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Goad Is The GOAT: Building A Commander Deck Around Karazikar, The Eye Tyrant

Sheldon Menery gets brewing with Karazikar, The Eye Tyrant. Can this goad Commander become the GOAT at your game table?

Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant, illustrated by Jason A. Engle

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms provides deck builders and brewers with numerous opportunities to stretch their creative legs and stroll into something new and exciting.  With new legendary creatures to build around, cool mechanics to build around like the class enchantments, and compelling side quests like the dungeons, you’ll run out of time before you run out of ideas. 

I’ve gotten caught up in that fever, so today I’ll present you with two things to consider.  One is a build that excites me, the other is an upgrade path for my favorite of the Forgotten Realms Commander decks.  As always, I try to balance playability with an outside-the-box approach—being able to hang with most other casual decks while doing things you might not have seen before. 

Before we get there, I want to talk briefly about how excited I am that content creators are starting to normalize pregame conversations on their streams.  Commander is about finding the kinds of games that you want to play in, from the most battle cruiser to the highest power.  If someone is streaming or recording, they’ve obviously worked out beforehand what they’re going to do and how they’re going to approach the game.  They’re not really strangers at that juncture, but the point remains valid. 

Recreating what that conversation looked like sets a positive example for folks who might have some trepidation going into the same kind of chat at their LGS, Command Fest, or wherever they might find themselves in a game with strangers.  Pregame conversations aren’t the magic salve to solve every problem someone might have, but they’re an excellent jump start to getting the kind of experience you really want out of a game.  I hope to see more streamers and video creators drink from this well.

The first build is the one I promised, with Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant.  Goad is a mechanic that I’d love to see more of in Commander, so I want to do my best to feature it.  Now get into the Red Zone!


The idea behind the deck is relatively straightforward: make other players’ creatures attack each other instead of you.  It accomplishes the goal by liberal use of the goad mechanic and creating a hostile environment should people consider swinging your way.  It has a secondary path of using Erratic Portal, Lava Zombie, and possibly even Palace Siege to get multiple uses out of creatures with good enters-the-battlefield effects, from goad as well as other kinds, most notably Kardur, Doomscourge. The third path to victory is with a big Exsanguinate, potentially fueled by mana from Black Market.  Repeated casting of Gray Merchant of Asphodel fits in here as well.  I probably need more ways of putting Danse Macabre back into my had. 

There are two old school cards I want to highlight:  Backlash and Delirium.  There are large creatures in Commander and some of them will want to come your way.  Both of these cards will keep them off of your face and deal some damage while you’re at it.  A third card that loosely goes into this family that is Phthisis.   

Backlash

Backlash has the condition that the creature is untapped, which means it’ll check on both targeting and resolution, so make sure the opponent doesn’t have an obvious way to tap it.  Even if they do, they’ve spent some resources in preventing the damage while still ending up with a tapped attacker or blocker. 

Delirium

Delirium’s condition is that you only play it on an opponent’s turn, which you were going to do anyway.  Other than that, you’re in the clear to send some damage to the controller’s skull. 

Over the year, I’ve hit some players with memorable choices with both of these.  Nothing will make you more giddy than seeing someone drop Blightsteel Colossus when you have mana up for either Delirium or Backlash. 

Phthisis

Not a made up-for-Magic word, but an actual medical term for pulmonary tuberculosis, Phthisis will wreck a life total.  If you suspend it you’ll cast it on the cheap, but players will easily be able to play around it.  The seven-mana version will be the surprise factor; players who’ve never seen the card will be surprised indeed. 


Running dungeons is sweet and the Dungeons of Death preconstructed deck gets you started in fine fashion.  I don’t know if I’ve ever done in the past too many upgrades to the precons, focusing more on the individual cards that come out, so I thought this would be a fun exercise.  If I were to build a dungeoneering deck, Sefris of the Hidden Ways would lead it anyway.  My choice would be to build from scratch, avoiding most of the cards already on the list or tweak the existing one.  Dungeons of Death already has in it lots of cards I enjoy playing, so I figured that the upgrade path was one to follow.

The deck is playable right out of the box and can hang with any mid-tier builds.  It relies on getting graveyard value out of Sefris and Sun Titan, plus extra dungeon triggers from Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker.  Very importantly, the build demonstrates that the folks designing the decks in Studio X are paying attention to Commander’s target demographic.  All of them from Forgotten Realms Commander are right in the format’s sweet spot, providing the kinds of epic and interactive games that we on the Commander Rules Committee (RC) love to promote.   

The other part is that they’ve done a nice job with the mana bases.  They’ve come off the idea that they should put in terrible lands so that players have an easy upgrade path to take, letting go of so many enters-the-battlefield tapped lands—although there are still a few too many for my taste.  They also have reasonable mana bases that you could build on a budget.  Thriving Heath, Thriving Isle, and Thriving Moor are very clever design, offering the player a good deal of flexibility.  Also, three-cost mana rocks are the new hotness. 

I don’t want my upgrade to change the fundamental function of the deck.  I simply wanted to find 10-12 (or maybe as many as 15, but that’d be a stretch) changes of flavor that would more suit my play style.  There are good cards that will have to get swapped out in order to do so.  Taking out something isn’t a negative commentary on what leaves; as I find when I do the Great New Set Updates, sometimes you just have to make cuts. 

I want to increase the things that the deck can do out of the graveyard while reigning in a bit of the looting.  I’m not going to jettison the whole thing, just trim a piece or two.  We definitely want to retain some of the hand and graveyard sculpting, but the hand part will come from slightly more aggressive card draw.  We’ll also want something a little bigger than Eternal Dragon to get out of the graveyard.

Bojuka Bog

Our graveyard is fair and wonderful.  Their graveyard is full of nasty things and we must get rid of it.  Additionally, Bojuka Bog is the only reason that the bounce lands (Azorius Chancery, Dimir Aqueduct, Orzhov Basilica) stay in the deck.  I might actually want a second reason to play them, like Sejiri Steppe.  The alternate path for the even tighter mana base here is to stay with Bojuka Bog for a single use, then ditch the bounce lands for Watery Grave, Hallowed Fountain, and Godless Shrine). 

Coastal Piracy

Straightforward card draw based on getting in there in combat, we’re going to have more things that can’t be blocked in the new version.  This serves the secondary purpose of lowering life totals while we draw cards.  Those additional cards can get us more easily through Tomb of Annihilation.

Consuming Aberration

I said I wanted something larger to attack with and Consuming Aberration gets there.  This deck casts a fair number of inexpensive spells, thereby triggering Consuming Aberration’s ability to mill each opponent.  Filling up those graveyards both makes the creature more deadly and offers up juicier targets for Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. 

Fallen Shinobi

While it was Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni that generated the idea of ninjutsu cards, Fallen Shinobi was the first one I wanted to go with.  Exiling other players’ cards and possibly playing them for free is kind of busted—in the good way.  Even without the Ninja shenanigans, the deck’s movement towards its creatures being difficult to block will make Fallen Shinobi even more valuable.  Additionally, it’s a Zombie, so Wand of Orcus applies. 

Grave Titan

There’s so much value to be had here with Grave Titan.  It’s makes Zombies to go with Wand of Orcus.  It makes Zombies to sacrifice to various dungeon elements.  It makes Zombies to—well, you get the point. 

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

I’m not sure if Vela, the Night Clad or Inkshield inspired me to think of Ink-Eyes, but what matters is I got there.  We’ve provided some options in which creatures are difficult to block, so some ninjutsu action makes sense.  Still one of the best, Ink-Eyes lets us regrow creatures from other players’ graveyards.  If that’s not good enough, attacking with a creature an opponent owns will trigger the life drain from Nihiloor. 

Inkshield

Stay in school, eat your vegetables, and play your Fogs.  In this case, play your Fogs that can really wreck someone on the crack back.  Inkshield is definitely on its way to becoming one of my signature cards. 

Sun Quan, Lord of Wu

Continuing the idea laid down by Midnight Pathlighter, Sun Quan makes our creatures effectively unblockable.  It pairs quite nicely with Coastal Piracy.  Also pairs nicely with opponents’ life totals. 

Thassa, God of the Sea

In addition to being able to cheaply make things unblockable, Thassa’s upkeep-triggered scry will keep you sculpting the hands that you really want at the moment.  I think it’s also the trigger that I’ve forgotten as often as I’ve remembered.   

Sakashima’s Student

The third of the Ninjas, Sakashima’s Student is a brilliantly flexible card that you can simply hard cast as a clone.  Whether you’re copying your own Karmic Guide for value or a huge monster of someone else’s, Sakashima’s Student rarely fails to be a game-impacting card.

Vela the Night-Clad

Vela makes things more difficult to block, lowering life totals and triggering Coastal Piracy.  That’s only the second function, though.  It’s a natural with Ninjas.  When you’re sacrificing creatures in order to get them into the graveyard for reuse, each opponent loses a life.  If someone sweeps the board with Wrath of God or the like, each opponent will lose a good deal of life.  Especially in a late game with low life totals, Vela is a difference-maker. 

Arcane Endeavor Extract Brain Grave Endeavor Bucknard’s Everfull Purse Reassembling Skeleton Wall of Omens Forbidden Alchemy Clay Golem Champion of Wits Sunblast Angel Esper Panorama

There’s certainly more you could do here.  Grave Pact or Dictate of Erebos would create a great deal of value, although remember that it’s a card that gives some folks heartburn.  You could go with more Ninjas, making it a larger sub-theme.  With the mill of Consuming Aberration, Dimir Doppelganger will pay immense dividends.  Ghastlord of Fugue is an unblockable creature that can get rid of problematic cards from opponents’ hands.  You could also go full Zombie.  Blinky the Eldrazi, otherwise known as Eldrazi Displacer, combos with Radiant Solar to get you running dungeons faster.  Regardless of how you choose to upgrade this deck, you’ll have loads of fun with it.

There’s a reasonable chance I’ll play the Dungeons of Death deck right out of the box at least once on the Commander RC stream before doing the upgrade.  It’ll give me something new to play as I search the collection for the cards I talk about above and acquire the new ones to build Karazikar.  In both cases, I predict many good games inspired by Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.