martes, 24 de abril de 2012

Azusa, Lost but Seeking

"Wherever I set my pack and rest my head, I'm home"
-Diaries of Azusa-

Azusa is mana-ramping General that relies on creating massive board positions that are very difficult to deal with.

So, how does she does that? At first she looks a little awkward. She is very small and only has one seemingly situational ability. Most people would think that she is only useful on the early game, during your first four or five turns in a Commander match. After that, why would you want to play any more extra lands? Will you even have additional lands in your hand to play with?

Here is the trick. Azusa has two major uses. One of them is to simply have five lands in play during your third turn, which is not that impressive, considering that other non-green decks run stuff like the signets from Ravnica, Sol Ring and Darksteel Ingot, which make equivalent board positions at that early stage of the game. Azusa just helps to keep up with that. The other usefulness of Azusa comes after you have established a decent board position. This means that you will ramp some early additional lands, cast a creature tutor for a creature like Oracle of Mul Daya, and then develop one of the several ways in which you can exploit Azusa, which will be the central topic of this whole discussion.

Oracle of Mul Daya is probably the most important card in this deck. Alongside Azusa, they both can constantly put up to four lands on your side of the battlefield every turn! Since you want to make the most out of this, you also want to have A LOT of lands in your deck. Azusa decks are probably the most land-intensive decks around in the Commander format. They normally use around fifty lands (Yes, 50!), including a plethora of colorless utility lands that can get around fifteen, a number most other decks would have problems with because of the different colors they need to have.

It is only natural that Azusa decks want to take advantage of playing multiple lands every turn by packing effects that trigger with lands entering the battlefield, or effects that take into account the number of lands or Forests that you control.

Courser of Kruphix can enable life-gain and land plays form the top of our deck.

I would normally leave the mana base until the end of my discussion, but it happens that lands are central for any Azusa deck, so I will start by discussing the lands.


In my build I use forty-nine lands, with over sixteen non-basics that work as utility. With that in mind, we will be using 33x Snow-Covered Forests. I use the Snow-Covered variant of basic lands because of Extraplanar Lens. That way, my opponents won't benefit from the artifact if they only have the normal basic forests. This is cheaper AND safer than Heartbeat of Spring.

As for the non-basic, I will divide them into two different categories, according to their main use.


Another very important card in the Azusa deck is Crucible of Worlds. This little artifact lets you do pretty nasty things with the multiple land drops per turn that Azusa and Oracle of Mul Daya give you.

Crucible of Worlds becomes amazing with these: 

As Magic players, we all know how important lands are for every deck. The reasoning is simple: without lands, you basically can't play anything. This is the reason why lands are the most resilient permanent type  in the whole game. Destroying lands is often pretty difficult and costly. Azusa makes it easier, cheap and recursive. For as long as you have Crucible of Worlds in the battlefield, you will be able to abuse any of the effects above, specially Strip Mine and Dust Bowl. Speaking of Dust Bowl, there is another utility land that works pretty well with lands that tap for effects:

And this, too:

Glacial Chasm looks like a crazy, useless card, but with Crucible of Worlds and Azusa or Oracle of Mul-Daya, it becomes quite amazing! Basically, you want to sacrifice Glacial Chasm every upkeep so you can attack. Then, bring it back with Crucible of Worlds and sacrifice another land, preferably a Forest. This is no issue since Azusa and Oracle of Mul-Daya enable you to recover the sacrificed land. What you get as a result of this interaction is total immunity to ALL damage.


Here are some other lands with effects that you can abuse with Deserted Temple:

You want to focus on taking the most out of Thawing Glaciers. This land would normally take your card advantage into what translates as denying you a useful land drop every two turns. But with Azusa, since she lets play more lands every single turn, you actually make sure with Thawing Glaciers that you always play at least one or two lands every single turn. With Deserted Temple out, it just becomes better. Now, remember, lands are not supposed to be doing anything, besides giving you mana, so getting extra lands, removal, scrying, card advantage, +1/+1 counters, life gain or counter-proofing from any of them is actually something really powerful. This is true because lands are very difficult to deal with, and a land doing something besides mana is a real pain for your opponent.

