Dear Azami: 200

Every once in a while, Dear Azami likes to let a young upstart try to make a name for themselves by guest authoring the column. Just for fun, we celebrate Dear Azami #200 with one such youngster! His name is Patrick, and he’s here to talk about playing control in Commander!

Dear Azami,

I’m a long time lover of Commander, but a newcomer to your column. I’ve found the commentary insightful, so I thought I’d put my newest brew on the
chopping block so you may kick it around a bit.

When I first saw Dragonlord Silumgar, I was in love. I knew this was the legend destined to be my Dimir commander.

Goals of the deck — I was aiming to leverage sacrifice effects. DLS’s control effect only lasts as long as he does. The sacrifice cards give me ways to
utilize the resources I’ve stolen before they wander back to their owners. Also, the “flicker” effects from Avacyn Restored have some fun
interactions with DLS and the creatures I steal.

I realized after I built the deck, I included a weird little deathtouch subtheme. I can take it or leave it, but that explains the presence of Thornbite
Staff. Also, I incorporated a Dragon subtheme. I think that’s leading to a too many “Baneslayers,” not enough “Mulldrifter” situation. It is likely that
should be reevaluated.

I look forward to your thoughts, suggestions and commentary.

Commander (1)–

Dragonlord Silumgar

Artifacts (9)–

Altar of Dementia

Conjurer’s Closet

Crystal Ball

Darksteel Ingot

Nevinyrral’s Disk

Silumgar Monument

Sol Ring

Thornbite Staff

Worn Powerstone

Creatures (24)–

Baleful Strix

Beguiler of Wills

Burnished Hart

Deathbringer Regent

Deadeye Navigator

Disciple of Bolas

Disciple of Griselbrand

Ghoulcaller Gisa

Icefall Regent

Jalira, Master Polymorphist

Keiga, the Tide Star


Necromaster Dragon

Ninja of the Deep Hours

Notion Thief


Profaner of the Dead

Reassembling Skeleton

Ruthless Deathfang

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Silumgar, the Drifting Death

Sphinx of Uthuun

Steel Hellkite

Viscera Seer

Enchantments (9)–

Animate Dead


Grave Pact

Leyline of Anticipation

Leyline of the Void

Monastery Siege


Phyrexian Arena

Volition Reins

Instants (13)–


Altar’s Reap

Blue Sun’s Zenith




Ghostly Flicker

Force of Will

Reality Shift

Reckless Spite

Reins of Power

Silumgar’s Command

Skeletal Scrying

Planeswalker (1)–

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Sorceries (7)–

Aether Snap

Black Sun’s Zenith


Extract from Darkness

Living Death

Stolen Identity


And, the most boring,…

Lands (36)–

Arcane Lighthouse

Bojuka Bog

Evolving Wilds

Command Tower

Creeping Tar Pit

Dimir Aqueduct

Drowned Catacomb

Faerie Conclave

Halimar Depths

Island (9)

Polluted Delta

Reliquary Tower

Strip Mine

Swamp (9)

Tainted Isle

Tectonic Edge

Temple of Deceit

Temple of the False God

Terramorphic Expanse

Watery Grave

I should mention the inclusion of both Strip Mine and Tectonic Edge was a meta decision. One of the gentlemen in my playgroup has an infatuation with
Homeward Path, so we see copies on a higher than average basis. Dragonlord Silumgar has no love for the Homeward Path.

I don’t always play Commander, but when I do, Dragonlord Silumgar is my kind of commander.

Commander is an awesome format that means different things to different players, depending on what they are looking to get out of it. While I have played
competitive heads-up Commander before, my preferred style is a big group of like-minded players, a bit of politics, and a lot of just hanging out while a
game happens to be going on.

