Storm archetype with in-built control
The deck is mainly a storm deck, which means that you're chaining together drawing lots of cards and generating lots of mana, to be able to draw your deck and play out as many cards as you want, usually in a single big turn.
However unlike other storm archetypes usually behind Grixis colors, there is a huge element of control. Zacama, Primal Calamity
abilities are the real deal. Often decks get locked out by certain cards on the battlefield. Zacama
has this incredible ability to remove practically anything that would cause problems.
The general idea is to get enough lands into play to give yourself an opportunity to cast a mana doubler and then be able to cast Zacama
, so that you have large amounts of mana to spend on preferably further mana cards and big draw spells.
You can easily combo off with about 5 lands in play. The more lands you have the better obviously, but most of my wins come from starting around the 5-7 land range. But by the end of your combo turn however, don't be surprised if you have like 10-15 lands in play due to the many land ramp spells.
Mana doublers are everything!
Really the key aspect to playing this deck well, is to understand how to be patient with the mana doublers that also give your opponents mana in; Heartbeat of Spring
, Mana Flare
, Vernal Bloom
, Keeper of Progenitus
, Zhur-Taa Ancient
, Dictate of Karametra
You should really plan to never play one of these symmetrical cards and just pass the turn
. Giving your opponents the chance at first shot at the extra mana is usually a terrible idea. This will probably lead to busted plays by your opponents and perhaps locking you out because they are able to establish their own accelerated game plan before you.
If you have one of the mana doublers that only gives you
mana, then I'm much more inclined to play it out and hope that it remains in play until the next turn. Dictate of Karametra
is the best early play mana doubler in your deck, as the ability to cast it before your turn allows you to have fully untapped lands to potentially combo off.
Often you will just play out your own non-symmetrical mana doublers as soon as you can cast them: Mirari's Wake
, Nissa, Who Shakes the World
, Mana Reflection
, Zendikar Resurgent
, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
, Caged Sun
, Nyxbloom Ancient
Expect your first one to be removed, before you get to untap with it. But we have 15 mana doublers, redundancy is the name of the game and you should have a follow up or at least draw into one within a few turns. Obviously its nice if you have the mana to be able to play a mana doubler and then cast Zacama
, but realistically for your early game, you will probably only have enough to play one and pass the turn, hoping to untap with it in play.
costing 9 mana, if you are playing out a mana doubler which effects all players then often the key is to have enough mana to cast out Zacama
, i.e. 5 untapped lands. A nice sequence is to play a second mana doubler before casting Zacama
, and then you only need 3 untapped lands to cast it.
If you're familiar with "High Tide
" builds in blue, then this deck requires a similar approach to sequencing, where you are tapping the least amount of lands, while stacking mana doubler effects.
The deck is mainly green , mostly to make Vernal Bloom
, Nissa, Who Shakes the World
and Caged Sun
a lot more efficient. For these same reasons, Forests are super important to lands being played out, so a lot of the lands are Forest type.
Zacama's activated abilities
I've mainly focused the game plan around the untap lands ability but Zacama, Primal Calamity
activated abilities are really another important aspect of the deck. It's unusual to get a commander who can almost deal with any permanent on the board. You can afford to run less disruption by default, as you have it on-tap from the commander zone.
There is an Oblation
and Chaos Warp
to deal with most permanents. There are cards that can be problematic like, Linvala, Keeper of Silence
, Pithing Needle
, Sorcerous Spyglass
, shutting down Zacama
abilities. Anything that specifically deals with Zacama
. For a more detailed list of weaknesses click here
If you fail to completely combo for the win, you should seriously think about using Zacama, Primal Calamity
ability to remove the mana doublers which help opponents as well. It seems odd to have played them out, only to remove them.
But if opponents have full hands and seemed to have been waiting on mana for playing their hands then it can be very wise to remove them, and try and use the control game instead. Really tough call, but you just have to go with your instincts during that game.