You might ask yourself how can you take advantage of something so costly as Winding Canyons or Miren, the Moaning Well with Deserted Temple when you also have to save mana for the creatures that you are going to cast or sacrifice; not to mention the spells that you also want to cast during your turn? Here is the answer to that:


Rofellos used to be the Green General, but he was so powerful that he was banned, alongside with Staff of Domination, another incredibly powerful and unfair card for green decks. Rofellos is still allowed to be used in Commander, as long as he is not used as your General. Thats why we use now Azusa.

You will also need some other spells that let you search for lands. You can't play extra lands if you don't have them. Also, most of your game-changing spells cost more than five mana. The following are in the deck to make sure that you have in play at least six lands by the fourth or fifth turn:


Life from the Loam is by FAR the most powerful land tutor in the deck. Since half your deck is lands this little sorcery will almost always get you something to recover and play when you are in the race for ramping. A second-turn Life from the Loam followed by a turn-three Dredge is one of the most powerful plays that you can make. Combine it with Crucible of Worlds and things become really crazy real fast.

Realm Seekers became my substitute for Primeval Titan, since it was banned. The elf is not as effective as the giant, but it still lets you tutor for non-basic lands, which is very important in this deck.

Land recursion becomes more valuable in the late game, when several sweepers haven been played already and the graveyards are filled with your best dead creatures. Since the recursion topic has arisen I will now take the opportunity to talk about the part that makes this deck so dynamic and reliable:


This deck works best when some of your creatures are already dead. Your opponents will have wasted precious resources to get rid of your most menacing beats, only to find that you will easily recover them and play them back. Recursion is something that green decks do pretty well. This is why:


Praetor's Counsel is one of your most important spells. Not only it lets you recover your whole graveyard, but it also makes your hand size infinite, something that you will find very necessary when you exploit your card-drawing engines, which will be discussed in a moment.

As with Praetor's Counsel, most of these recursion spells seem pretty obvious, but people often overlook Loaming Shaman because it doesn't give you immediate card advantage. This little creature actually serves several purposes in this deck. One of them is to attack your opponent's graveyard-based strategies. Most combo decks and black decks rely heavily on their graveyards to pull off their best moves. Removing their graveyards just holds them back A LOT. Another special use for Loaming Shaman is for when you cast Genesis Wave:

It is easy to pay over 10 mana for X in this deck, and most of the cards in this deck are permanent cards. Only 9 out of 99 are non-permanents, so virtually every card that you reveal with Genesis Wave will be put onto the battlefield. If you happen to score the Loaming Shaman, you can always use him to recover any quantity of cards from your graveyard to your deck, including any valuable sorcery or instant that you might have lost to Genesis Wave. Note that you should cast Genesis Wave for at least 8 mana on X, making it a minimum total of at least 11 mana to cast. Make sure to use Boseiju mana for this kind of powerful spell when you are facing blue.

Now, to the card-drawing:


The best card-drawing spells for green are pretty insane. They sometimes give just too much cards to handle in a single turn.

Horn of Greed benefits from your multiple land drops every turn. Sure, it also benefits you opponents, but while they are scoring one extra card at maximum during every turn, you will be drawing up to five, maybe more if you get to put it onto the battlefield with Genesis Wave or Primal Surge.

Greater Good is a sweeper fail-safe. Global effects that destroy everything are actually something pretty usual and recurrent in any Commander match. Greater Good enables you to sac all your big creatures to search for the next appropriate answer to follow the mass removal effect. In a way, this enchantment makes you immune to the card disadvantage that comes from creature mass-removal.