I would guess that the suggestions I make today are generally net positive for expected win percentage, however, my main goal in Commander is having a good
time, so I generally bias towards cards and strategies I can use to have a good time. I like the diplomacy side, the wheeling and dealing, the ability to
be a king-maker or a threat that people don’t want to attack for fear of retribution. I am careful about making too many enemies at the same time, though
I’d rather be in the thick of things than just sitting by and watching everyone else make moves.

Dragonlord Silumgar as a commander looks like a blast!

While I might start with a manabase to try to figure out what is possible, it’s typically not practical to start by fine-tuning it until you’ve got nearly
all the spells figured out. However, the nature of Commander greatly defines your manabase from the get-go so much, I think it’s actually pretty reasonable


Darksteel Ingot Swamp Swamp Island


Talisman of Dominance Dimir Signet Dismal Backwater Jwar Isle Refuge Dreadship Reef Winding Canyons

While Commander has a more forgiving mulligan rule than other formats, I’d still prefer to err a little higher on land to ensure we’re hitting all of our
land drops early, all the way up. We’ve got plenty to do with our mana, a lot of utility lands, and some card draw, so I’m not super concerned about
flooding out. To this end, I’m suggesting going up a little on mana, and I would go up even slightly higher if not for also advocating adding a couple
cheap draw spells later on.

I prefer Talisman of Dominance and Dimir Signet to Darksteel Ingot so that we can make better use of our second turn. We’ve already got plenty to do on
turn 3, and if we draw two-cost artifact mana, we can even play a four-drop on turn 3 instead of playing our accelerator.

The rest of the lands I’ve suggested are just a bunch of reasonable fixers to help ensure we can cast our double blue and double black spells early.
Depending on one’s budget, Darkslick Shores, River of Tears, Sunken Ruins and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth could also be good additions. The main thing is that
I’d really like to get up to 22 black and 24 blue minimum (with two-cost artifact mana counting). Even more would be better.

Interestingly, the rules of Commander limit what cards you can run based on colored mana symbols, not names of basic lands. Because of this, if you happen
to already own any more blue or black fetchlands, such as Flooded Strand or Bloodstained Mire, I would add as many as you can, replacing basics of that
type. Flooded Strand functions a lot like Island, but it has the option of finding your Watery Grave whenever you need it. Besides, there are a number of
little benefits to being able to shuffle your deck or get cards into your graveyard.

There is actually a huge amount of room for personalization in your manabase in Commander, and I like the use of Strip Mine, Tectonic Edge, and Arcane
Lighthouse here. I would actually consider adding even a few more colorless lands, particularly if you can cut a Swamp and an Island for a colorless land
and a land that can make either color (such as Flooded Strand).

The colorless land I would want most is Winding Canyons. It’s a great card for Commander anyway, letting you keep your options open, but it’s particularly
awesome with Dragonlord Silumgar, letting you steal a creature inside of combat or in response to an opponent’s spell.

Next, let’s take a look at the non-creature spells. I kind of felt like this might have one major theme too many, and I was interested in finding room for
some library manipulation to give us more options on what sweet cards to cast. While I don’t think we need to remove it all, I’d recommend scaling back on
the reanimator theme. I want to be able to set up the Ghostly Flicker/Conjurer’s Closet/Thornbite Staff type combos more reliably.


Extract from Darkness Animate Dead Necromancy Monastery Siege Crystal Ball


Brainstorm Ponder Preordain Mystical Teachings Treasure Cruise Dig Through Time

If we wanted to keep one of these, I would pick Necromancy since the ability to use it at instant speed is pretty sweet. In general, however, I am a little
hesitant to want to reanimate my opponents’ cards in this deck since we’re already so vulnerable to bounce (which messes up our stealing). Without the
reanimation theme, Monastery Siege loses its appeal, and it can be replaced with cheaper library manipulation.

Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain are extremely efficient, and they help us at basically every stage of the game. Early, they can ensure we hit our land
drops and can find an answer to an annoying problem. Later, they help us find our best combos and game-winning bombs. They also help fill our graveyard,
making our Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time

Treasure Cruise? Dig Through Time? Hey! What the?!

