Dear Azami: Thanksgiving Edition

In this special installment of Dear Azami, David McDarby fills in for our usual hosts and tweaks Daniel’s Nekusar, the Mindrazer to his tastes.

Why hello, dear readers, and welcome to the special Thanksgiving Edition of Dear Azami. As you might have noticed, I am neither Sean McKeown nor Cassidy McAuliffe but David McDarby! You might have seen me on such websites as StarCityGames.com, where I am currently spearheading the Commander Versus series, or in such locations as behind the dealer booth at SCG Open Series buying cards, or around table 100 during round 5 of said Opens ever struggling in that constant twilight between getting my free entry back or Cubing all day.

Your dear hosts asked me to make a special guest appearance on the weekly Commander written series here, and since I have an insatiable lust for acceptance and dramaturgy, I snap obv agreed not close one time dealered! Now just let me strap on my Endotaxis-Goggles and reach into this Portable Hole of digitized mail and see what I can rustle up. (Or is it a Bag of Holding? Just don’t put one inside the other. Please.)

Dear Azami,

Here’s a list I’ve been tweaking for the past few weeks. The goal is to end up chaining ”wheel” effects and setting up some dumb combo or damage jackpot from all the potential interactions. 

It’s meant to allow people to do dumb stuff on their end while staying back and flashing the occasional Evacuation to a diplomacy partner.

I’m curious to hear your opinion since you’ve been tweaking decks rather well and with the casual intentions of Commander. 

I love to have grindy games and draw cards. Wait, everyone loves to draw cards, right?!

Thanks ahead of time! 🙂

Daniel L.


Nekusar, the Mindrazer


1 Goblin Electromancer
1 Guttersnipe
1 Jace’s Archivist
1 Kami of the Crescent Moon
1 Melek, Izzet Paragon
1 Nightscape Familiar
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Psychosis Crawler
1 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
1 Snapcaster Mage


1 Anvil of Bogardan
1 Arcane Denial
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Damnation
1 Darksteel Plate
1 Decree of Pain
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Desertion
1 Dream Fracture
1 Dream Halls
1 Evacuation
1 Exquisite Blood
1 Font of Mythos
1 Forced Fruition
1 Furnace of Rath
1 Future Sight
1 Gamble
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Grim Monolith
1 Helm of Awakening
1 Howling Mine
1 Incendiary Command
1 Intuition
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Liliana’s Caress
1 Megrim
1 Memory Jar
1 Minds Aglow
1 Molten Psyche
1 Mystical Tutor
1 No Mercy
1 Past in Flames
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Scroll Rack
1 Sol Ring
1 Spiteful Visions
1 Talisman of Dominance
1 Talisman of Indulgence
1 Teferi’s Puzzle Box
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Time Reversal
1 Time Spiral
1 Underworld Dreams
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Vedalken Orrery
1 Wheel and Deal
1 Wheel of Fate
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Whispering Madness
1 Windfall
1 Winds of Change
1 Yawgmoth’s Will


1 Badlands
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 City of Brass
1 Command Tower
1 Darkwater Catacombs
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Graven Cairns
1 Island
1 Maze of Ith
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Mountain
1 Polluted Delta
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Reliquary Tower
1 River of Tears
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Shadowblood Ridge
1 Shivan Reef
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Sulfurous Springs
1 Sunken Ruins
1 Swamp
1 Tainted Isle
1 Tainted Peak
1 Underground Sea
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Volcanic Island
1 Watery Grave

What’s this? An Izzet (plus black, so Dark Izzet or Drizzet) general? From the new Commander 2013 product? Well Doctor my Traits and call me a Muck Drubb, I think I can work with this. Normally here on Dear Azami decks will get tuned, cards will get replaced, and Winding Canyons will get mentioned every single time, but I want to do something a little different. Daniel hasn’t asked for much besides how a particular person that clearly isn’t me would tweak his deck. I’m going to take what Daniel is trying to do and work that into how I go about making Commander decks. I’ll take a look at Daniel’s list and then take one direction our Dear King Arthas could go as he razes minds from Otaria to Shiv.

Daniel’s Underworld Mine Man

Daniel likes people drawing cards. Nekusar likes drawing cards. Everybody likes drawing cards. Heck, I’m sure even LeBron James enjoys the occasional card drawing when he’s not getting hat tricks on every serve. But throughout all this we need a focus. That doesn’t mean we want to start every deck with every single cantrip and tutor known to Planeswalkerkind, but rather we need a game plan, a road to how we’re going to get there. We have Goblin Electromancer and Melek, Izzet Paragon but tons of creatures and such. We’ve got counterspells and Future Sight, but with the high count of mass drawing effects littered throughout the 99 + 1 cards, we have no real way to leverage these one-sided resource gains into our advantage. We also have some Howling Mine effects competing with our Wheel of Fortune effects.

I’d like to stress that in no way is having these things wrong or incorrect like we hear in 60-card universes. Commander is a way to express yourself, your history in this crazy card game, and how you want to spend time with your buddies. By all means build whatever the heck you want. But dear Daniel has unknowingly received the help of the most mediocre Izzet Mage on the planet, and by Niv I’m going to break down just exactly what Nekusar explores in the Commander format and how we can maximize our fun (what an oxymoronic statement).

A Love letter to Pat Sajak

The Commander decks that I build mostly all have themes, whether it is a certain card type, a creature type, a letter of the alphabet, or some other nonsensical Vorthosian mythos that may come to me. Yes, I want to win in this format, but more importantly I want to have fun and do things I don’t get the chance to when I’m battling for honor and glory in the competitive venue. And since our commander has just recently been released, what exactly does Nekusar do?

He is quite literally Howling Mine + Underworld Dreams. How do we exploit this?



So we want people to draw cards. Lots and lots of cards. So many cards that if the cards were lava and our opponents were swimming in it, they would drown. So what do we do? We can indeed play Howling Mine and Font of Mythos and cards of that ilk, but come on—we’re blue and red . . . and black! As my Great Grandpappy always told me, “Do things seven at a time or none at all.” So wheels it is! But let’s dissect exactly what a Wheel of Fortune effect does. For three-to-five mana, each player discards (or shuffles in) all the cards in their hand, and then they draw seven new ones.

This is bad for you in that:

1. You’re spending mana and a card to refill your opponents’ hands (giving them an absurd resource increase).
2. You aren’t progressing your board state in any meaningful way.
3. You’re not exactly digging for a particular card, and you’re not helping yourself any more than you’re helping your opponents (the symmetrically affecting effect).

But what states does this force our opponents in? What all cards can we use to harness the advantages from these man Spinners, yo?

1. They draw a lot of cards. (Underworld Dreams)
2. They discard a little less than a lot of cards. (Megrim)
3. They will have seven cards in their hand after the spell resolves. (Sudden Impact)
4. Their library will be closer to zero. (Keening Stone)
5. Their graveyard will be larger. (Reanimate)

So out of all these effects, what exactly should we focus on? Every other black Commander deck has reanimating spells, so let’s keep going. I rather like the challenge of a milling deck, or as the cool kids call it a decking deck. However, with our dear Lich commander in play, they’re most likely dead before we are even able to put 80 some cards into their graveyard. So out of our remaining three options, the first two don’t have enough cards to truly make our focus, so we can include them in our list. That leaves us with Sudden Impact type effects. These cards aren’t very prevalent in Standard, Limited, Legacy, Modern, Block, or any other type of format really (except for that Owling Mine deck that one guy played). I intend to change that and bring this oft-maligned mechanic to Local Game Stores near you!

Wheel Estate

As with any Commander deck, half of your deck is mana, and with us drawing an absurd amount of cards each turn, we actually need a lower amount of lands than normal (37-38) and a larger amount of mana rocks than normal (6-8). I’m going to start with Daniel’s mana base, which is pretty perfect for what we’re trying to do. Mikokoro is the only real “sweet” land we’re running, as we are trying to cast Underworld Dreams and Niv-Mizzet in the same deck. I’ve simply removed the tainted lands as well as the City of Brass.

With a lower Swamp count, I don’t want to be Tormented with the former lands only producing colorless mana, and I don’t want the latter land to kill me since one of my few defenses is my life total, especially when I’m giving people resources by the barge load. I’ve also added in Creeping Tar Pit (for when you just have to encode your Whispering Madness) and Spinerock Knoll, which triggers when an opponent is dealt seven damage. How convenient!

A couple other additions are just random lands to bring the total to 36, with one being Maze of Ith. Daniel also has a good start on mana rocks, but we need more. My advice when adding nonland sources of mana to a Commander deck mirrors Gavin Verhey stance on numbers of lands in Constructed decks: “Just add another one.” I have also added three fast-mana cards. These cards may raise some APBs with the fun police about whether or not my intentions are “non-combo.” I have not included any cards with the storm mechanic, and you can only rebuy your spells once in this deck. I merely wanted to have more options when you’re wheeling and dealing but not stealing everybody’s time.

Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Cascade Bluffs
Exotic Orchard
Command Tower
Darkwater Catacombs
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Graven Cairns
Maze of Ith
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Polluted Delta
Reflecting Pool
Reliquary Tower
River of Tears
Scalding Tarn
Shadowblood Ridge
Shivan Reef
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Sulfurous Springs
Sunken Ruins
Underground Sea
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Volcanic Island
Watery Grave
Creeping Tar Pit
Crumbling Necropolis
Volrath’s Stronghold
Spinerock Knoll
Underground River
Nephalia Drownyard
Chromatic Lantern
Sol Ring
Izzet Signet
Rakdos Signet
Dimir Signet
Thran Dynamo
Coalition Relic
Worn Powerstone
Mind Stone
Mana Crypt
Dark Ritual
Cabal Ritual
Seething Song

The Wheel Deal

So now that approximately half of our deck is already allotted to mana, where do we start? Why, the wheels of course! Have you ever seen a wheel go on vacation? Have you ever seen a wheel take a sick day? Well, my friends, the answer is no! So I say be . . . the wheel! Be . . . the wheel. Daniel has the right idea with most of the wheels. We want to see at least one by turn 5 or so every game. Eleven or so should about do it.

Some don’t actually make people discard cards, but I don’t need to have two of them in my hand at any time. That would actually be bad! So some of the more expensive ones (Chandra Ablaze) or weaker ones (Whirlpool Warrior) have been omitted. Whispering Madness is especially spicy since it’s the wheel that keeps on keeping on. Yes, that’s a Timetwister, flying its solitary banner of Power Nine that can be played in non-Vintage formats. From the looks of Daniel’s U/B lands, he has spared no expense in his deck crafting, and neither will I.

Wheel of Fortune
Time Spiral
Time Reversal
Whispering Madness
Incendiary Command
Winds of Change
Teferi’s Puzzle Box
Jace’s Archivist
Memory Jar

Wheely Hope I Don’t Die

As is the case with any Wheel of Fortune deck, you’re giving your opponents tons of cards when they were doing just fine without your hearty donations. So how do we—try—to not lose? Sweepers are always good. But how can we combine these with our wheels? If only there were some way to return our opponents’ cards to their hand, as then they would be forced to discard them! With this revelation I do believe I’ve broken the format. Whenever a player miracles a Devastation Tide into a miracle Reforge the Soul on an opponent’s upkeep, please send royalty checks my way. Massacre Wurm is a good way to keep Avenger of Zendikar and other various token-making machines in check. And by “in check” I mean “dead.”

Devastation Tide
Cyclonic Rift
Massacre Wurm

Wheel Ingredients, Wheel Pizza

Alright, now that we have our wheels, what exactly can we leverage with them? I’ve decided to add pretty much every card that cares if our opponents are drawing extra cards or discarding cards. Since we’re of the Grixis mindset, we’re far more apt to punish everybody (Group Slug) as opposed to helping everybody (Group Hug). Even though our general is itself a Spiteful Visions, I want so much spite that their PP becomes zero as they Struggle against our malefic deeds.

This deck was also just a good excuse to include my Parun. While Nekusar is not unlike Niv-Mizzet in the fact that he loves himself a Curiosity, Ophidian Eye, or Tandem Lookout, I feel like our wheel effects are not only much better in the card-drawing category (Alex Trebek’s favorite no doubt) but also in the thematic category. So basically when you have function versus flavor, their highest definitive integral will generate the most amount of Commanderocity. Yeah, that’s probably not correct; it’s been three years since I took Calculus, leave me alone.

Bloodchief Ascension
Liliana’s Caress
Underworld Dreams
Kederekt Parasite
Anvil of Bogardan
Spiteful Visions
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Psychosis Crawler

Double Wheelie

There is a small part of me that enjoys burn decks. Some of the most fun I’ve had in Legacy is with U/R Delver. I’ve only ever played a burn deck in Standard once, and that was during the SCG Open that my Caw-Blade deck was stolen. While I still made Top 8 of the event and learned to better watch my stuff, the more important lesson I learned that day was that red mana is a powerful influence in my life, and I was from then on forever an Izzet Mage. And while I’m not about to start slinging Lightning Bolts and Chain Lightnings in a format where everybody starts at 40 life, I definitely wouldn’t mind borrowing red’s penchant for doubling damage. Here Quest for Pure Flame gives your deck a “combo storm” feel but without the eye rolls you get when you’re slinging around Grapeshot or Tendrils of Agony.

Curse of Bloodletting
Quest for Pure Flame
Gratuitous Violence

The Ol’ Facewheel

Remember the third point in the section where I broke down how we can win with wheels? Yeah, me neither. It was the part about Sudden Impact effects. Now, this list of cards right here will be the one that turns the most heads and simultaneously ends the most games. All Commander battles must come to an end at some point. We all do have to get back to dusting off our comic-book collections of Issue #1s.

In theory we are using burn spells to ignore the board and end the game before our opponents can use their slower but more powerful permanents to leverage our net resource negatives into their advantage (Goblin Guide versus White Knight). Plus it’s a reason to use The Littlest Planeswalker: Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. I have full confidence that nobody is actually allowed to attack him; it’s just built into the rules of the game. And if somebody ever even thinks about it, you can just mock them mercilessly for the rest of their life, which is much better use of time that playing a silly card game in my opinion anyway.

Cerebral Vortex
Molten Psyche
Price of Knowledge
Runeflare Trap
Spiraling Embers
Stormbreath Dragon
Sudden Impact
Toil // Trouble
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
Sword of War and Peace

Wheel, Here’s The Rest

Alright, not only are we running out of cards to add, but I’m running out of wheel puns. These are some of the cards that don’t really fit into a category. Sakashima is here to have some double commander action. Guiltfeeder is what you might call a “hidden gem” and can kill people surprisingly quickly. We’ve got some graveyard recursion to rebuy our oft stocked graveyard. And then I just wanted to include Lazav, as he is just like a box of chocolates: costs about five bucks and you quickly forget about it.

You might have noticed a certain blue planeswalker even though I said I didn’t want to mix Howling Mines with Wheel of Fortunes. I also said that this format is a way to express yourself. I kinda sorta might have a tiny thing for Jace, so if there’s any way I can play him (read: a blue deck) you bet your Spatial Ectofractalyzer I will.

Past in Flames
Yawgmoth’s Will
Phyrexian Metamorph
Sakashima the Impostor
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
Jace Beleren

Wheel Of Morality Turn Turn Turn . . .

And for our final four slots, I have tutors. Yes, they make the game less random. Yes, they are almost in every deck that can play them for good reason. No, I am not going to do something busted, non-interactive, and unpleasant with them. (Cyclonic Rift is teetering on the edge though). Here, let me give you a list of cards that one could play in this deck but I have chosen not to so that my friends that I play with will get to play the game too and still be my friends: Mindcrank, Notion Thief, Grafted Exoskeleton, Myojin of Night’s Reach, Turnabout, Time Warp.

I choose not to play them in order to keep the “Social Contract” intact. While the contract is a little gray from person to person and you’re free to make and play a deck in whichever way you please, you still signed it when you decided to occupy other people’s precious free time. Don’t be that guy.

Demonic Tutor
Mystical Tutor
Vampiric Tutor

Wheeling It All Together

So after all is said and done, we’ve arrived at these 100 cards.

Nekusar, the Mindrazer
David McDarby
Test deck on 12-01-2013
Magic Card Back

As is customary on Dear Azami, Daniel will be receiving $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com merely for asking advice about a Drizzet commander the turn I’m up to bat. How lucky! Perhaps it will aid him in picking up some of these cards that are in my particular Nekusar list but weren’t in his.

Runeflare Trap $0.25
Curse of Bloodletting $0.49
Devastation Tide $0.49
Guiltfeeder 2.49
Creeping Tar Pit $5.99
Sakashima the Imposter $9.99
Timetwister $399.99

Hopefully you enjoyed my journey through how I would go about building this particular commander. The deck seems like it would be a blast to play and the games would be different depending on who you play against, two of the most important things I look for in a commander deck. I didn’t intend to reinvent the wheel, nor did I intend to dodge Daniel’s beseech for tweaking; I just felt like this was a better way to entertainingly inform my massive fan base (my mom) about my favorite format.

While there was absolutely nothing Thanksgiving oriented about this edition of Dear Azami, do try to hang out with your family. And then play Commander with them.

– David

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 Reggie’s Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper deck or Brian’s Sydri, Galvanic Genius 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 $20 store credit 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! 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! Follow Cassidy on his Facebook page here or check out his Commander blog GeneralDamageControl.com!