Dear Azami,

Actually, Dear Levi,

I have enjoyed Dear Azami since it was ’99 problems’ and have followed it and its contributors now for years. I was saddened that SCG choose to sac the article, but I’d also felt that maybe they’d done everything they set out to do… Commander is no longer a format that nobody had heard of… and to be honest, they’d covered literally hundreds of commanders in the course of the series… and really, the ‘social contract’ horse had been beaten to death (though miraculously, a lot of players JUST DON’T GET IT- and probably never will) though I do always endeavor to build decks that I’d enjoy playing against as well as playing. I was delighted to read your first few articles here… you seem to still have something relevant to say about the format and I enjoy your writings! Long Live Dear Azami!

Now onto the point… as a long time collector, I have amassed quite a Magic collection… and one of the jewels in  that collection is a MOAT. Obviously, I started this deck as a home to that card. But I did not want another tribal deck, I’ve already scratched that itch… but I do enjoy themes… and one that hasn’t been explored much in MTG is Evos Isle. Only two cards mention it al all. So I wanted to create this lost island in a Commander deck…

This latest version is not a bad deck at all… it has a few fun combos and tricks, but nothing too obnoxious to play against. The problem is my extremely high mana curve and white/blue’s lack of ramp. I’d like to use some cheaper to cast fliers, but let’s face it… sage owl on turn 12 in a Commander game is pretty underwhelming! The deck just seems to lack a little something (what I call a ‘gestalt’) that seems to draw it all together and makes it run smoothly. My budget is nearly unlimited. My meta is pretty diverse. And lastly, I try to balance out my use of ‘staples’ (cyclonic rift?)with ‘rarities’ (delaying shield). Any advice would be appreciated, Levi.

Thanks,

Mark Angell

EVOS ISLE (Isperia’s Realm)

Commander: [casthaven]Isperia, Supreme Judge[/casthaven]

Lands: [casthaven]Seaside Haven[/casthaven], [casthaven]Coastal Tower[/casthaven], [casthaven]Reliquary Tower[/casthaven], [casthaven]Skycloud Expanse[/casthaven], [casthaven]Flood Plain[/casthaven], [casthaven]Boreal Shelf[/casthaven], [casthaven]Irrigated Farmland[/casthaven], [casthaven]Tranquil Cove[/casthaven], [casthaven]Rogue’s Passage[/casthaven], [casthaven]Maze of Ith[/casthaven], [casthaven]Vesuva[/casthaven], [casthaven]Flooded Strand[/casthaven], [casthaven]Command Tower[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mystic Gate[/casthaven], [casthaven]Seachrome Coast[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Chancery[/casthaven], [casthaven]Hallowed Fountain[/casthaven], [casthaven]Prairie Stream[/casthaven], [casthaven]Calciform Pools[/casthaven], [casthaven]Port Town[/casthaven], [casthaven]Tundra[/casthaven], [casthaven]Celestial Colonnade[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Guildgate[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glacial Fortress[/casthaven], 7 [casthaven]Island[/casthaven], 7 [casthaven]Plains[/casthaven]

Creatures: [casthaven]Angel of Finality[/casthaven], [casthaven]Coveted Peacock[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glyph Keeper[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven], [casthaven]Consecrated Sphinx[/casthaven], [casthaven]Yosei, the Morning Star[/casthaven], [casthaven]Archetype of Imagination[/casthaven], [casthaven]Wardscale Dragon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Patron of the Moon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Emeria Shepherd[/casthaven], [casthaven]Spell Queller[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thieving Magpie[/casthaven], [casthaven]Keeper of the Nine Gales[/casthaven], [casthaven]Tradewind Rider[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thornwind Faeries[/casthaven], [casthaven]Soulcatcher[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lieutenant Kirtar[/casthaven], [casthaven]Crookclaw Elder[/casthaven], [casthaven]Medomai the Ageless[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thunderclap Wyvern[/casthaven], [casthaven]Emeria Angel[/casthaven], [casthaven]Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker[/casthaven], [casthaven]Windreader Sphinx[/casthaven], [casthaven]Roc Egg[/casthaven], [casthaven]Wingmate Roc[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aetherstorm Roc[/casthaven], [casthaven]Seller of Songbirds[/casthaven], [casthaven]Pride of the Clouds[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dragonlord Ojutai[/casthaven], [casthaven]Warden of Evos Isle[/casthaven], [casthaven]Windbrisk Raptor[/casthaven]

