Dear Azami: Wandering The Maelstrom

Read about how Sean makes Derek’s Maelstrom Wanderer Commander deck more fun while keeping its competitive edge.

Dear Azami,

For the past year, I’ve been playing a Maelstrom Wanderer deck that I want to be playable for both competitive and casual Commander. This list was inspired by Omar’s Adun Oakenshield list, which you wrote about last year. I built this deck in dedication to many players and stores (including SCG). I feel this deck needs something to add more fun while keeping the competitive edge and give good laughs with the interactions the cards in the deck are capable of. Here’s the list:

Creatures (31)

Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Oracle of Mul Daya
Solemn Simulacrum
Sylvan Primordial
Molten Primordial
Krosan Tusker
Seedguide Ash
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Woodfall Primus
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Consecrated Sphinx
Squee, Goblin Nabob
Hellkite Charger
Eternal Witness
Avenger of Zendikar
Deadwood Treefolk
Deceiver Exarch
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Gilded Drake
Zealous Conscripts
Wurmcoil Engine
Venser, Shaper Savant
Glen Elendra Archmage
Phantasmal Image
Phyrexian Metamorph

Spells (15)

All Is Dust
Mystical Tutor
Fact or Fiction
Chaos Warp
Wheel of Fortune
Momentous Fall
Krosan Grip
Beast Within
Kodama’s Reach
Realms Uncharted
Time Spiral
Tooth and Nail

Artifacts (7)

Darksteel Ingot
Gilded Lotus
Sol Ring
Mana Vault
Sensei’s Divining Top
Scroll Rack
Nim Deathmantle

Enchantments (5)

Bear Umbra
Greater Good
Sylvan Library
Survival of the Fittest
Sneak Attack

Planeswalkers (3)

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Sarkhan Vol

Lands (38)

6 Snow-Covered Forest
5 Snow-Covered Island
4 Snow-Covered Mountain
Tropical Island
Volcanic Island
Steam Vents
Breeding Pool
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Miren, the Moaning Well
Alchemist’s Refuge
Strip Mine
Homeward Path
Yavimaya Hollow
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Command Tower
Reflecting Pool
Izzet Boilerworks
Reliquary Tower
Gaea’s Cradle
Llanowar Reborn
Khalni Garden

I want this deck to have broken cards but not be a broken deck. I can’t wait to see your suggestions! If you have any questions, I’ll get back to you immediately. Thanks!



So first let us open the Honesty Box with a disclaimer: Derek is a player from my local area, not just a Dear Azami aficionado who reads two-year-old articles about Adun Oakenshield and decides to build his own deck based off of it. He knows Omar’s deck because he plays Omar with some regularity, and like Omar he knows me. I cover “people I know” infrequently enough that I don’t worry that I need fear being called out for nepotism in how we select decks here at Dear Azami, but I felt that disclosure was in order. It also means I know the rough competitive level for the area Derek is playing in—there are some parts of town that can be a rough room, and at least one playgroup has actively dared me to sleeve up and bring “The Worst Thing You Can Still Do To People” to see how my monster keeps up with their monsters.

That said, when you come before me with a deck that is focusing on a combo finish, let it be known that you will come and pay a tax. Sheldon Menery has been a fairly vocal proponent of the “tutor free” movement that I suppose is either the prevailing Commander culture or the counterculture depending on who you ask at any given time, and in this deck you’re clearly competent at assembling infinite mana, infinite attack steps, and infinite attackers. Infinity is not a number I can get down with, and sorry, there is no such thing as “infinity and beyond.”

If you want to keep your combo finishes, that’s fine, but you’re going to be a bit less good at them by the time you and I are done together. You want to fight at the bleeding edge of power and have fun, and that means not always having regular and easy access to the number sideways-eight… it can happen, and sometimes you’ll need it to happen, but if you had it all along and just needed to plug a spot for it that’s not nearly as interesting and fun as the time you needed to have it and it miraculously appeared to save you. When it’s the way every game ends, it’s not fun and interesting, so we’re going to shave the numbers on some of the cards that work this way and we’re definitely going to shave the numbers on the cards that enable you to find them that easily.

