Normally I like to dive right into the meat of an article, but since this is my first time appearing on Hipsters of the Coast, I’ll take a moment to introduce myself. I’ve been a magic player for the better part of eight years now, mostly playing Commander and Legacy with a lot of interest in the story and lore of Magic. For the past year and a half I’ve been co-authoring the Dear Azami column at StarCityGames, alongside Sean McKeown and Hipsters’ own Jess Striba.

Now I’m bringing Dear Azami to Hipsters and I’ll be taking submissions from you guys and working on decks that you send in. But I’ll also be writing several pieces that delve into Commander as a format or story analysis. Since this is my first week here and I don’t have any decklists to work with yet, let’s talk about Hope of Ghirapur.

That might seem like a completely random thing to say, but hear me out.

Whenever a new set comes out, I imagine that each of you has a certain way to sift through all of the cards. Some of you look at the commons with an eye for Limited, some try to anticipate which cards will impact Standard, some look for cards in specific categories to see if any will fit into their existing decks. My own routine is fairly simple: scan the red cards for any spells that might be even fringe playable in Legacy burn, then pull up all the new Legendary creatures and try to figure out what they could do at the helm of a Commander deck.

Part of that is my tendency to brew decks, as I’ve always been intrigued by the puzzles that you can build when you’re guaranteed to have a specific piece. But that changed once I started writing about Magic last year. Suddenly I didn’t have the luxury of skipping over the legends that didn’t inspire me, since a big part of my role at StarCityGames was hyping the news cards to get people excited. There was pressure to cover every new legend, so I needed to have ideas about every potential commander.

To be fair I was quite good at finding an angle on even the most oddball legends—Anya, Merciless Angel anyone?—but my habit of mentally evaluating new legends didn’t die when I stopped writing for StarCity. Enter Hope of Ghirapur.

Initially I laughed off this little thopter because it’s so obviously terrible in Commander. A 1/1 flyer for one might’ve been notable fifteen years ago but nowadays, especially in a 40-life multiplayer format, those stats won’t impress anyone. As for the sacrifice ability, keeping an opponents from casting noncreature spells for a turn is a speed bump but not much more than that. On top of all that, Hope of Ghirapur is colorless so you only have access to the most restricted set of tools when trying to use with it. Add in the fact that Karn and the Eldrazi already enable colorless decks and Hope of Ghirapur isn’t really that unique.

But every time I looked through the set this little 1/1 jumped out at me. Why? I didn’t know what to do with it. Every time I saw the card I would try to imagine a deck that wanted it and fail. For a while I toyed around with a janky idea that used Salvaging Station, Mirrorworks, Mirror Gallery, and a whole host of other cards to make multiple Hope of Ghirapurs every turn to prevent your opponents from ever casting noncreature spells, but that idea stalled out when I remembered that Salvaging Station can only reanimate noncreature artifacts. Even if it had worked, it would’ve been more of an ‘achievement unlocked’ type of deck that would’ve existed to do a single cool thing once and then get taken apart. The easy answer would’ve been to say the card was never intended for Commander and leave it at that. I kept thinking about it in the back of my mind, to no avail.

Fast forward to last week, when my roommates and I sat down to play a few games. This was the first time we’d had time to play in a few months, so the conversation eventually drifted to the new commanders that had come out in the intervening time: Partners, four-color commanders, the utter silliness that is Rashmi, Eternities Crafter. And then, when I’d half tuned-out and gone to grab food, one of my friends said: “I really want to build a bad deck with Hope of Ghirapur.”

Obviously I was curious, and asked him if he had a plan in mind. His answer? A voltron deck packed to the gills with as much equipment as possible. In his own words; “It’s a one drop with evasion. All you need to do is buff it.” I was stunned, because I’d missed something that obvious. I’d been so quick to dismiss Hope of Ghirapur’s combat potential that I’d blinded myself to what might be the only deck that could make the little artifact work.

I’m not saying that Hope of Ghirapur is going to be the next Uril the Mistalker, far from it. But with a little effort you could make a solid aggressive deck for a fraction of what an average Commander deck would cost.

The reason I bring all of this up is that it revealed my biggest bias in Magic. This might be ironic coming from a burn player, but I’m such a Johnny that I have a hard time looking beyond the noncombat abilities on a card. For better or worse, I’ll always be the person trying to build elaborate engines and maximize value, more focused on designing something that I enjoy than building a deck that’s respectable in combat.

If Hope of Ghirapur had just been a 1/1 flyer for one, I probably would’ve seen the potential for a voltron deck instantly. But I let the (mostly irrelevant) sacrifice ability blind me because I wanted to do something with it.

As much as that impulse has led me to great success with a huge number of decks, it was a weakness here. This was the first time I’d had this bias revealed quite as blatantly as it was here, and especially in the light of me returning to writing Dear Azami it made me realize that I would have to reexamine how I go about crafting a decklist on a fundamental level.

After all, not everyone is me, and there are as many ways to enjoy the game as there are players.

I hope you enjoyed this peek at my musings. I’ll be back in two weeks with a more traditional deck editing article, which means this is a great chance for you guys. If any of you reading this have a deck that needs help and want to have your work featured on the first Dear Azami here at Hipsters, then send your decklists to [email protected], along with a description of what problems the deck is having or what direction you want to take the list in.

Levi Byrne says hello again for the first time.

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