99 Problems – A Letter From Lyzolda

Tuesday, April 19 – Sean McKeown is taking reader emails and helping them with their Commander builds. This week, he looks at Lyzolda, the Blood Witch. Next week, it could be yours!


I don’t normally send in deck lists for fixes, but as I really enjoyed your article, I felt I would do so. Similar to how you chose R/W/U, I chose this
deck’s colors based on what I don’t usually play / already have. I currently have a Rafiq deck and wanted to avoid any combination of colors that
avoided as many of those as possible. The most obvious choice would be R/B, but any combination that at least had no more than one of Rafiq’s colors
would suffice. In looking at the legendary creatures available, Lyzolda caught my eye. I have a fun build, but I wonder as to its power level,
especially with Painter’s Servant being banned; with him I could guarantee the ability to steal creatures and then activate Lyzolda for some gain
beyond mere creature removal; without him I am limited to color changing abilities and the strength of the deck is very much at the whim of my
opponent’s colors, and very hurt if a player is running GWU or a combination therein.

With Lyzolda I wanted to be able to take opponent’s creatures and cash them in for cards or damage if they happen to be black or red, or I can change
them to one or the other with my limited options (i.e. Scuttlemutt). I have a minor amount of reanimation effects / creatures (OversoldCemetery,
Reassembling Skeleton, Nether Traitor) in case there is a shortage of opponent’s stuff to take, and cards that interact with the saccing I plan to do
(Grave Pact, Furnace Celebration). Then there’s a small Vampire theme to activate Captivating Vampire. With all of this fun creature sacrificing and
drawing cards and doing tiny damage, I’m not sure what the deck is building up to. There are a couple of nice cards I could draw into, like Reiver
Demon, the red Akroma, and Flameblast Dragon (my personal favorite Dragon), but I’m not sure if that’s enough.

Finally, this is a semi-budget deck. I try to avoid cards that are $12+ a piece, particularly those Revised Duel Lands. I shudder thinking about
purchasing those, and I don’t have a decent enough collection to even be in the same room as someone who would trade them away.

Here is the list:

Commander: Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
Cloak and Dagger
Distorting Lens
Darksteel Plate
General’s Kabuto
Lightning Greaves
Whispersilk Cloak
Journeyer’s Kite
Ashenmoor Liege
Bloodthrone Vampire
Blood Seeker
Butcher of Malakir
Captivating Vampire
Cemetery Reaper
Conquering Manticore
Fallen Angel
Flameblast Dragon
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Guul Draz Assassin
Mephidross Vampire
Mortician Beetle
Murderous Redcap
Nether Traitor
Pawn of Ulamog
Puppeteer Clique
Pyre Zombie
Reassembling Skeleton
Reiver Demon
Royal Assassin
Scavenger Drake
Stalking Vengeance
Vampire Aristocrat
Vein Drinker
Braid of Fire
Furnace Celebration
Grave Pact
Leyline of Punishment
Oversold Cemetery
Blind with Anger
Breath of Malfegor
Grab the Reins
Word of Seizing
Wrecking Ball
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Chainer, Dementia Master
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Mirri the Cursed
Rakka Mar
Act of Treason
Black Sun’s Zenith
Decree of Pain
Mark of Mutiny
Red Sun’s Zenith
Traitorous Instinct
Unwilling Recruit
10x Mountain
15x Swamp
Akoum Refuge
Blackcleave Cliffs
Cabal Coffers
Crypt of Agadeem
Dragonskull Summit
Evolving Wilds
Grixis Panorama
Jund Panorama
Rakdos Carnarium
Rocky Tar Pit
Tainted Peak
Terminal Moraine
Terramorphic Expanse
Tresserhorn Sinks
Shadowblood Ridge

  Hi Joe,

With your permission and hopefully cooperation, this will in fact be the deck I work on for my next article, so I had a few follow-up questions for you
before I consider things further:

1) What’s your playgroup like? More aggressive decks, more controlling, more combo-oriented? What kinds of threats do they like to use, and what kinds
of answer cards do you usually see deployed in a game? (Instead of just assuming your group’s like everyone else’s, I figure I should ask, because
giving you great advice that works over here in New York City might not work so well for anywhere else in the world.)

2) What are your five favorite cards to draw, the ones that do the hardest work for you, are the most fun, or are just the ones you’d like to tutor for
if given the chance somehow?

3) What are the five biggest disappointments, the cards that are working their way out of your deck because they haven’t been pulling their weight

Answer those, and I will begin formulating what advice I may be able to offer you.

Unfortunately, there is only so much I
can help you with the questions, particularly the first one. I’m a graduate student, and just finished my first Commander deck (Rafiq
Bant/Conscription) deck around the Scars of Mirrodin release event, although I started building it months ago. Because of how busy I am, I haven’t had
time to go to my local card shop to join the playgroup yet. “Witchy Woman,” the Lyzolda deck, is just a concept because I know I will want more
Commander decks once I start playing more in the summer. Most of my playgroup will be graduating, so I will start going to the local card shop more
often to fulfill my Magic fix, and I know from experience that just that one Rafiq deck won’t be interesting enough to last me, so I’m building a
Nissa, the Traitor deck, and Lyzolda is the first idea I’ve gotten so far for the third deck. I cannot say for sure how people play at the shop, though
judging by the people I know there and how they play at release events, I’m expecting more controlling, combo-oriented decks. As for any particular
answer cards, I can only ask for advice for the types of play you are used to.

The other questions I can certainly answer, because I have playtested the deck using tappedout.net,
so I do know how it runs against my other deck and against a Goldfish, and understand my favorite and least favorite cards in the deck. I personally
always want a deck that fits thematically with the commander, as that flavor is one of the main thing that draws me to the format. So any card that
fits well with Lyzolda I love, including Grave Pact, which I feel is on the edge of the “gentleman’s agreement” many playgroups expect out of
Commander. Scuttlemutt and Distorting Lens are definitely in the top 5, because they are essential to triggering Lyzolda’s abilities if the top
creature to steal happens to be Green, White, Blue, or any combination therein. It’s very fun to steal a creature, tap to make it black or red, and
then sacrifice to do the ability. Reassembling Skeleton is also great because it can draw a card every turn when there’s enough mana. If I can get out
enough vampires, Captivating Vampire definitely fits here because he allows the creature stealing every turn. Finally, without mana burn, Braid of Fire
is just insane and ensures there is enough mana to steal creatures and sacrifice them all in one go.

The 5 disappointments are Mirri the Cursed, Fallen Angel, Vein Drinker, Leyline of Punishment, and Kazuul, Tyrant of Cliffs. Mirri and the Angel are
cards I have always loved in black, and are in here because they are decent attackers. Fallen Angel fits better in a deck with more recursion, and I’m
not sure if there is enough to sacrifice to really make it worthwhile. I am sure there are better beaters in the color that I haven’t considered just
because I like these cards, but wanting them in a deck isn’t a good enough reason to put them in. Vein Drinker is a decent removal spell, but it’s
really in because it’s a vampire for Captivating Vampire to tap, and might not be holding its weight. Kazuul is fantastic for giving tokens to
sacrifice or block with, but in Commander players probably have enough mana to pay for him anyway. Finally, Leyline of Punishment is good against life
gain decks, which could crush this one I’m sure, but I don’t know if enough players run decent life gain to make it worthwhile.

As I mentioned before, I am worried about the deck’s long game. That is something I don’t have to worry about in my Rafiq or Nissa decks. Rafiq is a
huge attacker and Nissa can recur huge artifact creatures if they get taken care of. In this deck, Lyzolda is extremely fun to use to remove player’s
creatures, but I wonder if there are enough tough beaters such as Akroma and Flameblast Dragon to finish properly enough. Especially if I can remove a
lot of creatures with Lyzolda, if I can’t finish fast enough other players will just recover, or I will create a stall on the board that would just
annoy players, which I don’t want.

Where to begin? I see two fundamental problems that are at the root of the deck’s design, one having to do with the mana curve and the other the colors
of the creatures. Lyzolda works at her very best when the creature she is sacrificing is both Black and Red, and you are accomplishing something else
besides while you sacrifice that creature, so you want to try and optimize for that while building your deck and work with the assumption that you’re
going to sacrifice your own creatures a healthy amount of the time, so planning for that by leaning towards more creatures that are both Black and Red
is worth doing. Very few indeed of the creatures in your deck are both Black and Red, so you’re starting off at a disadvantage in optimizing your
witchy woman, and the other problem you’re noticing — running out of steam and trying to figure out if you need more heavy hitters to actually close
the game out when you achieve parity — has to do with the mana curve of the creatures you are playing, a fair number of choices have been made to keep
the mana curve of the deck low to the ground and these compromises are leading you to the point where the game wrestles out of your grasp because the
pieces of cardboard your opponents are bringing to the table are just that little bit bigger and more expensive.

