Rant of Valakut: Gifts Unwanted Ben Iverach-Brereton January 1, 2018 Rants of Valakut The holidays have come and gone, we’re facing down a new year, and bracing ourselves for the horror that is Valentine’s Day. As we slowly put away our decorations and presents, it is inevitable that we will once again come across… it. Everyone has one, whether they got for it for Christmas or their birthday, or some other occasion. It’s that strange widget, a perplexing object you didn’t know existed until you opened it. Now you’re wishing that it didn’t exist so that you wouldn’t have to deal with it. It’s that thing that just takes up space, and yet for some reason you can’t seem to get rid of it. What does this have to do with Magic, you ask? Did someone give me a stack of Herbal Poultice cards? No, no, nothing so horrifying. (Sorry to the Herbal Poultice fan out there…!) Rather, for today’s Rant I would like to present to you my Zedruu the Greathearted Commander deck I like to call “Take My Deck, Please!” Commander1 x Zedruu the Greathearted Creature1 x Akroan Horse1 x Angel of Jubilation1 x Bazaar Trader1 x Chromeshell Crab1 x Clever Impersonator1 x Clone1 x Cryptoplasm1 x Dack’s Duplicate1 x Djinn of Infinite Deceits1 x Flamewright1 x Humble Defector1 x Hushwing Gryff1 x Leonin Arbiter1 x Lightning Berserker1 x Obstinate Familiar1 x Order of the Stars1 x Ornithopter1 x Perplexing Chimera1 x Phyrexian Metamorph1 x Phyrexian Revoker1 x Shield Sphere1 x Steel Golem1 x Wall of Omens1 x Willbreaker Enchantment1 x Aggressive Mining1 x Cessation1 x Conjured Currency1 x Delusions of Mediocrity1 x Faith’s Fetters1 x Gaseous Form1 x Ghostly Possession1 x Illusions of Grandeur1 x Mystic Veil1 x Oblivion Ring1 x Puca’s Mischief1 x Rest in Peace1 x Sandskin1 x Stony Silence1 x Thought Lash Artifact1 x Astral Cornucopia1 x Chromatic Lantern1 x Darksteel Relic1 x Everflowing Chalice1 x Jinxed Choker1 x Portcullis1 x Sol Ring1 x Sphere of the Suns1 x Torpor Orb1 x Ward of Bones1 x Witchbane Orb Instant1 x Capsize1 x Cyclonic Rift1 x Dominate Sorcery1 x Descent of the Dragons1 x Devastation Tide1 x Evangelize1 x Legerdemain1 x Shifting Loyalties1 x Switcheroo Land1 x Arcane Lighthouse1 x Azorius Chancery1 x Azorius Guildgate1 x Boros Garrison1 x Boros Guildgate1 x Command Tower1 x Evolving Wilds1 x Homeward Path7 x Island (335)1 x Izzet Guildgate3 x Mountain (343)1 x Mystic Monastery1 x Opal Palace5 x Plains (331)1 x Reliquary Tower1 x Rupture Spire1 x Sejiri Refuge1 x Shimmering Grotto1 x Steam Vents1 x Swiftwater Cliffs1 x Temple of the False God1 x Temple of Triumph1 x Thespian’s Stage1 x Tranquil Cove1 x Transguild Promenade1 x Unknown Shores1 x Vivid Creek1 x Wind-Scarred Crag Buy This List Back when I started playing Commander, it seemed that everyone was “working on a Zedruu deck,” but nobody had actually built one. The idea of playing a deck filled with awful cards that had to be given away was such a fun and silly idea that every time someone found a bad old card we would exclaim that it was “perfect for Zedruu!” This phrase became code for “this card is unplayable,” and we would all get a good laugh whenever it would come up. We would see cards like Alabaster Leech and Molten Firebird, and we knew just where to stick them: with Zedruu the Greathearted. The more we would mention it, the more I knew I had to make this deck for myself. It had been a joke for so long, but I couldn’t help but wonder: what if I could actually find a way of making it work? I bought a copy of Zedruu and started brainstorming. I began by looking at cards that would gradually lock players out of the game, like Aggressive Mining and Steel Golem. If my opponents couldn’t play their cards then surely I could find a way to win! I like to refer to these crippling cards as “poisoned apples” since they aren’t just useless, but actively hurt you by controlling them. The danger, of course, would be getting stuck with these permanents and having no way to offload them to the players around me. I would need to pair them with an assortment of donate effects, or choose ‘poisoned apples’ that would give themselves away. If I didn’t have to rely on Zedruu then it would help ensure that I would always have some way of getting rid of these terrible cards. I quickly realized that this plan would only get me so far, though. Giving cards away was fine, but what I really wanted were ways of EXCHANGING my permanents with those of my opponents. This would allow me not only to lock out the other players, but to simultaneously steal their win conditions. It was a good place to start. Giving away bad cards and stealing permanents from other players was all well and good, but I would need other ways of slowing my opponents down. I would need cards that would disrupt my opponents’ plans, while ideally also being something I could give away. If I could find cards that didn’t care which player controlled them, then they would be safe to donate with Zedruu, drawing me extra cards every round. Cards with global effects, like Torpor Orb and Stony Silence came to mind, as well as auras like Ghostly Possession and Faith’s Fetters. Even cards like Oblivion Ring and Darksteel Relic (the ultimate do-nothing card) would be safe to give away. Each of these cards would be useful (ok, maybe not the Relic…), but would keep working no matter who controlled them. I had a plan on how I would slow the game down, but at some point this deck would need to try and win the game. Stealing my opponents’ cards wouldn’t be enough, though. If I could set up some sort of late game combo, that would be ideal. I came up with a pretty classic plan. I would need to draw Capsize and Delusions of Mediocrity so that I could set up the following loop: 1. Cast Delusions of Mediocrity, gaining 10 life. 2. Donate Delusions using Zedruu‘s ability. 