Spells: [casthaven]Ring of Evos Isle[/casthaven], [casthaven]Oblivion Ring[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sigil of the New Dawn[/casthaven], [casthaven]Swan Song[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dawn Charm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Charm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cyclonic Rift[/casthaven], [casthaven]Oblation[/casthaven], [casthaven]Capsize[/casthaven], [casthaven]Hinder[/casthaven], [casthaven]Render Silent[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sphinx’s Revelation[/casthaven], [casthaven]Crib Swap[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cancel[/casthaven], [casthaven]Imprisoned in the Moon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Detention Sphere[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gilded Lotus[/casthaven], [casthaven]Rite of Replication[/casthaven], [casthaven]Favorable Winds[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gravitational Shift[/casthaven], [casthaven]Venser, the Sojourner[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sol Ring[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Keyrune[/casthaven], [casthaven]Ojutai Monument[/casthaven], [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven], [casthaven]Disallow[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven], [casthaven]Counterspell[/casthaven], [casthaven]Moat[/casthaven], [casthaven]Delaying Shield[/casthaven]

This submission’s been kicking around my inbox for a while, waiting for me to have time to do a really deep dive. I deal with all kinds of problems here, but when the main issue is a huge imbalance with the mana curve, it’s almost impossible to tackle without gutting the deck and starting over from scratch. My first draft of this article made 42 changes to the spells, and at that point you’re talking about an entirely new deck.

Before I get into the card by card changes I want to talk about the deck’s general plan. You’re building around [casthaven]Moat[/casthaven], which obviously means you want to take advantage of as many fliers as possible. But you also need the deck to function without [casthaven]Moat[/casthaven], and as it’s currently built this deck can’t output damage at nearly the pace that any green-based list can. That means that I want to add more prison and pillow fort effects to break parity in combat and keep people away from you as much as possible. You want the game to go long, and are counting on the multiple card-draw engines of blue/white to out-attrition your opponents the longer the game goes.

However, the most important changes I’m making stem from one simple fact: you need more creatures, and you especially need more creatures that come down early to start putting pressure on. This is a deck that needs board presence; it can’t afford to play the control game forever. Despite [casthaven]Moat[/casthaven]’s power in the end it’s just a delaying tactic for you to force damage through.

The Creatures

Cuts

[casthaven]Keeper of the Nine Gales[/casthaven], [casthaven]Roc Egg[/casthaven], [casthaven]Seller of Songbirds[/casthaven], [casthaven]Tradewind Rider[/casthaven], [casthaven]Coveted Peacock[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glyph Keeper[/casthaven], [casthaven]Yosei, the Morning Star[/casthaven], [casthaven]Wardscale Dragon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Crookclaw Elder[/casthaven], [casthaven]Medomai the Ageless[/casthaven], [casthaven]Patron of the Moon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Emeria Shepherd[/casthaven], [casthaven]Windbrisk Raptor[/casthaven]

There’s two basic catagories here. [casthaven]Coveted Peacock[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glyph Keeper[/casthaven], [casthaven]Yosei, the Morning Star[/casthaven], [casthaven]Wardscale Dragon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Crookclaw Elder[/casthaven], [casthaven]Medomai the Ageless[/casthaven], [casthaven]Patron of the Moon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Emeria Shepherd[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Windbrisk Raptor[/casthaven] are all getting cut to lower the curve. They ranged in power level from fine to underwhelming, but none had the immediate game-altering impact you need from cards at this point on the curve.

The rest of the cards are where you want them on the curve, but are just too weak to justify including. [casthaven]Seller of Songbirds[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Roc Egg[/casthaven] are frankly bad cards, and while I appreciate the attempt to fit utility into your cheap creatures from [casthaven]Tradewind Rider[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Keeper of the Nine Gales[/casthaven], the tempo loss of tapping three creatures to deal with one card is unjustifiable in what is fundamentally and aggressive deck, especially given the range of answers you have built into your spell suite.