By unclenching from that hard power edge, more room for fun can be found, and Maelstrom Wanderer offers you a lot to work with in the fun department. There’s a common misconception that because your commander has cascade that you have to avoid all possible bad cascades and to cut countermagic accordingly. I don’t believe that to be true at all, I just think you need to cut countermagic that would be bad to cascade into; you have Venser, Shaper Savant, and it has different modes of interaction that are still fine. I think you can play any counterspell that still does something worthwhile if you cascade into it.

We’re not going to jam a lot of countermagic into the deck, but I think you want a significant enough number that you can nurse a hard counter in your hand until you absolutely need it. I think increasing your access to countermagic will give you more control over the way the game plays out and thus increases your tactical involvement, which also helps us back away from “I need to cast Tooth and Nail and combo kill you” since you have other recourses—you can interact with their spells.

And while it may look like you can afford pretty much anything you want to with your dual lands and Gaea’s Cradle just hanging out being awesome, apparently Mana Drain is $200 these days, so I will refrain from suggesting it. I do want to give it a shout-out, however; it’s awesome for getting your commander out far faster than you think he should come down, and it’s not even bad to flip and counter the Wanderer as you get another chance to recast him (and thus two new cascades) when the Drain gives you eight colorless mana in your second main phase. (Because really, you weren’t casting your hasty commander after combat, were you?)

Let us begin at the beginning with the lands. You have a nice selection of bonus effects attached to your lands, and having recently built for myself a Prime Speaker Zegana deck I have a newfound appreciation for Yavimaya Hollow in this format. Most of the mass removal effects allow regeneration so you can keep a relevant creature in play every time the inevitable board wipes hit the table, and that is an amazing little benefit to staple to a land. I have five substitutions to make in this section, which will end up cutting your land count by one, and then we’ll move on to the meatier part of the deck.

Out: Vesuva; In: Thespian’s Stage

You aren’t really abusing Vesuva as this isn’t a Cabal Coffers deck, so we don’t want both in order to maximize the abuse we’re able to perform with multiple duplication effects. Thespian’s Stage has the advantage of coming into play untapped, always a benefit when we’re worrying about having too many slow lands preventing us from getting up and running on time, but more importantly it has the ability to be played before whatever important thing you want to duplicate comes down. We’re losing the ability to use these cards as Strip Mine effects against legendary lands with the M14 rules change, so we might as well pick the card that has the greater flexibility and utility at the job.

Out: Llanowar Reborn; Out: Khalni Garden

I’ve been happy to play Llanowar Reborn in my Animar, Soul of Elements deck to good effect, but you don’t have anything that positively benefits getting a +1/+1 counter in any really significant way. You’re also not really doing much with the plant token, though it’s certainly cute to have this be the land you follow up your Avenger of Zendikar with. We can do better for lands that come into play tapped.

In: Gruul Turf; In: Simic Growth Chamber

One of the strongest benefits from picking a three-color commander is that you get to play three Ravnica bouncelands in your deck when each one is effectively worth +1 land in your opening hand. Ironically, we’re cutting the only lands you can profitably bounce with them in order to fit them in the first place, but I’m not sold on the fact that two +1/+1 counters on two different creatures or two Plant tokens would be significantly better than one was (i.e., not good enough to keep it around for). While it’s true these can get hit with a Strip Mine effect, the group Derek is playing with is not so all-out hardcore that this is commonly being built around or has to be actively considered early in the game…and later on that’s hardly relevant.