Starting hands and Mulligans
Your early game is to ramp land as much as possible. So when mulling your starting hands, you really want a few of these, rather than keeping your late game cards.
Only 35 land in a deck that must hit land drops?
Well there are a number of cards which smooth out getting your land drops, but it must be noted that you will have lots of games where you miss land drops. This seems insane right? Well the bounce lands, Boros Garrison
, Gruul Turf
, Selesnya Sanctuary
, mean you're far more likely to have a land to play. Also Cultivate
and Kodama's Reach
, help to make sure you have a land in hand to play.
However you can keep land light hands. You do have to get lucky with your draws, but I'll post an example of a 1 land hand, in which I was still able to win on turn 4.
Only a Forest in hand, but have a lot of key components to comboing. Realistically need to draw some lands however.
Turn 1, fail to draw a land.
Turn 2, draw a Plateau. Suspend a Search for Tomorrow and cast a Farseek. We are well on course.
Turn 3, draw a Mountain, now we have everything to try and go off next turn.
Turn 4, draw another land and we have everything we need. Play out the mana doublers, play Zacama, and draw 9 cards.
There are 11 land ramp spells, and you're hoping to just keep consecutively casting these cards until you feel ready to try a big turn. There are also 4 additional mana accelerators to help speed the turns up.
With so many in the deck, your ability to cast a three mana spell on turn two and a four or five mana card on turn three, have very high likelihood.
It must be noted that the 9 mana cost of Zacama
alludes to it being a late game "haymaker", but in fact often I win through turns 4-7 with this deck.
As I pointed out, you will often be able to go off with only 5-7 lands in play, so don't think that you need to ramp into a magical threshold of 9 lands to be able to do your thing.
Navigating around disruption is one of the hardest aspects of this deck. The way to look at this deck is that its a 3 card combo deck. You need 1x mana doubler and 1x big draw, in conjunction with your commander to chain sequences that will often lead to winning the game that same turn.
You can afford to be a little less respectful of disruption because you have a lot of the same type of cards, so you have the ability to follow up with another, or draw into another, even if stopped initially. Other combo decks that rely on a very particular combination of cards, cannot afford to be disrupted.
You do have Silence
, Grand Abolisher
, Dosan the Falling Leaf
, to try and stop your opponents from disrupting you.
You will get some games, where you can play Zacama, Primal Calamity
but either have the option of chaining at least some sequence of value or using Zacama
abilities to control some of the opponents boards. Experience with opponents decks will help with this. For example I have decided to wait a turn to start drawing, by using Zacama
abilities to remove a couple of the most dangerous threats, as they threaten to combo off as well.
You will get games where you flood out with mana, so are able to play Zacama
, but not able to draw extra cards. You can play these stalled out games, where you can remove your opponents permanents over the course of a couple of turns or sometimes all of them immediately if you have a mana doubler, and then your opponents simply cannot play out anything, as you can remove them. "Oppressive" is the term opponents have used in this situation.
It's also difficult for opponents to time removal on Zacama
when you have so much mana. After opponents being locked down for a series of turns, I've had them try and force through getting board presence, by all opponents committing playing out as much as possible. But you can just cast out Zacama
again and remove the threats which threaten to change the game.
I have won games by simple attacking with Zacama
over the course of 10 turns, such is the power of Zacama
activated abilities and the 9 power, which can be buffed by Mirari's Wake
and Caged Sun
to give you two attacks for commander lethal to shorten the clocks.
Another major advantage of Zacama
as your commander is that you really don't have to focus on protecting it outright to win. Unlike other decks where the commanders are central to remaining in play for a length of time, removing Zacama
often just means you get to generate more mana, so spot removal can be wasted on it. The exception is when you've calculated mana exactly for being able to cast a sorcery big draw card, that relies on Zacama
power, and it gets removed in response.
I have played stalled games, where I'm top decking into finding a big draw card, but have Zacama
out, and just remove opponents key cards, and they can't play out any of their permanent cards they draw, because they'll just get instantly removed. It can be a control deck, when you fail to find action cards.