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Around the Wheel: Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

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Sometimes really terrible things happen. My dad (who plays Commander too) had one of those things. He moved last year, and when he did, somewhere along the line, the box he carried with all his complete and regularly played decks... went missing. We still aren't sure what happened or where, and there was no one to blame, but the cards, all those carefully curated stacks of 100 cards, are gone for good.

He put a lot of time and energy into those decks. One of his favorites was a slightly modified version of the Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire deck we did a while back; he played it often, and it did good work, making for fun games and lots of explosive wins.

However, it's been nearly two years since that article, so I thought it'd be fun to look at how to build that deck now, after several new sets and cards. Let's start with the original deck.

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

Vaevictis, the Dire | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper


That's his slightly modified version. It's worth noting he's a bit Spikier than I am, so he leaned into the power of the deck a bit, but that's okay. The original deck probably should have Rune-Scarred Demon and Scroll Rack (if you've got one).

As a quick refresher, let's talk through the idea behind the deck.

The idea is to ramp up to Vaev's (that's the nickname we settled on) six-mana casting cost as fast as possible, then start attacking immediately. We want to be hitting our opponents' boards before they get a chance to build up anything huge (if we're lucky, we're hitting their lands) and building up our board state. To that effect, we have zero non-permanents in the deck, so every card we flip when Vaev triggers will land on our battlefield.

The challenge (which some people mentioned) is in order to ramp to Vaev, we have to put in a bunch of ramp, but then we want Vaev's triggers to hit really nasty stuff that does great work. The balance in the first deck is 60 mana sources - 40 lands, 20 rocks/permanent-based ramp - and 40 cards which are really nasty for everyone else at the table. We're going to stick with that ratio; yes, it means 3/5 times you're going to flip over a mana source. Guess what? That's not bad, because we can use all that mana to actually cast the big spells we end up drawing. Besides, 2/5 times we're going to flip over something which will make the rest of the table groan, and there are ways to manipulate the top of your deck to improve your odds.

Arcane Signet
So we ramp to Vaev, attack quickly, and start flipping nasty stuff. (By the way, the God Hand is turn one Land, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone [or other 2-mana rock that makes g], Burgeoning, and three lands. Turn two, cast Vaev, turn three, attack (if you got Hanweir Battlements and drew the right land for turn two, you may even be able to give Vaev haste). Alternately, skip Burgeoning and play Urabrask on turn two, then Vaev on 3 with Haste. Shall we take a look at some of the things we could add to the deck?

Arcane Signet is a natural. I'd put it in over one of the three-mana rocks that doesn't tap for every color.

Dreamshaper Shaman could be interesting. Because the deck is designed to sacrifice its own mana rocks (plus make a fair number of tokens), there's plenty of sac fodder around, and this gives us another flip. Sometimes we'll get another rock, but because we bypass lands with this trigger we'll much more often get something great.

Garna, the Bloodflame might be a fun flip because it'll return what we just sacrificed - if we sacrificed a non-token creature. It helps to have a good amount of top-of-library manipulation to know it's coming, or just tutor it up and hard cast it. The fact it gives everyone haste isn't nothing, too. However, we try not to sacrifice nontoken creatures, so this may be less good.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury is possibly an interesting addition. There aren't any ways to flicker, but we do have some ways to recover cards from the 'yard, so we could get multiple triggers. Plus we make a lot of mana, so if we uncover something huge we can reliably cast it. It's a bit risky, but so is the deck, and it might be fun.

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King might be worth a slot. It's a flying threat that gets really big, and because we already sacrifice stuff a lot, it'll have plenty of opportunities to get huge. I personally think it makes a much better commander for another deck, because it doesn't really do anything else for us, but if a big threat is your thing, go for it.

Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, on the other hand, is almost certainly worth it, because our opponents are going to sac stuff all the time and it makes all our stuff bigger.

Etali, Primal Storm, would be awesome.

