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Soldier Tribal, Azorius Style!

Can’t figure out how to make a Constructed staple like the new Lavinia work in Commander? You’re in luck! Bennie Smith gives her the EDH treatment she deserves here!

Ravnica Allegiance
continues to bring the Commander hits! I’ve covered quite a few of the new
legends for brand new Commander decks, so be sure to check out my archives
to read those if you haven’t already. Also, be sure to check out
Sheldon Menery’s latest
to see which new Ravnica Allegiance cards he’s putting into his
large stable of Commander decks.

This week, I want to talk about the newest iteration of Lavinia:

A first level reading of Lavinia is that she forces opponents to play fair.
No crazy artifact ramp to go off with non-creature spells. No free spells
cast by pitching cards or cascade. Let’s all keep things on an even playing
field. Which is fine for Commander, right? Some people take broken things
too far is the format of crazy haymakers.

But then some people go another level deeper with Lavinia. First, Lavinia
isn’t symmetrical like Gaddock Teeg. Gaddock Teeg sets rules and everyone
has to follow along. Lavinia only sets the rules for your opponents, which
means if you’re playing Lavinia you can do the broken things just fine-you
can play the crazy artifact ramp stuff and play free spells.

But then, then-people have to take things too far. I’m seeing people talk
about playing Lavinia along with these kinds of cards:

C’mon! Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. If you
want to play casual Commander and your mind keeps wanting to build some
sort of “Stax” deck, you’re doing it wrong. These kind of cards already
suck fun out of playing Commander, so let’s not try and “break” them
further by pairing with Lavinia.

So does that mean we shouldn’t play Lavinia in Commander? Heck no! There is
value to forcing opponents to play fair, especially if your own gameplan is
mostly fair too. Like a tribal deck! Lavinia doesn’t overtly support a
particular tribe, but forcing other people to play a more fair game of
Magic means you’ll have more time to develop a battlefield where tribal
synergies can make a big impact. Lavinia is a Human Soldier, and while I’m
a little sick to death at Humans as a tribe given its huge popularity in
Modern, I have to say I don’t see the Soldiers tribe get too much love
these days.

And what’s cool about going the Soldier route is the Azorius color
combination. Backing up Soldier tribal synergies with blue control elements
and Kindred Discovery would make a much different Soldier deck than the
strict aggressive approach that you typically see. Let’s get on it!

Soldiers

I went through and picked a bunch of good Soldiers with good stats and good
abilities. A lot of them like Kor Duelist and Auriok Steelshaper synergize
well with Equipment cards, so I’ll include a bunch of those too. Blue
doesn’t provide us with many other Soldier cards, but Daxos of Meletis is a
good pickup for card advantage if we can attack unblocked. Shapesharer has
changeling so it counts as a Soldier for tribal synergies while allowing us
to scale up to something huge worth copying later on.

Tribal

Next up, awesome tribal cards! There are a bunch of Soldier cards that do
cool stuff with Soldiers, like Catapult Squad, Daru Warchief and Catapult
Master. Then there are generic tribal cards like Heirloom Blade and
Vanquisher’s Banner. I’m really stoked to have blue in this deck for
Distant Melody but especially Kindred Discovery, which helps keep your hand
filled with gas despite deploying a bunch of creatures to the battlefield.
I especially love the idea of having Steelshaper Apprentice bouncing back
to your hand to search up an Equipment card, replaying it with Path of
Ancestry to get the scry trigger, and then drawing a card from Kindred
Discovery or Vanquisher’s Banner.

Equipment

Outside of the awesome tribal Equipment cards, let’s add a bunch more. The
awesome thing about Equipment is that we can make our smaller creatures
more threatening without having to commit too much to the battlefield, and
we’ve got a fair number of Soldiers that do sweet stuff with Equipment. I
love that Bloodforged Battle-Axe can potentially spit out a bunch of extra
copies of itself. One of my all-time favorites in Nim Deathmantle helps
keep creatures on the battlefield, while Sword of Light and Shadow does a
nice job of retrieving creatures that hit the graveyard. Bonehoard and
Blackblade Reforged lets Lavinia, Azorius Renegade become an actual lethal
threat from commander damage.

Removal

White gives us some prime removal spells, though I’m going to pass on Path
to Exile so as to not help opponents cast their noncreature spells ahead of
schedule. I’ll run Pongify instead. Access to blue gives us an upgrade to
Wrath of God in Supreme Verdict. Why not run both? Well, I’m not the
biggest fan of mass removal in a tribal deck that doesn’t have a bunch of
graveyard recursion; I figure my own battlefield presence will prompt other
people to pull the trigger on mass removal enough.

