Death for All and All for Death

Posted in Reconstructed on November 2, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

It's time for some Commander.

Commander (2015 Edition) is just around the corner—and with it, a host of new creatures, spells, and, perhaps most importantly, commanders!

These are the cards you generally build your decks around. And from a deck building perspective, they're some of the cards we care about the most!

Why? Well, when you can always draw the same card, and you can always have a way to recast it, it opens up plenty of doors and possibilities. You can build your entire deck around a commander. . . . And that's exactly what we're going to do today!

But who are we building around? Well, let me introduce to my friend, Mazirek. He's a Kraul Death Priest (or in a metal band called Kraul Death Priest—one of the two), and he makes death work in his favor.

Let's take a look. Introducing Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest!

Well, doesn't he look friendly? He'll either hug you with his mandibles or devour you with them—depending on the situation.

So let's break this down.

As a five-mana 2/2 flying creature, Mazirek isn't inherently the most threatening creature in size alone . . . at least not right away. Every time a player sacrifices a permanent, all of your creatures grow. Not just him, but every creature!

So, there are a few different ways we can take this lovely insect shaman. Let's run through them.

Their Sacrifice, Your Benefit

Let's start on the cruel side: making your opponent sacrifice permanents! Forcing them to sacrifice whatever they have is a quick way to both further your position in the game—they just have less stuff!—as well as grow your board. Plus, there are a number of cards that force each of your opponents to sacrifice things, which is especially powerful in multiplayer.

Right off the bat, some of the staple black effects in Magic that force your opponent to sacrifice are "Edict" effects. Ranging from Cruel Edict all the way to Syphon Flesh, Consuming Vapors, and beyond, these cards force an opponent to sacrifice a creature—which is perfect to keep the board contained and grow your army in the process!

Even better is when everybody else has to sacrifice something. Tribute to the Wild is an excellent example of how this works! It's not just black that has access to these sacrifice effects, and in a world where most opponents will have some kind of artifact mana acceleration sitting around, this is a great way to trigger Mazirek three or more times with a single spell!

Of course, you can also go big. Wave of Vitriol is the kind of card that can enable you to kill an opponent in a single hit with Mazirek out! Imagine that it hits a mere ten combined permanents. That adds ten extra power to your side of the table for each creature you control! That's wild! The more sacrificing that goes on, the better.

And, of course, there are some creatures that do it too. Archfiend of Depravity is a great way to provide the "generous" effect of keeping all of your opponents in check . . . while also growing your board in the process! Desecration Demon is normally easy to keep tapped, but Mazirek ensures your opponents really won't want to sacrifice their creatures.

So there are plenty of ways to finish off your opponent's permanents and grow your board. But what about ways that effect both players? Let's head there next!

An Eye for an Eye

While slowly picking apart your opponent's permanents with sacrifice is plenty enough to build around, Mazirek offers even more potential. Magic—and black especially—is full of ways to make us each sacrifice permanents in some way. Often, these effects cause even more sacrifices than their opponent-targeted brethren.

And since Mazirek triggers when any player—meaning an opponent ­or you—sacrifices, there's quite a bit of work to be done in that department.

Some of my favorite cards to use here are Fleshbag Marauder and its ilk. Whether a Fleshbag, a Merciless Executioner, or a Slum Reaper, they make everybody sacrifice a creature while being creatures themselves! That means you're not going down any creatures to cast them, while causing plenty of sacrifice from all sides. Delicious, delicious creatures!

Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest | Art by Mathias Kollros

Of course, although not creatures themselves, you have similar options in Innocent Blood and Barter in Blood. Those will put you down a creature—but with such cheap and flexible mana costs, assuredly you can use them to your advantage.

Of course, perhaps the kings in decks like this one are Grave Pact effects. Grave Pact, Dictate of Erebos, and Butcher of Malakir cause havoc, as you both clean up all of your opponents' creatures and grow in the process! These are all certainly cards to heavily consider in this kind of deck.

Speaking of Grave Pacts, Mazirek's fellow Golgari member Savra, Queen of the Golgari is excellent here! While everything gets blown up around her, she can be the woman that lived, serving as a sort of Grave Pact on a creature. She's certainly a strong fit.

So we've taken a look at making your opponents sacrifice, and a look at making each player sacrifice. That leaves one place to explore: making yourself sacrifice!

No Pain, No Gain

Sacrificing your own permanents is much easier than sacrificing your opponents—after all, why would you want to do that?

Well, Mazirek serves as a good reason.

First of all, it's worth looking at a crucial word on Mazirek: permanent. This looks at not only creatures you sacrifice, but artifacts, enchantments, and . . . oh hey, lands! And fortunately, there are plenty of lands that do just that!

Fetch lands of all kind—from Verdant Catacombs to Evolving Wilds—are simply awesome here. They serve as lands and they also trigger Mazirek! Lands that sacrifice for various effects, such as Gargoyle Castle or Cabal Pit are also certainly welcome here.

One of my personal favorites is Sylvan Safekeeper. Not only does it protect Mazirek, but when it's time to go in for the kill you can sacrifice all of your lands to massively grow all of your creatures! Bam!

But moving on to the more creature-focused side of things, there are a few mechanics that play nice because they have the "drawback" of having you sacrifice things. Echo, exploit, evoke, and fading are all great examples of this. Cards like Shriekmaw are a beating here: Blow up your creature and put counters on your entire team? Perfect. And suddenly, your Blastoderm fading away doesn't quite feel so sad.

But it's not just drawback mechanics working well here! Shambling Shell's dredge is marvelous, letting you use it multiple turns in a row. And fresh from Battle for Zendikar are Eldrazi Scions (and their prior Spawn), which come by the load-full and sacrifice themselves. That's a perfect combination, because it means you have a means to both get a lot more creatures and sacrifice them away to grow the others.

By this point, you might be wondering exactly what a Mazirek deck looks like. Well, pulling all of these concepts together, here's one take on it!

Gavin Verhey's Of Life and Death

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
Spontanzauber (3)
1 Harrow 1 Diabolic Edict 1 Tribute to the Wild
99 Karten

Pulling together everything discussed above, this deck combines a lot of Mazirek goodness into one place! It serves as a great jumping-off point to make your own version.

Want to sacrifice creatures? Covered it. Want to make opponents sacrifice permanents? Yeah, it's got some of that too. This deck even features Doubling Season for the combination with Mazirek and all of those spawn this deck wants to pump out!

If sacrificing is your thing, you can find Mazirek in Commander (2015 Edition)'s Plunder the Graves deck. We're just a handful of days away from you being able to hold one in your hands, so start your deck building engines and be prepared for release!

Commanding Modern

Coming up in two weeks, I'd like to take a look at Modern! Battle for Zendikar has had some time to sink in now, and I'd love to see what you can come up with.

It's time for a no-holds-barred look at Modern. Send in your best!

Format: Modern

Restrictions: None!

Deadline: November 9th, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com .

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Makindi Sliderunner

3 Valakut Predator

4 Wild Slash

. . . and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Wild Slash," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!

It's been a little bit since no-restrictions Modern was a ReConstructed option! I look forward to what wild and fun Modern decks you all send in.

If you have any thoughts on this article or deck at all, you're welcome to let me know! Feel free to send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.

Next week is actually Magic Online takeover week, so I'll be taking a week off! Come back in two weeks as we take a look at these Modern decks you've all sent in. Until then, have fun with Commander!

Talk with you again soon,

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight

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