Out: Reliquary Tower; In: Tolaria West

There was a solid three or four months there after the printing of Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur where I was putting Reliquary Tower into every deck as a twitch reflex, trying to build up resistance to the discard-forcing aspect of that particularly nasty card so I never ever lost to it. That particular card, while strong, is not anywhere near present enough to require this as an answer, nor is this a deck where you need to keep a stocked grip of fifteen or twenty cards. If you’ve drawn twenty cards, here’s the dirty secret I’ll let you in on—you only need to keep seven of them in your hand to win the game. I don’t think this is actively helping, but the land I’ve selected to replace it with would. Tolaria West gives you a second chance at each of your utility lands plus the option of getting a bit of extra mana by fetching a bounceland, making it good both early and late.

Out: Snow-Covered Mountain; In: Ancestral Vision

38 lands is a little more than you really need given your supplemental mana effects, additional mana rocks, and the forgiving mulligan rules that come as standard practice in the gaming stores you frequent, where a weak draw can be thrown back to no ill effect at least the first time. I say this even knowing I am about to go to the next section and take some of those mana rocks out, as we’re going to switch them around in other places rather than cut them outright.

After adding Tolaria West I really wanted a spell it could get, not just a mana source, and trading your Tolaria West for an Ancestral Vision and suspending it to draw three cards later is strong but not as strong as just cascading into it off of your commander would be. Who doesn’t want to get a free Ancestral Recall? You have Sensei’s Divining Top and Scroll Rack to control the top of your deck with if you want to set this up, and sometimes it’ll randomly just happen and be awesome. You want more awesome in your deck, and this will help.

Moving on to the artifacts, I have four substitutions to make, and the net count will end up -1 artifacts all told (but will be -2 for now until we opt the missing one back in; we’ll get to that when we move on to the spell section). This is going to be by far the most expensive section, as my first suggestion is a doozy.

Out: Mana Vault; In: Mana Crypt

This is not a suggestion I make often because Mana Crypt is getting pretty high up there in the price department, nearing the hundred-dollar mark. The difference between the two is striking, however: on the turn you play them they’re the same, as they net you +2 mana that turn, the same as if you’d played Dark Ritual. Both are advantaged compared to Dark Ritual because they leave a permanent around; Mana Vault can be staggered for use on a different turn to up that mana boost to +3, but the boost is always temporary as you can’t get another +3 mana until you’ve spent four mana to untap it.

Mana Crypt, however, is just another Sol Ring—you get to untap it every turn and keep using it. Sure, it costs life sometimes, but this is the format of padded life totals and easy life gain if you want it since you can access basically every card ever printed; you can bias towards life gain and still play only good cards.

I make this suggestion knowing Derek has a deep trade binder and that these dual lands are not a fluke and also that at least one Mana Crypt is up for trade at our local gaming store, Twenty Sided Store, so it can be found if it is wanted without having to drop a pile of money on it. If you want to play at the highest of the high power levels, you need to own a Mana Crypt, and if I had to choose between suggesting the high-powered addition of Mana Drain vs. Mana Crypt, I’d clearly opt for the one that will go in every Commander deck you ever play rather than the high-powered broken blue card.

Out: Nim Deathmantle; In: Sword of Feast and Famine

Don’t get me wrong, Nim Deathmantle is a very solid Commander card. It’s just that other decks will be able to use it so much better than you can; you have exactly two cards that allow you to sacrifice a creature, Greater Good and Miren, the Moaning Well, so you won’t really be able to use this that effectively to repeat your comes-into-play abilities. You don’t really need the help making Greater Good “better,” and I like Miren in your deck just as a way to sacrifice your Commander and get to cascade again (plus free life gain!).

This is a solid card to have when someone plays a mass removal spell since it triggers for each creature killed and each four mana you have available gets you a creature back, but since you can’t really proactively trigger it, if this was the effect you wanted you’d probably get more mileage out of Mimic Vat.

But just adding Mimic Vat is kind of boring, so I wanted to go in a different direction and give you a little bit of something back to go with the fact that I am about to take a hatchet to your combo cards in just a bit. Sword of Feast and Famine is a high-power card to get online without being as utterly obnoxious as Seedborn Muse is, and we’re going to end up adding in something that makes this intersect positively with your I-like-my-combos approach.

Out: Darksteel Ingot; In: Cultivate

Green decks are considerably less interested in mana rocks than decks without green are, and be it turn 3 or turn 20 I’d rather cast Cultivate than Darksteel Ingot. You’re already playing Kodama’s Reach; I think making room for its muggle twin is appropriate, and I’m down for cutting this particular Commander staple in favor of a stronger option. Basic lands are almost as indestructible because mass land destruction is effectively taboo, and this gets two mana for later rather than one. Even for non-green decks I’d seriously consider Armillary Sphere over Darksteel Ingot simply because you get two mana out of your development efforts instead of one; I guess I just don’t like the Ingot that much.

Out: Gilded Lotus, In: Yavimaya Elder

I bias in a weird way for Commander. If it gives you access to a ridiculous mana boost early, I will bias in favor of it to the tune of investing nearly a hundred dollars to be able to play it (see also: Mana Crypt). If it gives you an equivalently large mana boost but only does so in the middle turns, as Gilded Lotus does, I’m decidedly less interested and would rather build up my mana base more steadily by going slowly rather than ramping fast. Every time I’ve wanted to add Gilded Lotus to a deck, I’ve picked up my trusty Journeyer’s Kite and asked which I really thought was going to help me out more, and the answer has never once been Gilded Lotus to this day.

Yavimaya Elder is simply awesome, there’s a reason it’s earned the nickname “Landcestral Recall.” It gets you future access to two mana (less than Gilded Lotus’s three, but since we’re getting basics we can trust it will never go away) and gives you back the card you invested in the first place. I like focusing on the card flow and building powerfully rather than quickly, hence these switches plus the bouncelands; I’m allergic to midgame mana sources that blow up the first time someone draws an Oblivion Stone unless I can reap the benefit of that mana rock on turn one or two.

We’re finally done with your mana base as we leave the artifacts behind, though admittedly one substitution we make in the creatures section will result in adding another card that helps you get more mana early on.

Out: Fork; In: Reiterate

This is just a strict functional upgrade; by adding one mana to your Fork, we add the option to buy it back and have access to a very potent card in the later stages of the game. Fork doesn’t need to be a cheap card to be effective, so that one-mana difference will not really be a big deal in a pinch and what you start to become able to do when you hit six mana is impressive.

This is your only dead cascade—unless you’re responding to a spell by playing Maelstrom Wanderer at instant speed, there’s no way this will be something you can play when you flip it off the cascade trigger. Even though the Wanderer cascades twice, spell you cascade into #1 can never interact with spell you cascade into #2—the first trigger has to resolve, as does the spell you cast off of it, before you even so much as get to see the card you get off of the second trigger. As far as dead cascades go, this card is so good it justifies it entirely by weight of sheer awesomeness.

Out: Mystical Tutor; Out: Gamble

Now, I’m not a Gambleing man to begin with, but given that your deck is to a fair degree just looking to assemble two-card infinite combos I can’t really get behind making them too easy to access. It’s bad enough that you can find them simply via Survival of the Fittest and Tooth and Nail; we don’t need to add more things that find these things so that every game is about them. We’re going to go tutor free besides Survival of the Fittest, and Survival is only getting a pass because it can be used for fun and awesome things, not just for Kiki-Jiki + something stupid. You can still do these things, but we’re not going to make it so easy that it happens every time if you just play through for a little. The primary win condition is animals beating down, not an arbitrarily large number of Deceiver Exarchs.

In: Remand; In: Arcane Denial

Instead of tutors, we add to your ability to say “no!” during the course of a game. They aren’t dead cascades because either can target Maelstrom Wanderer without making you too sad—Remand turns into draw a card plus a rebuy on your double-cascade adventures, while Arcane Denial turns into Ancestral Recall and you’ll just have to replay the Wanderer from the command zone for two more…and potentially provides you with the additional resources to make that possible since you drew three cards. While Remand isn’t a hard counter, for the big things it’s hard enough; every time I’ve Remanded a Time Stretch instead of had a hard counter for it, the “hard counter” came from the table saying “so I guess we need to kill you then.”

Adding to your ability to control the board on any given turn relaxes the need to ignore the board by combo killing everyone; I’d rather play a long, good game where I have to use my ingenuity and play-skill to win than a brief one where I do something stupid and everyone goes splat. That’s where I think you can add more fun without dulling the competitive edge: by changing the focus away from assembling a combo and adding to your ability to defend the board presence you do have.

Out: Krosan Grip; In: Oblivion Stone

I am a huge fan of the split second mechanic in Commander. When figuring out where the choke points of the format are, anything that prevents your opponent from being able to interact with your selected plan is a net positive when used on the side of good. Adding split second to your Disenchant effect is clearly a good-guy non-interactive card rather than a bad-guy non-interactive card, but I question how badly you need a Disenchant effect in the first place. Beast Within and Chaos Warp are your pinpoint removal effects, and they can hit literally anything, so the narrower card really relies on that split second being necessary to break up a combo that is otherwise able to protect itself. And unless we’re talking about peeling the Vanishing off of Zur, that’s not too strongly present in the playgroup.

What you do need more of, however, is mass removal. You’re limited to mass removal spells that aren’t a dead card to cascade into, and in fact the one you’re playing so far (All Is Dust) is not one I’d actually say is innocent in that regards. But All is Dust is so good that we won’t lose any sleep over it. Oblivion Stone is a Commander staple and thus a boring inclusion, but it also does exactly what we’re asking of it as a board control effect and is not a problem to cascade into since you can play it and set it up for later use by putting fate counters on your key stuff.

Out: Wheel of Fortune; In: Prime Speaker Zegana

While it’s true that Prime Speaker doesn’t interact with Maelstrom Wanderer if you cascade into it, you have enough creatures already that this should still be good for at least a 4/4 (plus four cards) when and if the Wanderer hits her. Wheel of Fortune is a powerful draw seven, but the problem is it draws everyone seven. Card advantage is a thing in Commander, and your Wheel gives you seven cards to work with…and 21 cards to work against. Unless you’re going into non-interactive mode this is a bigger drawback than the benefit it provides, so we cut it for a card that is all upsides even if it is not as abstractly powerful as three mana, draw seven. We want to shy away from that non-interactive groove, so cutting this helps steer us towards the straight and narrow path.

Out: Time Spiral; In: Praetor’s Counsel

Time Spiral gets cut for the same reason we’re cutting Wheel of Fortune, though it is considerably more awesome to cascade into because of that whole untapping-lands thing. I wanted one big game-ending spell to give us an alternative to Tooth and Nail as the final nail in the coffin, and if you’re still ending the game via otherwise fair means (read: attacking for non-infinite), then Praetor’s Counsel is a card that will destroy the opponents without being something that builds resentment. Typically, this would be the place for Time Stretch or Insurrection, but the Counsel fits that card-drawing niche that I want to focus on while also having interesting synergy with the other cards in your deck.

Out: Sarkhan Vol; In: Garruk, Caller of Beasts

I agree you want a planeswalker here, but I disagree on which one is the right one for you. Sarkhan Vol gives you another double up on your access to haste, but I’m not actually that interested in an ability your commander provides as a matter of course; the benefit to having a commander is that you always (barring a tuck effect) will at least theoretically be able to access that card. I’m not compelled by the Threaten effect and not sold on the haste, and even the Dragons don’t really pique my interest.

You know what does though? Potentially drawing five cards while gaining loyalty. This Garruk has a massive splatter-worthy impact with some cards in your deck—accelerate out Garruk and you may accidentally also accelerate out one of your Eldrazi to go to town with—and is strong with Sylvan Library and Sensei’s Divining Top but also absurd with Scroll Rack. All three abilities are massively powerful and interesting for you to gain access to, and I expect this Garruk will do just as much good work as the other one does for you.