I’m going to make a reasonable assumption, since you mentioned price as a clear object, and presume that telling you to add very expensive cards to the
deck is not going to go over very well, so I will try to stick to suggesting more common cards or cheaper Rares that you can hunt down spending time
instead of money to get them. I won’t shy away from telling you to add a few more expensive cards, as you’ll soon see, but it’s distinctly possible
that if you already have a Commander deck (as you say you have one already, based on Rafiq of the Many) that these catch-all Commander staples are
things you might already have, or at the very least things that if you invest in, will see play in every deck you play if you want to include them.

First things first, I’d like to look at your mana base. I actually think you have too many lands, by about 3-4, and you’d be able to suffice using
36-37 lands instead of the 40 you have presently and can actually work your mana harder to provide more of a spell-like function to the deck that will
help with the games you draw a fair chunk of lands. I would suggest you keep the following nonbasics around:

Akoum Refuge, Blackcleave Cliffs, Cabal Coffers, Crypt of Agadeem, Dragonskull Summit, Grixis Panorama, Jund Panorama, Rakdos Carnarium, Rocky Tar Pit,
Shadowblood Ridge, Tainted Peak, Tresserhorn Sinks

I would also like to suggest a few other additions to your manabase that should be pretty light on the wallet, even if not necessarily all the easiest things to find. I’m going to make the assumption here and throughout that if it’s a Common or an Uncommon, and not something incredibly
pricey (after all, Force of Will and Mana Drain are both technically ‘uncommons’) that it’s within your realm to find someone who can dig one out for
you and that it will take more time and patience than actual money or trade stock to acquire these things. I think you’d gain some definite benefits by
adding the following to your deck:

Urborg Volcano, Blood Crypt, Graven Cairns, Kher Keep, Mystifying Maze, Strip Mine, Barren Moor, Polluted Mire, Forgotten Cave, Smoldering Crater

You’ll notice I advocated cutting the Terminal Moiraine, Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse and replaced them with some more dual lands; this came
around at least in some part because I think you gain a lot with this deck trying to modulate your mana draws in-game by adding the cycling lands than
you do fixing your mana with those cheap and affordable options, but start to have too many comes-into-play-tapped lands if you have them and the
Expanses. Ironically, one of these dual lands comes into play tapped, but hey no plan is perfect. I have asked you to make one pricey addition
by putting Blood Crypt in here — you very reasonably decline to put Revised dual lands in your deck (as I do myself, I just don’t see them providing
enough bang for my reasonably-limited buck in most decks) but you will find your Panoramas and Rocky Tar Pit getting much better by investing the
still-single-digit value that comes with getting your deck’s on-color Ravnica Block dual land. This might be a harder sell for your Rafiq deck, since
it would need three of them to hit that power level and Blue ones besides, but you gain a lot I think by getting access to a Blood Crypt for your deck
here since multiple cards will routinely search for it.

Along with these lands you have room for another 14, and to keep your color split near where it was (and maintain an adequate Swamp count) uses six
Mountains and eight Swamps. If you are up to spending a little harder to get an increased power level, you should give serious consideration to both
Thawing Glaciers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth for this deck. Thawing Glaciers gives you significantly better draws by basically giving you a free land
every other turn, but is both somewhat expensive (you can hunt one down usually for about $7) AND devilishly hard to find (thanks to being an Alliances
rare and rather in demand for casual formats like Commander). Urborg you might just be able to skate by without, since your Cabal Coffers plus somebody
else’s Urborg is still a perfectly fine combo, you have a reasonable Swamp count (remember now that your land-searching cards like Jund Panorama will
be able to get you a Mountain that also counts as a Swamp, the first time every time) and don’t really shoot for the highest reaches Coffers is able to
get to, so I am seeing you use Coffers to your advantage but not seeking to abuse it. It’s up to you whether you go for these or not, but if you’re
committing to Commander in general and not just this deck in specific you’ll find both these additions are ones you’ll use time and time again as you
build more decks. Swap out a Mountain and a Swamp for each of those if you do decide to invest in them, but I’ll leave them out of the final decklist I
present at the end as they’re suggestions but you’ll work just fine without them.

