Egyptian Recruits Crossing the Desert by Jean-Leon Gerome (1857).
Jace, Architect of Thought by Igor Kieryluk.
Today, I’m going to walk you through how I would build a deck around the new Azorius () legendary creature from Rivals of Ixalan. Readers, meet Azor, the Lawbringer.
At first glance you might think Azor is just Sphinx's Revelation on a stick.
Azor is a 6/6 for with flying, so he can be turned into a legitimate threat to kill an opponent by commander damage. When he enters the battlefield, your opponents can’t cast instants or sorceries on their next turn. That’s not nothing, and while you could build around flickering him to keep your opponents off of their instants and sorceries, I don’t think it’s our optimal game plan.
Azor’s last ability is where we’re going to try to break this card wide open. When Azor attacks, you may pay to gain X life and draw X cards. Gaining life is all well and good, but drawing cards is where it’s at in Commander.
The Game Plan
We’re in Azorious colors. While our options are somewhat limited, we should be able to build a winning deck. We’re going to build this deck with a few different ways to win.
Our plan is to get Azor out as early as possible, make him unblockable and start drawing cards. Our opponents might think we’re trying to win with commander damage, but in reality we’ll be digging. What we’re digging for is how we’re going to try to win. If we pull the right cards, we might go for a commander damage win. Or, we might go for the tried-and-true Laboratory Maniac win. We might turn our card draw into direct damage; or, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to do something truly special.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 8x8 method of deckbuiding, it’s a process by which you create 8 slots of 8 cards with similar functionality. 8 x 8 = 64, so you add in your commander, 35 lands and you’ve got yourself a deck.
Today I’m building not with the 8x8 method, but with the deceptively similar 9x7 method. I’ll be creating 9 slots of 7 cards each. The reality is that these neat categories fall apart a little bit as we actually build the deck, but that’s OK. For now, just know that there’s a pattern to this process that helps me make sure I don’t shortchange anything important.
We’re in White and Blue, so we’ll need to ramp with artifacts; but, there are a few other options we can throw in that you might not be familiar with. We’ll definitely include Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Commander's Sphere, and Azorious Signet.
We’ll be drawing tons of cards if all goes as planned, so Thought Vessel will need to be included. Land Tax and Dreamscape Artist are a couple of good non-Green ramp options we can throw in as well. That makes for seven ramp cards.
If our plan is to attack with Azor, we’ll want to make sure he survives combat. He flies, so we’ll usually have someone without blockers that fly or have reach; but, to be safe, we’ll want him to be unblockable. Years of building and retooling a Narset, Enlightened Master deck has given me a little experience with making a commander unblockable.
Steel of the Godhead and Aqueous Form are both great ways to get Azor through, and I’ll throw in Cloak of Mists and Invisibility to leave us with four auras. Trailblazer's Boots is a fairly reliable option, and I’ll throw in Whispersilk Cloak and Prowler's Helm so I have a few pieces of equipment that should stick around if I have to re-cast Azor.
If we’ll be making our commander unblockable, we’ll want to have the ability to go for kills with commander damage. Getting double-strike with Battle Mastery or Fireshrieker and adding extra damage from Eldrazi Conscription or Strata Scythe should get us to the point where we can one-shot anyone.
If we add in Medomai the Ageless and can trigger extra turns, we should be able to start racking up the kills. Azor is lacking hexproof; but, with enough card draw, we should be able to have answers when we need them.
You might notice this isn’t seven cards. If you really want to win with commander damage, Azor probably isn’t your first pick for a commander. I definitely want this as an option if, for some reason, our other options aren’t showing up. You can put a few more equipment an auras in and pull out something else if you really like this style of play.
Now that we’ve covered the most basic way of killing someone in Commander, let’s look at how we dig to that Lab Man win con.
If we want to be able to draw our whole deck, we’ll need to be able to generate as much mana as we can. Our first option is going to be the tried-and-true Deadeye Navigator combos.
We’ll throw Great Whale into the mix as well, and we may run some lands that tap for more than one mana so we can have lots of options. You pay , flicker your Palinchron, untap lands, tap them for mana, pay again, and continue the cycle until you have as much mana as you want. Most playgroups will just let you have “infinite” mana once you demonstrated a loop of the combo. This can be disrupted if they exile or kill Deadeye while the soulbond trigger is on the stack, but you’re in Blue so you should have counterspells available to protect it.
This is an important enough part of our plan that it’s worth running two infinite mana combos. If we can get Tidespout Tyrant out, we can generate infinite mana with a good enough mana rock and a 0-drop artifact.
With Tidespout Tyrant out, we tap Sol Ring (or Mana Crypt) for two mana. Then we play Spellbook (or Memnite) for 0 mana, bouncing Sol Ring to our hand. We then play Sol Ring for 1 mana, bouncing Spellbook to our hand, and continue the loop to create as much mana as we like.
The only remaining issue with the Tidespout Tyrant plan is that we need our infinite mana during our attack phase. We can get that with Deadeye, but you can only cast artifacts during your main phases. That means if we do our combo during our first main phase, we’ll lose all that mana when we move to combat. We need Vedalken Orrery or Leyline of Anticipation to allow us to pull this last one off.
