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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 6: Azorius

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Credit where it’s due: As much as Jason Alt doesn’t want to be known as “The 75% Commander guy,” he’s responsible for bringing the 75% deck to a bunch of players. While this is not a 75% column, I definitely like the concept. One great thing about 75% deck-building is we are able to play with effects we like but keep it fair and fun for the table. Today, I want to use some 75% rules to take a commander who’s otherwise pretty broken and make him a lot more fun.

Brago, King Eternal

Brago can be quite the beast. I’ve played against him and just been miserable, unable to do anything as all my stuff was either destroyed or bounced each turn, until the player finally combod off. With white Wrath effects, blue artifact tutors, and amazing enters-the-battlefield abilities, Brago can take over a game and make it no fun for anyone.

75% deck-building teaches us, however, both that “you can skew toward power provided you skew away from consistency” and that “building around a theme will keep the power level from skewing too high.” So I vote we build Brago to lean into power—not consistency—and build around a theme. What theme? Well, Brago loves permanents. So how about a deck that’s one hundred percent permanents? (Well, it’ll be almost one hundred percent, but we’ll get to that.)

Terramorphic Expanse
With those guidelines in place, let’s look at mana.

Our $75 budget gets hit as we move into multicolored decks. My strategy will be to build the deck starting with the minimum number of mana-fixers necessary. If anything is left when the rest of the deck is built, it will go to additional lands. I’ll let you know what I added, so if you want to keep the budget lower, you can. Feel free to add other duals you happen to have around!

A quick aside: Lands are some of the best investments one can make as a Commander player. You don’t have to drop Jeffersons on the fetch lands from Khans of Tarkir or buy play sets of Return to Ravnica shock lands. However, it’s worth investing the couple of dollars it takes to acquire all common and uncommon lands from each set. Right now on CoolStuffInc, you can find four of each of the common dual lands for $10. An additional $5 will buy you one of each of the uncommon tri-lands. The help they give your Commander decks is huge, and these lands often just grow more expensive as time goes on. End aside.

More colors means fewer utility lands. Fixing often uses lands that enter the battlefield tapped, so avoiding other enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands starts to become worth it. Also, it’s often not worth the money to pick up cycling lands and the like—better to buy something that helps us fix. Some of our staples are Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, Transguild Promenade, and Rupture Spire because they go in every deck that makes more than a single color. Signets, Cluestones, and Keyrunes will help us with dual colors, and the allied colors have the additional Borderpost cycle. Tranquil Cove and its older brother Sejiri Refuge are great here, as is Azorius Guildgate. Glacial Fortress is a shoo-in. Watch out for pain lands though! Normally, the pain they cause isn’t worth it in a slow format like this. Rogue's Passage is great for helping Brago connect—something we really want to do—and Reliquary Tower is important when there are chances we can wind up with a lot of cards. We don’t want to discard if we can avoid it. Brago’s ability works well with Mycosynth Wellspring; every time we connect, we search for another land! And finally we have artifacts that create 2 mana: specifically, Sisay's Ring and Ur-Golem's Eye. We’ll cover their roles in a minute.

Wall of Omens
We always want to have as many cards in our hand as our opponents do, and the draw package in this deck is impressive considering there’s no Sphinx's Revelation or even Divination. Ichor Wellspring, Wall of Omens, and Thalakos Seer all draw a card when they enter or leave the battlefield, so Flicker them with Brago as much as you can. Several enchantments in the deck also cantrip when they come into play, so let them bounce around, too. Sky Hussar lets you use untapped creatures to draw. And Flight of Fancy and Mulldrifter each draw two for their trouble. Put one of those on the board, and you’ll have more cards than you know what to do with. Myojin of Seeing Winds is the big gun here. Often, you’ll draw as many as twenty off him and then reset him right away to be free to do it again.

The deck is rather light on threats. Like true control, what it’s really trying to do is not lose—winning is sort of an afterthought. There are some big dudes, sure, and you can probably lock up the game to the point that you can beat someone up with a Diluvian Primordial or whatever. A few good flyers round out the mix. It might be worth running something like Jace's Mindseeker, just to mill people out, but that leaves you open to Eldrazi lurking in people’s decks. However, Frost Titan is pretty scary no matter what, and anything with a Spectra Ward can be a serious threat. We do have both Myojin in here, which can do some real damage, too. Oh, and Medomai the Ageless will draw out a removal or Wrath really fast. A single hit with him, though, will often swing the game in your favor.