Now proceeding on from the lands, let’s have a look at the artifact section of your deck. I already know I want to suggest four additions, and that a
significant chunk of price point is going to come here because first and foremost I am going to suggest you add a Sol Ring to the deck, knowing that
either a) you already have one in one of these other two decks and can just swap it in, or b) that if you do invest in getting one (you can
still find them beneath the $10 mark in reasonably good condition) that it will be an investment you can spread between all of your decks (whichever
you’re playing at the time gets the real copy and you swap a proxy around from deck to deck based on which one has the real copy at the moment) and
which will really reward you a fair number of games across every deck you play. I certainly got in trouble last time when discussing
my Numot deck
for intentionally leaving Sol Ring out of the deck, made all the worse by failing to point out that the sweepers my play-groups
use that will pick off a Sol Ring as collateral damage tend to leave my Artifact lands around since most modern sweepers say ‘nonland’ unlike things
like Nevinyrral’s Disk. Almost every deck wants a Sol Ring, and I think yours is on that list as well.

The other two pricey considerations here are Sensei’s Divining Top and Skullclamp, and both would give you clear benefits. The Clamp at least is
reasonably inexpensive, under $5 nowadays, so I can recommend it to you in good conscience. Skullclamp is absolutely amazing in a deck that is
already designed to sacrifice things, and just like adding that innocuous little Kher Keep in the lands section (since a Kobold is good for a block and
two damage when your Commander is out) you’ll see a remarkable amplification of its usual power level simply based on the fact that your deck operates
with Lyzolda in play. You’d already noted that you wanted things to be more impressive when you had Lyzolda running and stealing your opponent’s
creatures, and one thing I’d recommend is that you add Skullclamp simply because it lets you profit from stealing and sacrificing their creatures and
thus hit that magical level of “Profit!” that I think you are looking for.

Sensei’s Divining Top is shockingly expensive right now, but if you get one copy you’ll be able to use it across multiple decks just like that Sol
Ring. Since it is currently above that $12 price point you listed I’m going to leave it off my suggestions, and you can leave it to your own informed
opinion just what you want to cut for a Sensei’s Divining Top instead if you do go down this route. Given that you said you’ll be playing this more
over the summer and not immediately, it might be worth the wait on this card simply to see if it is present in one (or more!) of the Commander decks
that are coming out in a few months, as its price will stabilize at a lower level if it is present in any of these decks as a reprint.

Suggestion #4 is cheap, and for your purposes equally automatic: one Expedition Map will help smooth out your draws, find a few of your special lands
to work with, and even be relatively invisible when you don’t want another land: with Cycling lands in your deck an Expedition Map becomes a random
draw again with a little work. Another pricey consideration for the deck is the Commander favorite of Solemn Simulacrum… but having already suggested
over $20 worth of investment in a Sol Ring and Skullclamp alone, and given the fact that he’s colorless and thus all Lyzolda can do with him is turn on
his natural ‘draw a card when I die’ ability by paying two mana to allow you to sacrifice him, his bang for the buck is low in this deck and I won’t
include him in the further suggestions as it’s much more critical to your deck that you get Sol Ring and Skullclamp. The Sad Robot is good and another
card you will use in many a Commander deck once you have him, but for now at least a lower priority to acquire.

After that, we have to look at how things are balancing out when you have them in play, and frankly I think you have a few too many Equipment dedicated
solely to the purpose of giving your key creatures shroud or making them indestructible. Lightning Greaves and Whispersilk Cloak are great; Darksteel
Plate is starting to stretch too far, as is Cloak and Dagger plus General’s Kabuto. I think if you focus more on spells that let you reuse dead
creatures you’ll find more success overall, as mass sweepers don’t care about targeting and your overall plan seems to involve creatures going to the
graveyard anyway. I say keep the Greaves and Cloak and ditch the rest, and focus on the problem rather than bootstrapping a solution with too many
cards tasked to the same job. Of the non-Equipment artifacts, Scuttlemutt and Distorting Lens both clearly do good work for you, and Journeyer’s Kite
is an excellent card for getting to the higher reaches of the mana curve as well as just getting card advantage by putting an extra card in your hand
every turn.

Having made some cuts, I am now going to make suggestions. One clear one is that you will definitely benefit from adding a Mimic Vat, as it gives you a
lot of extra recursion at a very low price, both mana-wise and to get this in-print Rare, it’s only a few bucks right now but is a good Commander
catch-all. The next has to do with the overarching theme of what you are trying to do, and to me that seems to be ‘take your opponent’s creatures and
sacrifice them for fun and profit.’ While probably a little hard to obtain simply given its rarity, pricewise it is nonetheless a little cheap, so
spending a bit of time and/or a bit of money to hunt down a copy of Helm of Possession would further your game plan nicely and also allow us to lead
into the next major change I sense as necessary.

I appreciate very fully what you are trying to do with your Captivating Vampire plan. The optimist in me thinks this is great fun, and envisions
numerous games where you will be able to tap five Vampires to steal an Eldrazi and then bash someone with it. The pessimist in me however notes that
this plan is even harder to get aboard than Hand of Justice was, and Hand of Justice was the hard-to-make-actually-work bee’s knees back in the foggy
dark days of Magic when I started playing. Tapping five vampires means having five vampires alive without anyone killing your 2/2, and I just don’t
believe you are going to find that luxury available against anyone whom firing off that ability will do anything. The most probable reason for letting
you assemble that many vampires is because they don’t play a creature-based game for you to steal anything they care about, and anyone who does
care will just kill your 2/2. This is why I am moving the central core of ‘how you steal creatures’ to the Helm instead of Captivating Vampire, as the
Helm is both more durable by far than a 2/2 that needs four friends to operate and frees up a considerable chunk of space amongst your creatures by
liberating you from the need to have a sufficient quantity of Vampires. Lyzolda wants you to have creatures that are both Black and Red, and
unfortunately Vampires are only black and thus as cool as it is to set up a stream of stolen creatures the Captivating Vampire plan is just not really
working with your choice of Commander and needs to be shifted around.

With the changes I have suggested simply to the colorless component of the deck, it is at 46 cards. You had 51 colored spells and creatures and 56
slots, so we’ll even grow this portion in addition to switching things around from a Vampire creature base to a more fitting set of creatures that work
with Lyzolda, cutting the things that aren’t really working and building up the themes that are. The themes I see at work for you are creature theft,
sacrifice for fun and profit, and a bit of recursion. Let’s look at your spells first:

In: Black Sun’s Zenith, Blind with Anger, Braid of Fire, Decree of Pain, Furnace Celebration, Grab the Reins, Grave Pact, Oversold Cemetery, Terminate,
Traitorous Instinct, Word of Seizing, Wrecking Ball

Out: Act of Treason, Breath of Malfegor, Leyline of Punishment, Mark of Mutiny, Red Sun’s Zenith, Threaten, Unwilling Recruit

Breath of Malfegor is getting cut for simply not doing enough; permanent damage sources are going to benefit you more considerably than a Lava Axe, no
matter how many handles there are for it. One-eighth of each opponent’s starting life total is frankly not worth the card, so Breath sits on the
wayside. Zenith is getting cut because you can do better for damaging an opponent and don’t want to have to deal with toughness for killing a creature.
Leyline of Punishment you’ve noted isn’t working, so it’s getting cut, though I do have a direct replacement in mind in so doing that will potentially
be worth your while: switching it to Everlasting Torment covers all the same cases you saw fit to include Leyline for, while also giving Lyzolda and
team the ability to slowly but surely whittle down a big creature based on the fact that it grants Wither to all damage sources and thus her power to
deal two damage at a time per sacrifice will not heal at end of turn and eventually even the mightiest creature can be whittled down to size. The other
temporary-steal cards I am cutting for two reasons: they’re all Sorceries, when Instants will do you much more good, and you have the ability to play a
few more permanent-theft cards instead.

In switching things around here then I’d suggest the following additions to your spells:

1. Temporary Insanity. A little hard to use, but as a Red Ray of Command instead of just the sorcery-speed Threaten, you can actually use it profitably
on defense as well as for all-out aggression or just to steal something and feed it to the Witchy Woman. A bit more focus on defensive play will allow
you to actually slow down and play defensively, which is good for pacing the game out instead of pushing ahead trying to be the frontrunner, and the
extra utility of being an instant is well worth the extra one mana and the potentially difficult targeting restriction.

2. Diabolic Tutor. Cheap, highly effective, and able to double up as any of your best cards. Effectively then it’s like a second copy of your
Distorting Lens, a second real Grave Pact that can’t be killed by creature removal like Butcher of Malakir, it helps you make things go and that’s good
to do.

