Dear Azami: Uppercut The Dragon

Our Dear Azami contributor this week has problems with his Temur leader and the army behind him. Fortunately, Levi Byrne holds all the answers to the Commander problems that ail you!

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div>
<p>Hello all. Jess took the week off in order to attend #GPDC in all its glory, so I’m back for a second week! In any case, I don’t have much of an intro today, so let’s just dive into the deck!</p>
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Dear Azami,

Throughout my year-and-a-half career playing Magic, I have always enjoyed sitting down with the biggest creatures at the table and stomping all over everyone else. I’ve had mixed results, especially against control, but Surrak Dragonclaw as Commander means that none of my beatsticks fall victim to the Azami decks in my playgroup. It still needs work, though, mainly in cutting down the number of non-creature spells running around in it.

Artifacts (6)

Commander’s Sphere


Simic Cluestone

Sol Ring

Sword of the Animist

Temur Banner

Instants/Sorceries (17)

Animist’s Awakening

Atarka’s Command

Bring to Light

Brutal Expulsion

Commune with Lava


Nissa’s Revelation

Overwhelming Stampede

Primal Command

Primal Growth


Reality Shift

Shamanic Revelation

Smash to Smithereens

Temur Charm

Volcanic Offering

Enchantments (11)


Berserkers’ Onslaught

Bonds of Mortality

Dictate of Karametra

Elemental Bond

Khalni Heart Expedition

Monastery Siege

Oath of Nissa


Sight of the Scalelords

Zendikar Resurgent

Planeswalkers (5)

Kiora, the Crashing Wave

Sarkhan Unbroken

Teferi, Temporal Archmage

Xenagos, the Reveler

Creatures (30)

Arbor Colossus

Avenger of Zendikar

Beastcaller Savant

Coiling Oracle

Conclave Naturalists

Dragonlord Atarka

Eternal Witness

Frost Titan

Garruk’s Horde

Garruk’s Packleader

Genesis Hydra

Hydra Broodmaster

Inkwell Leviathan


Ondu Giant

Oracle of Mul Daya

Outland Colossus

Pelakka Wurm

Phyrexian Ingester

Plated Slagwurm

Plaxcaster Frogling

Reclamation Sage

Roaring Primadox

Savage Ventmaw

Scute Mob

Temur Sabertooth


Warchief Giant

Wildheart Invoker

World Breaker

Zhur-Taa Druid

Land (31)

Command Tower

Evolving Wilds

Frontier Bivouac

Gruul Guildgate

Izzet Guildgate

Mage-Ring Network

Rogue’s Passage

Rugged Highlands

Rupture Spire

Swiftwater Cliffs

Temple of Mystery

Temple of the False God

Terramorphic Expanse

Thornwood Falls

Unknown Shores

Vivid Crag

Vivid Creek

Vivid Grove

Wandering Fumarole

7 Forest

3 Island

2 Mountain

I have a slight bounce and recast theme that I generally use to recast Genesis Hydra over and over again to dig through my deck, and could (but haven’t pulled off yet) repeatedly bounce and recast Frost Titan to tap down an opponent’s battlefield.

My biggest issues are streamlining and card advantage. Sometimes I get stuck with a creatureless hand, and I stall out a bit before finding something to do. Any advice is appreciated and would be very helpful.


Most people know what it’s like when one of your decks reaches the point where it’s all but impossible to make any changes because you know that every card is in there for reason. Sometimes that means you’re approaching perfection for what your concept or theme can accomplish.

Sometimes it means it’s time to make cuts with a rusty broadax.

I’m going to be making some fairly major changes to this deck, since I want to beef up the land count and the number of creatures you’re running and those cuts need to come from somewhere.

Speaking of lands, I’m going to start with those changes this week instead of saving them until the end of the article like I usually do. The reason for this is fairly simple. You’re currently running 31 lands. That’s the same ratio of lands to spells as my legacy burn deck, which pretty much loses on the spot if it ever sees more than four lands. Now, granted, you’ve got some number of mana rocks and ramp spells, but it’s not nearly enough to compensate for a curve that goes all the way up to eight and will often want to chain multiple creatures together on the same turn.

What I’m getting at here is that I knew from the start that several cuts would need to be made to make the mana base bigger, but one of the greatest challenges in deckbuilding is winnowing down the number of things you want to do with a deck to the number that can actually fit in the 99. If I started by drawing up a list of all the cool stuff I wanted to add, I’d end up agonizing over the last couple of cuts and would probably find a way to justify keeping the land count low to fit more action in the deck, which simply wouldn’t work. Instead, I added the lands you needed first and then worried about making room for them in other sections.

That’s a long-winded way to put it, but here’s the result:

The Lands



I cut the three lands I did because they either won’t consistently give you the colors you need or (in the case of Rupture Spire) because they come at too big of a tempo loss when you play them. Four more basic lands and the Ravnica bounce land cycle come in, as well as the last Guildgate and the lone tapland from Oath of the Gatewatch.

That bumps us up to 37 lands, which is a much more comfortable number to be working with. There are plenty of other land cycles I could have added, but since I wasn’t given a budget to work with this week, I picked some fairly cheap ones, and the bounce lands manage to pack more mana into the same number of slots.

The Creatures


Wildheart Invoker and Scute Mob are both fairly unimpressive until you reach the point where their abilities turn on. At that point I’d rather just play a big creature than try to keep a fragile creature around for the ability. Warchief Giant at least qualifies as a heavy hitter, but for a creature that’s just there to hit things, a 5/3 or three is fairly unimpressive. Plaxcaster Frogling is a good way to protect creatures, but it’s one of the only cards you have with +1/+1 counters, so it’s very limited in what it can do here. Even the bounce and recast argument doesn’t really hold up, since your opponents get a perfect window to open fire with impunity whenever you go to reset the Frog’s counters.

Savage Ventmaw is a little different. As a 4/4 flyer it’s not exactly weak, and the mana ability would often be very relevant. The truth is that I had a lot of things I wanted to add to the list and many of them were six-drops. Something had to go, and I wound up cutting the Dragon.


Sakura-Tribe Elder is simply a new piece of ramp for you to use, but the rest of these additions are where it gets interesting. You mentioned some problems with card flow, and in this style of deck, Green is by far the best color for answering that problem. Prime Speaker Zegana will draw you a huge chunk of cards when she enters the battlefield, while Soul of the Harvest, Primordial Sage, and Momir Vig, Simic Visionary will all turn the creatures you play into pure card flow.

There rest of these additions are meant to be control hate in one way or another. Archetype of Endurance frustrates any kind of targeted removal, while Gruul Ragebeast lets you crush any utility creatures that the blue mages are relying on. Surrak, the Hunt Caller; Xenagos, God of Revels; and Yeva, Nature’s Herald let you swing before your opponents have a chance to react. You’re skewed heavily enough towards green that I’m okay with Yeva’s restriction here. Ruric Thar brings the pain against any sort of spellslinger combo deck, and Vexing Shusher acts as a backup to your general to make countermagic completely irrelevant.

The one addition that I toyed around with but wound up not including was Spearbreaker Behemoth, which is a great tool to fight Wraths but useless against the Aetherizes and Cyclonic Rifts that I suspect fill your metagame. If I’m wrong about that feel free to swap it in for something else, because Temur doesn’t really have a better way to fight battlefield wipes.

Now, we’ve looked at the two categories that grew a lot. Let’s see where those cuts were coming from.

The Spells


Primal Growth came out for Sakura-Tribe Elder. Bring to Light is subpar at best here, even with a few Manaliths floating around. Even the best three-drops aren’t that great in Commander. Animist’s Awakening is best in a deck like Molimo, Maro-Sorceror or my friend’s Damia, Sage of Stone list that literally wants as many lands on the battlefield as possible. It’s less thrilling here, where you mostly want fast ramp to power out threats.

Atarka’s Command has several modes, but none of them scale well to this format. I’m assuming the “Brutal Command” you included in your decklist was meant to be a Brutal Expulsion, but I’m not that interested in a glorified bounce spell for this list, even if you can do some pretty hilarious things with it.

Commune with Lava is a fine card, but it’s pretty thoroughly outclassed when you’re also in blue. Nissa’s Revelation pales in comparison to Prime Speaker Zegana and can’t be bounced for value either. Smash to Smithereens is way too narrow to deserve a slot, and while Temur Charm is flexible, I’d honestly rather have Falter. Volcanic Offering lets you play politics and Primal Command is just good, but you simply didn’t need this many noncreature spells.

The Planeswalkers


I’m keeping Xenagos, the Reveler because his mana ability makes his worst case a super-ritual that raises his loyalty, but the rest of these planeswalkers simply aren’t up to par. Instead of going into detail on all three, I’ll just say that they’re designed to grind out incremental advantage and that’s not where you want planeswalkers to be in Commander.

The Enchantments


Dictate of Karametra is good but extremely risky, and in the end, I decided that even getting first crack at the extra mana you probably didn’t want to boost your opponent’s resources. Monastery Siege was probably in here to make targeting harder, but Archetype of Endurance does that a lot better. Even If I wanted an enchantment here, I’d go with Asceticism.

Oath of Nissa is green’s awkward version of a cantrip, but with the planeswalkers largely stripped out of the deck, there’s not much reason to run a one-off draw spell. As for Rancor, the card is great, but it loses a lot of its punch when your Commander gives everything trample anyway.


Temur Ascendancy gives you both another draw outlet and another way to surprise your opponents with hasty creatures, while Fires of Yavimaya doubles up on the mass haste. Warstorm Surge is one of my favorite cards. It turns every creature you play into direct damage, either taking out creatures or going straight to the face.

The Artifacts


There’s nothing earth-shattering here, just a minor upgrade to the mana rocks that you’re running.


It’s not strictly necessary for your mana rocks to produce all three of your colors, so I’d rather have them cost one less and lose the ability to sacrifice for card draw. Overall, this will make your draws more consistent and make sure that you can develop your mana before needing to build your battlefield state.

Here’s the final decklist:

Surrak Dragonclaw
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 03-14-2016
Magic Card Back

And the additions, sorted by price:











Timber Gorge


Simic Signet


Simic Guildgate


Izzet Boilerworks


Izzet Signet


Archetype of Endurance


Soul of the Harvest


Primordial Sage


Temur Ascendancy


Warstorm Surge


Gruul Ragebeast


Gruul Turf


Gruul Signet


Surrak, the Hunt Caller


Sakura-Tribe Elder


Simic Growth chamber


Yeva, Nature’s Herald


Fires of Yavimaya


Ruric Thar, the Unbowed


Beastmaster’s Ascension


Prime Speaker Zegana


Xenagos, God of Revels


Vexing Shusher


Momir Vig, Simic Visionary




The changes add up to $35.50. As always, De will receive $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com to help make those upgrades. Of course, there are several more expensive cards that would fit into a strategy like this, such as Animar, Soul of Elements and Maelstrom Wanderer, but I kept the list fairly budget this week and a $25 card felt really out of place.

That’s it for this week! I hope that your dream of crushing control comes to fruition.

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Like what you’ve seen? Feel free to explore more of “Dear Azami” here, in the Article Archives! And feel free to check Jess’s own Command of Etiquette column on Hipsters of the Coast for more Commander and casual content.

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div></p>
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