We move now to the creatures section, where I have ten creature cards I want to cut in favor of other things. Three of those slots are not going to be replaced with a creature card, but we’ve added two back in from our other sections (Yavimaya Elder and Prime Speaker Zegana) so the net effect is -1 creature, still giving you a total of 30 and thus plenty of solid bodies still to work with. I think you’ll like where things end up, especially if you keep in mind that I’m trying to find interesting creatures for you to have access to via Survival of the Fittest and also nifty two-card combinations to get into play off of Tooth and Nail rather than “just” going for a combo kill. Even if you still crack for infinite, going the long way about it still earns you way more respect than herp-derp Kiki-Exarch.

Out: Melira, Sylvok Outcast; In: Cryptic Command

Who doesn’t love Cryptic Command? Even if you hit it off of a cascade, the worst it will do is bounce something and draw a card; drawing a card and tapping all opposing creatures is actually an excellent mode to flip over when your haste-sharing Commander comes to town, and the rest of the times you happen to just draw it you’re holding Cryptic Command. Melira is out because she’s just a draw-your-deck / blow-up-your-everything combo with Greater Good and Woodfall Primus, which is not only another infinite combo we don’t really need to support but also an obnoxious way to win that people will never ever forgive you for. That particular grudge dies hard because that is just no fun at all and doesn’t even win you the game; they have to watch you take a couple of turns to figure it out as they sit there helpless. At least with infinite damage they’re just dead.

Out: Pestermite; In: Overwhelming Intellect

Worst-case mode is you flip this while cascading, counter your commander, and draw a full grip. Best-case mode, you actually get to use it as a counterspell…and draw a full grip. I wanted more card draw and more countermagic, and we found a way to get both in the same spell.

Out: Deceiver Exarch; In: Blasphemous Act

The tapper twins are coming out because you don’t need their functionality to achieve your infinite damage. Kiki-Jiki and Zealous Conscripts are your infinite-damage option off of Tooth and Nail or to hunt up with Survival of the Fittest, and unlike these two that I’m pulling out Zealous Conscripts is an interesting card that may lead to something fun and nifty happening over the course of a regular Commander game. I’ve stolen planeswalker ultimates, killed someone with their own commander out of nowhere, and even flashed it in with Winding Canyons to steal an attacker and get the old-school Ray of Command two-for-one. That’s a cool Commander card, and Deceiver Exarch, well, isn’t.

Blasphemous Act plays the role of bonus sweeper to help maintain a steady board to your liking, often costs just the one mana to kill literally everything when you need to, and is happily invisible to cascades since its cost is at least as printed on the card is greater than seven.

The remaining substitutions all put a creature back in to maintain parity; to pick an order at random, let’s go with converted mana cost.

Out: Krosan Tusker; In: Hermit Druid

I for one am a fan of rehabilitating Hermit Druid, and your deck has fourteen basic lands, so you shouldn’t go too deep in your deck with any single activation. Since you have two Eldrazi, your chances of reshuffling if you do go too deep are pretty solid, so this shouldn’t expose key things you’ll miss to undue graveyard attention. I’ve been trying this out alongside a dozen basics and Praetor’s Council in an otherwise pretty fair deck, and the beneficial interactions the Druid gives you are pretty sweet. The Tusker’s just not as good as some of the other mana-fixing creatures you’ve got, and even though he’s technically a fatty I’d actually be sad to cascade into him, so out he goes.

Out: Anger; In: Aura Thief

While Anger is specifically very good alongside your Survival of the Fittest, the haste requirements are already covered by your deck’s commander and the slot is not actually that interesting or necessary. I wanted another crunchy, interesting card with a unique effect to give your deck more play, and you can get an absurd amount of mileage out of hunting for and sacrificing Aura Thief to steal a heavy board of enchantments. It’s basically the best class of permanent there is, and this steals all of everybody’s without even so much as targeting them.