Additions

[casthaven]Jace’s Phantasm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Serra Ascendant[/casthaven], [casthaven]Selfless Spirit[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aven Mincensor[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aven Sunstriker[/casthaven], [casthaven]Vendilion Clique[/casthaven], [casthaven]Hushwing Gryff[/casthaven], [casthaven]Kefnet the Mindful[/casthaven], [casthaven]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lyev Skyknight[/casthaven], [casthaven]Nimble Obstructionist[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sprite Noble[/casthaven], [casthaven]Angel of Jubilation[/casthaven], [casthaven]Angelic Field Marshal[/casthaven], [casthaven]Archangel of Tithes[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gisela, the Broken Blade[/casthaven], [casthaven]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/casthaven], [casthaven]Magus of the Moat[/casthaven], [casthaven]Windborn Muse[/casthaven], [casthaven]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Jace’s Phantasm[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Serra Ascendant[/casthaven] are both ways to get extremely large flyers down early. [casthaven]Serra Ascendant[/casthaven] starts as a 6/6 and might get downgraded later in the game, but protecting your life total is part of the prison strategy anyway. [casthaven]Jace’s Phantasm[/casthaven] is a little more situational, but most games will have at least one graveyard deck, and even if there isn’t ten yards isn’t that big of a hurdle.

[casthaven]Selfless Spirit[/casthaven] is a decently sized flyer that can save your board from most wraths or a disastrous combat. [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Hushwing Gryff[/casthaven] are only 2/1s for three, but their abilities are so disruptive that it’s well worth playing undersized bodies. [casthaven]Kefnet the Mindful[/casthaven] is a powerful draw engine that turns into a hugely undercosted beater if you have a full hand. [casthaven]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/casthaven] all but negates targeted removal against your creatures. [casthaven]Sprite Noble[/casthaven] is an odd but crucial lord for flyers.

The rest of the three-drops I’ve added are decently sized bodies for the cost. [casthaven]Aven Sunstriker[/casthaven] can be megamorphed for value if drawn late, and gains a huge benefit from and lord effect in play. [casthaven]Vendilion Clique[/casthaven] combines hand disruption with a three-power body and can hopefully remove a crucial wrath or combo cord upon entering. [casthaven]Nimble Obstructionist[/casthaven] is a respectable beater early and morphs into a stifle + cantrip if you draw it later. [casthaven]Lyev Skyknight[/casthaven] is arguably the most underwhelming creature in the list, but detain can sometimes swing an entire round of combat in your favor.

[casthaven]Angel of Jubilation[/casthaven] is a combination of lord and hate card, shutting down everything from [casthaven]Greed[/casthaven] to [casthaven]Greater Good[/casthaven] to [casthaven]Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord[/casthaven]. [casthaven]Archangel of Tithes[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Windborn Muse[/casthaven] further the prison part of your gameplan while coming on decent bodies, and the taxes they apply to combat can wreck havoc on your opponents. [casthaven]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/casthaven] can completely lock down a lot of commanders and negate a ton of the more commonly played utility creatures. [casthaven]Gisela, the Broken Blade[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Angelic Field Marshal[/casthaven] are just big bodies for the cost, with a slew of abilities to keep them relevant in combat.

And that brings us to the only two nonfliers that I’m adding. You’re building around [casthaven]Moat[/casthaven], so it was a no brainer to add its slightly more fragile form in [casthaven]Magus of the Moat[/casthaven]. As for [casthaven]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/casthaven], it’s the only high-cost card I’m adding but it’s so worth it. Quite possibly the best lord effect in the history of the game, Elesh Norn swings every single creature matchup four points in your favor and can kill a huge number of your opponent’s creatures just by being in play.

The Spells

Cuts

[casthaven]Swan Song[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dawn Charm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Charm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Hinder[/casthaven], [casthaven]Crib Swap[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cancel[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven], [casthaven]Capsize[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sphinx’s Revelation[/casthaven]

I added in seven more creatures than I removed, and most of those slots came out of this section. Mark’s initial list had a huge amount of counterspells and spot removal, and I don’t value those effects highly in a multiplayer scenario. Even with robust card draw trading resources one-for-one simply isn’t viable against multiple opponents. I kept the most efficient and versatile cards from each category and cut the rest. The most notable cuts from this section are [casthaven]Capsize[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Sphinx’s Revelation[/casthaven], both insanely powerful cards but ones that you won’t reliably have a ton of time or mana to invest into. It’s entirely possible you might want one of them as a late game haymaker, but certainly not both.

The Enchantments

Cuts

[casthaven]Delaying Shield[/casthaven]

As far as damage prevention cards go, [casthaven]Delaying Shield[/casthaven] is way on the weaker side of things and is far more mana intensive than I’d like. It would be fine if you weren’t dependant on combat in order to deal damage, but with this build of the deck you need to deal with the absorbed damage before getting the chance to crack back.

Additions

[casthaven]Ghostly Prison[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glorious Anthem[/casthaven], [casthaven]Propaganda[/casthaven], [casthaven]Rhystic Study[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aurification[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dissipation Field[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Propaganda[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Ghostly Prison[/casthaven] join the effects taxing attacks against you, and combined with everything else should be able to keep the vast majority of attackers away from you. Meanwhile [casthaven]Aurification[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Dissipation Field[/casthaven] each add a huge cost to actually dealing damage you and punish the few creatures that will be getting through.

[casthaven]Rhystic Study[/casthaven] joins your other card draw engines and while it’s a staple card it’s especially good here, since you’re already taxing your opponent’s mana, and they’ll often be forced to choose between attacking and letting you draw cards.

Finally [casthaven]Glorious Anthem[/casthaven] gives you another power boost to your team, crucial when you’re leaning on three- and four-power flyers.

The Artifacts

Cuts

[casthaven]Azorious Keyrune[/casthaven], [casthaven]Ojutai Monument[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gilded Lotus[/casthaven]

This shouldn’t be too surprising. My main focus throughout this rework has been dropping the mana curve, and with a deck full of three and four drops mana rocks simply aren’t necessary (the brokenness of [casthaven]Sol Ring[/casthaven] aside).

Additions

[casthaven]Norn’s Annex[/casthaven]

Another addition to the prison package, [casthaven]Norn’s Annex[/casthaven] has always been a weird one. On the one hand, your opponents will always be able to pay its cost, one way or another. On the other hand, this card can bleed nonwhite players dry and make it literally impossible for them to attack you. Given that you’re aiming to chip away at life totals every turn anyway, you’re actually ok with people sacrificing their life to swing at you, as it only speeds up your clock.

The Planeswalkers

Cuts

[casthaven]Venser, the Sojourner[/casthaven]

You have very few creatures with enter the battlefield abilities in the deck and every single creature in your deck is already evasive. Venser’s ultimate is great, but his first two abilities line up very poorly with your deck.

The Final Deck

Commander: [casthaven]Isperia, Supreme Judge[/casthaven]

Lands: [casthaven]Seaside Haven[/casthaven], [casthaven]Coastal Tower[/casthaven], [casthaven]Reliquary Tower[/casthaven], [casthaven]Skycloud Expanse[/casthaven], [casthaven]Flood Plain[/casthaven], [casthaven]Boreal Shelf[/casthaven], [casthaven]Irrigated Farmland[/casthaven], [casthaven]Tranquil Cove[/casthaven], [casthaven]Rogue’s Passage[/casthaven], [casthaven]Maze of Ith[/casthaven], [casthaven]Vesuva[/casthaven], [casthaven]Flooded Strand[/casthaven], [casthaven]Command Tower[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mystic Gate[/casthaven], [casthaven]Seachrome Coast[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Chancery[/casthaven], [casthaven]Hallowed Fountain[/casthaven], [casthaven]Prairie Stream[/casthaven], [casthaven]Calciform Pools[/casthaven], [casthaven]Port Town[/casthaven], [casthaven]Tundra[/casthaven], [casthaven]Celestial Colonnade[/casthaven], [casthaven]Azorius Guildgate[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glacial Fortress[/casthaven], 7 [casthaven]Island[/casthaven], 7 [casthaven]Plains[/casthaven]