What it lacks in threats, though, it makes up for in answers, and there are some doozies. Nothing is better for creature control than Luminate Primordial, but a whole bunch of creatures that detain and super-tap (tap down and prevent untapping the following turn) will keep your opponents from attacking even if they keep their creatures. (Lavinia of the Tenth can be a real beating. I lost to her in a Brago shell just last night!) Phyrexian Ingester eats a dude every time it flickers. Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine can do some serious work, especially against a tokens opponent. We also have some great bounce with cards like Riftwing Cloudskate. Spine of Ish Sah is always good, but it’s a lot better when you can reuse it every turn. White destroys enchantments well, so there are plenty of creatures like War Priest of Thune and Nikko-Onna that will help you with troublesome Auras or, worse, crazy things such as Omniscience. Act of Authority normally requires willingness to share—but not here. Exclusion Ritual is Spine of Ish Sah number two, and Reality Acid is hilarious. Angel of Finality will get rid of everyone’s graveyards with just a couple attacks. Myojin of Cleansing Fire, Sunblast Angel, and Magus of the Disk serve as our Wrath effects.

Medomai the Ageless
It’s important to make sure our commander connects every turn, so we have a few ways to make a creature unblockable. Aqueous Form, Infiltrator's Magemark, Steel of the Godhead, and Unquestioned Authority all get him in. Writ of Passage can be cast, but even better is just to use its forecast ability each turn. Trailblazer's Boots and Whispersilk Cloak get him through, too. Deepchannel Mentor helps Brago and a bunch of other dudes. Fireshrieker grants double strike, which seems fun—it means two Flickers from Brago! Medomai the Ageless works really well with both of those cards—getting in means we’ll take that extra turn, and double strike gives us two additional turns to work with. Venser, the Sojourner helps with the theme, gives us another way to get Brago in, and pretty much locks up the game if he ultimates.

I like to break symmetry a little, so in all theme decks I build, I always have one—just one—card off-theme. I like it to be splashy and still related to the theme in some way, so in this case, we have Sudden Disappearance, which can do a pretty good Brago impression even if he’s been tucked or removed this turn.

Finally, we have Strionic Resonator. Because Brago’s is a triggered ability (we know because it uses one of the words when, whenever, or at), we can copy it with the Resonator—and most of our creatures have triggered abilities to copy. That means we can hit with Brago, activate the Resonator in response, and Flicker the Resonator with Brago. It will come back untapped, ready to copy the Flicker again . . . and again . . . and again . . . as long as we can make 2 mana for each iteration. That’s where our artifact mana comes in to play—if we have Strionic Resonator and any combination of artifact mana equal to 2, we can Flicker infinite times. We can return everything to your opponents’ hands. Worse, we can destroy all their permanents—or just get rid of all their creatures. Whatever you do, you’ll control the game, and everyone can either die a slow, painful death or shuffle up for a new one!

Brago, King Eternal ? Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Kederekt Leviathan was in the list till the end and might be more fun than Magus of the Disk. Evangel of Heliod and Captain of the Watch (as well as other token makers) could be very cool, as they can make quite an army. My editor, ever on the search for value, suggested Vessel of Endless Rest, which lets us return things from the ’yard. I decided not to care; using the graveyard skews more toward consistency, which we’re avoiding.

Boreal Shelf
With some of the extra cash, I added Boreal Shelf, Coastal Tower, and Skycloud Expanse.

With more money, I’d probably add Sol Ring instead of Ur-Golem's Eye. Duplicant and Solemn Simulacrum would both be amazing—Thassa, God of the Sea, too. Celestial Colonnade and Hall of the Bandit Lord are perfect lands here.

The new Commander (2014 Edition) decks came out today. We have to watch out for those playing white! Containment Priest really shuts us down. We have plenty of answers, but we’ll want to have one ready.

How do you all feel about building around a theme like this? Have you ever done it? Sound off in the comments!

Brago, King Eternal is fun, with a lot of killer interactions. You’ll definitely be interactive, and you’ll have a lot of chances to play politics as your opponents hope you go after someone else. Choose carefully!

Total cost: $74.52


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