Dear Azami,

This is a deck that I’ve been working on more or less since BFZ came out, and I could use an outside opinion on.

Vela, the Night-Clad

Creatures (25):
Artisan of Kozilek, Bane of Bala Ged, Bane of the Living, Bearer of Silence, Blight Herder, Blinding Drone, Conduit of Ruin, Deepfathom Skulker, Desolation Twin, Dimensional Infiltrator, Dimir House Guard, Dimir Infiltrator, Drowner of Hope, Eldrazi Skyspawner, Endbringer, Kozilek, the Great Distortion, Kozilek’s Channeler, Mindmelter, Nezumi Graverobber, Oblivion Sower, Sire of Stagnation, Thought-Knot Seer, Ulamog’s Crusher, Void Winnower, Wharf Infiltrator

Instants (8):
Clutch of the Undercity, Dissipate, Evacuation, Faerie Trickery, Far//Away, Grip of Amnesia, Scour from Existence, Void Shatter

Sorceries (7):
Ashes to Ashes, Curse of the Swine, Diabolic Tutor, Rite of Replication, Sever the Bloodline, Skittering Invasion, Wash Out

Enchantments (7):
Animate Dead, Coastal Piracy, Palace Siege, Phyrexian Reclamation, Steal Enchantment, Tombstone Stairwell, Unfulfilled Desires

Artifacts (14):
Belbe’s Portal, Bident of Thassa, Crystal Shard, Dimir Signet, Hedron Archive, Mask of Memory, Mind Stone, Nihil Spellbomb, Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots, Sword of the Animist, Talisman of Dominance, Thought Vessel, Worn Powerstone

Lands (38):
12 Island, 12 Swamp, 2 Wastes, Ash Barrens, Bojuka Bog, Dimir Aqueduct, Dreadship Reef, Eldrazi Temple, Halimar Depths, Mirrorpool, Myriad Landscape, Rootwater Depths, Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Underground River, Waterveil Cavern

This started as an attempt to make two much maligned mechanics from BFZ relevant: Devoid and Processors. Breaking somebody’s Extraplanar Lens is still a cool party trick, and I’ve retained a focus on removal that exiles, but I think that Blight Herder is the only processor that’s still in the deck. I think eight creatures with Devoid are still in the deck, in addition to a bunch of true colorless noodle monsters, and they’re happy to get intimidate from Vela.

Over time I’ve added in Coastal Piracy and Bident of Thassa, as well as a couple of ways to dig them out, with the goal of using them with mostly-unblockable creatures to draw cards. To go with those I’ve mixed in some low-drops with evasion, and they’ve played surprisingly well—the Infiltrators (Dimensional and Wharf) are all-stars. Over a year of tweaking I’ve arrived at a mana base I’m pretty happy with, and a suite of answers that are functional. Recently I’ve mixed in a few reanimator cards, in an attempt to make the deck a little more explosive.

The issue is that the deck feels sluggish. It does most of what it does at sorcery speed, and at the end of the day it’s a tribal deck trying to drop fatties without green. I’m sure there are swaps we could make here and there to make the deck more efficient, but I think I’ve lost track of the big picture. Is Vela the right commander for this deck, or should I swap her out for something lower to the ground, maybe Sygg? Am I making the most of having black in my CI? Does black have more to offer, or would I be better off switching Vela for Kruphix and dropping black altogether?  Is this deck already about as good as it could be without abandoning the tribal theme?

As far as specific recommendations go, I do try to keep things to a pretty modest budget. I generally cut individual cards off at $3, but occasionally spend more on things that are absolutely critical.


Before I get into the card by card changes for this week’s deck I want to address the biggest question here. It isn’t often that I get the license to change the commander of a deck I’m working on, let alone its color identity. Given that the devoid Eldrazi appear in all 5 colors as well as the more traditional true colorless noodle monsters, almost any color combination is theoretically viable here. I’m not going to walk through every combination of the rainbow, especially since red and white only have a handful of worthwhile cards and none that fit the Processor theme.

I do think that blue has the most tools we want in because of its card filtering and early game creature, so this is more a question of what color we want to compliment that. As Ross noted in his submission green has some interesting possibilities, although I think From Beyond and World Breaker are the biggest draws in that direction.

