Dear Azami: Magic Brings People Together

This week on Dear Azami, Jess is reunited with an old friend and a favorite Commander as she takes on a reader’s Damia, Sage of Stone deck!

I had been scheduled to go to a big Legacy tournament this past weekend when my partner and I came down with food poisoning. We ended up stuck at home, having bad times, while many of our friends were playing eleven rounds of Legacy.

It sucked. But, unsurprisingly, the most frustrating part wasn’t just missing out on a chance to play Legacy; if I feel the need to scratch that itch, local game stores have been stepping up to provide those tournaments (at least in New York and Boston). What I was really bummed about was the chance to hang out with my tournament friends. When I was describing my weekend plans to coworkers, I wasn’t highlighting the tournament side of things. I called it a convention, and like any good convention scene you’re going to see people you know more and more over the years, as your friend networks branch out exponentially.

And in the past year or so, work has intruded to such a degree that I don’t get to see those folks much anymore.

It was a bummer, so I was overjoyed to find this email from a friend in the Dear Azami inbox, someone I hadn’t seen since my activist days. She has kept up the good fight whilst I’ve pivoted to more of a direct services take on criminal justice reform. There are many different ways to make the world a better place, and while our paths have diverged it was cool that Magic was the thing to rekindle that point of contact.

Anyway, without further ado, take it away Alison!

Dear Azami,

This is primarily for Jess – its been a while since we’ve seen each other! I hope you are doing well. I was excited to see your column on Star City a few months ago, and I have been following it ever since and thinking about submitting something! I’m a huge Commander fan, and I’ve found your column very helpful.

The deck I am submitting was the second Commander deck I ever built, and I built it based on my love of Gorgons. I love their colors, their mythology, and their abilities – in fact, I have a big tattoo of a gorgon on my back! However, the deck hasn’t kept up with releases and it feels unfocused. The deck is built around Damia and several discard engines, with a loose Gorgon theme. We have a group that does three-player Commander games regularly and our metagame is pretty challenging. I am looking to update the deck but I am happy to consider different ideas for it, like a Gorgon tribal build or some other way to use Damia. I’m willing to invest in the deck but wouldn’t want to spend more than about $100 or so.

Commander – Damia, Sage of Stone

Glen Elendra Archmage
Swiftfoot Boots
Grave Betrayal
Gorgon Recluse
Haunted Crossroads
Visara the Dreadful
Buried Alive
Trygon Predator
Moan of the Unhallowed
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Seedborn Muse
Psychosis Crawler
Crucible of Worlds
Exile into Darkness
Demonic Collusion
Eternal Witness
Xathrid Gorgon
Beacon of Unrest
Zombie Infestation
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Leyline of the Void
Squandered Resources
Ertai, Wizard Adept
Reaper of the Wilds
Vengeful Pharaoh
Grave Scrabbler
Borderland Ranger
Zuran Orb
The Mimeoplasm
General’s Kabuto
Death of a Thousand Stings
Barter in Blood
Lightning Greaves
Wight of Precinct Six
Sol Ring
Glissa, the Traitor
Viridian Longbow
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Butcher of Malakir
Vorosh, the Hunter
Villainous Wealth
Leyline of Anticipation
Fungal Shambler
Mystic Snake
Thornbite Staff
Vulturous Zombie
Cemetery Reaper
Tribute to Hunger
Grave Pact
Demonic Tutor
Solemn Simulacrum
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Spell Crumple
Vraska the Unseen
Chromatic Lantern
Somberwald Sage
Diregraf Captain
Syphon Flesh
Vessel of Endless Rest
Sisters of Stone Death
Oracle of Mul Daya
Whispersilk Cloak
Shimmering Grotto
Golgari Guildgate
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Terramorphic Expanse
Lake of the Dead
Salt Marsh
Simic Growth Chamber
Evolving Wilds
Opulent Palace
Rupture Spire
Rogue’s Passage
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Command Tower
Jwar Isle Refuge
4 Island
4 Forest
9 Swamp

Thank you so much!


It certainly didn’t hurt that this was quite the well-constructed Dear Azami submission. It includes an explanation of how this deck fits in with the rest of her Commander context, an indication of the power level of her playgroup, and a personal note about what aspect of the deck jazzes her up… which in this case is Gorgons.

Which I totally get! Gorgons are cool, and they generally got a bad rap in mythology. The Greek gods were complete dicks and practiced a particularly nasty versions of victim-blaming. In the case of Medusa, Medusa was just a pretty lady who got raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple. Now, a reasonable virgin goddess would look at that and smite the rapist, but in this circumstance (and in most Greek myths) the rapist in question was family. So the woman further suffered.

Mind you, some of this might be Ovid, as that particular origin story comes from the Metamorphoses. Ovid was exiled for what some theorize was a sex crime, perhaps against Emperor Augustus’s granddaughter (who was exiled around the same time). These stories are often shaped by their tellers, and no matter how you frame it, Medusa was dealt a bad hand. Cursed to be a weapon of mass destruction and primarily known only because some jerk cut her head off, her final resting place was on the shield of the goddess who victim-blamed her in the first place.

There has been a more interesting take on the Gorgon mythos in the last decade and change. Charles Stross, a writer of many different types of speculative fiction, wove the Gorgon myth into his “Occult Underworld” Laundry series, specifically in the Atrocity Archive. The series as a whole focuses on a low-level British bureaucrat in a Lovecraftian world; one of the otherworldly weapons they have is a basilisk gun derived from the Gorgons of that world, who still occur naturally in remote parts of the globe. Stross is interesting because he does a crazy amount of worldbuilding, down to trying to figure out the physics of how a petrification gaze attack would work. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, check him out.

And if you’re more generally interested in the links between the Magic worlds and our own, A Planeswalker’s Guide To Earth is a particularly good read.

Anyway, I decided on a straight upgrade for Alison’s deck since it seemed like she missed a chunk of Theros Block, and that block offered up some really interesting Gorgons. I’m a particular fan of Hythonia the Cruel, but Pharika, God of Affliction, who should have been a Gorgon God, is another standout. Between cards dropping in price due to reprints (I’m looking at you, Pernicious Deed) and the several sets that hit since the last time it looked like the deck got a major overhaul, I decided to cut pretty deep. Some good cards came out and some mediocre cards came in, but I think this version might play out a bit more smoothly.

Let’s begin!

Changing It Up

Fix Up The Mana

Out (8):

Golgari Guildgate Jwar Isle Refuge Rupture Spire Shimmering Grotto Salt Marsh Swamp Swamp Swamp

In (15):

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx Myriad Landscape Bant Panorama Esper Panorama Grixis Panorama Barren Moor Lonely Sandbar Tranquil Thicket Polluted Mire Remote Isle Slippery Karst Forest Island Life from the Loam Restore

I wish I could say “the first thing I noticed was the manabase,” but that would be untrue. I only noticed the land count when I was already trying to cut furiously to provide room for some of the neat cards I wanted to add. 32 lands, the original count, was a bit light for a seven-mana commander. I bumped it up to 37; I considered 38, but it seemed like with the draw and ramp this was a deck that could get away with running 37. I also wanted to balance out the colors a little, so I shaved two Swamps for an Island and a Forest respectively.

My sequencing error turns out to have been a relative boon, though. I had wanted to add in some more Terramorphic Expanse-type cards because you’re running Crucible of Worlds, and it’s better to use the power of that card for good than for Strip Mining people. To add in the Panoramae without bringing in more lands would have cut into the basic lands, and that’s a dangerous proposition. As in I still had to shave off one basic land, which won’t be the end of the world, but it is still less than ideal.

Since you were already running Crucible of Worlds, I decided to lean into that theme a bit. Bringing in Restore is a good way to shore up the two-mana ramp slot while still giving you a lot of options. If you playgroup is high-powered there’s the chance you can piggyback off their fetchlands without having to run some of your own. I also brought in Life from the Loam because it helps enable Crucible of Worlds with its dredge ability and otherwise helps emulate it.

Life from the Loam also cries out to be paired with cycling lands, so I added them in. What I like is that you can use them with Crucible of Worlds, cycling them and then playing them from the graveyard. It’s “make your own cantripping lands,” which is pretty awesome.

As for the cuts… I’m not a huge fan of asymmetrical cycles, even when the imbalance is intentional. I play a lot of different decks, and from time to time I loan them out and I just like to know that if I see one card in a land cycle that I can rely on seeing the others. As such, I cut the lone Guildgate and Refuge, as well as the two weaker options in Shimmering Grotto and Rupture Spire. Shimmering Grotto has been totally outclassed by Opal Palace, which didn’t seem like a great fit for what doesn’t seem like a combat commander; Rupture Spire is particularly weak in a deck that wants to maximize its mana every turn so as to drop the maximum number of cards from hand.

Create Some Openings

Out (13):

Death of a Thousand Stings Diregraf Captain Exile into Darkness Fungal Shambler Gorgon Recluse Grave Betrayal Grave Scrabbler Moan of the Unhallowed Psychosis Crawler Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre Vorosh, the Hunter Vengeful Pharaoh Wight of Precinct Six

Since I was cutting into action to make room for lands, I needed to take out some elements of the deck I didn’t think were entirely on point. For example, there was a minor Zombie subtheme, perhaps due to the strong synergies between Damia, Sage of Stone and Zombie Infestation. Some of the cards, like Cemetery Reaper and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, seemed powerful enough on their own to merit inclusion, as a hate card and graveyard enabler respectively. Moan of the Unhallowed, on the other hand, is four bodies for eleven mana. There are decks that can make great use of a card like that, but this didn’t seem to be one of them.

Getting rid of that subtheme also meant nixing Diregraf Captain, Grave Scrabbler, Vengeful Pharaoh, and Wight of Precinct Six. Each is strong in the right deck, but the right deck varies. Grave Scrabbler wants a devoted Madness deck while Damia seemed like she was a few discard outlets short of hitting that mark. This is also why I took out Gorgon Recluse, but I supplemented her with several other Gorgons, to be net-Gorgon-positive in the end.

Diregraf Captain is great in a Zombie deck, but it doesn’t have much synergies outside of that tribal context. Vengeful Pharaoh is a 101st card for me a lot of the time; I think it’s strong, but it never seems like it’s a good fit. If you can only draw one card off Damia, how often are you going to want that card to be the Pharaoh? Wight of Precinct Six is great in mill decks, Zombie decks, and beatdown decks. Damia seems to be none of those. I’m not saying the Wight is a bad card; it excels in Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, to give one example. But this didn’t seem like a great fit.

Death of a Thousand Stings and Exile into Darkness were both hamstrung by a single word: each. As in, you have to have more cards in hand than each opponent to get the benefit of the cards. Even with a guaranteed hand of seven cards, that isn’t a reliable condition in Commander. If they were cheaper, like one mana for Death and three mana for Exile, they might be understandable. But they’re expensive; if you do get them back, they’re either going to ride your hand, taking up space for Damia, or they’re going to be a significant portion of what you do with your mana that turn cycle. Neither seems ideal.

I also cut some finishers. Kind of like how Death and Exile threaten to ride your hand well past their utility point, dedicated finishers in a deck like this aren’t going to be great draws most of the time. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre comes with a hefty price tag, and Vorosh, the Hunter spends your mana when you cast it and when you activate its ability. Those slots can be better used elsewhere.

Fungal Shambler, on the other hand, highlights what I like about Conclave Naturalists. A lot of powerful creatures have four toughness, which means you can take out a permanent and then trade the body for a Craw Wurm. In Commander, that Wurm just isn’t going to survive through a lot of combats. That’s doubly true if the Craw Wurm comes stapled to an Abyssal Specter and a Thieving Magpie. It is going to be worth a lot of resources for your opponent to kill that thing, and it’s not particularly hard to do so.

Psychosis Crawler also fails a balancing test, although this one is more “power to aggro” than Fungal Shambler’s “power to irritation” factor. If you’re using Damia to her fullest, Psychosis Crawler is a 7/7 who nugs your opponents for seven damage each time you have an upkeep. Now, that’s a Magical Christmas Land scenario, for sure, but that’s how your opponents will be evaluating the card. Even if you’re just doing three damage a turn, that still draws a lot of attention. And if you stall out at seven cards, you’re left with a relatively vanilla 7/7 for five mana. It just doesn’t seem like that’s a reliable spread.

Protect Your Game Plan

Out (4):

Ertai, Wizard Adept Spell Crumple Swiftfoot Boots Whispersilk Cloak

In (3):

Archetype of Finality Baleful Strix Simic Charm

There are different ways to protect a game plan. The most expected path for a blue deck to go is through counterspells. Ertai, Wizard Adept, is both slow and predictable, neither of which is ideal in a counterspell. Instead, try something like Simic Charm. It’s easy to overlook the way in which that card is a counterspell, but it turns out being able to give your board Hexproof at instant speed counters a lot of different lines of play. It can also save Damia in combat or in response to an Earthquake-style effect since people rarely play around Giant Growth. Finally, it’s also Unsummon. Yes, you lose out on the repeatability factor, but I think you’ll find it’s generally worth it.

Spell Crumple got worse when they changed the tuck rules. Its main purpose, after all, was to give new Commander players a way to deal with opposing commanders. The powers that be realized that’s not a ton of fun, though, so now it’s more limited in its applicability. While it’s still aces against any recursion decks, that’s probably not enough justification for the slot.

Swiftfoot Boots and Whispersilk Coak seem as though their primary purpose is to keep Damia on the board. While I personally prefer using cards like Darksteel Plate since my metagame sees more Wrath of God effects than targeted removal, either way I think you’re fine with two versions of the card. Lightning Greaves has a zero equip cost, which is ideal in a card like that, and General’s Kabuto allows Damia to do her Deathtouching without fear of retaliation. They seem like the better versions of that effect… especially given how twitchy people get when someone has an unblockable and untargetable commander on the battlefield.

There are different types of protection, though. Baleful Strix is of the rattler variety. You’re running several planeswalkers, and Baleful Strix does an amazing job of protecting them. It also keeps you from having to deal with a ton of attacks of opportunity. It doesn’t stop all of them, mind you, since there are some things not worth trading a Strix for, but it stops enough, especially given that it’s two mana and it cantrips. It’s a sweet card.

Finally, there’s Archetype of Finality. Not only is she a sweet Nyx-infused Gorgon, but she also means that you’re the only one who is going to have Deathtouch… and all your creatures will get it. That’s strong, especially now that cards like Bow of Nylea are seeing broad play.

Switch Up The Removal

Out (6):

Barter in Blood Leyline of the Void Syphon Flesh Thornbite Staff Tribute to Hunger Viridian Longbow

In (11):

Acidic Slime Bow of Nylea Garruk Relentless Golgari Charm Hythonia the Cruel Keepsake Gorgon Pharika, God of Affliction Pernicious Deed Scavenging Ooze Silumgar's Command Sultai Charm

So let’s talk about Bow of Nylea, another one of my additions. It’s a strong card. It reminds me a lot of Umazewa’s Jitte. Not in the power level, of course; it’s good, but Jitte is broken. It just does a lot of things. Not only does it have several different activated abilities, but it also gives your team Deathtouch on the attack. When you add in the removal, the ability to put cards from your graveyard back to your library, the pump, and the lifegain, it seems like a strong addition in most green decks.

I kept up the Deathtouch theme but at the same time I cut the Thornbite Staff and Viridian Longbow, which may seem odd. Basically, it comes down to the balance between threat and danger. Deathtouch, as things go, is a very powerful ability. It also doesn’t tend to be a super threatening one. That balance changes very quickly when you’re threatening to machine gun down your opponents’ board states, though. Deathtouch pingers are super high threat. As long as Thornbite Staff or Viridian Longbow are on the table, it is in your opponents’ best interest to kill Damia. While that probably should be generally true given Damia’s power level, she’s not the splashiest of threats… until you threaten to turn her into a hurricane of destruction. You don’t want people paying her much mind, so the equipment cuts against the central plan of the deck.

But cards like Acidic Slime are great. I like any Mulldrifter that can trade with most creatures after it’s had its primary effect.

I cut Barter in Blood because, while it’s great should you ever stall out, it’s really weak when you’re on the back foot. When you’re in dire need, you’re going to want Damia to help you draw out to safety. It doesn’t help that Diabolic Edict-style effects are generally weaker in Commander, where there’s a greater chance of running into decks with fodder or tokens. That’s also why I cut Syphon Flesh and Tribute to Hunger. I considered bringing in Reign of the Pit, since it’s basically just a better (if slightly more expensive) version of Syphon Flesh, but I’d rather run Archfiend of Depravity for a whole host of reasons… and there wasn’t room for that particular Demon either.

Garruk Relentless is a Swiss Army knife. He’s removal against weak things, a way to get Damia off the board in a pinch, he makes both regular and Deathtouch wolves, he tutors, and he Overruns. He’d see a tremendous amount of play in Commander if he didn’t have a needlessly stupid Golgari color identity for flavor reasons. I have in the past argued for a change in this type of color identity, but the gods that govern Commander don’t listen to me. Which is probably as it should be. I’d swell out the ban list.

Golgari Charm is removal tied to protection, which is on point for a deck like this. Sultai Charm is removal tied to draw, and Silumgar’s Command is removal tied to a counterspell. Noticing a theme? If you think there’s not a modal card I’d skip, I’d like to point out the intentional absence of Dimir Charm because that card is fracking awful.

Pernicious Deed and Scavenging Ooze are good cards that have seen a fair amount of play in Legacy. Due to recent reprints, though, both are at fairly low prices, which is cool… more people should get a chance to play with these powerful cards. Scooze is pretty straightforward, since it’s pinpoint graveyard hate tied to a lifegain monster. That’s going to work better for you than Leyline of the Void, since the Leyline makes people feel bad, aim their cannons at you, and then keeps you from Mimeoplasm-ing their best dead creature.

Pernicious Deed, though… now Deed is a great card. Most relevantly, it’s a way to clear the board while leaving behind Damia and your planeswalkers. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it! More interestingly, as an enchantment it can be recurred by Pharika’s Mender, which is also a Gorgon! Wheels within wheels.

Speaking of Gorgons, let’s talk about Pharika, God of Affliction and friends. I classify Pharika as removal because she’s pinpoint graveyard removal, but her real strength lies in the way to use her politically. For example, someone you want to live is being attacked by something big without first strike or trample. If you take something threatening from their graveyard, they’ll get a 1/1 Deathtouch token creature they can then use to block the attacker and kill it! You end up with some goodwill from the person you helped, the death of the most dangerous attacker (subject to keyword limitations), and something nasty out of a graveyard.

And if you’re rocking Archetype of Finality, you can snake their graveyards with abandon since 1/1s are a lot less threatening to you without Deathtouch.

Keepsake Gorgon and Hythonia the Cruel may be two of my favorite cards from Theros Block. I don’t even know why, they’re not superstars, but the Gorgons got some of the most flavorful Monstrous triggers. Considering one’s a pretty unrestricted removal spell and the other’s mass removal that won’t hit your commander, they’re a good fit for a Damia, Sage of Stone deck even if you didn’t like the Gorgon theme. Since you do, they’re slam includes.

Bringing Back The Dead

Out (3):

Beacon of Unrest Haunted Crossroads Sheoldred, Whispering One

In (5):

Den Protector Tasigur, the Golden Fang Deadbridge Chant Spitting Image Pharika's Mender

Pharika’s Mender is a good Gravedigger. While Gravedigger has a more tribally-relevant creature type, for one green mana more the Mender can get both creatures and enchantments. Add in an actual combat-relevant body and Pharika’s Mender starts to look like a pretty solid addition to any Golgari deck that even makes moderate use of its graveyard. Plus, you know… Gorgon.

Haunted Crossroads was new to me, which is a rarity indeed. My sense of the card is that in the right deck it’s probably busted, but this is not that deck. That deck would care about the order of the top of its library, and Damia is rather indifferent on that front. Still, there are plenty of Golgari decks in which it would shine; it seems pretty brutal with Lurking Predators, for example. Beacon of Unrest is just mediocre, especially when you’re running Eternal Witness. In a situation like this, the “shuffles back into your library” clause might end up causing you more harm than good.

Now, it’s reasonable to think “hey Jess, Eternal Witness is just one card. Should we really be making decisions based on what it can and can’t recur?” That’s a good question, personal interlocutor! That’s why I’m bringing in Den Protector and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Both of these creatures can recur basically everything, and each of them has some relevance on the battlefield. And in case that’s not enough recursion for you, Deadbridge Chant’s random nature is offset by the fact that it reanimates any creature cards it should land on. All together I think these make for some compelling arguments to ditch the Beacon effects, but always feel free to disagree!

Spitting Image lets you turn excess lands into spells, although it’s got a bit of a hefty price tag to use it. Luckily, it works perfectly well from your graveyard, so you can hold off on the effect without cluttering your hand.

Hand clutter is why I cut Sheoldred, Whispering One. I just think she draws a metric ton of aggro, and her hefty price tag means you won’t be doing much else on the turn you drop her. The Praetors are the types of card I often use to paint my opponents as the big threat at the table, and as such I’ve been cutting back on them in all contexts.

Switch Out The Combo

Out (2):

Leyline of Anticipation Seedborn Muse

In (1):

Prophet of Kruphix

Speaking of “painting my opponents as the big threat,” there are few things that make that easier than the “take all the turns” combo of Seedborn Muse (or equivalent) and Leyline of Anticipation (or equivalent). Shockingly, people tend to be less than happy when their personal-special-turn-time gets eaten up by the most powerful player at the table.

But it is a super powerful synergy, and I think everyone should play with it some to get a sense of how degenerate it truly is. Luckily, for decks that can run Simic cards, now you don’t have to devote two slots to the combo. For some inexplicable reason Wizards threw both halves of the combo on a single card: Prophet of Kruphix. And for some equally inexplicable reason, this card has yet to be banned in Commander. So enjoy it while it lasts! You’ll barely notice the creature restriction, although there’s a fair chance this version gets stolen or copied. And that’s just a reasonable drawback to a one-card combo.

Slip Past Enemy Forces

Out (2):

Filth Wonder

In (1):

Thassa, God of the Sea

I’m not a huge fan of the Anger cycle (since, in my head, that’s the trope-namer for this particular grouping of cards). That enthusiasm dims further when we’re talking about granting situational evasion. People get weird when they’re the only one running lands of the type your creatures are walking. But even Wonder isn’t amazing, though the evasion is of a more even power level.

Instead, try out Thassa, God of the Sea. She’s a great card because she survives most mass removal spells and effects, provides incidental advantage for the entire time she’s on the battlefield (scry ones add up!), and provides true unblockability for a very reasonable mana cost. Also, she generally drops earlier than the threats she pushes through, so people tend to get used to her after a couple of turns where she’s done nothing but provide you with card selection. That is invariably a mistake. Thassa wins games.

Ramp Up The Red

Out (5):

Borderland Ranger Somberwald Sage Squandered Resources Vessel of Endless Rest Zuran Orb

In (5):

Deathrite Shaman Courser of Kruphix Kiora, the Crashing Wave Sakura-Tribe Elder Urban Evolution

Ramp is good.

Somberwald Sage isn’t great in a deck like this, because you’re not running a ton of creatures. After the cuts you’re running about 33 total, which isn’t bad, but Somberwald Sage’s inability to use its ability for activated abilities (or morph costs) is a huge strike against it in anything short of a fifty-creature deck. I’m less a fan of Borderland Ranger than Civic Wayfinder (despite loving Borderlands), as the Wayfinder has three relevant creature types, but I think both of those cards aren’t a great fit. With Damia counting cards in hand, you’d rather that land go straight onto the battlefield.

Squandered Resources and Zuran Orb both allow you to ramp with Crucible of Worlds, but they’re pretty harsh on your manabase without the Crucible. Vessel of Endless Rest, in the meantime, is just a little weak compared to all the other three-drop mana rock options. My suggestion would be Commander’s Sphere if you need to run a version of the effect beyond Chromatic Lantern; in this case, I think you want to get underneath the three-drop slot, so neither the Vessel nor the Sphere seems ideal.

Deathrite Shaman is a great card. Pinpoint graveyard removal tied to ramp and a victory condition? Count me in! I’ve been playing with this thing since it burst on the scene, immediately slotting it into my Legacy Rock deck back before the resurgence of the Punishing Fire engine made Jund the place to be. Anyway, it’s a good way to shut down someone else’s Life from the Loam shenanigans, and the other two abilities mess with a fair amount of flashback and recursion.

Courser of Kruphix is a good match for Oracle of Mul Daya. At first glance it seems worse, but between the lifegain, the defensive body, and the lower mana cost, it holds its own. I (probably) wouldn’t ever cut Oracle for Courser (well, maybe in an enchantment deck), but they work well side by side. It’s a powerful ability whether or not you’re getting ahead on lands, after all.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave is basically a double Explore with upside. It doesn’t hurt that part of that upside is an insanely low real-world price for a four-mana planeswalker that reads “draw a card.” Still, the bubble effect is versatile enough to give you political opportunities, and the ultimate is game over for your opponents. Plus, Kiora works really well with Courser of Kruphix. Turn-three Courser into turn-four Kiora means it’s almost certain you’ll be able to drop two lands off the top of your library, saving you from having to draw anything but gas.

I prefer Sakura-Tribe Elder to Borderland Ranger both because the Elder skips the hand, and because the Elder is a two-drop. The best part of Sakura-Tribe Elder is its ability to block like a champ against anything that lacks trample or evasion. Lock in the block and then you just get to ramp while the opposing creature is left with nothing to fight, its attack on you wasted. It’s a sweet card, and being able to drop it and do something else that turn is pretty fun for a deck that wants to do all of the things.

Finally, there’s Urban Evolution. Urban Evolution is one of those “play with it if you have a chance” cards in Commander. Not only is it a type of ramp, but it also draws you a fair number of cards.

Which brings us to our final section.

Some More Draw

In (3):

Deathreap Ritual Dig Through Time Treasure Cruise

These are three more powerful draw engines from the Sultai shard that you should try out. Deathreap Ritual will draw you a card most turns, and by that I mean each of the turns taken by most of the players at the table. That thing triggers like crazy. It’s basically a fixed version of Rhystic Study without the irritating bookkeeping. Since it doesn’t draw the same level of attention as Rhystic Study or Mind’s Eye, people will often kill something splashier, all while you’re drawing cards.

Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise are draw spells so powerful they got banned in most Eternal formats. They’re a lot of fun, though, particularly as the game goes on. It turns out Delve is a powerful mechanic when tied to a draw spell. Who knew?!? Anyway, it’s worth feeling that power at your fingertips. It really is.

But why is draw important in a Damia deck? Because sometimes Damia is going to get stuck on seven cards, or sometimes Damia is going to die. The sad truth of Commander is that our commanders are disposable resources. Even in the most dedicated commander-themed deck, you should build for a Plan B. In this case, Plan B is two gross draw spells and an undervalued engine. It’s not a strong enough suite to be your Plan A, but they’re generally things you can do before you hit Damia, Sage of Stone’s requisite seven mana.

The List

Commander: Damia, Sage of Stone
Jess Stirba
Test deck on 11-30--0001
Magic Card Back

What I like best about this deck doesn’t show up well when the decklist is laid out properly. I like the curve. It’s a sweet curve, peaking at the three spot. Let’s see if this shows up properly in a more cellular form:


Green cells are creatures, with the darker green being pre-existing creatures and the lighter green being the ones I added. The deck now has 33 creatures, and I think that’s a good place for a deck like this.

Yellow and blue are the noncreature spells, with yellow being the additions. As you can see, the (rough) average of the creature converted mana cost leaves your creatures peaking at four mana, with your spells peaking a bit earlier at three mana. Once you hit Damia, you should be able to cast a creature every turn while keeping mana up for a spell.

Or at least that’s the goal. These things don’t always play out as I intend. If you find things playing out worse than planned, cheap spells are your friend. Thought Scour is seeing a lot of play these days, since it’s a good Tasigur enabler. Ponder, Preordain, and Serum Visions are similarly strong. If you find something’s letting you down, consider switching it out for a shot at smoother draws.

The Price Tag

Luckily for me, Alison gave me a budget. I can work well within a budget. It tends to set my power level. With lower budgets my cut-off point tends to be below $5 for all but the most important cards. With a larger budget, though, I can point people towards solid role-players that will probably find a home in another deck should you ever move away from this one. For example, the most expensive three cards in the list are Den Protector, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Life from the Loam. Each is played in a non-Commander format, and Den Protector and Life from the Loam are both cards that can see play in any green deck. Tasigur is a bit more difficult due to the color identity rules (like, why can’t he show up in Golgari or Dimir decks, gods of Commander?), but he’s seeing play in Modern and Legacy, and is also a shirtless dude; the rarity alone of Magic cards pitched to the gaze of straight women makes that art somewhat astounding.

Anyway, enough with the digressions, let’s look at the breakdown:


As you can see, I have kept to the budget! I had to cut a few cards to do so, although if you ever want to add Primal Command to the deck the newest Duel Deck has you set on that front. This cost will be further ameliorated by the $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com that all chosen submissions to Dear Azami receive. Interested in your selection being picked? Submit your decklist and a brief explanatory paragraph to DearAzami [at] gmail [dot] com! SUBMIT!

Alison, I hope you like what I’ve done with your deck. And for the rest of our audience, well, here’s hoping Magic brings people back into your orbit as well. No matter how long it’s been, remember: Magic, Magic never changes.

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We’re always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article. 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!

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