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Tomer's Personal Deck Updates: Zendikar Rising | Commander Quickie


I often get asked about my personal deck lists, so I've decided to start doing a short article series showing how my personal decks evolve with each new set release. It's a more intimate perspective on how I approach the game that I hope you enjoy. Let's get started with my Zendikar Rising update!

Adding a Share Binder

One cost-saving measure I've recently started testing is having a "share binder" where I keep some of my most expensive Commander staples that I share across multiple decks. Despite being known for my budget brews, not all of my decks are budget-friendly, and some deck concepts simply perform a lot better when you've got pricey staples like fetchlands. Since all my paper decks are Commander, I don't actually need more than one copy of any card to play any of my decks, and I don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy extra sets of fetchlands when one set is sufficient. 

The only downside for me when it comes to sharing staples across multiple decks is keeping track of everything. What if I forget what deck my Arid Mesa is in? Or I accidentally shuffle up with a deck that only has 97 cards? Well, Jennifer aka Mrs. Mulligan came up with an excellent solution with her binder system, keeping her shared staples in a binder while her decks have placeholders that indicate which cared it's representing and what deck it's in. When you play a deck with placeholders, you just swap them out for the real card in the binder. Then even if you forget to swap them back out afterward you know exactly where your shared cards are.

I did a simplified version of Jennifer's system since I'm only sharing fetchlands and a Strip Mine at the moment, but if I expand my shared binder I'll probably organize it further into colors like she does. Here's my Tribal Tribal placeholders as an example:

If you find yourself with a lot of decks and overlapping expensive staples then this method can save you a ton of money! I absolutely encourage people to proxy cards for casual games as I don't like the idea of people being unable to play with game pieces they like because they can't afford it (also the proxy artist community makes some GORGEOUS pieces!), but for those who still want to play with only real cards this is a great alternative.

$50 Gargos

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While the vast majority of Gargos, Vicious Watcher decks focus on the commander's mana discount to build a Hydra Tribal deck, I found that the commander is far more powerful if you ignore that and focus on its incredible fight trigger, which I've covered in my Budget Gargos article. The idea is to use mana-efficient targeted spells like Warriors' Lesson and Invigorate to trigger Gargos, nom-nom'ing all opposing creatures while smashing in with your 8/7 commander. It's essentially a Mono Green Control deck, locking out your opponents from keeping creatures on the battlefield as you quickly KO them with commander damage. Since all the key cards are dirt cheap the deck ends up dominating even on an extremely low budget. I was honestly surprised as to how effective the strategy can be, considering it revolves around a 6cmc commander with no inherent protection, but Green's amazing ramp (Karametra's Acolyte) and protection (Vines of Vastwood) makes the deck way too consistent, and it's ended up being one of my most powerful decks despite being my cheapest.

Update

Since Gargos is so effective at a low budget, I decided it would be a fun challenge to keep it under $50, even if that means swapping out cards that I already own if they've spiked in value. With that in mind, my updates are actually meant to lower its inflated budget back down to $50 instead of just trying to power it up:

In Out
Sol Ring Veil of Summer
Khalni Ambush Rishkar's Expertise
Elvish Pioneer Fyndhorn Elves
Manglehorn Return to Nature
Forest Reliquary Tower
Forest Castle Garenbrig
Frog Tongue Aspect of Hydra

This update is a downgrade to get back down to $50, but nothing too important has been lost. I've even still kept Nissa, Who Shakes the World in the deck since it's a phenomenal card. The other solid budget inclusion would be Bala Ged Recovery but unfortunately, it's going up in price. Hopefully, it goes down eventually and I'll snag a copy.

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$50 Siona

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is my strongest dollar for dollar deck. Just like Gargos, I challenge myself by keeping Siona at just $50 and trying to make it the most optimized possible at that price point, though I do have a sideboard to boost its power with more expensive cards if I'm playing at a higher power table.

Siona is a Combo deck, looking to generate infinite Soldier tokens thanks to the primary combo Siona, Captain of the Pyleas + Shielded by Faith or the secondary combo Siona, Captain of the Pyleas + Reins of the Vinesteed + either Altar of Dementia or Blasting Station for infinite damage / mill. These combos are uniquely suited to a low budget because one part of our combo is in our command zone and the other is an aura which can easily be tutored up by a bunch of budget-friendly cards: Heliod's Pilgrim, Auratouched Mage, Boonweaver Giant, Open the Armory, Three Dreams, and Pattern of Rebirth. Our combo can be assembled very quickly and consistently even at a low budget. But even without our insta-win combos, the rest of the deck is a powerful well-rounded Enchantress / Aura deck that can win via a token army (Archon of Sun's Grace) or even single creature beatdown (Ancestral Mask). I've written about the deck, played it on Commander Clash, and most recently covered it with abridged gameplay.

Update

There isn't much I wanted to update though. From Zendikar Rising the only cards that interested me for this deck are the MDFCs Bala Ged Recovery (too expensive), Kabira Takedown (solid since we're a Go Wide deck), and Sejiri Shelter. Of these I decided just to add Takedown and call it for now.

In Out
Kabira Takedown Autumn's Veil

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Budget(ish) Niv-Mizzet / Tibor & Lumia

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Niv-Mizzet will always hold a special place in my heart. When I first got into Commander (2011) I was enamored with Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. I loved everything about the card: drawing cards to deal damage was right up my ally, I love dragons, and I especially love the Izzet guild, both in terms of aesthetics and mechanics. But I never built a Niv-Mizzet deck because my group already had a Niv player and I didn't want to overlap my commander choice with someone else.

Fast forward many years later and we get Niv-Mizzet, Parun. This one is basically a straight upgrade to the original version, enabling the same combos but also safe from countermagic and draws cards off instants/sorceries. What's not to love? So I jumped on this version, writing a primer on it.

This is a pretty straightforward Combo deck: Niv-Mizzet, Parun + Curiosity / Tandem Lookout / Ophidian Eye is infinite damage and infinite draw. Our secondary combo is Isochron Scepter imprinting Dramatic Reversal plus mana rocks that tap for at least 2 mana for infinite mana and infinite instant casts, which again is infinite damage/draw with Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Easy peasy win. The rest of the deck is a Spellslinger list full of card draw and removal, plus secondary win conditions like a giant army from Talrand, Sky Summoner and The Locust God.

Update

The deck started as a $50 budget brew but over time I've slowly been adding upgrades to it and now it's pushing the $200 mark. I'm not shooting for a specific budget nor am I trying to bling out the deck. With that said, a fan kindly gifted me a ton of sweet cards that I want to incorporate into my decks, including a Cyclonic Rift and a signed Archmage's Charm going into Niv-Mizzet.

In Out
Pongify Reality Shift
Cyclonic Rift Chain Reaction
Archmage's Charm Treasure Cruise
Retraced Image Coalition Relic
Quiet Speculation Drift of Phantasms
Docent of Perfection Into the Roil
Teferi's Ageless Insight Expansion // Explosion
Midnight Clock Commander's Sphere
Silundi Vision Dig Through Time
Sea Gate Restoration Remote Isle
Valakut Awakening  Smoldering Crater
Mountain Vivid Crag
Island Vivid Creek

A ton of these cards are straight upgrades. Retraced Image is the most questionable upgrade, but I like the idea of a 1cmc sorcery ramp that puts an Island or Mountain from my hand into play which should be strong since this deck draws so many cards. My favorite update has to be Quiet Speculation, which has a sweet little flashback package to tutor, most notably Echo of Eons to wheel and shuffle graveyards back into libraries. 

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Tibor & Lumia Swap

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

My Izzet deck also has a Tibor and Lumia sideboard package which swaps out Niv-Mizzet's combo pieces and puts Niv-Mizzet, Parun into the 99, swapping in Tibor and Lumia as the commander and a couple of T&L staples instead. I make this swap if I'm playing in a lower power playgroup or I just feel like playing a different style of Izzet Spellslinger. Just a few quick swaps makes the deck feel totally different to play while avoiding the hassle of building a brand new deck.

In Out

Tibor and Lumia

Niv-Mizzet, Parun (into 99)

Willbreaker

Ophidian Eye

Charisma

Tandem Lookout

Basilisk Collar

Curiosity

Wonder Narset, Parter of Veils

Dramatic Reversal

Evil Zedruu

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Zedruu the Greathearted is the very first Commander deck I've ever owned. I bought the Political Puppets precon back in 2011 and have been tinkering with the deck ever since. Zedruu was love at first sight for me, stirring up nostalgic glee of when I was a little kid sleeving up a proxy version of a deck called Trix, a Standard all-star back in ancient times that revolved around Donate'ing Illusions of Grandeur to your opponent and winning when they can no longer pay the cumulative upkeep and lose 20 life.

My Zedruu deck has gone through so many different iterations throughout the years. It started as a traditional Donate deck, then was a Lifegain deck, an Enduring Ideal combo deck, Coin Flip, even briefly Goat Tribal, but I always came back to that original design of just giving away bad stuff to my opponents while stealing their good stuff. We give away our permanents with Zedruu the Greathearted or we swap them for better stuff with cards like Puca's Mischief, Role Reversal, and Sudden Substitution. The permanents we give away are either mean, like Illusions of Grandeur and Pyromancer's Swath, or neutral, like Akroan Horse and Vedalken Plotter. We can even get back the permanents we've traded with cards like Homeward Path, Leave // Chance, Venser, the Sojourner, and Brand.

The deck wins the game by stealing our opponents' best threats, overwhelming the board with a token army, or most stylishly by casting Fractured Identity on Nine Lives and respond to its leave the battlefield trigger by casting Patrician's Scorn, killing our opponents before we would lose the game.

Updates

Zendikar Rising brought some excellent new toys for Zedruu. Thieving Skydiver and Skyclave Apparition are two new removal cards that we can then donate, and Angel of Destiny is another viable win condition for the deck. I also got around to picking up a copy of Inniaz, the Gale Force, which I'm hoping I'll have enough flyers to make work in the deck.

In Out
Inniaz, the Gale Force Dusk // Dawn
Thieving Skydiver Daring Thief
Angel of Destiny Swords to Plowshares
Skyclave Apparition Dovin's Veto

Unfortunately my Zedruu deck isn't webcam-friendly so I haven't had a chance to play it this year. But gosh am I excited to give it a spin after this quarantine is over!

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Tribal Tribal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tribal decks are built around a single tribe. But what if we built a deck that was all tribes at once? This was the challenge I set for myself when building Everything Tribal aka Tribal Tribal: the idea is that by using changelings (ex. Universal Automaton) which are all creature types at all times, we can mix and match any tribal support cards together to create incredibly unique and interesting decks. The end result is the Budget Commander article that I'm most proud of creating. I spent so many hours researching all the tribal support cards out there, figuring out my preferred ratio of changelings to tribal payoffs, and finding which tribal mixes work best to create a cohesive game plan. It took a lot of time and effort but I think it was worth it.

In the article I highlighted two different builds of Tribal Tribal. The first is a deck built around tap/untap shenanigans, using powerful tap abilities like Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero and untapping them with cards like Myr Galvanizer and Merrow Commerce for extra value. The second is a Combat Trigger deck, looking to give your attackers evasion (Cloudshredder Sliver) and double strike (Sylvia Brightspear) and then rewarding combat damage with cards like Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow and Notorious Throng.

My personal list is an updated Combat Trigger version. The deck has grown more powerful over time, swapping Morophon, the Boundless into the 99 and replacing it with The Ur-Dragon, whose eminence ability means all our changelings cost 1 less to cast. On top of winning through combat damage we've also got a powerful recursion engine with Haakon, Stromgald Scourge which lets us cast our changelings / Knights from the graveyard but more importantly our changeling tribal instants like Crib Swap or give our creatures infinite power with Blades of Velis Vel + Morophon, the Boundless. There's also infinite token combo with Turntimber Ranger + Arcane Adaptation naming Ally, or winning on our upkeep with Liliana's Contract.

The deck can pull off incredibly powerful and flashy turns. However, it's also inconsistent, which is by design. I found that I could make the deck way more consistent by adding a bunch more tutors and focusing on a specific tribe and combo -- cough cough Slivers cough -- but that defeats the purpose of building this style of deck. By keeping it less focused and not leaning too much on any specific tribe, it's weaker than my tuned budget brews but nonetheless it's my current favorite deck to play.

Updates

Zendikar Rising's party mechanic is the perfect fit for Tribal Tribal since changelings can fill a full party easily. There's three party cards that I'm interested in testing out: Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate, Tazri, Beacon of Unity, and Coveted Prize. I've been considering Nimble Trapfinder too but it's only good if you have a full party which might be too inconsistent to be worth it.

In Out
Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate Lord of the Unreal
Tazri, Beacon of Unity Gallia of the Endless Dance
Coveted Prize Seafloor Oracle

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6 CMC Tribal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Of all the decks in my arsenal, 6 CMC Tribal is the weirdest. It started as a meme deck for a meme week in Commander Clash, CMC Tribal, where each of us built a deck with each nonland card being the same cmc. While the rest of the crew stuck with low cmcs, I went big and dived into 6 cmc. The deck was swiftly crushed, but I was so intrigued with the concept that I went back to refine it, spending literally hours researching and optimizing 6 CMC Tribal, math'ing out the correct amount of lands, cyclers, ways to cheat on mana cost, and the best win conditions.

The end result was my 6 CMC Tribal article/video, which I feel is one of my best pieces of content. Despite the restriction, the deck is actively advancing its game plan right on turn 1. We're running a bunch of cycling cards and fetchlands to quickly fill out our graveyard with cards that will fuel various cards, like delving with Tasigur, the Golden Fang and ultimately culminating in one of our best win conditions, Twilight's Call, to make a game-winning army.

We also have a bunch of spells that we can cast for less than six mana. Cards like Avatar of Growth and Curtains' Call cost less based on the number of opponents, split cards like Reason // Believe can be cast either side for less mana, we have ways to cheat out multiple 6cmc spells with cards like Selvala's Stampede, etc. We even have cheeky ramp options like Myriad Landscape and Shefet Monitor to get us casting spells earlier than turn 6. Eventually we win with big beaters or Triskelion + Mikaeus, the Unhallowed combo.

It's a silly control deck and the weakest deck in my arsenal but I love it and love that people enjoy playing against it.

Updates

Unfortunately there's no updates possible for the deck from Zendikar Rising! No decent 6 CMC spells to add or lands.

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Semi-CEDH Edric

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Edric, Spymaster of Trest is one of my oldest decks. Like most decks in my personal collection, Edric started as one of my budget articles that I ended up liking so much that I bought a copy for myself. The deck was under $50 when I bought it and the closest thing I've got to a true CEDH deck. I almost never play CEDH though and Edric is way too strong for my playgroups so I only bring out Edric for a game or two each year. So despite being one of my oldest decks, it's also my least-played deck, so I have little motivation to ever upgrade it.

Updates

The only card I've been considering is Merfolk Windrobber. It's a Rogue which is relevant for Notorious Throng and it can "cycle" itself, but I think milling my opponents is actually a drawback since it sets up potential recursion, and it's not a Faerie or Elf which are both more relevant creature types in the deck. Maybe it's better than Cloudfin Raptor? I dunno. For now though, no changes.

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Coming Soon!

Those are all my fully assembled decks. There are a few more decks coming down the pipeline through which I'll share when they're ready:

And that's all I got for now! Hope you enjoyed this peek into my personal collection. Thanks for reading and I'll be back with another update once Commander Legends is released!



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