The thing is, while green has some individually powerful cards and even some good Processors, they fit into a very different style of deck. The green Eldrazi mostly focus on churning out as many Spawn or Scion tokens as possible, which makes sense for the number one ramp color. Black, on the other hand, comes with a wider array of effects that range from discard to removal to the bafflingly good Sire of Stagnation. I’m not going to say that either version of the Eldrazi deck is objectively better than the other, but the strength of the green ramp version is wholly dependent on the absurd top end that you’re racing to reach. And most of the best creatures to ramp towards fall squarely outside of your budget, with both Ulamogs and the original Kozilek clocking in at over twenty dollars apiece.

The same can be said for Ross’s suggestion of Kruphix as the commander. Vela gives your midsized (for commander) creatures evasion, and lets you get incidental value from sacrificing Spawn/Scion tokens as well as creatures dying in combat getting flickered, etc. All that Kruphix does is help ramp you towards an endgame of Kozilek, the Great Distortion and Pathrazer of Ulamog.

I did consider branching out into a three color list with blue, black and another color, but Grixis didn’t have an interesting commander, and Bant wasn’t really worth looking at because Eldrazi Displacer doesn’t work with all the cast triggers that the rest of the Eldrazi have. Sultai is actually a very interesting option, most likely with Damia, Sage of Stone at the head of the deck for card advantage.

However, there were a few things that kept me from making that switch.

First and most important, you would effectively be running a four-color deck thanks to the colorless costs on many cards and abilities, and trying to work that kind of manabase out on a budget would be nightmarish. However, I was also concerned about not having enough reach without the evasion and lifedrain that Vela gives to the list.

The last thing I considered was changing commanders to Oona, Queen of the Fae, as she gives a massive boost to the processor theme with her ability to exile large chunks of your opponent’s libraries. In all honestly I think it’s a pretty close call either way, but my personal opinion is that Vela gives more to the list overall. Feel free to change that decision if you want Ross.

Now, with all of that clarified, let’s get down to the individual cards.


Dimir Infiltrator, Dimir House Guard, Wharf Infiltrator, Bearer of Silence, Eldrazi Skyspawner

To start off with, I’ll be cutting the transmute cards. You’re in black, which means that you have access to countless tutors to find whatever you want, without the awkward restriction of only finding certain converted mana costs. Dimir Infiltrator can’t even find that many good cards in the deck, as most of your power is concentrated at other points on the curve. Dimir House Guard’s ability to find Bident of Thassa is nice, but it’s far too limited outside of that one role.

Wharf Infiltrator is a decent way to filter your cards, but I’m going to trim back a little on your reanimation package so you aren’t as incentivized to dump creatures into your graveyard anymore.

Of the final two creatures getting cut, Bearer of Silence and Eldrazi Skyspawner are simply too low impact to be worthwhile. I’d like Bearer of Silence a lot more if it hit each opponent, but unless your metagame is full of voltron decks a single targeted sacrifice effect isn’t worth four mana.

Oracle of Dust, Ulamog’s Nullifier, Cryptic Cruiser, Ulamog’s Reclaimer, Fathom Feeder, Sifter of Skulls, Deceiver of FormDread Defiler, Pathrazer of Ulamog, It that Betrays, Spawnsire of Ulamog

You’d mentioned that you’d cut back pretty hard on the Processor theme, and while I agree that there are a lot of bad ones out there there’s also some surprisingly good ones. Oracle of Dust and Cryptic Cruiser are repeatable value engines that give you a real reason to want to exile cards, and I prefer Oracle’s repeatable loot ability to Wharf Infiltrator’s once-per combat restriction.

Ulamog’s Nullifier gives you some pretty absurd value when it’s active, and tacking a counterspell onto a nearly unblockable creature is a pretty good package to have, even if it’s not quite the backbreaker it was in limited. Ulamog’s Reclaimer is a solid role-filler that can do anything from rebuy any of your removal spells to get back the Rite of Replication you need to finish a game.

Sifter of Skulls is a card that’s consistently impressed me whenever it’s shown up, and you’re happy to have both the ramp it provides and the pinging that comes with you having a lot of Scion tokens lying around.

Fathom Feeder will get people to attack anywhere else early on, it’s a fantastic mana sink in the late game that generates card advantage and it even fuels your Processors. Any one piece of this package would be good. Put together it’s great.

