series on YouTube. I never published the list, but thought it might be interesting for an article. My hope is that players understand that the deck will not be a solid choice for league play or for those getting into the format. Rather, you will play it once, win, feel bad, and never want to play it again.
The choice is yours. You can learn the lessons that I learned. This deck should not be built, can really make you a target, and represents the most broken, Spike-ish deck that I have ever made or played. On the other hand, you can build it and slip into the darkness.