Hey there, apprentices and acolytes! Unmistakable back again with another Tribal Unity, the series that breaks a tribe open and rummages around for the gems amongst the dregs! This week, Wizards
of the coast!
Wizards as a tribe are ubiquitous throughout Magic’s history, taking us back to alpha with Tim, the Prodigal Sorcerer! As with all old school tribes, they have a long and storied history, which gave no end of cool pieces to play with (and often disregard, damn were early creatures awful).
In fact, when I say they were a constant theme I mean it; in a game of magic and spells, there hasn’t actually been a set that misses a wizard or two. Come to think of it, Wizards are almost always at the forefront of most crises in the multiverse (especially if you include those damn planeswalkers). From Baral, Chief of Compliance, to Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, all the way to Cabal Patriarch, powerful and famous wizards dot Magic’s history through and through.
Wizards are also omnipresent across the colour pie (looking at you, Jodah, Archmage Eternal), but it should surprise absolutely nobody that they are primary in blue, with lots of support in black and red, with healthy overlap and bleeds all over. Grixis is the true home of the Wizard, and is a basis for the vicious trickery and manipulation that Wizard’s are known for. Due to the open ended nature of Wizards, they also occupy a hefty chunk of white (such as common mainstays like Auramancer or Aven Mindcensor), as well as a smaller chunk in green (really, when does Bloodline Shaman cross the line into Shaman? Or Druid?). Because of this, it is very difficult to have any one build that includes no wizards, making it one of the most all-reaching tribes of all time, bar humans.
So we have our Grixis tricksters, what can we do with them?
First off, unless it’s outstanding circumstances, we probably aren’t fighting with them. Wizards, typically being the scroll-wielding nerd kind of wizard, instead of the badass untouchable battlemage, tend to be pathetically small (unless you’re pulling off morphing Wizards with Nameless One, but then more power to you). Because of this, when playing wizards, you aren’t looking to win through combat. Though, never fear, good ol Uncle Unmistakable has you covered in that department too, later on in this very article!
While lacking in brute strength, Wizards pack an entire spellbook or tricks to manipulate combat and force positive situations around combat. Whether it is something overt like threat of a Razorfin Abolisher (combined with Unspeakable Symbol, staple of a Marchesa the Black Rose, gets broken in half), or something entirely more surprising and disruptive like Portal Mage, a good Wizard always comes packing the trickiest tricks to the knife fight, and will use whatever tricks necessary to make sure heat doesn’t go in their direction. Outside of combat, it’s worthy to note that, as a blue tribe, Wizards have a huge affinity for the word ‘no’. As such, many of their powerful tribal inclusions such as Nimble Obstructionist, Patron Wizard or Ertai, Wizard Adept focus around deciding what can and can’t happen.
Another example of a going theme amongst wizards comes from their rampant disregard for cards, specifically the number of them – many wizards often focus on cheating out card advantage by copying spells and permanents to eke an advantage. Spells are a popular one, with Naru Meha, Master Wizard and Dualcaster Mage leading the charge. Dualcaster in particular is interesting, as he forms a splinter twin-esque infinite combo when flashed in in response to a cloning spell such as Twinflame. While Naru Meha does the same, being legendary stops it from going wide, but still allows for infinite entries and exits. As for permanents, this is much more of a rarity, but Riku of Two Reflections does an amiable job in the Command Zone as an example of a wizarding value engine.
And, as a final pin in the Wizard’s arsenal is the rather impressive combo potential of the tribe. As of now, there are at least two game ending two card combos with certain commanders that fly very close to the Competitive side of Commander. First off, let’s check out Azami, Lady of Scrolls. A classic bogeyman of Casual tables, Azami is known up and down for her ability to draw her entire deck when in the presence of a Mind over Matter. This can be done at any time – the turn she comes out, the end of an opponent’s turn, in response to removal (the combo is, in fact, removal proof – unless Split Second is a factor. In case of removal while she’s tapped, discarding a card into the Mind over Matter in response allows you to continue to combo over the top) – the possibilities are endless. Once your entire deck is in your hand, it’s down to your imagination what your kill combo can be: Omniscience/Show and Tell, infinite mana and Capsize, some kind of Paradox Engine combo with Tidespout Tyrant, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination – and colour combination.
