The following is an introduction to the Commander deck I’ve had the most fun brewing over the past couple of years, in the hope that you, too, may enjoy nuking your opponents from orbit with the power of the mighty Wizard tribe.
The story of this deck begins with an experience made possible in a game from long ago. Before Skyrim and Oblivion, there was The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, which for my money is still the best in Bethseda’s series of Fantasy RPGs. Beyond its configurable UI, complex (and satisfyingly metagame-able) leveling system, and seamless open world travel, Morrowind included a spellcrafting system that allowed a practitioner with skill and knowledge of the proper effects to combine them in new and powerful ways.
By the end of the game, a wizard could build a 100-yard radius fireball that dealt enough damage over time to completely annihilate the residents of a small village, and could craft a spell of flight that brought her high above the town to rain destruction at her whim (followed, inevitably, by restoring from a save to revert the deaths of critical NPCs).
It’s this feeling of soaring high to unleash doom across the landscape that I had in mind when building with Tibor and Lumia, the capricious Izzet mages who “trace the horizon in a dance of wind and fire.” To get there, the deck requires several key card packages.
1 Tibor and Lumia
As described above, the deck’s primary game plan is to:
- Make wizards.
- Make wizards fly.
- Cast a giant X damage spell and copy it as many times as possible to nuke everything from orbit (hopefully not dying ourselves in the process).
Beating our opponents senseless with an army of flying wizards is an acceptable Plan B. Tibor and Lumia help with both of these goals by granting flight (albeit to only a single creature at a time) and dealing damage to the pedestrian creatures left below.
Perhaps more critically, helming the deck with Tibor and Lumia presents a less threatening multiplayer profile in a color pair and tribe that are often seen as highly dangerous at a Commander table.
|Flight Synergies (6)|
1 Student of Elements
1 Archetype of Imagination
1 Paragon of Gathering Mists
1 Diviner’s Wand
Giving our wizards flying isn’t just an aesthetic preference — it protects them from Tibor and Lumia’s wrath, and makes the majority of our Earthquake-style nukes asymmetrical. Wizards that grant flying themselves are perfect here, and Levitation is a shoe-in. Mudslide is a rediscovered Ice Age classic (?) that works as a pseudo-Prison effect (especially effective with Archetype of Imagination).
|Spell Copy (7)|
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Echo Mage
1 Meletis Charlatan
1 Sigil Tracer
1 Melek, Izzet Paragon
1 Uyo, Silent Prophet
1 Dualcaster Mage
A self-imposed restriction in creating this deck was that it only contain creatures of type Wizard. In other contexts this could be seen as pretty threatening — wizard tribal allows for repeatable countermagic (Ertai, Wizard Adept, Patron Wizard) and insane card advantage (Azami, Lady of Scrolls as Commander). While we do include plenty of card draw, the role of wizards in this deck is balanced around ‘leveling up’ our combo with another core wizardly proficiency — the ability to copy instants and sorceries.
1 Comet Storm
1 Fall of the Titans
1 Fault Line
1 Molten Disaster
1 Rolling Earthquake
1 Dark Sphere
Our deck deliberately avoids some of the standard finishers and board control cards in blue and red — no Insurrection, Rite of Replication or Cyclonic Rift here. Instead, we rely on a suite of red X spells to get rid of pesky opposing creatures and, ultimately, other players. The best ones are those that hit everything, since our goal on the turn we go off is to do enough damage simultaneously that it all gets burnt to a crisp.
Dark Sphere helps us not die to our own nukes, and may be the most important card in the deck if we want to actually win the game (though drawing cataclysmically is a satisfying alternative).
To get there, in addition to our spell-copying wizards we need ramp: lots of ramp. Blue and red are challenged here, so we must resort to the best artifact mana available. In this context Trinket Mage is usually a tutor for Sol Ring or Mana Crypt, while Aphetto Alchemist acts as a Voltaic Key.
I’ve discovered in play that the deck often stalls after deploying its opening hand, so ways to refill and keep building for the finish are critical. Two types of card draw fit naturally with the themes of the deck: X spells (like Braingeyser) and wizards (like Mercurial Chemister). I’m still working on finding the right balance of these.
|Combo Protection (5)|
1 Force of Will
1 Pact of Negation
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
In the initial build of the deck I had a lot more countermagic in the form of wizards with built-in counterspells (Kheru Spellsnatcher, Voidmage Prodigy, etc). In keeping with my personal Commander philosophy I ended up winnowing these out. Force, Pact, Venser, and Teferi are still in, but only to help ensure our game plan of world annihilation can be safely executed.
Our mana base is pretty standard Izzet, with a few notable on-theme inclusions such as Mirrorpool and Riptide Laboratory. Tolaria West is most often used to tutor for the protection of Dark Sphere when we go off.
As mentioned at the top, this is the Commander deck I’ve had the most fun brewing over the past couple of years. Thematically it’s a blast, and when it works it really evokes the “nuke everything from orbit” feeling. It fits my Commander criteria of doing something strong while not inhibiting the play of other decks at the table, and its big plays are always memorable.
I haven’t had enough experience with the deck to know whether it consistently performs the way I’d like, so I plan to update this when I’ve had the opportunity to get more reps in with the current version (last updated with cards from Battle for Zendikar). As a work of deck design it’s the concept I’m the most proud of, and I hope to prove that it stands up in the various metagames I’m a part of.
For my next Commander deck tech I’ll be tackling Horde of Notions Elemental Tribal, the deck I’ve consistently had the most fun playing since my Commander journey started four years ago.