3. Bounce Delusions back to my hand with Capsize, making its controller (i.e. my opponent) lose 10 life. 4. Repeat. It was slow and clunky, but it would work. In fact, it HAS worked; I’ve won games with this loop, but to call it slow is an understatement. Once the deck got to the point of casting its combo it was pretty satisfying, but there was a lot of hard work that went into getting there. Careful table politics helped, but it was the other little synergies in the deck that let me get to that endgame. Some of the noteworthy combinations included: Humble Defector + Homeward Path Humble Defector is an interesting card with Zedruu to begin with; it’s a great way to draw two cards, but you have to give it away afterwards. With Zedruu, you get to draw a card every upkeep because someone else controls the Defector… unless someone gives it back to you. Homeward Path removes the drawback of Humble Defector by returning it to your control after you give it away. Additionally, Homeward Path can help reset things if you end up giving away too many creatures (or if someone steals YOUR creatures). Jinxed Choker + Witchbane Orb Jinxed Choker can be quite the liability, especially if players allow it to get a lot of counters. It will bounce around the table, potentially dealing quite a lot of damage to whoever is saddled with it. Zedruu is able to keep this ‘hot potato’ artifact away by donating it during an opponent’s end step, but with Witchbane Orb in play, it prevents the Choker from ever coming back to you in the first place! Let the Jinxed card bounce around between your opponents until one of them finally destroys it. You get to sit back and watch the mayhem from behind your hexproof screen. Lightning Berserker + Djinn of Infinte Deceits This little combo works with most exchange effects; it goes a bit like this: Cast Lightning Berserker with Dash, then exchange control of it with a creature controlled by an opponent. At the end of the turn, Lightning Berserker will go back into its owner’s hand (i.e. your hand) because of Dash, but you’ll still get to keep whatever creature that was exchanged for it. With Djinn of Infinite Deceits, this means you can do this exchange every turn, stealing the best creatures time and again. Flamewright + Puca’s Mischief Flamewright is one of the few cards you’ll find that makes tokens with Defender. These tokens are great fuel for repeated trade effects, like Puca’s Mischief. Granted, with Mischief the tokens could only be traded for permanents with a converted mana cost of zero, but you might be surprised how often that comes up. Notably, because you create the token, you are the owner of the token; this means when Zedruu goes looking for permanents you own but don’t control, those tokens can count if you’ve given them away. The best part is that those Constructs won’t be attacking you any time soon! Willbreaker + Most of the Deck… Oh, Willbreaker. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a soft spot for abilities that trigger just by targetting something. With Willbreaker in play, if you target an opposing creature you gain control of it. Cards like Puca’s Mischief, Cryptoplasm, and Conjured Currency suddenly do an amazing job at stealing opposing creatures each upkeep. Cards like Shifting Loyalties or Djinn of Infinite Deceits are even better, because you can target two creatures owned by your opponents; they don’t need to target anything you control. Suddenly, with Willbreaker around… oops! You’ve just stolen both creatures, and the exchange effect ends up doing nothing. As fun as those combinations are, my personal favourite is Willbreaker with Descent of the Dragons; it’s important to note that Descent destroys any number of TARGET creatures, then the CONTROLLER of each of those creatures creates a 4/4 Dragon. By the time the spell resolves, Willbreaker has taken control of all of the targetted creatures; this means that YOU are the controller of the creatures when they are destroyed. Guess who gets to create the army of 4/4 Dragons? Yep, that’s right. Enjoy your air force. Sneaky, isn’t it? ~~~~~ Unfortunately, despite having these fun little synergies, my Zedruu deck is far from top notch. Like its finishing combo, its mana base is slow and clunky. It should probably run far more mana rocks and should have ways of searching for key cards, but at the end of the day polishing up this deck is a low priority. The deck slows the game down and is generally annoying to play against; while I will happily dig this deck out every once in a while, it’s never going to be my go-to Commander deck, since I don’t usually like frustrating everyone at the table. I will tinker with it every once in a while, but I tend to focus my efforts elsewhere. Because it’s not one of my top decks, it’s saddled with a lot of hand-me-down cards that I cut from other ones, especially its lands. Unlike a lot of players, who share cards between multiple decks, I prefer to keep each of my decks self-contained, meaning that if I want a Sol Ring in each of my decks, I will need that many copies of Sol Ring. The same is true for Shocklands, Fetchlands, and other ‘good’ mana fixing. It’s not a perfect system, since I either spend a lot to get multiple copies of these cards, or I end up with suboptimal decks. I usually split the difference and buff up a couple of decks, but most of the ones on my shelf get to use old Karoo-style lands and Gates instead. Still, of all of my decks, I feel like having an awkward mana base here is somewhat fitting; it’s a deck filled with awful cards, so naturally its lands would be bad, too. On the bright side, it does make the deck look a lot less threatening, which is useful when you need to convince other people at the table to focus on attacking each other while you sit back and bide your time. From joke to reality, I must admit that I’m glad I put together a Zedruu deck of my own. If you’ve never made a deck like this sort before, you really should give it a try; you’ll find all sorts of weird cards you’d never consider playing anywhere else. There are so many possibilites, too! It’s staggering just how many truly terrible cards have been printed over the years, but finding a way to make them useful is remarkably satisfying. Of the many options: Geist-Fueled Scarecrow, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Grid Monitor… Starting with a similar lock-down plan to mine, you might end up with a completely different deck; I’m sure there are better bad-cards I could have used, too! And to think that this deck was all thanks to finding those piles of unwanted cards, those forgotten cards left to rot in the bottom of a bulk box. I guess they weren’t so useless after all, now were they? Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.