Look, these two cards are absurd. They are literally so good. Games of Commander generally go long enough that these cards are going to end up costing just
one or two mana, and the extra cards they provide will make everything else come together. These cards are banned in Modern. If we’re allowed to play them,
you better believe we should!

Altar’s Reap is a fun combo with Dragonlord Silumgar, but if we wanted, we could (very) slightly upgrade it with Perilous Research. That said, if we’re
taking a more budget approach, it’s probably not worth it unless we already have the card. We could play both if we wanted, but I think we actually have
enough sac-outlets anyway.

Crystal Ball is a fun way to set up your future draws, but I’d rather use Mystical Teachings, which gives us a lot of versatility as the game goes on. In
general, “tutors” that can find a key card in your deck get better the more targets you have for them. Because Commander involves 100 card decks and all
singletons, tutors are more attractive than usual, and Mystical Teachings is basically two.

At this point, we need to make some more cuts to make room for this extra land and card draw.


Beguiler of Wills Ninja of the Deep Hours Icefall Regent Steel Hellkite Dissipate Reckless Spite Reality Shift Leyline of the Void Phyrexian Arena


Jushi Apprentice Rapid Hybridization Counterspell

Beguiler of Wills is a little more of what Dragonlord SIlumgar already offers us, so I am not super enthusiastic about it. It’s also a very scary card for
people that is pretty bad when it’s bad. As a result, I would guess a lot of people kill it whenever it would be good. When it lives, it’s probably because
it’s not doing much. Of course, you have to go on your own experience here. If the texture of your games makes it consistently great, trust the results you
are getting and keep it in.

Ninja of the Deep Hours has a soft spot in my heart, but it’s a little dicey in a multiplayer game. I hate having to attack and hit someone to get my extra
cards. I’d rather be able to attack or not attack, depending on how the game was playing out. Jushi Apprentice is sweet in this spot, giving us extra cards
without having to battle, plus letting us become king-maker more often later when it flips. Targeting yourself is fun, but targeting a new ally is super

Phyrexian Arena is another fantastic card drawer in 1-vs-1 games, but it can be a liability in a big game. If your games are super passive and you aren’t
worried about the life loss, rock, but I’d rather count on the extra cards from Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise.

Similarly, Icefall Regent is normally a great 1-vs-1 card, but it has diminished utility in a big game. It is often outclassed by things other people are
doing, and it’s a quick way to make an enemy. If you just love the card, you gotta play the cards you love, but I’d leave this one on the bench.

Steel Hellkite is just this big giant monster, which can be cool, but without the strong reanimation theme, we don’t need creatures that are just big

A couple more minor upgrades I’d like to make include Dissipate into Counterspell and Reality Shift into Rapid Hybridization. Neither is necessary, but I
like the idea of reducing the cost of some of our tricks so that we’re better prepared for big showdown turns. We’re often going to have to spend so much
mana on Dragonlord Silumgar, it’s nice to be able to still hold our tricks up when we do.

Leyline of the Void is often a great utility card, but it interferes with our remaining reanimator tricks. Besides, I would rather not make an enemy the
way Leyline makes one. If we want graveyard defense, I’d rather use something like Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb.

Finally, Reckless Spite is a reasonable card, and if your metagame has lots of fatties all over the place, rock on, but I’d rather bias a little more
towards counterspells. If we do want an actual creature kill spell, I’d rather use Slaughter. It lets you use it a little more freely early on, and then it
gives you an implied threat to deter people from attacking you later.

This brings us up to 97 cards, with room for a few more tricks up our sleeve. I’ve got a couple suggestions, but this is an easy spot to just put in
anything you want, no matter how fancy or weird. I always love having at least a couple cards no one at the table is suspecting. It’s good to be known for
being capable of anything!


Dismiss Qarsi High Priest Infernal Offering

I like having more countermagic, and Dismiss is a good one. I’d prefer Cryptic Command if we have one. Another option to consider is Arcane Denial, which
has most of the same functionality, but it is less likely to make us an enemy. Plus, in a pinch, we can Arcane Denial our own cards to draw three!

Qarsi High Priest is a real underpowered card, so it’s totally understandable if it doesn’t make the cut, however, it’s another way to kill off creatures
we steal with Silumgar, and it combos great with cards like Ruthless Deathfang. Besides, the card has a reputation for being horrible even though it’s
actually not that bad. That can work in our favor, as people are more likely to underestimate us. I also just find it a lot of fun to pull off big plays
with cards people make fun of.

Finally, Infernal Offering is a great way to sacrifice a creature we steal for profit, plus it gives us more reanimation power. It’s also great for helping
us set up situations in which we are a very powerful ally. Being a strong potential ally that people are fighting to be in good standing with is actually a
really fun sub-game in itself, and it helps exemplify the political side of Commander that I really enjoy from time to time.

Putting it all together produces the following:

Dragonlord Silumgar
Patrick Chapin
Test deck on 05-06-2015
Magic Card Back

For participating in this week’s edition of Dear Azami, as always you’ll be receiving a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com Online Store. That
goes a long way towards the $23.98 it’d cost to adopt all of today’s suggested changes. Breaking down the individual changes by price, we get the

Talisman of Dominance $0.99
Dimir Signet $0.89
Jushi Apprentice $0.89
Qarsi High Priest $0.25
Brainstorm $1.29
Dig Through Time $5.89
Mystical Teachings $0.29
Counterspell $0.95
Dismiss $0.29
Rapid Hybridization $0.65
Ponder $1.19
Preordain $1.15
Treasure Cruise $0.35
Infernal Offering $0.49
Dismal Backwater $0.15
Jwar Isle Refuge $0.39
Dreadship Reef $0.39
Winding Canyons $7.49

I love deckbuilding for new formats, so it’s been a blast working on Commander today. One of the awesome parts of Commander is that the brewing is never done though. The card pool is just too large to look at all of the possibilities, and picking 100 cards involves so many possible combinations!

And since this is the 200th edition of Dear Azami, we wanted to repeat another tradition we’d set up for the hundredth article by including a table with links to all of the commanders we’ve covered in the past hundred columns as well!