Nightmare Shepherd does some neat stuff. Lots of our creatures have great ETB and static/activated abilities, and this lets us sacrifice them without losing the ability. Of course, they can't be reanimated and if the token dies, it's gone forever, but it's probably worth considering.

Sifter Wurm is great, because Scry is so good for us. Remember when it enters the battlefield, unless you haven't attacked yet, you'll draw at least one card before you flip off Vaev, so stack accordingly.

Vicious Shadows and Warstorm Surge aren't new, but they could be worth a slot. I'd probably start without them, but if your playgroups and games are such that stuff is flitting on and off the battlefield all the time, including them would be great.

I mentioned Massacre Wurm in the previous article. Also not new, but probably should find a slot. It's so good, and it gives an additional answer to swarm decks.

Vivien, Monsters' Advocate is excellent. It makes tokens to sacrifice and digs to other creatures for us. Even the static ability helps us if we have a Sakura-Tribe Elder on top and don't want to flip it.

If I were looking to remove stuff, I think I'd consider Atarka, World Render and Lathliss, Dragon Queen. Both are great but are really there to pump Vaev; besides, the deck is leaning more into fun plays than just whacking for damage. Utvara Hellkite would be the last dragon I cut, because the tokens are huge and fly. Glissa, the Traitor helps us return our mana rocks, but hopefully we're getting enough lands it won't matter too much, so I'd probably get rid of her. (On the other hand, an early Deathtouching First-Striker can be very helpful in fending off attacks.) Titania, Protector of Argoth probably looks better on paper than she is; things have to have gone pretty far to want to sac our own lands, and it's just one token per turn. (That said, I wouldn't remove Ramunap Excavator and would consider Crucible of Worlds if I had one around.)

I'd probably cut Blade of Selves, but I'd replace it immediately with Helm of the Host, which is much better. Grave Betrayal is probably metagame-dependent; if your opponents have great creatures to steal, it's wonderful, but less so if tokens or enchantments abound.

Asceticism and Defense Grid are both strong cards, no doubt. We have no instant-speed interaction, so Defense Grid doesn't hurt us, and Asceticism will probably prevent some amount of Vaev deaths, as well as protect the rest of our awesome board state. That's great, and if it's your style, go for it. I think I'd remove them both for more fun; I'd certainly rather have Vivien than Asceticism. Even though it means I'll probably lose more, I think it'd be more fun to have the 'walker.

Rune-Scarred Demon and Planar Bridge are both very strong, as face-down tutors tend to be. I might keep those in an optionboard, but I don't think I'd go into a game blind with them.

Void Winnower is really strong, but not a lot of fun and would be a reasonable cut.

There's one more card we need to talk about:

Primal Surge

This card is bonkers in this deck. You play it, and you flip over the rest of your deck onto the battlefield. Assuming everything has haste, that will certainly win the game immediately. You'll want at least four total ways to give everything haste, which means adding three to the deck, since the only one in there already is Urabrask. Garna does it. You could consider Samut, Tyrant Smasher, Madrush Cyclops, or Fires of Yavimaya (note that Rhythm of the Wild is not a good choice, because if it comes down close to the end, most of the cards have already entered the battlefield and won't have Riot). Four should make mostly sure they won't all be gone when you cast Primal Surge.

That said, Primal Surge is a jerk of a card. It's fun for the person casting it, but not at all for the rest of the table, especially since you and they will know you're going to win. Literally no one is going to want to watch you go through 60 or 45 or even 20 cards, explain all the interactions, and describe how you're going to win. They're just going to scoop and ask you not to play the deck again. Especially if you run tutors, you'll be tempted to grab it and just win. A deck like this is fun because it's so varied, so keep that in mind. If you have great self-control and can run it but only play it when you know that a game is ready to end, great. I don't have that kind of self-control, so I'd just remove the option.

Thantis, the Warweaver would have probably been the deck I'd have built if I hadn't looked at Vaevictis again, but I'm glad to take this opportunity to look at a strong deck from a while back.

What would you add? How would you build this commander? Would you run Primal Surge? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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