It is also worth mentioning that if we can play Azor's Gateway and flip it, we’ll be able to make an enormous amount of mana, especially if we’ve been gaining life. If we’re going to be able to generate tons of mana, it’s worth running Blue Sun's Zenith so we can either mill someone out or draw our deck even if Azor isn’t available for some reason.
If we’re drawing our entire deck, our wincon might be as simple as playing Laboratory Maniac and sacrificing Commander's Sphere to force us to draw a card. It’s a little risky, but if we’ve got Grand Abolisher out or Conqueror's Flail attached to a creature, our opponents will be hard pressed to stop us. We should also have a few counterspells in our hand if we want to win this way.
I find Lab Man wins a tad anticlimactic, but the bottom line is that nobody likes losing. If you don’t like playing this wincon, by all means drop some of these cards and throw in a Loxodon Warhammer or some ways to give Azor hexproof. Hexproof voltron commanders are always a headache. Lab Man works, though, and anytime you’re playing a commander with an X draw ability it seems crazy not to throw him into the mix.
If we’re going to be able to draw an alarming number of cards, Psychosis Crawler is an auto-include and will be a nice way to turn that card draw into life loss for all of our opponents.
Even if we haven’t “gone infinite”, this can still translate into some significant damage; and, if we are using Azor’s card draw ability, it also means we’ll be gaining life. A deck devoted to this wincon would probably run tutors and much more ramp, but this build is trying to give you a variety of options. I’ll be honest — that’ means it’s probably not as efficient a deck as you could eventually make it, but hopefully it can be a fun starting point that can win games and eventually grow into an Azor deck that fits you and your playstyle.
If we don’t draw our entire deck, or for some reason can’t go for the Lab Man win, we need to have another way to close out the game. This final option uses a weird old enchantment that I’ve grown very fond of. This is the “special” way you can probably pull out a win.
Hopefully we’ll have drawn enough cards that we have all the pieces of this puzzle in our hands. The first thing we’ll probably want to do is drop a Spellbook, Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower so we don’t have to discard down to seven.
Our next step is to play Enchanted Evening, an enchantment that will make every permanent on the battlefield an enchantment. You might think that plays well with Sphere of Safety. It does, but for this wincon we have other plans.
We then play Aura Thief, which had a death trigger that will give us control of all enchantments. All we have to do now is hit Aura Thief with Pongify or Rapid Hybridization, or even sacrifice it to Ashnod's Altar. Now we gain control of every permanent on the field and we should be able to find a way to win the game.
If for some reason Aura Thief isn’t an option, we can still position ourselves for a win using Cleansing Meditation. We only do this if we have Threshold (seven or more cards in our graveyard). All permanents will be destroyed and then ours will be returned to play. From there we should be able to get some work done. If we like this play we’ll probably want to swap some cards out and play Mnemonic Wall and ways to bring it back from the yard.
It should go without saying that we’ll be running wraths, counterspells, single target removal and a few ways to pillow fort and protect ourselves. There are staples like Cyclonic Rift, Propaganda, Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety that will be in our list. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are staples for a reason, and we’ll want to run Pongify and Rapid Hybridization as removal and as ways to pop Aura Thief.
Exactly what you run in your list will be up to your budget and the challenge you’ll face in your local playgroup. Can you get away with running Counterspell or do you simply have to go with Force of Will?
This deck should give you a variety of ways to try to win, but will play more like a voltron deck, not generating much of an early board state. If your local meta is really fast or so aggressive that not having early blockers means certain death, you’ll surely need to make adjustments in order for Azor to be able to compete.
This is definitely a midrange build, not a cEDH deck. If you can survive the early game and start drawing chunks of your deck, you should have a chance to compete at semi-competitive Commander tables and maybe even eke out the occasional win or do something truly silly with Enchanted Evening.
Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Laying Down the Law ? Commander | Stephen Johnson
- Commander (1)
- 1 Azor, the Lawbringer
- Creatures (14)
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Crafty Cutpurse
- 1 Deadeye Navigator
- 1 Dreamscape Artist
- 1 Grand Abolisher
- 1 Great Whale
- 1 Judge's Familiar
- 1 Laboratory Maniac
- 1 Medomai the Ageless
- 1 Memnite
- 1 Palinchron
- 1 Peregrine Drake
- 1 Psychosis Crawler
- 1 Tidespout Tyrant
- Instants (15)
- 1 Admiral's Order
- 1 Aetherspouts
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1 Cancel
- 1 Counterspell
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Flusterstorm
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Pongify
- 1 Rapid Hybridization
- 1 Spell Rupture
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Teferi's Protection
- Enchantments (12)
- 1 Aqueous Form
- 1 Battle Mastery
- 1 Cloak of Mists
- 1 Eldrazi Conscription
- 1 Enchanted Evening
- 1 Ghostly Prison
- 1 Invisibility
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Leyline of Anticipation
- 1 Propaganda
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Steel of the Godhead
- Artifacts (17)
- 1 Ashnod's Altar
- 1 Azor's Gateway
- 1 Azorius Signet
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Conqueror's Flail
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Prowler's Helm
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Spellbook
- 1 Strata Scythe
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Thought Vessel
- 1 Trailblazer's Boots
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak