Dear Azami: The Warehouse Of Death

As far as creative themes and restrictions go, this week’s reader is the best Dear Azami has seen in some time! Creative problem-solving is one of the joys of Commander deck construction, and Dear Azami is here to help!

Hello all! I’m back from my trip and… mostly done with moving. I’m going to have boxes to unpack for a while, but right now it’s time to get back to Magic. For that matter, my new roommates are Magic players, and I’ve played more Commander in the past few weeks than I’ve had the chance to in the months leading up to the move. While frequent three-player games are a little odd, it’s a lot better that only getting to play once every few weeks.

Now that I’m back, I wanted to look at a deck that’s a little out there. Commander is usually viewed as a format of huge, swingy plays that change the landscape of a game in an instant. But that isn’t always the case.

Dear Azami,

So, for the first time in a long time, I am stepping out of my comfort zone. I am a blue mage at heart. I love countering spells and being the “Does it resolve?”-with-a-glare guy.

However, making enemies instead of friends is getting old, and a recent playgroup challenge has allowed me to try something new! The challenge is as follows:

– Monocolor deck

– No infinite combos

– Banned list is the usual Commander banlist, plus Sheoldred, Whispering One and Contamination, because she is apparently “too mean” (which, to be honest, she is)

No blue!

In order to understand my deck choice, you have to get me as a player. My favorite decks are decks like Lands, Emeria Control, and Kiki Chord. I love grinding out long, but fun games where I win slowly and without any “I win” cards (yes, Kiki Chord is an exception). I also like winning without attacking. I really, truly, detest the combat step. It is honestly the worst thing ever. So if I can win using Zulaport Cutthroat and Blood Artist, I’ll be a happy kiddo.

Oh, and my budget is about $200!

My current list is as follows:

Commander: Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker


Abyssal Gatekeeper

Big Game Hunter

Bile Urchin

Blood Artist

Blood Pet

Bloodflow Connoisseur

Bog Initiate

Bog Witch

Bottle Gnomes

Brood of Cockroaches

Cadaver Imp

Creepy Doll

Crovax the Cursed

Disciple of Griselbrand

Heap Doll

Butcher of Malakir

Hell’s Caretaker

Keeper of the Dead

Kiku, Night’s Flower


Nether Shadow

Nether Traitor

Pilgrim’s Eye

Royal Assassin

Thoughtpicker Witch

Zulaport Cutthroat

Viscera Seer

Grim Haruspex

Wall of Souls

Coffin Queen

Crypt Ghast

Sorceress Queen


Soldevi Adnate

Graveblade Marauder


Bone Shredder


Vampiric Rites


Phyrexian Reclamation

Dark Prophecy

Dictate of Erebos

Grave Pact


Black Market


Sol Ring

Gilded Lotus

Thran Dynamo

Caged Sun

Expedition Map

Ashnod’s Altar

Jar of Eyeballs

Whispersilk Cloak

Spawning Pit

Lightning Greaves

Swiftfoot Boots


Living Death

Decree of Pain


Tragic Slip

Hero’s Downfall

Night’s Whisper


Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Cabal Coffers

Thespian’s Stage

Temple of the False God

Reliquary Tower

Volrath’s Stronghold

Mystifying Maze

Ghost Quarter

Crypt of Agadeem

Thawing Glaciers

25 Swamp

Thank you for any advice you can give!



Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker tends to get lost in the shuffle of Kamigawa legends that no one remembers. Only caring about creatures with power one or less immediately makes it seem like it’s useless for a format that’s as over-the-top as Commander, but the repeatability of that reanimation ability makes it a deceptively powerful card.

When it comes to overall strategy, Alok’s plan comes pretty close to the ideal for exploiting Shirei. You want to build value off enter-the-battlefield and death triggers over a long game, playing a true game of attrition.

For the most part, I’m going to be making changes to reinforce the deck’s themes and cut out a few unsynergistic cards. I’ll also be upping the creature count significantly, so several slots are getting cut from other sections.

The Creatures


Speaking of unsynergistic cards, Crovax the Cursed might have zero power printed on the card, but Shirei cares about the power a creature had while it was on the battlefield, meaning that Crovax will never get reanimated. Add in the fact that he’s just a mediocre beater on his own, and I’d rather have something else. The same goes for Bloodflow Connoisseur. If you want a sacrifice outlet and don’t need it to be reanimatable, there are much better options than a creature that simply grows bigger.

Nether Shadow and Brood of Cockroaches are both getting cut for the same reason: Shirei will be bringing all of our creatures back anyway, so there’s no need to play otherwise vanilla 1/1s that happen to bring themselves back.

I’m not sure why you were playing Bog Initiate. This is a mono-black deck with a small number of colorless lands, so the filter ability is mostly irrelevant. It certainly isn’t worth a card slot.

This deck thrives off of its ability to keep your opponents’ battlefields clear, but you can do better that Keeper of the Dead and Kiku, Night’s Flower. Due to the nature of your Commander, it’s rare that you’ll have more creatures in your graveyard than an opponent, so Keeper of the Dead will often be shut off. Kiku is simply too expensive to activate. I’ve played her in a few decks myself, and she always winds up just sitting around doing nothing.