3. Beseech the Queen. Almost as good as Diabolic Tutor, and unlike Demonic Tutor this one’s about a quarter so it’s a good improvement for its price

4. Everlasting Torment, for the reasons stated above.

5. Grim Harvest. You have a sacrifice-for-profit theme, and with enough mana to operate it safely the Harvest is a hard-to-contain recursion card that
will let you grind out longer games by reusing all your best creatures or just feeding more things to Lyzolda. Again, a very low cost to effectiveness
ratio: it’s a Coldsnap common, and despite costing a thin dime (or maybe a quarter) it’s probably the best card in my Ob Nixilis
and can do just as good work for you with the themes you have present in your deck. Watch out so you can control the Recover cost and
never have it exile itself, and you’ll find it a welcome addition.

6. Enslave. More expensive than your temporary theft cards were, but less has to go right for this to work since it’s just a permanent theft card
instead of an attempt to borrow something and pull a fast one. Light on the wallet, too.

7. Ritual of the Machine. An Alliances rare that you’ll have a harder time actually finding than you will have paying for it, as it’s very low in
price, just kind of hard to find floating in somebody’s binder somewhere. For one more mana and the additional cost of ‘sacrifice a critter’ you get to
keep the creature outright instead of give it back at end of turn, and this may prove very helpful to your overall goals.

8. Insurrection. Temporary theft of one creature wasn’t good enough, but steal them all and let the attack phase sort them out.

9. Liliana Vess. Part tutor, part mass reanimation, and you get both for an affordable price given that she is an in-print Mythic that has been
reprinted twice now and is not currently a frequently played Constructed card. You may very well have one lying about already, and if you don’t someone
else will and will put a value of $5 or so to get it. An excellent Commander staple that will serve your deck well.

10. Vicious Shadows. You said you wanted another something that works well with sacrificing your creatures… this is what I’d replace that Red Sun’s
Zenith with, because it is far, far more effective at killing opponents, and it can be downright bonkers in a deck well-designed to just
sacrifice your own creatures for profit. Since it was a recent-memory printing it’s still even cheap to get, and is another good Commander staple worth

The suggestion I will not make, simply due to not wanting to push you too far out of your way in spending for your deck, would be Living Death.
You have a firm sacrifice for profit deck and the ability to churn through creatures at a reasonably rapid clip drawing fresh cards, and a Living Death
at the end of this would turn all that hard work into profit. It’s also a bit hard to find and something of an expensive card now, so if you can get it
then great but I won’t assume you can at a price you’d be willing to give for it, but it’s worth noting it is another one of those format staples that
you’d put to good work for the rest of your Commander-playing days if you had one copy available. Liliana you can probably get at a reasonable price
and in a little time, but Living Death will not be as easy or as cheap.

We made ten additions but only seven cuts, so of the five extra slots we had available we are down to just two left for additions after trimming your
land count down and removing the excess Equipment. As you can see however, we cut the duplicate not-as-good equipment cards but directly added Tutor
cards that can search for them, so you have just as high a chance of seeing one of your Equipment cards during a game, and even improved the quality of
the ones you do see: never again will you spend four mana on General’s Kabuto and two mana to equip it when you could have spent two mana to
cast Lightning Greaves and no mana to equip it. We’re strengthening the good themes of the deck and reaffirming your ability to find your best cards,
so it should be a net positive so far. I am keeping in mind that you’re worried about long-game staying power and what happens during a game in
which you run out of cards, but we’ll see what we can do to fix your creature base some before turning to that problem of card flow.

So far we’ve said you should have more creatures overall that are both Black and Red, and should lose the Vampire sub-theme from the deck now that the
‘theft for profit’ mechanism is now the Helm instead of Captivating Vampire. Captivating Vampire asked you to put too many ineffectual small creatures
into your deck to get working, so I’m going to pare away the creatures I don’t think are going to work out for you and keep the rest.

In: Akroma, Angel of Fury, Ashenmoor Liege, Butcher of Malakir, Cemetery Reaper, Chainer, Dementia Master, Conquering Manticore, Drana, Kalastria
Bloodchief, Flameblast Dragon, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Guul Draz Assassin, Malfegor, Murderous Redcap, Nether Traitor, Pawn of Ulamog, Puppeteer Clique,
Pyre Zombie, Rakka Mar, Reassembling Skeleton, Reiver Demon

Out: Blood Seeker, Bloodthrone Vampire, Captivating Vampire, Fallen Angel, Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, Mephidross Vampire, Mirri the Cursed,
Mortician Beetle, Royal Assassin, Scavenger Drake, Stalking Vengeance, Vampire Aristocrat, Vein Drinker