The rest of these additions are all to add some punch to your endgame. Deceiver of Form can lead to huge surprises as a board of utility creatures and Scion tokens transforming into one of your bigger Eldrazi and wrecking the board. Dread Defiler gives you a solid way to finish off opponents outside of combat, which is something that I always want in a deck. Remember that exiling the creature is part of the cost for this ability, so something like Relic of Progenitus can’t counter the ability after you activate it.

Pathrazer of Ulamog, It that Betrays, and Spawnsire of Ulamog all have a fairly simple role in this deck. They’re big creatures with annihilator that make your combat steps swingy and impactful. In addition to that, while I don’t expect Spawnsire’s second ability to come into play often it’s fairly easy to keep a pile of Ulamog’s Crushers nearby. On top of that, its first ability combines with Vela to essentially read “Pay 2: each opponent loses two life.” That’s a decent way to close out the game that a lot of people will miss at first glance.


Clutch of the Undercity, Far//Away, Grip of Amnesia

Clutch of the Undercity is falling victim to the blanket cut of transmute cards, especially since this one is so underwhelming for its non-transmute mode. Far//Away is similarly not impactful enough. Even in it’s best mode, all it does is kill your opponent’s worst creature and temporarily get rid of a threat of your choice. That’s not good enough for five mana.

Grip of Amnesia is just odd. I understand that you want to make your opponents want to avoid exiling their graveyard because of your Processors, but it’s really not worth it. Your opponent will choose whichever mode is best for them, and Processors aren’t powerful enough to flat-out punish someone for dumping their graveyard into exile. Play Counterspell or Relic of Progenitus, not a card that’s worse than both.

Devastation Tide

I’m only adding one spell back in, to help make room for the increased creature count. Devastation Tide lets you stunt your opponents’ development while benefitting from Vela’s life loss triggers. Hitting all nonland permanents makes up for being sorcery-speed a little, and Miracle will sometimes come into play. Admittedly this slot is a very close call between Devastation Tide and the sheer power of Cyclonic Rift. I’d recommend trying both, but I’d rather highlight the lesser-known card.


Mask of Memory, Nihil Spellbomb, Belbe’s Portal

You’ve already got multiple cards that let you draw for any of your creatures dealing combat damage, so I don’t see the need for an equipment like Mask of Memory that only gives you the cards for one creature.

Nihil Spellbomb is simply getting cut to make room. The card is fine, if a bit unexciting. You have enough incidental exile built into the deck that I don’t think you need the Spellbomb to fuel your Processors, so unless you specifically want a piece of graveyard hate you should be fine without it.

Belbe’s Portal is a great card for the deck, but it’s getting upgraded to Cryptic Gateway.

Erratic Portal, Cryptic Gateway

I’m including Erratic Portal for the same reason you have Crystal Shard. It lets you save your creatures from removal, reuse all of the cast triggers that make Eldrazi unique, and will occasionally catch an opponent off guard after they tap out.

Cryptic Gateway fills the same role as Belbe’s Portal, except it’s much more explosive, capable of dumping multiple fatties into play the turn you play it, and its interaction with Spawn/Scion tokens makes it a slam dunk.


Steal Enchantment, Animate Dead, Unfulfilled Desires

Animate Dead was out of place in the deck, as it was your only piece of single-shot, directly to play reanimation. Phyrexian Reclamation and Palace Siege reward you for going well into the late game to get value out of your creatures over and over again, but Animate Dead pushes you to loot away a big creature early on and try to pop it into play on turn three and four. That’s not really a bad plan, but it’s so drastically out of line with what the rest of the deck was doing that I wanted to streamline the list and focus more on card advantage. With that being said, it’s entirely possible that your playgroup is a lot faster than I’m anticipating, in which case keeping Animate Dead and adding Exhume, Zombify, and the like might be in order.

I’m not sure why you have Steal Enchantment. Maybe it’s some hate against a specific deck you play against regularly, but without that knowledge I can’t justify including the card. As for the last card, Unfulfilled Desires is getting upgraded to Oracle of Dust, because this list needed as many creatures as possible but keeping the card filtering was important.


