Dear Azami: Budget Commander 2015 Precons!

A handful of Commander 2015’s big players have already gotten the Dear Azami treatment! Now it’s time to finish the job as Levi updates the remaining off-the-shelf builds! Don’t miss this great ideas for spicing up your Commander game!

The Commander 2015 decks hit the shelves a few weeks back, marking the fourth year that our favorite format has gotten special love from Wizards. This year
might not have come with as big of a twist as planeswalker commanders, but the commanders this year have some of the most unique designs that I’ve seen in
a while, and they all come in the enemy-color pairs that needed a shot of variety. With the individual decks going for $29.99 to $34.99, they’re a very
good entry point to the format for new players, but we’re still talking about preconstructed decks. They were intended to be a customizable gateway to the
format, not to be competitive right out of the box.

Instead of our normal articles for the next two weeks, Jess and I will be taking a look at the decks and seeing what improvements we can make on a $40
budget. I’m going to start by looking at my two favorite guilds: Izzet and Golgari.

Mizzix of the Izmagnus Meren of Clan Nel Toth

We’ll start with Mizzix and the Seize Control deck. The deck itself has a lot of stuff going on, with many of the pieces and enablers to play a Storm-style
game and very few actual finishers. Mizzik herself has some very unusual templating that asks you to play an almost Birthing Pod-like chain of Instants and
Sorceries. All of those clauses look awkward on the card, but they’re there to keep Mizzik from being broken in half so I can quite my inner Melvin on this
one. She’s also a rather unimpressive 2/2 for four, so it’s fairly obvious that we won’t be aiming to win in combat. What she does give us is an
unprecedented ability to churn out Instants and Sorceries for little to no cost. X spells in particular are very interesting with her cost reduction
ability, since we have a theoretically unlimited ability to add experience counters that way.

Anyway, this is what we’re starting with:

Not a bad place to start, although the deck is a little unfocused. Part of this springs from the fact that both the R/W and U/G decks are so
combat-focused, so the uncommons that show up in multiple decks are a little out of place here. Add in some awkward card choices like Urza’s Rage, and this
is a solid starting point with a lot of room for improvement.

The Creatures

Arguably, this is the least important section of the deck for once, as there’s no card here that I wouldn’t run if it had the same card text on an
identically-costed enchantment. (Well, other than the awkwardness of a non-creature Dragon Mage needing to deal combat damage, but that’s beside the
point.) Anyway, onto the changes!


Goblin Electromancer Lone Revenant Gigantoplasm Broodbirth Viper Warchief Giant

Goblin Electromancer seems like the perfect card for this deck, but I like him a lot less when we have a much bigger version of the same effect on our
general. I don’t want to waste resources protecting another fragile 2/2, so out he goes. Lone Revenant is a choice that I don’t understand for this deck.
Even when the “loner” ability is turned on it’s fairly mediocre, and since we want Mizzix in play whenever possible, it’s often going to be nothing more
than a hexproof 4/4.

Gigantoplasm is one of the more interesting clones they’ve given us in recent years, but we don’t have enough ramp to really take advantage of the ability
and this isn’t really the kind of deck where Clone is good. There’s a saying that claims a Clone is never worse than the best creature in play, but that’s
only true when you’re interested in whatever the best creature in play is. We want as much synergy with our spells as possible, and most of the time we
just aren’t going to get that from what other people are playing.

Broodbirth Viper and Warchief Giant are both poorly positioned because they’re cards that want to get into the red zone in a deck that really doesn’t. At
least the Viper could draw you some cards, but without other attackers or evasion spells to back it up, that’s not something I want to waste a slot on.


Thrummingbird Young Pyromancer

We’re in blue and proliferate works with experience counters. That means there’s a lot of space to explore there. Thrummingbird will usually be able to
find at least one person without their air defenses up, and getting poked for one usually won’t provoke a grudge. Even once it dies, the counters won’t go
away, so we’ll continue to get the benefit.

