Commander Magic Deck Of The Week: Zirda, The Dawnwaker

Zirda, the Dawnwaker leaves the companion role behind to lead Bennie Smith’s latest Commander MTG Deck of the Week.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Zirda, the Dawnwaker, illustrated by Jesper Ejsing

While Zirda, the Dawnwaker is one of the cycle of Ikoria companions, I think it makes a mighty fine commander in its own right and have had this deck together for a year or so.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker

I consider the deck style “the Island of Misfit Toys” – it’s a home for cool cards with activated abilities that are just too cumbersome for most Commander decks. I avoid the obvious cards like Grim Monolith or Basalt Monolith to generate infinite mana, and instead have high hopes for cards like Dragon Throne of Tarkir. Shaving two mana from the equip cost and one mana from the tap ability makes it much more feasible to have the impact the card wants.

Okay, let’s dig in!

Creatures with Activated Abilities

Shaman en-Kor Apostle of Purifying Light Soulbright Flamekin Feldon of the Third Path Eldrazi Displacer Brash Taunter Platoon Dispenser

The all-star from this bunch is definitely Soulbright Flamekin; while avoiding the Monolith combos for infinite mana, Soulbright Flamekin does provide an explosion of mana each turn so long as you also have Zirda on the battlefield. Three mana turns into eight red mana, which you can use for whatever you need.

Brash Taunter is one of my all-time favorite cards, and I run it in all sorts of decks that can’t shave mana from its activation cost, so making it cost just one red mana to activate is incredible. Feldon of the Third Path is another old favorite of mine – I have an actual Feldon Commander deck – and the Zirda discount makes its ability incredible. Platoon Dispenser is here mostly for a little extra card draw, but being able to pump out Soldier tokens for half price with Zirda is sweet upside!


Diamond Pick-Axe Resurrection Orb Lizard Blades Blackblade Reforged Umbral Mantle Helm of the Host Dragon Throne of Tarkir

I already talked about Dragon Throne of Tarkir. My dream is to also have the creature equipped with Umbral Mantle so that I can do this nonsense: tap the creature for one mana to give all my other creatures trample and +X/+X until end of turn, where X is this creature’s power; then untap the creature for one mana to boost its power by two, and do it again and again until my small- and medium-size creatures are huge! 

Resurrection Orb also has a rather steep equip cost that I’m happy to discount with Zirda. And then there’s Helm of the Host, a powerful piece of Equipment that also becomes excellent with the equip cost discount—especially when I equip Zirda and make a nonlegendary copy of Zirda for even more discounts!

Artifacts with Activated Abilities

Dino DNA Mimic Dire Mimic Mirage Mirror Staff of Domination Lithoform Engine

Dino DNA had me super-excited to add to Zirda! I love its ability to imprint a creature that has a really cool ability and then churn out 6/6 Dinosaur versions of it, with trample of course. It’s totally worth doing for six mana, but at four mana with Zirda?  Sign me up! 

As a long-time Dungeons & Dragons fan, I love the flavor of Mimic and Dire Mimic being Treasures that can animate as monsters. They’re here mostly on account of that, with Zirda’s ability making them much easier to turn into creatures.

Even though I don’t have access to unlimited amounts of mana in my build of Zirda, I still want Staff of Domination on my team with all those abilities at a nice discount.

Enchantments with Activated Abilities

Paladin Class Chivalric Alliance

Paladin Class is super-easy to level up with Zirda discounts and helps hit hard in the later stages of the game. Chivalric Alliance is another way to draw an extra card, and with Zirda, the activated ability easily turns cards in hand into an army.

Lands with Activated Abilities

Dark Depths Thespian's Stage Conqueror's Galleon Rogue's Passage The Mycosynth Gardens Miren, the Moaning Well Tyrite Sanctum Mines of Moria Den of the Bugbear Cave of the Frost Dragon Needle Spires Restless Bivouac

With Zirda it’s easy to knock ice counters off Dark Depths and create a Marit Lage token, but I’m also including Thespian’s Stage for the classic combo. Conqueror’s Galleon transforms into a sweet land with a Swiss Army knife’s worth of special abilities, and Zirda discounts make Conqueror’s Foothold even better.


Barbarian Class Wyll, Blade of Frontiers Treasure Chest Wand of Wonder The Deck of Many Things Underdark Rift

Barbarian Class and some of the cool dice-rolling cards all have activated abilities that are super-nice to discount with Zirda. I love that Barbarian Class and Wyll, Blade of Frontiers give me a reroll to maximize my chances for Wand of Wonder and The Deck of Many Things.

Card Draw

War Room Minas Tirith Skullclamp Glimmer Lens Magus of the Wheel Sun Titan

This deck has a ton of ways to sink mana for benefits, but I still wanted ways to keep the cards flowing. Magus of the Wheel, War Room, and Minas Tirith only cost one mana to use with Zirda out there. Sun Titan is card advantage; it “draws” the best three-mana-value or less permanent in your graveyard when it enters the battlefield and attacks.


Vandalblast Gorilla Shaman Swords to Plowshares Dauntless Dismantler Contraband Livestock Generous Gift Bronzebeak Foragers Crush Contraband Wrath of God Blasphemous Act

I’m a big fan of Dauntless Dismantler for Commander decks in general, but I’m stoked about it here in Zirda particularly. Gorilla Shaman can pick off lots of cheap artifacts with the Zirda discount. And how awesome is Bronzebeak Foragers’ ability to “ingest” the nonland permanents it exiles when discounted by two mana?  This is a very recent addition to Zirda from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander and I can’t wait to try it out!


Mother of Runes Immovable Rod Reprieve Selfless Spirit The Pandorica God-Eternal Oketra Firbolg Flutist

Immovable Rod has overperformed for me every time I’ve played it, even at full mana activation, and it’s obviously even better here. The Pandorica is another new addition from the Doctor Who decks, and I enjoy its ability to phase out a problematic nonland permanent or even save one of my own before I cast a battlefield sweeper.

Mana Ramp

Myriad Landscape Sol Ring Wayfarer's Bauble Sword of the Animist Liquimetal Torque Boros Signet Arcane Signet Sonic Screwdriver Laser Screwdriver Burnished Hart Solemn Simulacrum

More goodies from the Doctor Who decks are the Sonic Screwdriver and the Laser Screwdriver. Either you can use them for mana, or spend a mana (with Zirda on the battlefield) and activate one of the three abilities. I think the goad ability on Laser Screwdriver and the scry ability on the Sonic Screwdriver are the ones I’d use the most, but I can see opportunities for both.

I’ve got a few extra ways to deal with artifacts in this deck, so Liquimetal Torque can diversify my removal when I’m not using it for mana.

The Deck

Okay, here’s the full decklist!

Zirda, the Dawnwaker
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 12-29-2023
Magic Card Back

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

There’s one more card I’ve got set aside in the deck to swap in after a Rule Zero conversation with the pod I’m playing in, since it’s not technically a legal card: Urza’s Fun House!

Urza's Fun House

Seven mana is a lot for an activated ability on a land, but if there’s a good deck to run it, Zirda must be it!  I don’t run any of the other Urza lands, so there’s no chance of my getting “infinity” mana.  Instead, I just want to go to AskUrza.com and click on the Fun House to see what effect I get!  Here are some of the options, clicked randomly:

  • “Target player’s life total becomes 10.”
  • “During target opponent’s next turn, creatures that player controls can’t attack you.”
  • “Draw a card, then add one mana of any color.”
  • “Flip five coins. Take an extra turn after this one for each coin that comes up heads.”
  • “Reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise, put it into your hand.”

So, what must-have cards might I have missed including here?  What are your favorite “too expensive to activate” cards?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews.  

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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