I've little experience with power, but I imagine being the tyrannical overlord of...well, anything is quite stressful. You'd think multiple eyes would help, but perceptiveness doesn't stop Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant and his kin from being anything less than neurotic. They hold great power, see themselves superior to mere mortal citizenry, but are obsessed with the notion of threats lurking in the shadows. It would take more than a punk with a knife to overthrow a beholder, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't try it. Right? Right!?
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant and his eyeball-laden brethren are mighty, but forever in fear of being knocked from their thrones. The more you have, the more you have to lose. Beholders are equal parts power and paranoia, rolled up in a big toothy grin.
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduces Magic to this lore-heavy tribe, one that's been plaguing Dungeons and Dragons players for decades. They've graced the covers of multiple adventure modules and have even appeared in feature film adaptations. Few other beasties are so iconic to classic DnD as Beholders. Perhaps Gelatinous Cubes come close, but they've nowhere near the degree of character.
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant is a wonderful adaptation of Beholder abilities and behaviors into a Magic card. His powers make him imposing, but he'd prefer his enemies to stab each other in the back. Rather than his. Karazikar will wade into battle, but only for the cause of swaying an enemy for blood and profit. His suite of abilities lend themselves to a favorite archetype of mine, one we've previously discussed in "The Dark Eloquence of Shadrix Sliverquill". I welcome back my old friend: Dark Politics!
And this time, things are gonna be a whole lot messier.
Kardur, Doomscourge by Chris Rahn
I'm sure this guy doesn't mind
Dark Politics is all about playing the table, convincing your opponents that it's in their best interests to go after each other. And that going after you is a very bad idea. You'll spend half your time incentivizing/rewarding them for attacking each other, the other half setting up defenses that make the prospect of attacking you tremendously unappealing (Rattlesnakes!). "Here, let me make your dragon bigger with this Bloodthirsty Blade. Just remember, I have this No Mercy, so your other creatures oughta steer clear."
Whereas our Orzhov take on Dark Politics was much like the guild, itself - scheming, nuanced, playing the long-game - when you apply a Rakdos flavor, all pretense is dropped. Black/Red Dark Politics wants enemy blood to start spilling fast and frequently, as it benefits most from constant and chaotic death. If the Orzhov approach to Dark Politics is Littlefinger, then Rakdos is Ramsey frickin' Bolton. Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant is less interested is subtle manipulations. Far more in forcing bloodshed, whether opponents want it or not. He also rewards this violence, motivating us to wield chaos like a club that twists the Commander table into a slugfest.
Let's start by breaking down our Commander:
1. Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant's initial ability incentivizes us to attack, as it not only provides a form of evasion via the tap effect, but ensures the tapped creature is goaded, setting up the second ability once our opponent's turn comes around. What's especially nice is how Karazikar, himself, need not be the attacker. As 5/5 for five mana, his stats are respectable enough, but any creature we swing with triggers the first ability. The ability will also trigger for each opponent attacked in a single combat. To make this work, we'll want to run a solid supply of creatures, especially ones that further reward attacking like Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor and Vengeful Ancestor.
2. Karazikar's second ability can be a mighty engine. One that can keep our hand full of threats and answers, if supported. The goad triggers we gain from our own attacks are a start, but Dark Politics loves to let its enemies do the dirty work. Why risk our team when we can provoke opponents into attacking each other? We'll get the card draw either way, and by the time life totals are low enough from our foes bloodying each other up, we'll have an army ready to move in a finish them off. With opponents also drawing cards off this ability, they're already incentivized to go after each other. We'll simply nudge them further (Agitator Ant, Frontier Warmonger, Assault Suit, etc) or simply force them to (Shiny Impetus, Goblin Diplomats, Kardur, Doomscourge, etc.).
3. Our opponents are unlikely to be pleased by Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant's blatant warmongering, so we'll want tools that discourage them from coming after our head. Cards like Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, Mindslicer, and Dread are here to make our foes think twice about where they want to send their armies. That is, if they even have control of them to begin with.
4. It's funny, because Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant can allow opponents to draw cards, they may actually not want to kill our general, giving him a unique form of sometimes-protection.
In review: We've a general whose abilities complement each other, but are at their best when supported by our own attackers, manipulation of others into attacking, or both. Let's face it: We're playing Black/Red. It's likely going to be both, with creatures dying left and right. Through our brute-force persuasive tactics, the aim is to have far more of their creatures bite the dirt than ours.
Let's dive in and check out the cards!
Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant | Commander | Matthew Lotti
- Commander (1)
- 1 Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant
- Creatures (21)
- 1 Agitator Ant
- 1 Avatar of Slaughter
- 1 Azra Oddsmaker
- 1 Blood Artist
- 1 Brash Taunter
- 1 Dread
- 1 Emberwilde Captain
- 1 Frontier Warmonger
- 1 Fumiko the Lowblood
- 1 Geode Rager
- 1 Goblin Diplomats
- 1 Goblin Spymaster
- 1 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- 1 Kardur, Doomscourge
- 1 Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
- 1 Keen Duelist
- 1 Master of Cruelties
- 1 Mindslicer
- 1 Urabrask the Hidden
- 1 Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor
- 1 Vengeful Ancestor
- Instants (7)
- 1 Blood Frenzy
- 1 Chaos Warp
- 1 Deadly Rollick
- 1 Kolaghan's Command
- 1 Malakir Rebirth
- 1 Rakdos Charm
- 1 Terminate
- Sorceries (5)
- 1 Agadeem's Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt
- 1 Disrupt Decorum
- 1 Scheming Symmetry
- 1 Toxic Deluge
- 1 Void
- Enchantments (11)
- 1 Awaken the Sky Tyrant
- 1 Cunning Rhetoric
- 1 Custody Battle
- 1 Hissing Miasma
- 1 Marchesa's Decree
- 1 No Mercy
- 1 Parasitic Impetus
- 1 Revenge of Ravens
- 1 Rite of the Raging Storm
- 1 Shiny Impetus
- 1 War's Toll
- Artifacts (18)
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Assault Suit
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Bloodthirsty Blade
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Cosmos Elixir
- 1 Crawlspace
- 1 Cursed Mirror
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Rakdos Signet
- 1 Ruby Medallion
- 1 Shadowspear
- 1 Talisman of Indulgence
- 1 Vorpal Sword
- 1 Whip of Erebos
- 1 Worn Powerstone
With a more actively-offensive game plan than a typical Dark Politics deck, Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant requires a balance of attackers, elements that encourage infighting amongst our enemies, and tools that take any bulls-eye off our head. Two parts offense, one part defense. A potentially tricky blend, but one that's guaranteed to make for an entertaining game.
Some folks are out to win. Others just want to watch the world burn. Either way, it'll be a fun ride.
Someone to watch your back (and stab theirs): The first batch of creatures are those that want to attack as often as possible, both for getting damage in and handing out goad via Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant. These include Vengeful Ancestor, Frontier Warmonger, Urabrask the Hidden, Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, Azra Oddsmaker, and Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor. Varchild is especially interesting, as she rewards any player she damages with attackers of their own, further fueling Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant card draw.
Next up, a series of not-so-secret agents whose mission is to incite violence wherever they go. Such dastardly figures include Goblin Spymaster, Goblin Diplomats, Kardur, Doomscourge, Geode Rager, Agitator Ants, Fumiko the Lowblood, and the mighty Avatar of Slaughter. The lifegain provided by Kardur, Doomscourge (and Blood Artist) is quite pivotal, as it'll help offset the life loss from Karazikar's second ability. With these creatures keeping your opponents' forces tapped out, they'll often be able to get in for attack damage, themselves. The scaling Bushido of Fumiko the Lowblood can also make her a gigantic blocker for defensive situations. Speaking of which...
Our final crop of creatures are mainly defensive, looking to punish opponents for attacking us. They're our rattlesnakes, our "don't mess with me" cards. Dread is a perfect example, able to kill most attackers on its own, and obliterating anything else that gets through. Most opponents won't even try an attack with Dread by your side. Similarly, Mindslicer threatens to devour everyone's hand if it dies it combat, so opponents are highly unlikely to tangle with it, and by extension you. This has the added bonus of making Mindslicer pseudo-unblockable in some circumstances, so it can often attack unhindered if defense isn't needed. Other rattlesnakes include Kazuul, Tyrant of Cliffs, Brash Taunter, and Emberwilde Captain. With enough control of combat, maintaining the Monarch off of Emberwilde Captain shouldn't be difficult. Heck, even if you lose it, you've enough combat manipulation to ensure its recapture.
Finally, with opposing forces often being tapped, Master of Cruelties gets a good chance to walk in a score a head-shot.
Burn, baby, Burn!: Outside of creatures, plenty of other spells support the blood-hungry theme. On the offensive side, we've Disrupt Decorum, Parasitic Impetus, Shiny Impetus, War's Toll and Bloodthirsty Blade to keep the combat party going. These outright force attacking, while tools such as Rite of the Raging Storm, Assault Suit, and Custody Battle encourage your opponents to kill each other via gifting them even more weapons.
Disrupt Decorum by Sidharth Chaturvedi
Helping keep our head off the chopping block, deterrents No Mercy, Awaken the Sky Tyrant, Cunning Rhetoric, Hissing Miasma, Revenge of Ravens, and Marchesa's Decree punish any who would dare attack us. Crawlspace may not hurt opponents, but it makes attacking us more difficult in general, especially when it comes to token builds. Lastly, a simple Basilisk Collar makes any creature into a lethal blocker, while providing even more life gain to mitigate Karazikar's drawback.
While we're on the topic of life gain, Whip of Erebos is also brought aboard to buffer our life total and return the occasional beastie for one final attack.
