Dear Azami: We Must All Hang Together

Allies have been clamoring for a leader for far too long. Oath of the Gatewatch delivered the hero we’ve wanted, but how do we build the Commander deck optimally? Levi has a few great ideas!

A lot’s happened since the last time you heard from me. First off, the full Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler has been up for a week and it’s now available on StarCityGames.com, adding six new potential Commanders and a whole host of sweet tricks to our arsenals. Personally I expect to see a lot of Zendikar Resurgent, Stoneforge Masterwork, and Kozilek, the Great Distortion in the upcoming months, but every group is going to be different.

Second, the Banned and Restricted announcement came with much greater changes than usual. The former Rule 4 is gone, meaning that decks can produce mana of colors that aren’t in their commander’s color identity now. Personally I’m thrilled with this change, if only because my friend’s Sen Triplets deck can do things without a Mycosynth Lattice now. They also changed from the “Partial Paris” mulligan to the Vancouver mulligan, bringing the Commander rules closer in line with the “normal” rules. I’m mostly ambivalent to this change, especially since most groups use some house rule for mulligans anyway and my current playgroup has something very close to the recommended but highly unofficial “everyone gets free sevens until their hand is playable, don’t abuse it.”

Last, and to my mind most importantly, Prophet of Kruphix got the banhammer. Frankly, the only thing that surprised me about it was that it took them this long to realize the card was a problem. I called this ban from the second the card was spoiled, even if I didn’t have a soapbox to stand on back then.

The main problem with Prophet wasn’t even power, it was time. The card either did nothing (and I saw it do that a fair amount of the time) or it combined with draw engines and activated abilities to let the person playing it take a full turn on every player’s turn. That wouldn’t be as big of a problem if not for the fact that Prophet turns were usually longer than the turns they were taking place within, and because of the power of being able to respond to things usually led the Prophet player to doing everything as the turn was about to be passed.

That was a bit more of a rant than I normally let myself go on, but I wanted to share some of my perspective on the recent changes. Now, let’s get on to the challenge this week.

Dear Azami,

The Allies deck has always had one major problem – it didn’t have an actual commander! For a while I played Karona, False God and just sucked it up – at least I could name Ally with it and give my team a pseudo-Overrun. Imagine my excitement then, when General Tazri was spoiled! I’ve had an Allies deck for a little while which I play for casual games, and I immediately put her in. Here’s the current list:

Commander: General Tazri

Creatures: (36)

Agadeem Occultist

Bala Ged Thief

Chasm Guide

Drana’s Chosen

Drana’s Emissary

Etched Monstrosity

Firemantle Mage

Hagra Diabolist

Harabaz Druid

Hero of Goma Fada

Joraga Bard

Jwari Shapeshifter

Kabira Evangel

Kalastria Healer

Kazuul Warlord

Krosan Tusker

Lantern Scout

Makindi Patrol

Malakir Soothsayer

Mistmeadow Witch

Munda’s Vanguard

Munda, Ambush Leader

Murasa Pyromancer

Ondu Champion

Ondu Cleric

Resolute Blademaster

Sakura-Tribe Elder

Sea Gate Loremaster

Seascape Aerialist

Soul of the Harvest

Sylvan Ranger

Tajuru Warcaller

Talus Paladin

Tuktuk Scrapper

Turntimber Ranger

Veteran Warleader

Yavimaya Elder

Zulaport Cutthroat

Artifact (7):

Chromatic Lantern

Conjurer’s Closet

Gruul Signet

Golgari Signet

Selesnya Signet

Simic Signet

Sol Ring

Enchantment (4)

Descendants’ Path

Flameshadow Conjuring

Mind Unbound

Zendikar Resurgent

Instant (2)

Inspiring Call

Join the Ranks

Sorcery (9)

Collective Unconscious


Kodama’s Reach


Rampant Growth

Urban Evolution

Lead the Stampede

Living Death

Twilight’s Call

Unified Front

Planeswalker (1)

Venser, the Sojourner

Lands: (38)

Ally Encampment

Arcane Sanctum

City of Brass

Command Tower

Crumbling Necropolis

7 Forest

Frontier Bivouac

4 Island

Jungle Shrine

4 Mountain

Mystic Monastery

Nomad Outpost

Opulent Palace

5 Plains

Reflecting Pool

Sandsteppe Citadel

Savage Lands

Seaside Citadel

4 Swamp

This deck currently feels really inconsistent. The deck can go out pretty quickly and beat someone down very quickly, but after one or two board wipes, it’s often onto topdeck mode with little way to recover aside from Living Death or Twilight’s Call (a pretty cool interaction is if Hagra Diabolist is in the graveyard with other Allies, bringing them all back at the same time causes lifeless equal to the number of Allies returned squared). I’d like to keep this deck relatively casual while still being able to hold its own. Any suggestions and thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,


