This is my first ever build, and possibly favourite decklist. It's built around the theme of some of my favourite characters in my favourite series of books - The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson. Anyone who is into 'grimdark' fantasy, military fantasy or epic fantasy should give them a read - obviously, I strongly recommend. Bear in mind, however, that reading through this representation there are some spoilers present.
To provide some background to the picture I'm trying to paint, High House Shadow is one part of a pantheon of gods within the series. Shadowthrone is the name of the ruler of the house. He is new to ascendancy, and is suspected to be the former emperor of the Malazan Empire, Kellanved, who was assassinated along with his second in command and master assassin, Dancer, after which his rule was usurped by the Empress Laseen - I've always seen Queen Marchesa as a good representation of Laseen FWIW. Shadowthrone is usually described as an ephemeral, cloaked figure wreathed in shadows, and is often seen with a cane. In character he is manipulative, shifty, incredibly clever, with ultimate goals unbeknownst to any but himself; he speaks in cryptic riddles and takes every chance he can to bend others to his will or snare them in his service. Needless to say, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind visually embodies this rather well - even mechanically, the similarity is strong.
He does have an accomplice, by the name of Cotillion, aka The Rope, Patron god of assassins. I don't have a specific card that embodies Dancer (pre-ascendancy) perfectly here, but probably the closest visual representation in the deck is Shadowmage Infiltrator. Dancer is usually described as nondescript, with bland and ordinary features, but an air of lethality that bodes ill for any who would cross him. Post ascendancy he is similar in appearance if a little more ephemeral and shadowed. In that respect Gonti, Lord of Luxury suffices for present. As can be implied from his nickname, his weapon of choice is the rope. The assassin is a theme I have tried to instill through the deck, and in terms of the style of assassins used by the claw under Empress Laseen and prior to that the Talons under Dancer, ninjas fit very well. They pre-eminently use knives, magic, stealth and deception to achieve their kills, and recent printings have made this an easy theme to embody.
Last but not least, these two ascendants are not the only beings within the realm of Shadow. Throughout the series, there are quite a few different characters revealed to be living within Shadow, including Demons, the elemental Hounds of Shadow, fallen ascendants, and others. These are represented within the deck to the best of my abilities.
Without further ado, here is the list:
Sordiko Qualm - Queen of High House Shadow
Apsalar - Assassin of High House Shadow
Lostara Yil - Assassin of High House Shadow
Ben Adaephon Delat
The shaved knuckle in the hole
Vorcan Radok - Mistress of High House Shadow
Iskaral Pust - Magus of High House Shadow
Mebra and his informants
Onrack the Broken
Invoking the Rites of Meanas
The Shadow Dance
"They never did find the bodies"
The Temple of Shadow
Malaz City and Smiley's Bar
So there's a few things going on in the deck these days. Essentially, like many Lazav decks it really is quite reflexive, in that it depends what else is happening on the table as to how well it plays, but that's not really the point of the deck either way; it's here to tell a story, and maybe win some games in the meantime. Its a lot of fun regardless, and that's what counts.
We're leaning relatively heavily into the ninja subtheme these days (thank you Modern Horizons!) - there's a lot of ninjutsu as well as some ways to return creatures to hand - Cunning Evasion and Phyrexian Reclamation can handle that, and lots of combat evasion to help into the bargain.
Downstream from this, there's a few ways to benefit from unblocked attack, with things like Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, Trepanation Blade, Silent-Blade Oni, Ingenious Infiltrator, Fallen Shinobi, Deepfathom Skulker/Bident of Thassa, and Sygg, River Cutthroat. These all act to keep our hand full and give us nice little perks for hitting life totals. We've also got a nice suite of cantrips and low cost instants (hey there, Isochron Scepter) to help us keep some control of the board, cantrip a little and remove pesky blockers where we can. In terms of Scepter, I was tempted to include Muddle the Mixture to search it up, but it doesn't fit thematically, and I don't want it being something I rely on heavily (also why Dramatic Reversal is no longer in the deck.
As well as this there's somewhat of a light mill theme to the deck as well, as is common with Lazav. We have several wheels, as well as Consuming Aberration, all of which help to make the most of Lazav's unique ability. It's entirely possible that we can dominate the game for leveraging this, but we do need to play into it somewhat to make the most of Lazav. It's also why the board wipes I run, Plague Wind, In Garruk's Wake and Aetherize are here - there are cheaper versions of all, but nothing quite so asymmetrical that leaves me with possibilities for turning Lazav into something ridiculous.
There are a few more things I want to add, partly for theme and partly for mechanics:
- Shizo, Death's Storehouse - This is 100% an Azath house.
- Lazav, the Multifarious - I've thought about changing the commander to the newer iteration of Lazav, but I think in general terms the original fits the character of Shadowthrone a lot better, as a meddling puppet master genius. That's sort of his thing, every player in the game is his pawn whether they know it or not, and the original clone ability reflects that much more. Hexproof is a plus, too, so for now Gatecrash Lazav has the helm.
Let me know what you guys think!