Control

We can’t have blue without a little bit of control. Lavinia herself helps
keep things fair, but sometimes you’ll need a way to say no. Especially if
someone is trying to sweep away your commanding battlefield presence.

Fumble is going to provide a nice instant-speed trick on someone who’s
trying to Voltron a creature to large proportions, letting you instead buff
up one of your Soldiers. Just hold off on casting it until they attack you
with it.

Mana Ramp

Even though the deck has ended up very low to the ground, we’ll still want
to make use of some mana acceleration. I particularly like Sword of the
Animist and Dowsing Dagger thanks to the Equipment synergies in our deck.
I’m a huge fan of brand new card Smothering Tithe for Commander decks in
general and I think this deck is a perfect home for it since the deck
doesn’t necessarily need a ton of permanent mana acceleration but can
certainly use some bursts of mana here and there for counterspells or equip
costs.

Other Stuff

Lastly, some generally useful stuff like Cauldron of Souls to protect some
of our Soldiers from mass removal. Coveted Jewel and Sphinx’s Revelation
provide some additional card draw, and I like Aether Vial since so many of
our creatures have low casting costs.

Sweet deck! But wait, there are too many cards. I’ll start by looking at
our mana curve:

1 mana:
15

2 mana:
20+commander

3 mana:
15

4 mana:
12

5 mana:
5

6 mana:
5

7+ mana/X-spells:
1

74 total cards plus 37 lands equals 11 cards too many, so we need to make
some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our curve.

Auriok Survivors seems like the weakest link overall when weighing the mana
cost versus benefit. I like Coveted Jewel and Protector of the Crown, but I
think I’ve got enough card draw in the deck outside of these cards. Having
a steady supply of gas mitigates the need of something like Cauldron of
Souls too.

Sword of Feast and Famine is a potent card and does a nice job of making
equip costs basically free by untapping your lands, but I like Sword of
Light and Shadow a bit better here. Archetype of Courage occupies similar
space to Field Marshal without providing the extra power and toughness
boost, so I think its okay to cut. Odric is sweet, but I don’t think I have
a wide enough mix of abilities to copy for my whole team so he doesn’t seem
as crazy in this deck as he is in others.

These are fine Soldier cards, but I’ve got to make some hard cuts and I
feel there are other cards I’d miss more than these. That’s ten cards cut,
so I need to find one more…

Okay, I do like Pongify for pinpoint removal, but I feel that I have some
other options in the deck, like Catapult Master and Bounty Agent, that can
take care of individual threats when needed.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 02-04-2019
Commander


So, what do you think? What sort of choices do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?


By the way, if you’ve been waiting for decklists of the Commander decks I
brought to SCGCON this Winter, they’ve been loaded into the deck database
and the links are below so check them out and let me know what you think!

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Deck Database


Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com® article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Ravnica Allegiance


The Haunt of Hightower

, Teysa Karlov,

Prime Speaker Vannifar

,

Rakdos, the Showstopper

,

Nikya of the Old Ways

SCGCON Winter 2018


Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

,

Grothama, All-Devouring

;

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis

;

Feldon of the Third Path

;

Ramos, Dragon Engine

;

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


;
Prossh, Skyraider of Kher

; Brago, King Eternal

Ultimate Masters


Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun
,

Emmara, Soul of the Accord

,

Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)

,

Tajic, Legion’s Edge

,

Etrata, the Silencer

,

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018


Aminatou, the Fateshifter

,

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace,
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019


Sai, Master Thopterist

,

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

,

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

,

Chromium, the Mutable

Battlebond


Grothama, All-Devouring

Dominaria


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide

,

Slimefoot, the Stowaway

,

Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal
,

Firesong and Sunspeaker

,

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

,
Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25


Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan


Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm
,

Nezahal, Primal Tide

,

Zacama, Primal Calamity

,

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

,

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

,

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Unstable


Grusilda, Monster Masher

,

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph

Ixalan


Vona, Butcher of Magan

,

Tishana, Voice of Thunder

,

Admiral Beckett Brass

,

Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017


Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith

,

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

,

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

,

O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami

,

Mairsil, the Pretender

,

Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation


Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal

Amonkhet

Oketra the True
,

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

,

Samut, Voice of Dissent

,

Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block


Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

,

Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

,

Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016


Breya, Etherium Shaper

,

Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice

,

Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks


Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander