Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Ten Command-Ments: Azusa, Lost but Seeking

by Andrew Pemberton

Howdy, all. After last week's success (or so I've been told), I can now announce my further involvement in the Team Leeds Blog! Ron Wagner has set me up as a Co-Author for the site, and I will be using this capacity mainly as a multiplayer writer. My aim is to get more people involved and interested in all formats, but for the most part, I'd like to talk about Commander in many facets, from strategy and politics to deck techs from not only myself, but other players within the group.

However, as of last week's discussion, two major rules changes have occurred:

*Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is now BANNED!

For those of you just getting into Commander (Or for those who have played against John Ingham or Mark Hammond any time during the last 3 months), Emrakul was the bane of any player's existence. Play would devolve into one of two scenarios usually;

1, You cast a 15-Mana 'I win the game spell', which forces everyone else on the table to try and kill you before you kill them.
2, A player would cast Bribery, and often steal a player's Emrakul, sealing the win for themselves as early as turn 4 or 5 with acceleration.

Now, the Giant Tentacle Monster is no more, and we can all feel free to enjoy intricate combos again. As for the other change;

*When building a Commander deck, the mana symbols in the text box are just as important as those in the cost of a card. The Commander’s color identity restricts what cards may appear in the deck.

In short, this translates to previously unplayable Generals such as Memnarch; Bosh, Iron Golem and Rhys the Exiles being legal for Commander play. Colour Identity refers to both the mana cost and any mana symbols in your chosen General's text box, and you may use cards of those colours.

i.e. I am running a Thelon of Havenwood Commander deck. Under the old rules, I could only use Green or Colourless cards because Thelon's colour identity was only Green. Now, Thelon decks are allowed to use both Green and Black coloured cards, as Thelon has a Black mana symbol within his text box: Perfect for those who love Pernicious Deed!

OK, now that those have been addressed, I'd like to begin my real talking point. At the request of Steve McAleer, I have produced a Deck Tech for my own Commander deck. I present to you... Azusa, Lost but Seeking!

1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking

If you remember from last week, I described a few ways in which you should look to use your general. Azusa, in my eyes, is a little bit of a unique general, in that you want to be able to cast her often, but even just casting her once can put you incredibly far ahead based on what your hand looks like. I sit in the Sam Black school of thinking, in that I want to abuse my general as much as possible, and what way to do that than with a lot of land?

20 Forest
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills

As a Mono-Green build, the Forests are essentials. The fetches allow me to thin my deck slightly, and also combo well with cards further down the list. I generally want one or two Green-producing lands in my opener, ideally with one of the next few cards.

1 Havenwood Battleground
1 Hickory Woodlot
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Crystal Vein

These lands are all special in that each one allows me to cast a turn 2 Azusa. Some do it at the cost of life, others at the cost of a sacrifice. Either way, the resources in Commander are such that you can afford some form of liberties, either with your life total or with sacrificial outlets. The increase in tempo they allow you is well worth the cost.

1 Dust Bowl
1 Strip Mine
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Wasteland

Land Destruction is helpful both in 1V1 and Multiplayer situations. In any case, most LD is used to keep a cap on someone trying to abuse utility lands such as Academy Ruins to set up a combo. At a push, you can keep people off colours, but it depends how cut-throat you want to be. Know that by destroying lands just for the sake of it, you will likely incur the wrath of your opponent.

1 Blasted Landscape
1 Slippery Karst
1 Tranquil Thicket

The cycle lands offer a little bit of extra draw late game, while being acceptable as land drops in the early game. Every card matters, and having some that can pull double-duty is important in such a format.

1 Gaea's Cradle
1 Yavimaya Hollow
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Eldrazi Temple
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Petrified Field
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Temple of the False God
1 Vesuva

The rest of my mana base just offers various utility depending on what I need. Cradle gives me lots of mana; Hollow allows me to protect my creatures, while Boseiju protects my spells. The Temple and Eye of Ugin are for my small Eldrazi contingent, and it gives me a tutor for not only them, but also other Colourless creatures, depending on what I need. Petrified Field lets me re-use my sacrificed lands; Temple of the False God is an easy 2 mana in this deck; Reliquary Tower lets me go overboard on some of the draw effects; and Vesuva allows me doubles of any land, or just detroy my opponent's Legendary land.

Mana Acceleration:
1 Crop Rotation
1 Hermit Druid
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
1 Sylvan Scrying
1 Life From the Loam
1 Realms Uncharted
1 Journey of Discovery
1 Gaea's Bounty
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Seek the Horizon
1 Primeval Titan
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Crucible of Worlds

Many green Commander builds are based around the production and effective use of mana, and mine is no different. There's plenty of cheap, effective ramp for my strategy, and I don't skimp out on it. Land search is prevalent, and it mainly adds lands to my hand, allowing me to use Azusa to her full potential, as well as trigger Landfall, making Lotus Cobra a very good addition. Primeval Titan is usually seen fetching Valakuts, but here it allows me to fetch any two lands I need. However, the two most important cards are Life From the Loam and Crucible of Worlds: Both of these allow me to add another layer to my gameplay: Using the graveyard as a resource. Crucible allows me to recur my 2-mana producing lands, as well as fetch lands, while Life from the Loam gives me back the cycle lands to re-cycle (Heh ;p) for more advantage. Cast, Dredge, Repeat. The ability to constantly cantrip with the Cycle lands gives me plenty of options, including the ability to dredge back Loam should I have two or more of them at my disposal.

1 Sylvan Library
1 Harmonize
1 Greater Good
1 Regal Force
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Scroll Rack
1 Horn of Greed
1 Well of Knowledge
1 Mind's Eye

Green does have some of the worst time with stable draw, so I've tried to include not only the best draw from my own colour, but also some artifact-based draw. Sylvan Library, Harmonize and Greater Good let me dig deeper, while Sensei's Divining Top helps me filter what I need, along with Scroll Rack. However, the most influential card is Horn of Greed: The ability to get three draws a turn with Azusa out gives you plenty of gas, or more land to continue to cycle through next turn.

1 Lignify
1 Relic Crush
1 Rootgrapple
1 Acidic Slime
1 Desert Twister
1 Duplicant
1 All is Dust

Most Green-based removal tends to be favourable towards Non-Creature destruction, as can be seen via Rootgrapple, Relic Crush and the Slime. However, Green also has the undeniably strong Desert Twister, allowing you to destroy ANYTHING for 4GG, and as an uncommon, is a staple for those of you on tight budgets. All is Dust gives me a good board sweeper should I need it, and Duplicant gets rid of pesky fatties trying to get in your way, not to mention opposing Generals.

1 Worldly Tutor
1 Sylvan Tutor
1 Treefolk Harbinger
1 Survival of the Fittest
1 Eternal Witness
1 Natural Order
1 Primal Command
1 Tooth and Nail

Whether tutoring for a utility creature or for a game-winning combination, these allow me to search for exactly the right type of card for the situation. One of the more intricate of these is Treefolk Harbinger: He can fetch me a Forest if I need mana; Lignify if I need creature removal; Rootgrapple if it's a non-creature giving me trouble, or Woodfall Primus if I need a fatty AND removal in the late game. Natural Order and Tooth and Nail are both very powerful as well, giving me a tutor and allowing the creature(s) to enter the battlefield, ready to fight. I will admit that Tooth and Nail is one of my pet cards (My first forays into Standard were during Onslaught-8th-Mirrodin), it's hard to ignore such a drastically powerful spell that can set up any number of game-winning combos.

1 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
1 Plow Under
1 Stunted Growth

These cards just give me a little more control over certain situations. Acid-Moss and Plow Under gives me some control over my opponent's lands, while Stunted Growth gives me a very rare ability: The ability to affect my opponent's hands. Usually a Blue or Black ability on the 'Colour Pie', this is a rare and very powerful effect for Green, and certainly a hidden gem of mine. Serving the same type of role as Plow Under, setting your opoonent back three cards in hand and neutering their draws for three turns can have a drastic effect on the game. I recommend it for any Green player out there :).

Creatures / Win Conditions:
1 Masticore
1 Rude Awakening
1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Terrastodon
1 Woodfall Primus
1 Artisan of Kozilek
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Genesis Wave

...and finally, we come to our win conditions. Eventually, once we have our mana set up, we want to cast a huge threat for beating face with.This can be anything from an Avenger of Zendikar with a ton of Plant tokens; Terrastodon and his Elephant buddies; or even just an Eldrazi. Steel Hellkite gives you some much-needed evasion, and allows you to hurt your opponent's field after he hits.

Strategical advantages of Azusa:

Obviously, Azusa's main goal is to set you up with a lot of land, in order to cast your bigger spells. Azusa does this by trading in your hand for more board prescence, in the form of extra land. When combined with the draw engines and other ways of attaining Card Advantage, this becomes an immense way to keep on top.

Azusa also has the benefit of helping you ramp without painting a serious target on your face: In 1v1 games, you should aim to get a Turn 2 Commander casting, into a turn 3 massive spell, by which point, you're so far ahead that it becomes very difficult for the other player to make it back into the game.

Finally, I'd like to go few a few combination plays I use when playing;

Azusa + Horn of Greed: Horn of greed is powerful in its own right, helping you get more value out of extra lands. However, when combined with Azusa, you'll be getting 3 cantrips for the price of your opponent's one in most cases.

Crucible of Worlds + Azusa + Strip Mine: This allows you to nuke up to three lands a turn. Great for getting ahead, but not so great when everyone turns against you for it!

Masticore + Kamahl, Fist of Krosa: Another Land Destruction element, this allows you to turn your opponent's land into a 1/1 for G, then shoot it to death with Masticore's ping ability. Mid-Late game, this can be devastating, leaving your opponent with an insurmountable task to accomplish.

Regal Force + Avenger of Zendikar: Depending on the amount of land you have in play, this will almost certainly refill your hand, if not give you a little more to play with. Add Gaea's Cradle if you want a lot of mana to go with it as well.

Survival of the Fittest + Kozilek / Ulamog: Allows you to grab any creature you need, while also allowing you to shuffle your graveyard back into the deck, ready to use those spells a second time.

Well guys, that's all I have for this week's installment. As always, if you have questions, comments or just wanna chat, you can hit me up on the blog, at WNM or via MSN at Thanks, and have a great week!

Andy P

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