Young Pyromancer comes in for the fairly simple purpose of making a steady stream of chump blockers. This deck doesn’t have a huge board presence, so I’d
rather have a few cards like this and Talrand that can keep us from just getting run over in the midgame while people are looking for easy targets.

The Enchantments


Awaken the Sky Tyrant Rite of the Raging Storm

I get what they were doing with Rite of the Raging Storm, but let’s face it. A single 5/5 token isn’t a threat in Commander. It certainly isn’t big enough
to keep anyone from attacking you if they were going to anyway, and you only get the Dragon after their attack lands, so it just isn’t good enough. Rite of
the Raging Strom made me laugh when I first saw it, and I know that I’m going to be running it in the future. That being said, in a deck this focused I
can’t justify a card that only makes our job easier in the very long term, especially since it is designed to do nothing but impact life totals until it
starts killing players.


Inexorable Tide Dissipation Field Mindmoil Eye of the Storm Arcane Melee Leyline of Anticipation

I already discussed how good proliferate is in this deck with Thrummingbird, and having Inexorable Tide staple an instance of it to every spell we cast is
very, very good for us. This is one of that fastest ways for us to reach our endgame of having X-costed burn spells reduced by roughly our opponent’s life
total, as suddenly even a Brainstorm will give us a counter when we have twenty already. Dissipation Field is a solid defensive card that was everywhere in
the format when it first came out and has kind of fallen out of favor since then. I’m not really sure why, since having to replay whatever they hit you
with will usually keep people from pointing their toys at you until they can take you out in one shot.

We’re already running Arjun, so Mindmoil seems like a reasonable addition. It attaches a free super-loot to every spell you cast, giving you an unmatchable
amount of card selection just for playing the game. I’ve only played with Mindmoil a few times, but it always seems to end games in a way that people never
see coming. Eye of the Storm is one of my favorite chaotic cards they’ve ever made, and we’re better set up to abuse it than almost any other deck out
there. Unfortunately, it interacts poorly with X spells, but that doesn’t really matter because of just how brutal the spell chains can get, especially
when you control something like 90% of them. Also worth noting, you actually cast the copies out from under Eye of the Storm, so Mindmoil, Inexorable Tide
and the like will trigger for each one.

Arcane Melee is coming in to replace Seal of the Guildpact, which was pretty awkwardly positioned since we aren’t actually running many multicolored
spells. The Melee benefits everyone, but once again we’re going to get more mileage out of the card than anyone else. Finally, I’m bringing in Leyline of
Anticipation, which lets us play our whole game at instant speed. Oftentimes people will avoid messing with you just because of what that open mana could
represent, and sometimes they’ll go for it only to be met with a lethal barrage of fire or a Dissipation Field or any number of other tricks.

The Artifacts


Seal of the Guildpact

I already explained why this was getting cut when I talked about Arcane Melee. Weirdly enough, I think this card might actually be best in a three-color
deck, where you can run a much higher concentration of gold cards, and therefore more that will get the full reduction from it.


Crawlspace Vedalken Orrery Alhammarret's Archive Contagion Engine

Crawlspace will really slow down any sort of token or swarm strategy, which will often be enough to get them pointed in another direction. It just protects
you, so you won’t be locking anyone out of the game, just keeping them away from your life total. Vedalken Orrery is a second copy of Leyline of
Anticipation, which is pretty much all I can ask for. I’d run another couple copies if I could.

With Thought Reflection already in the deck, Alhammaret’s Archive is a no-brainer. Even without doubling your normal draw this card is insane, and not just
because it breaks Arjun/Mindmoil in half. The life clause literally doesn’t matter for us, but we’re definitely abusing the more powerful half of the card.

Contagion Engine serves a dual purpose of double-proliferating Mizzix’s experience counters every turn and killing off one person’s army a turn or so after
you play it. Both are modes that we’re interested in, so there’s no reason not to run it.

The Spells


Magmaquake Chain Reaction Meteor Blast

Sweepers are important, but I think we can afford to run the ones that don’t kill our own commander in the process. Mizzix is fragile enough without us
killing her from time to time. Meteor Blast comes out because the part of it that scales isn’t the part that we’re interested in, and four damage isn’t
enough to kill any fair-sized creature in Commander, so this is basically an overcosted token-hoser.

Stolen Goods Sleep Repeal Echoing Truth

If I wanted to take our opponent’s spells, I’d go for Knowledge Exploitation to actually get a spell that you’re interested in. As it is, Stolen Goods will
often come up with something irrelevant or simply at odds with what you want to do. Sleep is a great Limited card, but it’s inferior to the defensive cards
that I’ve already added. Repeal is a cute trick, but I’m taking it out for a couple reasons. First, it specifies that X be exactly equal to the cost of the
target and I’m not entirely sure how that works with a massive cost reduction. Secondly, there’s a much better bounce spell that I’d rather be
running. Ditto for Echoing Truth, we’ll get to the replacements for these in a bit.

Desperate Ravings Steam Augury Urza's Rage

Discard at random is what really hurts Desperate Ravings, especially since we only have a couple cards that use our graveyard at all. Steam Augury costs
just a little too much for a card that gives the opponent the final choice. Political maneuvering aside, usually they’re going to try to screw you. Urza’s
Rage just scales poorly to Commander. It’s meant to be an unstoppable finishing blow in a twenty-life format, but in Commander, ten damage is a little
laughable if that’s all a card does.

Blatant Thievery Act of Aggression Dominate Firemind's Foresight

Blatant Thievery, Dominate, and Act of Aggression are fairly obvious cuts given how much I dislike relying on our opponents’ cards to do things in this
deck. No matter how good they are they just won’t do what we need them to most of the time. Firemind’s Foresight might actually be at its best in this
deck, considering that you can cast it for two mana and go get three X-spells of your choice, but I’d still rather have more action in the deck than a


Oona's Grace Whispers of the Muse Tezzeret's Gambit

I wanted some more card draw in the deck, and these three provide it in spades. Oona’s Grace turns every lategame land into a card for just U, while
Whispers of the Muse reads as “U: Draw a card” once you get Mizzix up to five counters to negate the buyback cost. That’s an absurdly broken card advantage
engine for a 25-cent common. Tezzeret’s Gambit is potentially a free Divination that proliferates, which isn’t bad as a utility slot.

Capsize Cyclonic Rift

The bounce spells to replace Echoing Truth and Repeal. Capsize will quickly turn into a Boomerang that Buybacks for free, and Cyclonic Rift is the
one-sided wrath that we really needed. It’s a staple of the format for a reason.

Recoup Past in Flames Reiterate Fanning the Flames Mind's Desire

Recoup and Past in Flames join Mizzix’s Mastery to let us get some use out of our graveyard, and unlike the Mastery they play nicely with X-spells. Recoup
will give you some solid utility, while Past in Flames will often win the game. Or set you up to do so next turn. Both are amazing. Reiterate gives you
double-duty on any spell that you can leave RR up for when you cast, and does so repeatedly. Finally, Fanning the Flames and Mind’s Desire are meant to be
win cons. One lets you throw around massive amounts of damage for every time that you can afford the initial RR, and the other can close out a big turn by
flipping ten cards or so directly onto the stack (or your whole deck, if Eye of the Storm is in play).

Here’s the resulting deck:

And here are the additions to the deck sorted by price:

Oona’s Grace $0.15
Thrummingbird $0.15
Whispers of the Muse $0.25
Recoup $0.25
Fanning the Flames $0.29
Tezzeret’s Gambit $0.29
Inexorable Tide $0.49
Mindmoil $0.49
Dissipation Field $0.49
Arcane Melee $0.49
Eye of the Storm $0.69
Capsize $0.85
Mind’s Desire $0.89
Crawlspace $1.25
Young Pyromancer $2.49
Vedalken Orrery $2.59
Alhammaret’s Archive $2.99
Cyclonic Rift $3.05
Contagion Engine $3.25
Reiterate $3.85
Past in Flames $4.49
Leyline of Anticipation $6.59
Total $36.32

Everything totals to $36.32, just a little over the cost of the deck itself and under my budget by three and a half dollars. I really like the result, even
if I didn’t have the budget for Swiftfoot Boots to protect Mizzix or a few other toys.

Next up is Meren of Clan Nel Toth, a card so powerful that I’ve heard some whispers of trying to break her in Legacy. For once that kind of power
translates across formats, and I’m still a little surprised that they made one of the preconstructed generals this strong. For four mana Maren is a
not-flimsy 3/4 that comes with an absurd value engine built in. As long as she’s in play you get experience counters for every creature of yours that dies,
and at the end of your turn she brings back a creature for free. Even if you don’t have enough experience to put it directly into play you still get it
back to your hand, which will usually result in it being cast on your next turn. She’s pretty much the ideal commander to be at the head of a Golgari
midrange deck.

Once again, here’s the list we’re starting with:

This list has a little more of a concrete gameplan than the Seize Control deck, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I’ll be sticking pretty
close to the spirit of the original deck, just streamlining and upgrading it to work better. Graveyard Value Town, here we come!

The Creatures


Blood Bairn Champion of Stray Souls Cloudthresher Eater of Hope Verdant Force Banshee of the Dread Choir Caller of the Pack Great Oak Guardian Thief of Blood

As far as sacrifice outlets go, Blood Bairn is really subpar. Without any kind of evasion or a plan to make enough tokens to one-shot someone, the
temporary buff is basically useless, and if we want something that’s just a sac outlet, there are much better options. I remember being really excited when
Champion of Stray Souls was spoiled, but after playing with it for years I decided it was way too slow and durdley to justify a slot anywhere. This deck is
really good at abusing ETB triggers, but Cloudthresher isn’t really something I’m interested in recurring. The deck isn’t really weak to flyers anyway.

Eater of Hope is just a bad card. Maybe if it didn’t require mana to activate, or two creatures to sacrifice or something it would be passable. Verdant
Force comes out because while tokens have a place in the deck, it’s to die off quickly and build up experience counters in the earlygame, so an eight-drop
isn’t where we want our token producers. Banshee of the Dread Choir and Caller of the Pack both come out because they’re purely combat-focused and we want
to leverage ETB and dies triggers as much as possible.

Thief of Blood gets cut because there’s a minor +1/+1 counter theme here, and unless your playgroup is filled with counter decks you’re as likely to shoot
yourself in the foot as mess with someone else’s plans. Finally, Great Oak Guardian is too expensive for the combat trick that it wants to be, on top of
being a bad rate for the bonus that you get.


Stinkweed Imp Golgari Grave-Troll Corpse Connoisseur Viscera Seer Varolz, the Scar-Striped Soul of the Harvest Splinterfright Brawn Hermit Druid

Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll are both recursive creatures that help fill your graveyard and provide decent value while in play. This isn’t the
kind of deck that wants to run every dredger imaginable, but the top tier are still solid options. Corpse Connoisseur will find any of your creatures for
Meren to reanimate, and can do so multiple times. Viscera Seer and Varolz, the Scar-Striped come in as sac outlets to replace Blood Bairn. Scrying is far
more relevant than the +2/+2 buff, and Varolz’s regeneration will sometimes come up, but the real reason to run him is to have the option to scavenge any
of your dead creatures.

Soul of the Harvest tacks a free cantrip onto every creature you play or reanimate, which is exactly what the deck wants. Splinterfright quickly gets big
enough to win combat against anything but a Voltron commander and mills you a little just by being in play. Brawn makes your whole team a lot harder to
block as long as it’s dead, which this deck doesn’t have a problem pulling off. And finally Hermit Druid is one of the best sources of ramp for a graveyard
deck. He also only costs two, so Meren will be able to bring him back very early in the game.