Rootwater Depths, Waterveil Cavern, 2 Swamp, 2 Island

Rootwater Depths and Waterveil Cavern are both getting cut because of how awkward they are.

Tapping for all three of your ‘colors’ is nice, but when two of your three options cripple your mana for the next turn, I’d rather have a colorless utility land. The four basics are simply getting upgraded to some multicolored lands.

Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, Grixis Panorama, Esper Panorama, Spawning Bed, Temple of the False God

The budget fetchlands technically aren’t multicolored sources, but since you have Wastes in the deck for Evolving/Terramorphic and the Panoramas tap for colorless on their own, all four of them can be whichever color you need when you draw it.

Temple of the False God is an easy inclusion to build a bit of ramp into the landbase, especially since you’ve already got Shrine of the Forsaken Gods in the list. Spawning Bed will simply be a colorless land most of the time, but if necessary it can be a short burst of ramp, make some attackers and/or Lava Spike all your opponents. That’s some pretty solid utility.

Putting it all together, here’s the finished decklist:

Vela, the Night-Clad

Creatures (31):
Ulamog’s Crusher, Void Winnower, Artisan of Kozilek, Bane of Bala Ged, Bane of the Living, Blight Herder, Blinding Drone, Conduit of Ruin, Cryptic Cruiser, Deceiver of Form, Deepfathom Skulker, Desolation Twin, Dimensional Infiltrator, Dread Defiler, Drowner of Hope, Endbringer, Fathom Feeder, It that Betrays, Kozilek, the Great Distortion, Kozilek’s Channeler, Mindmelter, Nezumi Graverobber, Oblivion Sower, Oracle of Dust, Pathrazer of Ulamog, Sifter of Skulls, Sire of Stagnation, Spawnsire of Ulamog, Thought-Knot Seer, Ulamog’s Nullifier, Ulamog’s Reclaimer

Instants (5):
Dissipate, Evacuation, Faerie Trickery, Scour from Existence, Void Shatter

Sorceries (8):
Ashes to Ashes, Curse of the Swine, Diabolic Tutor, Devastation Tide, Rite of Replication, Sever the Bloodline, Skittering Invasion, Wash Out

Enchantments (4):
Coastal Piracy, Palace Siege, Phyrexian Reclamation, Tombstone Stairwell

Artifacts (13):
Cryptic Gateway, Bident of Thassa, Crystal Shard, Dimir Signet, Erratic Portal, Hedron Archive, Mind Stone, Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots, Sword of the Animist, Talisman of Dominance, Thought Vessel, Worn Powerstone

Lands (38):
10 Island, 10 Swamp, 2 Wastes, Ash Barrens, Bojuka Bog, Dimir Aqueduct, Dreadship Reef, Eldrazi Temple, Esper Panorama, Evolving Wilds, Grixis Panorama, Halimar Depths, Mirrorpool, Myriad Landscape, Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Spawning Bed, Temple of the False God, Terramorphic Expanse, Underground River

And the additions, sorted by price:
Oracle of Dust 0.15
Evolving Wilds 0.15
Ulamog’s Nullifier 0.25
Cryptic Cruiser 0.25
Ulamog’s Reclaimer 0.25
Spawning Bed 0.25
Grixis Panorama 0.25
Terramorphic Expanse 0.25
Esper Panorama 0.29
Deceiver of Form 0.49
Devastation Tide 0.49
Dread Defiler 0.49
Fathom Feeder 0.49
Sifter of Skulls 0.49
Temple of the False God 0.49
Pathrazer of Ulamog 0.99
Erratic Portal 1.99
It that Betrays 2.99
Spawnsire of Ulamog 3.49
Cryptic Gateway 3.99

Total 18.48

All told the changes add up to $18.48, well within Ross’s budget. This week was a lot of fun for me, as the budget on individual card prices forced me to move away from the realm of staples and generically strong cards, even if it was in a very tightly themed area of the game. That’s the kind of challenge I enjoy, and while the list I arrived at won’t be crushing a competitive Commander table anytime soon, it’ll be a blast to play with friends.

I’ll be back soon to finish my look at Nissa Revane, and after that will be more decks submitted by all of you.

If you want me to edit one of your commander decks, send the list to [email protected], along with a brief description of what problems your deck is having, along with what budget you have to work with and any other factors you would want me to consider.

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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