I know you want to kill with small life loss triggers, but with Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat in the mix, you don’t need to run a card like Bile Urchin. There are plenty of other value creatures that I’d want before this one.

And finally we come to Graveblade Marauder. This seems like it would be the ideal endgame for your deck, since it’s a reanimatable creature that happens to hit very hard, but while I agree with Guiltfeeder, I don’t like the Marauder for one very simple reason: it doesn’t have evasion. Since you’ll only connect if you’re able to completely run your opponents out of creatures, Graveblade Marauder is a very win-more card for you.


One of the first things that should be obvious is that I’m building a heavy discard package into the deck. You want to play a game of attrition, and recurring hand disruption is one of the strongest ways to do that. I focused on creatures that would hit all your opponents like Rotting Rats, Mindlash Sliver, and Noxious Toad.

On top of that, Black Cat’s random discard has the potential to strip away important cards that your opponents would never willingly pitch, and Chimney Imp’s “discard” to the top of the library can potentially be stronger than normal discard, since your opponents will have to redraw the cards they wanted to get rid of. Sadistic Hypnotist rounds out the discard package by providing a devastating sacrifice outlet. It can only be used during your turn, but I think that limitation is worth the power of stripping out two cards per creature.

Bogbrew Witch and Festering Newt come in as a pair of one-power creatures that have some powerful synergies. (I’ll be adding Bubbling Cauldron once we get to the artifacts section.) If you can assemble the full package, you’ll be able to drain you opponents for large chunks of life and kill medium-sized creatures every turn, which seems fun.

Liliana’s Shade joins Pilgrim’s Eye as repeatable land search. It’s not actually ramp, but a steady stream of lands is never a bad thing, and with a free sacrifice outlet, you can easily thin your deck a lot with these cards.

Deathgreeter turns all of your sacrifices into a steady stream of life. It’s only half of a Blood Artist, but even half of a Blood Artist is great for this deck.

One of the bigger weakness of a Shirei list is that the loop can be broken if your commander ever gets removed, so it makes sense to build in a few ways to bring back creatures that’ve been permanently binned. Apprentice Necromancer can buy back any creature for one mana, and if they come back from the end-step sacrifice, they’ll be back for good.

Finally, Massacre Wurm comes in as a big threat that can wipe out an army of tokens (and tokens are one of this deck’s bigger weaknesses) and can quickly whittle away your opponent’s life total as creatures die.

The Artifacts


Here’s the thing. Your deck doesn’t need a lot of mana to function. Mana rocks are still good, but Gilded Lotus and Caged Sun will come down after you’ve emptied your hand, so they’re fairly pointless. Caged Sun is particularly bad, as the power buff it provides will keep Shirei from reanimating anything.

Jar of Eyeballs is hilarious and on-theme, but without any huge haymaker spells to dig for, I’m not sure it’s worth the cost. Finally, Ashnod’s Altar is a fantastic card, but it’s getting upgraded to a more powerful version of the same effect.


I talked about Bubbling Cauldron earlier in the context of the Bogbrew Witch package, but even on its own it’s a sacrifice outlet that grants you a reasonable amount of lifegain. The other two additions, Darksteel Plate and Champion’s Helm, come in as important ways to protect your commander and ensure that the value loop doesn’t get broken.

Phyrexian Altar comes in to replace Ashnod’s Altar, since having black mana is so much more important to your gameplan and you don’t have any sinks for large amounts of colorless mana.

The Enchantments


As sacrifice outlets go, the Vampiric Rites effect is exactly what you want. The problem is that you want to be sacrificing pretty much your whole team every turn and I’d rather not have to pay two mana per creature in order to do so.

The Spells


If these were –X/-X effects, I could see the desire for some one-off spells that get around indestructible, but looking at the list, I see plenty of Bone Shredders and Royal Assassins that can do this same effect repeatedly. Sure, Hero’s Downfall can kill a planeswalker, but if your plan is to keep all of your opponents’ creatures off the battlefield anyway, then planeswalkers are going to be pretty short on defenses against your army of creatures. Add in the fact that this list wants as many cards as possible to be permanents, and these just aren’t pulling their weight.

Putting it all together, we get the following decklist:

And the additions, sorted by price:



Black Cat


Chimney Imp


Bogbrew Witch


Festering Newt


Liliana’s Shade


Mindlash Sliver


Bubbling Cauldron




Rotting Rats


Noxious Toad


Apprentice Necromancer


Sadistic Hypnotist


Darksteel Plate


Champion’s Helm


Massacre Wurm


Phyrexian Altar




The changes add up to $68.88, far below the $200 budget that Alok had for the deck, but of all the themes out there, “creatures with power one or less” is a pretty darn budget-friendly one, and I wasn’t going to go out of my way to include expensive cards. As always, Alok will receive $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com for having their deck featured.

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