Amonkhet preview season is in full swing, and like most Magic players the world over I’ve been eagerly devouring each delicious tidbit of our Ancient Egyptian-inspired new set that bubbles up from the depths of the internet. I know the new Amonkhet Invocations have been controversial to many; the biggest complaints seem to be that the beautiful art is too small, and that they do not look at all like Magic cards. I can sympathize with the first complaint, because the art is quite gorgeous and certainly deserves more of a spotlight. I don’t however have an issue with the second complaint—not that they are wrong, but my feeling is not looking like a Magic card is the point. When I look at an Invocation, it conjures up the feeling of gazing upon an ancient, powerful spell carved into the stone wall of the tomb of a long-dead pharaoh.
“This guy gets it!”
The art represents a window into another time and place where the spell is drawing its power—once the spell is invoked, the window opens and the magic pours through. The English names that are mixed in with the hieroglyphs – to me, that represents the magic of the spell allowing someone capable of spell casting to be able to interpret the hieroglyphs. So it’s not that the English name is actually written there, it’s that the power of magic allows me to see the name of the spell in my own native tongue. Sort of like the read magic spell in Dungeons & Dragons, right?
I think if you set aside your preconceived notions of what a Masterpiece is supposed to look like and just let the flavor of the Invocations wash over you, it is clear that they are a flavor home run! I also think that once people start to see these cards in person, I have a feeling they are going to be stunning in a way that cannot be captured digitally on the computer.
Not that it really matters all that much to me – I have yet to open up an Expedition or Invention myself, and I am sure that tradition will continue with Invocations. I am not entirely sure that these do not exist purely as an instrument to torment me as other people open them and flash me their good fortune. The Magic Gods tend to be capricious that way.
Speaking of Gods… heh, like my segue-fu?
Sprinkled throughout each Magic release are Easter eggs specially made for Commander fans to get extra-excited about: legendary creatures! I know that Wizards does not necessarily make each legendary with Commander in mind – there are other segments of the Magic population that appreciate them, too. But Commander fans cannot help but get excited about each one that comes along.
…except this one?
I am sure I wasn’t the only one who frowned a bit at Hazoret. Going “hellbent” or nearly so in order to get benefits is something that’s been going on since Cursed Scroll terrorized Magic players back when rocks were soft. It’s a nice idea, but in practice players tend to shy away because cutting down on the cards you have in your hand means cutting down on your options. That can be risky in tournament play and even riskier in Commander, where you are battling against the cards and resources of multiple opponents. Having one or no cards in hand can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable, even if you have a five-power indestructible God on the battlefield who can attack and block.
But I am not one to shy away from a challenge. I’ve made a Phage the Untouchable Commander deck. Building a sweet deck that tries to only keep one or no cards in hand should be worth mucho style points at the very least!
Of Gods and Men
Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say “Yes!” – Winston Zeddemore, Ghostbusters
The Magic community waited with bated breath to see how the Amonkhet Gods would compare with the original deities from Theros block. How different would they be? While there have only been two revealed so far (as of this writing), I think it is fair to say they are their own spins on the idea but with nice callbacks to the first ones. What they do have in common is being indestructible – Gods laugh off damage and destroy effects and are tough to handle without extraordinary measures. Luckily for Standard players, it appears that -1/-1 counters are a prominent theme in Amonkhet, and that is definitely one way for dealing with indestructible creatures.
The Theros block gods were not creatures on the battlefield unless you reached a threshold of “devotion” to their color. Amonkhet Gods have a similar vibe in that they cannot attack or block unless some sort of condition is met. So both sets of Gods have to have special circumstances before they can rumble in the Red Zone, but the cool distinction with Amonkhet Gods is that they’re still creatures even if they can’t attack or block. They can crew Vehicles, they can fight, they can be enchanted Auras, and they can pick up Equipment.
Yeah, I think we can work with this.
The first thing to focus on is what we can do even if we have too many cards in hand, and that centers on being indestructible. Arena and Magus of the Arena can let us rumble with opposing creatures and dish out five points of damage with practically no repercussions on our end. Even if Hazoret’s power is not enough to kill their creature, it can make attacking or blocking with it awkward. We can also make use of sweepers like Blasphemous Act or artifacts like Oblivion Stone with impunity, since our God cares not for the frailties of mere mortals.
Of course, being indestructible does not mean being invulnerable, and our God-commander can be subject to pesky exile spells like Swords to Plowshares. Hazoret has a relatively inexpensive mana cost, so we can take a few of those sorts of setbacks, but I like peppering in some ways to avoid that if possible.
This is the really cool part of playing with Hazoret—Auras! With a few exceptions, Auras are normally a liability in Commander, since it’s too easy to come out on the losing end of card advantage by investing multiple cards in one creature, but since Hazoret is indestructible, I think it makes a perfect target for them. Many Auras can pump Hazoret to truly threatening levels of damage, so Commander damage becomes a real path to victory once we get our hand low enough. Even if you cannot attack or block, being able to tap with Dual Casting or Elemental Mastery can still have a big impact.