Creatures: [casthaven]Jace’s Phantasm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Serra Ascendant[/casthaven], [casthaven]Soulcatcher[/casthaven], [casthaven]Pride of the Clouds[/casthaven], [casthaven]Selfless Spirit[/casthaven], [casthaven]Spell Queller[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thornwind Faeries[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lieutenant Kirtar[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aven Sunstriker[/casthaven], [casthaven]Warden of Evos Isle[/casthaven], [casthaven]Vendilion Clique[/casthaven], [casthaven]Hushwing Gryff[/casthaven], [casthaven]Kefnet the Mindful[/casthaven], [casthaven]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lyev Skyknight[/casthaven], [casthaven]Nimble Obstructionist[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sprite Noble[/casthaven], [casthaven]Angel of Finality[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thieving Magpie[/casthaven], [casthaven]Thunderclap Wyvern[/casthaven], [casthaven]Emeria Angel[/casthaven], [casthaven]Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aetherstorm Roc[/casthaven], [casthaven]Angel of Jubilation[/casthaven], [casthaven]Angelic Field Marshal[/casthaven], [casthaven]Archangel of Tithes[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gisela, the Broken Blade[/casthaven], [casthaven]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/casthaven], [casthaven]Magus of the Moat[/casthaven], [casthaven]Windborn Muse[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven], [casthaven]Wingmate Roc[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dragonlord Ojutai[/casthaven], [casthaven]Consecrated Sphinx[/casthaven], [casthaven]Archetype of Imagination[/casthaven], [casthaven]Windreader Sphinx[/casthaven], [casthaven]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/casthaven]

Spells: [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sol Ring[/casthaven], [casthaven]Ring of Evos Isle[/casthaven], [casthaven]Favorable Winds[/casthaven], [casthaven]Counterspell[/casthaven], [casthaven]Oblivion Ring[/casthaven], [casthaven]Oblation[/casthaven], [casthaven]Render Silent[/casthaven], [casthaven]Ghostly Prison[/casthaven], [casthaven]Glorious Anthem[/casthaven], [casthaven]Imprisoned in the Moon[/casthaven], [casthaven]Detention Sphere[/casthaven], [casthaven]Propaganda[/casthaven], [casthaven]Rhystic Study[/casthaven], [casthaven]Disallow[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aurification[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dissipation Field[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sigil of the New Dawn[/casthaven], [casthaven]Moat[/casthaven], [casthaven]Norn’s Annex[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gravitational Shift[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cyclonic Rift[/casthaven], [casthaven]Rite of Replication[/casthaven]

The Additions

Lyev Skyknight            0.15
Aven Sunstriker            0.23
Sprite Noble            0.27
Hushwing Gryff            0.40
Angelic Field Marshal        0.55
Aven Mindcensor        0.72
Dissipation Field        0.88
Jace’s Phantasm        1.34
Windborn Muse        1.59
Glorious Anthem        1.62
Ghostly Prison            2.04
Aurification            2.54
Angel of Jubilation        2.76
Nimble Obstructionist        3.18
Kefnet the Mindful        3.74
Selfless Spirit            4.04
Propaganda            4.23
Norn’s Annex            4.28
Archangel of Tithes        4.41
Magus of the Moat        6.52
Gisela, the Broken Blade    7.69
Rhystic Study            8.49
Linvala, Keeper of Silence    11.74
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner    16.17
Serra Ascendant        18.98
Elseh Norn            25.26
Vendillion Clique        30.05
Total                163.87

The changes add up to $163.87, not bad for a deck without budget constraints.

A big piece of inspiration for this rebuild of the deck was Death and Taxes, a Legacy deck I’ve long been fond of for its multiple lines of attack and the way it uses the abilities on its beaters to attack every resource, from mana to creatures to cards drawn to combo pieces, all while pressuring life totals to get their opponent dead before they can overcome the disruption. It’s a style of play not usually seen in Commander, but I think this deck has real potential.

If you want your deck to be featured in a future Dear Azami, send the decklist to [email protected], along with a brief description of what issues the deck is having and what budget you want me to work with.

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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