Now, think about this: you cast your Genesis Wave or your Primal Surge, and suddenly you find Soul of the Harvest or Regal Force. Your hand will most surely be overflowing with cards. This is why we like Praetor's Counsel and Reliquary Tower:


This is a beatdown deck, so you need a good quantity of gigantic creatures either with trample or with an ability that produce an army of tokens so that you can chop down all your opponents life totals fast. Ideally, you will use these to win:

Kamahl and Liege of the Tangle transform your lands into creatures. I advise not to transform all of your lands into creatures at once, but also don't hesitate to make five or eight 8/8's or ten little tramplers with Kamahl when you can use Crucible of Worlds and Life From the Loam to recover any lost lands. Also, note that Kamahl can also transform your opponents lands into creatures. This is useful when somebody drops a creature mass-removal spell.

Rampaging Baloths and Avenger of Zendikar can give you an insane amount of lumbering tokens fast. Again, when you cast either Genesis Wave or Primal Surge and get to put into play one of these it is almost certain that you will end up with a ridiculously overwhelming board position. If the sorcery was Genesis Wave you can choose the order in with the lands and the creatures enter the battlefield so that Rampaging Baloths produce a 4/4 token for even land that you showed, or create a balance between the number of plant tokens that you want and how big they will become from Avenger of Zendikar's triggered effects. Imagine if you get to 'Overrun' onto all those tokens several times with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa... Now imagine if you also get to put Concordant Crossroads onto the battlefield...


Again, it is ideal to find all these creatures with a resolved Genesis Wave or Primal Surge, but you can also tutor for them with one of the following creature tutors:

Chord of Calling can sometimes become really cheap, if you have a lot of creatures. Fauna Shaman is also cheap and efficient, specially during the early game or when you have a Genesis stuck in your hand. Tooth and Nail is the most powerful creature tutor in the deck since it lets you tutor for TWO creatures AND then put any two creature cards from your hand onto the battlefield. I like to go for Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger and Terastodon, to remove up to three non-creature permanents that might be giving me trouble, or instead Regal Force, to replenish my hand.


Some of the bigger creatures in this deck are also removal cards. They serve a dual purpose because after removing a threat you can use them to bash your opponents to death.


Most green removal spells deal with artifacts, enchantments and lands, but Scavenging Ooze is a little different. This cheap and efficient creature can completely shut down graveyard based strategies and combo decks while getting bigger and giving you extra life, all at the same time.

A notable weakness of green is its inability to deal directly with creatures. This is why Duplicant is so important. Finally, Woodfall Primus can outlast a board sweeper while punishing back your opponent and Terastodon can also be used to make yourself some extra tokens at the cost of some recyclable lands. Notice that Woodfall Primus can make a 'soft' combo with Greater Good and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood:


You are not blowing everybody up, but you have a relatively secure card-drawing engine that can score you 6 extra cards and two non-creature removals per turn. You basically sacrifice Woodfall Primus to Greater Good, drawing 3 extra cards and destroying one non-creature permanent because of Persist. You can then tap Oran-Rief, the Vastwood to put a +1/+1 counter on Woodfall Primus and do it all over again, netting you another three extra cards and another blown-up non-creature permanent. If you control Deserted Temple, you can do it even one more time by untapping Oran-Rief, the Vastwood.

Finally, the trigger abuse:

These two artifacts enable you to abuse the enter-the-battlefield triggered abilities of some of your most powerful creatures. Woodfall Primus, Terastodon, Avenger of Zendikar, Regal Force, Realm Seekers, Loaming Shaman, Eternal Witness, Wickerbough Elder, Acidic Slime, Duplicant, Brutalizer Exarch and Deadwood Treefolk are all great targets for both artifacts.

Stronic Resonator ALSO helps you copy triggered abilities from Yavimaya Elder, Soul of the Harvest, Rampaging Baloths, Liege of the Tangle and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger.


Green also lacks its own board sweepers, but that doesn't mean it can't have access to more expensive colorless creature removal. As with Duplicant, we also have the heavier versions for some extra colorless mana:

Steel Hellkite is reusable and Oblivion Stone can be abused with the recursion engine that Buried Ruin and Crucible of Worlds offer. All is Dust is pretty powerful, so no easy extras for this one.

