Dear Azami: Halfway To Everywhere

Half of Commander’s fun is in the games, but the other half is the deckbuilding! Levi Byrne is working with a building restriction that we can’t believe no one has worked with before!

Kaladesh was fully revealed on Friday, and I’m very interested in what we’re getting: great build-around cards, more good artifacts than any set since the Scars block, and a lot of cheap legendary creatures that we’ll all need to keep our eyes on. Some of the Energy engines out there have amazing potential, and Combustible Gearhulk might be one of the first playable pieces of red card draw for Commander. Between that and the amazing Metalwork Colossus, my Bosh deck will be getting some serious upgrades.

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

Now, let’s take a look at this week’s submission.

Dear Azami,

After seeing Kambal, Consul of Allocation, I was excited to brew. Was building a deck initially for it and then I realized that I had six enchantments, six artifacts, six creatures, six sorceries and six instants. That’s when I realized I had to build a deck with ten of each card type… Further building upon this concept, I decided that I have to make an equal number of black cards and white cards in my deck. I know the deck is a bit on the pricier side, but I mostly have this cards so it wasn’t a big deal to me.

It really is important to me that I have to play ten of each card type and 40 mana sources (38 lands, Sol Ring, and Mana Crypt). Furthermore, I would also like the some symmetry in my lands: ten Swamps, ten Plains, ten W/B lands, and ten colorless lands (I included Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth here, although I would like to change that).

I also am gonna be using Aetherflux Reservoir in my deck, as it would be pretty funny. I’m pretty sure I would like to use Tainted Sigil but I’m finding it hard to cut the other artifacts. Thanks, Kent.

Here’s the deck.


Kambal, Consul of Allocation

Instant (3 black, 3 white, 4 multicolor)

Ad Nauseam

Hero’s Downfall

Vampiric Tutor

Path to Exile

Swords to Plowshares

Return to Dust

Anguished Unmaking



Utter End

Sorcery (5 white, 5 black)

Austere Command

Council’s Judgment



Tragic Arrogance

Demonic Tutor


Toxic Deluge

Yawgmoth’s Will

Worst Fears

Planeswalker (4 white, 4 black, 2 multicolor)

Ajani Goldmane

Ajani Steadfast

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Liliana of the Veil

Ob Nixilis Reignited

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Sorin Markov

Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Kaya, Ghost Assassin

Enchantment (5 black and 5 white)


Bloodchief Ascension

Dark Tutelage

Phyrexian Arena


Rest in Peace

Test of Endurance

Martyr’s Bond

Land Tax

Boon Reflection

Creature (3 white, 3 black, 2 multicolor, 2 colorless)

Academy Rector

Archangel of Thune

Stoneforge Mystic

Dark Confidant

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Kokusho, the Evening Star

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

Karlov of the Ghost Council

Solemn Simulacrum

Emrakul, the Promised End

Artifact (This is where I’m lost)

Alhammarret’s Archive


Ivory Tower


Scroll Rack

Swiftfoot Boots

Sword of War and Peace

Venser’s Journal

Aetherflux Reservoir

Tainted Sigil


Sol Ring

Mana Crypt

10 Plains

10 Swamp

Isolated Chapel


Godless Shrine

Marsh Flats

Fetid Heath

Shambling Vent

Tainted Field

Temple of Silence

Scoured Barrens

Command Tower

Reliquary Tower

Cabal Coffers

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth


Strip Mine

Westvale Abbey

Vault of the Archangel

High Market

Talk about a challenge.

At its heart, Commander is a format of arbitrary restrictions. We all agree to play 40 extra cards and only use a single copy of any nonbasic card. Now, sure, at this point the format’s well-enough established that those restrictions ensure that we can pick up games easily when entering a new playgroup, but Commander took off in the first place because of how fun those restrictions make games. That’s one of the reasons why I like embracing self-imposed challenges like this one. And boy, is this one going to be tricky.

By restricting the number of each card type that can be run, Kent has done a couple of things. First, any mechanical synergies like Sigil of the Empty Throne or even Cathars’ Crusade simply aren’t worth running, because there can’t be the necessary density of synergistic cards in the deck to make them worthwhile.

Second, it’s thrown the balance of effects in the deck way off. Almost all of your twenty instants and sorceries are dedicated to battlefield clears and spot removal, while your package of threats is left pitifully light by the fact that you only have ten creatures and about half of your Planeswalkers dedicated to aggression. I know W/B is supposed to be a grindy combination, but as-is this deck doesn’t have an endgame beyond Emrakul, the Promised End and your other Mindslaver effects hijacking decks that have an actual battlefield presence of their own.

Additionally, when totaling up the deck, you forgot to count Kambal, so the submitted list is 101 cards. I’ll be taking that extra cut out of the creature section so that Kambal rounds your creature count back to ten.

With these issues in mind, let’s get on to the deck:

The Creatures


To maintain color balance, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is the creature getting the ax to get the list down to size. She’s on-theme, but even with token makers, you simply won’t be able to afford to sacrifice your limited battlefield presence.

Stoneforge Mystic and Dark Confidant are interesting cuts because they’re cards that are traditionally very powerful but happen to line up poorly in this deck. You have a very limited Equipment package for Stoneforge Mystic, and for every turn 3 Batterskull she enables, there will be a few games where she just finds Swiftfoot Boots far after it would’ve mattered. This is especially true since I’ll be cutting into your Equipment package a bit.

As for Dark Confidant, while card draw is great, this deck needs to be set up for the long, long, long grind, and given that your curve is quite high, Dark Confidant can legitimately shorten your lifespan. I’m well aware that life points are a resource, but you’re set up to get some huge benefits from being at high life total.

As for Sidisi, Undead Vizier, you’re already running a lot of tutors for a very low density of relevant cards, so I’ve got no problems cutting the most expensive one, especially since she asks you to sacrifice a creature to do it.


If you’re noticing a theme here, there’s a reason for that. One of the biggest hurdles for the deck was that you were trying to do four to five different things at once, and the deck had gotten muddled as a result. I wanted to give the deck some mechanical cohesion, and the one theme that plays out all across W/B is lifegain. (And drain.)

With Test of Endurance already in the list, Felidar Sovereign wasn’t a hard choice. Between those two and Aetherflux Reservoir, you’re legitimately trying to win with life now, and we can tune the rest of the deck around that idea. Rhox Faithmender is a simple inclusion to turbocharge all of your lifegain effects, while Blood Artist comes down early and rewards you for playing the attrition-y game that you’re set up for. It’ll also randomly hose certain kinds of combo decks, which won’t happen a lot, but is fun when it comes up.

We’re also up one white card after this section, so we’ll need to earn that back elsewhere.

The Artifacts


Let’s start with the big one here. Mindslaver is easily one of the most powerful cards in your original decklist, and I’m fairly sure surviving until you could tutor for this or one of the other redundant effects was your Plan A all along. I’ll give you points for not planning to recur it and Mindslaver lock people, but even without this possibility, these effects earn far more hatred than they’re worth. I’m letting you keep Emrakul, the Promised End and Sorin Markov because of how good their other abilities are, but I’m cutting this and Worst Fears. It’s up to the rest of the changes I make to let the deck stand on its own.

As for Ivory Tower and Sword of War and Peace, you simply don’t have the card draw required to make these worthwhile. You aren’t the kind of control deck that wants to be sitting around with a grip of seven cards, so the amount of life you’ll be gaining here is very limited. Add in the fact that I’m not willing to rely on you having a creature to suit up that can sneak through and connect with an opponent, and Sword in particular is not well-positioned here.


And now the lifegain synergies continue. Eternity Vessel might seem a little weird for a deck that wants its life total to be climbing every turn, but if you’re thinking that, I have two words for you: Aetherflux Reservoir. You have enough tutors that setting that machine gun up isn’t unreasonable, and Vessel is a very strong defensive card in its own right. Just remember to leave your fetchlands uncracked.

Well of Lost Dreams is the card advantage engine this deck really wanted, and while it’s mana-intensive, this can easily let you outdraw all of you opponents combined in a given turn cycle. It turns any unused mana into cards early on and just gets better later in the game, which is saying a lot.

Now we get to The Chain Veil. This might be one of the weirder cards I’ve ever added to a deck. Normally I don’t like planeswalkers in a deck, but your theme demands them and a lot of them, so why not embrace it? There is a risk that you’ll spend a few turns with turbocharged planeswalkers and then start taking chip shots from the Veil after they die, but the ridiculous shenanigans that activating the same planeswalker twice in a turn can produce make it worth it.

Speaking of the planeswalkers:

The Planeswalkers


Oh, Liliana. The hundred-dollar planeswalker joins a growing list of amazing Constructed cards that simply don’t translate to Commander. She’s one of the only discard cards you’re running, so she’s unlikely to empty your opponents’ hands on her own, and her -2 is just bad given how often people have random 1/1s clogging up the back ranks of their battlefield. Sure her ultimate is good, but you can’t run a planeswalker just for the ultimate unless you’re in a dedicated Doubling Season deck.


Lifegain. Token creation. Reasonable battlefield wipe. What’s not to like about this package? I’ll be honest that I included this Elspeth mostly for her -2, because of how badly this deck needs creatures, but your deck likes every mode she has.

We’re up another white card here, so a future section is going to have to make it up with two black cards.

The Enchantments


Dark Tutelage shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve said why I didn’t like this effect back when we cut Dark Confidant, and it’s still true.

As for Rest in Peace, this is one of the first cases where a change was dictated strictly by the constraints of Kent’s challenge. You definitely want to dedicate a slot to graveyard hate and Rest in Peace is the most powerful version of that effect out there, but it couldn’t be a white enchantment. We’ll get to the replacement for this card in a bit.


As anyone who’s played with it knows, Luminarch Ascension can turn online frighteningly quickly in multiplayer. Once this enchantment is active, you get 4/4 fliers for two mana, no other commitment. That’s such a compact package for a win condition that I’m willing to include it despite its high-variance nature and the ire that it draws.

As for Grave Pact, I know it’s weird given how I’ve been talking about how light you are on creatures, but in reality you’re only light on impactful creatures. A fair number of your planeswalkers can churn out tokens every turn, and a lot of your utility creatures that are irrelevant in combat can happily chump block and force your opponent to sacrifice things. When it comes to staying alive, Grave Pact is a great deterrent to keep your opponents away from you.

The Instants


So I’ve already mentioned why I don’t like trading life to cards at a rate equal to converted mana cost. Ad Nauseum is easily the worst version of this effect for you, as you can’t abuse the sudden burst of cards like a combo deck would.

I said from the beginning that you were far, far too heavy on spot removal. I kind of wanted to gut this whole section and start from scratch, but all the removal is technically within your gameplan. Just be aware that playing a one-for-one game against three or more opponents is doomed to failure unless backed by ungodly amounts of card draw and mana.

For now, though, we’re cutting Path to Exile and Return to Dust. Those could easily be any other piece of removal you’ve got here, since it’s all so strong, but just trim down on the numbers a little.


You’re running a lot of battlefield wipes, and other people will have them as well, which makes Spoils of Blood a very reasonable card to hold up at one black mana for the moment where it’ll shine. Add in the fact that it’s a way to fit a large threat into a spell slot and I’m happy with the inclusion.

Sudden Spoiling is honestly one of my favorite cards. Split second makes sure that you can simply shut down your opponents without giving them the chance to respond whenever you want to, which in my experience can get people out of situations that no other card can. Whether it’s stopping a lethal attack or just clearing the way for your own killing blow to land uncontested, I’ve never been unhappy with Sudden Spoiling.

And now we come to the replacement for Rest in Peace. Crypt Incursion isn’t quite as powerful, but it’s black, it’s an instant, it gains you a ton of life, and you can basically use it as a super counterspell against any reanimation effect.

With two white cards out and two black ones in their place, we’re back to being on equal footing for the colors.

The Sorceries


We’ve already covered why I don’t want the control opponent effect back at Mindslaver, so I’m just going to move on from Worst Fears.

As for Rout, I actually like the number of battlefield clears that you’re running, but there’s one that’s a lot more flexible I’d rather have here, and it even will finish balancing the colors in the deck.


Now, I know adding spot removal back in after the last section seems like a cop-out, but Vindicate is just that flexible. It answers anything, and even if you gut the rest of your removal section, it’s worth keeping.

As for Merciless Eviction, it doesn’t have the instant-speed option of Rout, but exiling and your choice of artifacts, creatures, enchantments, or planeswalkers lets you tailor it to your needs in any game.

The Lands


You said you weren’t happy with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers in the ten colorless utility land slots, and the logical place to put them is the black land slots. If you prefer you can cut them entirely, but the sheer power they bring is worth bending the ten specifically basic lands part of your project. It’s enough that these two only tap for black mana.


Given how Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are so omnipresent and you’re running a ton of removal, it’s worth dedicating a land slot to Arcane Lighthouse so you can counteract the cards that negate that part of your strategy.

In general I’m not a fan of the Blighted cycle, as they’re expensive to activate and losing a land is a pretty huge cost, but the sudden boost of lifegain will sometimes be able to spring out of a lethal attack or boost you up to the levels where Test of Endurance or Felidar Sovereign kicks in. Given that it enters the battlefield untapped and you don’t need a ton of specifically colored mana, that’s a low enough opportunity const to include it.

Putting it all together, here’s the finished decklist:

Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 09-20-2016

And the additions, sorted by price:



Crypt Incursion


Blighted Steppe


Spoils of Blood


Felidar Sovereign


Sudden Spoiling


Merciless Eviction


The Chain Veil


Blood Artist


Eternity Vessel


Well of Lost Dreams


Arcane Lighthouse


Rhox Faithmender


Luminarch Ascension




Elspeth Tirel


Grave Pact




The additions add up to $57.68. As always, Kent will receive twenty dollars in store credit to StarCityGames.com in order to help him make these changes.

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