Speaking of the new set, General Tazri gives us the five-color legendary Ally that we’ve been asking for since original Zendikar. Before this I’ve seen Ally deck with everything from Reaper King to Sliver Queen at the helm, and it’ll be nice to have an actually on-theme general. Personally I hope this means they’ll make a legendary Werewolf in the next block, but that’s for the future.

The Creatures


Etched Monstrosity is kind of just a “why?” card. It isn’t anywhere close to your theme or strategy and doesn’t have the raw power to make up for it. I get the feeling it was sitting around your rare pile and this was the only deck that could even play it, but that’s not enough of a reason.

Krosan Tusker, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Sylvan Ranger, and Yavimaya Elder are all getting cut because you really didn’t have anything to ramp towards. I get that playing five colors can be really scary on the mana, but almost all of your cards only have a single colored mana in their cost and Tazri doesn’t demand that you hit WUBRG on turn 5 every game. You just don’t need as much ramp and fixing as you have, so I’ll be cutting a fair amount of it throughout the process.

Joraga Bard is the only actual Ally that I’m cutting, but it’s going because your deck isn’t set up to use it at all. Most Allies are fairly small when there aren’t any buff on them, and most of your power-ups only last until the end of the turn. Combine that with the fact that having a critical mass of creatures is super important to your strategy and it’s almost never a good idea to block, so dedicating a slot to giving them vigilance when there are better options available just isn’t a good idea.


You mentioned how ridiculous Hagra Diabolist can be, and Halimar Excavator is only slightly weaker. Yes, you need a lot more triggers to kill someone with it and you don’t really have other ways to mill, but as long as you can remember who plays with the original Eldrazi Titans in their deck and avoid gunning for them with this, it will perform beyond what most people expect from it.

Kor Bladewhirl grants first strike, which can make blocking all but impossible if you fire off Tazri’s ability or have a few triggers from Tajuru Warcaller. Beastcaller Savant is a mana dork, but it’s also an Ally and fixes for any color which is better than what you had previously. Drana, Liberator of Malakir is a little rough on the mana because of the double black in her cost, but there will almost always be someone without a flyer to hit with her, and putting counters on your whole team is really good.

Tajuru Archer comes in as a way to fight opposing flyers. Those of you that have ever played a mono-green deck know how miserable it is to realize that all the Angels and Dragons people want to run anyway are basically unblockable as long as they’re pointed at you, and while this deck can run flyers, there aren’t many good Allies that can take to the skies. On top of that, most of them don’t block very well. Better to just gun the Dragons out of the sky with this guy.

The Artifacts


I did say I was cutting most of your ramp, didn’t I? Green is still your most important color, but you don’t absolutely need it in every starting hand anymore and I’ll be moving a fair amount of fixing to your land base anyway. All of that goes to say that we can afford to cut the Signets .


Obelisk of Urd and Door of Destinies both provide a substantial boost to your Allies. These additions were important to make sure your army wouldn’t die in a stiff breeze, and in the case of Door of Destinies, it can make them grow large enough to outclass the Giants and Beasts that make up the normal board presence in Commander. Urza’s Incubator makes almost all of your creatures a lot cheaper to cast, and with Soul of the Harvest or Zendikar Resurgent on the battlefield, you can cast huge chains of creatures in a turn without having too much mana.

Finally, we get to Eldrazi Monument. This is a little bit of an unusual choice since you don’t have the ability to make tokens to feed to it, but I’m including it for two reasons. First, sending your whole team to the skies will sometimes win you the game or at least knock a threatening player out of the game right there. Second, as you pointed out this strategy is very weak to board wipes, and you need as many tools to fight them as possible. It won’t help against Final Judgment or Evacuate, but the normal Wraths will bounce right off your creatures.

The Enchantments


Don’t get me wrong: I like this card and think it’s underplayed. That being said, I don’t think Flameshadow Conjuring is what you need here. When it comes to ways to get more Ally triggers, I decided to focus on the ones that also help you minimize your weaknesses.


Call to the Kindred rests in a similar design space to Descendants’ Path. It turns your tribal theme into a way to get a free creature almost every turn, and even though being an Aura makes it vulnerable, getting your pick out of the top four cards is good enough to risk it.