Supporting Spells: Rakdos just wouldn't be Rakdos with a healthy degree of removal, and seeing as a dead creature is (often) not a threat, removal can be just as defensive as the deterrents discussed above. Deadly Rollick, Terminate, Kolaghan's Command, Chaos Warp, and Rakdos Charm provide spot removal, with Shadowspear assisting to remove pesky and Hexproof and Indestructible impediments. Blood Frenzy makes for a unique removal spell, as it'll immediately boost an attacker (ideally aimed at an opponent), then kill it after damage. If you want an enemy creature to hit someone hard, but feel it's too dangerous to keep on the table for long, Blood Frenzy gives you the best of both worlds. Mass removal comes in the form of the classic Toxic Deluge and customizable Void, which can act as spot removal if you need it to.
Rounding out supporting players are the politically-tricky Scheming Symmetry for tutoring, Cosmos Elixir for card advantage or life gain, Malakir Rebirth and Agadeem's Awakening as protective/recursive elements that can be played as lands in a pinch, and the flavorful Fevered Suspicion, which captures the Beholder-feel of being chaotic, paranoid, unpredictable, and powerful. Much like Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant, himself. A fun late play that could easily run away with the game, depending on the reveals. Feelin' lucky for an Expropriate?
Mana Support and Rocks: Ramp is pivotal, if unexciting, and composed of classic mana rocks Arcane Signet, Worn Powerstone, Everflowing Chalice, Rakdos Signet, etc. One interesting new additional from Strixhaven is Cursed Mirror, a rock which actually attacks the turn it comes into play. How thematically perfect. Even our rocks are bloodthirsty!
This extends to our lands, too. With Karazikar rewarding us for attacking, man-lands like Den of the Bugbear and Hive of the Eye Tyrant are very relevant. Den of the Bugbear provides multiple attackers, with each able to go after a different opponent, triggering Karazikar twice per attack. And while the graveyard-hate of Hive of the Eye Tyrant is nowhere near that of Bojuka Bog (don't worry, it's here too), it's a nice bonus to stack atop a land that can already animate into an attacker.
Blood Frenzy by Paolo Parente
Budget Options:Magic the Gathering can be expensive, so here are some substitutes for players who'd rather not break the bank on cardboard. All cards over $20 will be noted and recommended for swap-outs. Heck, if any of the cards below seem interesting to you, give them a roll in the main deck whether you've a budget in mind or not. Creativity is a oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander. One of the aspects that makes it special. Mix and match card choices to your heart's content!
Our pricier creatures are powerful, but made expensive by their limited availability. Grenzo, Havoc Raiser only has one printing in a specialty set (Conspiracy: Take the Crown) and Mindslicer hasn't had a reprint since 9th Edition. Fortunately, Black and Red have a variety of attack-happy budget options like Frenzied Saddlebrute, Relic Robber, and Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire. Additional Monarch creatures such as Custodi Lich, Thorn of the Black Rose, and Skyline Despot all work well alongside Emberwilde Captain and the deck's attacking theme.
No surprises seeing No Mercy on this list, as it's a powerful enchantment that's only had one very old printing in Urza's Legacy. Yes, it was included in the Amonkhet Masterpiece series, but supplies of those aren't exactly copious. The popularity of Toxic Deluge meant its price tag didn't surprise me, but I was shocked to see Shadowspear climb past the twenty-dollar mark, as packs of Theros Beyond Death are still common at most local game stores. The upcoming Standard rotation may drop the price a little, but if Shadowspear has already cemented its place in Commander, I wouldn't expect a large decrease.
For substitutes, Rakdos offers plenty of combat-chaos in the form of Grand Melee, Bedlam, and Keldon Twilight. If you're going with the Monarch creatures discussed above, Court of Ire and Court of Ambition make nice companion pieces. And though it's unpredictable, Last One Standing does provide a board wipe for only 3-mana.
The mana is always the killer, isn't it?
With Modern Horizons 2 reprinting the enemy fetch lands, it makes the possibility of an allied fetch land reprint seem much brighter in the future. In the meantime, ample budget Black/Red lands like Shadowblood Ridge, Dragonskull Summit, and Foreboding Ruins make fine substitutions. Alternatively, you could shoot for utility lands (Arch of Orazca, Ghost Quarter) and/or additional man-lands (Lavaclaw Reaches, Crawling Barrens).
Beholders may be a paranoid lot, but even on a budget, they have a ton of powerful, flexible options to work with. I'd hate to fall under their murderous gaze.
I hope you've enjoyed reading today's roadmap to warfare and ruin. With Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant at the helm, your deck is sure to watch the world burn. Just don't forget to sift for gold among the ashes. After all, what's all the bloodshed and paranoia for if not to revel in the spoils of victory? Even if you don't come out on top, the sheer spectacle oughta be enough to make a super villain proud. After all, you're pouring chaotic hot sauce atop Dark Politics. How could there not be fireworks?
Thanks for reading, and may all your dark schemes come to fruition!