First, I would like to make you all aware of a great opportunity! Dear Azami, the other column which I write, has an opening for a new writer! It’s a paid gig (in that it pays in store credit), and it’s a biweekly engagement. The column takes around eight hours to write, but it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great platform for a new writer trying to make her bones. Or his bones.

Whomever’s bones.

Anyway, if you’re interested, email [email protected] ASAP, with a subject like “Hey, I want to be a Dear Azami writer!” Include a compelling argument as to why you think you’d be a good fit for the column, and also what experience you have with writing on a deadline. We’ll get back to you, and the next two weeks will have guest authors taking over the column, one of whom will likely be chosen to work alongside me in a relatively self-contained little vacuum.

It also comes with ancillary perks, like admission to the SCG Invitational, and I think there’s some stuff about being able to play at Opens for free? Also, they sent me a giant hoodie, which I love.

Point is, it’s a good gig as Magic gigs go! Think about it, but think about it quickly… someone’s going to be spending a day this weekend writing a paid article to try out for Dear Azami, and it very well could be you!




This past weekend I got to play a real game of Commander. It’s been too long, and it showed. I still commanded the typical threat profile, but I only made it to the showdown the final game, after threatening Dana (the other showdown player) with a night on the couch if she didn’t kill Alex first. I mean, killing Alex was the right play, and I would never actually make her sleep out on the couch (though it is nice to do so from time to time), but sometimes you have more than one handle on a person. Given my losing streak, I was primed to use them.

Darien was a Soul Sisters deck. Darien really works well in that context.

Before squaring [casthaven]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/casthaven] off against [casthaven]Liliana, Heretical Healer[/casthaven], I updated the decks a little. The first playthrough for both had been more about figuring out how the adaptation worked out, being as they were both built of the base of another deck ([casthaven]Darien, King of Kjeldor[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder[/casthaven] respectively). After they had won their battles, I took them (and their fallen counterparts), and made an update based more closely on the theme of the particular planeswalker in command.

For Kytheon, this meant adding in some angels, because I honestly think “vaguely Greek Batman” is a terrible backstory. (I did have to skip the From the Vault angels that will eventually join in the fun, because those are warped as fuck and currently chilling between a couple of personally beloved mystery novels). The highlights were [casthaven]Angel of Serenity[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sublime Archangel[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Archangel of Tithes[/casthaven]. While the latter had been excluded due to its high price post-release, which has now largely passed, the other two were stranger situations. [casthaven]Sublime Archangel[/casthaven] is one of those irritatingly expensive cards that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I failed to get a playset of during their run in Standard. I stole it from [casthaven]Ghave, Guru of Spores[/casthaven], because he did not need that power boost. [casthaven]Angel of Serenity[/casthaven] had been riding a box of rares somewhere because I had been keeping them separate for Standard the last time I really played the format. When I dug them out, I was so happy to see them I distributed the entire playset over my stable of decks.

I played Reanimator with this card!

Of the three, [casthaven]Sublime Archangel[/casthaven] ended up doing the most work.

It turns out Kytheon is a lot better when he’s huge… although it did mean he didn’t flip.

Liliana was a bit easier. I just took out all the Baneslayers and replaced them with [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven]s, extra points going to ones that also happened to be demons (like [casthaven]Shadowborn Demon[/casthaven]). I was playing a little to theme, although my post-game update leaned into that a bit more.

Dana and I shuffled up, played two games, and Liliana crushed Kytheon. The first game was over a lot faster than the second, but in both cases Liliana took some early damage from the turn one commander, before coming out and walling it off with the threat of not only beating Kytheon in combat, but also gaining the life back. After that, it came down to card advantage, and black is better than white at that one. I put a ton of draw engines in my monowhite decks, and Dana even managed to get out a [casthaven]Staff of Nin[/casthaven] in game two, but I just made a ton of mana and did things like entwining Promise of Power for a 14/14 demon.

I did not have a Reliquary Tower on the field when this spawned a 14/14.

Of course, that demon got locked down by [casthaven]Crackdown[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Kor Haven[/casthaven]. If I swung with it, she would have just fogged the threat and then it wouldn’t untap. [casthaven]Crackdown[/casthaven] did a ton of work for Dana that game. I had no way of dealing with either it or its artifact friend, as I’ve been moving away from running [casthaven]Spine of Ish Sah[/casthaven] in all my decks. I don’t love how Spine, [casthaven]Sol Ring[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Solemn Simulacrum[/casthaven] seem to be auto-includes in almost every deck, so I’ve been pulling back on them when they don’t fit. Since [casthaven]Sol Ring[/casthaven] fits everywhere, and Solemn fits in all the monocolored and graveyard recursion decks, Spine is the one I’ve cut back on the most. Not all decks have use of a seven-mana artifact, no matter how useful a [casthaven]Vindicate[/casthaven] may be.

It’s just such a spectacular prison effect for Commander!

In addition to [casthaven]Crackdown[/casthaven], Dana prolonged game two with a timely [casthaven]Austere Command[/casthaven]. She also tried to wipe me out with [casthaven]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/casthaven], but that play resulted in me getting a couple of draw triggers off [casthaven]Grim Haruspex[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Dark Prophecy[/casthaven], both of which were on the battlefield.

Sacrifice on demand for no mana has always been a powerful ability.

Side note: [casthaven]High Market[/casthaven] did a ton of work in that game. I was really impressed with that card. I only have one copy, so I’m not all that used to playing with it, but it really helped me dominate that game by letting me draw an extra card each turn ([casthaven]Dark Prophecy[/casthaven]’s lifeloss being nicely compensated for by [casthaven]High Market[/casthaven]’s lifegain).

Since the staff is self-evidently a good card, I’ll use this opportunity to once again highlight that Gatherer still inexplicably lacks the images of promotional cards.

Anyway, I drew into [casthaven]Bojuka Bog[/casthaven] and then bogged her, which was good, because she was a land away from getting [casthaven]Emeria, the Sky Ruin[/casthaven] online. Not that Dana didn’t get her licks in; she basically ruined Liliana’s usefulness by playing out both her cards each turn and then keeping her at low loyalty with the [casthaven]Staff of Nin[/casthaven]. I ended up being the only one discarding, and I didn’t have the loyalty to resurrect anything.

Another example where the promotional version I was running lacks an image in Gatherer. It’s clearly a choice, it’s just one with which I disagree.

Eventually, it was [casthaven]Abhorrent Overlord[/casthaven] which won the day. It created 12 harpy tokens, which were small enough to close out the game without getting caught in the [casthaven]Crackdown[/casthaven]. It was shockingly difficult for me to find threats that could promise that. Of course, I made a colossal misplay towards the end, which Dana pointed out as soon as it happened. It let her lose with dignity, since she had outplayed me, even if I had the more powerful deck.

No, I am not going to tell you what that misplay was. If you’re curious, ask Dana yourself.

So, in conclusion, monoblack decks really are just the most powerful monocolored decks in Commander. The others aren’t bad, but when your color identity is card advantage, you have almost all the tools you need to ride roughshod* over your opponents.


Jess Stirba is a vaguely curious as to whether or not anyone noticed that each of the three articles in this series used a different nomenclature.


*Roughshod is an interesting word. Apparently horses used nails in their hooves as proto-snowchains? So, basically riding roughshod over someone is like dancing on them while wearing golf cleats. The more you know!

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