With twelve slots remaining to be filled, I ran a quick search of the creatures that are both Black and Red to be considered, as well as had a look at
other options you should be considering with mono-colored options. For mono-colored creatures there were two clear stand-outs to me that I think would
benefit you, in your efforts to feed enemy creatures to Lyzolda for fun and profit… it’s just as fun to reuse dead stuff as it is to steal the
living, and I’ve said before that Black card advantage can function very well by living out of its opponents’ graveyards. Nezumi Graverobber plays the
role of ‘utility graveyard eater’ very well, giving you something that works on that axis while not being as narrow in scope as Withered Wretch, and
flipping the Graverobber lets you reuse your own creatures and dig up an enemy’s to do good work for you over and over again while he’s active.
Similarly, Geth, Lord of the Vault is a potent reanimator that reuses your opponent’s creatures, and the both of them alongside your Chainer, Dementia
Master will give you a strong recursion element that helps provide a late-game strength to push through the games where perhaps before you were
faltering somewhat.

After those two, I wanted to start adding both Black and Red creatures, and settled on ten that should be good enough for inclusion:

1. Igneous Pouncer. He helps smooth the mana a little bit more, and is just one more card that helps benefit you for playing that Blood Crypt since he
can always find it in the games you want to smooth your draw. Like the cycling lands he can help you moderate your mana flow, always getting the right
land if you turn him into one, and if you have enough lands you have a hasty beater that is both the colors you want to feed the Witchy Woman. Not the
most impressive creature out there, but he’ll do good work for you.

2. Rakdos Guildmage. He can serve as removal if you want to discard the card to do so, but I was including him more for the ability to make token
creatures that you can then feed to Lyzolda. You don’t get the card for doing so, since they aren’t black, but you can get the Shock and that’s not a
bad deal for having some spare mana lying around. It’s worth noting that this can also utilize the ‘end of turn’ trick to split up your mana payments;
if you have eight mana untapped and it’s about to be your turn, at the end of the turn before yours (after the opponent has passed priority on an empty
stack) you can make two creatures with the ability, then untap and spend four mana to feed them to Lyzolda (and even get to attack first!). All these
options and abilities, plus he’s solid without Lyzolda (being a bear that can kill other small creatures and has the ability “3R: Chump Block”) and
both the colors that matter if you want to feed him to her instead.

3. Vampiric Dragon. Kind of like Flameblast Dragon in that it’s a big end-game threat that can also deal some extra damage to some creatures with the
mana you have lying around, untapping with Vampiric Dragon is a good precursor to winning the game. And hey, if your opponent tries to steal it, you
get a card and a shock when you sacrifice him, which is better than only one or the other.

4. Anathemancer. Sometimes, Anathemancer will just kill a player. With Unearth, sometimes he’ll kill two. He also is just a dork of both the colors
that matter and who has Unearth, so the hope is he can do a little bit of good work, turn into a shock and a card, and later in the game do something
nasty when he comes back, then again you get a shock and a card. Much more dangerous than the Breath of Malfegor, because it focuses the damage in a
pinpoint fashion, and like Vicious Shadows holding this guy till the time is right might just be a lethal play.

5. Tsabo Tavoc. Maybe a little cutesy, but it’s another dual-colored creature you can play, and one that rumbles with opposing Commanders very
profitably. Having another permanent in play that can just take care of major threats is worth doing, and it’s usually safe to presume that your
enemy’s Commanders probably count as exactly that.

6. Deepfire Elemental. Another R/B creature, and another source of recurring removal even if it is a bit expensive to handle anything more than a
four-drop. “1: kill any token creature” is a good ability to have, and the more mana you have the better Deepfire gets. Again, it’s adding a permanent
removal option you can play and take advantage of during a longer game, because it sounds like you were stalling out after what seemed like gaining
control of the board, so a lot of these choices are being made to add relevance and resilience to your game as the game goes longer, both by increasing
the average body attached to your creatures and by giving you stuff to lean on after that honeymoon phase where it looked like you were winning wore

7. Deathbringer Thoctar. A R/B special that was the first card I was surprised was not somewhere in your list, given the tendency for things to just
die, a lot, on all sides of the table. Every death gives you a ping, and like Goblin Sharpshooter, these pings can add up significantly to kill far
more impressive creatures (or occasionally players).