Finally, I will show you the miscellaneous spells that also work pretty well with a deck filled with lots of lands and creatures:


This is the dynamic enchantment duo! They are also great political cards, specially Lost in the Woods, because your opponents will desist from attacking you. Lurking Predators is incredibly awesome in its own right, but besides putting creatures into the battlefield for free, it also lets you 'Scry 1' every time your opponents cast a spell. Combine these two with Sensei's Divining Top and you will always negate an attack, or land a creature for free!

Another very useful card in this land-intensive deck is Constant Mists:

You will  not care about sacrificing a land because you can always play more. Crucible of Worlds too.

Seedborn Muse can help you activate Scavenging Ooze's or Kamahl, Fist of Krosa's effect a lot of times. It also untaps all your lands, like Winding Canyons, or Oblivion Stone, to put some fate counters on your most precious permanents before you go off.

Finally, Abundance is one of my favorite cards for this deck. It is not a winning condition or a game-changing card. It just makes sure that you are always getting what you really need. Since the deck has so many lands, it is possible that you can fall into a mana flood when in top-decking mode, but with Abundance you can instead choose to get a non-land card. Moreover, you can do the exact opposite if you are mana-screwed. Also, Abundance can be used EVERY time you are drawing a card, so with effects from cards like Greater Good, Regal Force and Horn of Greed you get to choose at each card what kind of card do you want. You can simply say non-land for every card drawn and get all the goodness that you need without any unnecessary extra land-draws. Another even obscurer benefit that Abundance has is that it gives you immunity to milling strategies and effects that trigger when you 'draw' a card. The enchantment's effect replaces the card draw for the trigger of its own effect, so you are never 'drawing' a card but instead picking them up. Now, how cool is that?

Here is the complete deck list for your reference:

       1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Creatures (28)
            1x Deadwood Treefolk
            1x Loaming Shaman
            1x Sakura-Tribe Elder
            1x Eternal Witness
            1x Duplicant
            1x Seedborn Muse
            1x Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
            1x Hua Tuo, Honored Physician
            1x Realm Seekers
            1x Genesis
            1x Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
            1x Yavimaya Elder
            1x Woodfall Primus
            1x Regal Force
            1x Wickerbough Elder
            1x Acidic Slime
            1x Oracle of Mul Daya
            1x Rampaging Baloths
            1x Avenger of Zendikar
            1x Terastodon
            1x Primal Sage
            1x Courser of Kruphix
            1x Fauna Shaman
            1x Steel Hellkite
            1x Liege of the Tangle
            1x Brutalizer Exarch
            1x Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
            1x Scavenging Ooze
Lands (49)
            1x Thawing Glaciers
            1x Glacial Chasm
            1x Mouth of Ronom
            1x Scrying Sheets
            30x Snow-Covered Forest
            1x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
            1x Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
            1x Miren, the Moaning Well
            1x Boseiju, Who Shelters All
            1x Homeward Path
            1x Deserted Temple
            1x Petrified Field
            1x Terminal Moraine
            1x Dust Bowl
            1x Winding Canyons
            1x Yavimaya Hollow
            1x Reliquary Tower
            1x Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
            1x Tectonic Edge
            1x Buried Ruin
Instants (2)
            1x Chord of Calling
            1x Constant Mists
Enchantments (6)
            1x Abundance
            1x Vernal Bloom
            1x Greater Good
            1x Primeval Bounty
            1x Mana Reflection
            1x Lurking Predators
Sorcery (5)
            1x Life from the Loam
            1x Tooth and Nail
            1x All Is Dust
            1x Genesis Wave
            1x Green Sun's Zenith
            1x Praetor's Counsel
Artifacts (8)
            1x Gauntlet of Power
            1x Sensei's Divining Top
            1x Strionic Resonator
            1x Conjurer's Closet
            1x Crucible of Worlds
            1x Oblivion Stone
            1x Horn of Greed
            1x Caged Sun

Trample on!

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