Dear Azami #: Author: Commander:
100 Sean McKeown Jolrael, Empress of Beasts
101 Cassidy McAuliffe Dakkon Blackblade
102 Sheldon Menery Lavinia of the Tenth
103 Cassidy McAuliffe Crosis, the Purger
104 Sean McKeown Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
105 Cassidy McAuliffe Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
106 Sean McKeown The Mimeoplasm
107 Cassidy McAuliffe Jacques Le Vert
108 Sean McKeown Maelstrom Wanderer
109 Cassidy McAuliffe Sen Triplets
110 Sean McKeown Zur the Enchanter
111 Cassidy McAuliffe Ruhan of the Fomori
112 Sean McKeown Mayael the Anima
113 Sean McKeown Child of Alara
114 Cassidy McAuliffe The Mimeoplasm
115 Cassidy McAuliffe Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer
116 Sean McKeown Purphoros, God of the Forge
117 Cassidy McAuliffe Daxos of Meletis
118 Sean McKeown Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
119 Cassidy McAuliffe Adun Oakenshield
120 Sean McKeown
121 Cassidy McAuliffe Erebos, God of the Dead
122 Sean McKeown Brion Stoutarm
123 Cassidy McAuliffe Sydri, Galvanic Genius
124 Sean McKeown Prime Speaker Zegana
125 Sean McKeown Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper
126 Cassidy McAuliffe Avacyn, Angel of Hope
127 David McDarby Nekusar, the Mindrazer
128 Cassidy McAuliffe
129 Sean McKeown Intet, the Dreamer
130 Sean McKeown Rosheen Meanderer
131 David McDarby Horobi, Death’s Wail
132 Sean McKeown Geist of Saint Traft
133 David McDarby Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
134 Sean McKeown Merieke Ri Berit
135 David McDarby Rith, the Awakener
136 Sean McKeown Ephara, God of the Polis
137 David McDarby Karametra, God of Harvests
138 Cassidy McAuliffe Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
139 Sean McKeown Karona, False God
140 Cassidy McAuliffe Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
141 Sean McKeown Sol’Kanar the Swamp King
142 Cassidy McAuliffe Angus Mackenzie
143 Sean McKeown Nin, the Pain Artist
144 Cassidy McAuliffe Maelstrom Wanderer
145 Sean McKeown Sliver Queen
146 Cassidy McAuliffe Anax and Cymede
147 Sean McKeown Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer
148 Cassidy McAuliffe Vaevictis Asmadi
149 Sean McKeown Rafiq of the Many
150 Cassidy McAuliffe Arcum Dagsson
151 Sean McKeown Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
152 Cassidy McAuliffe Athreos, God of Passage
153 Sean McKeown Mirri, Cat Warrior
154 Cassidy McAuliffe Mogis, God of Slaughter
155 Sean McKeown Marchesa, the Black Rose
156 Sean McKeown Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
157 David McDarby Vorel of the Hull Clade
158 William Hernandez Xira Arien
159 Jess Stirba Rosheen Meanderer
160 Sean McKeown Karametra, God of Harvests
161 Jess Stirba Yeva, Nature’s Herald
162 Sean McKeown Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
163 Jess Stirba The Mimeoplasm
164 Sean McKeown Skullbriar, The Walking Grave
165 Jess Stirba Athreos, God of Passage
166 Sean McKeown Roon of the Hidden Realm
167 Jess Stirba Muzzio, Visionary Architect
168 Sean McKeown Anafenza, the Foremost
169 Jess Stirba Brimaz, King of Oreskos
170 Sean McKeown Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer
171 Jess Stirba Ghave, Guru of Spores
172 Sean McKeown Gaddock Teeg
173 Jess Stirba Surrak Dragonclaw
174 Sean McKeown
175 Jess Stirba
176 Sean McKeown Feldon of the Third Path
177 Jess Stirba Stitcher Geralf
178 Sean McKeown Titania, Protector of Argoth
179 Jess Stirba Ghoulcaller Gisa
180 Sean McKeown Jazal Goldmane
181 Jess Stirba Selvala, Explorer Returned
182 Sean McKeown Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
183 Jess Stirba Zur the Enchanter
184 Sean McKeown Kaalia of the Vast
185 Jess Stirba Anafenza, the Foremost
186 Sean McKeown Alesha, Who Smiles At Death
187 Jess Stirba Tasigur, the Golden Fang
188 Sean McKeown Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
189 Jess Stirba Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
190 Sean McKeown Glissa, the Traitor
191 Jess Stirba Jhoira of the Ghitu
192 Sean McKeown Oros, the Avenger
193 Jess Stirba Animar, Soul of Elements
194 Sean McKeown Dragonlord Atarka
195 Jess Stirba Wort, Boggart Auntie
196 Sean McKeown
197 Jess Stirba Alesha, Who Smiles At Death
198 Sean McKeown Phelddagrif
199 Jess Stirba Zedruu the Greathearted

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We’re always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article, like Andre’s Zedruu the Greathearted deck or Owen’s Phelddagrif deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!

Email us a deck submission using this link here!

Like what you’ve seen? Feel free to explore more of Dear Azami here, in the Article Archives! Feel free to follow Sean on Facebook… sometimes there are extra surprises and bonus content to be found over on his Facebook Fan Page, as well as previews of the next week’s column at the end of the week!

And feel free to check Jess’s own Command of Etiquette column on Hipsters of the Coast for more Commander and casual content!