The other combo comes from a new kid on the block – Inalla, Archmage Ritualist. Her combo is a touch more difficult, but doesn’t require her to put herself in danger due to her command zone interaction. First, you make sure boards are clear. Next, you drop a Wanderwine Prophets. Two triggers happen at the same time, The prophets’ Champion Trigger and Inalla’s clone trigger. Order the triggers so that Inalla seeing the prophets enter happens first, and make a clone of them. The cloned prophets will eat the original ones, staying alive while nullifying the first Champion trigger. Still with me? I hope so, because that’s your win condition. Swing into someone with the Prophets and trigger their ability, sacrificing themselves for an extra turn – the nontoken prophets return, and you make another clone with Inalla to eat them again. Then, take your extra turn. And again. And again. A haste enabler helps, but as the Prophets always enter during the combat step of the previous turn, you can swing infinitely, granting everybody that can’t block you a not-so-swift, fishy death.
Lords and Synergy Picks
Now that we have our Wizards and our game plan figured, how can our tribe help?
First off, if you happen to be a fan of the ‘Wizard beatdown’ type of deck: Meet my buddy, Archetype of Imagination. This guy is an absolute house, denying the most common form of evasion in Magic to everybody who isn’t you while giving it to all your guys, making each and every one of them effectively unblockable (save reach, of course). Added vulnerability to Windstorm variants aside, any decently built board will close out a game fast on this guy’s clock.
Bloodline Necromancer/Apprentice Necromancer – Necromancers, being a kind of wizard, give the tribe access to nominal amounts of reanimation. While it is unfortunately not enough to build a coherent deck into (yet, anyway), it IS enough to grant some much needed resilience to your glass-jawed army of nerds.
Galecaster Colossus – probably the most disruptive tribal bomb available to the wizards, this shares the Azami quirk of not waiting for summoning sickness. As such, he can hit the board and start manipulating board states straight away, tapping all you have (himself included) to start neutralizing threats, combos and dusting every creature that looks at you funny. It also gets abused by untapping effects, so summoning anything with an active Intruder Alarm serves to double, triple and beyond the effect on a per turn basis – ending up looking like a Tidespout Tyrant. Leaving lands where they are aside, this guy bursts out Cyclonic Rifts faster and more consistently than the Tyrant, but is unable to commit to full one sided Upheaval.
Sowing Salt – Top 5 Wizard Commanders
Welp, we have our key cards, our juicy tech, and a vague idea of how to operate our tribe. Now, who functions best as a commander?
Honourable Mention – Baral, Chief of Compliance – Fresh back on the bench after his banning from the Brawl format (Barawl, if you will), let’s not get this at all confused: Baral is super good. To illustrate this, if you are competitively inclined, the Lab Maniacs – a collection of the leading competitive opinions in the EDH arena – consider Baral to be worthy of mention in their meta conglomerate. In a neat little package, Baral combines the three things blue loves – cost reduction, countering spells, and drawing cards. A protected Baral often means a locked up game, as the owner of said Wizard will be drowning in card advantage, and be significantly closer to winning than the rest of the table. Why only honourable mention? Put plainly, outside of winning, he doesn’t do much. No wizard synergy, no other interesting little kinks, he just powers out a win. Cool, but not good for the helm of a wizard deck.
5) Azami, Lady of Scrolls – now, if you like winning AND wizard tribal, look this way. As mentioned in the article, Azami is an outlet of one of the best 2 card win combos that Wizards have to offer. An absolute powerhouse, even utilising her at the end of turn or in response to removal catapults your game plan ahead, even if it isn’t Mind over Matter related. She struggles to make it much higher on this list however, due to the need for her to survive. This Femme Fatale sets off alarm bells immediately, and will eat enough removal to become unusable very easily. As such, she becomes a meta call in my eyes, and should be used with caution.
4) Naban, Dean of Iteration – An interesting commander that opens up a lot of possibilities, I wish I could put him higher. A lot of iconic wizards are made much more valuable when he is around; Snapcaster Mage, Naru Meha, Master Wizard, even Archaeomancer becomes incredibly efficient with Naban out, prompting an interesting build around scenario. It further deepens when you consider Arcane Adaptation, and how it opens up the possibility of getting the clutch upper hand because Diluvian Primordial or Mulldrifter got their letter from Hogwarts.
3) Naru Meha, Master Wizard – Next of the new toys the tribe got in Dominaria, Naru Meha does a lot of work for one card. Right off the bat, she has flash. I love this out of the Command zone, it’s like that off hand threat of removal, but your opponents know it’s there. Anything that comes your way must be larger than her if she is in your command zone and you have mana, otherwise your opponents know that you have a blocker for it. It also synergises well with her other two abilities – her spell copying trigger on entry wouldn’t work if she didn’t have flash already, and offers even further value over a flashy, decently sized blocker. While this obviously reeks of value plays like 7 mana, play a 3/3 lord and draw 4 cards by copying Divination, or 5 mana, play a 3/3 lord and laugh as your victim tries to desperately pay for twice as many Flusterstorms as they were expecting, there’s the other chance that she straight up wins you the game. Perhaps, copying an x = 99 Blue Sun’s Zenith to immediately take two players out? Add in Naban, Dean of Iteration and you got yourself a table kill there. The possibilities are endless.
Though, speaking of endless, let’s talk about the proposition of giving your board a permanent +1/+1 at instant speed. This is a deceptively powerful ability on both defence and offence. On the beatdown, this can force kills on otherwise unfavourable blockers, turning trades into chumps and being a general headache; on the odd time you’re making the treasured legacy strategy of tempo Snapcaster Mage beatdown, Naru Meha reduces the clock considerably, and takes your guys from nerds to slightly larger nerds.
On the other side of the beats, pulling the trigger on this can mess with combat numbers further, increasing the amount of successful trades and generating value from getting beaten on, and it handily messes with damage or -x based board wipe, like Pyroclasm, Toxic Deluge or Black Sun’s Zenith. Dropping this in response may not be something that’s been accounted for, and that cheeky Deluge for 1 or 2 may be able to be completely undone with a flashed lord. The raw power and flexibility offered by her abilities are tremendous.
2) Adeliz, the Cinder Wind – in a nice departure from ‘Wizard tribal combo enabler’, Adeliz twist the tribe that wants to build around her into a more aggressive, tempo focused archetype. The addition of red here is amazing, allowing the use of splashy effects such as Jaya’s Immolating Inferno to close the gap, or Sulfuric Vortex to signify the end of friendly, durdly magic. While it’s difficult to really put the clock on in commander, Izzet colours are one of the best ways to do it.
The commander herself does an impressive amount to enable this as well – she puts the screws on early, swinging in for hasty, evasive commander damage as early as turn 2, even turn 1 in higher spec builds. Even triggering her board-wide prowess ability once a turn gives her an impressively hard to block 7 turn clock, which gets really dicey when combined with red’s access to extra combat steps. Even casting Seize the day twice can have her hit for 12 in one gruelling turn, which can then be combined by counter backup or other spells to potentially eliminate somebody lightning fast – more than most will expect from the unassuming uncommon legend in a standard set.
Not to forget, that prowess ability affects your entire board! This is what incentivises the counter-burn gameplay for me. Triggering this effect is insanely easy to do, and can be done while protecting your guys at the same time. An air tight counter defence on Adeliz and Docent of Perfection sounds like a cataclysmic event to me, and I expect many opponents to Adeliz fall before they properly come to fear it.
1) Inalla, Archmage Ritualist – they call her Archmage for a reason, and this time around the mantle of top tribal commander belongs to Inalla, with very good reason. First off, she has the best colour selection of any Wizarding commander (besides Jodah, Archmage eternal, but he doesn’t lend himself nearly as well to wizard tribal), and she possesses an absolutely busted ability that reaches from the command zone to incentivise Wizards getting played.
First off, that ability. Wizards have lots of abilities to be abused by this, similar to Naban, Dean of Iteration. Inalla’s offer to clone them will be more often that not the correct play, as paying an extra 1 mana for a doubled effect from the many powerful ETB effects in Wizards, from Anathemancer through Master of Waves to Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique. The exile at end of turn effect hurts, as this hurts various cards such as Corpse Augur and Flesh Carver without an additional sacrifice outlet (Viscera Seer is probably one of the best there is, and is a Wizard, but I digress). Regardless, she becomes an unparalleled value engine in this archetype off of the back of this ability, and that is just outstanding.
As an aside at this point, this ability also enables one of the tribal combos available to the tribe (Ctrl + F “Wanderwine” if you missed it earlier), which also handily makes her one of the premier combo commanders for this tribe.
Her final ability, while it often seems like flavour text compared to the others, is just one more reason to fear her. With this ability she presents a clock. An unblockable, inexorable clock. A straight up 7 damage a pop as a reward for utilising her ability to clone and protecting them seems fair, and it constantly applies pressure to deal with her board before the Orbital Wizard Cannon gets a shot off. Even in commander, 7 life is a lot to lose, and this provides a handy outlet for any combo involving Intruder Alarm or Naban. A volatile, resilient engine of death and victory, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise she is the cream of the crop this week.
I believe that just about covers wizards, guys! If you made it this far congratulations, this one became a bumper issue when I realised just how deep the tribe was, but wanted to deliver it justice. If you like what you see here, I’d really appreciate you dropping us a like on Facebook to be kept up to date with all the greatest commander tech. For now though, Unmistakable out!