Out: Squee, Goblin Nabob; In: Genesis

Squee gets no love because it is only good with Survival of the Fittest and is just a dinky 1/1 otherwise. I guess it is okay with Greater Good to grind slow card advantage, but if you have Greater Good and a couple of turns to work with it, you don’t really need the help. Genesis adds graveyard recursion and another way that Hermit Druid might just tap to provide awesome bonus resources by going deep and flipping this particular Incarnation, gives you resilience to go with your Sneak Attack after that first exciting shot has been used up, and is otherwise just a generally awesome grindy resource for a fair attrition game. I want to promote fair play in your deck, which means we need the strong fair-play cards so you have the right tools and thus the incentives to play fairer, longer games rather than resort to having to combo.

Out: Azusa, Lost but Seeking; In: Mischievous Quanar

I don’t really believe you have the right build for Azusa; she needs a land-heavy draw to really be worth playing the acceleration effect, and you’re not really built on an axis to take advantage of that. It’s also another really sad cascade, but Mischievous Quanar has the distinct characteristic of being a morph creature that you’re not sad to cascade into with your commander—having the built-in ability to flip face down again so it’s not useless is really solid when paired with the sweet unmorph trigger. It’s like having a Reiterate you can Survival for and which isn’t a wasted cascade, both of which are things I much approve of so we can build more fun dynamics to your average game. I want to hear about the crazy games you could never see coming and build your deck towards on purpose, and Mischievous Quanar is excellent at providing those unexpected awesome moments.

Out: Deadwood Treefolk; In: Body Double

I basically combined your Squee and Deadwood Treefolk utility into one slot (Genesis), and wanted to add Body Double as a way to still touch graveyard resources if that was what you wanted to do but in a way Deadwood Treefolk did not. I’m actually pretty down on reanimation effects for their own sake. I like them big; I want Sepulchral Primordial and the new fancy-pants Rise of the Dark Realms, not Reanimate just because you get an efficient rate. If I’m touching someone’s graveyard I want it to be better than just a reanimation spell, but then I’ve been spoiled by Puppeteer Clique and Geth, Lord of the Vault as my go-to favorite creatures for some time now.

Black can touch the graveyard easy for reanimation effects—your colors, well, can’t. So getting to play Body Double as an effective reanimation spell that you can search for with Survival of the Fittest gives you something you’re not supposed to have and may lead to more fun and interesting games as well as opening up strategic space for your planning when you have Survival in play.

Out: Palinchron; In: Godo, Bandit Warlord

I don’t know if you built the infinite mana combo in by accident or on purpose, but either way I’m taking it out. Phantasmal Image + Palinchron nets infinite mana, but between the two Phantasmal Image is the interesting, useful card and Palinchron is the unfair thing you only play if you want infinite mana. Adding Godo with exactly one piece of equipment in your deck is a little unusual, but I’ve done it before without batting an eyelash and to fetch the exact same piece of equipment as well besides.

Godo adds Sword of Feast and Famine to your Survival chain and as something that comes into play off of Tooth and Nail, and this lets you have the “backup” combo of fetch Hellkite Charger and put Sword on him then attack. It’s still infinite damage and can potentially let you spend infinite mana too, but it’s clunky and expensive to do it this way—you have to have the spare seven mana immediately, not just after the Sword untap trigger—and thus not actually offensive to anyone when you do it. It’s actually kind of cool then since it’s kind of hard. And the Sword is so awesome as a mana multiplier that having a way to get it off your Survival chain is just that good.

Out: Terastodon; In: Diluvian Primordial

Terastodon’s basically up to no good, and we’re going to acknowledge that up front by saying there are no really good modes for Terastodon. Someone always wrecks someone else’s lands because they can’t resist the temptation…and because playing it as a fair card, well, kind of sucks a little since it shares a significant resource that can add up fast. You’re covered strategically thanks to Woodfall Primus. You can kill noncreature permanents to your heart’s content, and we don’t need a second one / a bigger one / the mean one as something you can access. A table full of people would rather you got Kiki + Conscripts than Kiki + Terastodon—it’d hurt less.