The Enchantments


Diabolic Servitude

One of their early attempts at a reanimation enchantment, Diabolic Servitude suffers from the usual wall-of-text problems that plagued all of those
designs. That isn’t why I’m cutting it though. It’s expensive to use more than once, and I don’t like leaving your creatures open to exile from any
enchantment removal. We have enough sac outlets that we should usually be able to save the creature, but it’s still just an awkwardly positioned card.


Death's Presence Deadbridge Chant Greater Good

Death’s Presence lets you keep the power of every creature that dies. As long as you can keep a single creature in play, the strength of the fallen will
stick around and create ever-bigger monsters. It’s the kind of card that gives a deck inevitability. Deadbridge Chant fills a similar role as Meren, except
the target is random and it isn’t restricted by CMC or card type. Even without being able to control it, you’ll seldom regret getting an extra card back
every turn. Greater Good is one of the best sac outlets ever, and gives you the ability rip through your deck at breakneck pace.

The Artifacts


Blade of Selves Mesmeric Orb

I actually like the myriad mechanic a lot, especially in a Meren deck. It’s more than a little ironic that I cut both myriad creatures from each deck I
worked on today, but that’s mostly been a case of the individual cards not lining up well against the strategy I was working towards. Blade of Selves, on
the other hand, is more than a little insane in this deck. Slap it on any of the value creatures we’re running and take advantage of multiple triggers
every time you attack. If you have a sac outlet in play, you can get rid of the tokens after they deal damage but before they’d be exiled and take
advantage of all the death shenanigans the deck has to offer (including building experience counters on Meren).

Mesmeric Orb is one of the strongest self-mill cards out there, and the fact that it mills your opponents at the same pace only sometimes comes back to
bite you. Even when it does, you’ll usually be able to exploit the Orb better than your opponents. There’s also the corner case of it shutting off some
infinite combos by being in play, which I’ve seen be relevant a handful of times.

The Spells


Putrefy Wretched Confluence Ambition's Cost Tribute to the Wild Rise from the Grave

Putrefy is a solid card, but between Shriekmaw, Terastodon, Acidic Slime and all the other creatures the precon deck was running to blow things up, I
thought we were covered on removal. Wretched Confluence gets cut because none of its modes really add up. The best mode is to bring creatures back, but our
general reanimates things straight to the battlefield, so there isn’t much point in that. That just leaves us with bad removal and painful card drawing,
neither of which really interest me at these costs.

Remember what I just said about painful drawing? Ambition’s Cost is just as mediocre as the Confluence, but without the flexibility. Tribute to the Wild
gives the choice to your opponents, so you’ll almost never hit something you care about. And finally Rise from the Grave is just a little off from what I
want in this deck. Whenever your general does something, you really need good reason to dedicate more slots to that effect, and Rise from the Grave just
isn’t powerful enough to justify a one-shot reanimation spell when we have access to this effect every turn anyway.


Life from the Loam

I said early on that the top tier of dredge cards are good for the deck, and they don’t get much better than this. Life from the Loam is a single-card
engine that’ll ensure you never miss a land drop while also filling your graveyard. I could go on about how great this card is, but other people have done
that a lot better than I can.

Here’s the list after modifications:

And the additions:

The changes for this one come in at $37.65, although most of that is tied up in a handful of cards. Of all the new generals, I think Meran has the most
flexibility, so this is just one of many potential versions.

Starting the week after next, Jess and I will be overhauling submitted decks built around the alternative commanders from the precon decks, so if you’ve
got a crazy idea for what to do with Uncle Karlov or want to take U/G Snake tribal for a spin, send us your lists. Who knows, you could wind up getting
your list featured in a future Dear Azami.

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? 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!

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