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Oji, the Exquisite Blade in Commander

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The Harem in a Kiosk by Jean-Leon Gerome (1870). Pristine Skywise (Promo) by Adam Paquette.

Today I've got an Azorius commander on my hands who really likes to flicker things, whose list should probably include at least one sword, and whose name doesn't happen to rhyme with Iago.

I am sorely tempted to litter todays' column with quotes from Othello, but you don't want that. I don't want that. Oji, the Exquisite Blade might want that, but even so my bloody thoughts with violent pace shall ne'er look back, ne'er ebb to humble love. Wait... I was quoting Othello, wasn't I? Let's not mince words any further, my fellow deckbuilders. Let's cut to the heart of the matter and check out today's commander!

Oji, the Exquisite Blade

When Oji enters the battlefield, I'll gain 2 life and scry 2. Whenever I cast my second spell each turn, if Oji is on the field I'll get to flicker a creature I control. That means exiling that creature and returning it to the battlefield under its owner's control.

The "Exquisite Blade" moniker makes me want to run a sword or two. Unfortunately, Oji's ability to flicker one of my creatures disincentivizes me from flickering an equipped creature, so this Monk seems to be just a little conflicted. I could load up on equipment and auras and play a voltron game, but then I'll never want to flicker Oji because they'd lose all those auras and the equipment would become unattached. I could just decide that the Exquisite Blade is Oji. I think that makes sense, as throwing in auras and equipment into a flicker deck might a little misguided.

Beyond the question of his name and title, I have to ask whether this deck even wants to be a combat deck. Oji's ability triggers on the second spell I cast each turn. My gut is telling me that this wants to be a deck that loads up with spicy flicker targets and that also runs enough one and two mana instants to let me reliably flicker my creatures.

Finding the balance of creatures versus instant spells might be the real challenge here. I want lots of interaction, and I want lots of creatures with great enter the battlefield triggers. Leaves the battlefield triggers are fine too, though those are less common.

Flicker Targets

I might not have been able to find any uses of the word "flicker" in Shakespeare outside of a random line from King Lear, but I was able to find some targets for Oji, the Exquisite Blade to flicker. There are great flicker targets in all colors of Magic, but when restricted to white and blue I was still able to assemble a healthy list of creatures Oji can work with. I could have just looked up Brago, King Eternal on EDHRec.com but I'm stubborn and tried to piece this list together on my own.

Kor Cartographer
Tome Raider
Archaeomancer

Solemn Simulacrum might be the gold standard in creatures that enter the battlefield and let you get a basic land out of your library, but it does not stand alone. "Sad Robot" puts that land on the battlefield tapped, but I'm in white so I've also got access to Kor Cartographer, who does the same but for a Plains. That means Prairie Stream and Hallowed Fountain can be tutored. I'm also running both Oreskos Explorer and Pilgrim's Eye, and probably should be running Skittering Surveyor as well. All those cards will tutor up a land and put it into my hand. If all goes as planned, I shouldn't be missing many land drops.

Tome Raider, Spirited Companion, Skyscanner and Mulldifter will all draw me cards. Mulldrifter might be the best of the lot, as I can cast it for its evoke cost, put the sacrifice trigger on the stack, hold priority, flicker it with Oji by casting a 1 mana instant and end up drawing four cards and keeping my Mulldrifter to use again later. Timing those cheap instants is going to be a key part of playing this deck, so Archaeomancer may end up being an all-star. On an opponent's turn if I need to counter a spell, I can follow that up later in the turn with a cheap instant, flicker Archaeomancer and get that counter back into my hand - assuming there isn't anything better to bring back out of my graveyard.

Sphinx of Uthuun
Subjugator Angel

I wanted to have a lot of low impact ETB creatures that can help me with lands and card draw, but I also wanted a some higher impact targets. Sphinx of Uthuun is a Fact or Fiction with wings. If it's on the battlefield, it will probably be my prime target for Oji's shenanigans. At worst it will give me the best of the top five cards of my library, and at best someone will give me a fat stack of 5 cards. Most often I'll be putting two or possibly three cards into my hand.