That said, I’m not going easy on the table when I slot in Diluvian Primordial here; I’ve never cast it and had it be anything less than full-on game-winning right there. It tends to do something like removal spell / card draw spell / Time Stretch in my experience, and it’s just disgusting and game ending in any incarnation because the big spells of Commander are just that powerful. Steal one player’s Rise of the Dark Realms and someone else’s Insurrection? Sounds fair. Good game.

Putting it all together, we get the following decklist:

Maelstrom Wanderer
Sean McKeown
Test deck on 07-14-2013
Magic Card Back

As always, for your participation in this week’s Dear Azami you’ll receive a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com, which is usually a lot more impressive because I don’t normally suggest a $90 card and multiple other $20-neighborhood cards like Cryptic Command and Sword of Feast and Famine. Even Remand has started to grow pretty out of control—who’d have expected back when we were playing it in Standard and laughing at how bad it was against Affinity that it’d turn out to be a $14 uncommon some day?

Putting this together in chart form, the potential expenditures for your consideration look as follows:

Top 5 Almost-Ran Cards

There were a few other cards I considered that ultimately didn’t go in the deck that I think deserve mention from a strategic and tactical standpoint:

  • Constant Mists – Probably my favorite green card in the format because games go late and without countermagic you basically can’t interact with this card. The unfairest of the fair green cards. it’s just a Fog, right? This Fog effect stops being funny when it’s every turn and basically for free.
  • Scavenging Ooze – You can’t actually interact with an opponent’s graveyard, which can be a predicament at times. The access I built up instead was for stealing those resources as your own options, and being able to have a counter or two for the things that try to abuse the graveyard. For someone who’s trying to grind you down in a way you’re not prepared to face, like Karador, well, there’s always sideways eight.
  • Progenitor Mimic – Who doesn’t want to have an ever-expanding army of clones?
  • Deadeye Navigator – Ridiculous with any comes-into-play trigger on a creature, which you have by the boatload. So ridiculous that it is no longer interesting or fun because the game becomes “what can Deadeye Navigator do?” and ends within two turns.
  • Craterhoof Behemoth – Basically the go-to green creature of doom as far as most people are concerned to the point where you kind of need an excuse why you’re not playing The Hoof rather than an explanation of why you are. Ultimately, sure you can play this and Avenger of Zendikar and do something crazy; you can even Tooth and Nail for those two alongside a respectable (but small) team and surprise kill someone out of nowhere by giving your team +20/+20 or something crazy like that. Fun as it is and as much fun as I’ve had with it recently, I don’t think you need the card as a strategic helper even if it is incredibly fun. If you need to go past mundane damage levels, you can skip directly to infinite. And it’s not actually that fun for the opponent, either, so it’s not really that missed here.

Ultimately, I decided the deck would probably be more fun in the configuration I presented, though if you’re extra worried about the graveyard you’ll probably want to cut something to fit in Scavenging Ooze. And if you read Deadeye Navigator and get excited putting it next to Primordials, Solemn Simulacrum, Duplicant and Prime Speaker Zegana, well, no one will blame you. It would be an effective go-broken mode while still staying at least nominally “fair,” unlike the Melira or Palinchron lines of play I felt were uninteresting and unfun. It’s Commander. You haven’t really lived till you’ve abused a Deadeye Navigator on someone; we’ll all understand if it’s your first time.

I hope you appreciate the new deck hope I can keep pace with it the next time we cross paths, but most importantly I hope this helps respark the Commander vibe so you can walk that middle path of fun and power without tipping too far away from either side. Both are important, but you can have power without excessive consistency so that you have interesting games rather than repetitive ones.

Sean McKeown

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 Jack’s Lacques le Vert deck or Sarah’s Maelstrom Wanderer 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 a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!

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