8. Blazing Specter. This one’s probably too cutesy of me, but it puts a little pressure on people’s hands and counts as both colors for Lyzolda, so the
presumption is he should do good enough work to try him out. I’m considerably less sure of how you’ll like him than these other additions, so perhaps
before you go about paying for or trading for him, you should give these changes a spin on that website you were using to take test-draws of the deck,tappedout.net. (In fact, since you’re savvy and have been using it already, just plug in the
final-product decklist I hand you before trading for anything, and see how the changes feel to you before sinking anything into new acquisitions.
Better safe than making me sorry I gave you advice you didn’t like.)

9. Lightning Reaver. Another way to spread some damage around and another hasty damage source like so many I seem to have been suggesting, Lightning
Reaver hitting just a very few number of times adds up to a considerable chunk of damage. “Also is both your colors for Lyzolda” but for most of these
guys that’s something of an afterthought, an extra benefit to sacrifice them if they’re being killed or stolen instead of the plan of “this stinks a
little but it’s good fodder.”

10. Kaervek the Merciless. Do note that in addition to picking off creatures very nicely, Kaervek doesn’t say he has to hit the player who cast the
spell… so if Tom and Dick fight a counter-war while you have Kaervek in play, there’s nothing saying you can’t take advantage of that fact to just
kill Harry. (If you do, he’ll probably get your name wrong, and no, he won’t think you’re Tom.) Kaervek is another high-power Commander card that you
get the benefit of accessing by choosing the colors you did, and one that goes with your side plan of collateral damage to players that seemed to me to
be part of your plan that goes with having an active Blood Witch. Sometimes creature removal, sometimes player removal, always something that is
going to make a bunch of people nervous.

And that brings us to 99. There’s more stuff going on to benefit from sacrificing creatures, an overall better creature package even though it meant
axing one of your five favorite things about the deck… hopefully you’ll forgive me for the Captivating Vampire and love the Helm of Possession, or
just kill a bunch of people with Vicious Shadows and nonetheless have gotten something out of asking me for my advice. I’m not absolutely certain that
we have addressed your card-flow questions, though… there is extra recursion and lots of stuff to keep you busy and profiting, but while you have
more options and more activity with the cards you do draw and can even turn a mana-heavy draw into one that has a more even mix of lands and spells,
the number of things that put a card into your hand directly are still pretty small. If there are any changes you don’t particularly love and you want
to swap in card advantage spells, I’d consider the following replacement options (and in this order):

1. Phyrexian Arena

2. Mind’s Eye

3. Skeletal Scrying

4. Night’s Whisper

And the other cards well worth considering for your deck that I’ve left off as lower priorities to acquire:

1. Sensei’s Divining Top

2. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

3. Thawing Glaciers

Here’s the suggested decklist for your consideration:

Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
Sean McKeown
Test deck on 04-24-2011
Magic Card Back

And, we’ll list the cards I’ve suggested adding based on their Star City Games sale price, so you can have a rough idea of what each of the suggested
additions will take to acquire and thus can be judged by you for their ‘bang for your buck’ factor. And since it would be perhaps a little mean to give
you a price list but nothing to help towards it, for participating in today’s edition of 99 Problems you should find a $20 coupon to Star City Games
waiting in your inbox right about now, to help make some of the changes you like into actual cards in your hand. Thanks for sending in your question!

Expedition Map $0.15
Igenous Pouncer $0.15
Barren Moor $0.25
Forgotten Cave $0.25
Grim Harvest $0.25
Polluted Mire $0.25
Rakdos Guildmage $0.25
Smoldering Crater $0.25
Temporary Insanity $0.25
Anathemancer $0.49
Deathbringer Thoctar $0.49
Deepfire Elemental $0.49
Enslave $0.49
Nezumi Graverobber $0.49
Ritual of the Machine $0.49
Tsabo Tavoc $0.49
Urborg Volcano $0.49
Diabolic Tutor $0.75
Beseech the Queen $0.99
Kaervek the Merciless $0.99
Kher Keep $0.99
Lightning Reaver $0.99
Mystifying Maze $1.25
Blazing Specter $1.49
Geth, Lord of the Vault $1.49
Vampiric Dragon $1.49
Everlasting Torment $1.99
Insurrection $1.99
Graven Cairns $2.99
Helm of Possession $2.99
Mimic Vat $2.99
Strip Mine $2.99
Liliana Vess $3.99
Skullclamp $3.99
Blood Crypt $9.99
Sol Ring $19.99

Hope this has been a help to you, and an interesting read for everyone else as well. I’d like to try this again for my next column, readers, so if
you’re interested and have a decklist you want to consider, feel free to contact me at s_mckeown @ hotmail.com.

Sean McKeown