Subjugator Angel might not seem like a big deal, but this deck isn't designed to overwhelm my opponents in combat so being able to tap down an army might buy me valuable time. I'm light on traditional board wipes, but have Cyclonic Rift and Aetherize in the mix. I might well throw in a few more wraths and Aetherspouts if I find that I'm reliably lacking mass removal. My preference is always going to be for instant speed removal so that I can follow up with an Opt or some other piddly little spell and use Oji to flicker a creature.

Diluvian Primordial
Body Double

Any card that depends upon my opponents' graveyards is going to be somewhat unreliable. There will be games where flickering a Diluvian Primordial might just win the game for me and there will be games where it will grab me a single ramp spell or maybe nothing at all. The most likely hits for this seven-mana Avatar will be ramp spells and tutors in the meta I play in, but every meta is different and you might find this creature doesn't pull its weight for the effect it has on your deck's mana curve.

Body Double is another card that could open up a world of possibilities for Oji. This shapeshifter can enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature card in a graveyard. I might have zero targets, but chances are good that I can at least make him into a copy of something useful. Avenger of Zendikar, Terastodon, Eternal Witness, Imperial Recruiter, Shriekmaw and even Rune-Scarred Demon would all be spicy Body Double targets that Oji normally wouldn't have access to in his colors.

Deck Goes Brrrr

The idea of flickering Body Double twice, targeting a Rune-Scarred Demon in someone's graveyard both times makes me think about whether this deck could win the game off of two tutors. Winning isn't something I find easy in Azorius without leaning on combo. If I had to win through combat I'd probably load up on a tribe like Sphinxes or Angels, and those are both great directions for this deck to go in.

Another great direction to go in with this deck is Deadeye Navigator combo.

Cloud of Faeries
Palinchron
Deadeye Navigator

Cloud of Faeries, Peregrine Drake, Great Whale and Palinchron will all untap some of my lands when they enter the battlefield. Creatures that untap my lands are fantastic flicker targets for Oji, the Exquisite Blade. Untapping lands opens up mana for interaction, and running creatures that untap my lands can work with Deadeye Navigator to generate infinite mana.

That infinite mana could then get used with Deadeye to flicker card draw creatures to draw my deck. If I thought I'd be doing that regularly, I would throw in Laboratory Maniac, Thassa's Oracle and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, but I've left them out of this first draft. With a Subjugator Angel I can make sure none of my opponents ever have untapped creatures when they go to combat. With Meadowboon I can put an arbitrary number of counters on my creatures and hopefully swing for the win. In truth, this list feels a bit lacking in "closers".

Right now it's trying to fend off attacks, durdle around with Oji flicker shenanigans, and see if I can dig my way to something interesting. I'm OK with that, but if I played this deck more than a few times I suspect I would end up adding in creatures like Reflector Mage and Venser, Shaper Savant so that I could lock down the battlefield.

I've already been able to play this deck twice. It's one I've built in paper so some of my choices were determined by the cards I had lying around or from the Satoru Umezawa deck I just took apart. So far the biggest takeaway is that it is more likely to present a lock on the table that players don't really want to try to play through than a clear win.

In one match I had Cyclonic Rift in the graveyard, Archaeomancer on the battlefield, and an opponent who didn't think he'd be able to win a game in which I might realistically be able to Rift every other turn. I didn't know if I'd be able to pound out a win either, but it was just a casual game and we agreed to a draw. I don't like playing out a miserable uphill battle through constant board control either, and I wasn't going to insist that he concede the game with nothing on the line. I might well have had a victory, but playing it out wouldn't have been fun.

Cheap Instants

Not including my commander, I'm running 25 creatures and just as many instants, most of which are under 3 mana. Because I'm not going to have a huge army to defend myself with, I'm going to focus on removal and interaction.

Pongify
Alchemist's Retrieval
Wash Away

Both Pongify and Rapid Hybridization join staples Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares as one-mana removal spells. I'm also running Cyclonic Rift, which is usually cast for its overload cost, but can also be played as a two-mana bounce spell. Alchemist's Retrieval is a flexible cleave spell that can either bounce my own nonland permanent for one blue mana or any nonland permanent for two mana, one of which must be blue.

I'm running a handful of counterspells, including Wash Away, which for one mana can counter a commander cast from the command zone. Counterspell, Swan Song, Force of Will, Pact of Negation and the new Gale's Redirection fill out this package. Gale's Redirection may not be cheap but it is certainly interesting. I look forward to trying to time it to exile a high mana spell so I can maximize the chance that I'll then get to cast it for free.

Think Twice
Ephemerate
Ghostly Flicker

To try to get more chances to cast instants, I'm running a couple of spells with flashback. Think Twice draws me a card for two mana and can be flashed back for two and a blue. Momentary Blink is a flicker spell in White that costs two mana, but can be flashed back for three and a Blue. I am playing a handful of flicker spells, with Ephemerate and Ghostly Flicker joining the party. I can't guarantee I'll always have Oji on the field, so adding in a few other options to flicker creatures makes sense.

Opt
Disenchant
Fumble

I'm running several other seemingly low impact instants. Opt, Anticipate, Brainstorm and Thought Scour all put a card in my hand at the cost of a spell. Disenchant lets me destroy an artifact or enchantment. Fumble lets me deal with a loaded-up voltron threat quite nicely, and might even put me in a position to dish out some commander damage with Oji.

The Decklist

Any time I share a list I have built in paper, there's always a chance I'll be missing what might seem like auto-includes. Any deck in White that isn't running Esper Sentinel isn't necessarily "built wrong" but would probably be stronger with that fantastic staple in the list. On the other hand, my inclusion of Consecrated Sphinx is a little suspect because it offers no synergy with a flicker strategy. It's still a fantastic card though and should pull its own weight quite easily.


I'm comfortable calling this a mid-powered deck that might have issues standing up to too much aggro, but which ought to be able to deal with a combo meta fairly well as long as you're careful with when you use your interaction. It could easily be tuned up with fast mana and it could be tuned down with a more tribal approach, but either way you go I think this is going to be a little easier on the wallet than a lot of the decks I share here.

Final Thoughts

Today's list is one of those decks that I could see a deckbuilder taking in a few different directions. My inclusion of Deadeye Combo felt appropriate, but give the lack of creature tutors in white and blue, I doubt it's something you'll see emerge as a consistent wincon. To me that makes it a little more fun, as it will be a surprise when you hit it rather than a foregone conclusion that the game is going to end with Deadeye Navigator.

I have to admit that part of me wanted this list to be a voltron build, but as I dug into what Oji would bring to a game it just didn't make sense. I'm partial to commander damage as a wincon, and flickering Stoneforge Mystic would play into such a plan really nicely, but in the end I decided that my deck's "Exquisite Blade" would be Oji himself. I was tempted to throw in Blade of Selves and Sword of Hearth and Home, but I was building in paper with what I had available and didn't end up including them. Voltron Oji is a neat concept and I think it's well worth digging into if you enjoy using commander damage as a threat. Those new Background Enchantments would play well in such a deck.

I think this entire column begs the question: why would you run Oji, the Exquisite Blade over Brago, King Eternal. I think it's fair to say that Brago is better, but Oji doesn't require you to go to combat and plays into a more spellslinger strategy. Brago can target your nonland permanents, not just your creatures, and can flicker as many of them as you like. He has to deal combat damage, but that plays into double-strike really nicely and Brago does have built-in evasion. Oji, the Exquisite Blade is fun, but if you're aiming to make the most powerful Azorius flicker deck possible there's really no comparison. Brago is objectively better.

That's all I've got for today, but before I sign off, let me leave you with one more Shakespeare quote.

"I pirthee speak to me as to thy thinkings."

In other words, feel free to leave me a comment!

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week.


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