Hazoret is a decent size and we can hopefully make it even bigger, but without evasion we’re going to have a tough time punching through some decks that have lots of chump blockers. That is why trample is going to be so helpful and I have made sure to get some in here. Basilisk Collar does not give trample, but in addition to lifelink it also gives deathtouch, which makes it super-easy to punch trampling damage through blockers. Temur Battle Rage giving trample and double strike can end an opponent out of nowhere!
Discard for Profit
While Hazoret can self-discard to get down to the coveted position of one card or less in hand, the effect is relatively small potatoes. I thought we should include some other cards that discard for profitable effects. Key to the City in particular seems quite sweet to push Hazoret past blockers. Ignorant Bliss isn’t technically a way to discard your hand, but if you want to turn on Hazoret at instant speed, it’s a solid card to do so – especially if you can ambush someone who didn’t think you’d be able to block!
Cast Cards from Other Zones
Okay, so here is where we get down to the business of running with a small hand but still being able to compete in a multiplayer game. Luckily for us, red has many ways to generate extra cards to cast without necessarily filling our hand with cards. Suspend cards like Arc Blade and Greater Gargadon are fantastic ways to shrink our hand but still be able to affect the battlefield later. Cards like Outpost Siege and Prophetic Flamespeaker let us play cards from the top of our deck, and Grenzo, Havoc Raiser lets us play cards from the tops of our opponents’ decks! Then we have artifacts that do the same sort of thing, from the original gangster Elkin Bottle to the brand-new hotness from Amonkhet Oracle’s Vault. We can even make use of one my old favorites, Ice Cauldron, which can tuck away cards in exile but still be played without cluttering up your hand.
Runehorn Hellkite is a good thing to discard early on, and if you feel the need to refuel your hand for some reason, it’s there to do so.
Last but not least, I wanted to include a lot of fast mana to help us play Hazoret early and empty our hand quickly. In particular, the cards you can cast on turn 1 or 2 will help us get Hazoret onto the battlefield a turn or two early, where its size is still formidable. I included 39 lands and an incredibly low mana curve to help us get our hand lean and mean to satisfy our God commander.
Here’s what I have sketched out and waiting for Hazoret the Fervent to join my Magic stash:
- 1 Shard Phoenix
- 1 Mogg Maniac
- 1 Iron Myr
- 1 Hammer Mage
- 1 Greater Gargadon
- 1 Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
- 1 Magus of the Arena
- 1 Rift Elemental
- 1 Soulbright Flamekin
- 1 Scuttlemutt
- 1 Archetype of Aggression
- 1 Prophetic Flamespeaker
- 1 Ire Shaman
- 1 Hedron Crawler
- 1 Stromkirk Occultist
- 1 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- 1 Runehorn Hellkite
- 20 Mountain
- 1 Arena
- 1 Smoldering Crater
- 1 Forgotten Cave
- 1 High Market
- 1 Terrain Generator
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Keldon Megaliths
- 1 Spinerock Knoll
- 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
- 1 Homeward Path
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
- 1 Opal Palace
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Command Beacon
- 1 Sea Gate Wreckage
- 1 Drownyard Temple
- 1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
- 1 Nevinyrral's Disk
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Elkin Bottle
- 1 Tenza, Godo's Maul
- 1 Skull of Orm
- 1 Shiv's Embrace
- 1 Oblivion Stone
- 1 Bestial Fury
- 1 Ice Cauldron
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Power Matrix
- 1 Crystal Chimes
- 1 Mox Diamond
- 1 O-Naginata
- 1 Ignorant Bliss
- 1 Shivan Meteor
- 1 Arc Blade
- 1 Thunderblade Charge
- 1 Elemental Mastery
- 1 Knollspine Invocation
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Chain Reaction
- 1 Claws of Valakut
- 1 Champion's Helm
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Faithless Looting
- 1 Dual Casting
- 1 Glaring Spotlight
- 1 Madcap Skills
- 1 Dragon Mantle
- 1 Thunderous Might
- 1 Outpost Siege
- 1 Temur Battle Rage
- 1 Senseless Rage
- 1 Key to the City
- 1 Smuggler's Copter
- 1 Oracle's Vault
- 1 Hazoret's Monument
What do you think of the deck? Do you think it can hang with traditional Commander decks that have hands full of cards? What would you do differently?
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)
• Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)
• Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)
• Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)
• Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)
• Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)
• Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
• Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)
• Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)
• Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)
• Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)
• Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)
• Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)
• Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)
• Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)
• Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)
• Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)
• Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)
• Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)
• Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)
• Karona, False God (God Pack)
• Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
• Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
• Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
• Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
• Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
• Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
• Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
• Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
• Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)
• Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
• Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
• Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)