The Spells


This is a mixed bag that we’re getting rid of, but they’re mostly attempts at card advantage that come across as subpar. Inspiring Call might just be the most tempting card I’ve seen in a while, but even the ability to bounce a Wrath off of your team and refill your hand isn’t enough to justify a card that you don’t have the support for.

Even with the addition of Drana, you only have two cards that put counters on your whole team and a small handful of creatures that can put counters on themselves. Remember that it only makes the creatures with +1/+1 counters indestructible. If you really want this trick, Rootborn Defenses and the new Make a Stand are much better for you, but I think there are better options to be had.

Collective Unconscious has been obsoleted recently, so I’ll be upgrading it to the better version. Urban Evolution is just lackluster because it’s bad ramp and bad card draw instead of being good at either. (Well, mediocre card draw. Getting three cards isn’t bad, but you can do so much better.) Lead the Stampede is okay, but it seems really lackluster when your general can tutor any Ally when she enters the battlefield.

Farseek is the last ramp spell that I’m cutting, and it also happens to be the worst since you don’t have any dual lands to go with it. Not much else to say about it.


Shamanic Revelation is a Collective Unconscious that costs one less and will sometimes gain you upwards of twenty life, so that’s a fairly easy change to make.

Mass Polymorph begins the section of changes that answers a very important question: why not just play Slivers? Flavor reasons aside, Slivers are almost always Allies with a slightly narrower range of abilities but without the crippling weakness of being turned off on your opponent’s turn. The place where Allies can get ahead is when you start exploiting ways to get massive numbers of simultaneous enters-the-battlefield triggers at the same time. (Kevin already had the right idea with Living Death and Twilight’s Call; I’m just expanding on the theme.)

Because all the creatures from Mass Polymorph and other spells enter at the same time, they all trigger each other and will all count towards any effects that count the number of Allies you control. As an example, even with only six creatures, hitting Hagra Diabolist as part of a Mass Polymorph will let you make someone lose 36 life, or you could divide that up by units of six life apiece. And that’s before any of the other Allies do anything.

Rite of Replication follows the same math, except all of the triggers will be from your best creature. Ghostway lets you reuse your whole team for a huge number of triggers, but more importantly, it will also blink your whole team right through any sort of Wrath or Evacuation. Used offensively or defensively, this will be one of the best cards in the deck. Patriarch’s Bidding is another mass reanimation spell to go alongside the Living Death and Twilight’s Call you were already running, except this one is better at keeping your opponents from profiting because it’s unlikely that anyone but you will have gone completely all-in on a single creature type.

Finally, Harsh Mercy is a board wipe that you can play without hurting your own team. It’ll never kill your opponent’s best creature, but you’ll usually be able to thin a lot of their boards away, and that’s more than most aggressive decks can even dream of doing. I debated for a while on whether this slot should be Harsh Mercy or Mirrorweave, but in the end I decided the deck could use some actual interaction instead of another trick, no matter how powerful.

The Lands


Normally I try not to change too much about people’s land bases, but while you had a pretty good setup for a budget manabase, it was just too shaky to support a five-colored deck and that was mostly on the back of having too many basics. Don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest a full set of fetches and Alpha or Beta dual lands, but you also can’t afford too many lands that enter the battlefield tapped and mess up your ability to curve out.


Glacial Fortess and its friends are, in my opinion, the best dual lands for Commander for anyone without the unlimited resources required to actually acquire the original duals. Sulfur Falls isn’t here because it’s currently twelve dollars for what I’m presuming are Modern-related reasons, but the rest of the cycle is both fairly cheap and really easy to acquire through trading. You could go for the enemy-colored pain lands instead of the Innistrad part of this cycle, since they’ve been printed in the last two core sets and are in everyone’s binders right now. Mana Confluence doesn’t require much explanation when you were already running City of Brass, and having another land that can be tapped for anything is a pretty good way to fill out the hole left by Sulfur Falls.

Putting all the changes together, we come up with this:

General Tazri
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 01-26-2016
Magic Card Back

And the additions organized by price:

The changes add up to $81.50, just under half of which comes from the changes made to the manabase. As always, Kevin will receive a $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com to help make the suggested changes and improve his army of Allies. It’s been great to see all the support WotC is giving to an old fan favorite, and there are enough Allies now that we can actually make different builds of the Ally deck instead of just having to cram every on-theme creature into the deck and hoping for the best.

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